Catching Up!

Dear Ceanray,

What do you want to do next year?

Being a senior student in high school, I’m asked this question on a regular basis. It seems that everyone I meet, from my dentist to my friend’s parents, is curious about my future. I don’t mind answering the question, because I know what I want to do next year. I know what university I want to attend, what program I want to take, and what I want to do after I graduate. I also know, though, that many teenagers have no clue what they want to do after high school – so for them, this question can be tricky.

American poet Mary Oliver poses the question in a different way, one I actually prefer: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” If someone asked me this, the first words out of my mouth wouldn’t be the school I’m going to attend, or the subjects I’m going to study. I’d eventually explain my career aspirations, but I would start by talking about my hopes and dreams. I’d say that I want to meet new people and see new places; that I want to write and publish books, not necessarily as a career but for fun; and that I want to address inequalities in the world and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

I’m extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to further my education. However, education – at least in a formal sense – is only one aspect of my wild and precious life. It’s the aspect that many people choose to focus on, and ask me about: and it’s the one that I see many of my peers at school stressing out about. The imminent unknown of the future is scary, certainly, and being constantly questioned about it doesn’t help. But you can feel slightly less stressed by deferring to the second aforementioned question. What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Life truly is wild and precious – and we only get one chance at it. Use your one life to get educated, and to find something you love and make it your career if you’re able to, but don’t forget to make a life outside of school. Think about the things you want to accomplish over the course of your life, education-related and otherwise, and dedicate yourself to making those things happen.

What do I want to do next year?

I want to go to university to pursue a career in journalism: that’s the answer people expect me to give. But my more detailed answer? I want to go to university and pursue a career in journalism so that I can make the most of my one wild and precious life, while achieving the goals I stated earlier in my letter. When you think of the question in a broader sense, it seems a bit less daunting and a whole lot more exciting.

Here’s to our futures!

Sherina

 

Dear Sherina,

I can’t wait to see how your wild and exciting future turns out, which brings me to what I’d like to discuss with you: The fact is that in today’s day and age, everyone has access to instant information. Is this a blessing or a curse? We’ll see. In the meantime, it means is that information that might not have otherwise been widely known, is. This also means that misinformation can spread like wildfire – and often, it does.

A few days ago, an image which depicts dozens of dead bodies began to circulate among several of my social media ‘friends’.. The caption for the photo was something along the lines of “86 killed in Nigeria and Western media isn’t reporting it. Share to show that you care.” As it turns out, the photo was not current nor was it taken in Nigeria. It was taken in the aftermath of a gas tanker explosion in the Congo in 2010. It was, evidently, a tragedy and may those shown in the photograph rest in peace.

However, the danger here is that anyone can take an image and manipulate it to fit their desired narrative. When this is shared a million times, you have a legion of people angry that 86 Nigerians were killed and no one took notice. These people, who would be justified in their anger if this were in fact true, trusted the individual who posted the image. Most did not bother to authenticate the image for themselves – and herein lies the modern dilemma of instant news.

Now, more than ever, we need reliable sources of information. In a world that is evolving at every turn, we must know where we stand in the midst of it all. The news media cannot have their own ideological agenda that they feel obligated to advance at every possible opportunity. Although I am Canadian, I’ve been following the American presidential nominee race on both sides. I am routinely put off my media outlets with evident political bias, whether it be rooted in the political left or the political right.

Journalists have an obligation to be unbiased and critical for the sole purpose of informing the public, thereby enabling the public to make informed decisions for themselves.

As for your question – I would like to work in government because I strongly believe in its power to be a positive force in people’s lives. I sincerely hope that I will one day earn the opportunity to do this.

Ceanray

 

 

Election Day Eve: Making Our Voices Heard

Dear Sherina,

Happy Election Day Eve! Tomorrow millions of Canadians will be hitting the polls to decide who will be the Member of Parliament for their riding, and consequently who our Prime Minister will be. Whether you’re a conservative, new democrat or liberal, it’s important to research the issues and vote for who you think will do their best to represent you.

This election comes at a crucial time in Canadian history. Issues like energy and the environment, taxes, jobs, and national security are hot-button topics that cannot be ignored. Another topic that cannot be ignored is the incredibly low voter turnout among young Canadians. According to Elections Canada, 38.8% of 18-24 years olds showed up to the polls, compared to 75.1% of 65-74 year olds in the last federal election. This is simply inexcusable, especially considering the direct impact that issues like student loan debt and youth unemployment have on our young people.  

While I can’t speak on behalf of all young Canadians, I can say from personal experience that I have heard people complain about the government in conversation, while simultaneously exclaiming that there’s no point in voting, anyways. Seriously?!

We can’t afford to let ourselves fall silent when it comes time to decide who is best suited to lead our country. Research, listen and be an involved citizen. We are blessed to live in a democracy, let’s use it to make sure that we do everything we can to make our country the best version of itself.

Ceanray

Dear Ceanray,

Happy Election Day Eve to you as well! I’m finding it hard to believe that this election – the longest in Canadian history – ends tomorrow. The past months have felt long and at times tiresome.  Between televised debates, attack ads, lawn signs, and every other form of electoral information that is thrown our way, it’s hard to escape talk of politics. However, I’m not sure it’s something that people should aspire to escape from.

I completely agree with you that we cannot be silent when it comes to choosing our country’s leader. It is our democratic right to vote. If people do not exercise that right, they are not in a position to criticize the state of our country.

I find the statistics regarding low voter turnout for young people shocking. Though many of my peers are too young to vote, my social media feeds have been filled with comments about the candidates (and in particular, a “Stephen Harper Goodbye Party” which seems to have gone viral). Teens aren’t just making their voices heard on social media – they’re speaking up in real life, too. Lately at school, I’ve heard, and been apart of, many discussions relating to the election.

Despite the fact that I enjoy talking about politics, I don’t know who I would vote for (if I was of age). I have been fairly informed throughout this election cycle – watching the news, reading newspaper and magazine articles, discussing politics with like minded people – but when I am actually able to vote I will have to pay even more attention to the policies of my local Members of Parliaments, as well as the federal candidates.

Canada is great, and I am grateful to live here, but we do have some issues that need to be resolved. What excites me about the election is not just that I won’t have to see anymore ads of Justin Trudeau walking on an escalator; it is that with the possibility of a new government comes the possibility of change for our country. I hope that positive change results from whatever happens in regards to the election tomorrow night – and if it does not happen from the election, I hope at least something positive comes from the Blue Jays game.

Sherina

Why We Need to Shatter the Glass Ceiling

Dear Ceanray,

There’s an old proverb that says ‘those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’. I would like to amend this expression to say ‘those who look up at glass ceilings should throw all the stones they can find’. The glass ceiling, in case you don’t know, is “an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities.” (thanks, Google!)

A few months ago, the New York Times wrote about a startling statistic: there are more men named John who run companies than women who run companies altogether. This statement tells us that less parents should name their kids John. More importantly, though, it tells us that the lack of women in leadership positions in the corporate world is a serious issue.

guysnamedjohn

In my opinion there are several factors which contribute to these numbers: the most obvious of which is that some people still believe men are superior to women, and therefore prefer to hire and promote men into high-ranking positions. There’s also the stigma around women in leadership (with powerful women being called “bossy” among other things).

Empowering women would make a difference; movements like #likeagirl are helping to do this, and in my mind there’s been a lot of great focus on female empowerment in recent years. Still though, even when women want to be in a high-ranking position, there seem to be barriers that stand in their way.

Feminism, as we’ve discussed previously, means political, social, and economic equality for both sexes. So, by advocating for women in leadership I’m not dissing all of the men who lead companies. John’s and David’s, keep doing you. But prepare for women to join you at the top of the proverbial career ladder – and prepare for women to shatter the glass ceiling.

Sherina

Dear Sherina,

It’s alarming that in 2015 women are still so grossly underrepresented in the corporate world. Some might say that the reason this arena continues to be dominated by men is simply because there are more men qualified to fill high-ranking positions. While as many as 60% of university students in North America are female, “women account only for 2.7 percent of the chief executives in the financial industry”. Being a woman in the corporate world is a lonely pursuit these days.

On a personal note, I am seriously considering pursuing a university degree in political science once I graduate from high school. I am fascinated by government and how (in an idyllic sense, it would seem these days) ordinary people are given the power to change their circumstance in a democratic society.

However, I am not entirely sure that being a politician appeals to me. The level of media scrutiny female politicians are regularly faced with in comparison to their male counterparts is, quite frankly, appalling. During Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, far more attention was given to her physical appearance rather than her political capabilities. A segment on MSNBC had this written on the screen crawl while her campaign was discussed;

“CLEAVAGE CONTROVERSY: HILLARY CLINTON’S CAMP ASKING FOR MONEY AMID LOW-CUT BLOUSE BROUHAHA”

A so-called ‘newscaster’ on Fox News commented “You all saw that photo on the weekend of Hillary looking so haggard and like, what, 92 years old!”

Ms. Clinton is but one example of the oft-prevailing misogynistic attitudes towards women in politics and in influential leadership positions. As someone who will be directly affected in her life by this glass ceiling, I would like to call upon fellow human beings to collectively resolve, as you said, to make the glass ceiling a thing of the past and a nonexistent hindrance to the futures of girls and women all over the planet.

Ceanray

Fabletters On Canada’s Racism Problem

Dear Ceanray,

In our previous letters, and conversations outside of this blog we frequently discuss issues of inequality in terms of gender inequality and feminism. There is an inequality that we have not discussed in depth, yet one which is making international headlines: racism. Specifically, racism in Winnipeg, Canada. Have you read the article from Maclean’s concerning this?

The article states “The Manitoba capital is deeply divided along ethnic lines. It manifestly does not provide equal opportunity for Aboriginals. And it is quickly becoming known for the subhuman treatment of its First Nations citizens, who suffer daily indignities and appalling violence. Winnipeg is arguably becoming Canada’s most racist city.”

I am curious as to the benefit of the headline “Winnipeg is Canada’s Most Racist City.” The mayor of Winnipeg has vowed to take action, though one would think that he should be taking action on race issues regardless of whether they were national headlines or not.

The facts and statistics presented in that article are hard to argue with, as are the stories of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. One in three people in the prairies believe that “many racial stereotypes are accurate”? It is shocking and scary, but you have to wonder what that statistic would be worldwide.

It is indisputable that Winnipeg has a race problem, but what about the rest of the world? Focusing on the race problem in Winnipeg is good because it means action will be taken there; but when people living in other parts of the world read about Winnipeg being the most racist city, they might dispel the thought that their city may be very racist too.

Not being the most racist city doesn’t mean your city doesn’t have some sort of racial problems. Any case of racism, anywhere in the world, is more than what should be occurring. Seeing as you live in Winnipeg, what are your thoughts on this?

Sherina

Dear Sherina,

The article recently published by Maclean’s magazine you previously mentioned has had Winnipeggers’ tongues wagging. The story of Tina Fontaine mentioned in the article is one that caught my eye long before it made its way into national headlines. She was fifteen when she died – the age I am now. Concerns that should have been dealt with long before her death were simply ignored, and the discovery of her body tossed in the Red River was an accident. She was Aboriginal.

The statistics on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada are horrifying – according to the NWAC database only 53% of of murder cases involving aboriginal women and girls have led to charges of homicide. Aboriginal women are also three times as likely to be killed by a stranger as non-Aboriginal women are.

Racism is an issue that affects Canada far beyond Winnipeg’s borders. It would be foolish to ignore evidence that the way Winnipeg treats Aboriginal people who call this city home is appalling. The article was titled “Welcome to Winnipeg, where Canada’s racism problem is at its worst.”

While I agree that the racism problem in Winnipeg needs to be dealt with, I think those who read the article and subsequently thought to themselves “hey, my city might be a little racist – but at least we’re not that bad’ need a wake-up call. Racism is an issue that extends far beyond my city’s borders. The fact that racism continues to exist in Canada and the rest of the world in 2015 is something we should all be actively trying to fix.

Ceanray