The People of Spain Persecuted for Questioning the Pope’s Visit

Spain has been hit very severely by the global economic crisis. The unemployment is high and the social services are suffering huge cuts. The people of Spain have been protesting in the streets against their government’s austerity measures since May.

In the midst of this already very painful situation, the Spanish government decided it would be a good idea to shell out 50 million euros to bring the Pope on a 4-day-long visit to the country. It also decided it would be swell to send out the police forces to engage in brutal assaults on the protesters who came into the streets to demonstrate their peaceful disagreement with the Pope’s visit. Spain’s Catholic Church had collaborated with the fascist dictatorship that brutalized the country between 1939 and 1975. Since then, the younger generations of Spaniards have moved away from religion. These are the same people who are being hit very hard by unemployment and who don’t understand why their money – which is scarce as it is – should be given out to a bunch of religious fanatics who have done untold damage to the country already.

Through the blog What? I discovered this video of police officers beating a 17-year-old female protester. I warn you that it is very brutal.

Through The Eyes of a Stranger: Bureaucracy

I don’t think I will surprise anybody if I tell you that the Soviet bureaucracy was a daunting, horrible, unmanageable affair. It existed as a way of income redistribution because you were supposed to offer bribes for every little slip of paper you needed (and you needed them to do pretty much anything.) In this way, people who were lucky enough to have the rubber-stamping privileges could augment their paltry incomes.

When I arrived in Canada at the age of 22, I was shocked to discover that North American bureaucracy was also a daunting, horrible, unmanageable affair. It was even more so, since it couldn’t be obviated through bribes. It existed as a force of nature that couldn’t be coaxed or persuaded to listen to reason.

As soon as I came to Canada, I applied to McGill University. I had done 4 years of university studies before, but I didn’t want the university to give me transfer credits. I was planning to start a new program and do it from start to finish. Still, since the university asked for my Ukrainian transcript, I dutifully provided it together with a notarized translation from Ukrainian made in Canada by a Canadian translator. I’m from Ukraine, you see, which means that all paperwork in my country is done in the only official language of the country, namely, Ukrainian.

In a while, a bureaucrat from the admissions office asked me in for a meeting.

“We can’t process your file,” she said. “You need to provide the originals of the transcripts in Russian.”

“Why Russian?” I asked. It could have just as easily been Chinese or Yoruba because these three languages are equally not used for official paperwork in my country.

“Because we don’t have a person who can understand this,” she snickered and threw the Ukrainian papers in my general direction.

“This is Ukrainian,” I explained. “My country’s only official language. Our universities don’t give out transcripts in the official languages of other countries.”

“Well, then we can’t process your file because nobody understands the original in our office.”

Montreal has a huge Ukrainian community, so I suggested that we contact any of the community leaders to confirm my transcript. The most ridiculous thing about the situation was that the transcript was irrelevant since I was not asking for any transfer credits. The bureaucrat refused to do that.

I knew at that point that if they accepted me, I was going to become one of their best students ever. I was right. I later became a straight A, Special Honors, Dean’s Honor List, and every award under the sun kind of student. Years after I graduated, the Department of Hispanic Studies was papered with articles with the photos of me receiving awards from ambassadors and consuls of Spanish-speaking countries for my academic excellence.

So I was sitting in front of the bureaucrat practically in tears, incapable of understanding why I was being denied acceptance to a university because my country’s official language was not the one they approved of.

Suddenly, a woman who was passing by the bureaucrat’s table (and who later turned out to be a Full Professor and a very respected person on campus) stopped and asked,

“Why is this child crying?”

I explained the situation. The woman took my transcript, read it and confirmed to the bureaucrat that it said exactly what my notarized translation purported it said. The bureaucrat was afraid of contradicting her, and I was accepted to the university. I was also awarded transfer credits which made it impossible for me to take all the courses I wanted.

There Is Nothing Feminist About Homebirths

I just discovered an absolutely brilliant post that dispels the idiotic myth about home birth as some form of a feminist statement:

Home birth as a way to find a loving supportive environment and fight the enslavement of the patriarchy is absolute, utter nonsense.   It’s one of the only medical scenarios I can think of where women place health and welfare in jeopardy in order to feel “in control” and avoid intervention. . . Infants born to the lowest risk women at home are 2x more likely to die than a cohort of infants delivered in hospital, which includes some of the highest risk pregnancies.

I’ve had some home births fanatics visit my blog in the past. I also read their pseudo-feminist screechings about how they bravely place themselves outside of the patriarchal and controlling spaces of the hospital because they are so liberated. In reality, these are simply very immature women who have no idea how to function in public spaces and are never comfortable anywhere outside their homes. They get exploited by the mercenary and extremely irresponsible doulas who are dedicated to squeezing as much money as they can (and it’s usually a lot) out of these simpletons, and consequences be damned.

I’ve had an opportunity to hang out with a group of such home birth midwives (educated at super prestigious schools, mind you) and I got to know them very closely. So for me it has always been crystal clear that for such folks it is only and exclusively about the money they can get out of silly, infantile women who are most comfortable while barefoot, pregnant, and in their kitchens.

How Media Pervert Science to Reinforce Gender Stereotypes

I know that having your research findings taken up and reported by popular media must be very flattering to a scholar. However, one has to have some responsibility and make sure that one’s research doesn’t get used to perpetuate all kinds of ridiculous stereotypes that it doesn’t even support.

A case in point: a researcher at the University of Missouri conducted a study about “how girls and boys expect talking about problems will make them feel.” In the conclusion, the study states that gender differences it uncovered were negligible. (This is what every single study into the supposed gender differences usually uncovers: they do not exist.) However, when it came to signing a press release about the findings, it was worded very differently.

The University of Missouri produced a press release (and Rose confirms by email that she approved it) with the title “Males believe discussing problems is a waste of time, MU study shows”. In the transition from academic journal to attention-grabbing press release, the self-reported feelings of a minority of boys have been transformed into something that’s generally true of males as a whole. It’s almost as if no one was that concerned at all about overstating sex effects.

Note that the researcher in question approved the sensationalizing wording of the press release.

The study was immediately taken up by two popular rags. One of the published a piece titled “Housewives, shut up”. Another one is titled “Girls at Risk of Talking Too Much, Scientists Find.” It is needless to say that the study in question never suggested anything even remotely similar.

P.S. For more insightful reading on the topic of how popular media invent gender differences on the basis of studies that say the exact opposite can be found in Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender.

What Book Made You Cry?

Reader Evelina Anville mentioned that Uncle Tom’s Cabin made her cry when she was a kid. I had the same experience with the book at about the same age (9 or 10). But the book that I read 5 times when I was a child and then a teenager and that made me weep hysterically in a way that no other book has since was The Gadfly by Ethel Lillian Voynich. The relationship between father and son it portrays is so tragic that its trivial little love story pales in comparison.

I’m pretty sure that if I read it again at my current advanced age, it will still bring me to tears.

I also cry every time at the end of the second part of Don Quijote.

Which books made you cry?

P.S. I just noticed that I tend to cry for male characters and not for female ones.