Project 14 – Day 12+1: My Beliefs

Day Twelve plus One is about why this day is numbered day 12+1.

So for the previous few days, I’ve had a blog post loaded and ready to fire off to the unsuspecting masses every day, but I’m struggling to write the last two. I did take the weekend off and enjoy being a tourist in my own town, but for the most part, I’ve experience a slight writers block; let’s call it a “half-brick on the path of the bicycle of [blogging]” (redacted from Terry Prachett).

It’s not really writers brick about what to write. I’ll tell you about my superstitions, my political beliefs, religious beliefs, and why I’m a feminist. It’s only I’m hesitant to put these down in words. My beliefs will change with my experiences, and while I think they’re mostly formed today (some more than others), I don’t want to fall into the trap of becoming complacent. I don’t want to grow comfortable with the superiority of my beliefs, and not realize that they don’t reflect the changing reality or my changing identity. Probabilistically, these beliefs (except potentially my political ones) won’t change, because they reflect my much more static world view (More about that tomorrow). Still, if this project is meant to help me see myself clearer and establish a starting point of my adulthood, I suppose I should write it all down, good, bad, and ignorant, even if it will make me cringe rereading it. It’s not like none of my other posts don’t.

My political beliefs are the most likely to change. In the days of Mulroney and the old Conservative party, I probably would’ve supported and voted for them. Let me just clear one thing up for those who may not know:  the political right in Canada is still left of the political left in the US (most of the time). Canada was the fourth country to legalize gay marriage, we don’t have laws criminalizing abortion outside of high medical professional standards, universal healthcare and pretty even public funding of schools is a given, and we have a rigorous and pretty good Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Of course we’re not perfect; Canada’s continued human rights concerns include uneven public funding for religious schools, and we have a checkered record in the past that includes Chinese head tax, Aboriginal Residential schools, and Japanese and Ukrainian internment during the World Wars. That being said, a lot of the liberal societal issues being debated and opposed in the US (like obamacare, same-sex marriage, and abortions) seem to be ridiculous to us because those debates are over in Canada (for now).

That being said, I might’ve been a Mulroney supporter because I do believe in lower taxes and I do believe that free trade is a good thing. I don’t always agree with the substance of Liberal or NDP spending (our two left wing parties) because I think sometimes they promise the world and don’t find a way to pay for it, or their priorities don’t line up with mine.

However, now, I am, emphatically, not a Conservative party supporter. Absolutely, positive, no-way-in-hell, you-couldn’t-pay-me-to-vote-for-them-and-anyways-that’s-illegal not a conservative. I do not support the Harper Government (as they rebranded themselves in 2011) at all, and I wouldn’t vote conservative even if I liked the candidate (which I don’t) because then the party would get money and potentially another sycophant.

I have a whole laundry list of reasons why, and I’ll post it later, but it essentially boils down to I think Stephen Harper’s government has a power complex where Canadian Citizens work for the government’s benefit, and not the other way around. I don’t trust his foreign policy (Under his reign, Canada lost much of it’s international clout), I don’t trust his scientific or environmental policy (The mismanagement of the closure of libraries, StatsCan, and quietly drawing out of treaties), I don’t trust his social policy, I don’t think he has any respect for the core legal institutions of Canadian government, and I really don’t trust his commitment to transparency and accountability.

Despite how much they like to tout it, I also don’t trust his economic policies. I think most of them have been gimmicky, like eliminating the penny and reducing GST, and while his government has had a few good ones, like tuition rebates and TFSAs, I think that the Harper Government (as he prefers to be known by) is too easy to take credit for things that weren’t his doing (like the lack of a MBS meltdown in Canada) and too quick to gloss over the icky numbers (like the cost of the F-35 planes). I also don’t think his cut taxes policy is any freaking good. As much as we all like to think cutting taxes equals more growth, it really doesn’t. It’s a nice idea because we’d all like to pay less taxes, but I really like John Green’s sentiment on why we pay for public schools even if we don’t have a kid in the system: “I pay for your schools because I want you to grow up and make my life better.” Same thing with taxes. We pay taxes so everyone has healthcare, a good justice system, national defense, and generally a good country. To me, it doesn’t make any sense to compete internationally with lower corporate taxes either: any business student knows that competing on price in the long run doesn’t help margins, whereas competing on value is. To me, that means investing in good infrastructure, having a competitive, but not necessarily bargain basement tax rate, reducing employer costs by having a robust healthcare system, and having a highly educated, very skilled workforce that not only make good employees, but good consumers. Tax cuts to companies or tax cuts that don’t benefit the middle class, like Cap-gain tax cuts, don’t trickle down; instead, they increase inequality, and don’t increase spending.

I don’t deny that Harper has done some good, the Tax Free Savings Accounts, Tuition rebates, and ensuring liquidity during the financial crisis being some examples. However, in my eyes, that means he hasn’t roasted the country, he’s only started the bonfire and spun the spit; the things he’s done wrong far outweigh the things he’s done right. I have no idea who I’m going to vote for instead. While I’m more in line with liberal ideology, I think Trudeau doesn’t seem to have the political acumen or the ability to return Canada to prominence on the international stage. I don’t agree with some NDP initiatives, and I don’t think either party knows how they’re going to pay for the things they’re touting. When it comes time for election, I will be following the races very, very closely. But I know for sure, I’m at least ABC (Anybody But the Conservatives).

Another reason I really don’t like the Conservatives is because I am a feminist. I’m not a bra-burning, man-hating feminist any more than your average Christian is a Westboro-Baptist Church member, but I am a feminist. I believe that, while we’ve made huge strides forwards in confront overt sexism, benign sexism and a patriarchal society are still problems.

I don’t believe that we’ve reached equality when rape culture is still a thing; men are still ashamed to come forward because being raped “doesn’t happen to men” and rape is more a PR problem than a crime.  I don’t believe that we’ve reach equality when people are still punished for contradicting gender roles; Girls are afraid to be assertive lest they be perceived as bossy and boys are afraid to cry lest they be perceived as unmanly.  I don’t believe we’ve reached equality until we equally value parenthood and employment; paternity leave is still not a thing men will take, professional women are “mommy-tracked” because face-time matters more than results, and stay-at-home parents and professional mothers are equally reviled for not devoting enough time to their kids or not working hard enough. I don’t believe pay equity is achieved until women and their employers both expect a female employee to negotiate as hard as a male employee would for the same position, and we no longer get paid 19 cents less an hour. I don’t believe we’ve reached equality until all families are valued, not just the dad-bread winner, stay-at-home mom one. I don’t believe we’ve reached equality until women aren’t just mothers and daughters in political discourse, they are voters and Canadians with a voice and equal concerns.

I could keep going (and probably will in a future blog post), but that’s the gist of it. I don’t think Stephen Harper’s government has done anything to support any of my concerns. They replaced a carefully negotiated universal daycare system that would’ve benefited dual earning households and single parents with a paltry $100 tax credit, which low income families who earn so little they don’t pay tax can’t take advantage of. They cut a lot of funding for women’s groups when they first came into power, and changed the rules so that organizations that provide services, like abuse shelters, can’t also do advocacy work (because obviously organizations that see the harmful effects of domestic abuse shelters shouldn’t be allowed to advocate for the victims. Obviously). They excluded abortion from their foreign maternal health funding. Perhaps, most egregiously to me, they cut the Court Challenges program, which provided funding for ordinary Canadians to go after their charter rights in court, as part of a program to “trim the fat.” Because it’s wasteful for average Canadians, not the only the ones who have the means and are thus probably not disenfranchised, to hold their government accountable to the underlying rules of Canadian democracy. Obviously. The CCP issue isn’t that simple, of course; the group became less and less transparent as to who received funding, but the transparency problem should’ve been addressed; the whole program shouldn’t’ve been scrapped. It’s a really troubling trend in the way the Harper Government rules.

As I said before, these are my beliefs now. I’d like to see them change, and I do welcome evidence and proof and logical arguments otherwise. I do tend to ignore people who just say “You’re a big fat liar” or “You’re a leftist schill” or “What a bitch” because let’s be serious, as an overly outspoken girl most of my life, I’ve heard it all before. Show me trends, evidence backed argument, and numbers, and I might agree with you and shift my opinion or I might argue further about your methodology. But I do welcome discourse and logical dissenting opinions, preferably polite ones, but not necessarily because I do understand that these are politically loaded statements. I’m still looking for more things Stephen Harper has done right (Done, not said).

Whew. Okay. Now for a less contentious issue: religion!

I currently identify as an agnostic; I wasn’t exactly an atheist, God just never was a thing in our home. My parents were both raised on Confucian ideals, and they disagreed on communism ideology, so they basically just raised me in the “Do right for the sake of doing right” manner, and religion and God and higher powers were just never part of the conversation or the reason. Agnostic is generally defined as the belief that the existence of God is unknowable, which pretty much sums up my belief in God.  I try to live my life according to the golden rule: I try to treat others with dignity, respect and kindness if possible, as I’d like to be treated with dignity and respect and kindness if possible. It doesn’t always work out; I have a short temper, I tend to rely on heuristics and become arrogant, and I have little tolerance for what I perceive as idiocy. I’m no where near perfect, but I will try and keep trying to the best of my ability, and I think that’s all any God can ask. I developed my own moral compass and world view by thinking, and trial and error (It wasn’t always pretty; I’ve done things I’m not proud of).

I’ve recently started attending a Christian church, which might seem a bit strange, but I’ve done it for several main reasons, none of which is my boyfriend. My brother figure actually started me down the road.  I guess my core reason is because I happen to agree with several (but not all) of the core moral tenets of Christianity, and it’s nice to have that community and positive crowd reinforcement. Plus, I’m curious. After all, even if the existence of God is unknowable, he or she might still exist. I still have rather uncomfortable disagreements with the theology and dogma of the Christian Faith, but the church I attend is fairly accepting and welcoming.  I guess in the parable of the prodigal son, I am the neighbour peering at the window, wanting to join into their celebration. We’ll see how I feel during the uncomfortable family dinners afterwards, though. We’ll see if I ever convert or stop identifying as agnostic; this is an experiment I’m conducting with eyes wide open.

It feels kind of weird to talk about my superstitions in the same article I talk about religion and politics, because it’s really trivial. I’m not putting them on the same order of magnitude, but I’m taking a snapshot of my mind, I guess, and this is one of the kookier parts for a logical, analytical, mathematically minded person. I’m really not sure why, but I don’t step on cracks, I don’t break mirrors, I never say good luck to an actor, I lift my feet every time I cross railroads, I throw spilled salt over my shoulder, black cats make me shiver, and I really, really don’t like the number 12+1. As a mathematician, I know it’s irrational, but I’m mildly triskaidekaphobic. I get really twitchy on that day of every month, the year after 2012 was not a good one for me, and I’m really glad we only have 12 months.

Is it totally irrational? Yup. Am I going to fix it? No. It’s not doing me or anyone else any harm right now, and sure I don’t like the day after the twelve day of the month, but all that makes me is a little bit more wary. I don’t notice it when it comes up in math problems, and it’s not like I’ll take mathematical short cuts to avoid it. If it does become a problem, I’ll have to conquer it, but for now, I just view it as a harmless bit of irrationality to balance everything else out. I only have so much willpower to change habits, and that’s not one of my priorities.

I guess that’s the underlying theme to all my beliefs; if they’re proved wrong or faulty or insufficient, or if circumstances change, I will change my beliefs. My feminist beliefs shifted until I started reading some of the more rational issues that people bring up, like women taking advantage of gendered beliefs in dating and divorce proceedings, and changed my opinion on that. I’m not a black and white person, I am a “hey look at all the pretty colours!” kind of person (at least I like to think so, although something will inevitably come to force me to adjust my opinion). I don’t think there’s any valor hanging on to a stupid opinion, because I think getting closer to the truth and being accurate is more important than not looking stupid, and I don’t see any point in ignoring good evidence. Now do I get to decide whether or not an belief is wrong or faulty or insufficient, whether it needs to be changed, and what’s good evidence? When it comes to my beliefs, of course I do; they’re my beliefs.

Maybe that’s why I’ve written everything in huge blocks of text: people are less likely to thoroughly read them, and I’m still leery being so open about everything I believe in. Then again, it wouldn’t be the only too frank or too personal post on this blog.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.

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