Categories
Sports

Liverpool’s historical rollercoaster of emotions: from heartbreak to comebacks

*Yes, football in this article refers to soccer*

It seems as though there’s a perpetual state of heartbreak in this world. Every time something good happens, a hundred other bad things do too.

And now with the current COVID-19 outbreak, things seem to be apocalyptic; the entire world is on pause. This virus knows no borders and isn’t picky with whom it infects, from vulnerable people to healthy athletes, everyone is at risk—so above all, stay inside, stay safe, for yourselves and those around you.

There are things people hold on to during these times, and football is one of them for me. I’m a Liverpool FC (LFC) fan, and the frustrating part of this fantastic team is that it has no shortage of would-be heart-attacks. LFC is a team with an immense history, from Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly to Jurgen Klopp.

And right before the official world outbreak of the virus, the Reds got knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid. I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much as I did in that moment. The reigning champions, knocked out because of one silly, silly mistake. Why did it hurt so much? Let me tell you a story.

There was a young lad, scouser through and through, who breathed and bled football. From a young age in the city of Liverpool, there was no other road for Steven Gerrard than that of Anfield. Even before I became an LFC fan, I would hear Gerrard’s name from football fans around me almost as if it was a prayer. No matter what team you support, there’s no denying Gerrard’s talent. He belonged to the game, and he belonged to that city.

Liverpool is a football place. The passion for the game flows through the entire maritime town. On April 15, 1989, the city was left in shock after a tragedy in the Hillsborough stadium killed 96 fans due to a lack of police control. The disaster shook the city to its very core. Things just weren’t the same after that. Liverpool was hurting, and at the same time, money grew more and more important in football.

Gerrard was football before the money, before the capitalization of the game. He was the sweat on the brow of a fan waiting in line to enter Anfield, the smile from a kid on his dad’s shoulder, the angry shouts from women in the stands. He was passionate and determined and he gave Liverpool a miracle—I mean that literally.

After beating Chelsea in the semi-finals of the 2005 Champions League, LFC took to the road to Istanbul. Thirty thousand LFC fans made their way there to watch. Two minutes after the starting-whistle, AC Milan scored. Somehow, because that’s how football works, by the time the half-time whistle blew, LFC were down 3-0.

Walk on, through the wind

Walk on, through the rain, 

Though your dreams be tossed and blown,” 

The travelling Reds sang their hearts out to the beat of LFC’s hymn, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” They sang and lifted their arms and put up their flags, loud and clear.

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone.” 

The players came back out onto the pitch. If something was to happen, there was one man to do it. Six minutes into the second half, Gerrard loops the ball into the top right-hand corner. Goal. Barely two minutes later, Vladimir Smicer scores, and it’s now 3-2. About four minutes after that, a penalty for LFC. Xabi Alonso takes it, AC Milan goalie Dida saves it, the ball rebounds, Alonso is there, and GOAL.

It’s 3-3 and there was no way that title was going to escape LFC’s hands after a historical comeback like that one. And it didn’t, that night LFC were crowned Champions of Europe for the fifth time in the club’s history after winning the penalty shoot-out. It had been 21 years since the last time LFC had won that title. The Miracle of Istanbul to this day is regarded as one of the greatest finals in the history of the tournament.

LFC wasn’t one of the richer teams. Even Gerrard at some point almost left. Then-Chelsea-manager Jose Mourinho went after him consistently. But Gerrard stayed. Scouser through and through. There was one thing left to do: bring LFC back to its glory days in England, and win the Premier League. It wasn’t easy. But the 2013-14 Premier League season brought the Reds and the Kopites (the supporters) hope. April 13, 2014, Liverpool beat top-of-the-league Manchester City, setting the momentum for that much-desired League trophy.

“This does not slip,” Gerrard shouted at his teammates after that game. The next week against Norwich City, LFC won again. And then came the game against Chelsea. Mourinho slowed the pace of the game, the genius of him revolved around how important he knew this game was to LFC. He played a mental game that day, placed a bet and won. Gerrard slipped, leading to Chelsea’s first goal.

The title was gone.

Five years later, we have a new manager. This German guy who smiles too brightly always wears caps and has single-handedly put a smile on my face every time I’ve felt a little down. Jurgen Klopp. After Gerrard retired, the future seemed bleak for LFC supporters and holding on to hope, the kind that “You’ll Never Walk Alone” sings about, was a test of faith. But supporters held on, loyalty was valued. The team began shaping itself into the beast it is now, claiming England and Europe by storm. Yes, LFC didn’t have the budget other teams did. But here’s what we did have: passion, determination, hard work, and Klopp.

In 2019, LFC was pitted against Barcelona for the semi-final of the Champions League. The first leg was at Camp Nou, and even though the boys played one of their best games, Barcelona won 3-0. But in a month, they were coming to Anfield. Hungry, passionate, and deserving, the Kopites made noise like never before. The team needed to score four goals and keep a clean sheet to win.

Without Mohammad Salah and Roberto Firmino—two key starting players ruled out from the game due to injuries.  And yet… it’s Liverpool FC after all. I was in Barcelona when I watched that game, terrified, excited, somehow with a lot of belief.

A series of unbelievable events took place that night at Anfield.

Seven minutes in, Divock Origi scored. LFC lead at half-time. Georginio Wijnaldum was subbed in and scored two magnificent goals within two minutes. The defence was rock-solid, every one of the players buzzing and feeding off the famous Anfield atmosphere. Then, it’s a corner for LFC. Trent Alexander-Arnold was set to take it, but walked away to give it to Xherdan Shaqiri, but in a blink, he was back at the corner, spotted Origi, shot, and Origi tapped it in. That was the fourth goal. That year, LFC took the Champions League trophy home, 14 years later, another historical comeback under their belt.

This season, LFC wanted the Premier League. The team won 27 games, drawing one, and losing one. Two more wins and the title was ours. Two more wins, and 30 years later, we get that title.

But, as Klopp said, “there are more important things than football.” The virus hit, and everything stopped—as it should. Hearing of this after being knocked out of the Champions League even though the team did everything right completely shattered me.

After everything this team and fanbase have been through… a slip? A virus? And I can’t even be angry because it’s no one’s fault. This is just what happens. But, Liverpool FC is known for comebacks. So walk on with your heads held high, Kopites.

And for the world, stay home, stay healthy. Be sad, but be safe. As the beautiful song goes, “at the end of a storm, there’s a golden sky, and the sweet silver song of a lark.”

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Opinions

My opinion, or just what I think?

About five months ago, I was having dinner with a few friends and we had a conversation. Usually, our outings involve take-out, staying in, watching bad movies, playing cards, with the occasional serious conversation over an ice-cream run.

This specific group has a tendency to forgo all seriousness when together, choosing instead to resort to a lot of high-pitched noises and endearing labels (such as habibi with a strong annunciation of eee). Yes, my 6-feet-tall broad-shouldered boyfriend and his two best friends turn into cute little mischievous fairies at our weekly get-together. I absolutely adore them.

Anyway, the point is having a serious conversation with them is rare. But there we were, sharing horrible McDonalds, and discussing the difference between a thought and an opinion.

At the risk of becoming contradiction-personified, I’m putting forth the argument that not everyone is allowed to have an opinion about something while writing an opinion piece.

Here’s my basis: an opinion is educated, while a thought is merely a thought. What this means is everyone is entitled to think anything they want, whether it’s educated, humane or whatever “right” means. But if you want to have an opinion about something (and call it an opinion), you have to be educated about the subject.

In a simpler example, I can’t say pork is not good if I have never tried it. You won’t go to the local librarian to ask about medication. Taking that into consideration, why would a thought from someone who has nothing to do with the topic matter? Opinions need to come from educated places, not from entitled egos. That’s the first layer of “having an opinion.”

The second layer requires a level of humanity that I understand to be hard for some to achieve. I completely get how hard it must be to not be unkind to people you don’t know. I understand how impossible it is to keep your nose in your own business instead of prying into others’ lives. Yes, I get it, it’s too hard to not impose your unsolicited thoughts on others. Just to be clear, I am being sarcastic.

Being entitled to an opinion isn’t equated with freedom of speech. Something I learned in Canada, that I believe should be the basis of freedom of speech worldwide, is that the law literally says freedom stops when it becomes harmful and slanderous to another person. This means you can’t hide behind “it’s my opinion” to justify your racism, islamophobia, discrimination or unkindness.

“Gay people are not natural” or “religion says homosexuality is a sin and that’s why it shouldn’t exist” are not phrases that fall under opinion. Are you an expert in gays? Yeah, no. You might be an expert in whatever your religion is, but that is why there’s a separation of state and church in most of the world; your interpretation of a religion should not dictate someone else’s life, especially when said religion is so self-contradictory—but this is a different story. There is a consensus though, at least in Abrahamic Religions, that it’s God who judges. It’s very simple, it’s not under your jurisdiction to decide how someone else should live.

You’re allowed to think whatever you want. But once you voice it and present it as an opinion to be taken into consideration, there’s a social responsibility to preserve humanity. The ideas that are put forth influence the way a society functions; sharing an “opinion” that is based on discrimination perpetuates racist and discriminatory behaviour.

Instead of calling it an opinion, start by simply calling it a thought.

Remember that right and wrong is subjective, and again, at the risk of contradicting the purpose of this piece, here’s some advice: whatever your “right” or “wrong” is, if it devalues the existence of someone, their right to be, keep it to yourself.

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Sports

Bishop’s 78, Concordia 71: Stingers Men’s Basketball team lose in semi-finals

The Concordia Stingers Men’s Basketball team suffered a 78-71 loss against Bishop’s University at the RSEQ semi-finals on Wednesday night, Feb. 26.

Both teams fought tooth-and-nail, with non-stop action at both ends of the court. It was a roller-coaster of a game, each side taking the lead at different times. Ultimately, the last few minutes saw the Gaiters edge the Stingers to a seven-point win.

“It’s one game, it doesn’t mean they’re a better team than us, they were a better team today,” said Stingers head coach Rastko Popovic. “Our guys fought, we competed, it was a close game, back and forth like a playoff game should be.”

The Stingers and Gaiters had come into the semi-finals after splitting four intense regular season games—both teams won twice at their respective home courts. The odds were pretty even coming in, and the determination from both teams was reflected in the scoreline.

“We had a couple of big shots down the stretch,” said Popovic. “I’m more disappointed for our seniors. I’ve been around, I’ve won a lot of games, I’ve lost a lot of games, it’s part of coaching, but this was their last year, their last game, it sucks to lose like this.”

Cedrick Bryan Coriolan and Adrian Armstrong are graduating this year, and although their last game did not pan out the way any Stinger had hoped, they are leaving the team with an impressive repertoire.

Coriolan was named in the RSEQ university men’s basketball honour roll as a second team all-star for his outstanding play in the 2019-20 season. The Stingers guard played 12 games, averaging 11.3 points, 1.3 steals, and 3.1 assists.

During the 2019-20 season, Armstrong made the top-10 list in RSEQ individual university basketball statistics for scoring (average of 13.7), assists, (average 2.9), steals (average 1.4), and three-point percentage (average .326).

“I thank those guys for everything they’ve done, to Concordia University, to Concordia basketball, they came in as boys now they’re leaving as men with their degrees, and at the end of the day that’s what I’m most proud of for them, they’re ready for real life,” said Popovic. “I appreciate their competitiveness, every single day they showed up and really represented what Concordia basketball is, and I’ll love those guys for the rest of my life. This one game doesn’t define their careers, it’s sports, at the end of the game it’s a game. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. These guys will become alumna now, the reason we’ve had so much success till now is that they were on the team, and I’m so proud of them.”

As for the rest of the squad, as it goes with sports (and Nelson Mandela), you either win or you learn.

“There are guys coming back, we’ll have new recruits, it’s a cycle that restarts,” said Popovic. “This loss stings and [our team has] got to use that as motivation, everybody can get better.”

With new recruits, as well as the remaining players on the team, the Stingers coach believes the team has a lot to offer, especially with talents that are just starting—like rookie Sami Jahan, who had an incredible first-run with the team, having also been nominated in the RSEQ basketball men’s honour roll.

That’s the joy of coaching, next season starts tomorrow for us, we gotta get ready, and start building towards the summer when we start playing our games,” said Popovic.

 

Photos by Kyran Thicke

 

Categories
Opinions

Note to Shelf: An Ode to Fantasy

I live in my own world. I genuinely believe in magic, and if you ask me, God and the Universe are one and the same. My most trusted confidante is the Grim Reaper, and my happy place is that little hour in the morning where you can still see the stars, but the sun’s starting to rise—that space of time where polar opposites merge and create a little thing called magic hour.

Confusing? Maybe. But considering fantasy novels have shaped my belief system and helped me cope with fears within me that I have yet to fully understand, it makes sense that my head works a little…. oddly.

Out of the endless pit of fantastical creatures such as vampires, werewolves and witches, my fantasy home is the faerie world. Three years ago I picked up a random book at Indigo, by an author called Sarah J. Maas. It was Throne of Glass, a novel about an assassin that was enslaved and later taken to compete against other assassins at the castle. I will not spoil, but A LOT HAPPENS.

The series was made up of 10 books in total, and every single one is worth it.

Throne of Glass then introduced me to A Court of Thorns and Roses by the same author––a series consisting of three giant books, and a smaller tale of “the time after.” I read this series three times in two years, in two different languages. I will be reading it again in Spanish this summer. I cannot get enough.

Here’s the thing about fantasy novels—they’re a perfect balance between a reflection of egregious real-life politics, the inevitable evil that haunts us in our world, and escapism. 

Fantasy is a genre that not only feeds your imagination and trains you to see things in ways that are otherworldly, but it also allows you to draw parallels with real life and understand things from a different perspective.

Game of Thrones sets a rather clear theme: the use politics for personal gain—at one point I was sure that Cersei was the fantasy version of Trump. Daenerys represented the left, and Jon Snow… well I’m still not sure what exactly he represented, but something to do with being in a perpetual state of conflict between doing the right thing and not wanting to get involved seems about right!

In books, you’re allowed a peek into a character’s mind—everything is humanized, even if the characters aren’t human. Emotional struggles, political situations, plans, secrets, all are things you as a reader are exposed to, and made to relate to.

Being able to deconstruct a situation in a fantasy novel and pinpoint similarities within your own life is a skill that breeds a better understanding of human relations. When a character is described, their thoughts and emotions are there. There is reasoning behind every decision, even the ones that are wrong. What that showed me was that everything people do is a reflection of who they are, what they’re going through. In other words, it simply taught me to not take things personally. Or at least to always try not to!

Reading about dark and creepy creatures haunting my favourite characters and the way they deal with them helped me deal with my own—I have a severe fear of inherent evil, I refuse to believe that anything is just evil, even magical creatures. What I loved the most about Maas’ books is that true to real life, there isn’t a clear line between good and bad—bad characters do good things, and good characters do bad things.

Simply put, fantasy novels show you a world that is so fundamentally different than yours, but creates links and bonds that shatter whatever preconceived ideas you had, and forces you to see things in a different light. Grim Reaper? Not always evil. Suriel, the monster from A Court of Thorns and Roses? Okay, kinda evil, but also restores balance.

Teaching you to break down preconceived notions and forcing you to understand a different kind of creature, even building fundamental similarities—fantasy novels, in so many ways, teach you to be accepting, non-judgemental and to appreciate even the things you hate or fear.

Well, how did I come to have the Grim Reaper as my closest confidante? That, little faeries, is a tale for another time. 

 

Graphic by @justineprovost.design

Categories
Arts

Intricacies of a morally-conflicted mind

Brotherhood showcases the struggling humanity of a war-torn family

There’s a lot that could be said about Concordia Alumna Meryam Joobeur’s Brotherhood. The short film was nominated for an Oscar in the live-action short-film category. In its simplicity, the film showcases the deep disturbance and shifting family dynamics caused by the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Centred around a distrusting and hardened father, Mohamed, the 25-minute short follows the story of his moral conflict upon the arrival of his eldest son, Malik, who had left to fight in Syria with ISIS. Malik returned a year later with a very young and pregnant wife, clad in a niqab— forcing the father into a deeper conflict within himself.

There are a couple of things about the North-African and Middle-Eastern cultures that are important to know. Family is a founding value in this culture; a father’s responsibility towards his family is heavy and permanent. This responsibility is emphasized in the dialogue between Mohamed and his wife, Salha, where he says “I have slaved away my life for these boys.”

Salha, the boy’s mother and Mohamed’s wife, is mostly passively present; not so much taking part in the moral conflict that is set throughout the whole story. In a way, it’s reflective of the passive role of mothers in dealing with life-changing decisions. Although her role is not active, her presence certainly is; she welcomes Malik back without a second thought, expressing “as long as he’s alive, I’ll stand by him and defend him.” There’s a word in Arabic that perfectly embodies what a mother represents: hanan. It means tenderness. A mother’s love is never distrusting, always loyal to her children, and never-fading.

Watching this film was like reading a book—there was a lot left for imagination, for your own understanding. Nothing is said explicitly, nothing is forced upon you. There are a myriad of ways to interpret the struggles of Mohamed’s family. The underlying pressures of societal family values combined with this family’s faith and morality are all challenged when Malik left for ISIS. As an Arab, I think of what must have been going through Mohamed’s mind when Malik returned: he is my son, but he brought shame upon us. He is my son, but he joined an immoral killing machine. He is my son, but he impregnated a child. 

Mohamed’s inner struggle to accept the moral wrongs of his son is the core of Joobeur’s short. There’s a never-ending battle between unconditional love for his flesh-and-bone and loyalty to his moral grounds, and what he believes his religion, also his son’s, actually stands for.

The film is raw, and not very easy to watch. The very opening scene sees Mohamed and his middle-child, Chaker, looking at a flock of sheep that had been attacked by a wolf—a sheep was bleeding profusely, and the father and son went to kill it. The togetherness of this act strengthens father-and-son narrative, while also highlighting the contrast between the two characters—the father as a hardened man, and the son, sensitive and hesitant to kill. This contrasts directly the idea of Malik killing with ISIS— something Mohamed accused him of in one of the scenes, even though Malik said he never killed anyone.

The soundtrack consisted of wild sounds, setting a rural and haunting environment for viewers, forcing them to listen to the tension that is almost palpable on screen. In a scene where Malik takes his two younger brothers to the beach, a moment of confession ensues: “I regret going to Syria,” Malik told Chaker. “Promise me you will never go.”

It’s reflective of how misconceptions and false propaganda hurts people. 

In parallel to Malik’s confession, Mohamed makes a call. An argument between him and Salha leads Malik’s young wife, Reem, to confess that the baby was not his—she was forced to “marry” many fighters. In other words, she was raped by ISIS terrorists and got pregnant, and Malik, while running away, chose to help her even though he knew it would only make things worse with his father. That call was to authorities to take Malik away, a deed Mohamed instantly regretted as he ran towards his sons at the beach, calling for Malik in breathless shouts—only to realize it was too late.

Something that stood out to me was the portrayal of different facets of Islam: Joobeur sets a clear and hard line between the supposed “Islam” of ISIS, and that of a normal, rural family. The Arabic language has a different name for ISIS that recognizes their work isn’t that of Islam—something that Western languages never did. It’s called Daesh. There is no mention of the religion of Islam in this title. This is significant for a simple reason: a name reflects the identity of what it is that you’re introducing, dubbing a terrorist group as an Islamic state automatically associates Islam to terrorism. No matter how many times someone can say “this is not representative of Islam,” there’s no way the stain of that title can ever be removed.

Brotherhood, in asserting the difference between the Tunisian-Muslim family and ISIS, very subtly says that ISIS is not Islam. I’ve read great reviews of the film, but none of them recognized this—most of them related the strain between Mohamed and Malik to the latter leaving family responsibilities, and none highlighted the fact that he left to join a terrorist group, and that was the source of Mohamed’s moral conflict.

ISIS shook the Middle-East and North-Africa. It shook the world of Islam and only fed Islamophobia further, it justified the West’s pre-existent bias and discrimination. Brotherhood depicts how torn families suffered the aftermath of such a phenomenon in the rawest and most simplistic way—strictly humanized, embellished in nature, and thriving in moral conflict.

 Brotherhood can be watched online, on vimeo.com.

 

 

 

Collage by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil.

Categories
Opinions

I’m a Liverpool fan. No qualifications needed.

I’m a Liverpool FC supporter. 

On May 1, I went to my first ever soccer match. It was Barcelona against Liverpool at the gorgeous (and intimidatingly big) Camp Nou, in Barcelona. It was the first leg of the 2019 Champions League semi-finals. I know, WHAT A GAME TO BE MY FIRST, RIGHT?

My amazing mother bought me the ticket as a birthday gift, and although I was seated in enemy territory, the whole experience was spectacular.

Well, getting to watch Liverpool was.

Next to me sat a Barcelona supporter with a beer in his hand. I was seated right above the Ultras (Barcelona superfans), and the men in my row were intense. But this one was kind; he knocked-over my popcorn and instantly went to buy me a new one. Making my way to Camp Nou was intimidating, there were A LOT of people, and the soccer culture in Barcelona, like that of Liverpool, oozes with passion.

I had my Liverpool jersey hidden under a hoodie because I was afraid I would get in trouble if Barcelona fans knew I was rooting for the opposition. The kind man next to me asked me if it was my first game.

“You look nervous,” he said. I laughed and said it was, and that I was more excited than nervous. The players came out onto the pitch for training before the match, and I watched as the 6’4 colossus Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk made his way to my side of the pitch. Dear humans… I peaked in life at that moment. I couldn’t contain my excitement and my teary eyes, and the kind man told me “Barcelona players are amazing, right?” I didn’t even answer, because in came Red’s goalie Alisson Becker. This is what it feels like to be awestruck. It was surreal.

“I’ll explain the game for you,” the kind man quite literally elbowed me back into reality with this. My eyebrows shot up, and I kind of just smiled… He pointed at Mohamad Salah, and said “that’s their best player.” And he went on to explain who everyone is, including Barcelona players.

I thought to myself, did my dumbfounded look make him think I didn’t know anything about soccer, for him to tell me that it’s a corner when the ball went off the defence and out the pitch? Was it the fact that I was silent and just staring at the players? I wish I had asked him, is it because I’m a girl?

In Lebanon, it wasn’t uncommon that I got surprised reactions from boys and men when they found out I liked soccer. It even wasn’t surprising that I was ignored if I had an opinion, or was assumed to like soccer for my boyfriend, who’s also a Liverpool supporter. But to have an assumption thrown at me in Spain was surprising—it made me realize this isn’t a Lebanon thing, it’s kind of a man thing, isn’t it?

The truth is, it was because of my boyfriend, rather than for him, that I’m a Liverpool fan. How come some people don’t see the difference?

“It’s so cute, you watch Liverpool for your boyfriend.” No, dear, I watch Liverpool because of Istanbul 2005. I watch Liverpool because of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, and the Fields of Anfield Road. I watch Liverpool because of Sean Cox, because of the 96 fans who passed away in the Hillsborough disaster, and because of Klopp.

No, I wasn’t a supporter all my life. Yes, I’ve only begun really watching the game after getting with my boyfriend. And yes, it has only been three years.

But if I ever hear someone tell me they’ll explain the game for me, or assume anything that isn’t me being a real fan, I will Trent-Alexander-Arnold’s corner your butt.

Photo by Katelyn Thomas

Categories
Opinions

Michelle Williams, what do you mean “vote in your self-interest”?

Michelle Williams first won my heart not too long ago.

Her role in The Greatest Showman, more specifically her performance of “Tightrope,” embodied everything a complete hopeless romantic like myself feels when in love: faith, devotion through highs and lows, “mountains and valleys, and all that will come in between.”

The 2019 Golden Globes honoured Williams with a Best Actress in a Limited Series award for her role in Fosse/Verdon. Although I didn’t watch the show, reviews were great: Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 81 per cent rating, while IMDb had a 7.9/10 rating. Knowing her — loving her — I will say she deserved it, and that’s that!

Except that it isn’t.

Much like the popular tendency of celebrities to get political at award ceremonies, Williams took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of voting for women. She spoke beautifully about the importance of choice, and how thankful she was for being acknowledged for the choices she has made as an actress and as a person. She added that she’s grateful to “live in a society where choice exists, because as women and girls, sometimes things happen to our bodies that are not our choice.”

In a way, this is all anyone ever wants — to live where, once you look back, you recognize your own handwriting, as she put it. Now, I think it’s important to note that Williams was not at all addressing an international audience in her speech. She was specifically speaking to American women, encouraging them to employ their right to vote. Even more so, she urged women to vote in their own self-interest.

“Wait, what,” was my exact reaction. To this day I’m unsure if I misunderstood it, or she really meant it that way, but to me, “self-interest” should never be what fuels a democracy. A modern society is a collection of different people coexisting in the same place — asking each and every one of them to think of their own self-interest when it comes to matters that will unquestionably and unequivocally affect the other is not only wrong, it’s absurd. As Williams pointed out in that same sentence she preached for self-interest, “it’s what men have been doing for years.”

Since when do we want to do what men have been doing in matters of democracy and the world? I mean, two World Wars, literally countless acts of colonial violence, and abuse of power historically led by men, why would we ever want to do what they have been doing?

Women, exercise your right to vote. Do it so the world “looks a little more like us,” but also make sure that “us” isn’t just an inverted version of the selfishness and cruelty that a world led by white men has brought us. The world looks so much like men because they’ve chosen so selfishly that there was no room for otherness — instead of self-interest, how about public-interest?

 

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Opinions

The man before the villain: a controversy

A man bought a ticket to watch a movie. He went in before the screening, propped open the emergency exit, and hid something inside.

About half an hour into the movie, the man came back into the theatre wearing a ballistic helmet, bullet proof vest and leggings, a gas mask, and gloves. He detonated smoke bombs into the crowd, who thought it was all special effects; part of the movie experience. Then he unloaded four weapons full of ammunition, killing 12 people, one of whom was a six-year-old girl, and injured 70 people.

“I’m the Joker,” he told police upon his arrest minutes after the massacre.

That was James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, when The Dark Knight Rises was released. Prior to that horrible night, reports said that neighbours and families saw nothing out of the ordinary in his behaviour. Nothing that pointed to the disturbed individual who lied behind the Honours student and PhD candidate persona. Neighbours said he was geeky, but didn’t seem anti-social or angry.

He’s a white man who has a high education, a ‘normal’ childhood, is social, talks about football, buys guns legally. Pretty much your average American white male – but with a tendency for cold-blooded murder. Holmes has more in common with Ted Bundy than Arthur Fleck.

Still, it’s well-known that the Joker is admired and even glorified by internet trolls, incels, and people with violent tendencies. They relate to the character that’s a  “man who wants to watch the world burn.” It might even feel like they’re being represented on TV – it almost gives validity to their feelings, like they’re not alone, like what they feel matters.

The thing is that humans create connections and see patterns in things that really are not connected at all. According to an article in Time, even Pepe the Frog turned into a symbol of hatred for the alt-right. People see what suits their previously set beliefs and biases. They ignore the fact that Joker is a villain, and just see the resonance of their sentiments with his. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is no different in that sense.

It’s different, however, in the fact that it’s humane.

Everything about Joker is humane. The setting, the cinematography, Arthur Fleck – Joker only makes an appearance at the end of the movie. Naturally, it’s an origin story. The thing is, it’s a vividly violent and realistic portrayal of the humane. And it revolves around a white man.

What I liked the most about Joker was that it was highly visual. You could see the violence forming in Fleck’s eyes, you could see the hatred brewing – you could feel it. Contrary to what I’ve read, I didn’t feel sorry for him from the moment he killed those men on the train to the rest of the movie. Before that, I did sympathize. Everyone should. Had his mental illness been taken care of, had the system not been so broken – there might have been a chance of innocence for Arthur Fleck.

The movie is about everything that could have put a stop to Fleck’s transformation into Joker. People were disturbed by Todd Philips’ realistic setting, rather than the comic-book version, according to a piece in Time. Is it not a ‘realistic setting’ when Arabs are constantly portrayed as terrorists on TV and film?

Joker is not an ode to incels. It’s a shout to a broken system. Fleck’s behaviour is not excused – he becomes a horrible person. Apathetic and sociopathic, but he was not born that way. The broken system begins with an unfit mother adopting a child. The head trauma Fleck suffered at a very young age was definitely not properly taken care of – even today, head traumas are complicated and you can’t always know what side effects might appear. He was not given a proper education, the court-ordered therapy was inefficient, and he’s an anti-social, awkward, bullied incel.

I’m not a psychologist, but I’m positive that there’s a lot more in his head than his Pseudobulbar affect – the mental disorder where the physical reaction doesn’t match the actual feelings. Most critics claiming Joker is a danger and might instigate violence are American.

These critics are forgetting one thing: you’re still deviating from the real problem, and that’s your own version of a broken system. There might be proper healthcare, and proper background checks for those who want to adopt – but your gun laws are lenient, to say the least. Mass shootings and white, male violence didn’t start with Joker, or Fleck, nor will it end with them.

I wonder. Are you upset that the origin story is grossly violent and realistic, or are you bothered at the fact that a white man is being portrayed that way?

 

Categories
Student Life

The solution in our stars

Amid the horrifying realities in our world, have you ever looked up and wondered why God, karma, the universe – anything – isn’t doing something? 

I don’t know about God or karma, but the universe does, in fact, have something. World Space Week (WSW) occurs yearly from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10 in over 86 countries. It is meant to educate people on space findings, the importance of space exploration and the role of space in sustainability on earth. I found out about WSW only recently, and having gone to the event in Lebanon, I met the Lebanese National Coordinator Cyrine Nehmé, an astrophysicist.

“The only way we are going to save the earth and the universe is if we elevate to a higher frequency, and to think differently,” she said. “We are not just flesh and blood, we are other.” She added that, although she wasn’t speaking very scientifically, she said those words responsibly. 

In the 19th century, scientists noticed that sunlight reflected in some objects generates an electric current called solar cells (or photovoltaic power), which became solar panels meant for spaceships. Satellites, Google Maps, television, wireless products — all are results of space education.

Looking to outer space for a more sustainable use of earth’s resources isn’t new — it’s one of the goals of space exploration. The role of WSW is to make this information available to non-scientists, to reach as many people as possible. Space belongs to everyone; it’s our right to know how it can benefit us and how we can use that knowledge to help solve some of the problems we created. 

Living in space requires a strong sense of rationing — everything is limited and should be used efficiently. That alone is something us earthlings can learn from. Water scarcity is expected to become an imminent threat in the next five years. According to the WWF, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to suffer water shortages by 2025.

There are techniques that were initially developed for astronauts to purify wastewater into drinking water. According to an article in Space News, the University of Kenitra in Morocco uses these techniques to purify nearby groundwater supplies. This provides clean water for 1,200 students, thus reducing the need to transport clean water, which reduces carbon emissions.

Like solar panels, technologies meant for outer space have a place here too, and an eco-friendly one at that. In a 2016 BBC article, Daniel Thomas wrote that NASA’s Ames Research Centre built a “green building” in California, where they’re testing energy-saving technologies. 

“Sustainability Base leaves ‘virtually no footprint’ and uses several innovations from space, including solid oxide fuel cells of the type found on Nasa Mars rovers to generate electricity, and a system that reuses wastewater to flush toilets,” wrote Thomas. 

According to the WWF, agriculture plays a massive role in climate change; from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution, deforestation to loss of wildlife biodiversity, the impact is significant. Growing food in space became possible last year, and has also set the idea of virtual farming a “highly sustainable form of agriculture,” as Thomas wrote. Space farming uses LED lights which increase productivity and are sustainable.

Sustainability is built primarily on humanitarian ideals: meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet theirs. World representatives at the UN’s Fourth Committee spoke about the benefits space education had for their countries, from developing technologically to alleviating extreme poverty. Other benefits include improving the efficiency and facilitating the achievement of the UN’s 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, satellite communications, enhancing disaster preparedness and mitigation, and even improving the understanding of “symptoms relating to aging.” 

There’s already a lot from space technology we can adopt on Earth for a more sustainable use of our limited resources. Yes, let’s march and raise awareness about climate change, it’s important that we highlight the problem. Yet, we should also spread information about the solution – look up, it’s in the stars.

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Opinions

Innate Islamophobia is Everywhere

The portrayal of Islam in movies and on TV is, to say the least, tricky.

Spanish hit-series Élite was the first time I saw Muslims on western TV that weren’t al Qaeda or some terrorist trying to bomb a train. At first, it was a breath of fresh air to see the character of Nadia as just another student. Until she goes into the principal’s office and they tell her that in order for her to stay enrolled in the school, she had to remove her hijab. (Remind you of anything… kinda rhymes with Pill Quincy One?).

The new season also showed Nadia without her hijab, and with a new makeover meant to impress her crush. A lot of people were outraged by that, and rightfully so. One, it does imply that she’s not beautiful enough with her hijab to be impressive, and two, there is an underlying theme of oppression and suppression connected with the hijab. It’s as if the headscarf is a metaphor for the ‘tyranny’ that is Islam. As if to say, “take the scarf off, you’re removing the metaphorical veil of oppression and, voila! You’re free.”

Let me ask you something, do you remember Billie Eilish’s campaign with Calvin Klein, where she said the reason she wears baggy clothes is so no one can tell what’s under, and thus not objectify her? My god, people just wouldn’t stop praising her for this amazing and wonderful stance that inspired millions of women! It was seen as a fight against the patriarchy.

Well, you’re all a bunch of hypocrites and are absolutely incapable of moving past built-in bias. No, seriously, people don’t have the ability to emotionally and mentally transcend Islamophobic bias set by years of unfair portrayal, and see it for what it actually is. The point of the Hijab is humility, and exactly what Eilish said. The problem didn’t start, nor will it end, with Nadia in Élite. The problem is you. It’s all of us, really.

Look inside you, people. Have you ever caught yourself looking pitifully at a woman in a niqab? That’s problematic. Looking at headscarves at the same level we do a woman or child with bruises over their bodies is fundamentally wrong, and although your intentions might be good, your lack of understanding that it is most likely a choice hurts more than helps.

Yes, in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran, women are forced to cover up. And yes, I’m against that, but that’s a cultural thing and not a religious one. The Quran gives general intrusctions, and the Hadith, the sayings and actions of the prophet Muhammad, gives details. It’s important to remember that what was written then doesn’t need to have the same interpretation today. Most muslim women choose to wear the hijab. Most muslim women want to cover up. I know at least three women who put the hijab on at a young age, and then decided to remove it. MY MOTHER REMOVED HER HIJAB AT ONE POINT. Granted, she put it on at 11-years-old and removed it about a month later, but the point remains that it is a choice; it’s a worldly representation of your Faith.

The word Islam literally means surrender, and letting go of worldly vanities is a step into surrender; like monks living in Kathmandu, or Sufis wandering and letting go of physical possessions. It’s meant to be a physical representation of what your priorities are: my appearance doesn’t matter as much as my intentions; ‘I will cover the outside so you can get to know me on the inside first.’

Some Middle Eastern cultures have let an innate patriarchy warrant a rather patriarchal interpretation of Islam. There’s an entire conversation that should happen about Islam being “anti-feminist,” because this is truthfully an atrocious lie.

There is a difference between religion and culture disguised under religious pretenses. The way Nadia was portrayed in Élite is just an example of how the media doesn’t distinguish between these two things. It’s time we learn to differentiate, and realize that what TV teaches you isn’t always what’s real – unrealistic beauty standards? Unrealistic portrayal of the hijab. It goes both ways.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Opinions

Musical influence in politics

Have you watched the Spanish hit series Casa de Papel? Although it’s about a robbery, the main theme in the show is a collective and bold revolution against the enemy of humanity: capitalism.

In one of the last episodes of season one, El Professor, the mastermind behind the greatest heist of all time, sat sipping a glass of wine with Berlin, one of the robbers. Agitated, anxious and trembling, El Professor looked terrified. Berlin then got up, grabbed his glass of wine, and sang:

Una mattina mi son svegliato

O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao! 

The marxist revolutionary chant was a theme song throughout the series, inciting this rebellious feeling inside every listener. El Professor soon began singing with Berlin, the look of fear turned into determination and excitement. That’s the role of sound in politics.

And just like everything in this world, with a negative influencer comes a negative influence.

It’s no secret that I see the President of the United States as the epitome of a negative influencer. Whatever positive economic advantage people might bring up, in my opinion, it does not make up for the fundamental moral wrongs he brings out in the world. For one, since his election, there has been a universal rise in the far right, or the populists as reporter Simon Shuster wrote in Time Magazine

How did Donald Trump gain so much influence when he’s a businessman who was once part of a reality show? It wasn’t his eccentric character and lack of formidable vocabulary. It wasn’t his white, rich man charm. It wasn’t even his blatant racism and sexism, although that did play a role in making already-racist people feel comfortable being so. No, it was the subconscious manipulation of people during his rallies — the use of music.

According to an article in the Washington Post, people don’t really talk during these rallies; they’re too busy listening to the music. Trump’s playlist since 2016 included the likes of Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, and Journey. All rock, folky, 60s-reminiscent vibes. You might enjoy them as well, naturally. It’s good music.

But these are methodically picked to bring back the nostalgia of what it meant to be an American in the 60s. “Make America Great Again” is Trump’s slogan and his choice of music is meant to take people back to the time when America was great, in his opinion.

The 1960s was the decade of civil rights movements, when things began to fundamentally change. Blasting the greatest songs of that time while talking about building a wall and grabbing pussies connects the great feelings these songs bring with those words; they become one and the same. This is a theory called the Hebbian Rule, by neuropsychologist Donald Hebb.

“Neurons that fire together, wire together,” Hebb wrote in 1949.

Now, remember this is my opinion, although I am stating some hardly refutable ideas. It’s a natural reaction in people to associate feelings with a song they’re listening to, like a newlywed’s first dance and love, or the song you first had sex to and feelings of longing.

Trump vows to build a wall to detain ‘illegal immigrants’ while Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” plays in the background; it’s an inspiring song and what people are being inspired to in this context is racism.

In 2016, The Rolling Stones issued a statement demanding that the Trump administration not use their music. In fact, according to the BBC, Neil Young, Adele, Aerosmith, among others, were all against the use of their music at Trump’s rallies.

If Trump were a song he’d be the melody people sway to, and his beliefs would be the lyrics they sing along to as if it were their own.

 

Graphics by @sundaeghost

Categories
Opinions

What are our priorities?

When the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral burned, I was heartbroken – to see walls filled with history, culture, and years of human nuance being devoured by red flames was a sight to make the eyes burn.

The world was in an uproar, pictures of the beautiful church were everywhere, hashtags on social media were immediately trending. The media talked of nothing else.

Now, over 7,200 square miles of the Amazon have been burning since July. As a  result, 131 Indigenous communities are turning into ash, and  3 million different species of plants and animals are suffering. It took the world three weeks to pay attention. It took the media three weeks to talk about it.

But still, leaders from the G-7 Summit offered up to $20 million US towards aid for the Amazon. And yet, the offer was refused by Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, because of a feud with the French president and summit host, Emmanuel Macron. Bolsonaro insisted that in order for there to be ‘talks,’ Macron should apologize. I would call this disturbed priorities from the leader of a country in a crisis.

My questions are directed towards the journalists. I understand that the Notre-Dame was caught on video and happened in one of the most populated areas in the world. But the Amazon is called the lungs of this planet. Why did it take three weeks?

The rainforest is the world’s biggest terrestrial carbon sinker and is now at risk of becoming dry land. I can’t help but feel that had the world known earlier, we could’ve acted earlier – maybe even prevented this.

“Scientists say the Amazon is approaching a tipping point, after which it will irreversibly degrade into a dry savannah,” journalist Jonathan Watts wrote for the Guardian. “At a time when the world needs billions more trees to absorb carbon and stabilise the climate, the planet is losing its biggest rainforest.”

Carole Pires wrote in the The New Yorker that Bolsonaro said more land in the Amazon should be used for farming, mining, and logging. Much like Trump, Bolsonaro is known for caring little about the environment. His campaign was fueled with racism, discrimination, and the incessant need to commercialize the entire country. His priorities have always been towards the green – just not the right one.

In what was the most environmentally ignorant act I’ve ever heard, Brazil’s president encouraged deforestation. Brought to us by Bolsonaro, Aug. 10 became Fire Day – a day when loggers intentionally set fire to clear the land for agriculture. According to Pires, Brazilian space satellites caught surges of wildfire soon after, and three weeks later a smokey apocalypse filled the skies of Sao Paulo – thousands of miles to the south. However, on Aug. 29, Bolsonaro issued a fire ban – for 60 days.

The problem didn’t start with the fire, and it will not end in 60 days. The problem is the fundamental misplacement of our leaders’ priorities. It’s a deep lack of ethical and moral values. It’s that we are not claiming responsibility, because it is ours. Was it not the majority of us who elected them?

The Amazon burning is a symbol that represents the casualties of greed. Burning rainforests, the loss of indigenous homes, climate change… All of these world problems have one dominant factor: prioritizing businesses and material gain at the expense of our Earth’s well-being.

 

Graphic by Victoria Blair

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