The game is Monopoly and the loser is us

Companies like Amazon are winning the game of Monopoly, and it’s time we learn how it’s played

“Here’s the thing about those discount suppliers. They don’t care. They come in, they undercut everything, and they run us out of business. And then, once we’re all gone, they jack up the prices. It’s bad.

Sound familiar? It’s only the soundest thing that The Office’s fictional character Michael G. Scott ever said in his life. It’s also the basic premise of the children’s game Monopoly, as well as a legitimate business model in this capitalist, free market.

It’s happened over and over, where a mega monster corporation siphons away business to create a monopoly with the allure of convenience, savings, and efficiency. Then, once they control the market, they price gouge their customers.  We as consumers enjoy short-term gains, and are left with long-term pains.

We do have a vote in Canada — but in this system, we don’t vote with a ballot, we vote with a wallet. Instant gratification is not priceless. It’s the most expensive thing in the world, and every time we buy our groceries from Amazon, we’re fortifying the illusion that we need its service.

That’s right, this is about Amazon, and why it’s up to every single one of us to use our one vote — our purchasing power — to boycott them.

Bernie Sanders made waves depicting why Amazon is an immoral service. Amazon responded by tweeting an invitation to Sanders to visit their facilities and verify their efforts in safety, and listing those efforts to minimize the fatality of the pandemic.

Truth is, it’s common knowledge that you, reader, likely paid a higher tax rate than Amazon did last year. Amazon has plowed through scandals with brazen inaction. Their scandals leap from dangerous working conditions for their warehouse workers and delivery drivers, to their efforts to suppress workers unionizing, to the massive waste they create. I’ve gotta hand it to Amazon, they’re nothing if not versatile in their crap behaviour.

We’re in a system that’s rigged. It’s important that you know that the only thing that matters, more than blog rants, more than voting, even, is where you spend your money (but still vote). That’s literally it. When you withhold your money, you withhold purchasing power to large corporations that seek to further their interests. Oftentimes, this profit is used to apply political pressure on governments who then act against the people’s best interest. These corporations pay for ineffective governance with our money.

I’m saying buy smart. Buy local. Buy second-hand. Buy from a friend. Shop through word-of-mouth. And if you really need to buy online, let me show you how to use Amazon without paying for it, completely legally.

Step 1. Let’s say I’m shopping for scented candles. Start by typing it into your search engine.



Step 2. Select the inevitable Amazon link to browse their selection of scented candles.



Step 3. Select the item you prefer. In this case, I’m going with a Yankee Candle, because my dad’s name is Yankel, and it spoke to me.


The distributor (Yankee Candle Store) and product name (Midsummer’s Night) are readily available on this page.

Step 4. Copy the distributor and product name and paste it into your search engine. Scroll past the Amazon thirst traps, and select the distributor’s website.



Step 5. Click the link and make sure to search for any coupons or promotions the distributor may be offering. This is really common because Amazon is gouging these companies, and so these small retailers try and incentivise shoppers to go directly to their website.


Step 6. You will see here that the price of the candle is $29.50, whereas Amazon  charges $27.62. However, in the fine print, you see Amazon charges to ship (if you don’t hit the minimum amount for free shipping,) whereas the direct distributor charges a mere $5.99, leveling out the cost in the end.

This is just one example, and in the end it won’t always be such a small margin of savings. We have to keep in mind that Monopoly is no longer a day-long children’s game. We’re not playing with our siblings, and we’re not playing for bragging rights. We’re playing for our livelihood, and we’re losing.


Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam

Clog in the machine: Orcs need a union, change my mind

This is a piece of satire.

Human rights and standards shift from government to government, yet we express little outrage at the abhorrent living and working conditions of the most vulnerable in our population, Orcs.

Orcs, the fictional species depicted in the prolific Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, are the victims of unseemly living conditions, human rights violations, and a shameful smear campaign that paints them as the oppressor, not the oppressed. They are practically bae if you like that victim of eugenics, foot soldier in a series of wars they don’t belong in, life expectancy akin to a fruit fly-type vibe. Incidentally, that is my type.

Orcs are born prisoners of war, by virtue of their existence alone. They emerge from this sickly, poorly ventilated stew of a lab-womb as fully developed adults for one purpose, and spoiler: it’s not to discover their love of arithmetic or sailing.

The sole purpose of Orcs is to serve soldiers in their master’s war. To this end, they’re born adults and male. No, their first word isn’t “Mama;” it’s “master.”

Orcs had their childhood bred out of existence like it was a coiled tail or floppy ears on a dog. Childhood doesn’t serve the war effort, so why bother? We have child labour laws, but somehow, Orcs don’t qualify for these standards. Is it because they’re born with all their adult teeth?

Everything about Orcs orient them to war. When you’re born in a dungeon-cave-laboratory, you don’t really want to call the Orc stirring your placenta-mud soup “Mama” or “Papa,” not even “comrade.” It just doesn’t feel right. They don’t have family, and that’s intentional. It’s so that they won’t have something personal to live for.

Female Orcs were also bred out of existence by eugenic practices because they did not serve their master’s war effort. When there is no love in your life, you’re more likely to march to your death in a war you only heard about around lunchtime.

Forced sterilization is such a horrible form of evil imposed on Orcs, as it impacts every corner of their existence. It’s also a human rights violation, according to the Geneva Convention. Canada, did you catch that? Ideally Canada would not do that, but you know how the saying goes — countries will be countries.

The Stanford Prison experiment studied the phenomenon of abuse in instances of unchecked power. We learned from this study that wrong actions don’t define Orcs’ personhood, violent circumstances do.

Take the shocking incidences of crimes against humanity inflicted on the prisoners held by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib during the polarizing Iraq war. American soldiers inflicted unbelievable mental and physical abuse on prisoners, from humiliation to blatant torture. These soldiers are labeled “a few bad apples,” and we carry on without criticism of the harmful structure that elicits these behaviours. When Orcs carry out similar atrocities, apples are just “bad” and structural context, again, gets lost in the shuffle of who to blame.

Orcs don’t have a cultural identity outside of war. All Orc names are about being good at war. One Orc leader is literally named Azgog the Defiler.

The languages Orcs speak are not their own, but are designed to facilitate war. Their system of governance is solely fear-based, with threat of punishment around every corner — all stick, no carrot, and the language they use, also created by their master, functions to organize war efforts, and nothing more. Orcs aren’t given an alternative, let alone a pension for their long career in defiling.

Orcs are a clog in the machine, and we are trying to pour Clorox down the drain. Considering all the fighting Orcs do, they weren’t given a fighting chance. They’re barely given a bathroom break. What are they, Amazon warehouse workers?


Graphic by Lily Cowper


Legault wants to launch the Quebec version of Amazon

Amazon Quebec would better serve “nationalist” clients, according to Quebec’s Premier.

Premier François Legault and Minister of Economy and Innovation Pierre Fitzgibbon brought up the idea of creating “Amazon Quebec” – an online shopping website like Amazon that would feature only Quebecois merchandise to better serve “nationalist” clients.

Hours before a meeting with Amazon Canada on Nov. 20, Legault told reporters from Presse Canadienne the lack of Quebec products on the amazon platform is a “big concern.” Legault added that he wants to be assured Amazon Canada will not just sell American products to Quebecers.

The idea of an Amazon Quebec isn’t new – Canadian entrepreneur Alexandre Taillefer, who later became the campaign director for the Quebec Liberal Party in 2018, first introduced the idea in 2017, but it never developed.

Fitzgibbon said that he was a fan of the Amazon platform and that a new Quebec version could help the province’s retailers. “We have customers who are nationalists, who like to buy Québécois, so perhaps it’s time we started to look closely at having such a structure,” he told the Presse Canadienne.

Fitzgibbon suggested that the Quebec government could invest in the platform to help it be sustainable, and that the platform could include a homegrown delivery system, so merchandise can be delivered quickly.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced plans to open its first fulfillment centre in Quebec, which will be a warehouse in Lachine and will create 300 full-time jobs in the area. Legault said his priority was to reassure Quebec suppliers that Amazon will not only sell American merchandise to Quebecers.

The opening of the new warehouse has sparked debate, both concerning the working conditions of Amazon factories, and that the online company could undermine local Quebec retail shops.

Stephano Carbonaro, a finance student at the John Molson School of Business, said that while the new jobs will be beneficial, “it’s increasing people buying online items, so you’re not purchasing items locally, so there are pros and cons in this situation,” he said.

A Quebec Amazon could help mitigate the issue of local retail stores losing business to foreign websites.

Angelica Rameau, a journalism student at Concordia said she thought a Quebec Amazon could be positive for the province. “I guess that it could help, if the population wants to know that their products are actually from here,” said Rameau. She would like to actively support local shops when she is shopping online.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


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

Student Life

The Amazon is on fire: Here’s why

The Amazon is on fire and it has been for the last few weeks.

There has been an uproar around the world because it’s a horrible thing happening to such an important ecosystem on our planet. People were lashing out at news outlets and organizations because of the lack of coverage.

In just a few days’ time, though, increased coverage of the topic took over social media and became something everyone was talking about. Countless news outlets were covering the story and #PrayforAmazonia was trending on Twitter as early as Aug. 20.

What people need to understand, though, is that fires in the Amazon are nothing new. Human-created fires are set every year during the “season of the queimada,” which is “when farmers intentionally set fire to the forest for agricultural purposes,” according to complex. This period usually lasts from June to December, which is when the Amazon Basin dries out, according to National Geographic, thus making it more susceptible to fires. The difference is that they are usually controlled fires that occur after trees are cut down in a certain area and the fallen trees, after being left to dry out, are set ablaze to clear the area.

The difference between this year and previous years is that there was an 83 per cent increase compared to the same time period in 2018, according to Business Insider. As of Aug. 21, a total of 72,843 fires took place.

One of the reasons for humans setting fire to the Amazon is the development of agricultural crops. These crops could be anything from soybeans to palm oil, or the land can be used for cattle farming – considering Brazil was deemed the world’s top exporter of beef in 2018, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The same source says that the cows, for which there’s an estimated headcount of 232 million, primarily eat grass. That’s why land is being converted from forest to grazing crops. In a Global News article, it was said that deforestation in the Amazon for the purpose of cattle farming led to the forest losing 17 per cent of its area in the last 50 years.

Forests cover more than 30 per cent of the land on Earth, according to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF). Not only that, but these forests are home to 80 per cent of land species. Also, forests, especially rain forests, are also responsible for absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into oxygen, which, you know, is vital for our survival.

On the same note, rain forests act as carbon sinkholes. The WWF’s website says: “Tropical forests alone hold more than 228 to 247 gigatons of carbon, which is more than seven times the amount emitted each year by human activities. But when forests are cut, burned or otherwise removed they emit carbon instead of absorb carbon. Deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for around 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions.”

A lot can come out of this discussion about the Amazon being on fire: is this deliberate blazing of a central part of our planet connected to the increase of climate change in the long-run? Is cattle farming and the meat industry, specifically beef, worth the destruction of important ecosystems?

All of this and more are reasons to be wary of the permanent and potentially irreversible effects of climate change.


The technology war has reached our bookstore, and Google won

Graphic by Sean Kershaw

Do you remember when companies stuck to what they did best? Google was a search engine, Amazon sold books and Apple sold computers.

Those days are over. All three companies have beefed up to offer a wide variety of services, and as a result, they encroach on each other’s territory every so often in an attempt to expand their customer base. Google, Apple and Amazon now offer music and storage services, as well as tablets.

This level of competition is advantageous to us, the consumers, because it drives prices down and offers a wider variety of choices.

This semester, Concordia’s bookstore started offering a decent range of e-books (textbooks, novels, etc.) through a partnership with Google and 22 other universities in Canada and the United States. “We are proud to sell Google eBooks because they offer students ultimate flexibility,” the website boasts. “They can be read on virtually any device, at any time.”

The key word is “virtually.” As a proud owner of an Amazon Kindle e-reader, which I bought for the sole purpose of reading, I was excited knowing that thousands of books, possibly some that I would need for class, would be made available for me.

Then I read this: “Google eBooks will work on the following devices: Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Computers, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo Reader.” It adds: “Google eBooks are not currently compatible with Amazon Kindle devices.”

After repeated attempts to get an explanation from the bookstore as to why it was exercising what seemed like e-reader discrimination, I got a reply from Ken Bissonnette, the operations and text manager at the bookstore. He started out by saying that the bookstore had sold roughly 450 copies of e-books that were required for courses in January, but “there are no plans to include the Kindle.” After demanding more precise explanations, he finally said: “At this time I don’t see Google using Kindle.”

This statement proves two things: firstly, that a partnership with Google clearly entails preference to Android-based tablet users, which is understandable, and secondly, that the bookstore itself is clearly unaware of student trends, and the advantages of making their e-books available to Kindle users.

While Apple clearly has a stranglehold on the tablet market share, the Kindle has the same kind of monopoly for e-readers. “During the last nine weeks of 2011, Kindle unit sales, including the Fire tablet, increased 177 per cent compared to the same period in 2010,” according to an official Amazon statement last month.

Kindle device sales in 2011 were nearly triple the 2010 total; this is due to its low starting prices and to Amazon’s “focus on an ecosystem and content for users, an approach closer to what Apple uses for the iPad, rather than focusing on hardware specs.,” according to Flurry Analytics.

The point is, the Kindle is prevalent among the student population and universities should opt to include the Kindle if they want to achieve substantial e-book sales. No one I know owns a Sony or Kobo eReader, and I certainly don’t know any students who want to strain their eyes by reading an 80-page document on an iPod or iPhone, let alone an iPad, which uses a reflective screen that simply won’t let you read in the sun.

Photo by Dean Sas via Flickr

In 2009, Princeton University carried out a pilot program (three members of faculty and 51 students) using e-readers in a classroom setting. One of their goals was to reduce the amount of printing and photocopying. “Most students surveyed in the Princeton pilot (94%) said they did use less paper, reducing by as much as 85% the printing they normally would have done in the pilot course,” according to the report.

Can you imagine if the Concordia bookstore sold the world’s most popular e-reader (which is already attractively priced) or at the very least made its e-books available to Kindle users? Not only would their e-book sales skyrocket, but the university would save an enormous amount of paper, which would certainly help Concordia’s efforts to become as sustainable as possible, and to be a model for other schools to follow.

More e-book sales would likely lead to more coursepacks and textbooks becoming available to the student body and subsequently, students wouldn’t be as turned off by the outlook of reading 80 electronic pages. So, will the bookstore bow down to Google, as so many others have done, or will it figure out a way to let us, the Kindle users, in on the fun?

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