Protests in NDG: CDN in defense of Palestinian Solidarity

The Revolutionary Communist Party came together in defense of Palestinian solidarity and the right to protest peacefully.

During the week of March 10, the Revolutionary Communist Party held two demonstrations in support of Palestine in Montreal. The first was on Tuesday, March 12 in front of Premier Justin Trudeau’s constituency office to protest the federal government’s decisions regarding Palestine and the selling of land on the West Bank.

“These capitalist regimes have decided to bet everything on genocide on the Palestinian people,” said Fehr Marouf, a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

According to Marouf, this was the first time the party had organized a demonstration directly in their name. The protest was small, with around 50 attendees, but Marouf believes it is the start of something, even if it’s just the party and their supporters for now.

The Trudeau government has been placed under scrutiny for sending military aid to Israel, something that may go against Canadian export law stating that Canada may not supply weapons if they may be used to break international law. In light of this, new export permits to Israel have been frozen indefinitely, according to CTV news.

The Trudeau administration also significantly changed a motion put forth by the New Democratic Party (NDP) to recognize Palestine as a state. What the Liberal party offered was a conditional acceptance based on the goal of the two-state solution, which would allow Israel to keep existing alongside Palestine as opposed to the landback goal that the RCP is calling for.

The second demonstration held on Friday, March 15 was called to protest the Quebec government injunction against pro-Palestinian protests outside Jewish institutions in Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. It took place in Girouard park. Less than 10 people attended, but passers-by would stop and ask questions.

A member of the party giving a speech to protest the war in Gaza and show their unwavering support for the Palestinian people. Photo by Semira Kosciuk / The Concordian

The Revolutionary Communist Party came together in defense of Palestinian solidarity and the right to protest peacefully.

“There’s been a process of many years of land being taken up by settlers in this area. Where it looks like—if you look on a map—it looks like a big chunk of land, but over time, bits and pieces have been eaten up,” said Calvin Brett, a member of the party.

Criticism of the pro-Palestine movement arose. Trudeau has denounced violence from both sides, something that has frustrated certain activists, as they feel this doesn’t acknowledge the issue.

“No one should in this movement—the Palestine movement—be against someone going to pray or engaging in their culture in any way they see fit,” Brett said. “The actual continuation of this genocidal onslaught in Palestine was continuing here in our neighbourhood.”

Friday’s rally was proposed by fellow party member Tony Miller-Smith after the injunction was announced. He believes he should be able to protest in the neighbourhood he lives and works in. Miller-Smith also stressed the importance of collective action in the fight to free Palestine.

“If you want to fight to free Palestine, you should help us build a Revolutionary Communist Party that can help to overthrow the Quebec capitalists and the Canadian capitalists,” he said.


A word on Yasiin Bey’s comments about Drake and capitalism

Yasiin Bey is most definitely wrong–about some things.

Few things are more predictable than the opinions of someone from a grey generation on the current state of the arts or of general culture. Complaints of decadence, of general intellectual affaiblissement, of failure to honour tradition so often overlay the anxieties of our forebears. This, of course, is the tired “kids these days” trope, alive and well as it’s been for millennia; it is not solely endemic to our own times.

Yoshida Kenko, a 14th-century Japanese monk, complained that “modern fashions seem to keep on growing more and more debased.” Or take the words of the Roman poet Horace, who fretted that newer generations were continuously, and more severely than preceding ones, falling short of the moral standards of their parents’ generation. And Aristotle generalized that the youth, pompous and deluded, simply couldn’t reason for themselves.

The most recent public iteration of this has come in the form of hip-hop legend Yasiin Bey—formerly known as Mos Def—visibly writhing at the thought of granting Drake acceptance into the pantheon of hip-hop, preferring instead the loaded categorization of “pop.” Like Bey, probably many elderly rap statesmen are unhappy with the large hand Drake is thought to have played in shifting hip-hop towards aural appeal rather than substance-heavy lyricism.

But surely, the artist behind If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and the timestamp series cannot be denied his rightful place in the genre’s rafters, however needlessly contrarian one may feel. Drake is more than capable of lyrically dense, introspective tracks (“From Time,” “Weston Road Flows,” “Champagne Poetry”), wordplay potages (his feature on “Churchill Downs” is still unquestionably one of the finest moments of the genre this decade), boastful anthems (“0 To 100/The Catch Up”), and classic rap collaborations in which he has had the upper hand over his song mates (“Aston Martin Music”). Bey, then, is most definitely wrong to deny Drake his rightful place in (the higher tiers of) hip-hop’s rich history.

But perhaps he is not all wrong. The way we consume music has indeed radically changed over the past decade. As we have been told so often, in the cacophony of artists, songs, and albums now available on streaming platforms, there is a persistent need to stand out. The result is often shorter, blander, more easily digestible songs intended almost solely to bolster artists’ numbers across streaming platforms, with little semblance of human soul undergirding the work. (There is much to say about the role of record labels in this matter as well). The art may not be dying, but it is certainly acquiring a more vulgarly commodified aspect than it did in the CD or vinyl era.

This is hardly deniable, not simply existential petulance on the part of withering generations. And this observation cannot be divorced from the consumerist culture we are immersed in every moment of our lives. As Bey hinted—and he is right here—the streaming game faithfully mirrors our irrational shopping urges. 

Our attention spans have been colonized, in the lurid, desensitizing panoply of stories, reels, posts, ads, and whatever else, to heed only what stands out as most pleasant, yet almost all of it is just a profoundly imbecile distraction. As soon as we make a purchase, too, it suddenly bethinks us that we have a number more needless ancillary commodities to acquire.

For scrolling and buying, our brains’ reward systems have been hijacked. The analogy with the perpetual streaming of bland and empty music can’t be missed here: it is, in itself, an insatiable hunger for more meaningful art that can never be fulfilled by that sort of crass grifting. What we need, I suggest, is to train ourselves to recognize the more substantial, and orient our minds towards it. And here it becomes necessary to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Take Drake’s song “Search & Rescue” for instance, which, although sung in a fairly decent, catchy tune, is a disparageable reminder that Drake’s creative engines are sputtering (aside from it being boring and repetitive, he says “mami” a dozen times—he turned 37 last October). He has also failed to produce an inspired album that has won critical assent for almost a decade now and is oddly seeking to reignite years-old, settled, one-sided “beefs” to distract him from what is obviously a terrible state of creative bankruptcy and inertia. 

These are all straightforward signs of an artist who, devoted to the streaming game, has grown weary of a diligent and meaningful artistic process, and swapped it for vacuous numbers. The result, then, is vacuous art, his recent projects replete with songs not unlike the worthless commodities we feel an insensible urge to accrue. Here, Bey has not erred.

But of course, we must see that in doing so, he has grown terribly bored of the numbers themselves. If he hadn’t, the number of thoughtless projects we receive from him would not multiply at the rate it does. And yet the albums keep coming, themeless and bloated as they are, ceaseless reminders that Old Drake™ is never coming back because he never left, having long resisted personal and artistic evolution that could potentially jeopardize his grip on the charts. What now remains is an overgrown 25-year-old nearing 40, still roaming the club’s floors. But dance partners are bound to leave, eventually—no empire lasts forever.


Squid Game’s striking portrayal of modern capitalist society

Squid Game has captivated audiences across the world with it’s twisted mix of Korean childhood games and violent massacres, but the show’s hidden message says more than audiences might think

Warning: Spoilers ahead, but no violent details will be discussed. 

If there is one series that has been on everyone’s lips, it’s no doubt the record-breaking Netflix show Squid Game. With more than 111 million viewers across the world, the visionary Korean series by Hwang Dong-hyuk has turned into the streaming service’s biggest debut show of all time.

The show is a striking mix of violence, pastel-coloured playgrounds and cinematic suspense, exhibiting masterful storytelling throughout. Despite only having nine episodes, the plot allows for immense character development; no one is painted one-dimensionally in Hwang’s explosive universe. In fact, the human complexity of each character is possibly one of the show’s greatest strengths.

The main character, Seong Gi-hun, with his irresponsible spending habits and poor parenting skills, doesn’t immediately tug at the audience’s heart strings; however, as the game progresses, we discover his light-hearted humour, good intentions and the almost foolish extent of his trust, all of which end up endearing him to us.

Meanwhile, the main character’s childhood best friend, Cho Sang-woo, isn’t the kind of person we would expect to fall into financial ruin. A business graduate at the top of his class, Cho is intelligent and clearly ambitious, but he finds himself trapped by excessive debt after his investments and business plans go wrong.

The range and contrast of characters prove that it isn’t only the most vulnerable which are affected by our society’s economic system. In fact, the show does a great job of showing a compelling and deeply symbolic interpretation of modern capitalist society overall.

For every single character, the world beyond childhood ultimately becomes a competitive hamster wheel in the search for economic stability. Eventually, financial failure marks their inevitable downfall into oblivion.

At first glance, it might be our instinct to blame the characters for their demise. It can be tempting to dismiss the players of the game as people willing to ditch their moral compass for money — but Hwang highlights an important distinction, making it clear that it’s not simply greed driving the players. When each person stares at the 45.6 billion won reward ($38.6 million USD), each one of them sees a different kind of salvation.

Abdul Ali, a Pakistani immigrant in the show, goes to South Korea in search of a better life, but is trapped by an exploitative boss. Unable to provide for his wife and newborn son, he joins the game to provide for his family.

One of the show’s more reserved characters, Kang Sae-byeok, is a North Korean defector. We are told that she flees North Korea with her little brother in search of a better life, but she ends up losing all of her money trying to broker an escape plan for her mother, who was returned to North Korea.

Kang turns to the game as a way to get her brother out of the orphanage he’s living in and rescue her mother — she has no great plans for spending the prize money otherwise. When asked about her wildest ambition she simply says she’d visit “Jeju Island” a South Korean tourist destination she once saw on the TV.

The point is, Hwang’s characters are not bad people, they’re just human. Their circumstances and poor financial decisions don’t mean that they deserve to live in perpetual poverty. The real question is why the capitalist system gives them no chance at redemption.

Much like in the game, if they stumble or fall, they end up eliminated from the race.

Squid Game might seem like a radical alternate universe at times, but as viewers we’re being asked to compare our society with that in the game; on the one hand you have the game exploiting people’s desperation for entertainment, on the other you have our society exploiting  people through loans, gambling and debt.

At least the game asks for the players’ consent before participating, and offers them some kind of financial compensation. Meanwhile, capitalist society fails to offer financial freedom to every character on the show, and never asks for consent before imposing itself upon them.

Society’s economic disparity is so evident on the show, that the rich sponsors of the game are convinced that they are doing the players a favour by creating a game where there is a small chance for them to improve their lives — even though the consequence is death.

Despite this, the show provides us with glimpses of hope in the form of individual acts of kindness. Beyond the violent executions and dramatic blood-splatterings, several characters display a level of compassion which has no other reason than a core desire to be kind.

Throughout the show, Seong consistently watches out for Oh Il-nam, an elderly man hopelessly participating in the games. Oh’s vulnerability is in sharp contrast to the game’s violence, and his fragility ends up moving Seong into aligning with him. Even though we know that the alliance is not strategic, we still root for Oh’s well-being because he appeals to our humanity.

Creator Hwang gives us several other glimpses at the characters’ better nature, early on in the show we see Ali rescue Seong during the red light, green light game by preventing his fall when he accidentally trips while running. By holding on to Seong, Ali risks his own life, but this one act of courage allows the main character to keep playing the game.

The insinuation is that, although human nature might have ruthlessness, it also has kindness. Our economic and social systems can bring out either one of these two streaks, and in an ideal world — one where the Squid Game wouldn’t seem like a possibility —  our society would guide us into being better, more compassionate people, where economic ruthlessness alone doesn’t determine our fate.


Graphic by James Fay

Off the grid — an interpretation of my life that could’ve been

A life sans capitalism

All around, people are giving in to the Pit: the notion that working and participating in capitalist society will bring you joy and fulfillment. An endless downward cycle that leads human creatures into meaningless lives where their psyche will serve as tasteless grub for said Pit — or capitalistic societal structure — whatever you want to call it.

But I’m better than all those other people. I saw through the Pit, and said HELLLLLL no! I was going to live my dream life, even if it meant cutting myself off from society, since there is no way to function in it without giving in to the Pit. So I left and began my better life.

No need for an undergraduate degree, no more overpriced productivity-inducing coffee, no more jobs, no more expectations to shower every day or to wear pants all the time… In this oasis away from the Pit you call society, I can live out my days without the tight shackles of today’s normal.

You know what I mean, right? Life is just time you have on Earth, and for some reason, we all think it needs to be filled with what we perceive as ‘meaningful careers that will be ‘impactful’ in some way’. Why can’t we just forget about government, money, material goods, and why can’t we just live?

I know it’s more complicated than that, but hear me out.

My entire life I’ve seen my parents accomplish great things, and now I live with my — amazing — but very put-together sister, who at 22 has a full time job and an in-home office. I’ve felt the need to do something big with my life, or comparable at least. But the truth is I discovered my real passion, the true love of my life, one sunny day when I was eight years old.

I was running through a field in Kathmandu, Nepal, when all of a sudden we stumbled upon some baby goats. These tiny little baby goats would run around my sister and I, jumping into our arms… That was the best day of my life. But now, I sit sulking in my apartment thinking of the good ol’ days.

Why can’t I live in a small, run-down home with a couple of goats for my cheese addiction, a cow and some chickens, and a beautiful garden? Why aren’t these the skills I am teaching myself if these are my aspirations? Maybe because my mind has been skewed by what we are all expected to become — workers that feed the PIT!

Better yet, why can’t I camp? I’ll live off the land! I don’t care that it’s -30 C  for seven months out of the year in Quebec, I can do it! I just have to learn how to build a shelter and make a fire out of nothing, maybe make some clothes out of raw materials… easy-peasy! And of course, you can always go warm up in a gas station… it counts, right?

Maybe I’m just a crazy burnout who wants to drop out of life and responsibilities — that is a very likely possibility.

Or maybe we all feed into a meaningless Pit of lies — one that makes us believe that if we just work hard, make money, and save money, our lives will work out. We will buy homes one day, and settle down with our soulmates. But in reality, these things are rare. Most people — despite having done everything right — still don’t have the luxury to settle down for a happy, fulfilling life.

Most people face a lifetime of capitalism-centric society without reaping any of the so-called benefits — working to climb the ladder until you reach your deathbed, on the off chance you may leave some cash for your descendants. Maybe they will have an easier go at it… or maybe not.

Obviously, not everyone has the ability to drop everything or the luxury of not having to think about the affordability of living off the grid. But sometimes, I find it eerily comforting to think about how meaningless it all is — money, power, government, purpose… makes me feel like it’s okay that I don’t know what to do with my life.


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

Reframing Britney Spears in the cultural landscape

What can we learn from a retrospective look at Britney Spears’ time as a pop star?

What does Britney Spears have in common with a can of Pepsi?

They share the neuron that’s fired in your brain.

“A celebrity face may function as a reinforcing stimulus whereas the product is a neutral stimulus,” according to a study that analyzes celebrity product endorsement.

Translation: consumers with a positive association to a celebrity will generate warm favouring to the product they endorse, even when their stance was otherwise neutral to the product, as seen in neuromapping.

The recipe goes like this: place a celebrity next to the product in a commercial, and the product will tap into some of the happy memories you have of the celebrity, located in the cerebral cortex of the brain.

So, we see how this relationship impacts the product — Pepsi inherits the feel-good memories I have when I think of dancing to Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” when I was five years old.

But how does this connection between product and person impact my impression of Spears?

Do we start to relate Pepsi more to Spears, or is it the other way around?

I’m talking about human objectification. I’m talking about concepts like “celebrity brand” and, its echo, “finding your brand,” which flips a profit off self-objectification.

On the page, this may read like a jump to you — the idea that self-branding is an act of violent objectification. But the brain doesn’t parse between “positive” objectification, like a lucrative advertising campaign, and “negative” objectification, like vicious online threats to celebrities.

The brain cannot tell that I am only self-objectifying, as in “branding,” in order to, say, sell myself to this company I want to work for. The brain only fires neurons.

The normalization and commodification of objectifying ourselves and others works to divert our attention from who people are to how people appear. This distinction facilitates cruel online “trolling.” It turns people’s suffering into memes. It rewards snappy hatefulness.

Objectification of ourselves and others is ultimately subversive to the age-old battle for women’s equality, as it reinforces systems of violence that exclude women from medical, legal, and financial independence. Example: Spears.

Reality check: Spears’ first hit single, “Baby One More Time,” with its super suggestive lyrics and iconic baby-doll school uniform, was first released when she was just 17 years old.

From a young age, we drank Spears like lemonade on a hot summer day. Her “brand” in the early days of her career — a girl next door type who played dumb half the time and spoke in a baby voice — made it possible; encouraged it even. As she grew up, our consumption of Spears intensified, with paparazzi following her every step for our benefit. I want to watch her personal life unfold. I want to know why Britney and Justin broke up — whose fault was it? As this objectification intensified, it did so with consistent sexist bias.

Our brains are elastic. They learn from repetition, reinforcement, and other sly tricks. The dawn of neuromarketing broke open a new day in the advertising world. Its repercussions permeate public identity, culture, celebrity fate, moral shifts, personal finance, and so much more.

Spears is the intersection point of all these other consequences.

A recent documentary by The New York Times Presents, “Framing Britney Spears” chronicles the experiences that have led Spears to endure a lifelong pursuit from paparazzi, suffer various mental health episodes before an unforgiving public, and to experience a conservatorship for more than a decade, which charges her father with managing her fortune, among other things.

Looking back, we can agree that what happened to Spears was unacceptable, and many who were ousted in the recent documentary have come forward with their own reckoning with the situation. I remember watching the 2007 “Leave Britney Alone” video in high school, tickled by the outburst, and completely oblivious to the rightful urgency of the message.

But the issue of objectification persists in mainstream culture and news. Jojo Siwa, a child celebrity who self-identifies as the first person “to be licensed as a brand,” is celebrated as a feminist icon for “owning” her brand.

Siwa is 17 years old, around the age Spears was when she first released “Baby One More Time.” These are people, who are literally children, celebrated for the relatability of their brand. People are congratulated for living an experience publicly that appears authentic while they treat their real life experience as a commercial, with products seamlessly embedded into their human experience. This is called an “ownable” brand.

The major distinction between Siwa and Spears is the latter’s sexualization for profit. Spears was sexually objectified from a young age, a phenomenon many of us can now agree is wrong (don’t ask someone whether they’re “still” a virgin during a televised interview!). Siwa’s team, in contrast, have managed to create a brand that exploits Siwa’s youth and bubbly — almost childish — personality, rather than cash in on her sexuality.

This distinction is not a feminist celebration. This is not a success. Spears is a living example that even the most talented and wealthy women can still be subjected to unimaginable harms and systemic oppression that excludes them from financial, medical, and legal autonomy.

Our brains can’t distinguish between “good” and “bad” objectification. The problem isn’t that sexual objectification, such as the objectification Spears endures, is bad, it’s that objectification in itself changes how our brains perceive the world, which then impacts how we relate to one another.

Humans were made to connect because together we are stronger. But if our brain no longer distinguishes a person from a product, then that weakens our natural inclination to bind at a granular level. It weakens our capacity to communicate effectively, to form meaningful bonds, to have each other’s backs.

For decades we drank Spears the persona and Spears the person.

Her manager says she may never perform again, and honestly I understand the decision. She expressed that she’s “taking time to be a normal person,” a rightful boundary that swells me with shame, as it should.

My brain registers Spears like a can of Pepsi: the person, the persona, the product — despite her humanity. Now it’s my job to rework that understanding, to retell her story with respect and compassion as I reflect on the times I danced to her music, soaking it up.


Photo collage by Kit Mergaert


Spending money for money

“I just bought that private Island, land ho!“ yells a white millennial man in a khaki-coloured research hat, while gliding towards shore on a small boat. He flashes the papers to prove it, and later we’re told that the land cost $730,000.  We’re now less than a minute into the video, aptly titled “I Bought A Private Island,” by YouTuber MrBeast.

MrBeast, a.k.a. Jimmy Donaldson, has made a career off of this type of content. A quick scroll through his YouTube page will show you dozens of titles reminiscent of the aforementioned private island video. “I Spent $1,000,000 on Lottery Tickets and WON,” “Lamborghini Race, Winner Keeps Lamborghini,” “Spending $1,000,000 In 24 Hours” — the formula becomes obvious.

To those unacquainted, Donaldson’s content may seem like a mishmash of neon thumbnails and immature bragging. However, MrBeast content is highly planned and researched and fits squarely within YouTube’s newest vice — flex culture.

The term comes from the idea of flexing — to show off or boast, first popularized by rap and hip hop artists before it trickled into wider popular culture.

Flexing has found a home for itself on YouTube with influencers making mass amounts of content specifically about their consumerist tendencies. Gucci shopping sprees, opulent vacations and closet tours filled to the brim with Birkin Bags have become a genre of their own, where influencers shamelessly flaunt the vast fortunes they have amassed on the platform.

To understand this phenomenon, it’s important to take a look at the current influencer market to understand why creators would be interested in producing “flex” content.

YouTubers now have more revenue streams than ever. Up until just a few years ago, Adsense — the Google program that allows YouTubers to make money from ads run on their videos — was the primary way YouTubers gained an income. But now that social media influencing is seen as a lucrative business, more parties are involved financially. Due to third party partnerships, which can come in the form of corporate sponsorships and affiliate links (not to mention income from merch and Patreon), creators are less beholden to their audience.

On the one hand, having multiple income streams can be creatively freeing, as ideally you would be less compelled to shape content simply around increasing the amount of eyeballs you’d get on your ads. However, for many already ultra-successful creators, the cushion of third party income can diminish the importance of viewer satisfaction. In other words, if you’re already making hundreds of thousands of dollars from sponsorships, how many people like and comment on your videos really doesn’t hold as much weight.

Furthermore, many creators who make “flexing” videos are ones who rose to fame on the basis of their personalities alone. While some gained their success through makeup tutorials, such as Jeffree Star, many have risen to fame through simply their demeanor and conventional attractiveness. The concept of “being famous for being famous” has existed since the reality TV boom, and arguably earlier. However, with the democratizing features of social media, the saturation of this type of celebrity is higher than ever.

So what do you do when you have achieved wild online success for no discernible talent and you have more money than you know what to do with? You make the money itself your content.

However, flex content doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Many of these YouTubers have young fans who have yet to develop a mature understanding of class and money. So, for these viewers, the sheer indulgence of these flex videos may just seem aspirational, not shocking.

Additionally, these sorts of videos promote unhealthy views of consumption. Luxury haul videos, for example, normalize the mass consumption of unnecessary goods. While haul videos from fast-fashion retailers like H&M and Shein can be found all over the internet, they’re often slammed as problematic for their promotion of unethical brands. However, luxury brands’ practices can be just as bad, as they also outsource their production to countries with less worker protections. And that’s all before you even factor in the major price markup. Needless to say, no matter where you shop, “hauling” goods can never be sustainable.

Flex culture is not likely to go away anytime soon. As long as we live in a society with major wealth disparity, some people will have massive fortunes, and others will like to live vicariously through them. Many of us are financially suffering and trapped at home, where it’s easy to spend all day staring at social media. It could be fun in these times to escape into the lavish lifestyle of others. However, at the end of the day, it only serves to further the divide as these creators get richer and richer.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab

From fall trends to corporate transparency: fast fashion at Jean Coutu

How a trip to the pharmacy opened up a world of questions

I rarely leave the house these days; partly because of the colder weather, mostly because of the deadly pandemic that most people seem to be taking less-than-seriously. One of the stops I absolutely must make, once a month, is to the pharmacy.

One Saturday, I was getting my medication refilled, and regardless of how much notice you give the pharmacy, there’s always a five-minute wait. Those five minutes of limited freedom to roam the aisles, avoiding other bodies and following little tape arrows along the floor, feels like a luxurious return to a somewhat normal routine.

Rack of sweaters at Jean Coutu

It was in the final corner of the store — behind the snacks, the assorted phone cables available for purchase, and the passport photo studio — that I noticed a clothing display. To someone who hasn’t been shopping in a while, my excitement was palpable. My excitement exponentially grew when I noticed a familiar tag on an item I had been seeking all summer: the perfect knitted vest. To my surprise, it looked like this item had gotten lost along the way to the nearest H&M retail location. How did this cute little vest end up in a Montreal pharmacy?

Earlier this year, several major fast-fashion retailers came under fire as a result of their failure to fulfill their orders to garment factory workers in Bangladesh. H&M was named as one of the major brands with the largest number of postponed or cancelled orders. The retailer was later absolved from this public relations disaster by working to compensate suppliers for finished goods and goods still in production. If finished goods and orders were fulfilled by H&M, why did this vest end up in the bargain clothing section at a Canadian drugstore?

Perhaps part of the reason that H&M remained relatively unscathed by this incident is a result of the brand’s positive public relations campaign about the transparency of the corporation’s supply chains. Following the reporting on the cancelled orders and unfulfilled payments, there was a flurry of articles focusing on H&M’s commitment to transparency of supply chains. This commitment to transparency is part of the brand’s turn towards sustainability, but the company lists a total of 261 suppliers in Bangladesh alone, making it difficult to pinpoint a specific supplier who could have produced this item.

H&M is undeniably a global brand, with production taking place in 40 countries across the globe, and retail locations in most major cities. The company purports a commitment to transparency and sustainability, and is celebrated in the media for its forward thinking approach. What is sustainable about a fast fashion brand with a surplus of goods and a supply chain that includes one in five countries around the world?

It is because of the scale of this retail giant that this goal of transparency is largely impossible. Despite the abundance of information on their website, it is impossible to determine what supplier created this item. The product is not listed on the H&M website, and as a pharmacy, Jean Coutu doesn’t exactly have a system in place for transparency of clothing suppliers. Despite reaching out to the corporate offices of Jean Coutu, I was unable to find anyone who could clarify where this item came from. Still, the familiar little tag makes one thing abundantly clear: the claim that H&M paid for all of its cancelled or completed orders cannot be true.

H&M is ultimately a corporation that prioritizes profit before all else, and the majority of the brand’s corporate social responsibility is a side effect of necessary marketing campaigns and shifting demographics. Late-stage global capitalism is wildly unpopular with many consumers, and as a global retail giant, H&M is poised to be hit the hardest by this social shift.

The company’s willingness to internalize this discourse of sustainability could be interpreted as a step in the right direction, or as a sinister commodification of environmental activism. Ultimately, I think COVID-19 has brought forth the destructive capacity of global capitalism, the ability to destroy business, and the ability to end lives.

It is a testament to western privilege that I am able to write and research an article about the transparency of supply chains, rather than live the reality of being an unpaid labourer struggling to survive on a bag of rice. I am afforded the luxury of aimlessly wandering pharmacy aisles and delightfully discovering a garment that has travelled further than I ever have. A major corporation worth billions of dollars found that they overestimated their seasonal profits and failed to consider the impact of COVID-19 on spending. If H&M is the industry standard for transparency, the company will continue their corporate legacy of empty promises to sustainability.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab, photo by Meagan Carter

Small Steps: Don’t let imposter syndrome get you down

Once, sitting at a Cook Out (a southern fast food joint, sadly missing in the “great” white north) at around midnight with my friend Hannah, the topic of nepotism came up. I bemoaned to her about my fears of never truly knowing my worth in the creative industry because I happened to be following in my parents’ footsteps. My mom is a broadcast media professor and my dad sports a 40-year radio career. And now, I am an aspiring media professional who does radio on the side. It all just felt a bit too close to home. How could I ever know if I’m actually good at what I do if I’m always being told where to apply and who to contact?

Hannah, never one to parse words, looked straight at me and asked “What does it matter?” She goes to a much more “WASP-y,” predominantly well-to-do school than Concordia, where many of her peers wear their generational wealth on their sleeve, so she was able to see things a little more clearly than I.

“Hey, if John Rockefeller Vanderbilt the fifteenth is using his nepotism, why shouldn’t you? At least you’re a woman,” she said.

She was right. I was using my fear of what little nepotism I am capable of gleaning as a smokescreen for what was really going on —  imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is basically when you feel like you’re a fraud despite ample qualification. It’s the gut feeling that you don’t deserve any of your accomplishments, despite having worked for them. It’s the difference between me and John Rockefeller Vanderbilt the fifteenth— he believes he is good enough for the position, regardless of circumstances, while I do not.

Imposter syndrome is not solely personal, though. It’s intrinsically tied to how society values the labour of certain people over others. If you’re conditioned throughout your life to believe certain fields aren’t meant for you, or you never see people who look like you reflected in your desired job, it only makes sense that you’d still feel like you don’t belong even after you’ve beaten the odds. For that reason, women are much more likely to experience imposter syndrome than men, and women of colour tend to experience it the most.

It’s extremely hard to break the cycle of negative thinking when it’s so ingrained in our culture. And exclusionary and toxic work environments only exacerbate these issues. It would be easy to say that women and POC should just put on a smile and “know their worth.” But that sort of #GirlBoss logic doesn’t fix the reasons why so many are plagued by feelings of inadequacy.

To actually stop imposter syndrome, we’ll need to address the structural reasons why people feel inadequate in their careers in the first place. The vast majority of workplaces were never constructed with women or marginalized people in mind, so of course those trying to navigate these structures will feel alienated. Additionally, a capitalist structure which views professional failure as akin to death doesn’t really help us put our careers into perspective.

It helps to know that imposter syndrome isn’t just you, because most of us all feel unworthy every once in a while. Keeping that in mind may just help you navigate our capitalist hellscape a little bit easier.


Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam


What a face mask can’t fix

After I’ve washed my face with a bar of nice smelling soap and applied basically half a bottle of rosehip oil on my nose, I dive out of my ugly green swivel chair and plunge into bed. 

As my greasy face rubs against my pillows and my eyes begin to close, I think for a moment that everything is going to be okay. Just for a moment, I forget about climate change, coronavirus, global politics or the nine assignments on my to do list. As J.K. Rowling writes, all is well.

I know that I’m not the only person who has a bedtime routine that makes them feel a touch more like a human.

Whether yours is washing your face, or spinning around clicking your heels and sprinkling essential oil in your eyeballs, it doesn’t matter. We often use these routines to find some sort of control while living in a capitalist society that alienates us from one another, driving us to consumption as a cure for all. This is evident with the boom of the skincare industry.

According to CNN, “The global skincare market was valued at nearly $135 billion in 2018, increasing nearly 60 per cent in the past 10 years.”

In Canada, according to Statista  the market amounts to $1,762.60 million in 2020, expecting to grow annually by three per cent.

Like any large, growing industry, there are many reasons to be sucked into the skincare world. For some, their reasons align with mine, feeling like for a moment in the day I can control my life and how I feel. For others, it’s about hormones and acne. Many can relate to the fact that you simply don’t feel good when your skin doesn’t look good.

Summarizing the impacts that skin care issues have on one’s mental health will always be an oversimplification. There will be people that don’t care about their skin, no matter what it looks like, where others won’t leave their house with even a few blemishes.

As online platforms continue to grow, we see more filters and photoshopped images of perfect skin than ever before. Common sense would tell us that this would distort our perceptions of perfect skin. As cliche as it sounds, perfect skin does not exist.

The lack of representation of real skin with pores, pimples and wrinkles, paired with the mass amount of consumptions of images and videos of “flawless” skin is a recipe for skewed expectations regarding skin care.

Some social media platforms have started raising awareness of “Acne Positivity,” by sharing stories and showing images of people with acne. Movements like these shine light on the reality of living with acne in our society, while also demonstrating to people that they are not alone.

So all this to say, skin care can be a big part of our routine, while also telling us that we are not good enough. Often, companies try to market a magic recipe that will fix us— and although that would be great, it is just simply not the case.

What may help is changing our perceptions of what beauty is, so that those with acne, scars, red splotches and other “imperfections” can fit under that umbrella.

Can that happen when large industries rely on us hating the skin we are in to make profits? Probably not. Is it safe to say that capitalism is the root of all of our problems and my rosehip oil won’t fix it? Probably. 

Photo by Laurence B.D


Why we have all fallen victim to greenwashing

Have you ever noticed that your favourite shampoo is now mysteriously in a green bottle, with shaded trees and reminding you that plastic can be recycled?

Or maybe you feel like the paper towel you usually buy to wipe your dirty counter is helping you change the world because it has a leaf on it? Did that kombucha bottle come up from the roots of the earth, or is that just the new design?

If any of these scenarios resonate with you, you might be a victim of a marketing tool called greenwashing. This term was coined by an environmentalist named Jay Westerveld in the 1980s, “to describe companies which grossly overstate the environmental or ethical benefits of their products and services.”

That’s right, 1980. We have been manipulated by falsely sustainable products for almost 40 years and the trend is only growing. This marketing tool could not be more valuable in our modern economy, as everyday we collectively panic about the climate crisis.

Many of us are doing what we think is right by buying what we think are sustainable products. Capitalism has a funny way of turning a disastrous crisis into an economic opportunity, with big companies exploiting and manipulating the market for their personal gain.

One of the main issues with greenwashing is that defining sustainability is not as straightforward as it is marketed to be. We tend to respond well to simplified categories and digestible explanations, but sustainability is a very complex issue. It is often defined as maintaining ecological balance or being environmentally conscious, but these terms are vague, and companies are using this to their advantage.

Let’s take a look at a textbook greenwashing example: Fiji water bottles. Fiji as a company has done a very effective job at perpetuating a message that they will help you connect with nature. One of their slogans was “a gift from nature to us.” Not to mention, they got a cute little girl to say it, which creeped me out, but seemed to work for others. The creepy little girl also says, “bottled at the source, untouched by man.” I mean, it’s beyond me how they created mass amounts of bottled water without touching anything. Also, where is that girl’s mother? Anyway, the irony here is obvious. Fiji promotes connection to nature, while feeding into the destruction of it.

According Our Changing Planet, 47 per cent of Fijians do not have access to clean, safe water. This company is sending a message that they are saving forests and creating sustainable change, but it’s propaganda. The unnerving thing is, even though, New York Times Magazine came out with an article criticizing Fiji’s integrity in 2008, the company is still a massive capitalist giant. Although we can rationalize the clear intent of the company, they are professional manipulators. We have to push back against our instincts to get lost in a little girl’s cute voice and a pretty forest background.

My consumer conscience relaxes when I clean my toilet bowl with a green bottle. I fall for buzzwords like “all natural,” “eco-friendly,” and “sustainable” all the time. A lot of people do — that’s why companies continue to do it. This being said, we have more control than we think. There are good companies out there — but greenwashing is loud and invasive, and often drown them out.

Try your best to buy local products and try to avoid chains when possible. I know that sometimes this can be more expensive, but often choosing the more environmental choice just takes a bit more time and research. When you are buying products keep in mind where they are coming from, how much packaging they use and what ingredients they consist of, although this is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

Like Our Changing Planet states, “One of the greenest things you can do is to buy fewer things. No matter how great the product is, it’s probably still kind of deceptive to market it as green.”

So remember, mass consumption of sustainable goods is a harmful paradox, and for goodness sake, get a reusable water bottle. 



Photo by Britanny Clarke



Student Life

A non-believer embraces faith

Secular students find value in wisdom and practices of faith traditions

An atheist looking for guidance among religious people may seem ironic at first. Some students that frequent Concordia’s Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre (MFSC), like Nicolas Chevalier, identify as non-believers but still derive benefits from being involved.

Chevalier admits that he had some reservations about Christianity and other religions, but was still curious about them. “At the same time, faith can be something that brings people together, and that is something that is clearly lacking in our society,” he said.

Chevalier met Ashely Crouch, the interfaith facilitator at the MFSC, through a mutual friend. Chevalier often attends events put on by Sustainable Concordia, and since it shares the same building as the MFSC, he ended up participating in a few events there as well. Chevalier considers himself an atheist, yet his involvement with environmental activism complicates that perspective. “With my environmental background, I do believe everything is connected. We’re not just here in a cold existence to reap everything from the earth,” he said.

In all his intersectional organizing and activism efforts, Chevalier tries not to take a “finger pointing” perspective. He said he is drawn to similarities in how interfaith communities create respectful dialogue, even when they disagree.

Chevalier’s family is Christian, but they rarely went to church during his childhood. So while he didn’t know much about religion growing up, Chevalier was never anti-religious, and was always respectful of people’s faith.

A turning point came when his mother passed away from lung cancer about four years ago. It so happened that his family’s neighbour was a priest. “He would come in and he would talk about nothing and everything, in a way that was very comforting. That was definitely something that helped change my view about people who have faith,” Chevalier said.

The role of the campus chaplain at Concordia has been constantly evolving to reflect the changing religious beliefs of the student body, said Ellie Hummel, the chaplain and coordinator at the MFSC.

The chapel at Loyola College became an ecumenical place of worship when Loyola joined with Sir George William College to form Concordia in 1974. The chaplaincy gradually grew to embrace the increasing number of non-Christian students coming to Concordia, becoming multi-faith.

In the last 19 years, since Hummel has been at Concordia, spiritual yet non-religious people have also been welcomed. “We are adjusting our language more,” Hummel said. “We realized there are people who name themselves as secular and humanist, and we want them to know they are included.”

“People could have their typical view of ‘oh, it’s a preacher person just coming here to push their religion’ and that’s not at all what I get from either Ellie or Ashely,” Chevalier said. “They invite people in to come as they are, whether they have faith or not.”

Chevalier thinks the main issue with organized religion is that concentrating power in an institution eventually leads to the people running it being corrupted by that power.

The MFSC’s approach to cultivating a faith-based community is more informal and non-hierarchical. Crouch became the interfaith facilitator at the MFSC a little over a year ago. She said that a lot of new students, when they come to the MFSC for the first time, ask about how they can join. “You don’t have to join, you just belong, you’re just here,” Crouch said. “It’s very intentionally kept that way.

Ultimately, compared to what capitalism and consumer culture offer in terms of living a fulfilled life, Chevalier said he sees a lot of good things coming out of the multifaith chaplaincy. However, he doesn’t necessarily see his participation as political.

“In the traditional politics type of sense, I don’t see it like that, I just see it as people sharing ideas” Chevalier said. “[But] some of my friends who are stronghold atheists would go ‘why are you even talking with these people?’”

While the MFSC offers varied programing, from drumming circles to meditation groups, Hummel said the most important thing they offer is simply the space—a place where people can just drop in and talk to religious people.

“[It] helps you […] realize that you can live with people who don’t necessarily agree and to have a respect around those sorts of things,” Crouch said. “Everybody can grow from that.”

Feature image by Kenneth Gibson


How to survive in this cutthroat capitalist world

One student’s satirical approach to excelling in a competitive environment

One of the biggest fears of many students is graduation. How does one find a job and survive in this cut-throat, dog-eat-dog world? The “real world” is even scarier if you’ve spent most of your degree studying social sciences or humanities. You’ve been learning about the failings of global capitalism, and then you’re expected to live in this enigmatic economic system after graduation. Without further ado, here are a few general tips on how to win in this capitalist society. Since, you know, winning is all that matters.

The first rule is to constantly assess people by what they can give you. This can’t be stressed enough: people are vessels through which you can find success. Disregard anyone you perceive to be of a lower social standing. Shake the right hands (Tip: when shaking hands, pull the person toward you and ensure your hand is slightly on top of theirs. It’s a fun little way to assert power and dominance). This rule requires a mastery of the social hierarchy upon which every human is immovably placed.

The second rule is to live in utter fear and anxiety all the time. This includes fear of failure, fear of having your ideas stolen, fear of being cheated, fear of not being good enough, fear of falling behind and fear of starvation and/or homelessness. We live in an economic system based on good old competition, and everyone is secretly hoping you fail so their chances of success increase. Remember that people are out to get you, so at your deepest level, you need to truly trust and love no one.

The third rule is to lose any sense of morality or empathy you’ve ever had. You need to get out there and take what you want—and you are going to have to do some morally questionable things to get it. This may include intentionally slandering, sabotaging or even worse. At the end of the day, only one person can get that promotion you’ve been hoping for, so you’d better decide where your priorities lie. You will often see people who have less than you—quite possibly not even enough to survive—and your gut instinct will be to feel sympathy for them. But before you act too rashly, you need to remind yourself that they didn’t work as hard as you. Everyone gets exactly what they deserve, and there are no existing systems that benefit some people more than others.

Following these three simple rules will make you the winner of capitalism in no time. You will develop an unquenchable thirst for consumption in your pursuit for success, but surely happiness lies somewhere at the end of that, right? If you develop an anxiety so deep and fundamental that you can no longer function, you may consider rewiring your brain to be less concerned with monetary success and rigid hierarchical frameworks, but it’s really up to you. I’m sure you’ll find your own way to cope with the realization that all the plucky promises capitalism tells its youth, like “you get what you deserve” and “there’s value in hard work,” are ultimately propaganda to preserve the machine. Either way, happy job hunting!

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

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