A Grab Bag …’Cause It’s Been a While

Has it really been a month already since my last blog entry?! I guess so… That means it’s also been exactly a month since my last vist with Lucy. Funny, but it feels like 10 days or 10 months ago — fairly recent or another long-ago chapter.

Tons of sundry topic worthy of a blog chat (or rant) have popped into my mind in the last month, so I think I should just do a “This and That” grab-bag entry like Torn used to do when he would blog. (His readers haven’t enitrely given up on him even though his life is about to get increasingly busy since he decided to enrol in a master’s program in education, which is a huge and wonderful decision on his part.)

Centres StopThe Attempt to Quit: Update
I’m sad to say it’s not going very well. I currently smoke about half a dozen cigarettes per day. On the plus side, that’s five times fewer than the day I tried quitting and I hardly cough anymore, but on the down side, that’s still far from my goal of not smoking at all. However, there’s another plus side: unlike past attempts when I would tell myself that I would only be a light smoker (and, of course, would progress back to being a heavy smoker within a few weeks), I’m still in the “quitting” mindset.

I’m viewing my current smoking status as a temporary setback and I’m not giving up on trying to quit. But this time I categorically learned that, more than the first coffee of the day or after meals, work-related stress is my downfall. I only smoke in one room at home and never while I’m out. In fact, I’m well beyond feeling that panic when I leave the apartment without ciggies. To me, that’s still progress and I’m choosing to view the positives as more significant than the negatives — the chief negative being that I believed that this treatment would be any different than any other method of quitting.

Zombie vs. BabyBad Neighbours
When I look back at this blog in its nearly 10 years of existence, I realize that I’ve done a hell of a lot of bitching about my neighbours. A part of me wonders if I’m really that unlucky and another part fears that I’m too demanding and intolerant. But at least now, after therapy, I understand better why it upsets me so much and that the truth is somewhere in between.

Last night I learned that the landlord has just mailed a registered letter to my neighbours upstairs. That’s huge and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t persisted with the janitor, an approach I likely would not have pursued with as much persistence prior to therapy. And I feel no guilt because clearly I’m in the right: boundaries need to be respected and I am entitled to insist that they be respected, an entitlement I second-guessed for myself in the past.

Today — Saturday — they were particularly AWFUL up until about 15 minutes ago when they stepped out for a while. I realize now that it’s not just the kids but also daddy, whose step is remarkably heavy for a guy who’s average to diminutive in size. I felt like going up and telling them that they are the most inconsiderate neighbours I have ever had, but unfortunately that’s not true: they are AMONG the inconsiderate neighbours I have had. But clearly it would go right over their heads, in good part because they can hardly speak English or French and my Mandarin is non-existant.

Niqab or BurkaNot All Black and White
What a perfect segue for the immigrant guide put out this week by the city of Gatineau, on the Québec side of the Ottawa River opposite our national capital.

The village of Hérouxville started a huge controversy when it released a code of conduct for immigrants in 2007, which was filled with xenophobic “codes” like “It’s illegal to lapidate or kill one’s wife.” What made the Hérouxville code so controversial is that the village had precisely two immigrants, one of which was a Asian child adopted at a very young age by the Québécois family. What followed was a series of wrenching public hearings, with the fire fanned by the right-wing ADQ the led by Mario Dumont, as the rest of Canada smugly looked on and derided Québec, without a trace of irony, as the country’s most racist province.

As a francophone from outside Québec who came of age during the era of Prime Minister Trudeau, I am fundamentally in support of multiculturalism. No one should be forced to erase and forget their cultural history. However, I also believe it has to be woven into a distinctly Canadian identity. It’s unfortunate, though, that political correctness has led to many, many blunders.

There are very valid reasons why some people chose to leave their own country to come to Canada. In some cases, the reasons are economic; in others, the reasons are persecution and war. That said, there’s nowhere in the world I could go and expect my “Canadianess” to trump local values, nor would it be reasonable for me to expect that. Indeed, when in Rome, one has to do as the Romans. To some extent, that has to be true in Canada as well, except that what made Canada distinct in the last half-century or so is that there wasn’t an outright expectation that immigrants had to deny their essential identity and assimilate into a melting pot. The expectation was more one of integration coupled with mutual respect.

I hate to admit it, but there is, at least in my mind, a link between this controversy and my fucking neighbours.

Whether it stems from British and French legal tradition — let’s not forget that, constitutionally, Canada is a nation founded by the French and English — or our huge territory for a puny population, respect of space and privacy is, I would argue, an implicit Canadian value. If someone comes from a chronically overpopulated place, they might be more accepting of always overhearing others. Of course, that’s also a fact of life in large Canadian cities like Montréal, Toronto or Vancouver, but certainly not to same extent.

As for the “smelly food” edict that caused so much stir in the Gatineau guide, that’s a tough one. One the one hand — and perhaps most significantly — the variety of tastes we can enjoy now in Canada is remarkable compared to 50 years ago. But, on the other hand, I’m remembering when my brother and sister-in-law were in town last July and we ended up going through my apartment to figure out if some small animal had died in a wall in my office. Turned out it was the neighbours’ stinky food and it took nearly a day for the smell to dissipate.

That said, I would admit that was only a minor inconvenience and I probably would have forgotten about it had food smells been their only “offense.” Certainly I never would have gone as far as making “no stinky food” a point in an immigrants’ code of conduct! However, where do we draw the line? If I were to kiss a man in Saudi Arabia, I’d be in big trouble. But if someone immigrated to Canada from a country where being gay is outright illegal, that someone should not expect that “value” to hold here is well.

Christmas TreeThe Fake War!On!Christmas!
But when I wrote earlier that “political correctness has led to many, many blunders,” certainly the whole fake war on Christmas is a prime example.

Indeed, this is case where politically correct zealots have gone too far. I mean, everybody knows I’m no fan of Christmas and I’m certainly not a practicing Christian; however, I can’t deny that I was brought up Catholic, as were generations before me. That’s just a fact. When I wish someone a “Merry Christmas,” my eyes aren’t waxing over at the thought of Baby Jesus in some crib next to an alledged virgin and an old guy who probably couldn’t have gotten it up; I’m just being civil, just as I believe I would be civil when wishing my Muslim co-worker “Eid Mubarak” at the end of Ramadan which he diligently observes. In fact, I’m pretty sure my Muslim co-worker will be wishing me “Merry Christmas” on our last day of work before Christmas.

I suspect that many of those who are the most vocal against the politically correct zealots are Christian zealots who don’t actually know anyone who’s not of a Christian background. It’s right up there with the Hérouxville code of conduct for immigrants …in a place where there’s no immigrant !!! They don’t know what they’re talking about.