Editorial: Seeing Double

Bryan Mailloux - Editor-in-Chief
Posted on: June 5, 2016

Hello all, and welcome back for Issue #2 of the Iron Warrior! It’s crazy that we’re already rushing headlong into midterms – sometimes it feels as though the term started only yesterday. To everyone preparing for exams, good luck! You’ll do great!

I was really sad to hear that Muhammad Ali passed away this past week. As well as being an inspiration for African-Americans, Muslims, and other oppressed groups in the USA and around the world, he was a symbol for those who refuse to betray their morals, and for those who would take a hit themselves rather than hurting innocent people. Ali was a legend, and he will be missed.

This issue of the Iron Warrior is really Elections Edition Part 2 – we’re covering the recent election of Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines, and Caitlin’s Five Things You Don’t Want to Know returns with… more things you don’t want to know, but this time about elections. Professor Michal Bajcsy stars in this issue’s Prof Personalities, and Brigita recounts her homemade deodorant mishaps in Leafy Thoughts. (Don’t use candle wax as deodorant. Got it.) Tom and Donovan duke it out in this issue’s PCP, arguing about whether video games should follow an iterative development cycle or not. In POP 101, we’ve got some Canadian Indie bands you should give a listen, perhaps while tasting some Brewskies recommended by the Broskies. (It’s their 10th issue special! For this issue, the Broskies are tasting some of their old favourites!)  Donovan talks about cool dinosaurs (literally) in his new column Old News. And finally, in the Benchwarmer Report, Elizabeth talks Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Now that that’s out of the way, I want to talk about a conversation I had the other day with a teenager from small-town Ontario whose perspective on current world events I found to be both astonishing and a little (by which I mean very) worrying.

Luke, as we’ll call him, has recently been suspended from high school for getting in a fight, as kids do. At this point, the standard parent response is to sit down and have a chat with their kid to get them to shape up. Not Luke’s mother, though. She wants to send him to a Bible camp in Florida. Which is, in my opinion, a little excessive and not necessarily useful – I went to one of these Bible camp things myself in Richmond Hill one summer and gained absolutely nothing out of it, except for a homemade drum made out of a margarine tub. One worry I have is that this Bible camp might teach him some of the intolerant attitudes all too prevalent in the southern United States, but then again I trust him to hold true to his Canadian values of “not arbitrarily hating someone because they’re different”. But what’s more concerning is what he said afterwards: the reason he was worried about his trip is that while he’s there, the US is going to be “nuke EMP’ed by ISIS agents recruited by Russia, and everyone would go back to the dark ages”. (An EMP, or electro-magnetic pulse, is commonly used in popular fiction to cripple the electrical infrastructure of a city or region.)

Something tells me he’s not kidding when he says these things.

I used this example to illustrate what I think is a common trend with the way we think. This is our tendency to see things in a dualistic manner, with two forces opposing each other – black and white, harmony and chaos, yin and yang. And for most of history, this has been the basis for a majority of people’s mindsets, from the most powerful emperors to the lowliest peasants. Why? Because it’s the easiest way of thinking – it’s a way for us to simplify our world into a format upon which we can quickly make decisions. In a world where resources are scarce, such as the world for most of history, up to and including the current day, this mindset makes sense: if someone wants to raid your village for food, the fastest and safest thing to do is to band together with your fellow villagers and attempt to fend off the invaders. Naturally, this becomes an “us versus them” situation. And like most of the historical baggage humanity has dragged along with it as the centuries have gone by, this mindset has persisted.

So where does our dear adolescent protagonist fit into this? Well, is Luke really in danger of having his food, shelter, or life taken from him? Certainly not – his family is rather well off, and The-Middle-Of-Nowhere, Ontario, isn’t exactly known for being a target for… well, anything really. In other words, in the grand scheme of things, he shouldn’t even be thinking about “us and them”.

But obviously, he is. It’s easy to see where Luke got this outlook from – as a kid growing up in small-town Ontario, and as part of a family that doesn’t find travelling to be a suitable family activity, the only exposure he really has to the outside world is through mainstream media, social media, and video games. (Like many teenagers, he’s a pro at first-person shooters like Call of Duty and Halo.) These sources of information are clearly geared to make us think dualistically about the world. While I’m not necessarily against the dualistic interpretation of the world – it has served us well for thousands of years and will continue to do so for many more – I think we can attribute many of the problems in the world today to this mindset.

As you’d expect, video games, and really games in general, are notorious for being dualistic in nature. This makes sense: back when sports and games were invented, people needed a form of entertainment that could be completed quickly, so that enough time could be spent gathering resources to survive. But when games, and specifically violent games like Call of Duty, begin to portray current events, and not history or fiction, people have to start taking sides because that’s just how games work. Usually the bad guys in video games such as Call of Duty represent the bad guys in real life. That’s fine. However, what if someone plays the game, but they don’t know where to draw the line between good and bad in real life? What if they can’t distinguish the terrorists from the people on the street?

Mainstream and social media don’t fare much better when it comes to helping people draw that line appropriately. It depends which media outlet you get your information from, but some of them are happy to blow some threats far out of proportion compared to the danger they realistically pose, because that sells best. Having people fear the enemy is how media CEOs pay for their fancy houses and cars, and the more enemies there are, the more cars the CEOs can buy. They make sure to tactfully avoid outlining where the line stands between the bad guys and everyone else who could be mistaken to be part of the bad guys. Once the media has formed people’s opinions for them, social media can then step in and amplify the effects of the mainstream media: by offering people the choice of what they want to like and who they want to follow. Social media effectively limits people into seeing only what they want to see, and reading only articles that agree with their point of view. And before you know it there’s a whole group of people who refuse to listen to any kind of reason or opposing arguments.

Of course, most of us here at the University have enough common sense to take what the mainstream media says with a grain of salt. We can tell when the whole story isn’t being told, and we know how to ask the questions that haven’t been answered. We also have the advantage of being a part of a community that prides itself on its diversity, and we have the opportunity to work and make friends with people of different origins than our own. As such, we can see the humanity of groups that are not our own. They may not have the same ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, but we can very clearly see that they are not the “enemy” the media wants us to believe in. Ultimately, the University is a place where we can see people as people, and not as enemies, regardless of our past prejudices. Ultimately, love is our resistance.