Tag Archives: protests

Sudbury Molestation for Safety A Trade Not Worth Making

By Jason Menard

In general, I prefer my columns and opinions to be visceral. I don’t spend a lot of time refining or re-writing them, as I don’t want to dilute the emotion or the opinion. What you get is me, essentially unfiltered.

I was ready to go off on today’s moronic protest in the U.S. against the TSA and its overaggressive safety measures. I still will, but my issues with the protest – and the fact that its instigator was not even flying himself today – has been tempered by the public molestation of a 15-year-old girl in Sudbury. Continue reading

This Shirt’s Not Offensive – Ignorance Is

By Jason Menard

The image of a bloodied hammer, accompanied by the caption “She was asking for it.” I know it won’t be part of my winter wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean I think people shouldn’t be allowed to wear it.

The shirt in question, which is also available in a version wherein a pair of bloodied scissors are displayed with the phrase “He had it coming,” has caused a bit of an uproar. Concerns over the shirts’ legality have worked their way all the way up to Premier Dalton McGuinty. The Attorney General is currently looking into its legality.

My question is, why? Protestors say that these shirts advocate violence, the manufacturer counters that these shirts are designed to mock that mentality and, in fact, are centred around poking fun at these taboo topics. Interesting sense of humour, that.

However, it’s not up to our elected officials to legislate our thoughts and beliefs. It’s up to us as a society. Our hypersensitivity to minor affronts is well documented, and when these larger-scale displays of ignorance are made, we work ourselves into apoplexy. What’s next, rounding up all the shirts we don’t approve of and having a mass poly-cot burning in the park?

Violence against women is deplorable. Violence against anyone is an abhorrent concept that should be eradicated from our society, but protesting against T-shirts is not the way to do it. In fact, we should welcome these shirts – and look at them for the opportunity they provide, and opportunity to take back our society and have an open dialogue.

The people who choose to wear shirts cut from this sort of cloth, so to say, are ignorant. If they’re pro-irony, then they have to be made aware that there is far too much ambiguity in the message to find the humour or cutting social satire that they’re trying to present. If they’re pro-violence, then it’s an even better opportunity to educate.

Racism, homophobia, sexism, violence – all these forms of hate fester in ignorance. By engaging people who hold these beliefs in a dialogue you have a chance of educating them, showing them new ideas and the faults of their beliefs. By ignoring the problem – or worse yet, prohibiting its display – all we do as a society is send these people underground. Instead of airing these beliefs to the scrutiny of discourse, we’re enabling them to grow and flourish in an environment of ignorance. Banning T-shirts and literature does nothing more than cause the problem to get worse.

Kids – and let’s face it, youth are going to be the main wearers of this type of shirt – are impressionable. It’s their nature to shock, to rebel, and to test their limits. It’s also their nature to find a place, to learn right from wrong, and to try to fit in. They’re desperately looking for a cause to believe in, or an image to present. I remember in my teens that my beliefs were absolute – the problem was my frame of reference was far too narrow. As I’ve aged and been exposed to more and more of this diverse world of ours, I’ve learned that some of the ideals I held dear as a teen don’t stand the scrutiny of time. Now in my 30s, I’m no less passionate about my ideals, but I’m more aware of consequences, mitigating factors, and different perspectives.

Essentially, black and white don’t cut it anymore, we live with shades of grey.

Knowledge truly is power. Those people who are working so hard to have these shirts banned should channel their energies into educating those who choose to buy them. It is our responsibility as a society to call people on their beliefs, to hold them up to scrutiny, and challenge their ideals. If you see someone wearing a shirt you find offensive, ask them about it. Present your point of view and you’ll probably be supported from those around you. Trust me, most kids want to shock, but are deathly afraid of confrontation – as soon as they’re called on it, that shirt won’t find its way out of the closet again.

And for those of you willing to shell out your hard-earned cash for this “ironic” statement, why not put your money to better use? If you’re truly against violence, take that $25 and donate it to a women’s shelter or another charitable organization. That way your ideals and words will be far less empty.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Hell No! We Won’t Go

By Jason Menard

Here’s a phrase that should be familiar to the strikers and protesters who have been dominating the headlines lately: “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more.”

However, instead of being a rallying cry for us to get behind the oppressed workers, it now is a mantra echoed by the disenfranchised masses who are tired of having their needs held hostage for the betterment of someone else. It is painfully clear that the art of negotiation is one craft that’s in dire need of refining.

In what’s becoming an alarming trend, unions and protest groups have become so myopic that they have managed to do the one thing that seemed unpalatable to any of us left-leaning folk just a few short years ago – they’ve got us rooting for the big guys.

Whether it is teachers holding our kids’ education for ransom, tobacco farmers impeding traffic on major thoroughfares, or even millionaire hockey players rolling the dice on labour negotiations and crapping out, the majority of us are firmly on the side of the employers.

So the greater public, who generally struggle to make ends meet and put a little extra away for a rainy day, sides with The Man, while those with whom we would normally have the most affinity receive little to no sympathy. To review: an unholy alliance involving the School Board, the Government, and Billionaire Big-Business Owners are the good guys. But hard-working teachers, farmers living on the edge, and regular guys who are playing a game we’d give our right arm to play are on the biting edge of our venomous words.

And why is that? Because today’s unions and protest groups have neglected the most important part of public relations – the public.

It is our nature as humans to root for the underdog. The better part of our socialist tendencies comes out in support of the worker, and our natural inclination is to side with them. However, what unions and protest groups have done is taken the battle outside of the boardrooms, moved it beyond the picket lines, and brought it right to our doorstep.

How’s my son doing in school? I don’t know, because there are no report cards to follow his progress. And that’s just the tip of the work-to-rule iceberg. What comes next? No homework, nothing beyond the black and white in teaching? Well, who is really suffering? Not the administration, not the teachers, but our children who are losing valuable education time as pawns in this squabble.

Perhaps you’re one of those who likes to honk in support of strikers and protesters as you make your way to work. But, with highways clogged with vehicles barricading the route in the name of protest, you’re more likely to be honking out of frustration than fellowship. And let’s not get to the hockey players. Really, they’ve botched the public relations aspect of their negotiation from the get-go.

So what’s the common thread? Each of these groups has chosen tactics that inconvenience the very people whose support they are trying to engender. Public opinion is an exceptionally strong component of any successful negotiation, and big businesses will do whatever it takes to avoid the backlash brought about by negative press and negative public sentiment. However, by alienating the very people that these groups should reach out to, they’ve effectively strengthened their adversaries’ positions and exhausted whatever goodwill the public may have felt at the start of their conflict.

The worst part about this is that the majority of us initially agreed with the employees’ positions. We know teachers are underpaid for the service they provide and should be better compensated for their preparation time. We know that a farmer’s success is precarious at best and we would like to see our government support them better. We know that there’s a big pot of money out there for hockey players and they’re entitled to their share. But, through their lack of political savvy and abuse of the public trust, these groups have separated the issues from their protest.

What it comes down to is that protest and negotiation must enter a new age. We are a much more media-savvy marketplace, and strong-arm tactics that negatively impact us don’t work. Unions and advocacy groups need to be more creative in developing strategies to get their message out, because the public is more accessible than ever. Use humour, appeal to our sensibilities, use all the resources our multi-media world has to offer, but don’t use tactics that are designed to inconvenience us.

In today’s world the old tactics no longer work. The message tends to get buried when all you want to do is shoot the messenger.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved