Opinion

opinion@imprint.uwaterloo.ca

Imprint, Friday, June 1, 2007

An ass out of you and me
There’s nothing like an angry protest to make you re-evaluate your values. I would like to think I am a tolerant, liberated person. I would also like to think that I never judge anyone on his or her appearance, religious affiliation, or cultural and ethnic background. But following the on-campus events of Monday, May 28, I really let myself down. I did something so dangerous, so uncalled for, that it embarrassed me to no end. I found myself making assumptions. Upon learning that a protest rally had been planned during the Muslim-Mennonite forum at Conrad Grebel College, I knew immediately that the story would be substantial. But, I was asked, who will be protesting? I dunno…probably an ultra-conservative right-wing fundamentalist group. Yup, book by its cover. I realized what I’d said and tried to recover. Luckily, the person with whom I was speaking didn’t think anything of it — maybe she made the same assumption. But the damage in my own mind had been done. Muslims talking to Mennonites about peace, and someone’s protesting? It has to be the right-wing WASPs, doesn’t it? After learning that the protestors were Iranian immigrants, I realized that assumptions are dangerous things to make. I was just as wrong to assume the dominant demographic of the protestors as I would have been to assume that the Iranian scholars invited to speak here had planned on launching a holy war on their flight over the Atlantic. Luckily, my assumptions stopped there. It appeared, however, that the security forces at the event kept on assuming. UW police, regional cops and even a riot team as part of a contingent of boys in blue from the Metro Toronto Police were all called to campus to quell a potential uprising. Ambulances stood by, officers were stationed on the roof, and smoke bombs were readied. There were about 15 or 20 protesters, and their biggest weapons were their voices. Sure, the police officers and security coordinators will pin their presence on public security. But would there have been such a fuss from the Five-O if the protestors weren’t Middle Eastern? Maybe. Or maybe it was more assumptions. The noisy protesters halted the public forum; they had accomplished what they’d wanted, and they did it without violence. And their cause was a valid one, right? I mean, they did speak of fighting for human rights and fleeing their home nation under physical oppression. So the protest was a success, or so one would assume — there’s that dangerous word again. But what about the fact that they stifled open peace dialogues with vigilant methods? What about the irony of human rights advocates stamping out free speech? Their cause is assumed to be a good one, and so are their methods. You know what they say when you assume, right? I guess we all make assumptions. And I guess we should all know how dangerous they are. But I’m assuming you already knew that.
editor@imprint.uwaterloo.ca Friday, June 1, 2007 — Vol. 30, No. 3 Student Life Centre, Room 1116 University of Waterloo Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1 P: 519.888.4048 F: 519.884.7800 imprint.uwaterloo.ca Editor-in-chief, Adam McGuire editor@imprint.uwaterloo.ca Advertising & Production Manager, Laurie Tigert-Dumas ads@imprint.uwaterloo.ca General Manager, Catherine Bolger cbolger@imprint.uwaterloo.ca Board of Directors board@imprint.uwaterloo.ca President, Adam Gardiner president@imprint.uwaterloo.ca Vice-president, Jacqueline McKoy vp@imprint.uwaterloo.ca Treasurer, Lu Jiang treasurer@imprint.uwaterloo.ca Secretary, Rob Blom secretary@imprint.uwaterloo.ca Staff liaison, vacant Editorial Staff Assistant Editor, Ashley Csanady Cover Editor, vacant News Editor, Emma Tarswell News Assistant, Adrienne Raw Opinion Editor, Mohammad Jangda Features Editor, Scott Houston Arts Editor, Andrew Abela Science Editor, Brendan Pinto Sports Editor, vacant Photo Editor, vacant Graphics Co-editor, Peter Trinh Graphics Co-editor, Christine Ogley Web Editor, Gunjan Chopra Systems Administrator, Dan Agar Sys. Admin. Assistant, vacant Lead Proofreader, Kinga Jakab Production Staff Steve R. McEvoy, Tim Foster, Kirill Levin, Véronique Lecat, Ellen Ewart, Ryan Duffield, Claire Mousseau, Paul Collier, Monica Harvey, Anya Lomako, Micheal L. Davenport, Peter McDonald Imprint is the official student newspaper of the University of Waterloo. It is an editorially independent newspaper published by Imprint Publications, Waterloo, a corporation without share capital. Imprint is a member of the Ontario Community Newspaper Association (OCNA). Editorial submissions may be considered for publication in any edition of Imprint. Imprint may also reproduce the material commercially in any format or medium as part of the newspaper database, Web site or any other product derived from the newspaper. Those submitting editorial content, including articles, letters, photos and graphics, will grant Imprint first publication rights of their submitted material, and as such, agree not to submit the same work to any other publication or group until such time as the material has been distributed in an issue of Imprint, or Imprint declares their intent not to publish the material. The full text of this agreement is available upon request. Imprint does not guarantee to publish articles, photographs, letters or advertising. Material may not be published, at the discretion of Imprint, if that material is deemed to be libelous or in contravention with Imprint’s policies with reference to our code of ethics and journalistic standards. Imprint is published every Friday during fall and winter terms, and every second Friday during the spring term. Imprint reserves the right to screen, edit and refuse advertising. One copy per customer. Imprint ISSN 07067380. Imprint CDN Pub Mail Product Sales Agreement no. 40065122. Next staff meeting: Monday, June 4, 2007 12:30 p.m. Next board meeting: Tuesday, June 5, 2007 4:00 p.m.

COMMUNITY EDITORIAL

...And all I got was this lousy education
One of the earliest memories I can recall from the haze of frosh week was attending the football game. I have never been an avid fan of the sport and it had little impact beyond being yet another chance to meet new students. The Waterloo Warriors were doing poorly, but our spirit remained strong with the rousing chant of “It’s alright, it’s okay, you’re going to work for us some day!” I, like many there, found this amusing. I have come to reflect on this sentiment at the end of my undergraduate career. Only now can I appreciate the significance that expectation had on the years to follow. I, like many others, viewed the university experience that lay ahead not as an education or a chance to improve myself, but as the intervening years separating me from a respected career. I can’t help but feel precocious discussing a subject like this, but I’m certain that it at least deserves some discussion. I am disappointed with my degree. This is not because it wasn’t what I have expected. On the contrary, it was precisely what I had expected. Expectations, however, can and do change over time. My expectations were to learn about physics from capable instructors. How glorious I thought it would be to learn about the way things really work on the biggest, smallest, longest and shortest scales. The mystique of physics really lies in the fact that it is a subject of superlatives. In due course, I gained an understanding of the world that was deemed by my professors sufficient enough to allow me to move onto subsequent levels of study.

Teach a man how to learn on his own, and he might get to eat something other than fish every day.
As Vonnegut would say, “so it goes.” As the terms came and went, I learned new things. Work terms, in particular, proved to be especially fertile ground for education. Discussing this phenomenon with my peers, work terms are often described as where they learned the most. You learn a great deal because that’s the nature of most jobs — you have to learn how to do the work. I worry that the future will prove this to be the case less often. Every student is given the mantra, “If you don’t specialize you won’t get a job.” Specialization and employability have become virtually synonymous. Now my feelings have changed. I think more students should enter university with the expectation of learning one thing more than anything else — how to learn. As the saying goes, give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. I would add one more step in this. Teach a man how to learn on his own, and he might get to eat something other than fish every day. It is my understanding that colleges are meant to provide specific training. With the proliferation of the number of programs offered, universities are becoming more like job training than the more traditional degree. I am thus emerging from university still feeling like a student. This doesn’t surprise me when I see how much my education was geared towards filling a niche, rather than being trained to find my own. This slow transition has not come to its natural conclusion of industry getting students to pay for their own job training, but the trends are leading us in that direction. If imposed gradually enough, it will simply become a truism. You won’t get a job unless you specialize. A general degree is meaningless. A well-rounded education is obsolete, paid lip service by requiring a single english course for math students, or a token science course for people in arts. Perhaps this is premature. With the exception of a few programs added each year, many programs do offer the chance for personal growth unhindered by the rigors of a specialization. For students interested in pursuing graduate work, specialization is a necessity — but those who follow this path represent a minority of undergraduate students. I still contend that the small number of electives available as a result of the quest for specialization in many programs does more harm than good. This is especially detrimental when these limitations are imposed as early as first year. A restructuring of the system is not required — only the need to be conscious of what your education will ultimately mean to you.
— Brendan Pinto bpinto@uwaterloo.ca 

Opinion

Imprint, Friday, June 1, 2007

Smoking away prohibition
Pot, ganja, hash, kif, mary jane, reefer, bud, weed: whatever you call it and regardless of whether or not you smoke it, everyone has an opinion regarding whether or not marijuana should be legalized. Whether it’s an apathetic shrug of the shoulders, a vehement “no” or an enthusiastic “yes,” it’s an interesting, complex and deeply rooted debate that, while nowhere near over, may soon be forced to come to a head. The myths of B.C. bud surreptitiously supporting the province through American exports always intrigued me; so, months ago when I spotted the book Bud Inc.: Inside Canada’s Marijuana Industry I was instantly compelled to buy it. Written by Ian Mulgrew, and a finalist for the National Business Book Award, this is not some stoner manifesto, but a serious, economic and analytical look at the marijuana industry in Canada and the subsequent fight for legalization. According to Mulgrew, B.C. exports over $2 billion in pot each year — nearly three per cent of the provincial GDP. In 2000, Canadians spent nearly that much again in domestic consumption; clocking in at approximately $1.8 billion, domestic marijuana sales are just shy of tobacco at $2.3 billion. Remember, these are all estimated figures, based on a black market analysis where the chains of supply and demand are never certain and any and all investment can — quite literally — go up in smoke. Just imagine the possible tax dollars waiting for collection and obstructed only by legalization. From an economic standpoint alone, legalizing marijuana would be great for our economy. Just think of all the tourist dollars that would trickle our way from our neighbours down south. It is widely believed that marijuana is harmful and one of the more prominent reasons why it’s currently illegal. But Bud Inc. and numerous medical sources show that this belief may not be true. There are no recorded cases of overdose from just marijuana, there are no proven links to pulmonary ailments and its health benefits are numerous — and still primarily unknown. Marijuana has been shown to help everything from glaucoma to PMS, and it is suggested to potentially help reduce brain damage when administered to trauma victims. Did you know that marijuana has fewer side-effects than Aspirin? Ninety per cent of Canadians agree that medical marijuana should be legal — not even 90 per cent of Canadians agree that global warming is real. Why, then, is the government still persecuting those trying to supply medical marijuana and putting up roadblock after roadblock for those who are in dire need of relief ? If medical marijuana is okay, and the Reefer Madness style side-effect myths are finally being debunked, why is marijuana still illegal? I spoke to Sgt. Andrew Harrington of the Waterloo Regional Police Service about this very issue, and he expressed fears to me that marijuana is a “gateway drug” and that legalizing it would send the wrong kind of message to our children. This was, of course, after he had informed me that the regional police have been keeping large grow-ops out of residential areas and the subsequent organized crime out of the region. Maybe that’s why I’ve heard it’s been so hard to get pot lately. Harrington told me that every crack, meth or coke addict he knows started with pot — of course they did! Where did they start before that? It’s not as if one day — unbeknownst to anyone — little Johnny spontaneously smoked a huge spliff. I’m quite sure little Johnny downed his share of Jack Daniels and Marlboros before hitting the bong. The phrase “gateway drug” is little more than rhetoric to keep the conservatives happy and pot out of your local coffee shop. Every addict starts somewhere, whether it’s pot, cigarettes, alcohol or caffeine — they’re all drugs . Ironically, the only illegal one I mentioned is the one with the fewest side effects. Throughout Bud Inc., Mulgrew likens the current attitude towards pot with that towards booze during the 1920s prohibition. He even compares the prohibition-era economic system — that built such Canadian mainstays as Molson and Seagram’s — with today’s Canadian marijuana entrepreneurs “running” bushels instead of barrels to our American comrades. The many marijuana activists, growers, connoisseurs, specialists and chefs he interviewed all used similar diction. They refer to marijuana’s current legal state as “prohibition” and see their fallen buddies in jail as martyr-like crusaders for the legalization cause. How and when — and for Mulgrew and his many interviewees it’s a “when,” not an “if ” — is hard to say, but there is something you can do. Like speakeasies in the roaring twenties, the covert coffee shops popping up all over Canada hope to take marijuana use to such levels that the police can no longer enforce against it and are forced to legalize. The usage is there; it just isn’t documented. In the 1970s, the government almost legalized pot — how could it not when Margaret Trudeau was sparking a joint behind her RCMP escort — because the numbers were there to support it. Over the last decade and a half, the numbers have risen again — so join the National Organization for the reform of Marijuana Law (NORML) or the Canadian Cannabis Coalition. Make your voice heard and let the government see that the numbers are there. Until marijuana isn’t taboo, until the reefer madness ends, the prohibition will continue. Maybe we can smoke ‘em out with sheer numbers, because as Ben Dronkers, progenitor of the Sensi Seeds conglomerate and pot grower, said so optimistically in Bud Inc., “in twenty-five years, two generations from now, people will think, ‘What silly people, those who had the drug war.’”
acsanady@imprint.uwaterloo.ca

CHristine ogley