Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The colour red & the Internet

“One of the things I like best about the Internet is that millions of people whose ideas were ignored in the mainstream media can now be heard. However, one of the things I really hate about the Internet is that millions of people whose ideas were ignored in the mainstream media can now be heard.” William McLaughlin, 25 May 2001; alt.native

Oh, this is so true. The Internet is full of the most fascinating, informative, wondrous ideas and people simultaneously as it is full of the most senseless, useless, racist, obscene ideas and people. Why, just the other day when I was doing some online research I stumbled upon the most racist, disgusting, ignorant blog by a Finnish man. I was shocked. Seems he has nothing better to do but spend his days building a racist, reductionist "history" of Islam and Muslims. Seriously, go get a life. Isn't there anything in Finland that is interesting to write about? Why not try to understand why Finnish men have such a high rate of "traffic suicide"? Not only do Finnish men suicide via vehicle, each year 80 people, mostly men, kill themselves by jumping under trains. That's awful. There are only 5 million people in Finland! These high rates of suicide by car and train tracks are astronomical. What is going on, boys?

Kymin "pikkupunakaartilaisia" The little red troupe from Kymi. 1918

And let's not forget Finland's male gun culture. It goes back a long way, red, white, and beyond. There have been some recent massacres at Kauhajoki and Jokela that have resulted from the mix of masculinity and guns that's crying out for some deep cultural analysis.

So, why doesn't that Finnish blogger focus on his OWN LIFE? Seems there are plenty of things to focus on in Finland, but I guess it is that old Orientalism; it's got a stranglehold on him. He should realize his obsessive infatuation with the East is unhealthy. I got off his site as soon as I realized how hate-filled it was. It is a creepy site. You feel dirty just entering its space. Shouldn't someone be monitoring hate literature like that? Or is this sort of racist hate-mongering allowed in Finland under the pretext of freedom of speech?

With the hand of Fatima I beseech all hatemongerers to cease their racist rantings! Join the folks who are using positive energies to heal our dear Mother earth! Live and give and breathe generous kindness and respect for all living beings!

Seriously, we do not have time to waste on making problems worse; we need to do our share to make a difference.

I'm putting together a course on Identities and Cultures of Digital Technologies and I came across the quote that I opened this post with while reading Native on the Net: Indigenous and Diasporic Peoples in the Virtual Age. Talk about people doing great stuff to make this world a better place and using the Net, too! The quotation is from a chapter on the net engagements of the Taino, an indigenous people of the Caribbean, by Maximilian C. Forte, who has an interesting website. By coincidence, my Finnish first name, Taina, is the name for female Taino people: Taina. There may be more to the Taino/Taina name than that but that's all I know right now.

Same sounding words yet with different meanings are found in many languages. My husband thinks the Finnish female name Kirsi is funny because in Arabic 'kirsi' means ...

'chair'. And one of my elderly Finnish lady friends told me the other day that her grandson's new father-in-law refuses to call him by his first name, Juha, because it means 'mouse' in his South Asian tongue!

And then there's the word 'punainen', which means 'red' in Finnish, but in the Caribbean your face might turn red saying this word. When I was doing my PhD courseload at York U in Toronto, one of my professors had recently gone to Finland to present a paper on poetry. As she wrote the word 'punainen' on the board, she explained that she was fascinated with the word because the word 'woman', that is 'nainen', is inside 'punainen', implying a link between woman and red. Well, two Caribbean Canadian male students immediately burst into laughter. "You're kidding, right?" they asked, shaking their heads. After their laughter calmed down they explained that 'punainen' in the Caribbean means c*#t, the c word.

Oh, dear.

In Native on the Net, I also came across the following quote:

Contests over the future, and who owns it, almost invariably involve contests over the past.” ~ Kyra Landzelius.

Kyra Landzelius, the editor of the book, also writes a chapter on the U'wa peoples activism to save the rainforest, which is where I found her statement. What she said really jumped out at me as it made me think how true this is not only for the U'wa people whose struggle for justice she is documenting, but also for people like the Red Finns, the Palestinians, and Canada's First Nations. For is it not true that the people/governments who grabbed power (the White Finns, Israel, and the nation of Canada, respectively) hope to steer the future by repressing those parts of the past that don't fit with their story of nation-building?

I'm also currently teaching a course I created called Ethnography: Stories of Identity Across Cultures. One of the modules I set up is called Talking Back to being Othered and the required reading is the website of Rommi Smith, a British woman of Nigerian descent who is a playwright, spoken word and music performance artist, poet, and educator. Rommi Smith has written an amazing poem called A Guide to the Exhibition for the Parliament and the British Slave Trade 1600-1807 exhibition. In discussing Rommi's website on our class discussion board, I posted the following comment which speaks to how "buried knowledges" and "subjugated histories"(Foucault) refuse to stay silenced and erupt, especially finding the Net a place where previously subjugated knowledges can proliferate, waiting to be excavated by the netcrawler:

The interesting and empowering thing about the Net is that, like websites such as Rommi Smith's show, it creates a space to insert histories that have been erased, marginalized, destroyed, taken away, burned. Records that have been destroyed by those who write dominant histories, the grand narratives, can be unearthed and re-written in new ways and disseminated across the globe. In this sense, the Internet allows us to recover histories and identities that have been erased or distorted, hence making a significant challenge on veracity claims. Indeed, it is a space beyond the control of mainstream institutions and corporate media which continue to ignore, misrepresent, suppress and hide flesh and blood histories.


marja-leena said...

Bravo, so many good points here! Your courses sound excellent, and so very important. Education may be the most powerful way to teach tolerance and understanding, especially if it's missing in the home or community but also to give courage and a voice to speak up for change.

northshorewoman said...

thank you, Marja-leena. Yes, I agree with you, educating is a powerful force for good, especially when it moves beyond rigid parameters.

Anonymous said...

Hi !
It has been racism also among other nations than finns. Nazism and ku klux klan have not needed Internet. One religion declares:"All
misbelievers must be killed". Italian Prime Minister has difficulties to communicate with "suntanned". In Finland 20 % of young men cannot get through the Military Service. Finnish young men are not feeling very well.

northshorewoman said...

yes, sadly, there is racism everywhere. In Canada we have what's been called "polite racism". That is, only the KKK and Nazi type easy-to recognize racism is seen as "real racism". In polite racism it's always someone else who exhibits racist behaviour or thoughts. About religion, all religious texts are selectively excerpted and interpreted. The recent massacre in Mumbai shows the religion is (mis)used to beget violence. I am sure the killers somehow believed their religion permits this, but they are wrong. Also, the fundamentalist TV Evangelical Christians from the US: lots of selective interpretations of the book there, especially to fit racist, homophobic and sexist thoughts, to name a few.

Now, it is interesting that you mention that 20% of Finnish men cannot get through the military training. What happens then? Isn't conscription mandatory? What happens to these young men then?