Archive | Opinion

Racism: Something that can be overcome

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

Gagan Batra

Early last week there was a YouTube video posted online by a teenage girl that sparked a lot of controversy among South Asians and other communities? The video featured a young girl talking about how “brown” people are all terrorists. Other derogatory and racist remarks that were made towards Brampton’s “brown” community included observations such as they all smell like curry, carry weapons in their turbans and should go back to their own country. For legal reasons I will not disclose the name of the girl responsible for the video, although it can be found if searched for online. As one can imagine, this video generated a lot of anger amongst the South Asian communities in Brampton, Mississauga, and other places. In a city as diverse as Brampton, it is ridiculous that one person can make such ignorant remarks targeted to just one of the communities in the region.

Naturally, being a South Asian woman who resides in Brampton, I was initially offended by the video. However, after further consideration, I realized that the girl responsible for the video did not do anything more than restate some of the most farfetched stereotypes associated with “brown” people. For me the most insulting part of the video is the point at which all “brown” people were told to go back to their own country. Most of my South Asian friends, like me, were born in Canada. My parents have been Canadian citizens for over twenty years, and even my grandmother is a Canadian citizen. To tell all South Asians, Arabs, Africans, and others who are not noticeably Caucasian to go back to their own countries is not only insulting, but indicative of extreme ignorance. Canada was founded by aboriginals, those people whose skin is not white in color. In history lessons since elementary school, we have been taught that the only true and original Canadians are those from Aboriginal descent. All people in Canada, even those people whose skin color is white, were immigrants at some point in time.  Canada is a country that is known internationally for its multiculturalism, its denial of racism and any discriminatory behavior on the basis of one’s nationality, culture, religion, and skin color. That being said, it is no surprise that there are still people who claim to be superior over others based on those superficial attributes.

Thus, it is inevitable that hints of racism will be present in some people, whether it is apparent or not. I do urge all people to take a step back and look at the wider context in which their preconceived notions of other races are formed. Do they come from family, school, social connections, or the media? I personally, think that in today’s day and age, media has a great influence on people’s mentalities in terms of their images of other people. I cannot remember the number of times there have been certain stereotypes enforced about people in music videos or television programs. The reason that stereotyping individuals based on their races is considered acceptable in those terms is because they are produced by popular media, a force that is so dominant in today’s society. In no way do I endorse the comments or views expressed by the teenage girl in her controversial YouTube video, but I do think that part of the reason for there being more hatred and negativity stirring towards her is due to her lack of a title or authority. Of course, in this case, the main reason for the controversy is because of the public denunciation of “brown” people as bad people. Other stereotypes are in most cases ignored. I cannot count the number of times it’s been assumed that I am good at math due to the color of my skin. The difference between my example and those negative comments made by the teenage girl in the YouTube video is apparent.

I would advise people to not take this sort of hatred and negativity based on the color of their skin too much to heart. In most cases, they are not well informed opinions, and they do not change the way that those people who are informed think. There is no way to control the thoughts and opinions of everyone in the world. Racism is a very serious issue that has been present for so long that it would be naive to think it is not present in some way, shape, or form today. However, the good news is that we live in a country that takes steps to improving people’s ways of life and preventing such racist attitudes as much as possible. Not only is Canada known for its multiculturalism and diversity, but there are laws that do not allow people to behave and treat others in any ways that demean them based on the color of their skin. The YouTube video that sparked the whole controversy has been removed, and the family of the girl responsible has made an apology to all who were offended by her words. This just goes to show, although one’s own thoughts are not controllable by other people, what can be controlled is the way we allow them to affect us.

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Exam Stress 101

Posted on 19 April 2012 by admin

Gagan Batra

Another school year is coming to an end. While grade school students have just recently begun a new semester, university and college students are getting ready to bid adieu to their familiar campuses. That’s right, it’s the time of year again that all students know and love: it is exam season. While most students claim that they detest this time, that it’s full of stress and sleepless nights, it does have the advantage that classes are over. Now instead of worrying themselves with waking up extra early to be on time for their lectures, students can focus on simply studying the material that they’ve already learned.

I hear complaints all the time, friends telling me that they aren’t given sufficient time to study for their final exams because classes end too late. However, in most schools, classes are known to end at least a week in advance before the final examination period actually begins. Needless to say, one can never be given enough time for something as significant as studying for final examinations. If I’ve learned anything from my years in university, it’s that finals have the potential to make or break a student. Making up a major portion of a student’s grade in a particular class, exams add to the pressure that is to pull through the year with flying colors.

COPING WITH EXAM PRESSURES

The only way to get through this tough point in time is to keep your composure! I can’t even think of the number of people I’ve known who have let all of the pressure of exams get under their skin. An important thing to remember is that no one can spend all twenty-four hours of their day studying. It just isn’t possible. Good sleep is such an important aspect to ensuring that students maximize their potential for both studying for and writing tests. Speaking from experience, there have been many times when I had not slept the night before a test and spent that time studying instead. It is not effective! Research proves that lack of sleep before tests actually impairs your comprehension and ability to concentrate. A striking fact was brought to my attention by a medical professional at my university; not sleeping for an entire night can affect one’s cognitive functioning to the same extent as one who drinks a full twelve pack of beer. In other words, one who pulls an all-nighter will undergo the same effects as someone who is considered drunk by law. So students, please remember that studying is important, but sleep should also be a priority.

Aside from sleep, the pressure in general that students are put under can be striking. Exams and tests are always stressful, regardless of what the context. Except, in terms of universities and colleges, the exams are weighted much higher. The grades students receive on exams will determine whether or not they stay in a program or institution, make the honor roll, or pass their class. At the same time, I feel that not enough emphasis is put on the actual value of learning. In most cases on the exams I’ve written, I’ve realized either during or after the exam that I had a lot more knowledge in the subject than I had given myself credit for. Although there have been some instances in which I did not do as well as I had expected, the knowledge that I gained from the experience and the class in general seemed to make up for any disappointment I would have had. It is probably naïve to think that students are in post-secondary institutions because they enjoy learning new information and love education; most students are working so hard because of the degree, diploma or certificate waiting for them at the finish line. However, I must say, at the risk of sounding philosophical, that grades are not everything. Sometimes just an experience can be enough to both satisfy and please a thirsty mind.

The gist of what I’m getting at is that sometimes, pressure can be good motivation. However, a lot of the time, the pressure needs to be controlled, and you need to remember to come back to reality and prioritize. Sleep is a necessity and no one, not even students during exam time, should use the excuse that they are too busy to sleep. Furthermore, grades are inevitably an important aspect to any student’s life, but the reality is that sometimes just gaining the knowledge is valuable enough. This insight does not apply only to students; it can be used in any context. Remember, when you are studying or working hard at something, there is a reason why it requires so much time and energy; what lies beyond the finish line once you’ve accomplished something is inexorably worth it.

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New threat to the Internet: ACTA

Posted on 11 April 2012 by admin

GaganBatra

With the news of the Occupy movements dying down, people have time to focus their attention on issues that may be more relevant to their lives. SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act was a bill that originated in the United States. The goal of this bill is, in its name, to stop online piracy. Although SOPA has been denied and has not come into effect, the battle to keep our privacy and expression over the internet still continues. Since SOPA did not work out the way the governments expected it to, the worldwide version of it, ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, has come onto the playing field. Like SOPA, this act is concerned with “protecting” copyrighted material on the internet and is aimed at preventing piracy. The major concern that I have with this bill is the same that others have been expressing; the censoring of the internet. In today’s day and age, people rely on the internet as their main source of information, news, entertainment and communication. ACTA will interfere with people’s ability to download music, movies, TV shows, e-books and other copyrighted forms of media. The bill will also impede on people’s rights to stream things online, similar to the threat that SOPA posed.

The main argument for this bill is that it will help to protect authors and artists from having their work plagiarized and essentially stolen. SOPA was being paired with PIPA, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, to hinder people’s access to websites that are involved in copyright infringement. Included in the targets of SOPA and PIPA were any websites from which free downloads are made possible. However, the government does reserve the right to block any other websites that provide information on how to work around the censorship being put into place. Now that SOPA and PIPA are out of the picture, ACTA is taking their place as a worldwide bill that limits people’s accessibility to material on the internet.

I, like many others who have and are opposing SOPA, PIPA and ACTA alike, am not looking forward to the diminishing integrity of the internet. We have become so accustomed to a certain manner of streaming, downloading and uploading over the internet, that the threat of having our rights taken away seems too shocking to accept.

The question people are posing is that if the government can come up with a way to censor websites from which people download and stream media, how long until they interfere with other aspects of the internet? Censorship, in any manner of speaking, has a negative connotation. People are arguing that it is an infringement of their right to free speech and freedom of expression.

I am sure that people are aware of the blackouts that Wikipedia and other websites like Reddit participated in earlier this year. The whole point of these blackouts was to protest against SOPA and PIPA. Since then, the popular video streaming medium that we know and love, Megaupload, has been shut down. Many of my friends expressed dissatisfaction at the removal of the website and as a result find themselves angrier towards the government’s new policies. Following protests held by various websites, SOPA and PIPA had apparently lost many of their supporters. However, it can be argued that ACTA is a more extreme version of the initial bills, as it relates to all countries across the globe and establishes rules and regulations that are internationally recognized.

The censorship of websites includes those all over the internet. Megaupload itself was not based in the United States, but Hong Kong. It is not just Americans who must be concerned about the acts that are threatening the internet, but people all around the world. There is a provision to the Canadian copyright bill in the process of being made that gives the Canadian government the authority to block pirating websites in order to “protect the Canadian marketplace”.

In my opinion, SOPA, PIPA, ACTA and other forms of legislation alike, pose the risk of us losing the integrity of the internet, a source that we have become so dependent on. I do not think it is over. The blackout protests definitely raised awareness, but something more needs to be done to protect our online community. Today, there are websites all over the internet devoted to petitioning ACTA and urging their government to reconsider the passing of such legislation. Either way, governments are continually formulating new and improved laws around the protection of material on the internet. Even if ACTA do not pass, there is bound to be another plan in the making to limit people’s access to the internet.

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