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I was listening to talk radio as I drove home from wherever recently and there was a discussion about Christmas decorations, and the discussion was whether or not it is inappropriate (In Canada) to put up Christmas decorations prior to Remembrance Day (November 11th).
One of the commentators said that Christmas decorations before Remembrance Day is disrespectful to veterans, and of course as these shows are set up (primarily on slow news days) the other host disagreed.
The commentators hedged their bets, in case that topic had no interest, on whether it is appropriate for people who do not recognize the sacrifice of veterans to wear the poppy. For those Americans who do not know, Canadians (and the entire British Empire as far as I know) wear poppies sold by the Legion (Our version of the VFW) to commemorate the veterans as well as the fallen. The symbol dates back to a poem by Lt. Col. Robert McCrae called In Flanders Field.
Now I served my country and while that country was not Canada I still feel sentimental about our Canadian soldiers. While I do not think that it is necessary for all Canadians to support the government, I feel it is incumbent upon all of us to support our soldiers – past AND present – and that wearing a poppy from November 1st through November 11th is a simple way to do so. The argument of the host was that if the wearer does not feel it, they should not wear it as a fashion statement just to fit in and be recognized as ‘one of us.’
For anyone who has ever worn a poppy from the Legion you will know that you would be hard-pressed to find a flimsier accoutrement, and as such it is common to see people who are not wearing it, simply because it has fallen off. I usually go through 5-6 of them in any given year. As such I do not think anyone would look at anyone and say ‘Oh, he or she is not wearing a poppy, he or she must hate Canada and our soldiers!’ The corollary to that is I doubt anyone has ever said ‘Oh look! That person is wearing a poppy, we can happily include them in all our reindeer games!’ It’s just silly. With that being said, every time you buy a new poppy – whether you support our troops or not – the money you put into the tin does go to help our veterans… and whatever your politics or beliefs, your money is just as needed.
As for the first topic – the Christmas decorations – I strongly believe they should not go up before November 11th, but that has nothing to do with veterans or respect, rather the fact that, assuming the decorations do not come down until the second week of January, do we really need Christmas decorations in our face for 1/6th of the year – all of November and December?
My ex-wife used to think I was anti-Christmas because I am Jewish, and that I did not want to have a Christmas tree in the house because I was some sort of Christmas Grinch. That is not the case… at least, not entirely. I think the vast majority of Christmas decorations that we see in this day and age are just gaudy and tasteless. I also don’t believe they need to be (or should be) out for two months of the year. I lived in Israel for four years and cannot remember seeing a Chanukah decoration even a week before the holiday started – nor three days after it ended. Assuming twelve days of Christmas, would it be so unreasonable to put decorations up December 15 (10 full days before the holiday starts) and take them down by January 15 (about a week after it ends)? That gives the people who love that ‘most wonderful time of the year’ an entire month – 1/12th of the year – to enjoy it, without either over-diluting the (ridiculously commercialized) message or making the rest of us overdose on it?
As a veteran I have tried to figure out the connection between the two and I still cannot. I assure you that I am not offended by Christmas decorations on Remembrance Day… and if you want to wear a poppy because everyone else is then as long as you put your loonie into the tin then please by all means… but rather than looking at it from a ‘someone has to be offended’ standpoint, why not look at it as ‘MAYBE it’s just too much, and smaller doses can be a good thing!’ ??
And with that, shortly before midnight on November 3rd, I just heard my first Christmas Carol on the radio, and am going to go throw up.
Thanks for reading!
According to Facebook I have seven hundred and ninety-five friends. Of course that number includes people who asked me to be friends because we know someone in common… but I have have never met them before; it includes people with whom I have agreed with on matters debated or discussed, but have also never met. This particular article is about someone I have met, have known for fifteen years, and with whom I had a serious disagreement this week, even though we are squarely on the same side of the political argument.
With apologies to all of my friends (in the meat world as well as in cyberspace) who share that name, I will call him Steve. That is not his real name. However to give you a profile, he is a Caucasian, English-speaking Montrealer of Jewish heritage. He is passionate about several things, not the least of which are rock and roll and, as I discovered this week, the politics of the province of Quebec.
Since the premiere of Quebec announced the April election last week my friend Steve has posted several very strong posts on Facebook about voting against the Parti Quebecois (PQ). While I no longer have a vote in Quebec (I left the province for greener pastures in 2007) I do have an opinion, and on this I happen to agree with him. Were I living in Quebec there is no way I would ever vote for the PQ. To steal a line from the comic troupe of Bowser and Blue, PQ stands for pack quickly.
Wednesday evening Steve posted another of his posts to the effect of ‘The PQ are bad.’ Several of us replied (none of whom disagreed with Steve) but then he posted something that worried me: ‘The PQ are evil… all of them.’
Wow… strong words. I responded something to the effect that while they are certainly (in my opinion) misguided, I doubt that they are actually evil. He responded ‘The PQ and their #^%& leader are evil period! she is a racist @^%#$!
Wow… stronger words. I answered that while I do not disagree that Pauline Marois is racist, that does not make every member of her party (and everyone who votes for them) evil. To this Steve replied:
TO ME EVERY MEMBER OF THE PQ IS EVIL BECAUSE FOR ME IF YOU LIKE THEM YOU ARE RACIST! FOR ME NO OPINION JUST A FACT!
Although our debate continued for a few lines on his wall, he then took it into private messaging, where he tried to clarify his position. Unfortunately he continued to use words like ‘evil’ and ‘enemy’ claiming that he refused to speak to anyone who was on the other side of the question. He said things like ‘I am fighting for the English, and for my rights, and I will fight until they are all gone.’ The following is the transcript of the private conversation:
Steve My mind set will never change to these PQ pigs and I don’t care who is part of it, I hate them all. they hate me for being English, they are racist towards Muslims, you don’t see it as you don’t live here anymore. if you did you’d think as me.
Mitch You are very wrong Steve. I agree with almost everything that you say… I just know that saying things the way you say them will never change anyone’s mind… except to make radicals MORE radical. Yes, they are the ‘enemy’ but if you want to change their minds then TALKING and not SCREAMING is the only way it will ever happen.
Steve As long as they are PQ they are my enemy. if they leave the PQ then it’s okay. anyone and I mean anyone in the PQ or anyone supports them enemy #1.
Mitch Then you are never going to accomplish anything. Dude, I served in the IDF – I know what an enemy is. I also know that when I stood in the room with Rabin and Arafat they were both trying to make things better.
Steve This is how I feel. I hate any PQ supporter and to me they are an enemy. I support all our Canadian troops and I thank them everyday. Canadian troops.
Mitch So let’s say they ARE the enemy… how are you going to change their minds if you refuse to talk to them?
Steve They don’t have minds. if I had my way I’d get rid of all of them.
Mitch So then what makes you any better than them? You are just as racist as they are.
Steve i am against them yes but i am fighting for everyone else they hate or insulted. I have no problem telling them how dumb, stupid, ignorant, no brain people they are. Sorry but i will not change my mind.
Steve Oh i am better then any PQ member.
Mitch You aren’t fighting for anything… you are yapping on Facebook and preaching to the choir. No, you are no better than them… not if you say they are all dumb, stupid, ignorant, and brainless they are.
Mitch By the way, I want you to remember that through all this YOU AND I AGREE WITH EACH OTHER… we just look at things very differently.
Steve they are all that and more. For example: 1) At the Jewish (General Hospital) one dumb bitch threw a tomato at a guy for talking English; he could have died cause he is allergic; 2) at the Verdun hospital a couple was thrown out cause they spoke English, now tell me to they deserve respect? Fuck no and my rants I am doing more.
Mitch You think that because of two assholes they are all evil? There are 8,000,000 people in this province, and frankly a lot of them are ignorant morons whose minds you will never change. However the rest of them might be willing to listen and those are the ones to talk to.
Steve One more time, if you support the PQ you are evil period!
Mitch For the record I have Palestinian friends… and more than two Palestinians have tried to kill me outright, no tomatoes. Does that make them all terrorists?
Mitch Then Steve you are simply closed-minded and will never change anyone’s mind. You can’t be any better than they are if you think they are all the same. Good luck to you, I’m never going to change your mind, and I am not going to waste any more time on a futile mission.
Wow… He has very strong words, and very strong opinions, but is as closed-minded as any separatist péquiste I have ever met. It doesn’t matter that I agree with his basic position, it is even lost on me because of his fanaticism. Even if anyone from the other side were to hear what he is saying he could never change anyone’s mind – if you start with the position that ‘you are stupid and brainless and a racist’ the other person is going to shut down immediately even before they hear your words… it is a simple fact of life, and one that took me far too long to really learn, to the detriment of many friends and opportunities.
I remember when I moved back to Quebec from Israel in 1997; there was a man named Howard Galganov was running a group called the Quebec Political Action Committee (QPAC), an organization aimed at fighting for the rights of Anglophone Quebecers. I wouldn’t say that it was a militant group, but they were certainly outspoken. A friend of mine encouraged me to join up ‘to protect our rights.’
Now I am all for protecting rights and freedoms, but having just come back from Israel where I spend thirty months in an army uniform (very often in parts of the country – and neighbouring countries – that were not friendly to Jews). Maybe we were taught a different meaning of the word ‘enemy’ over there, but even having grown up in Quebec (I remember the referendum in 1980, and I remember holding my breath with everyone else for the results of the referendum in 1995) I could not picture the French Canadians taking up arms to kick out the English… this despite the FLQ that held the province hostage in 1970 (see article).
I asked my friend what the point of the group was, and his answer was simply to fight the enemy, to make sure that we were not pushed out. He told me that we were going to have to fight for our freedom.
I told my friend that I would not be joining QPAC. He tried to protest, but I cut him off, and told him that if he wanted to see what real enemies were, what real strife was, then he should get onto a plane and visit places like Gaza. I told him that I wanted to take Mr. Galganov and his equivalent on the separatist side to where I spent the last two and a half years to spend a week learning about what problems were; I said they would be French-kissing on the flight home once they saw what real problems were.
I don’t know when I learned it, but one of the more important lessons I have learned as a communicator is that even if more people hear you when you yell, more people listen when you don’t. I can’t think of too many cases where I have yelled and convinced someone that I was right. Speaking calmly and making a good case might not convince your political opponents to change their minds, but yelling at them will not convince them. Your mother told you that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar… unless you are fishing I don’t know why you would want to catch flies, but she was right.
While I was in Montreal I was looking for a parking spot on Queen Mary Road (chemin de la Reine Marie) and I found a great one, right across from the restaurant. I signaled, pulled in front of it to back in, and as I was backing up another car pulled into half the spot. It really was just like that episode of Seinfeld (http://youtu.be/egsdc7tZ_xc). I got out of my car and yelled – it was extremely loud – that he obviously knew I was backing into the spot, so why did he want to cause problems. The driver of the other car knew I was right, but he yelled back – not to get lost, simply to stop yelling. When I lowered my voice, he backed away and gave me the spot.
So what point am I trying to make? It is obviously not political, as Steve and I agree on the salient points.
- Yelling, screaming, and name-calling will not convince anyone to do anything but dig their heels in.
- If you want to change peoples’ minds, you have to speak to them. Simply yelling at people who agree with you will not change anyone’s mind.
- You may not agree with someone, but if you want to fix things you should try to understand their point of view – as offensive as it might be to you.
- Refusing to talk to the people with different views as your own will only ensure that they will always have different views as your own.
- Wisdom trumps loud. Even when quiet wisdom is drowned out by loud screaming, it does not make the wisdom any less right nor the loud any more so.
If any of what I am saying sounds exactly like me, then you have probably not known me longer than five years. By nature as well as by upbringing I am a loud, in-your-face type of person. I have spent years trying to change that, and today I am (mostly) seen as a reasonable voice of reason type. That did not come to me easy or naturally, but it was among the most important lessons I have learned as an adult.
I have not lived in the same city as my parents in several years, and as such they have not seen the transformation in me; so when my father says something like ‘you are exactly like your mother’ he doesn’t realize that it is among the most hurtful things he can say to me (aside from nagging me about my weight). It may be in my nature, and it may be how I was nurtured, but that does not mean it is how I have to live my life.
I hope the Parti Quebecois do not win the upcoming elections in Quebec; if they do, I hope they do not win any referendum on separation that they may hold. But more than that, I am truly hopeful that the people whose jobs it is to convince the moderates to vote against them is nothing like my friend ‘Steve.’ I hope they are reasonable and convincing, and do not just shout out and insult the opposition.
A couple of years ago I went to Montreal with my colleague Damir Bersinic to do a presentation at the Montreal IT Professionals Community (www.mitpro.ca). I was born in Montreal, and when I moved to Ontario in 2007 I found it interesting to see the point of view of the ‘Rest of Canada’. Nearly five years after my move and shortly before that visit to MITPro I wrote an article (in response to one in the Globe and Mail) called ‘Does Quebec Have a Future In Canada?‘
If I do say so myself, Damir and I rocked the show. We were discussing virtualization, specifically Microsoft Hyper-V, in the months prior to the release of Windows Server 2012. We were a hit, and that was reflected in our evaluation forms that the packed house submitted after the event… all but one.
One of the evaluation forms that was returned to us had a comment ‘you should blog about IT and keep your nose out of Quebec politics.’ It was actually written in French, and included a number of colourful words to go with it.
Now I should mention here that while I was there as support, it was Damir who was running the show; Damir was the speaker, I was only there for support (and we went for a really nice dinner that night). So why then should he get a negative evaluation from an attendee for something that I had blogged about?
If you enter the search term Quebec into the appropriate box you will find several articles return on my site, but only two have to do with politics – the one I referred to, and one about the Quebec student protests of 2013 (see article). Having recently spent a lot of time in the province of Quebec it is amazing to discover that any blog anywhere does not focus exclusively on the politics of that province, but there you go. Two articles in a decade of blogging.
However if you look at the title of this blog it is not IT According to Mitch, nor is it What Some People Think Appropriate According to Mitch. It is in fact The World According to Mitch, and as such I write not only about computers and IT, but about any number of subjects, from IT and virtualization to airplanes, food, hotel, travel, martial arts, and yes indeed language and politics. It is not only a professional blog (although it is certainly that) but a place for me to express my opinion about things that I observe during my travels through this world.
Starting tomorrow I have a series of articles that concern the politics of the Province of Quebec, as well as my observations of how the people are coping with the upcoming election. It will not all be pretty and it will not all be popular, but it is all according to me, and I thank you for your continued readership!
It was a great honour to be selected as the MCT Regional Lead for Canada for the inaugural year of that program (See article). I like to say that the MCT Regional Lead program spent the first year figuring out what it was going to be. I was thrilled to be a part of that.
The year was a tumultuous one for MCTs… the retirement of the TechNet Subscription program (article), the retirement of the Microsoft Certified Masters (MCM) program, and all along people learning the ropes of the new certifications (article 1, article 2). It was a thrilling ride, and I am glad that I was able to answer so many questions.
As the term came to a close, I was asked to stay on for the next year but I declined. I did not decline to shirk the community, but rather because I have accepted a long term contract overseas, and am now spending most of my time in Tokyo, Japan.
As such I am happy to announce that Microsoft Learning Experiences (MS LEX) has opted this year to have five MCT Regional Leads for Canada. Myungjin Jeong, Steve Jones, Benjamin Niaulin, Marcos Nogueira, and Paul Twigg will be the RLs this year. For Benjamin and Paul it will be their second year; for Marcos as well, although only in Canada – he was the RL for Portugal last year. I want to welcome Myungjin and Steve to the team – know the five of you will all do a great job.
I want to thank you all for your support over the past year, and look forward to working with you again sometime soon.
I also want to thank Veronica Sopher and Melissa Bathum for the year, and wish Karen Juhl all the best in the new hot seat 🙂
- MCT Regional Lead: Step Up! (garvis.ca)
Hey folks! If you are a Microsoft Partner in Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver then I’m happy to tell you that I am coming back to town! Of course, I won’t be alone… I am coming with the while Windows and Office Partner Summit!
Windows 8, the new Office and Windows Server 2012 are coming soon and if you are a Reseller Partner, we would like to invite you to the Partner Summits on Windows and Office. This is your opportunity to get the latest sales training and information on Windows 8, the new Office, and Windows Server 2012. Join us for this in-depth training event delivered by Microsoft subject matter experts and experience the simplicity, speed, beauty, and power of these exciting new products.
HP, Intel, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and Microsoft Hardware will be showcasing their latest hardware for you to try out.
Register today as space is limited for an event in the city near you:
Additionally, connect with representatives from Microsoft authorized distributors in Canada.
This training will take you through what’s new in Windows 8 and the new Office and how you can take advantage of the great opportunities these products offer you. The day will also cover a breadth of valuable information including:
Value for Business
I will be speaking on two topics: Windows 8 Device Management and Windows Server 2012. Additionally, I will be doing some of the demos to help a couple of the presenters. I’d love to see you there, so come on out and say hi!
…and remember to download your evaluation copy of Windows Server 2012 today!