Good riddance, ex-Premier Marois

I understand that politically correct offers of thanks to outgoing Premier Pauline Marois for her “service” to Quebec will happen. Still, I am confused when I hear them, given that Marois’ version of “service” was to divide Quebecers, sow hatred, and create space for people to “not be afraid to be intolerant” (her words).

However, reading Gazette columnist Jillian Page’s “appreciation” is simply shocking. To attempt to credit Marois for “putting herself in the line of fire,” literally, is to re-write what happened on the night of the 2012 election and what led up to it.

Let me be clear: I am not condoning shooting people one doesn’t agree with. We should not be surprised, however, that when someone runs a campaign meant on creating animosity between people and exploiting cultural and religious differences, and for what – personal, political gain – that someone would resort to extreme measures to stop it.

While die-hard Pequistes will claim that Premier Marois dedicated herself to Quebec, Monday night’s result shows clearly that most Quebecers understand that Marois’ only service was to her own narrow self-interest, at the expense of everyone who did not think like her or want what she wants. Rather than congratulate her, let us get right to the difficult work of building the bridges she destroyed and undoing the vast damage she caused to our communities and to our province.

Celebrity with a Deadly Past

As we approach the Paralympics, I find myself conflicted.

I witnessed much of the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games first hand as an employee of the the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, and can attest to the remarkable nature of and perseverance shown by these athletes in overcoming their physical limitations in order to excel in sport, and for some, in life.

That being said, some of the disabilities are not as unexpected as others. This story talks about how former Canadian Paralympic sledge hockey player Herve Lord admitted that on the night he lost his right leg in a car accident, he was driving drunk. The accident killed 2 parents and left 2 kids orphaned.

At the end of the video, this reporter calls Lord “an incredible guy” who has “been through an awful lot”.

  • Do you think he is incredible?
  • Does “being through an awful lot” count for as much when the hardship is of your own irresponsible causing?
  • Does someone like this deserve to be celebrated (in a report, as a representative of a country, in a session with the country’s leader) after what he did?
  • Does the fact that he served 16 months in prison make up for killing 2 people and leaving 2 others without their parents, AND allow him to live a normal life within his new context, an opportunity not afforded at all to the two he killed?
  • Does his remorse affect your opinion at all? How?

I am having a hard time forgiving this action and justifying cheering this guy on. Thankfully, he’s no longer part of the team, so I will be excitedly cheering on Canada these Paralympics in hopes of Triple Hockey Gold in Sochi. But I would love your opinions on how this guy’s past actions affect how you see him, and people like him, today.

Let’s build bridges in Quebec

The identity and Charter of Values debates in Quebec have definitely increased tensions on both sides of this province’s linguistic divide. Personally, I am sad and angry at this state of affairs. I am scared for the future of this province. The separation debate is one thing, but trying to win an election by instilling fear of your neighbours is much, much worse. 

Much of the support for these divisive policies seems to be coming from Quebec’s “regions”. Areas outside of the big cities where the population is very homogeneous. They don’t see Muslims very often. Most of them don’t have Muslim friends, and I dare say that many might never have even met one. 

It seems that there are 2 plausible explanations for the 40%+ support of these  policies. 1) that the people who support them are truly hateful, or 2) that they are scared, insecure, fearful of what they don’t know or have much experience with. I fear that it could be #1, but I hope with all of my heart that it is #2. 

One friend told me that he is disappointed that through all of the complaining about these laws, we are seeing very few solutions being proposed. He’s absolutely right. I would like to propose a solution, one that I need your help in making happen. 

Let’s build bridges in Quebec. 

The media hasn’t been effective in getting people to see other viewpoints. Harmony doesn’t sell newspapers and ad space; conflict does. Sensationalism does. And I certainly don’t trust this government to help. It is in the PQ’s interest to sow division, fear, and discontent in its base. 

So what can we do? 

We need to go straight to them. We need to travel to where they are. We need these people to meet real live anglophones, real live allophones, real live Muslims, face to face.

We need to create a direct dialogue to show them what we contribute to Quebec and to make it patently clear that, contrary to what the PQ will have them believe, we are partners, not enemies. 

We need to organize town hall type meetings where we can pass along a positive, unfiltered message. Where everyone can learn about the other in a way that isn’t biased by government propaganda or media hype. 

We have a problem, and direct dialogue is the only way that has a chance to solve it. 

We need to do this now. Yesterday, in fact.

I don’t personally have the resources to make this happen, but many interested Quebecers do. If you believe that this plan might make a difference, please share this post on your social networks in hopes that the right people will hear about it and help make it a reality.

Thank you.

Gold Medal Olympic Breakfast

WOOHOO!!! Congratulations to the Canadian men’s hockey team (and the women, and men’s curling, and women’s curling, and… ) on their incredible GOLD MEDAL performances!

I am not a fan of waking up before 7am, but if I am going to do it, it’s going to be for a good reason (Canadian Olympic hockey GOLD!) and I am going to have a great breakfast. Here’s what I made and served this morning:

CAN 3-SWE 0 for Olympic GOLD, Sochi 2014 Feb 23/2014

CAN 3-SWE 0 for Olympic GOLD, Sochi 2014 Feb 23/2014

All you need:

For the Olympic rings: bagels (Montreal bagels, the best in the world), cream cheese, red, blue, green, and yellow food colouring (mix red, green and blue to make the “black” for the middle ring),

For the gold medal: scrambled eggs and bacon (ran out just before 11pm last night for this ingredient)

Cut steak into the shape of a maple leaf for a Canadian finish.

Deliciously GOLDEN!

Congratulations to all of Canada’s athletes. So proud of how you represented us on the world stage!

See you in Pyeongchang in 2018!

2014 Super Bowl Commercials

Thank you for visiting Mark Unleashed, a blog dedicated to truly speaking freely, even when the opinion is not common or mainstream, and personal development.

Please check out some of my posts by clicking on the links to the right and subscribe to receive future posts right in your inbox. Thank you!

If you’re like me, the day after the Super Bowl is a day to check out all the commercials that you missed during the big game. Or, in Canada, all of the commercials that our immature national TV regulator prevented us from seeing in a bid to promote Canadian content. Here’s a link to simplify your search for all of the 2014 Super Bowl commercials. Thanks to Mashable for simplifying my search this year. Enjoy!

Which commercials did you like best? Post in the comments below!

Love, Mark

The case of Richard Sherman

In honour of the Super Bowl this Sunday, a football post!

If you’re a football fan, you’ve probably heard of Richard Sherman. Yup, he’s the Seattle Seahawks cornerback who made a phenomenal last-minute play to seal the Seahawks’ berth into the Super Bowl. And then, when reporter Erin Andrews asked him a simple question, he’s the guy that went, well, psycho.

Now I’m not a fan of the standard pre-, mid-, and post-game interview that we all have heard thousands of times, where a player rattles off tame clichés to keep everyone calm and avoid giving the opponent any ammunition or fire for the game. I feel like I waste precious moments of my life when I hear interview answers like: “they’re an excellent team”, “they’ve got some talented guys there” and “we’re going to have to play for a full 60 minutes to come away with this one” when we all know that in their locker room, among themselves, they were talking the height of smack.

So on one hand, it’s refreshing to hear, as Andrews herself called it, Sherman’s “raw emotion.” It puts some reality back into the boring sports interview. But,  in proclaiming his superiority and his opponent’s “sorry-ness”, he crossed a line between professional and, well, childish.

It has been widely reported that Sherman and Michael Crabtree (the intended receiver on that final play and target of Sherman’s outburst) have an acrimonious history believed to be from an interaction at a charity event. It is easy to believe that this fun fact played a role in Sherman’s behaviour. Sherman claims that his outburst was about his opponent’s incompetence meeting his superiority. I believe that this was personal.

In response to people bad-mouthing Richard Sherman with names like “thug”, his supporters are quick to point out how he came from the projects and excelled academically, graduating top of his class from Stanford, and that he’s very involved in his community.

On the other hand, in judging a person, I am compelled to consider the whole person. Richard Sherman is also someone who has brashly and unapologetically  gone off on and make personal attacks against sports writers who dispute his “I’m the best” rants. Frankly, when someone or something is truly “the best”, they don’t need to say it – or scream it – especially not like a deranged psychopath.

There’s no disputing that, in terms of his academic achievement, he’s a model worth emulating. In terms of his behaviour with people who disagree with him though, he’s classless, arrogant, and ignorant. And for that, I can’t respect him – no matter what his GPA was.

Richard Sherman was nice and honourable when nobody was watching – which is ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL. But now that people are watching, and given that he has demonstrated his ability to be selfless (community service) and a good role model (excellent student), NOW IS THE TIME to really be those things and make a difference. Seems to me like his success has made him feel entitled to forget all the great things he’s done and been, like his celebrity offers him some sort of tacit permission. I don’t agree that it does. In fact, his celebrity amplifies the attention that he gets and thus, the possible impact that his actions can have on impressionable people who watch him.

Richard Sherman needs to decide whether he wants to be emulated for his commendable off-field service, drive, and commitment to education, or whether he wants to be the poster boy for vindictiveness, personal attacks, and petulant resistance to criticism.

Richard, you can be intense without sacrificing your dignity. You’re at the beginning of your career. You are obviously busy preparing for the big game, but starting Monday, you might want to give this some careful consideration.

And on the topic of sports writers criticizing you, consider the case of the much-maligned Montreal Canadiens’ defenseman and Norris-trophy winner P.K. Subban, who plays in probably the most demanding hockey market in the world. He has been the subject of a tremendous amount of criticism, especially in commentary leading up to the selection of the Canadian Olympic hockey team. After he was selected, he was asked whether he believes his selection would silence his detractors. His response: “I hope not because they’re the people that make me better, so I hope they keep critiquing and finding things to talk about.”

There you have it: proof that passion and intensity can exist with class and intelligence. And that, we can all respect.

The Plausibility Test

People often tell me that I have an opinion about everything. While I wouldn’t go *that* far, it is hard to deny that I have a lot of opinions on various topics and am not afraid to share them. This is, after all, the basic premise for Mark Unleashed.

Following up on that question, I sometimes get asked how I know enough about all of these topics to have an opinion on them. The truth is that while there are topics that I am very knowledgeable about, mostly, I know a little bit about a lot of things.

I don’t know why I am this way. It might be a protection mechanism, self-defense, or it might arise from how I hate the feeling of being taken advantage of. I was always told that knowledge is power, and while it is not the end-all and be-all, it has taken me a long way.

Thankfully, in the last few years I have accepted that I have a lot left to learn. But, since life happens even though we don’t know all we need to know, I have devised a test that I think gets me off on the right foot in virtually every situation, regardless of my imperfect knowledge. I call it “The Plausibility Test” and its application is uber-simple. When someone shares an opinion, makes a comment, tries to convince me of something or sell me something, I start by asking myself: “is this plausible?”

I’ve mentioned this to people over the years, and there is sometimes a confusion between possibility and plausibility. I believe that anything is possible. Perhaps no one is travelling through time at this moment, but I believe that it is possible. In the absence of proof that something is not possible, I am inspired by the belief that it is.

So what is plausibility? Above all, it is subjective. What is plausible to you depends on your knowledge, experience, and perspective. It is therefore important to be present to all three of these factors. Consider that something is plausible to you if you can conceive of its existence or occurrence, based on what you know, have learned, or believe to be true.

Okay, okay, how about a concrete example. A friend, shocked, shares a post on facebook about a situation in a Montreal-area hospital from just over a week ago. He wants your reaction. You start reading:

A couple enters a local emergency room. The triage nurse asks the patient a question. The patient’s husband replies that she doesn’t understand and asks if the nurse can speak to his wife in English. The nurse, incensed, leaps up and screams at him (in French): “THIS IS QUEBEC! SPEAK FRENCH!”

You ask yourself: “is this plausible?” I harness my inner Mathnet detective and ask: “What do I know?” (For those who’ve never watched Square One TV and have no idea what I’m talking about, click here.”)

So, I know that Quebec is full of people who are fiercely defensive of their native language. I know that there’s a law in Quebec that requires French words to be twice the size of words in other languages on store signage (and even inspectors with rulers who don’t like the word pasta enforcing the law) and that currently, tensions are high in the province as the governing party is proposing a law that is dividing the population along linguistic lines and fostering hatred between people of different religions.

So, is this plausible? Yes. It is.

If this story had been set elsewhere, literally anywhere else in the Western world, I can’t see it being plausible to me. It is such a ridiculous story that it can’t possibly be true. But, given what I know about the situation in Quebec, it sadly makes sense.

In a nutshell, something that is plausible makes sense, at least to you.

The key to benefiting from the plausibility test is questioning that which you deem implausible and, not stopping the questioning until you have solved the test of plausibility. The test is solved when you gather information that suggests that the story is, in fact, plausible, or that you can’t.

It is important to remember that even if something is plausible, it might still be false. But, if you do not determine that it is plausible, then you must continue questioning to either satisfy that test or dismiss it outright. Accepting an implausible story is illogical.

Plausibility always comes before acceptance. 

The best part about using the plausibility test (and doing the work required by it) is that the less you know, the less you will see as plausible. As a result, you will research more, and can learn more.

The plausibility test is useful in all kinds of situations. From differentiating between honest and biased news stories in the media (and social media), to making sure that we don’t get suckered into marketing hype and buying snake oil-type products or avoid getting taken advantage of by so-called “experts” (construction contractors and mechanics come to mind), the plausibility test is an excellent tool to help us become informed, responsible, and empowered citizens in a society that is becoming more manipulative, complex, and intimidating by the hour.

So don’t just take my word on this test or the benefits that are possible with it; ask yourself: “are they plausible?”