*Originally published on 10 February 2017, re-published due to technical issues
The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America was a shock to many. After all, it is difficult to imagine someone less qualified for the job who would also be able to achieve the feat of winning a presidential election (thanks in part to the archaic presidential election system, i.e. the electoral college). He has no experience in politics and the actions of his team over the past two weeks suggest that he also has very little clue on how the administration he is leading actually works. This could be characterised as incompetence, and in part it is, at least in terms of how to effectively implement his policies. Nevertheless, one should be careful to claim that all of the chaos and failure coming out of the White House is due to incompetence. I say this because in so doing I fear one would continue perpetuating the same mistake a considerable amount of people did over the last year, that is to not take Mr. Trump seriously, both as a candidate/President, and as a threat. And a threat he is. The chaos he creates is probably more representative of his personality, megalomaniac/narcissist, and ideology, a form of nouveau fascism, than solely of his incompetence. The recent Muslim ban is a great example. I think it is important to take Trump seriously, especially if we wish to craft effective paths of resistance.
It’s been quite some time since I wrote something for this blog. While I started writing again, especially since there’s been some evolution on topics I previously covered, I thought I should write at least a short paragraph on why I was absent. Well this paragraph became its own thing and the result is this post on mental health.
To say the least, the past year has been … rocky. I will not list the things that happened in my life because it is mostly unnecessary and also concern other people than me in some instances. Suffice it to say that I had just recovered from a burn out, I was overwhelmed by unexpected work, and a succession of hardship fell upon a person very close to me. I think anyone in the same situation would cut the “less important” things like blogging and other hobbies as time becomes more precious, especially since I did not want to recreate the circumstances that lead to my burn out. Beside this, my circumstances lead to several reflections on mental health which I have decided to share here.
Last week the British Columbia Court of Appeal decided to allow the Attorney General’s appeal to the constitutional challenge of the assisted suicide prohibition: the Carter case. This case featured two persons named Gloria Taylor and Lee Carter. Both suffered from intractable and progressive diseases, and wished to have the option of physician assisted suicide when their life would become intolerable (they both passed away before the appeal was rendered). However, s 241(b) of the Criminal Code makes aiding or abetting a person to commit suicide a crime. Ms. Carter and Taylor challenged the constitutionality of the section alleging a violation of their right to life, liberty and security of the person, and of their right to equality. One of the major hurdles they faced was that a similar issue involving the same section of the Code was challenged on similar grounds and had been decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in the past. In Rodriguez, the plaintiff lost her appeal to the Supreme Court by a close 5 to 4 vote. Nevertheless, the trial judge, Justice Smith, found that she was not bound by the Supreme Court ruling because this case raised three new grounds: (1) the right to life was not at stake in Rodriguez; (2) two principle of fundamental justice did not exist at the time of Rodriguez, overbroadness and gross disproportionality; (3) the majority did not consider s 15 (equality) in its entirety in addition to the fact that recent Supreme Court decisions changed the applicable test. She found in the plaintiffs’ favour and declared the section unconstitutional with a grace period of one year for the government.
If I had to choose one word to describe my political belief it would be utopianism. Let me explain. Utopianism as acquired a bad name over the years, mainly because it is denigrated for promoting the “impossible”. It is often use in contrast with realism (ideas based on so called empirical reality, often represented by “objective” facts). Indeed in international relations theories realists gained prominence by comparing their ideas to the failure of what they called utopians. Some realists still identify liberal theorists as utopians. Realism is predominant in the political discourse of all the major political parties. Today it is “utopian” to desire a better world if it is not realizable in the immediate future and within our “means”. I however reject this negative connotation of utopianism. In fact I would go as far as saying that utopia is as realistic as any other political proposition; what is offered to us, citizens, today by the political elite is simply unsustainable, unjust, and frankly unrealistic considering the state of our world. I prefer to envisage a world where humans and nature are not desecrated on a daily basis with the tacit acquiescence of the majority (at least on a national basis). I prefer to use this “utopia” as my starting point and work to achieve it from there. After all most people consider utopia as impossible solely because they refuse to consider the idea in the first place as it is too far remove from our contemporary “reality” (as much as our reality must be far removed from ancient civilizations).
I rarely use social media to talk about myself. I talk about my ideas and my work, but not about me as an individual and certainly not about my feelings. But a lot has happened to me since I left the Federal Court and went back momentarily to the school bench. The events of the past months have forced me to reflect on some aspects of my life and of myself; some of which are worth sharing.
Before exposing my reflections I think it is useful to summarize the events that led me to them. In August 2011 I started working for the Federal Court. Shortly after, I moved in with my partner. I entered this new phase of my life (working full time and living with one’s partner) already exhausted from 5 years (for three different degrees) of law school and part time work to pay for my education. I’m not trying to attract anyone’s pity; after all I come from a progressive upper middle class white family. But such experiences are subjective and I felt exhausted. The smart thing to do would have been to take some time off to write and read until I could apply to a PhD program (I didn’t have time to apply during my tenure at the court) since there was no need for me to go back to school or work at a job I hated. But no, I had to enroll into another master program and manage a plethora of activities at the same time instead. The program ended up much less interesting than expected (partly because I am intellectually insecure and thus cannot admit that I could be intelligent without the schooling to prove it) and, instead of being enjoyable, fueled my stress and exhaustion further. It negatively affected my whole life. I reached the breaking point a few weeks ago and dropped everything. And now I feel great! But why did I go through all of this in the first place?