Monthly Archives: February 2011

Learning from others

Hi everyone,

I just want to thank you for taking the time to read my blog and write comments. I am reading through them slowly and hope to get back to everyone as soon as possible.

I plan to write a response in a few days after finishing some more research and listening to your feedback. Thank you for getting in touch with me and sharing your concerns. If I have offended anyone whatsoever, I apologize for that and I hope that we can continue communicating respectfully even if we may have different views.

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Jumping on the Anti-Mubarek Bandwagon

I’m not proud to admit this, but, until recently, I did not support the protesting in Egypt. Why would these protesters try to topple their own government and implement a democratic system, when this has failed in many other Middle Eastern countries? Why would these protesters demand the resignation of their country’s leader, who helped maintain stability in the region?

I was afraid of what these protests would mean to the Middle East. Certainly, if Mubarek stepped down or was thrown out, this would cause problems for its neighbors, who must now reacquaint themselves with a new regime. Would this mean that the peace treaty signed with Israel would still be valid? I believed if these protesters ‘won,’ then other nearby countries would learn from their example and wreck similar havoc in their own countries.

My concerns were selfish, as I was only considering the safety and stability of the region, and not of the Egyptian people themselves. I had forgotten the key reason to these protests: food.

Yes, I think these protesters can sum up what they want in one word. They want food. Unemployment is so high in Egypt, the poverty level has been rising for years and there is barely any food, despite receiving billions in foreign aid per year. And so, it’s easy for people like myself sitting comfortably in their homes, fridges stocked full of food, to forget how unnatural and horrifying hunger is (and this lack of food represents so much more: poor living conditions, high death rates and, of course, the government failing to disperse foreign aid to their domestic population and failing to provide a normal living situation for their citizens).

So once I remembered this basic human right, I decided to ‘jump on the anti-Mubarek bandwagon.’

But I’m still weary as to what exactly will benefit the protesters. Yes, I understand their desire to fight their government to provide them with human rights like food and bearable living conditions, but I do not think that democracy is a right. Controversial as that may be, democracy is not for everyone. Many countries have tried to implement it – and failed. Forcing democracy on Middle Eastern countries, like Iraq and Afghanistan, has failed.

You might then ask, well, the Egyptians want democracy, so surely this is a different situation. Well, it’s not.

The Egyptians want a better living situation than the one they have now. They don’t want to riot in the streets for food. So they equate democracy with a solution to their increasing problems. Because, democracy looks great in the west! After all, it seems like the Western democratic countries have food galore with governments who protect their basic human rights.

Yes, I value democracy and would not want to live in a society without it. But I don’t think everyone shares my views. I think some people don’t care if they can vote or not, if they have multiple parties, if they have a fair say in government, especially people who pride themselves on being fiercely independent and responsible for themselves.  I think we’ve tried to implement democracy in the Middle East, because, we too, equate democracy with these other benefits.

The problem in Egypt is not democracy, but a corrupt government. Not all authoritarian governments are corrupt and not all democratic governments are honest. The way to get rid of a corrupt government and increase the standard of living in Egypt is not to implement a costly, lengthy, tiring transition to a democratic system, especially one that will be influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood (which will then probably revert back to corruption). Mubarek should resign so that another leader, perhaps democratically elected, perhaps not, can take his place to provide his country with the things they need. Implementing democracy right now is not the best option.

I think Mubarek should resign. As Thomas Hobbes believed, if a leader cannot protect and provide for its people, then it’s not doing its job. Like Hobbes, I don’t think we need to establish a democratic system here. Maybe that’s what will happen one day in the future – but for now, the people are crying out for one thing – and it’s not really democracy.

Perspectives: Making the Most of McGill’s offerings

If I took a survey of first-year students, I imagine that most of them don’t use more than one or two services offered by McGill. I know I haven’t. In my first year of university, I was completely unaware of the many things I could do at McGill—it took me a year to discover the school paper (and another year to discover that there was more than one), two years to discover McGill’s career services (CaPS) and three years to discover the McGill gym. I knew the gym existed and that I paid $120.50 a semester in Athletic fees. But I believed that walking around campus and up the mountain to my residence was exercise enough.

Many soon-to-be graduates will tell you that as graduation looms closer, a sudden desire develops (coupled with a panicky feeling that the end is coming) to try everything McGill has to offer. Recently I’ve tried to soothe the anxiety that I will never again be a student, will never take another McGill class, and will never again walk the halls of Leacock, by making the most of the services I haven’t yet used at McGill. And so, after overcoming the protests of my out-of-shape body, I bought a gym membership and trudged up Pine Avenue to visit the McGill Fitness Centre.

I’ll admit that I’ve never really been to a gym. I’ve been blessed with good genes, and even though I love eating Oreos and Pillsbury cookies, my body hasn’t put on all the weight it should have. But when I run from class on Peel to my next one in Trottier, my heart is beating rapidly and I’m short of breath.

My desire to try the McGill gym might also have something to do with the course I’m taking called “World of Chemistry: Food” where, behind the details on which vitamins to take, and which food to avoid, the underlying conclusion is that we need to eat less and exercise more.

Visiting the McGill gym is both scary and exciting. At first, I had no idea where to go and couldn’t ask anyone for directions because I didn’t want anyone to guess that I wasn’t a real gym enthusiast. So, despite the wrong turns that led me to a locked stairwell where the only entrance led to the snowy outdoors, after walking around the gym back to the front entrance, I found the fitness centre, hopped on a treadmill, and started my workout.

You don’t need the details of my first workout. But I will tell you that I can now check another item off my do-before-I-graduate list.

It’s hard to believe that in first year, I didn’t even know where the gym was or that McGill offers activities other than academics. Did you know that there are clubs for virtually everything? There are even clubs catering to people who just want free food or people interested in playing imaginary games that only exist in Harry Potter books. If there’s one thing McGill and the Students’ Society should devote more time and money to, it’s promoting the many programs they offer that students may not already know about. Maybe they covered it in orientation week, but shockingly enough, students don’t remember everything they learn in orientation—I know I don’t. McGill students: get to know your school. You’ll save yourself much anxiety later on and when graduation comes, you’ll know that you got the most out of your university experience.