Back in September, I received the McMaster Engineering chants book from a source that I will not be relaying to the public. I was told that what lay within the pages were gruesome, and although I believed my source, my idea of gruesome in that moment was in relation to something less vile. I read through the chant book and I absolutely could not believe the content of the book. My source did tell me that there was a strong possibility that most of the chants were defunct even though it was compiled as recently as 2010. I took all that into account when deciding whether or not to publish the book.
These chants represented discrimination and abhorrence at its very core. It dignified and made flimsy issues that many people with at least some form of an internal ethical compass will find repulsive. The issues ranged from sexual violence, to child sexual abuse and molestation, anti-Semitism, misogyny, amongst other issues. It trivialized all of these issues under the pretext of the chants being a joke. Whilst I was reading the chant book, I of course had it at the back of my mind that the persons who compiled the book meant it as a joke but it simply was not enough to mitigate the despicable nature of the things they 'joked' about. And, no one who seriously reads this book will think otherwise.
The chant book was a misconceived and misapplied conception of a joke. The idea that some persons thought this might however pass, as humour was perhaps the most shocking and troubling part of reading the chant book. Taking all of these into consideration, I decided to publish the chant book. I clearly indicated on my blog that the chants may or may not be defunct. But, looking at it retrospectively, I don't think it is fully defunct because I have been receiving some unpleasant messages from people saying that on some occasions they recited the chants and saw nothing wrong with it. But, people fail to see the issue that lies at play in this case. The issue partly lies in whether the chants are still in use or not, but the bigger issue I think is that these chants was discrimination personified and yet they passed as 'jest'. The bigger issue is the empathy gaps that lie between people of unshared realities and how that leads to other people's experiences being desensitized and trivialized.
The 'jokes' might be funny to the people who compiled them because they may never have been victims of child abuse, sexual abuse, some form of discrimination, etc. But, try chanting that to someone who has been a victim of these experiences. It might be funny to you, but that is irrelevant, what is relevant is what the people whose experiences are being represented within this chant book think, and if it will pass as being funny to them. It is that ability to put yourself in another person's shoe, fill existing empathy gaps, and take other people's realities into account, that is what is at issue here. All of the aforementioned issues and more matter when we are thinking about creating a safe and inclusive space for everyone on campus and in society as a whole.
I absolutely recognize that the red-suits as a society has done a lot of good things and nothing anyone says can discount that good. But morality is not a scale. The good things that you have done don't somehow work against and balance out the harm you have caused, whether intentional or otherwise. Your good and your bad stand independent of one another and are to be judged as so. I know that many of you hate my guts or might even hate me as a person. I have been receiving a lot of angry messages on my blog and threatening emails.
People have said the most horrible things to me and even though I try to appear calm and composed, I am frustrated and fearful because the anger seems to be escalating. I have been blamed for publishing the chant book. Apparently, every anger and hurt that people feel from reading the chant book from here on out is my fault. If I had kept the chant book hidden, according to quite a number of people, then there will be no injustice because people will not know about it. But injustice is not an injustice because it is somehow known and widely propagated. An injustice can occur whether anyone knows about it or not, and we must all as a community find ways to deal with these issues, whether we care for it or not. Yes, when a tree falls in the forest it does make a sound regardless of whether anyone is there to hear it or not.
People are angry and they need to vent. The only way they know how to do that is send me all of these hateful messages. But, if that makes you feel better about yourself, then please, by all means, vent. But consider this, you are trying to make me feel unsafe through intimidation, anger and hatred, creating the same unsafe environment for me as the chant book does to everyone else who is represented within its pages. But, how I feel is irrelevant, I am just glad that the issue is now being debated and will hopefully be rectified by the investigation that is underway, or might have already started.
So, send me all the messages you want and blame me if it makes you feel better about yourself, but my stance on the issue will remain unchanged. I did the right thing, and no one can convince me otherwise. If I was faced with the same decision again today, I will do things in exactly the same manner. In publishing the chants, I was not trying to disparage the engineering society, the good they have done for the community, or anyone's reputation. I did it because I realize that there are more important issues than one's 'reputation' or my 'physical safety and mental composition', bigger issues that deserve the attention of everyone within a community, irrespective of the costs.
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