Can We Choose Sincerity?

 

I’ve tried to act sincere lately.

I realize that sincerity is not a cool or sophisticated thing. After all, who wants to take the risk of endorsing single-entendre principles, and risk appearing horrifically sentimental, quaint, repressed, backward, or naive?

Opposite of sincerity is irony, which now gives voice to a generation too afraid to say what they mean, but afraid of forgetting they have something worth saying. Granted, irony has a role to play in speech, but it’s often misused to shield those who refuse to face the world honestly.

From the 90s into the 00s, David Foster Wallace wrote about an America searching for a moral reflection first after the victory of liberal capitalism over Marxism-Leninism and, second, after recoiling from the spectacle of domestic terrorism. To Wallace, irony was its answer. His writings chronicled the rise of irony, self-referentiality, and irreverence in selling commercial products in America, and how the popularity of this kind of advertising coincided with the postmodern ambience set by the Pynchons and DeLillos of the 80s.

DFW’s observations of consumer-popular culture still ring true today, though irony and irony-like insincerity have surmounted commercial advertising and are now found equally throughout social media and casual speech. Self-effacing through one’s speech or Instagram presence has dangerous effects on civil discourse/ the public will when it seeps down to these lower strata of communication. The public becomes more concerned with appearing witty, artful, aware, etc., than affecting any kind of emotional connection or solidarity.

Irony would for Wallace typify the cynical and defeatist attitude known to the culture of his day. But what was then seen as a fleeting cultural moment has become a mainstay in postmodernity, a state marked by the spell of memes and new internet viralities that shade our worldview with the same jaded snark that commercial television did Wallace’s.

Wallace watched irony play the role of a tyrant in the popular consciousness. He regarded irony with disdain as it incited nihilism and shrugged the truth; for him, irony was exclusively negative in function. He criticized irony for its irreverent quality without having any redemptive qualities to back it — here we find one of its many net-negative expressions. Wallace saw irony as an empty mode of critique that could point to a problem, maybe deconstruct it, but could offer no solutions.

For Millennials, the language of irony has supplanted the language of the sentimental and sincere. Where the 20th century saw cringe-inducing one liners, heroism and the celebration of silver linings amid struggle, the pop culture of the 21st is fraught with nostalgic throwbacks, cheap sarcasm, and ambivalence toward anything naive enough to affirm the truth.

Take, for example, the wink/wink/nudge pastiche that has found its way into many of our conversations, group chats, advertisements, TV shows, etc. This mode is implied whenever the message is too interpretive, too critical of itself, to mean any one thing for sure. What, then, can we say about its content, lesson, instruction? Though not all conversations are made of these, nor do they call for them, they are treasures of human communication that we shouldn’t cede blindly.

Can we emotionally engage with anything, completely, if it only speaks tongue-to-cheek? If not, then irony’s saturation in speech and pop entertainment has put aside our duty to aim toward truth, understanding, or compassion. Because what good can imprecision do for us if it causes communication to break down more often than it tightens the bonds of solidarity?

It’s no surprise that children, the elderly, and the marginalized in society tend to be brutally unironic. Their earnestness comes from a place where “seriousness is the governing state of mind,” according to NY Times columnist Christy Wampole. For her, the irony known to the Instagram icons, meme peddlers, and aloof hipster types are no more than coping mechanisms for the privileged; they are outlets with which they live out societal tensions that cannot be acceptably talked about in earnest. Wampole had noticed the same cultural trend as Wallace, only two decades later.

Nationalism’s resurgence has seen sarcasm, irony, and internet memes express sublimated, often political, insecurities. It’s not uncommon to find MAGA-inspired Instagram or Facebook accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers, or anti-Trump pages in even greater numbers. Memes are both their propaganda and lingua franca.

It may be that the smartphone and the nature of social applications lend themselves well to the format of the meme. There is an argument, then, that the internet meme is technologically determined. But it is also likely that some statements can simply be expressed more easily in the form of a meme or image caption. It may be that they are our only vessels for expressing what cannot be said aloud, or for making peace with alienation or insecurity.

Neither Wampole or Wallace was the first to classify irony as a social coping device. Hannah Arendt, a German Jew and political philosopher, shared such an instrumentalist view. That is, that irony could provide an escape from the gruesome reality in Nazi Germany. For her, irony was an anesthetic; for others, it was a means to separate themselves from the regime and thus absolve themselves of even the most unimaginable crimes.

Under Nazism, Arendt found that Germans could be liberated, in an existential sense, by carrying out their duties to the regime while “holding more than one meaning in [their] mind.” Arendt became infamous in the United States when she wrote that Nazi commander Adolf Eichmann acted ironically when he followed Hitler’s orders to slaughter millions of civilians.

Today, irony is watered down. It has returned to the fray in the form of cooler-than-thou snark, throwbacks, and satire. We have 90s junk-culture nostalgia brought to you by ephemeral genres like vaporwave, alt-right-inspired anti-comedy, and heroin chic fashion trends. We have major industry players in the media that speak to their audience only in internet memes. At their core, movements such as these are about tearing down an institution or convention, and not bothering to rebuild anew.

By contrast, former eras portrayed a kind of false sincerity that thinly concealed the emptiness inherent to a world marked, even for them, by total connectivity and total isolation. The underlying isolation/connection tension remains today, although without its silver lining. Postmodernity ushered this phase in, as if we decided to shun the mendacity of 20th-c sentimentalism and instead celebrate the bleak and the defeated. It became the norm to view sentimentality as something to be overcome or resisted, or as something to be left behind so that its deceit can be seen in rear view.

It takes a rare emotional skill to avoid postmodern cynicism while also staying clear of the emotional manipulation that false sincerity projects. It’s a fine line to walk, which might explain why sincerity is so often rejected altogether. Maybe it’s true that most of us will happily take cynical entertainment over entertainment that’s trying to program a belief into us. But what is more certain is that, be it cynicism or optimism, it is one of entertainment’s primary features to instill beliefs into its audience. There are messages and motives nonetheless, regardless of whether they are sincere. The point is to choose carefully which agenda we want to be exposed to. Which message we want to believe in. To choose.

If irony’s agenda espouses cynicism toward such humanistic ideals, the agenda of sincerity is to reclaim those ideals. Where irony is skeptical, distrusting, and pessimistic, sincerity urges us to get along, to find likeness, to believe in the purpose of doing those things; to devote oneself to the pursuit of that ideal.

And we have reason to be optimistic about that. Today’s popular culture finds its humour less in mockery or irreverence than in the awkward, raw sincerity behind their attempts to find themselves in their viewer (as better essays have already pointed out, we can see how Bojack Horseman, Rick and Morty, Jimmy Fallon, Nathan for You, New Girl, Kimmy Schmidt, et al. are carrying this out). Their messages are sometimes bleak, obvious and shallow; melodramatic as they are, they are making some sincere claim toward the truth, or a higher purpose, or redemption, or the Good. They deconstruct cultural conventions but in such a way that lessons are still drawn after the fact; since they are critical and experimental as much as they are sincere, these TV shows/comedians/etc. have the unique ability to uncover something about the soul, both sad and hilarious, underneath. Here we find where irony cannot go, and where new, instructive stories can be told.

If we are to move past our current default setting — if we are to affect any sort of larger cultural change — we’ll have to get used to sappy old sincerity, or at least find a way to rekindle its newer brand. We’ll need to make it known that what we once tried to replace is, on second thought, worth preserving. That it’s worth taking the risk of appearing quaint, repressed, naive, and sentimental. Because opposite of detachment is sincerity, a pretenseless antidote to cynicism and ambivalence.

To choose sincerity is to reclaim those values we’ve abandoned. The kind that unite and instruct. Those that tell the stories we need to hear: be hopeful, there is good, You are loved.

Can We Choose Sincerity?

North Korean denucearlization poses greatest foreign policy challenge for Trump yet

On March 5th, the North Korean regime announced that they are willing to discuss letting go of their nuclear capabilities in exchange for an assurance of security. 

On Monday, the North began engaging the South through bilateral talks absent of American involvement; on Thursday evening, it was reported that Kim Jong Un had proposed total denuclearization. Pyongyang’s change of heart is unprecedented, as the prospect of denuclearization has never been put forward by the Kim regime.

International dialogue has been scarce since Pyongyang began testing their nuclear arsenal in 2006. The last major multilateral negotiations that included North Korean officials, known as the “six-party talks”, were held between 2003 and 2007. They excluded Canadian diplomats and ultimately failed to produce a roadmap for peace in the region.

This week, the world was given its first glimpse of hope since the failed six-party talks. The announcement comes after de-escalation talks between Canada and the leaders of 20 world powers in January. The summit, hosted in Vancouver, was the first in years dedicated to answering the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

In its aftermath, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proclaimed that a nuclearized North Korea had no place on the world stage. “A North Korea that commits to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear program,” said Freeland, “will have a secure place in the international community.” It now appears that Pyongyang was listening.

Canada has seldom spoken with North Korean officials since 2010, when the Harper government severed formal diplomatic relations over North Korea’s alleged role in sinking a South Korean warship engaged in a training simulation in the East China Sea. In lieu of formal relations, Canada has maintained a Controlled Engagement Policy which has strictly limited contact between the two states to consular and humanitarian matters. Since then, diplomatic isolation has been North Korea’s dominant strategy. 

That changed this week, when the Kim regime ceded their former stance by proposing new measures to South Korean representatives. In sum: no nukes, no missile tests, and no military exercises—on either side of the Korean border. In other words, a partial dissolution of the US-South Korean military alliance. 

The significance of this exchange should not be understated. The proposition of amicable talks, without hostile rhetoric or ballistic showmanship, marks a major turning point for two countries that have been officially at war since 1950.  For the first time, the Kim regime has signalled that they have no need for nuclear weapons should their security be assured.

But how secure are “security assurances”? Ask Ukraine, who in 1994 agreed to destroy their stockpile of 1,700 nuclear warheads and join the global Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). John Mearsheimer, a “realist” scholar in the field of international relations theory, predicted that Ukraine’s sacrifice would lead to future aggression from Russia.

Mearsheimer’s predictions have begun to materialize, as a toothless Ukraine has lost the territory of the Crimean peninsula to Russian annexation. Consequently, the Ukrainian military has had to relinquish their Black Sea Fleet to the Russian Navy.

Since 2014, full-scale war has ensued between government forces and Kremlin-backed rebel groups near Ukraine’s eastern border. In January, the Ukrainian parliament officially recognized Russia as an “aggressor” state, and declared the Ukrainian regions of Luhasnk and Donetsk as “occupied” by Russian forces.

When confronted with the threat of asymmetrical warfare, the lesser state relies on nuclear weapons to deter the aggression of the larger. Without a deterrent, then, how can the Kim regime feel secure against the threat of American intervention?   

A freeze-for-freeze is a game played not with dollars but with trust, a currency that President Trump is woefully short on. In a “freeze-for-freeze” situation, the US and her allies will have to guarantee to stay out of the Korean peninsula, and out of its surrounding waters; any failure to make good on this promise will be tantamount to the South’s “nuclearization” in the eyes of the North.   

The Obama administration denied olive branches from the North Koreans, instead employing a doctrine of “strategic patience”. His administration was hesitant to buy into propositions from a regime known for their duplicity throughout previous de-escalation efforts during the Clinton and Bush eras.

The cynical view, surely not lost on the Trump administration, is that Kim’s offer is a routine gesture, offered every few years when his regime is in need of aid. However, if President Trump decides to abandon the cynical approach he will be faced with his most improbable challenge yet: gaining the world’s trust not to intervene. 

North Korean denucearlization poses greatest foreign policy challenge for Trump yet

The Silents

 

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The mayor and treasurer stood with a hand on her shoulders while she, a district schoolgirl, cut the long blue ribbon that signified the public library’s reopening. They crouched, nearly level with the girl, and laughed before the cameras and the noise.

Twenty days later, Walt went back to work. He was seventy-eight years old and took a job at the library’s circulation desk. He would last nearly a month. He had spent the past year and three weeks as a conscript at the nearby senior living center. The home. He’d been ten years retired.

His first day as an administrative clerk saw him approached by a younger man. The man wore a long tweed overcoat and asked him ‘how to access the file directory’ on the library’s computers.

To Walt, these words felt out of place, or out of order. He apologized to the man before turning to find someone who could help.

‘Hello?’ he called into the guest washroom, standing with a foot in the doorway and another on the tile.

‘Hello?’ someone called back.

‘This is Walt. I’m trying to find someone who can help me with a computer problem.’

He felt a hand graze his shoulder. ‘Mary,’ he said.

‘Walt, step out of the bathroom,’ she said.

Mary was an archivist who doubled as library manager. She was pregnant, and forty years his junior.

He backed out of the entryway and let the leaden door swing back to place. ‘Walter, what’s going on here? Do you need to sit down?’

Her hand did not leave his shoulder while she spoke.

 

That night, the visitor came back. This time to return a pile of books. He wore heavy boots that made him look taller and thinner than Walt remembered. The man stood over the help desk to find Walt perched on a wheeled chair behind it. The man asked if he could return the books and Walt said ‘Of course’.

The man heaved an armful of books onto the desk before thanking him and carrying on. Walt flashed a smile and said ‘Good day.’

He eyed the stack of hardcovers from top to bottom and counted six in total. Carefully, he pulled one from the top with both hands. Giovanni’s Room, read the spine. He placed the remaining five in the black milk crate by his feet.

Opening the book, he skimmed the synopsis from the dust cover. ‘…a drifter who lands upon Paris to rekindle an old, unforgotten flame. Giovanni’s Room explores the contours of identity and self amid place and displacement. It is a cultural landmark for those desolate souls who yearn…’

He flipped to the back. There were blank pages at the end of the book. He paused to question what utility there was in blankness at a story’s end.

Walt tore the final page lengthwise, from edge to pale edge. This produced a ripping sound and a sheet of yellowy, frayed paper. He laid it flat on the desk and began to write. He wrote steadily until some time had passed and the page was heavy with sunken ink.

 

I wish I could decide what words do and do not get spoken. What stories do and do not get told. But you already have. And you have left me powerless and weak and I am now old. Now that’s a bite, eh? I’m much too old to be this lost, without a second pair of waiting hands to clench. For this I have nobody to blame but you.

 

He signed the letter under a false name and slipped it underneath the inside dustcover. He scanned the space above his shoulders for cameras or watchful eyes. Finding none, he returned to his work.

At eight o’clock, he punched out and walked through the glassy atrium and into the snares of early spring in northern Ontario. He listened to the rock salt crunch under his shoes as he stepped heel-first in the cold.

He pulled himself, piece by piece, into his four-door pickup. Its green paint bubbled around the wheel wells, evidence of coming rust. It growled to a start.

A few minutes passed while he sat there in the driver’s seat, letting the car warm and the frost thaw from the windshield. The wipers streaked runny condensation across the glass. There were dewy blues and greens marbling the sightline, resembling cheap watercolour paints or gasoline.

He sat on a couch cushion that laid on top his seat. He craned his neck over the steering wheel. He pulled out of the parking space, sputtering onto the open asphalt. He crawled onto the boulevard, cautious in the dark.

On the road there was a dusting of snow. His tires tread through it, tracking parallel arrows in the white.

The sound of music forced its way into the vehicle. Its sound was digital and foreign and blunted and it made the five-seater cabin feel crowded. The tune died out before he realized it was his cell phone causing all the noise.

He fished his jacket pockets for the oval shell he called his telephone.

Only once the phone was in his hand did he register that the car was still in motion, gliding in silence toward opposite lanes. He cranked the wheel the way alarm clocks are set; how the needle whirls round.

Walt, already in the throes of panic, heard his phone sound off again. He slowly rolled onto the roadside. He pried his phone open using both hands.

‘Hello?’

It was Laura, the warden from the home.

‘Laura, can you give me a hand?’

Laura sent a housekeeper, Ryan, out to search for him who found Walt’s truck slumped halfway on the curb. Halfway from the home. Walt kept quiet as he shuffled into the passenger seat, freeing the space behind the wheel for the younger man.

‘How’re you doing there, Walt.’

Two thumbs up.

He drove Walt’s truck the remaining couple blocks. Walt made sure to mention that the clutch was going, and that the wheel was getting stiff, and that he ought to grip it tight.

 

Laura called him a cab to work in the morning. Wanting a new start, he wore a blue bengaline vest and a navy bow tie. Ryan, the housekeeper, slid Walt’s socks up papery shins. He laced Walt’s shoes. He had a cheerful domesticity to his way of moving about the world which Walt admired greatly.

At work guests were slow coming, so Walt’s day began with cleaning the bookshelves by row. He started with FICTION AA-AS. The AARONs, the ABBETTs, the ARTHURs. Each he hovered above their resting place, making way for his damp cloth to wipe the cherry wood beneath. His knees wobbled, hips clicked, whenever he bent down to reach the bottom ledge.

Walt made it to CA-CR before he noticed him. Before he stopped, quietly, to watch from his squinted eye, arched brow. The younger man, the one who asked about the computers, stood at the opposite end of the shelf, browsing through titles whose authors names were CHANDLER and CHEEVER and CHILD and CLINE. The man stood with his hind leg slack in tow, his chin cocked in study, as if trying to unlock the secrets of each text from the clues on its spine alone.

The nameless man drew from the shelf a white paperback. He returned it before heading off for someplace else.

Walt coolly eyed the shelves where the man had stood. He scanned for the white book and found it. Opium by Jean Cocteau. Its weight felt cold in his hands. He dropped it in his inside vest pocket and walked back to the circulation desk.

He sat down in the desk chair and threw away his cloth now as dry as bones. He laid the book on his lap and turned to the back. He found no empty pages, though there were many with illustrations only. He tore one out and scrawled on the reverse side.

 

 

Where have you left me? I’ve missed you for so long since you said you were going. I thought you meant home. You left me here to starve, didn’t you? To waste and rot until I am no more. We must keep quiet about such things because they cannot be spoken about. After all the admiration I had for you I cannot imagine it. Because it is carnal evil. Evil in its most suiting flesh. You can do better by me. You can come back to me. while I still have remains for you to find and a soul for you to salvage. While I still have evidence of my existing before it

 

 

The sound and tremor of rapping knuckles lifted Walt’s head from the page. He crumpled the unfinished letter in his hand. A woman stood at the far side of the desk that he had forgotten he was tasked with manning. She asked where to find the books on cassette, and then went on her way and that was the last Walt saw of her.

Once alone, Walt reopened Opium to the middle. He unfurled his letter and flattened it between two pages before closing the book. He then placed it in the milk crate between his feet with some ten or twenty other books waiting to be reshelved.

As the days passed the library started picking up. Each day saw more visitors than the day before, so Emily took over desk duties while Walt kept to cleaning. This tired him, so often he would ask to sit by the entrance to hand out pamphlets and talk weather or politics with anyone walking slow enough.

This new position soon became permanent and with it came the regret of no longer being able to enjoy much time alone. His bathroom breaks became longer and more frequent. Mary’s bathroom breaks were also long and more frequent, so he started synchronizing his with hers. It then became apparent that she was further along than he thought.

It was in a bathroom stall, on his fifth day of work, where he wrote his third letter on the back of a pamphlet.

 

 

Me again. I’ll cut the crap. You think our friendship was disposable? And to go and blab around about that? Thats close, buddy. Right on, you. You can be such a sewer. And I’m on to it, on to you, always have.  If you want to fade on out go ahead, but know I always remember these things. They stick forever, unlike    forget it

 

 

There was little room left on the sheet, so he stopped without finishing. He folded the letter and put it inside a video gaming magazine he found on top of the photocopier. He returned it to the rack where the other issues were displayed.

 

By the second week, most his time was spent passing out handbills informing guests of the week’s programming. He kept a wheeled cart next to his chair for guests to leave their returned books. He would flip through them on the quiet days. And on those very rare days, when guests would trickle in like water from worn taps, he would stray from the page and stare through the sliding entrance doors, looking for the world and wondering what it remembered of him.

On busy days he printed handbills. There were stop-limits on the number of copies that could be made at one time, so supply often ran low. Mary taught him how to create a print order on the library’s copier. He liked the machine. He found computers to defy common sense, but the copier was beige, familiar, and bowed to his touch.

By his tenth day of work, the small talk about weather and politics had begun to wane and Walt, to his surprise, took this harshly.

That day, the tweed coat man walked through the entrance doors. Walt unclenched his shoulders and extended a handbill while he composed his opening line of conversation.

‘Some weather.’

The man gave a nod and a swift exhalation that stood in, Walt supposed, for laughter. He pulled a small paperback from his coat pocket and placed it on the wheeled cart beside Walt’s chair. The man refused the handbill and continued on his way, while Walt, with every further step, felt of no particular use to anyone.

 

Walt’s fourth, fifth, and sixth letters were penned on notepad tear-offs brought in from the home. One morning, Ryan gave him a stack so newly peeled that the glue was still drying on their backs. Walt was grateful for Ryan, he felt proud of him for performing so well at his job.

 

The fourth letter was written in the morning’s cab.

 

 

Come back. At the least you must tell me where you have gone. First I didn’t bother asking or making how I felt so apparent but I am a more cynical man now as time runs thin. I am so deeply torn by the possibility of you never coming back or telling me where else to go, such has been my reliance upon you.

 

 

The fifth letter was written in the guest bathroom.

 

 

I want you now to be here. Without our babys. In the dark, maybe at the old ravine. Its so bright where I am these days. You would hate it. And I would crave you as I do. Your muscled arms. Those ticklish hairs on your neck, though we never touched did we. Isn’t it such a pitiful thing? That we never touched. That you never came home to find me waiting as if to say ‘what kept you’

 

 

The sixth letter was written in the evening cab, made possible only by the passing flicker of streetlights.

 

 

It’ s been all day u can com e home nuw its getting too late t dont keep me like this u know things are diferent now, we went our opposite ways but these things dont last do they. Funny how I drive down    this road    now but it is   the same   one we once  did yet darker
   too dam dark

 

 

All three of the day’s letters found homes inside the dust jackets of children’s novels whose authors’ names began with R. He took care the next day to make sure they returned to their proper shelves.

It was then that Mary started checking on Walt. First at noon that day, and then twice again before close. She brushed his arm at the photocopier, chatted with him in the coffee room, and put her hand on his back at the water fountain. She said hello and attempted conversation.

‘Is there anything I can help you with, Walter?’

These new affairs were not of much interest to him. He had the sense that she was equally disinterested, and his intuitions were difficult to shake.

 

 

I don’t know what you’ve done exactly but you have taken me some where I will never come back from. This has been the sum of your effects on me.
Will you tell Lenore about us, will you finally do that? Is that too much for me to ask, for you to be unashamed?
Forget it. You have no business crawling back to me. These are how things have gone: They locked me away and now everything I once had has gone dry, dry dry; and so I stay low and wait for you to pass by because, knowing you, you will. You know I’ve been too strong for you to let me down now.

 

 

In the weeks that came, Mary shadowed Walt more attentively. He no longer sat by the entrance, instead she moved him into the main lobby. Into a more open space to carry on under her watch.

It became rare that she would ask Walt if he needed help. She grew into the role of Supervisor in the sense of the word that Walt once understood when he was a younger man. And Walt, to her surprise, appeared no less content.

 

 

Why was I so naive to think that I’d let this all slide?
Remember in the nursery, when you pushed me onto ice? How you laughed? I always thought that meant a little something more to you, like you were crying out for me to join you and take pleasure in the kind of boyish kicks we got back then.
You may be glad to know you’ve pushed me back again, back onto that unforgiving sheet of ice where I cannot find my feet

 

 

From then on, letters were written in the cover of the evening. He wrote under bed sheets. He wrote with his bowing body supported by pillows against headboard; greeted only by the outer noise of wheeled carts and walkers over carpets freshly steamed.

Work was picking up, and Walt became increasingly tired and slow-moving at home. He rang Ryan for increasingly menial tasks. Often to heat his tea, sometimes just to talk. He felt himself retreating, a feeling that soon became immovable, fixed in place.

 

 

Let me start over. I know I haven’t been very civil about any of this. I can get so emotional you know. Always such an actor. but don’t worry about me, no, I’ve come to terms with you not coming back. I just hope that wherever you are you’re happy with yourself and that you know I’m in a better place too. like today, today was fantastic. I gave up and ran. that’s right, john, I ran to our spot under the overpass. nobody to told me I couldn’t. because no one was there. And I screamed. and there was no one to hold me back or tell me not to. because I’m a free man, john. I have everything I’ve ever wanted here.  nothing keeping me from being happy like I always thought I’d be. sometimes I just wish you’d believed that it were possible. You know? well anyway I hope you take this all well. I know it can be hard to hear that others are thriving without you. but believe me, john, I’m thriving. this is the best I’ve ever felt. i’ve left, and like you I’m on the move. Moving on to bigger things. this is a new beginning, john, believe you me. although I wish the very best for you, I hope I never see you again. You will never be what I had hoped. I remember you from the old days, and I’ll keep that with me. so don’t come finding me because I have you already, and it is more perfect than you can imagine or you could ever be

 

 

 

On Walt’s last day of work, Mary asked him to take out a trash bag. She told him that it needed to go to the dumpster out back across the lot.

Tasks such as these were normally reserved for the part-timers, though she and Walt were the only staff on lobby duty. Mary was fast approaching forty weeks of pregnancy. She was told not to move much, and to carry nothing, by doctor’s order.

She told Walt that if he could not do it that he shouldn’t bother. That somebody else would be in the next morning. She remained compliant with workplace safety regulations and read him implicit rights.

Walt agreed.

‘No sweat.’

Two thumbs up.

 

He found the bag slumped against the emergency exit doors. They were unlocked and windowless and airbrushed with symbols of little white men running someplace safe.

Walt propped open the doors. He gripped the bag’s plastic tie with both hands and pulled. Though it moved, it was hopelessly heavy.

The bag, lumpy and misshapen, slid out the door and onto the salted asphalt. Walt dragged it inch by fighting inch over the rocky pavement. He did this for some time, letting the bag follow his steps as he lumbered on.

He was halfway across the lot before he noticed the bag lighten. With his next and final step he felt it lighten more. He turned to find the bag had torn and its contents had spilled onto the cool, wet tarmac, leaving a small trail leading to where he stood.

They were books, most of them. Some magazines. Twenty in all.

They were familiar to Walt, because each of them had at one time housed his letters. Each one of them.

Walt glanced down by his feet where a book lay on the ground, its white cover dampened. Turning it over, he found no letter inside. He picked up another and again found nothing. And another.

There were no letters in any. They had been removed.

He tried to put them back into the torn bag. He tried to carry them in his hands, in his arms.

Hello?

He called silently to anyone.

He wept, he howled.

 

The Silents

Citizen Personality Traits and How They Affect Immigrant Settlement in Canada

 

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Temperament and Tolerance:

Reconsidering ‘Region’ in Canadian Political Cultures

(Abridged)

Liam Hunt

April 10, 2017

 

 

 

METHODOLOGY AND REVIEW

The 2015 Canada Election Study (CES) features ten (10) incisive psychological questions that measure personal temperament and character, such as openness, extraversion, and anxiousness. Respondents are asked to rank each of the ten traits on a scale from 1-7, with seven (7) indicating that the trait in question describes the subject “extremely well” (CES WEB Codebook, 2015). In this article I explore how these traits correlate with normative ideological positions. Specifically, these are: favourability toward immigrants (from 1-99) and racial minorities (1-99). These variables have been employed previously in the literature as credible indicators of—or integral aspects of— general political orientations or political cultures (Soroka, et al., 2013; Soroka & Robertson, 2010; Olsen, 2011). In the interest of methodological transparency and disclosure, and on the advice of Weslsey (2014), the entirely of my working dataset can be viewed and audited from their source (CES Surveys, 2015 CES). Given the statistical nature of the inquiry, no qualitative inferences or process tracing will be supplied.

I will observe how these personality types are distributed across Canada based on the respondent’s self-reported province or territory of residency. This way, I can find out if there are personality or ‘temperament regions’ across the country, and if they correspond with other territorial political cultures identified in the literature (Nelson, 2007: 23-27; Henderson, 2010: 484; Bilodeau, Turgeon, & Karakoc, 2012: 579). To this end, I will explore whether there are provinces or territories with significantly disproportionate (sig.<0.05) distributions of respondents who report the maximal expression of each trait (i.e. [7]). Only maximal trait expressions are accounted for in this study in the interest of methodological parsimony. Within the existing literature, there is no published research that yet resembles this design—this presents a unique opportunity to uncover a new dimension of Canadian regional political cultures as well as their ideological precursors. I intend to situate my research within the existing bodies of scholarship on political psychology and behaviour by adding to a burgeoning theoretical trend which suggests that aspects of the individual serve as the micro-foundation of ideology formation, localized social systems, and, more broadly, political cultures (Bouchard & McGue, 2003; Hatemi et al., 2009; Settle, Dawes, & Fowler, 2009).

Cross-tabs are utilised to display correlation and statistical significance across variables (Pearson’s R and chi-squared; 2-sided sig test; ANOVA and F-test). The data will then be visualised and compared with the help of simple graphs and tables in order to assist the reader with understanding the significance of the values in an expedient manner. The metrics used to gauge personality are those ten (10) traits measured in the 2015 CES:

 

  • Extraverted, enthusiastic
  • Critical, quarrelsome
  • Dependable, self-disciplined
  • Anxious, easily upset
  • Open to new experiences, complex
  • Reserved, quiet
  • Sympathetic, warm
  • Disorganized, carless
  • Calm, emotionally stable
  • Conventional, uncreative

 

Using cross-tabs, the reader can then observe the geographical differences, whether or not these differences are distributed disproportionately, and to what extent they may or may not transcend territorial-provincial boundaries. Depending on the result, this may either reinforce or detract from the legitimacy of provincial-level units of analysis as a locus of regional study (i.e. the individual, or the ideological, units may offer more insight into, or consistency between, regional politico-cultural cleavages). For further reading on a research design of a similar nature, see Rentfrow (2013) and his work on the social psychology of three distinct political regions of the United States.

I will operate under the following null hypothesis (H0): there is no non-random relationship between both personality and general political orientation as well as personality and territorial regions. Thus, the alternative hypothesis (HA) asserts that certain personality types are, in fact, indicators of political orientations, and are non-randomly distributed across geographical space. The preliminary level of significance (alpha, or αvalue) is p ≤ 0.05, meaning if the p-value—the probability of obtaining an effect that supports H0—is less than alpha (5%, two-tailed), then we can reject the null hypothesis and infer, with a high degree of confidence (>95%), that the relationship described by HA is present. Furthermore, a secondary null hypothesis (Hβ) will hold that no statistically significant correlation exists between the implicated personality traits and geographical location (i.e. region, province, or territory).

 

IDEOLOGY AND POLITICAL CULTURE

Political systems were once described as having a “spring” or motor responsible for motivating citizens to behave in ways that support the functioning of the regime. Baron de Montesquieu, writing from Canada’s then-colonial mainland, labelled this force the spirit of the people, a drive motivated by factors both environmental and institutional. His observations of early modern Europe led him to the discovery of three distinct Spirits: virtue, for republics; honour, for monarchies; and fear, for despotisms. Accordingly, a political system would dissolve if it failed to maintain its Spirit. For Montesquieu, this explained why the formation of an English republic failed after the Glorious Revolution, and likewise the Fall of Rome: neither state could cultivate a sustained, virtuous civic spirit (Montesquieu & Carrithers, 1977: 309). In situating the level of analysis at the socio-political Spirit or ‘ethos’ of the time, Montesquieu effectively turned attention inward to the individual—the citizen, the most fundamental unit of a political system—in order to derive explanatory insight into the nature of the system itself. This would go on to constitute the first contemporary study of political culture as explained by the approximate features of the citizenry; the micro-social explaining the macro-political.

Much has changed since the political sociology of eighteenth century France. The academic study of political cultures, in its modern form, was coined by Almond and Verba (1963) who espoused a similarly sociological argument relating the public’s specific orientation toward politics to the stability of the political system altogether. In their seminal text, The Civic Culture, the authors essentially argue against institutionalism in the study of democratic stability, instead favouring a culturalist approach. In employing this cultural lens, they found that the presence of a strong participatory citizenry (a “civic culture”) constituted the basis of an effective and responsive democracy. Later, a notable case study of Italian regional governance was undertaken that corroborated these findings, concluding that Italy’s nascent subnational governing units performed best if marked by a vibrant civic culture (Putnam, 1993). Lijphart (1977; 1999) complemented these analyses by developing an alternative account of political culture by broadly dividing democratic societies into either “majoritarian” or “consensual” camps. Later work found that consensus-based systems involved a greater prevalence of compromise and minority rights protections—this was seen as being superior to majoritarian systems such as those of the Westminster tradition (Lijphart, 2012). It is argued that where deep-seeded ethnic, linguistic, regional, or religious cleavages mark one’s political culture, majoritarian systems cannot sustain themselves in the long run (Andeweg, 2000: 509).

Cultural approaches such as these contain interesting implications for its study in the Canadian context; with its territorial vastness, linguistic sects, and ethno-religious heterogeneity, where exactly does Canada fit in within these paradigms?  Further, what are the bases of Canada’s regional and demographic cleavages, and how might they be overcome within a Westminster system? To this end, an array of scholarship has attempted to find an appropriate answer. Simeon and Elkin’s (1980) Small Worlds provided a provided a strong empirical foundation for suggesting that the enduring fractures in the Canadian political culture are of a uniquely territorial nature, and most evident in provincial party politics. The authors found that “regionalism is a profound and fundamental feature of Canada”, contradicting the pan-Canadian myths that had hitherto been prevalent in the political culture discourse (p. vii). In examining the more micro-scale influences on party competition, they found that public attitudes and opinions captured by federal election surveys indicated that territorial divergences were so pervasive that, in fact, “[t]here is no national party system even at the federal level. Each party and each region is a small world” (Simeon & Elkins, 1980: 238, emphasis in original). Commenting on Elkin and Simeon’s thesis, Hepburn (2010) states that the authors put to rest previous structural-functional assumptions of regional difference, and instead reframed the issue as a matter of localized ethnic, religious, linguistic, and regional identity (p. 529). The very fact that this may appear as self-evident to the reader today is a testament to the veracity and impact that the ‘small worlds thesis’ had on Canada’s understanding of its own politico-cultural dynamic. This served as a refreshing departure from Grant’s (1965) rather grim assertion that Canada had relinquished any semblance of an independent political culture to their colonial (British) and continental (American) masters.

Regional Cleavages

Contemporary regional politico-cultural cleavages in Canada are made apparent by Harell and Deschatelets (2014) and Cochrane and Perrella (2012). Further, Wiseman (2007) has demonstrated how personal values generate preferences for the institutions that define regional political cultures (p. 34); it is suggested that regional disparities in personal values contribute to a process of localised socialization which instills and reinforces regional difference according to these values (p. 20). Taking this one step further, it is the objective of this analysis to inquire into the formative aspects of these values—the individual temperament. Likewise, there are numerous accounts of ideological enclaves and disparities across Canadian political cultures (Wiseman, 1981; Finbow, 2004; Johnson, 2009; Bilodeau et al., 2012), yet, the literature is barren with respect to how these cultures percolate through the individual and the values that they hold. For example, Bilodeau et al. (2012) demonstrates the ideological differences that constitute a significant aspect of Canada’s regional cleavages. However, more incisive research must be conducted in order to derive more fundamental insights into how agents at the most rudimentary level can generate, cultivate, or express these differences. This would allow us to go beyond the traditional historical approaches to understanding macro-level regional differences, such as Hartz-Horowitz’ fragment theory (Wiseman, 2007: 23), and instead cut into the present-day empirical differences that have proceeded from those historical antecedents. This may prove useful in informing our understanding of what regional difference is in Canada, how it can be overcome, and how we can enact policy that accounts for how these differences manifest—especially, for example, in the realm of immigration and refugee settlement. This follows the assumptions of a burgeoning research trend in political psychology which holds that the political behaviour of a citizen is not motivated by self-interest or national loyalties, but rather a desire to express the traits and cultural mores that define and delimit their personal identities (Johnston, Federico, & Lavine, 2017); as well as a growing literature on regional disparities in personality traits within federal states (Rentfrew, Jokela, & Lamb, 2015; Rentfrow et al., 2013).

Personality and Values

Outside of the Canadian context, scholars have begun to uncover the relationship between personality psychology and public perceptions of immigrants. Gallego and Pardos-Prado (2014) explore the correlation between the Big Five personality traits and immigrant-specific prejudices across a wide sample of the Dutch population. Their findings confirm that all five traits are associated with attitudes toward immigrants either beyond or matching the effect of other strong socio-demographic predictors. Most relevant were their results regarding trait Neuroticism, which was significantly associated with prejudice toward immigrants; this finding held up across various statistical models even when additional controls were included (p. 92). Of perhaps equal import, one standard deviation increase in trait Agreeableness was found to exhibit an increase of 0.13 standard deviations in positive attitudes toward immigrants when keeping all other demographic predictors held constant (p. 91). It is worth noting that the authors could not adjudicate between a direct personality-prejudice link and other causal possibilities because the scholarship exploring the link between attitudes toward immigrants and personality is remarkably scarce (p. 93). Nonetheless, these personality traits were found to bear significant positive or negative affects on general attitudes toward immigrants.

These results are corroborated by an earlier study by Stürmer et al. (2013) which also found that individual differences in the Big Five personality traits had “substantially greater power in predicting individual differences in xenophilia than individual differences in [other socio-demographic] traits” (p. 832). Additionally, a later study of the general Danish population found that trait ‘Openness’ had an unconditional positive affect on one’s willingness to support the admission of immigrants to the country (Dinesen, Klemmensen, & Norgaard, 2016). Further, this study found intersecting effects between traits Agreeableness and Conscientiousness on the perception of economic threat by immigrants: respondents scoring low on Agreeableness but high on Conscientiousness were more sensitive to the skill level of incoming immigrants (p. 55). These findings are important as they attest to the fact that leveraging the insights of personality psychology to explore dispositional attitudes toward immigrants is a valid and potentially fruitful opportunity for politico-cultural research.

In the literature, people’s self-reported attitudes toward immigrants have been used as a proxy for a more general indicator of social diversity. In particular, Paas and Halapuu (2012) have employed this as an indicator of a polity’s “people climate”, which is used to determine favourability toward immigrant economic and cultural integration (p. 4). Card, Dustmann, and Preston (2005) provide important insight into the value of public attitudes toward immigration as a potentially powerful window into a variety of different socio-cultural issues such as the value of one’s perceived national culture, racial homogeneity, and the desirability of social contact (p. 39). This is particularly useful because it supports the idea that favourability toward immigrants can essentially ‘travel’, in that it can stand in as an indicator for several other, broader aspects of a political culture.

Hainmueller and Hiscox (2007) find that, within European economies, differences in opinion toward immigration are driven by differences among individuals’ cultural values and beliefs, rather than concerns of pure rational self-interest, such as labour market competition (p. 399). How exactly these cultural values and beliefs emerge in a given society, however, remains to be more thoroughly explored. However, human capital theory may play an intervening role, as this theory holds that higher levels of education generally lead to a greater level of tolerant attitudes (Paas & Halapuu, 2012: p. 10). Hainmueller and Hopkins’ (2014) meta-analysis explores the existing literature on mass attitudes toward immigration policy in Europe and North America. Their results indicate that immigration-related attitudes are largely driven by symbolic threats to “intangible social constructs, such as the national economy or national identity” (p. 227). Interestingly, however, the authors concede that these sociotropic concerns need to be isolated more precisely in further research, as their causal mechanisms and relation to attitude formation are unknown (p. 225). This is where I intend to contribute to the literature. Although this work does not concern itself with causality, it is important to conduct research on the correlation between Canadian’s values and personalities such that we can ‘set the gears in motion’ to determine whether psychological attributes may have causal potential for future research to explore.

 

RESULTS

The following cross-tabulations were configured using the SPSS software suite, and illustrates the covariance and correlation across personality variables, territorial proximity, and politico-cultural attitudes. Using the analysis of variance (ANOVA) statistical model, we can examine the prevalence of certain political orientations among those who express particular psychological attributes by simply observing the average responses to the dependent variable in all of the seven (7) groups belonging to each trait. Their respective average values can be observed under the “Mean” columns[1]. With the procedure now understood, let us assess how each personality trait corresponds to political attitudes.

TABLE 1A: Mean Attitudes Toward Immigrants (0-100) and Trait Sympathetic/Warm
 
n N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error 95% Confidence Interval for Mean Minimum Maximum
Lower Bound Upper Bound
1 37 50.16 29.236 4.806 40.41 59.91 0 100
2 99 49.69 27.358 2.750 44.23 55.14 0 100
3 245 58.55 25.927 1.656 55.29 61.81 0 100
4 687 60.57 25.785 .984 58.64 62.50 0 100
5 1082 64.14 23.716 .721 62.72 65.55 0 100
6 1152 66.06 25.228 .743 64.61 67.52 0 100
7 727 66.52 29.826 1.106 64.35 68.69 0 100
Total 4029 63.69 26.188 .413 62.88 64.50 0 100
a. Source: 2015 Canada Election Study

 

In Table 1A, above, we notice that those who identify the least as being Sympathetic/Warm, group 1 (n1), exhibit an average attitude toward immigrants of (50.16), in comparison to those who most identify as such, group 7 (n7), who boast an average of (66.52). Let  represent the likelihood, in percent form, of better predicting a positive response in the dependent variable. The  value can be derived from the equation:

 

Therefore, we can conclude that those who most identify as being Sympathetic/Warm, are 33% more likely to yield positive attitudes toward immigrants. Below, Table 1B analyses the variability among the mean values listed under Table 1A, in terms of the individuals surveyed within each group. The F-statistic (12.8), representing the mean square (regression), is shown as being statistically significant due to the Sig. value (.000) being under the pre-determined significance level (< 0.05). This indicates that the average individual variances within each respondent group are homogeneous (or, “homoscedastic”)—in other words, that the population within each group on the (1-7) scale were more or less equally varied in their responses. This provides all the more reason to trust the validity of the findings because there aren’t any outliers within one category that offset the observed trend. If H0 is correct, we would expect the F value to be close to (1).

 

TABLE 1B: ANOVA
 
  Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig.
Between Groups 51866.229 6 8644.371 12.826 .000
Within Groups 2710634.849 4022 673.952    
Total 2762501.078 4028      

 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Table 1C, below, displays Pearson’s R value (0.127), which indicates a positive correlation between the two variables, and the Sig. value, at (<0.05), indicates that this relationship is significant.

TABLE 1C: SYMMETRIC MEASURES

 

  Value Standard Errora Approximate T Approx. Sig.
Interval by Interval Pearson’s R .127 .017 8.150 .000
N of Valid Cases 4029      
a. Not assuming the null hypothesis.

Now, with the first example walked-through in more detail, the following section will display the rest of the data with minimal descriptive. Their implications for statistical inference will be discussed in the subsequent section.

TABLE 2A: Mean Attitudes Toward Immigrants (0-100) and Trait Critical/Quarrelsome
  N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error 95% Confidence Interval for Mean Minimum Maximum
Lower Bound Upper Bound
1 499 69.40 26.662 1.194 67.06 71.75 0 100
2 856 64.20 25.970 .888 62.46 65.95 0 100
3 761 63.86 24.538 .890 62.11 65.60 0 100
4 908 61.30 24.971 .829 59.68 62.93 0 100
5 622 60.45 27.572 1.106 58.28 62.63 0 100
6 250 63.08 27.670 1.750 59.64 66.53 0 100
7 82 68.09 30.765 3.397 61.33 74.85 0 100
Total 3978 63.55 26.167 .415 62.74 64.36 0 100
a. Source: 2015 Canada Elections Study

 

TABLE 2B: Chi-Square Tests
  Value df Asymptotic Significance (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 664.285a 600 .035
Likelihood Ratio 698.755 600 .003
N of Valid Cases 3978    
a. 478 cells (67.6%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is .08.

 

 

TABLE 2C: Symmetric Measures

  Value Standard Errora Approximate T Approx. Sig.
Interval by Interval Pearson’s R -.070 .017 -4.423 .000
Ordinal by Ordinal Spearman Correlation -.076 .016 -4.777 .000
N of Valid Cases 3978      
a. Not assuming the null hypothesis.
 

 

Above, Table 2A indicates that those who identify with the trait Critical/Quarrelsome the least are only marginally more likely to have a positive view of immigrants. Pearson’s R, under Table 2C, indicates an inverse relationship between expression of this trait and a positive attitude toward immigrants, while Table 2B indicates that this relationship is statistically significant (0.035). Therefore, the Critical/Quarrelsome trait should not be used as an indicator of positive attitudes toward immigrants, especially in light of the distribution’s seemingly random (i.e. non-normal) nature displayed by Figure 2A below.

 

 

For this reason, the trait Critical/Quarrelsome will be omitted from inclusion in the larger regional analysis. This will act as an exemplar for similar cases, as traits that do not have a linear relationship cannot be meaningfully employed in this study.

 

 

TABLE 3A: Mean Attitudes Toward Immigrants (0-100) and Trait Openness to Experience
 
  N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error 95% Confidence Interval for Mean Minimum Maximum
Lower Bound Upper Bound
1 71 56.00 28.785 3.416 49.19 62.81 0 100
2 229 55.06 26.876 1.776 51.56 58.56 0 100
3 437 57.94 26.933 1.288 55.41 60.47 0 100
4 974 61.51 25.720 .824a 59.89 63.12 0 100
5 1078 64.13 24.351 .742a 62.67 65.58 0 100
6 853 68.62 25.137 .861 66.93 70.30 0 100
7 401 70.41 28.799 1.438 67.58 73.23 0 100
Total 4043 63.74 26.181 .412 62.93 64.55 0 100
a. Source: 2015 Canada Election Study

 

 

TABLE 3B: ANOVA (Trait: Openness)
 
  Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig.
Between Groups 79323.254 6 13220.542 19.826 .000
Within Groups 2691330.533 4036 666.831    
Total 2770653.787 4042      

 

TABLE 3C: Symmetric Measures (Trait: Openness)

  Value Standard Errora Approximate T Approx. Sig.
Interval by Interval Pearson’s R .167 .016 10.761 .000
Ordinal by Ordinal Spearman Correlation .178 .016 11.508 .000
N of Valid Cases 4043      
a. Not assuming the null hypothesis.

 

As indicated by Pearson’s R value, above, Table 3C indicates the strongest statistically significant correlation so far: between trait Openness to Experience and positive immigrant attitudes (.167).

 

 

 

TABLE 4A: : Mean Attitudes Toward Immigrants (0-100) and Trait Calm/Emotional Stability
 
  N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error 95% Confidence Interval for Mean Minimum Maximum
Lower Bound Upper Bound
1 92 57.72 27.817 2.900 51.96 63.48 0 100
2 199 59.07 29.600 2.098 54.93 63.20 0 100
3 370 58.98 27.887 1.450 56.13 61.83 0 100
4 888 61.60 25.410 .853 59.93 63.28 0 100
5 1016 64.69 24.578 .771 63.18 66.20 0 100
6 948 64.59 25.368 .824 62.98 66.21 0 100
7 508 69.65 27.765 1.232 67.23 72.07 0 100
Total 4021 63.65 26.185 .413 62.84 64.46 0 100

 

TABLE 4B: ANOVA (Trait: Calm and Emotional Stability)
 
  Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig.
Between Groups 39467.589 6 6577.931 9.718 .000
Within Groups 2716966.876 4014 676.873    
Total 2756434.465 4020      

 

TABLE 4C: Symmetric Measures (Trait: Calm and Emotional Stability)
  Value Standard Errora Approximate T Approx. Sig.
Interval by Interval Pearson’s R .112 .017 7.159 .000c
Ordinal by Ordinal Spearman Correlation .117 .016 7.468 .000c
N of Valid Cases 4021      
a. Not assuming the null hypothesis.

 

Table 4A, above, indicates a positive correlation between the expression of trait Calm and Emotional Stability and favourable attitudes toward immigrants. The correlation coefficient, under Table 4C, is (.112) and is statistically significant (.000).

In the interest of brevity, I must plainly disclose that no further personality traits measured under the 2015 CES were found to have a statistically significant positive, non-random correlation with the dependent variable. Thus, after running each of the above statistical tests on the remaining individual traits, only three (3) personality metrics remain as reliable, statistically significant indicators of attitudes toward immigrants: Openness to Experience, Sympathy and Warmth, and Calmness. Their respective correlations are displayed by the scatterplot, Figure 2B, below.

More surprisingly, identical tests performed against favourability toward ethnic minorities found no statistically significant relationship in all cases except for trait Disorganized/Careless which returned a weak (.046) Pearson’s R value and a (.004) level of significance. However, when applying a Kolmogorow-Smirnov test, as seen below under Table 11A, we notice a very low level of significance under each response category (.000) which allows us to reject its assumed null hypothesis (that the distribution is normal, or non-random). Thus, we can dismiss these data as having a spurious, or random, correlation with the dependent variable. As such, we can now confirm that there are no personality traits measured under the 2015 CES that act as a reliable indicator of attitudes toward racial minorities.

 

 

TABLE 5A: Normality Test – Attitudes Toward Racial Minorities and Trait Disorganized/Careless
  Self-Description: Disorganized, careless Kolmogorov-Smirnova Shapiro-Wilk
  Statistic df Sig. Statistic df Sig.
  1 .441 1166 .000 .269 1166 .000
2 .411 1112 .000 .243 1112 .000
3 .444 697 .000 .260 697 .000
4 .470 515 .000 .301 515 .000
5 .406 251 .000 .233 251 .000
6 .464 128 .000 .275 128 .000
7 .489 67 .000 .415 67 .000
a. Lilliefors Significance Correction

 

GEOGRAPHICAL PREVALNCE

With the main indicators now established, we can proceed to examine how well these personalities match up with the territorial regions of Canada, and, further, each region’s distribution of the ideological-political attitudes toward immigrants. Displayed below are a series of cross-tabs and their associated ANOVA tests. These tables highlight which provinces and territories most express each personality trait by highlighting their frequency as a percentage form. It is important to recall that for the purposes of this study we will only consider the figures under the [7] column, as this indicates how prevalent the most expressive carriers of each trait are. The Pearson Chi-Square tests, displayed below each cross-tab, will indicate whether the observed differences between the provinces and territories arose by chance: if the p-value exceeds the significance level (.05), then we can infer the inter-provincial differences arose by chance.

 

 

CROSSTAB 1: Expression of Trait Calm/Emotionally Stable by Province/Territory
  Self-Description: Calm, emotionally stable Total
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Which province or territory are you currently living in? [AA] Alberta 1.5% 3.9% 9.6% 23.8% 22.3% 26.5% 12.3% 100.0%
British Columbia 2.6% 4.8% 9.0% 23.0% 24.2% 22.8% 13.4% 100.0%
Manitoba 3.0% 3.6% 13.2% 15.6% 26.3% 23.4% 15.0% 100.0%
New Brunswick 2.8% 9.3% 12.0% 24.1% 23.1% 17.6% 11.1% 100.0%
Newfoundland and Labrador 4.7% 2.3% 4.7% 23.3% 23.3% 18.6% 23.3% 100.0%
Nova Scotia 2.5% 7.4% 5.7% 26.2% 22.1% 23.0% 13.1% 100.0%
Ontario 2.3% 5.0% 10.3% 23.2% 26.9% 20.2% 12.0% 100.0%
Prince Edward Island   5.6% 8.3% 19.4% 33.3% 19.4% 13.9% 100.0%
Quebec 2.5% 4.8% 8.5% 22.3% 24.4% 25.2% 12.4% 100.0%
Saskatchewan 1.3% 5.1% 5.1% 22.8% 20.3% 29.1% 16.5% 100.0%
Total 2.4% 4.9% 9.4% 22.7% 25.0% 22.9% 12.7% 100.0%

 

Table 5A: Chi-Square Tests
  Value df Asymptotic Significance (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 55.437a 60 .643
Likelihood Ratio 56.793 60 .594
N of Valid Cases 4293    
a. 19 cells (24.7%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is .12.

 

 

 

Table 5A, above, displays a hypothesis testing statistic that determines whether the relationships described in Crosstab 1 arose out of chance. If the p-value (right-most column) is greater than our set level of significance (>0.05), then we can conclude that the relationship is spurious.

 

 

CROSSTAB 2: Expression of Trait Sympathetic/Warm by Province/Territory
  Self-Description: Sympathetic, warm Total
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Which province or territory are you currently living in? [AA] Alberta 0.9% 3.3% 9.9% 19.9% 23.2% 24.7% 18.1% 100.0%
British Columbia 1.4% 3.2% 7.8% 18.2% 28.7% 25.0% 15.8% 100.0%
Manitoba 1.8% 2.4% 5.5% 13.3% 28.5% 33.3% 15.2% 100.0%
New Brunswick   1.9% 5.7% 28.3% 19.8% 26.4% 17.9% 100.0%
Newfoundland and Labrador   7.1% 4.8% 16.7% 23.8% 21.4% 26.2% 100.0%
Nova Scotia 2.4% 7.2% 5.6% 13.6% 24.8% 28.0% 18.4% 100.0%
Ontario 1.1% 2.3% 7.0% 19.4% 27.2% 26.2% 16.8% 100.0%
Prince Edward Island     5.9% 14.7% 26.5% 38.2% 14.7% 100.0%
Quebec 0.8% 1.8% 3.8% 14.8% 26.4% 31.2% 21.1% 100.0%
Saskatchewan 1.3%   9.2% 19.7% 30.3% 28.9% 10.5% 100.0%
Total 1.1% 2.5% 6.2% 17.5% 26.6% 28.0% 18.2% 100.0%

 

 

TABLE 5B: Chi-Square Tests
  Value df Asymptotic Significance (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 120.603a 60 .000
Likelihood Ratio 116.895 60 .000
N of Valid Cases 4303    
a. 23 cells (29.9%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is .05.

 

Table 5B, above, indicates that a statistically significant relationship exists between the provinces and the expression of trait Sympathetic/Warm. In essence, it communicates that we would not expect this outcome if the null hypotheses were assumed to be true.

 

 

CROSSTAB 3: Expression of Trait Openness by Province/Territory
  Self-Description: Open to new experiences, complex Total
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Which province or territory are you currently living in? [AA] Alberta 0.9% 5.4% 9.4% 24.8% 26.9% 23.9% 8.8% 100.0%
British Columbia 1.2% 7.0% 6.4% 24.8% 26.7% 22.4% 11.6% 100.0%
Manitoba 0.6% 6.1% 10.9% 24.2% 32.7% 19.4% 6.1% 100.0%
New Brunswick 2.7% 4.5% 14.5% 27.3% 22.7% 18.2% 10.0% 100.0%
Newfoundland and Labrador 2.3% 4.7% 14.0% 27.9% 25.6% 14.0% 11.6% 100.0%
Nova Scotia 2.4% 4.0% 14.4% 22.4% 23.2% 23.2% 10.4% 100.0%
Ontario 2.0% 5.1% 11.0% 25.7% 24.5% 21.4% 10.3% 100.0%
Prince Edward Island     5.7% 25.7% 34.3% 25.7% 8.6% 100.0%
Quebec 2.4% 6.0% 11.9% 23.7% 27.8% 19.2% 9.0% 100.0%
Saskatchewan   8.8% 13.8% 27.5% 23.8% 18.8% 7.5% 100.0%
Total 1.9% 5.7% 10.8% 24.8% 26.4% 20.8% 9.7% 100.0%

 

 

 

 

TABLE 5C: Chi-Square Tests
  Value df Asymptotic Significance (2-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 61.837a 60 .410
Likelihood Ratio 67.634 60 .233
N of Valid Cases 4314    
a. 20 cells (26.0%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is .09.

 

From the above Tables 5A and 5C, we can conclude that both trait Openness and Calmness/Emotional Stability do not pass the Pearson Chi-Square test as their p-values are both above the set level of significance. In other words, we cannot confidently conclude that their distribution across the provinces are the product of anything but pure chance. Interestingly, Table 5B indicates that trait Sympathy/Warmth does, in fact, observe a distribution pattern across the provinces that cannot be explained by chance alone (Sig. .000). This is likely due to the particular trait’s significant over-representation in both Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Conversely, the trait appears to be significantly under-represented in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

 

DISCUSSION

In 2016, the National Post quoted Canadian Prime Minister as having said that there “is no core identity, or mainstream, in Canada…[t]here are shared values—openness, respect…equality and justice. Those qualities are what make us the first post-national state”. As we have now made clear, even these shared values enjoy a fair degree of variability across geographical-territorial space. It is incumbent upon us, then, to acknowledge where these regional differences arise in order to devise a fuller understanding of the ideological rifts that make Canada truly post-national. By rethinking our perception of regional differences in Canada and how they are expressed—by both institutional-structural indicators, and personal-preferential sentiments—we are offered a new plane of inquiry from which we can further explore and perhaps transgress regional cleavages moving forward.

More specifically, the findings of this study reveal three personality traits measured by the most recent Canada Election Study that serve as statistically significant indicators for favourable attitudes toward immigrants: openness to experience; sympathy and warmth; and emotional calmness. Of these three, only sympathy and warmth was found to bear a non-random distribution across the provinces and territories. This is presumed to be a result of the trait’s disproportionately high occurrence in the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, and a similarly disparate low occurrence in the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. For policymakers, this may bear interesting implications in the realm of immigrant and refugee settlement policy as it could assist with determining regional attitudes that may assist with societal integration. While the extant body of literature regarding regional political cultures typically focuses upon their macro-level historical or economic differences (Harell & Deschatelets, 2014; Cochrane & Perrella, 2012; Bilodeau et al., 2012), there is now a case to be made that there is potential in turning out attention toward the individual in assessing how these political cultures or ideological preferences are expressed.

One caveat worth taking into consideration is discussed in a working paper by Grigorieff, Roth, and Ubfal (2016), which found that providing information about immigration has a significant positive affect on one’s attitude toward immigrants[2]. This may suggest that those presiding in prominent immigrant settlement provinces such as Ontario or British Colombia, who are therefore more likely to be exposed to information pertaining to immigration, would be expected to express a marked increase in favourable attitudes toward immigrants. Likewise, this further suggests that those provinces that return the least favourable attitudes toward immigrants can be altered by immigration-related advocacy campaigns that disclose the information necessary for a more informed understanding of the issue. In other words, public attitudes toward immigration may very well be malleable, and not exclusively a determinant of one’s psychological dispositions. However, future research should explore whether one’s expression of traits Openness or Sympathy affect one’s responsiveness to immigration-related information; it stands to reason that those who self-report a low score on either of these indices may not be as influenced by such information that those who score higher. This is important because it suggests that even if personal temperament is found to have a negligible effect on one’s attitude toward immigrants, we still ought to account for one’s individual temperament when designing and implementing immigration-related advocacy or integration material: those with a certain personality profile may not be as receptive to these policies as others. For this reason, I believe that individual temperament and personality should be explored in greater depth in future research as it may generate insights into how to best integrate immigrant communities into specific regions of the country. Namely, those with a general temperament better equipped to accommodate, accept, and embrace them with sympathy and warmth.

 

WORKS CITED

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Andeweg, R.B. (2000). Consociational democracy. Annual Review of Political Science, 3(1): 509-536.

Bouchard, T.J. & McGue, M. (2003). Genetic and environmental influences on human psychological differences. Developmental Neurobiology, 54(1): 4-45.

Canadian Election Study – WEB (2015). Campaign Period Survey and Post Election Survey Codebook and Questionnaire. Retrieved from: http://ces-eec.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2014/07/Codebook_WEB_EN_DRAFT.pdf

Canadian Election Study (2015). Survey titled “CES15_CPS+PES_Web_SSI Full SPSS”. Retrieved from: http://ces-eec.arts.ubc.ca/english-section/surveys/

Cochrane, C. & Perrella, A.M.L. (2012). Regions, regionalism, and regional differences in Canada. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 45(4): 829-853.

Dustmann, C., Card, D., Preston, I. (2005). Understanding attitudes to immigration: The migration and minority module of the first European Social Survey. Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration Discussion Paper Series, CDP No 03/05: 1-43.

Grigorieff, A., Roth, C., & Ubfal, D. (2016). Does information change attitudes towards immigrants? Representative evidence from survey experiments. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10419: 1-55.

Hainmueller, J. & Hiscox, M.J. (2007). Educated preferences: Explaining attitudes toward immigration in Europe. International Organization, 61(2): 399-442.

Hainmueller, J. & Hopkins, D.J. (2014). Public attitudes toward immigration. Annual Review of Political Science, 17: 225-249.

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Johnston, C.D., Federico, C., & Lavine, H. (2017). Open Versus Closed: Personality, Identity, and the Politics of Redistribution. Cambridge University Press.

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Lijphart, A. (2012). Patterns of democracy: Government forms & performance in thirty-six countries (2nd ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Montesquieu, C.D. & Carrithers, D.W. (1977). The Spirit of the Laws: A Compendium to the First English Edition. University of California Press.

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Rentfrew, P.J., Gosling, S.D., Jokela, M., Stillwell, D.J., Kosinski, M., Potter, J. (2013). Divided we stand: Three psychological regions of the United States and their political, economic, social, and health correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(6): 996-1012.

Rentfrew, P.J., Jokela, M., Lamb, M.E. (2015). Regional personality differences in Great Britain. PLoS ONE, 10(3): 1-20.

Rentfrow, P.J. (2013). U.S. Regions exhibit distinct personalities, research reveals. American Psychological Assocation. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/10/regions-personalities.aspx

Rentfrow, P.J., Gosling, S.D., Jokela, M., Stillwell, D.J., Kosinski, M., & Potter, J. (2013) Divided we stand: Three psychological regions of the United States and their political, economic, social, and health correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(6): 996-1012.

Settle, J.E., Dawes, C.T., & Fowler, J.H. (2009). The heritability of partisan attachment. Political Research Quarterly, 62(3): 601-613.

Simeon, R. & Elkins, D.J. (1980). Small worlds: Provinces and parties in Canadian political life. Toronto: Methuen Publications.

Soroka, S. & Robertson, S. (March 2010). A literature review of public opinion research on Canadian attitudes towards multiculturalism and immigration, 2006-2009. Citizenship and Immigration Canada Research and Evaluation. Retrieved from: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/pdf/research-stats/2012-por-multi-imm-eng.pdf

Soroka, S., Johnston, R., Kymlicka, W., & Banting, K. (2013). Ethnic diversity and social solidarity in Canada. Canada Election Study Working Paper Series. Retrieved from: http://ces-eec.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2014/07/SJKBCES.pdf

Stewart, I. (2002). Vanishing points: Three paradoxes of political culture research. In J. Everitt & B. O’Neill (Eds.), Citizen Politics: Research and Theory in Canadian Political Behaviour. Toronto: Oxford University Press. 21-39.

Wesley, J.J. (2014). The qualitative analysis of political documents. In B. Kaal, I. Maks, & A. van Elfrinkhof (Eds.), From Text to Political Positions: Text analysis across disciplines. Amsterdam: John Benjamin’s Publishing Company. 135-160.

Wiseman, N. (1981). The pattern of prairie politics. Queen’s Quarterly, 88(2): 298-315

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[1] Note: All values of (1000) in the SPSS dataset have been manually adjusted to appear as a missing value. Survey respondents who failed to provide an answer were automatically assigned a response of (1000), which initially offset the results.

[2] Those who received the treatment (immigration information) were 33 percent less likely to indicate that there were too many immigrants when compared to the control group.

 

 

 

 

 

Okay here’s the breakdown:

 

This paper takes data from the 2015 CES (election survey) to better inform our understanding of how “political cultures” appear across Canadian provinces. Essentially, I take an old poli sci category (poli cultures) and think of it in a new light by looking at concentrations of individual’s personality traits to uncover “personality regions”.
Basically, I take a traditionally macro-level concept such as culture and reexamine it at the micro-level by situating the individual at the seat of analysis.
I used SPSS to analyze the survey data (n= >10,000) to find correlations between respondents’ self-identified personality traits and their attitudes toward new immigrants. Each respondent reported their expression of these traits on a [1-7] Likert scale. Those respondents who self-identified with [7] were used in my analysis. To find out why, check out the methodology section of the paper.
I found statistically significant predictors of favorable attitudes toward immigrants to be (a) Openness to experience; (b) Sympathy and warmth; (c) Emotional calmness.
These traits were disproportionately high in respondents in Quebec and Newfoundland.
This may be of interest to policymakers.
Knowing that residents of QB and NFL embody personality characteristics amicable to immigrants means that immigration settlement strategies ought to regard these regions as fertile ground for welcoming newcomers.
Statistical tests used:
Multivariate regression analyses… Crosstabs (and sometimes Spearman correlations) to find statistically significant correlation between trait and province, or trait and immigration attitude, and Pearson Chi-Squared to test is the observed differences arose by chance. Pearson’s R coefficient indicated the level of significance in each case.
Other tests used: ANOVA and “Distributions of Means Plot (Non-Normal)”
Citizen Personality Traits and How They Affect Immigrant Settlement in Canada

CES 2018: Afterthoughts from the Tech Tradeshow of the Year

This article was originally commissioned by TheAppLabb in January 2018.

 

Every year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) gives us a chance to gaze into a crystal ball—or OLED panel—and catch a glimpse into the future.

For four days in January, the Las Vegas Convention Center plays host to industry leaders and innovators alike. Their task? To generate buzz over the upcoming slate of new gadgets and hardware, and to discuss the most relevant issues in consumer electronics.

CES is the self-proclaimed “proving ground for innovators”. Known for blockbuster product launches and big-ticket announcements, CES is the venue for showcasing new product lineups, or whatever else might be in the hopper.

Last year, much of the show was dominated by the surge of voice assistants, with Amazon’s Alexa leading the charge. This year, artificially intelligent devices are once again at the top of the bill, but across a wide range of form factors.

If we didn’t know it before, we know now. Artificial intelligence can, and will, creep into every facet of tomorrow’s technology. Smart homes, smart TVs, smart wine bottle openers. Pick any household appliance and you can bet it’ll be AI-equipped in the next year or two.

Internet-enabled household devices are here to stay, and the ecosystem is only showing signs of growth as major industry players like LG and Samsung have announced that all their home appliances will be ‘smart’ in 2018.

But underlying this growth is a singular question that’s beginning to stick with the casual onlooker: Is the industry focused on providing solutions to concrete, everyday problems, or contriving solutions to minor inconveniences? In other words: is technology out of touch?

What’s the benefit in having a thermostat that can call us an Uber, or a tea kettle that can fire us off a tweet while we boil a pot of water? How many of these devices are simplifying our lives, and how many are just being forced further into them? At what point are ‘smart’ appliances, well, not?

CES, if it is to remain faithful to its original aims, exists to provide a hub for true innovation. It’s where a better future was once imagined. Where leaders were brought together to bring these ideas to life. To honour this, we need to go back to focusing on solutions rather than conceptual hardware or needless luxury items. Last week, the National Post ran an article taking shots at the event for deteriorating into an exhibition for overindulgent novelty items. Similarly, The Verge criticized CES for pushing products that are gratuitous, and ignorant of society’s limitations to their adoption.

If the media coverage of CES 2018 is any indication, a common sentiment is that we, the technologists, need to ground ourselves. We need to take back CES’s original intent. To plant the seeds of innovation, and not capitalize on trends through iterative product improvements. Instead, let’s focus on the use cases. On how they can improve society as a whole, and not only the lives of those technophiles that share our niche.

To this end, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) is a small beacon of hope. While taking a relatively quiet place at CES—wedged between hyped-up smart devices, personal assistants, and electric vehicle technology—dozens of new augmented and virtual reality headsets, wearables, and applications were unveiled. These devices provide real solutions for real problems. True to the spirit of CES, VR and AR technologies give us a reason to be excited again.

 

It took a while for virtual reality to prove itself as a future-proof investment for home consumers. Now that HTC, Facebook, Sony, and Samsung have all successfully broken the mold with their flagship headsets, more and more developers are turning their attention to VR as a legitimate market to tap.

On the back-end is Nvidia, the graphics giant who’ve proven themselves to be the powerhouse behind VR. Their GeForce graphics cards do all the heavy lifting behind the scenes, rendering super-high-res visuals twice—one for each eye. And Nvidia’s position at the top is unlikely to change any time soon, as they expect to power a whopping 50 million consumer headsets by 2021. In fact, 4.9 million VR headset and AR eyewear units are expected to sell in 2018, with gross revenues totaling $1.2 billion in the US alone.

On the hardware side, HTC has emerged as the leader in headset development, with its flagship HTC Vive outselling all other standalone devices in 2017. And to cement their status, they came forward with the biggest announcement of the week: the Vive Pro. Boasting a major resolution upgrade (1440 x 1600 pixels per eye), the new Vive seeks to eliminate the infamous “screen-door effect” known to some VR users. It’s also completely wireless, so users can freely roam around the VR environment untethered to cords or cables.

Many new contestants are entering the VR headset race. Pimax Technology’s VR headset prototype is the first to provide enormous, crisp 8K visuals; the Kopin “Elf” will soon be the slimmest and most stylish headset on the market, bringing to market a device for casual consumers’ everyday wear. But winning the show’s 2018 Best of Innovation Award was the LooxidVR headset by Looxid Labs. The device uses EEG brain-wave sensors and laser eye trackers to assess the users’ emotional response in real time. Virtual reality that literally reads your mind, all in the interest of personalizing the user experience.

VR is about a lot more than being able to look around a virtual space. The surge of upcoming peripherals such as haptic sensor gloves, controllers, and bodysuits will make the VR experience even more immersive. Contact CI’s Maestro VR Haptic Glove lets users hold virtual objects with multiple pressure points and sensors. Not only does it appear to your eyes as if you’re holding the object, but the glove tricks your mind to think that actual weight rests in your hand. Tactical Haptics’ Reactive Grip motion controller looks to compete with Contact CI, as their controller allows VR users to experience friction and force as if they were interacting with real-life moving objects. Lastly, the Teslasuit is a full-body haptic suit with 14 motion sensors built into the fabric. This allows for every in-game movement, touch, and sensation on the body to be felt by the player.

Of course, VR hardware is about more than just headsets and hand-held controllers. The technical equipment required for VR content production occupies a major part of the ecosystem. Unveiled at CES, NextVR’s stereoscopic 360-degree camera is built to capture HD video footage from all angles. They’ve even announced a partnership with WWE, which means you’ll soon be able to catch every suplex and smack-down live in native VR.

Currently, VR content development has been bogged down by high production costs, making it an unthinkable venture for all but the biggest tech conglomerates. As CES panelist and President of Reverge VR, Kam Diba, remarked, “the cost to create compelling [AR/VR] content is really high…as content creation becomes easier through the acquisition of material like cameras or through visual effects enhancement, that’ll drive costs down.” For developers, the introduction of innovative production equipment is a welcome effort toward cutting costs and incentivizing the creation of new content, and it’s finally on its way.

With the new range of capabilities introduced by advancements in the VR market, the possibilities for application are growing faster than we can meet them. Immersing an employee, job candidate, medical patient, or student in a VR environment can help dramatically with workplace training, the administration of therapies, and in sparking educational interest among hands-on learners. While gaming and entertainment are currently the top drivers behind the technology’s adoption, in time these growth factors will become secondary to demand from medical professionals, real estate developers, architects, and educators. To provide solutions we actually asked for, to problems we actually face.

 

Distinguishing itself from VR, augmented reality (AR) provides a merely altered, and not virtual, view of the physical world. Think Pokémon Go. While at first held back by the commercial bomb that was Google Glass, augmented reality has officially entered a renaissance brought about, largely, by enterprise applications. In response, CES dedicated over 45,000 net square feet of exhibit space to highlight the new range of AR products hitting the market this year.

Once AR’s Achilles’ heel, a gauntlet of new, killer apps have aroused greater confidence in the nascent technology. Spurred by recent ventures into AR by Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, significant content development is now well underway in response to the burgeoning demand. Additionally, many new strides have been made toward leveraging the AR experience for untapped markets beyond gaming and social networks.

Last week, FlexTrade System’s demoed their FlexAR app, a fintech solution that uses AR eyewear to help financial traders visualize charts, blotters, and tickers using real-time market data. Providing the physical hardware is ThirdEye Gen, whose X1 Smart Glasses debuted at CES. The X1, which expects to ship in Q1 2018, provides an advanced AR platform specially tailored for enterprise solutions.

In healthcare, several AR startups are developing the technology to better train or assist medical professionals. AccuVein is set to release an AR solution to help nurses find patients’ veins during intravenous injection attempts. Orca Health’s EyeDecide uses AR glasses to simulate vision conditions to better demonstrate the effects of cataracts or other impairments. Atheer’s AiR Enterprise Suite enables emergency room workers to view critical patient information, make video calls, and conduct search queries all while keeping their hands free.

According to research conducted by the Consumer Technology Association, 61% of survey respondents believed that AR technology provides unique possibilities for medical and emergency support training. Similarly, 55% agree that AR would benefit retailers by enhancing customers’ shopping experience.

The data backs it up: the possibilities for AR solutions extend far beyond the home. Samsung’s C-Lab, Google, Facebook, Snapchat, and China’s Xiaomi have all stepped into the AR arena by recently announcing their own AR projects, with Apple rumoured to be following suit shortly. No doubt, we can all expect much more from the AR space in 2018.

CES has always been an exhibit driven, in large part, by madness. This year was no different. Watching the future unfold can be exciting, other times it can be downright chilling. A world where everyone and everything is listening is one in which few of us would choose to live.

But let’s be clear, I’m no Luddite. I realize that many of the hype-fueled, rushed-to-show gadgets that debut at tradeshows don’t survive the fiscal year. Like Polaroid’s infamous camera-sunglasses, or Nintendo’s long-forgotten Virtual Boy, countless products are pulled off the shelves, and out of Amazon shopping carts, every day in response to a cool market.

I believe, like most in our industry, that emerging technologies will create a better future. Where instead of trying to remember the case-sensitive password for our Smart Freezer, interconnection actually simplifies our lives so that our time can be better spent doing the things we love. Where real people are brought together, flesh and all, to build communities around common passions and values. One in which we are enabled, via technology, to better help each other.

We will get there. But we’ll need to take the blinders off. In 2018, let’s join Amazon, Google, and Facebook by embracing AR and VR technologies. Let’s reimagine the possibilities they create, and the solutions they can offer us.

CES 2018: Afterthoughts from the Tech Tradeshow of the Year

Sen. Lynn Beyak, Andrew Scheer, and the CPC’s mixed feelings on free speech

This piece first appeared in the January 13, 2018 edition of PoliPerspective.

What Senator Lynn Beyak published on her website was fucked up by any reasonable standard. Her racist and idiotic “letters of support” are ignorant of history, and although the letters were not her own words they cannot be dismissed or trivialized.

The letters described Canada’s Indigenous peoples as lazy, uncultured, and uncivilized. They described Indigenous people in the same terms that first forced them into residential schools. The same terms that led to the abduction of Indigenous children, displacing them from their families and into abusive, abject living conditions. Into decrepit schoolhouses where they were infected with diseases due to shoddy ventilation and the complete absence of medical screening. Into classrooms where teachers and volunteers, both good and ill-intentioned, taught them how to assimilate into a culture that wasn’t theirs. How to forget their language. How to hate their identity. How to be silent.

Her defense of the residential school system is abhorrent, and cannot go unchallenged. But she has a constitutional right to freely make such a defense, and Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer honoured this right.

In response, Scheer did well not to invoke the language of “hate speech”. Classifying speech as such is indolent, coddling, and authoritarian. We should not be so quick to silence prejudice under the pretense that we do not have the good sense to filter or challenge it.

Scheer was correct to challenge Beyak’s views as racist and subversive. He was also correct to eject her from the Conservative Caucus. Political parties are private organizations run like any other, complete with corporate hierarchies and managers willing to show you the door if you’re a no-namer prepared to subvert the boss.

Last year, Scheer came to the defense of infamous Laurier University TA Lindsay Sheppard and other free speech crusaders. He’s also threatened to withdraw federal funding for public universities if they fail to protect freedom of speech on campus.

Despite lamentation from critics and racists alike, Scheer’s actions in no way contradict his position on free speech. Beyak, another top-notch Harper appointee, was allowed to publish the letters, and was allowed to keep it on her website after facing criticism. But this does not excuse her actions; this does not shield her from criticism or demotion. Beyak stands for views that her party strongly disagrees with, and Scheer exercised his own right to free speech by kicking her out the door for insubordination.

I’m glad Beyak was given the freedom to express her racist views, otherwise they would have been kept invisible, dormant, and thus sheltered from challenging. Now Beyak must answer to those she’s chosen to confront. It is within their right just as much as it was within hers.

 

Sen. Lynn Beyak, Andrew Scheer, and the CPC’s mixed feelings on free speech