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Comments of the Week: The NBA Finals, Quebec and Islamophobia | The Nation

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Comments of the Week: The NBA Finals, Quebec and Islamophobia

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Last week, we invited readers to submit questions to be asked at an event featuring our editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel and Nation editor-at-large and MSNBC host Chris Hayes. The response was enthusiastic and we ended up with a number of thoughtful and challenging questions. A video of the event is available here and a vibrant conversation can still be found in the comment threads of Chris's article.

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On top of questions for the event, our readers also shared their thoughts this week on the NBA Finals, the student protests in Quebec and our Islamophobia issue. Let us know what you think—in the comments!

Cory_Panshin: I'm interested in Chris's arguments, but I see a few flaws in his assumption that our society has been acting as an effective meritocracy. Perhaps the most obvious is that the people he references as rising to the top of the heap through brains and hard work are all men.

But to take it a little further, I need to say a few things about myself. I attended Hunter College Elementary School (class of '57), but I always had a painful sense of being out of place among my classmates, who were mainly the children of wealthy East Siders or Columbia professors. I knew that I was smarter than most of them—in that environment, it was hard not to be aware of such things—but instead of being praised as the best of the best, I'd have people asking me if it was true I was the principal's niece (which I wasn't, by any stretch) because they'd heard I was receiving special privileges. In a society where even the kids with brains assume it's not what you know but who you know, there doesn't seem to be much basis for talking about meritocracy.

And then we all graduated and some of my classmates went off to finishing schools in Switzerland while I went to Hunter High School (class of '63) and found myself in a much more egalitarian environment where I fit in better—but perhaps because the school was still all-girls at that time, nobody I knew ever went on to rule the world.

And because I was very smart and very good at taking standardized tests, I eventually wound up at Harvard (class of '67), where I was as out of place again as I had been in elementary school. It took me many years, however, to figure out that the meritocratic myths I'd been sold by my guidance counselors were hogwash and that Harvard was never meant for people like me. Instead, it was about grooming the children of the elite, with a certain number of super-bright public school students tossed in as window dressing, and an even smaller number of those outsiders allowed to become insiders if they played the game just right.

But that outside-turned-insider route was never for me -- and never could have been. Maybe because I was a girl. Or because I was a stereotypical geek with more interest in writing an Elvish glossary than in playing the power games of the elite. Or because there was just enough 1930’s intellectual Jewish radicalism still hanging about my parents and their friends for me to feel it would be a kind of treason to even think about wanting to claw my way to the top of some imaginary social heap.

Granted, this is just my own experience—but I believe it's a lot truer to the facts of our society than Chris's picture of a world in which the best and the brightest automatically bob to the top and then pull the ladder up after them. That just isn't how it works or has ever worked.
In response to Chris Hayes’ “Why Elites Fail.” June 6, 2012

slaw: I think this goes beyond calling someone a slut or saying that the way that a girl dresses is distracting. I think it speaks to how society (men but other women as well {mothers, teachers, etc.)) try to control girls and teach them that they are solely responsible for how people perceive them. That the flaneur (watcher) or the one whose gaze is directed at them has a right to tell the girl/woman that she needs to dress such and such a way. That the receiver of the visual information has no responsibility to be fair minded or to mind their own business. Truly warped. You could be wearing baggy clothing and receive this kind of censure. You are either accused of hiding your body (not enough confidence) or of exposing yourself (being a slut). At least that is my experience. Why is what women/girls wear anyone's business? Why is it the business of people driving by you on the street, or fashion mavens (unless you deliberately deliver yourself to their not so tender mercies by appearing on a show like "What not to wear"). Reading some of these comments makes me think that I have wondered onto the set of the spoof reality show "Don't Do That" which was a segment on Katy Brand's "Big Ass Show".
In response to Jessica Valenti’s “Targeting ‘Slutty’ Students.” June 8, 2012

Tunkcart: Public sector employees provide a service, and are paid out of tax dollars. Private sector employees provide a service, and are paid when people purchase goods or services. The former tends to be less efficient--but not always. When some tycoon pays a hundred thousand dollars to remodel a bathroom, its utility is only slightly more than that of the tycoon's old bathroom. When two million people buy tickets to "Epic Movie", it wastes an hour and a half of their lives and makes them slightly less intelligent. Both are relatively inefficient uses of money; they don't become efficient just because they're free market.

When we pay a police officer who saves someone's life, or a teacher who changes someone's forever, those are very, very efficient allocations of capital. They're public sector employees, but they're providing more utility for society per dollar than the tycoon's remodeler or Jason Friedberg.

Public sector jobs do provide society with a benefit. Cutting back on them might be a more efficient way to operate the country—but there's certainly the possibility that it wouldn't be. There comes a time when shoddy investment in education or public safety have significant negative repercussions for society as a whole.
In response to Bryce Covert’s “Romney’s All Wrong on Public Sector Employment.” June 11, 2012

Shel113: I am well aware of the back-story and believe the owners of the Thunder screwed the fans of Seattle. That said, I make decisions as to who I root for based on more important considerations, such as the players on the team and how I perceive what the franchise stands for. I have taken a personal liking to players like Westbrook, Durant, Harden and many other players who play hard and are very likable. I do not have anything personal against Lebron and Wade (as most people do) but not rooting for a juggernaut that was created through free agency and loaded the dice unfairly seems logical to me. Let the best team win.
In response to Dave Zirin’s “Why We Should All Root for the Miami Heat.” June 11, 2012

SGillhoolley: I live in Montreal, and initially the majority opposed the students, but the government took such a draconian approach that sentiment immediately switched. We do not like being told what to do by our government. They are there to serve us, not subjugate us. At first I thought the students were whining, but because of the government tactics and the anti-student portrayal that was rife in the media, I decided to look into it further. The students were not being unreasonable at all. In 1979 tuitions in Quebec were $600 ($2000 in 2012 dollars). That was around the time that the baby boomers were finishing with university (at least undergrad). Students in Quebec currently pay $2500, which is 25% MORE than the baby boomers got to pay. Factor in the increase, which would bring their tuition to $4000, which is double that which the baby boomers got to pay. These are the same baby boomers that gave themselves lots of entitlements, none of which they are willing to see reduced in any way, and these are the same baby boomers that created a massive national debt for future generations to pay off. In other words, they expect future generations to ensure that they can maintain a standard of living that none of the rest of us will ever have. Every other generation was left a nation that was better....we will be the first who will be left with a worse one, and expected to just quietly accept it. No, we will not be doing that I am afraid. Austerity makes no sense. We need job creation.
In response to Jesse Rosenfeld’s “Quebec Students Spark Mass Protests Against Austerity.” June 12, 2012

jennabee: I am a Muslim woman living in a Muslim-majority country who has a job, owns property, has a bachelor's degree, is married to a man 4 years older than me who I chose myself, has one child only, and has never suffered "honor" killings or mutilation, or known anyone who has gone through any of the things you mentioned. I am free to wear whatever I want, but I choose to wear hijab. Showing men my thighs would not make me more "free" than I already am.

It's important that you don't confuse a 1,400-year-old religion with post-colonial war-torn societies that are in freefall. And it's also important not to assume that Western secular values are the only human values. Some people think justice is more important than freedom, and some people think social responsibilities are more important than individual rights. Why do Westerners think that the entire globe must immediately conform to ever-shifting Western sensibilities and mores? Two hundred years ago, victorian Europe chastised the Muslim world for being too decadent and sensual. Today secular Europe chastises the Muslim world for being too homophobic and misogynistic. Western values have changed entirely, but the contemptuous, self-righteous tone remains exactly the same.
In response to Laila Lalami’s “Islamophobia and Its Discontents.” June 13, 2012

StenHereli: This echoes my experience with some residents of the US South (where I am from), who increasingly over the last few years have adopted somehow an uneasiness or outright suspicion of Muslim people. I have heard and challenged many times the assertion that any normal seeming Muslim can somehow be switched into a terrorist mode, i.e. that they are all sleeper terrorists existing quietly around us. Even coming from otherwise compassionate and intelligent Christian people. Such bizarre notions indicate to me that systems of misinformation are badly influencing people, creating a false reality, which they don't somehow have the tools to perceive and reject.
In response to Moustafa Bayoumi’s “Fear and Loathing of Islam.” June 14, 2012

manny_thome: You nailed in Mr Bouie, and in fewer words than I've been able to articulate in discussions with friends and colleagues. The "alternative" to Obama just doesn't make sense. There's no way it adds up (and I'm one of the wonky dorks who actually read Romney's 57--or whatever--point plan). It's getting brushed off as campaign rhetoric, but the whole truth is that all Romney's;"plan" boils down to is lower taxes and less regulation.It's so absurd that a true critique of Romney's (the GOP's) "ideas" seems (or can be perceived as) hyperbolic rhetorical "bashing." I'm truly having a hard time explaining how absurd the GOP proposals are because they're so counterproductive that MY explanation of them seem like hyperbole.
In response to Jamelle Bouie's "If Elected, Will Romney Actually Fix Anything?" June 14, 2012

mikesoul: Every time someone tells me what a great president Clinton was, I bring up the welfare "reform" that he signed into law, and it is usually met with blank stares or other signs of non-comprehension. Clinton never cared about the poor--he was too busy talking about how he was going to help the "middle class" to worry himself over those who are the most vulnerable in society, and his liberal apologists apparently stopped caring as well. And now we see the payback. I wonder how Clinton apologists will try to spin this--probably changing the subject, as they always have.
In response to Greg Kaufmann’s “This Week in Poverty: Disposable Families in Ohio.” June 15, 2012

 

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