Saturday, April 16, 2011

Van Gogh at the Ivanhoe

A friend took this photo today of a painting of the Ivanhoe Hotel that hangs in the Ivanhoe Hotel. The artist's name was too smudged to read. The style reminds me of Van Gogh.

When I left the Ivanhoe Hotel about 5 p.m. today with my friend and walked up Main St., an unmarked car with a red light on top stopped at the intersection at Main & Terminal. There were four stiff looking men in dark suits with gold badges, two in the front seat, two in the back. I couldn't stop staring at them, trying to figure out what kind of police they were. My friend said they looked "lifeless". Then my friend said, "Oh, it's Harper!" Stephen Harper's bus was following them, his blue bus with "Harper for Canada" written on the side.

If Harper had stopped at the Macdonald's at that intersection, he could have mingled with our burgeoning population of masked women. They remind me of bank robbers. There is a cluster of these masked people that go to that Macdonalds now, where Downtown Eastsiders regularly have coffee. I never saw any until this year. They may have gotten into social housing in the area since they turn up there semi-regularly on weekends with their kids. They even eat under their masks. I was looking at one a few weeks ago and her husband made a point of glaring at me; I thought he was going to punch me.

I would have liked Harper to stop and answer a question: Exactly how do people wearing masks pass our points system for immigration? We don't allow Klu Klux Klan followers under hooded masks into Canada because we know they hate Blacks. So why do we allow people into the country who hate women to the point where they believe they should be hidden under hooded masks.

Harper did tweak immigration policy to tie it more to the needs of Canada's labour force. South Vancouver MP, Ujal Dosanjh, said on CBC this week that if the Liberals are elected, they will reverse Harper's changes. More masks in Macdonalds.

Another thing: it seems to me that it's more often men than women who are taking stand against these masks. Like Lowell Green who wrote the book, "May Day, May Day."


vancouver mark said...

I also find people in masks like this unsettling, which is why if I'm standing beside one I'll start talking to them. Try being friendly instead of so nervous. If you just stare at them until the man glares back at you, and then you write in your blog about your fears of the masks, all you are doing is increasing the fear and anxiety. How will that help anything??
Why not give a big friendly grin instead and ask them, "hey, how come you always wear those masks like that?"

reliable sources said...


I'm sure the husband would be delighted to have me chatting up his wife "with a big friendly grin".

You're avoiding the larger issue of whether we want our society moving in this direction. It's a conversation that western countries such as France are having. They are taking the position that multi-culti tolerance cannot be used to accommodate the medieval attitude that women must be hidden from view.

Anonymous said...

Just look at what is happening in parts of England and you'll be against these niqab's and masks as well.

It is frightening in some parts of Britain.

vancouver mark said...

I find many, many things about England very frightening indeed. Women in hijabs wouldn't even make my top twenty.
Our society is steadily being conditioned to hate and fear "the other." This is the same conditioning that ended up destroying Germany and half of Europe.
Don't be so afraid! If these people fraternize your local McDs and it makes you uncomfortable your three choices are to 1- go to a different McDs, 2- fight against their presence by pressuring McDs to not allow them in, or by harassing/threatening/staring at them, thereby increasing the level of fear, aggression and ultimately violence in our world, or 3- reach out to them as a human being and attempt to talk your way through the cultural divide. If you're nervous that the husband might not like you, take along a friend or two, as long as nobody's intending to intimidate or threaten. Just smile, smile, smile, say "God bless you" alot, and try to explain how strange it is for Canadians to see women in masks.
Oh, and ask them politely to show you the text in the Quran that orders women to live under a burqa (hint:it doesn't, it just tells women, and men, to dress modestly and not show off their bodies).

As for "the larger issue of whether we want our society moving in this direction," I'm sure the Beothuk would agree with you, if any were still alive.
Would you be willing to say, OK, let's move the clock back and have all races return to where they were six hundred years ago, and nobody gets to go anywhere. Then the aboriginal peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia wouldn't have had to deal with their societies all "changing in this way."

Anonymous said...

So what are your top 20?

reliable sources said...

vancouver mark,

Western countries -- Sweden, Germany, England -- which adopted an attitude of doing everything possible to accept "the other", discovered that the Islamic "other" was too often not interested in reciprocating, even after several generations in the country.

Even the Pope reached out to Islamists. Islamists didn't reciprocate by reaching out to Catholics.

But the code that post modernists such as yourself, who spout jargon like "the other", seem to follow is that only Westerners are expected to accommodate "the other".

David Frum recently described the multiculturalism code this way: in any dispute, the white person is always wrong and the brown person is always right.

You ask, "Would you be willing to say, OK, let's move the clock back and have all races return to where they were six hundred years ago, and nobody gets to go anywhere."
Islam is not a race, incidentally. But you may see such backward movement now that there are cities in Europe that are on the verge of having majority Muslim populations. They could open the door to Islamic law. As Hirsi Ali says, many Muslim leaders would like to push us all back to the 7th Century.

Medieval cloth cages for women may not be in the "top 20" list of things that frighten you about England, but you don't speak for the English. The English are taking to the streets demanding that their culture not be treated as dispensable to accommodate the Islamic "other".

Peter Hitchens, a writer with the Sunday Mail in England, told CBC radio this morning that in the past 15 years, millions of new immigrants have arrived in England. This has made "mass immigration" the #1 issue worrying the English population. As a conservative, he said, he shares concerns about this mass immigration and the fact that politicians don't want to talk about it. He believes the solution is for the state to remove props that keep the three major political parties artificially alive, so that people who represent the actual views of the English people have a chance to get elected.

vancouver mark said...

reliable sources -

When I asked whether all races should have to go back to where they came from I was of course referring to the European conquest of most of the world. Ancient countries with established populations such as England have perhaps more right to feel territorial about their homeland (although both the Angles and Saxons immigrated there and displaced the locals if I remember correctly).
But what right could we possibly have to feel culturally entitled to this part of the world? How many generations have your people been in BC? Did they have to leave their religious traditions and dress behind and blend in to the Musqueam mainstream society??

My mother's grandparents settled a farm in Armstrong in the 1880's so I feel as strong a bond to BC as any white person could, but I'm always a bit chagrined at how their society so thoroughly imposed itself over the stolen homelands and shattered lives of the land's owners.
How can we feel that that was OK but new people following us here must conform to our standards?

Laura said...

Hi. I'm the artist who did the painting. I was looking online for reference photos of the Ivanhoe and came across your blog. Thank you for posting that picture. Here's the writeup on my website for that painting: The owners have asked me to do a night version. And, yes, I do love Van Gogh.

As for masks and niqabs, it makes me wonder, too. Do the women WANT to wear them? If yes, do they wear the niqabs because they are uncomfortable being looked at? If yes, then it seems to me a strange contradiction to be in a country where they are looked at more because of the niqab than not. It's a cultural difference that I struggle to understand. In our culture, mask-wearing people are usually heroes or villains, nothing in-between.