Privilege and the Picket line: Why I’m on strike

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The inequalities of being at U of T are weirdly mixed together and overlapping in my life now. It’s weird to live in one of the most expensive parts of Canada, but regularly find it worthwhile to walk for 90 minutes rather than spend $3 for the subway. It’s weird to be at one of the world’s better universities, and to observe the way in which resources are allocated. Teaching staff and research staff essential to the basic purpose of the university have to fight for pay increases that keep up with inflation, yet we keep building luxury sports facilities. It’s strange to turn out my empty palms for beggars, no longer because I think direct financial transfers to them are more damaging than beneficial, but because it’s now necessary to think about every dollar.

Faced with all this and looking at the political landscape in Canada and the United States, there seems to be a sad consensus among politicians that action on the necessary scale is politically impossible. I would like to see a major North American political party say that we have totally screwed up policy-making, especially since the 1980s. Other countries like Scandinavian states are obviously governed much better, so we should abandon the failed Reagan/Thatcher/Mulroney project and establish a system that works better, both for those who are living today and for those in future generations.

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Prioritization

March 10, 2015

in Daily updates, Rants

Today I had to pull out from an academic collaboration because I don’t have time for that, striking, preparing my PhD research proposal, finding somewhere to live after Massey, and updating the fossil fuel divestment brief.

This is a further illustration of why it is probably pointless to aspire to any sort of long-term work in a university (don’t tell your committee members, though, lest they cast you adrift).

Nonetheless, I think the situation is OK. Fighting climate change is the most important thing any of us can do and, judging by the weak-willed involvement of most U of T faculty, being a professor isn’t much help in the struggle. We have to assume that the world is going to become more and more challenged by forces of destruction, and our chance for countering that depends on new strategies, coalitions, and ideologies.

One advantage of being a student for so long, and of spending times working for good pay paying off debt or saving for more school, is the expectation of a modest standard of living. As a brilliant essay by my hero George Monbiot points out, a big part of freedom is being able to live cheaply.

We have an exceptional struggle ahead of us, and nobody who aspires to social justice can really aspire to personal prosperity at the same time. We can aspire to be among the people who future generations curse less – the ones who didn’t rationalize excessive consumption or dwell in apathy, but who tried to be strategic and political and focused on what matters most.

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The Economist draws attention to the risk of nuclear war:

New actors with more versatile weapons have turned nuclear doctrine into guesswork. Even during the cold war, despite all that game theory and brainpower, the Soviet Union and America frequently misread what the other was up to. India and Pakistan, with little experience and less contact, have virtually nothing to guide them in a crisis but mistrust and paranoia. If weapons proliferate in the Middle East, as Iran and then Saudi Arabia and possibly Egypt join Israel in the ranks of nuclear powers, each will have to manage a bewildering four-dimensional stand-off.

Related:

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Nothing follows up a day of photographing union rallies like a lavish dinner with a live expert reading of a ghost story, followed by a raucous party.

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From today’s big solidarity rally with undergraduates:

My photos are included in: CUPE 3902 on strike in 2015

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Today’s 1pm – 5pm picket shift was good fun. We occupied the Munk Centre, where President Gertler was meant to be taking part in an event:

Then we marched all over campus: to the administration offices at Simcoe Hall, over to Queen’s Park, through University College, around Robarts, and back to Munk:

The university has not yet accepted the union’s offer to resume negotiations.

Twitter is probably one of the best places to watch the strike. Search CUPE3902 and #WeAreUofT.

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Within the next month or so, Toronto350.org needs to finish updating the fossil fuel divestment brief. I also need to substantially develop my PhD research proposal and find a supervisor. Furthermore, I need somewhere to live after Massey College, and of course there is now 20 hours a week of strike picket duty.

As such, I don’t expect that I will be posting photos of the day here regularly. My Flickr photostream will continue to be updating, including with extensive documentation of the U of T TA strike.

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The CUPE 3902 strike began at U of T today.

I put in eight hours of picketing, and also got photos of all the picket sites on the St. George campus.

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I fear that my list of project ideas, which I assemble out of an optimistic hope that the future will bring a long span of free time for such undertakings, includes an idea for a screenplay.

It would be a film in the style of Apollo 13 (technically and historically accurate, and developed with lots of research in collaboration with the people involved) based on the STS-27 and STS-107 Space Shuttle missions.

I have a bunch of ideas, but I definitely don’t have time to write such a script, given my work with Toronto350.org, photography, and being on strike as a TA at U of T.

Still, I think it could be a powerful story. Ultimately, it’s a sadder story than Apollo 13, which may limit its aesthetic and commercial appeal. Still, like any story about crewed spaceflight, this is a story of courage and dedication applied in the pursuit of scientific understanding. Twelve amazing people: 5 who lived and 7 who died.

I can provide a more detailed breakdown of the screenplay idea, if someone wants to try working on it a bit.

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