Thursday, May 04, 2006


This is a reply to Furtheron's comment on Caste System below. I started writing a reply, but it got really long and turned into a sorta post, so I figured I'd just make it into one!

Most societies are structured like this. The sad fact is that we build our societies on the backs of people who have less. And it's not just with different races. Rich and powerful women will build their lives on the backs of poorer women, just like restaurants will save their "best" positions for the majority. How many maids do you think are caucasion? How many waiters do you think are black?

I see what you're saying though, and I agree with you to some extent. If we're really honest about it, it's clear that this kind of wide-scale change, would lead to the crumbling of our civilization as we know it. But that doesn't mean we can't look at ways for it to improve. I'm an idealist, and I tend to see the potential/possibility of something - my own rose-coloured view of the world. Besides, I think that dialogue about this stuff is important. Let's think, argue and debate. I mean, how are we supposed to change things, if we can't talk about it?

Essentially, I think it's a question of opportunity. Why should we assume that the immigrant who comes from a poor country is happy to make less money? And is it okay to pay them less because they are happy about it? Shouldn't we all have equal opportunity and access? I mean, how many Arab, Pakistani and Indian professors do you have driving cabs? How many engineers from China are packing boxes? Do you really think that they wouldn't prefer to be making more money, supporting their families, and contributing to society? I don't think that just because they are willing to do those jobs, that it is okay for the majority to just hand the scraps over to them. (Of course, underlying all of that is the question of gratitude in a spiritual sense - but I'm not even gonna go there...) We all lose when this happens. They are weakened and disenfranchised, and we don't get to benefit from their talents, skills and energy.

Some people will argue that minorities and immigrants have equal opportunity here in Canada or the US or in the UK, but really, how are you supposed to create social change when you're working 2 jobs, going to school part-time and trying to put food on the table? Would you be able to do it? It's a basic Maslow's Hierachy of Needs thing. If your physiological and safety needs are not taken care of, how are you going to get anywhere close to self-actualization?

It's difficult for disempowered and marginized people to have a voice. And it's up to us to make sure they are heard.

My IQ - Ani DiFranco

When I was four years old
They tried to test my I.Q.
They showed me a picture of 3 oranges and a pear
They said, which one is different?
It does not belong
They taught me different is wrong

I sing sometimes
Like my life is at stake
Cause you're only as loud
As the noises you make
I'm learning to laugh as hard
As I can listen
Cause silence
Is violence
In women and poor people
If more people were screaming then I could relax
But a good brain ain't diddley
If you don't have the facts

We live in a breakable takeable world
An ever available possible world
And we can make music
Like we can make do

Genius is in a back beat
Backseat to nothing if you're dancing
Especially something stupid
Like I.Q.

For every lie I unlearn
I learn something new
I sing sometimes for the war that I fight
Cause every tool is a weapon -
If you hold it right.


May said...

Good post for open-thought and debate! Here's my rant, for better or for worse. I agree, but disagree at the same time. I don't think you can make generalizations because you see someone of colour working at below white-collar jobs. Is it the fault of the establishment, or the individual? It comes down to a question of entitlement. Not everyone is entitled to the same opportunity. The theory behind equal opportunity rights, is that you must be equal in every other aspect related to qualification, and not be discriminated based on prejudices. I think it's about our communities having better immigrant integration/transition programs in place to help them overcome the inherent disadvantages that immigrants have. If I moved to Canada from China...I should't just expect to get a good job just because the caucasion next to me has a good job. I should take responsibilty to create those opportunites by upgrading my language skills, education or special industry accreditation etc. If you aren't equal in those regards, you do have to work harder than those already with the skill set that employers are looking for. But it is a weakness of our societies not to reach out to the marginalized and promote the outreach programs currently in place. I don't agree with our society being built upon the weak. It's easy to make that statement if you are looking at it from a bottom-up approach. But societies are built upon the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the hard-working, and yes, sometimes the rich. Consequently, the gaps between rich-poor stem from the vast spectrum of human nature, not so much discrimation. Sometimes the issue of discrimation seems out of proportion when you see many people of one group in a certain profession. I think this has more to do with one's network of friends and family. It explains the Indian cabbies, the Korean convenience store owners, the Chinese laundromats etc. It's based on referal or advice from those in your immediate community and support system. Ok, enough ranting...back to work.

Furtheron said...

Wow - what a debate this has started. Shellz - I do agree with you in large part. So if someone from India comes to the UK as a doctor and has the qualifications then they should be treated equally. But all societies have rules and they change them from time to time - look at the change of status recently introduced in the UK regarding trainee doctors from India etc.

If we didn't have so many rules much of this would go away - or would it? I don't know - see with me I have to say I am certainly "colour blind" - often people I've worked with or been friends with for a time will make a statement and I look at them quizically and they say "I'm black so it's different" - Oh yes they are but I don't classify in that way in my head - but that's me.

Some would argue in the grand scheme it all goes around - 100s of years ago Gengis Khan came into Europe and "enslaved" large parts of Europe - so did the Islamic North Africans in Sicily, Spain etc. But those empires come and go and we move on - now we don't buy and sell slaves - well not much and not openly and continue to stamp it out. But the movements are now different but in 100 years time? Will my descendants have to migrate to China to get work there because that's the dominant economy? Who knows.

No answer but yes we should ask and probe and challenge and if we are the person who hires for a company try our best to be open and non-judgemental.

EM said...

Perhaps this is a close minded view, but if an immigrant has a choice to relocate to this country and they are aware of the tradeoffs they are making in doing so, why should I be the one to fund their decision? If they are not aware of the tradeoffs, I would assume (big assumption here) that they are not well educated. If this is the case, is it wrong that the lower level jobs fall to those who are less educated, who don't have the language skills or the social skills?

Think of it this way - if the restaurant workers that you encountered had all been Toronto-born, public system educated, and subject to a similar environment growing up, and there was the same divison of color between ranks, then I would definitely scream racism and caste system. But if the lower ranks WERE immigrants who are taking on the lower level jobs b/c they are lacking in education, language skills or social skills for the higher rank, what is the problem?

Take away the race card, if we were all the same color, there would still be a division between strong vs. weak, educated vs. non, skilled vs. non, rich vs. poor. Does this still mean we have a caste system? I don't think so b/c even if you're born without priveleges in Canada, you do have the opportunity to make the move to a different status (not even necesarily the "higher one") without being shunned - nor is it punishable by death if I'm to believe some of the stories that I've read about true caste systems!

Back to immigration for a sec - it does absolutely suck that qualified doctors/lawyers/chefs lose their accreditations when they immigrate to Canada. But the point is, they know this, and still choose to make the decision to come. Also, it works exactly the same the other way around. My friend just immigrated to China, where she will have to study again and requalify as a lawyer there. If I decided to immigrate to another country, I would not go expecting handouts from that country's society to put me at the exact same status I am in Canada. Maybe these are MY rose colored glasses, but I don't think that Canadian employers on the whole would be hesitant to hire an immigrant IF they were well qualified for the position, and if their qualifications adhered to those required by Canadian standards.

Thanks for the interesting to work for me! :)

smakie said...


yeesh, I'm on comment #2.. :)

love the discussions, keep it up!

hattigrace said...

Okay, this sounds really shallow, but I am just too tired to get into anything serious! But you are such a caring soul, had to come visit and thank you for yours to me.

The trip was actually very hard and I am trying to find a way to post it w/o charactor assassination of my friends!

Post to come about trip after lappy comes home so I can include photos!

David said...

I'm with Smakie...although, I wouldnt call y'all insane...just really well-worded. And I wish I could leave a comment like that - all wordy and smart. But alas, my brain can only do so much. However, what it can do is see the points of views Furtheron and EM made. And actually, I kinda agree with them both, which makes me wishy-washy, but both bloggers have really good points. Excellent debate.

Furtheron said...

"Wordy and smart" - that's made me smile. My darling wife often says things like "They only needed a quick email response not war and peace" or "Slower and shorter" when I reply to something. So I agree with "wordy" - "smart" I'll leave others to judge!

EM said...

Um...I can honestly say I've NEVER left a message that long before and on a semi-political topic to boot! Must have been too much green tea or perhaps a bit of nostalgia from my essay writing days at Univ. was fun though!

May said...

I'd have to agree with Smakie too. I don't know what got into me! I must have broken into a reverie about submitting a paper for PolySci class.