Sunday, February 12, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day?

Valentine's Day is 2 days away. While I've happily not noticed much of the fuss this year compared to the past, there are still several issues I have with the way the day is promoted.

"Show your sweetie how much you love them on Valentine's Day!" is the message that the advertisers promote. I'm not an relationship expert by any stretch, but I'd suggest that if you need a particular day of the year to say "I love you," something's not quite right. There are also tons of contests and prizes for "you and your sweetie," and if you're single, don't worry, we even have contests to pair you up with someone. The implicit message is that you need to be part of a couple, or something's wrong with you. This despite that I'm sure many of you know on the one hand good people who just can't find that right person, and on the other hand people who don't treat their partners with the most respect. It's a message that many people not in relationships dislike.

The holiday is also largely promoted in a heterosexist manner. In almost every case, the "sweetie" mentioned in the above paragraph has to be someone of the opposite sex, so the accepted positions in society with respect to romantic relationships is even more restrictive. It goes to show that in spite of homosexuals in Canada now having the legal right to marry that in many regards their relationships are at worst unacceptable and at best second class.

Valentine's Day is a big money maker in North America. Card companies, restaurants and hotels, the list goes on. Why not a day dedicated to celebrating single people? Oh, wait a minute, if people aren't made to feel inadequate about their personal situations, you can't make money off them. After all, if they're satisfied, they don't need much, and importantly, they don't buy much. Valentine's Day as currently practiced is part of a larger tactic of advertisers looking for ways to make people feel inadequate. Why do we buy into this and allow ourselves to be manipulated?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bright Lights, Big City

As the days grow longer, Brandon City Council is about to examine an idea that could make Brandon a little darker. Council is looking at preparing a bylaw that would not allow beacons such as the one at the Canad Inns to shine after 11 P.M., citing complaints from city residents. For some people, as seen by the submissions to the opinion page of the Brandon Sun in the past 2 weeks, the beacon really isn't a big thing to be concerned about.

One response, however, bothered me. Someone wrote to the paper saying, "Progress, hopefully, has hit Brandon. Let’s start growing with it and keep our sights on important things." The "progress" mantra is something I have difficulty with. Throughout history the argument of "progress" was used to dismiss any discussion of the consequences of our activities, such as the dismissal of the consequences in the areas where hydroelectric dams were built. I'm not saying that "progress" is inherently bad, but in each instance we should take a good look at what the costs will be, and then decide whether those costs are worth it.

Does the beacon at Canad Inns come without a cost? No. Light pollution is a major issue throughout the world. And as problematic as it is already, most street lighting, unlike the beacon, is aimed towards the ground and serves a practical purpose for people in the city. Researchers have documented impacts on ecosystems. It consumes a large amount of electricity that could be better used for other purposes. It also spoils a major attraction of the Prairie region. One thing people love about the Prairies is being able to look up on a clear night and see the stars. Urban lighting interferes with this. And it's not as if Brandon would be the first place to pass such a law. As one of the councillors in favour of this bylaw pointed out, other municipalities of differing sizes have bylaws on the books dealing with exterior lighting. Although I personally would prefer to keep the skies dark at night, turning out the lights at 11 is a compromise I can live with, so it's not like the the hotel can't shine its beacon at all. I don't think it's too much to ask to either address the problem or, if possible, to prevent it from happening.