Somm Sparks

Ideas (spark) + Passion (fuel) + Discussion (oxygen) = Blazing forward.


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Easier if it’s “In the Past”: A Reflection for December 6

A friend of mine will be hosting a radio show today on CHRW 94.9FM, as part of their 24-hour dedication to the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, held every December 6th. She and I were talking about the show a few weeks ago, and she asked me if I would be willing to contribute some thoughts about what it was like to teach about the Montreal Polytechnique Massacre of Dec 6, 1989. I thought I’d post them here to commemorate the day, and would be very interested in the thoughts of any fellow teachers who have also had the opportunity to teach about gender equality and/or women’s history:

When I taught high school, I had the privilege of teaching Grade 10 History – the opportunity to teach our province’s youth the History of Canada in the 20th Century. I was not surprised by how much my students already knew about WWI and WWII, although they had been born over fifty years after the latter war ended. These parts of Canada’s history are part of the common collective understanding of our national past, and reinforced yearly through poppies and nationally televised ceremonies. My students did not, however, know almost anything about native history, labour history, immigration history, or women’s history. My experience with teaching many of these topics was similar, but I’ll focus on teaching the history of women, including the events of December 6, 1989 (which, I feel it must be said, hardly any students in this mandatory class hear about, because most history teachers I know seem to ‘run out of time’ in the term to teach anything much past WWII, which is a travesty in and of itself).

But back to the teaching of women’s history: there seems to be a disturbing, overwhelming understanding amongst the teenage students I have taught that the fight for gender equality is something of the past, something that at least in Canada, finished with 1950s housewives, and that if injustice continues today, it is in ‘other’ places. I wonder if this is partly because the popular version of women’s rights in our culture, when it is brought into the light at all, is depicted by flappers, suffragettes, and occasionally female university students of the 1960s. Look for a more current vibe, and the main references paraded are token ‘role models’ in various fields, which when displayed alone give the impression that the fights have now been won.

My history class, coincidentally, was very small and all male, and when we were in the first half of the 20th century, there were a few young men who were passionate supporters of women’s rights, vocally scolding the ‘backwards’ leaders of the past. Yet as our discussions about women’s struggles for equality moved on through the 70s, 80s, and even the 90s when they themselves were born, this supportive contingent became quieter, less certain, and our conversations became more delicate. There even rose a few resisters to feminism, and I heard the sad, ignorant labels of ‘feminazis’ and ‘man-haters’ within my classroom.

It’s hard to talk about gender inequality, and especially gender violence, that exists within our own short lifetimes because the conversation becomes personal. We can’t have the comfortable reaction of patting ourselves on the back for being “so much better now”; instead, it becomes about our parents, and about ourselves. Certain students became openly defensive when we discussed more recent events, as if the facts of inequality within a society they recognized as their own somehow accused them as individuals. In this and other classes, I saw a frequent tendency in young people to defend their own culture and society, to find justifications for why something wasn’t really gender inequality, it was just business, or just politics, or just art, or just… anything. However, when I told my history students about the Montreal Polytechnique Massacre, I remember there being a particular, uncomfortable silence. No one tried to defend this particular injustice – because there is no excuse for gender-based violence, and even a group of young men, in the early stages of their identities as gendered adults, knew this.

What I learned from teaching this class, and others, is that we must continue to teach and speak about gender injustice of the present time and the recent past. We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled as a society into thinking the struggle is over. Yet more importantly, we cannot allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that this is a gendered struggle – and one of my goals in this particular class became to encourage these male students to see that they, being so young, were not part of these injustices, but instead had the opportunity to be part of a better future, to be those people that they lauded in the history books for progressing equality. Yet we cannot move forward together unless we continue to remember and to speak.


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How Many More Studies Do We Need?

A friend of mine recently shared this article and infographic by the New York Film Academy, and as I read through it, I felt both waves of frustration but also a total lack of surprise. The study concluded:

“After reviewing the data, it is clear that Hollywood remains stuck in its gender bias. Of course, it’s not all disparaging news and there are a number of female filmmakers, characters, and emerging talent challenging the status quo. In addition, in the independent sphere, women made up roughly half of the directors at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, yet still struggle when it comes to films receiving a wide release.”

It seems the next hurdle may not be just to get more women into more prominent roles in filmmaking, but getting the ‘big players’ to take them seriously when they want to reach the masses. The infographic’s stats included items like the fact that only 30.8% of speaking characters are women (despite that fact that women are 50% of the population and therefore should be at least closer to 50% of any realistic story). And the fact that women make up only 9% of directors and 15% of writers in the most successful films (which might explain a lot of about their lack of speaking roles). And the fact that 77% of Oscar voters are male (which, I don’t know, just might skew things toward a certain bias in terms of who is deemed ‘successful’?).

The frustration I felt was partly caused by the facts themselves, but even more so due to the annoying ‘counter-arguments’ I could hear in my head of a type I’ve run into both in real conversations and in online discussions about gender inequality:

“Maybe the higher ratio of men to women in film is just an indication that more men are interested in film than women.”

“Women purchase half of the movie tickets sold in the US, so they must be fine with watching movies the way they’re made now – if they weren’t, couldn’t they just stop buying tickets?”

“So 26.2% of women actors get partially naked – it’s their choice to take those parts and they shouldn’t if they don’t want to get take off their clothes.”

“The study also showed examples of great female role model characters and highly successful women filmmakers, so we’re equal now.”

These are not real quotes , but just those niggling inner-voices that popped up as I read (and sadly, better-phrased and more thoughtful versions of the senseless garbage that was found in the comments section of the infographic cited). The very fact that I’m prepared for these types of protestations means I’ve heard them or a variation on them somewhere before. I’m tired of hearing arguments like this thrown back at people and studies that try to point out gender inequality, because they simplify situations and ignore wider context. Anyone who’s taught a high school media class (which I have) knows that there isn’t an overwhelmingly male interest in producing media and films. And it’s just stupid to suggest that the solution to a cultural inequality is for half the population to simply ‘opt out’ of participating in dominant culture (not to mention it’s exponentially easier to say when you’re not actually in that half of the population). Any discussion of why women actors keep getting naked requires a deeper understanding of what options are being presented to these actors compared to their male colleagues, and of the pressure they get from agents and the wider mass media. And if we still have to hold up ‘token’ role models to prove there are women who are successful, then equality is still a long way off.

Sure, I’ll make some concessions with regards to the film industry in particular. Apparently, females direct more documentaries than narrative films, so maybe part of the reason we don’t see more films by women is that we as a society generally prefer distraction to hard truths. And sure, it’s logical to say that the reason only 1 woman has ever won Best Director at the Oscars is because only 4 have ever been nominated, so 1/4 is actually a pretty good percentage, but then the question is, why have only 4 women ever been nominated? (It’s not because men are somehow inherently better storytellers.) And YES, I would agree that there is so much more that female audience members can do to help promote gender equality in film. Even on an individual level, we can refuse to support particularly horrid, misogynistic films with our hard earned money, and talk to our friends, family, and especially children about the gender representations we see in film and television daily.

But whether the topic at hand is the film industry, education, politics, health care, religion, or any other sphere of life, I tend to see a lot of feeble attempts to justify, downplay, or otherwise re-direct conversation away from the facts of gender inequality. This doesn’t help the situation. The more inequality is dismissed, minimized, or worse, written off as ‘feminist overreaction,’ the more normalized the inequalities become.

For example, one of the findings that struck me was that “28.8% of women [in films] wore sexually revealing clothes, as opposed to 7.0% of men.” A trend like this is evidence that audiences, largely made up of children and teens who are still just forming their opinions about gender identity, are actually being trained through repetition to expect women to be sexual objects much more often than men. Yet in popular discourse, there seems to be a defensive urge in recent years to insist that ‘no, no, men are just as pressured about appearance and objectified as women these days.’ Now I can fully respect the feelings of any man pressured, intimidated, or otherwise made to feel badly about self-image, because after all, I grew up female with this bullshit surrounding me 24/7. So I get it. And I welcome that man as an ally in the general resistance against the media machines that try to convince us all to constantly strive for superficial, unrealistic versions of ourselves. But don’t tell me that we’re ‘equal now.’ Don’t pretend that the experience is the same for both genders. And difficult as it might be, don’t try to somehow justify that men get what they get on merit. Don’t get me wrong – some men do, absolutely, deserve accolades, awards, and opportunities. But until we evolve a society-wide system – in the arts, in schools, and in politics – that doesn’t maintain advantage and disadvantage on a gendered divide, we’ll never know exactly how much of our successes and failures are ‘deserved,’ and how much are determined by our genders. And until that day, isn’t it the responsibility of every single one of us to see inequality, not be afraid of facing it, and working toward its end?


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Now That I Think About It, It Really IS the Media…

I finally watched “Miss Representation” tonight on Netflix, which had been recommended to me many times over the last few years. It explores the representation of women in media in North America and, specifically, how the impact of this representation affects women’s ability to participate in political leadership. I’m not going to review the film, but merely point out something that struck me right at the start of the film. I highly recommend the film to anyone who can get their hands on it.

First, a stat right near the beginning of the movie surprised me: 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies, and that number increases to 78% by age 17.

Thirteen is REALLY YOUNG to be convinced that you are unworthy or deficient, particularly because of something so shallow as what your body looks like. The highness of that 53% shocked me. The 78% shocked me less, but it made me reflect on myself at 17; I was definitely unhappy with my body/looks at that age – worried about my skin, worried about the pudge at my stomach that had recently appeared seemingly out of nowhere despite dance classes, worried about my teeth, my clothes, my thighs, my hair, my abilities with makeup. So many worries.

And when I think about it, I had the potential to be a pretty fortunate teenager in the area of self-esteem. I had the support people stacked in my favour to be a very self-confident young women: parents, sister, other family members and friends who all told me I was beautiful, and – somewhat sadly, but perhaps most importantly for a girl at that age – even a certain young man (pictured below) who also told me I was beautiful and wonderful, just the way I was. As an adult who understands the media machine, and how to objectively see through the messages imposed upon women and girls, I can look retrospectively at photos of myself from that time and objectively see that mostly, my hair behaved itself, that I had a nice smile, that I had a healthy weight and a nicely shaped body.

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I can think of no reason I had to be unhappy but the unrealistic expectations placed upon me by media/culture (and perhaps the fact that I had the perfect concoction of hormones for these forces to prey upon). I loved teen movies – and my late teens were the heyday of makeover-movies, where a worthless, dorky, ‘ugly’ girl gets a makeover and is suddenly transformed into a sought-after, confident, ‘hot’ girl (usually by removing her glasses and wearing more revealing clothing – oops, I wore glasses and wasn’t allowed to wear revealing clothing). My friends and I bought magazines like Seventeen or, if we were feeling particularly bold, Cosmopolitan, which bombarded us with airbrushed images of the women we would never be and the products that just might get us there, all sneakily couched in ‘positive’ words like confidence, girl power, and self-worth. Not only did they make me feel worthless, they tied the pursuit of a perfect appearance to empowerment, which meant that whenever I felt I ‘failed’ at the appearance part, I  also saw myself as an insecure, unworthy person, unable to claim my own power – in short, if I didn’t succeed at the beauty game, I wouldn’t succeed in life, because one ‘obviously’ came before the other. And remember, I felt this way DESPITE the fact that no actual, living role models in my life were telling me this was true. In fact, they were telling me just the opposite: that my smarts, dreams, creativity, and kindness were what mattered.

I wonder how many brain-power hours and how much emotional effort I lost to these thoughts. I wonder how much of this collective power is lost to our society every day as girls weep in school bathrooms, pore endlessly over magazines that ultimately make them feel worse instead of better, and all in the belief that this is what it means to be a ‘woman.’ As the film points out, media literacy is perhaps the most crucial skill in resisting this onslaught against our youth population.

As my dear mother-in-law always says, “Did we even HAVE a feminist movement?”

If you are a woman, or care at all about any woman in the world, or even just care about a progressive and robust society, the issue of how we teach half the population to form their identities is one that cannot be ignored. We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that things are ‘equal now’ or congratulate ourselves on having a token female ______________ (insert any profession here). True equality and progress will come when we have parity in all fields, when women’s voices are heard as equally valid to men’s, and when our daughters are not taught by the ‘art’ we create as a society that their worth lies solely within their bodies.

To the young women in my life – my sisters and darling cousins – you are ALL wonderfully beautiful people, inside and out. I hope you can believe me better than I could at your age when I say, truly, that what is INSIDE – your smarts, your humour, your dreams, your creativity, and your kindness – are all that matters.


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We are the Elephant in the Room

I came across a video by Bindi Irwin, 15 year-old daughter of the late Steve Irwin. In it, she explains her mission as a Wildlife Warrior, and why family planning is essential to saving our planet – and ourselves.

She said one thing in particular that struck me:

“I believe that most problems in the world today, such as climate change, stem from one immense problem, which seems to be the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. This problem is our ever-expanding human population.”

My point here is not to debate overpopulation – and yes, apparently it is still a debate. Sites like World Overpopulation Awareness (WOA!!) detail the effects of this ever-growing disaster, including degradation of natural environments, food scarcity, unsustainable consumption of natural resources, and on an individual scale, desperate situations that lead to child labor, child marriage, and other forms of exploitation. Meanwhile sites like Overpopulation is a Myth (created by the anti-abortion Population Research Institute) attempt to debunk the myth of overpopulation, focusing instead on greed and inequitable distribution of resources as the causes of these same problems.

However, Bindi’s statement struck me because whether you tend to side with the views of WOA!! or with those of PRI, humans are still the cause and the problem. And in either case, if horrors such as abject poverty, famine, slavery/exploitation, and the rape of our precious Earth are caused by humans – whether by our overpopulation or by the greedy, inequitable systems we have created – shouldn’t resolving such issues be our first concern and top priority? Shouldn’t these issues fill our news feeds every day, everywhere we look? Yet they aren’t, and they don’t. Most of the “top stories” I see in the what-to-read-next-margins of online news sites and in grocery store checkouts revolve around celebrities I’ve hardly heard of, and are filled with sensationalist, easy, filler stories that contribute nothing to the human condition at large. Clearly fixing larger problems is not our collective top priority.

IMG_9418We humans are instead the elephant-in-the-room about whom no one wants to talk. If another species on earth was culpable for causing such atrocities, how quick we would be to discuss extermination plans, and to justify mass killings with reasoned, logical arguments about the “greater good” and “saving the planet.” (After all, we justify mass killings of animals every day for the “greater good” of our appetites and our desires for insect-free homes.) Yet when it comes to our own species, such suggestions would be met with horrified disgust, and those who made them branded as terrorists – likely ‘eco-terrorists,’ knowing our media. (I wonder what moniker animals would brand us with if they could portray us in the media?) This is indeed species-ism at its height.

So what to do?

Clearly, mass killing of humans to whatever population number we calculate to be “sustainable” is not an option – not only because of our ingrained species-ism and survival instinct, but also because we could never implement such an idea “equitably.” How would we decide who to kill? Let’s be honest, the 1% would choose who would die, and it certainly wouldn’t be them or those closest to them. Goodbye, bottom 90%.

Neither do individual actions to attack these problems seem very effective. Trying to think about what “I” can do to curb these overwhelming issues often results in extremist proposals: If I’m concerned about overpopulation, should I deny myself the opportunity to have children? If I’m concerned about inequitable resources the world over, should I give away everything I have to those less fortunate until I share in their poverty, while those more fortunate than I retain their wealth and don’t even notice?

It can seem like a bleak undertaking when thought of in this way.

What do you think? I’m opening this one up to the floor. I don’t have any answers, but perhaps it’s time we make the elephant the focus of our cultural conversations, and bump the fluffy filler items that don’t matter into relative obscurity. Ideas? Links to further sparks you’ve come across in your own reading? On-topic videos to share? Arguments? I look forward to reading your thoughts.


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Voting for People or Ideas?

This year, Egypt inaugurated its first president elected in a free election in over half a century. This event was hailed as a step in the right, progressive direction in the North American media and by many the world over. Yet more recently, newly-elected President Morsi was overthrown, because his actions as president did not fulfill the promises of democracy or his own promises to be a president for all Egyptians despite his narrow win at the polls. In the fallout, there have been more conflicts growing between those who support Morsi and those who do not.

Discussing this news development with my mom a few weeks ago, she asked my opinion: whether it was justified to overthrow a democratically-elected leader, or whether because a leader was democratically-elected, an overthrow was wrong.

I see the dilemma: if we believe that it is right to uphold the democratic system, then overthrowing a democratically-elected leader is wrong.  Yet if we believe a democratic leader exists to serve the will of the people, then it is justifiable for a people to overthrow a leader who does not represent them as a whole.

This dilemma sparks a seemingly-simple question for me: do we vote for people or ideas?

Answer A. We vote for people.IMG_2113 - Version 2

This answer assumes that we vote for someone for a determined amount of time, and that therefore, in that time, that person is allowed to do whatever they wish within the powers of the office we have given them. Under this paradigm, leaders are not accountable for fulfilling campaign promises or platforms, because we have essentially entrusted that individual to use their own best personal judgement in the situations they encounter as leader.

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Answer B. We vote for ideas.

This answer assumes that we, the people, do not want to merely cast a ballot to choose another individual, flawed as ourselves, to whose whims we will be subject until the next time an election comes around. Rather, it assumes that we want to cast ballots according to our principles. We don’t really, at the heart of the matter, care as much about who is enacting our will as the fact that they are enacting the actions we will.

It seems to me that much of our electoral activity in Canada, and from what I observe in the news about our southern neighbour, operate on voting for people.  We rally around personalities in election campaigns, and then shake our heads in resigned disappointment that our newly-arrived leader has not fulfilled our expectations and hopes. In Canada, at least, this seems to come with a shoulder shrug and a sigh of “C’est la vie…”

With some exceptional pockets of engaged citizenry in Canada, I’d assert that after the first initial disappointment by each new leader, we generally resign ourselves to “four more years” of whoever we have put in place, and apathetically grumble away until the next election, myself included – after all, we have ‘earned’ the right to complain because we did our democratic duty by voting. Perhaps the problem is that we as a society don’t have a strong enough understanding of what democracy could really entail, or a strong enough conviction to actively seek a deeper form of democracy – a form where we demand that our leaders act on the ideas for which we voted.

It makes perfect sense why many leaders in democratically-elected positions may oppose the overthrow of Morsi (or at least be wary of openly supporting it)… because if we vote for people, then Morsi’s actions do not justify deposing him – he is the president and can therefore act within his powers as he sees fit. (The advantageous situation in which our own politicians find themselves due to a resigned public that only becomes more involved once every election cycle.)

If we vote for ideas, however, then in theory, wouldn’t the same possibilities of deposement-upon-disappointment apply to our own leaders? Why should we resign ourselves to “four more years” of whatever weak, expertly-spun decisions our elected politicians choose to make behind closed doors, without transparency for their reasons, and without being required to answer oppositional questions about their choices? Short answer: we shouldn’t. 

With a shift towards voting for ideas, offices of political leadership could become less positions of power and more positions of trusted service. This unfortunately seems like such a foreign concept in my observations of politics that I’m not even sure what it would look like.

What about you? Do you usually vote for people or ideas? Do you think getting politicians to serve the ideas their people want, instead of the choices that benefit them and their partisan cronies, is realistic, or a pipe dream? Share your own thoughts below.  I know many of my readers are more knowledgeable and well-versed about politics than I am – so I certainly hope they share their opinions and views on this subject!


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Defending Our Choices

I’m going to leave this post shorter and leave it mostly as a question posed, because I’d like some interaction and discussion! The other night, I was speaking with a mother who has been vegan for eight years about how she addresses issues of food with her young son. When discussing this issue later at home, I said that I wouldn’t disallow my children from eating meat, but neither would I ‘sugar coat’ the fact that they were eating what once was a living animal – in essence, I would make sure they understood that eating meat = profiting off of another being’s death, and most often, its suffering. My husband’s reaction was, “but wait, isn’t that pointed?”

Is it pointed to expose accurate facts? I don’t want to raise children to make ‘choices’ without helping them get context. I want to raise children who make educated choices that make them comfortable. That’s more important to me than making sure they feel comfortable with any old choice they make, with no more validation required than a childlike ‘just because.’

It made me think about choices, and how defensive we humans get about our decisions. And no wonder – we get smeared “hypocrite!” at the first sign that we are complex beings who don’t remain blamelessly consistent in every aspect of our lives.

We all have to draw our own lines in the sand, but it seems the default human reaction is to claim that whatever line we’ve chosen is blameless, that our choices are perfect. There seems to be an element of terror in accepting that we all make imperfect choices. Sometimes it seems we even use ‘tolerance’ of all beliefs and lifestyles as a blanket defense of relativity that allows us to avoid some difficult conversations and self-analysis.

I need some feedback to sort through these issues. Is it “pointed” to give children context that is unquestionable in helping them make decisions? Is the mere fact that humans are inconsistent beings enough cause to write off the views of others with whom we disagree? Are we being lazy and/or allowing fear to keep us from delving into our personal choices, assessing them, and maybe making some changes in our lives as a result?

Pondering the Idea of an “Afterlife”

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In the wake of the recent Toronto and Calgary floods, I’ve heard several sentiments (both on the radio and in personal discussions) indicating that these events have brought the issue of climate change ‘close to home.’ One of my colleagues noted on this topic that the world is “going to hell in a handbasket.” I’d like to ask you a simple yes/no question sparked by this common figure of speech:

I noticed in my colleague’s use of this phrase that when we say, “the world is going to hell in a handbasket,” we shift our idea of hell away from typical notions of an otherworldly place. We suggest instead that the entirety of our current reality is going to hell, or rather, becoming hell. Her comment reminded me of a theory I formulated a few years ago on the idea of an afterlife.

Concepts of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell,’ intrinsic to so many religions, and akin to other religious concepts of karmic afterlife, are frequently described as teaching tools, or devices for instilling fear and obedience in the masses/children. I think it’s hard to objectively disagree with either of those characterizations, yet if we look at some less prominent belief systems, we see a different angle on the same teaching tool. Some frames of spirituality and philosophy in native cultures, for example, place a square responsibility on individuals to act morally, but not merely for the selfish strategy of gaining eternal reward or avoiding eternal punishment (although I acknowledge that many Aboriginal or First Nations’ beliefs also include an afterlife as a place where an individual soul goes). However, my understanding is that within many of these cultures, the onus to act morally comes equally, if not more so, from a duty to ensure that future generations will have a stable society, a rich environment, and opportunities for a good life. Rather than thinking of what will be in our afterlife, this conceptual shift allows us to think about what will be after our life.

What if “heaven,” whether characterized by pearly gates, golden streets, endless meadows, or simply a mental state of eternal peace, is simply a metaphor for what we should be trying to achieve in this world, rather than waiting around for it to appear in the next? As a child, I understood “heaven” to be a place where no one was sick, no one was lonely, and everyone was kind to one another. How much better our world would be if we used our collective human agency to worry about making these sorts of realities the status quo for others after our lives, rather than in our own afterlife.

When we look to “hell,” the metaphor continues: the burning flames of my childhood engulfed people in endless physical pain and endless emotional despair; the devil was always there, cruelly laughing. I had the sense that this devil had the ability to stop the pain, but he chose not. I don’t think we have to look too hard to see this sort of activity in our lived reality – where a few powerful individuals have the ability to stop the pain and despair of others, but choose not. Hell in my mind was thirst, aching, loss, and hopelessness; we certainly see these things in our world.  My colleague noted that we are going “in a handbasket” carried by the ever-more-present effects of global warming, and I think the small group of people who try to ignorantly absolve humankind of responsibility for this phenomenon is continually shrinking. The traits of my childhood horror are all here: we see the thirst caused by drought and unclean water supplies, the aching of health problems exacerbated by pollution, the losses of life and property to natural disasters, and the hopelessness of feeling that one person ‘can’t make a difference’ in this hell.

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The beauty of the concept of karmic afterlife, however, is that our fate is not predestined. Our actions determine whether our afterlife – or as I choose to think of it, the world after our life – will be a place of beauty, peace, and serenity; or a place of despair, suffering, and pain.

My personal ideas of an afterlife have changed a great deal since I was a child, and if I were to answer my own question in the poll above, I would probably answer ‘no’ if being completely honest with myself. I make no claims on the “real” facts of an afterlife (as I don’t think any of us truly can), but I do believe that if popular belief centered more on where this world is going, rather than on where we’re going after we leave it, we’d have a better chance of avoiding that “hell” we collectively seem so eager to get to.

What do you think? Comment below to help me flesh out my metaphor, propose one of your own, or just share what you think about concepts related to karma, afterlife, collective agency, global warming… anything your reading may have sparked in you.

(Also, I realized as I wrote this that my understandings of Aboriginal and First Nations’ spirituality and philosophy are amalgamated from a combination of pop culture ideas and things I learned in school long ago, but that I no longer have a current frame of research reference. If anyone has any resources I should check out on that front, please let me know in the comments.)