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Future Clippings: Knowledge caps for bio-education

By Adam Ashby Gibbard

The Canadian government has passed legislation imposing caps on university knowledge distributors, known colloquially as “Degree Vending Machines.” These caps are being enforced throughout the country in response to economic turmoil caused by the bioeducation industry over the past 10 years.

“Unfettered access to learning has caused major gaps in a labour market desperate for skilled individuals. Knowing a lot predisposes youth to entitlement and not usefulness,” said Peppa Doppler, Minister of Human and Machine Labour. “BrainTech and other companies are now being asked to comply with the government, but there will still be a need to strengthen the policing of knowledge black markets.”

The bill will cap knowledge distribution by pegging it to present and future labour needs, which is especially pressing for the farming and construction industries in the wake of increased climate change.

Greg Padapolis says that his five undergraduate and two graduate degrees have not helped him find a job. “I should have just gone to school for plumbing; at least then I could feed myself,” he said.

With such a well-educated population job requirements have never been so high. Fast food jobs now require at least a Masters of Divinity in Food Services, whereas programmers in the biomedical industry require at least two PhDs and a specialized certificate in Bioeducation, which can’t be bought at a knowledge distributor.

Some students, however, see this as an infringement on their right to access whatever learning they want. “I was just about to register for a brain infusion on the philosophy of social mediation, something I’ve been interested in for a long time,” said Bernard Polltip, a high school student from Ottawa. “Now I’m being told I should naturally learn to farm?!”

When asked to comment on the possible intrusion of peoples’ rights Peppa Doppler said “there’s nothing stopping student from picking up a book if they don’t like it. This is about more than their interests.”

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 10, No. 3 (Nov/Dec 2017).

Local Satanist group plans ‘unbaptism’ ceremony

By Tim Kitz

The Satanic Temple (TST) of Ottawa will be holding an unbaptism ceremony Nov. 25 at the Happy Goat Coffee Co. Proceeds will go to purchasing reproductive health items for Ottawa’s homeless population.

Members of The Satanic Temple just before marching in Ottawa’s 2017 Pride Parade Credit: Nick Theriault

Members of The Satanic Temple just before marching in Ottawa’s 2017 Pride Parade
Credit: Nick Theriault

If those two sentences don’t startle you, you’re too jaded — or in the know already.

To try and sort out why TST is just as concerned with justice and science as it is with rebellion and Beelzebub, the Leveller caught up via email with TST Ottawa’s chapter head, Nick Theriault.

Can you describe the “unbaptism” ceremony you will be holding?

The ritual will symbolically evaporate the water shed upon the brow during baptism, as well as reject the holy covenant of baptism. Using powerful symbolism and cathartic affirmations, participants will be encouraged to follow their own will and soar on their own wings.

What is the purpose of the ceremony?

By staging this event, we re-assert our positions on both spiritual autonomy and the requirement for multiple religious points of view. We are providing an opportunity to shed religious pasts. Whereas baptism is an act of obedience to god, this ritual is meant as a powerful symbol for rejecting religious tyranny, and encouraging individual empowerment.

Can you describe TST generally, and how it was started?

TST was founded in the U.S. in 2013, by Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jarry. The lack of pluralism intrinsic in so-called “faith-based” programs, as well as the increase in evangelical dominance of the religious narrative, are all reasons which made the mandate of TST resonate with so many. The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will. The Satanic Temple have publicly opposed the Westboro Baptist Church, advocated on behalf of children in public schools to abolish corporal punishment, applied for equal representation where religious monuments are placed on public property, provided religious exemption and legal protection against laws that unscientifically restrict women’s reproductive autonomy, exposed fraudulent and harmful, pseudo-scientific practitioners and claims in mental health care, and applied to hold clubs alongside other religious after-school clubs in school besieged by proselytizing organizations.

What are the general guiding principles of TST?

Our seven fundamental tenets are as follows:

  • One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
  • The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  • One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  • The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
  • Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
  • People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
  • Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

Wikipedia describes TST as a “political activist group.” Is TST a religion?

Satanism provides us all that a religion should, without a compulsory attachment to untenable items of faith-based belief. But it’s absolutely a religion, based on our deeply held beliefs.

So to be clear, Satanists generally and TST members specifically don’t usually worship or believe in a literal Satan?

It is the position of The Satanic Temple that religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition. As such, we do not promote a belief in a personal Satan. To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions. The Satanist should actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things. Our beliefs must be malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world — never the reverse.

From a TST position, do traditional forms of religion have value?

There are certainly aspects of religion which can be helpful.  Religion can provide an important  narrative by which we contextualize ourselves. It provides a body of symbolism and religious practice — a sense of identity, culture, community, and shared values. What TST is advocating, of course, is that all of this can exist, and in fact thrive, without any dependency upon supernatural beliefs.

How public are TST members about their affiliation? Are there consequences for being “out” as a Satanist?

Sadly, the stigma the word Satan carries is a real thing. The infamous “Satanic panic” — a modern day witch hunt that peaked in the late 80s and early 90s — has never fully abated. Also, as the religious narrative south of the border turns increasingly towards evangelical Christian dominance, the Satanic character stands to fill-in once again as scapegoat-du-jour. As a result, many members have experienced both professional and personal scrutiny, as well as death threats, rape threats and threats to their livelihood. Therefore, the level of safety and comfort each member feels, in terms of their affiliation, is entirely up to them.

What drew you personally to TST and Satanism generally?

As I child, I would always find myself identifying with the rebel character in any story presented to me. My mother read a lot of mythology to me as a young child, and I remember seeing role models in characters like Prometheus, Odin and Lucifer. Having always felt inherently different from others, their rejection of tyranny was inspiring to me. It led to me immersing myself in satanic literature and studies for years.  By the time TST appeared, it seemed to fit perfectly into my own personal brand of Satanism — one that wasn’t reliant on the elitist attitudes of The Church of Satan, one that was active and dynamic in its membership, and one that dared to adapt to the current climate.

From online interactions and reading Anton LaVey (founder of the Church of Satan), I have the impression “traditional” Satanists tend to have a very elitist, Nietzschean and power-worshipping worldview. Can you contrast this with TST’s egalitarian emphasis?

First off, I’d have to disagree that COS [Church of Satan], or similarly inclined brands of Satanism, are “traditional.” As obvious throughout the literary tradition, the concept of seeing Lucifer as a symbol for the eternal rebel within, fighting against oppression, and giving voice to the voiceless, is quite old, and certainly pre-dates the Satanic Bible by centuries. Also TST has no illusions that we must invariably adapt under ever changing social climates. As such, we do not prescribe that any one point-of-view  should dominate any religious discussion, including Satanism. If some work towards the idea of a fundamentalist view of Satanism, that is their prerogative. Simply put, TST would rather work towards furthering our campaigns, answering the call to action from our communities and in doing so, fully embrace the very critical reasoning and opposition to arbitrary truths which Lucifer represents to us.

Does TST Ottawa have any upcoming events in the works?

In fact, we are currently in the planning stages for two more events after the unbaptism. First, there will be a Krampus- themed masquerade ball — Krampus being the Germanic legend of Saint Nicholas’s dark pan-like sidekick, brought along to both balance light and dark, as well as to discipline the “naughty” children. Second, we will host a Rite of Sexual Empowerment a little  later in the season.

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 10, No. 3 (Nov/Dec 2017).

Where is the outrage? H. de Heutz tackles the darkness of our times

By Chrissy Steinbock

They say if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention — and if you’ve been wondering where the outrage is in the music of the past few years, then so have H. de Heutz.

 H. de Heutz at La Filature in Hull, Oct. 29, 2017 Credit: Patrick9000

H. de Heutz at La Filature in Hull, Oct. 29, 2017
Credit: Patrick9000

If you haven’t met, H. de Heutz is a bass, drums, vocal and electronics duo based in Hull. On Oct. 1, they released their 12″ EP The Natural World on E-tron Records.

The title oozes irony. Seething with industrial sounds and machine-like rhythms, The Natural World is an unsettling musical reflection on a dystopian reality, touching on themes of mass surveillance and corporate technological oligopolies.

The grooves are strong but definitely not easy; they morph and shift into unexpected territory without warning. On one track the sound drops out entirely at one point, just to make sure you’re paying attention.

The Natural World’s cover depicts a snapshot of a deserted urban street in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The album’s main theme is “how corporate-controlled technology increasingly mediates our experience of ‘the natural world,’ and has an effect upon it,” H. de Heutz bassist Nathan Medema explained.

The Leveller got in touch with Medema to talk about making political music, where they got their name and the hidden underbelly of making records.

Medema explained that H. de Heutz started in 2011, inspired both by the political landscape under the Harper government and by the U.K. post-punk that came out in the early 1980s in response to Thatcher and Reagan. “I felt there were bands at that time [who were] responding very clearly and virulently to those ideas and those politics, and we were wondering where that response was under Harper.”   

The band takes their name from a character in Prochain Épisode, a novel by Hubert Aquin, a Quebecois writer whose plot mirrors his experience writing a book while imprisoned for a revolutionary crime.

Like the pronunciation of H. de Heutz itself, Aquin leaves a lot open to interpretation. “The book made a really big impression on me,” Medema said. “The way it’s written is complex and very layered, and there’s some ambiguity around the identity of H. de Heutz and his relationships. There’s something potent in that ambiguity that’s challenging at the same time, and important to the band.”

Aquin’s intense style and political commitment was a key influence on the band.

Where a lot of politically-oriented bands can be over-the-top explicit, H. de Heutz jars you without telling you what to do with that uneasiness.

“There are political bands who love to tell you very explicitly what they’re protesting and what should be done and I think there’s value in that,” explained Medema. “At the same time, I sometimes wonder if that establishes a hierarchical, authoritarian relationship with the listener that closes down space to think.”

“Maybe a more respectful relationship with the listener can be had if we can be clear, but also imply, and leave space for reflection.” Instead of telling the listener what to think, this more suggestive approach to political messaging shakes listeners out of passive modes of consumption.

Asked about their inspirations Medema said, “If anything it’s just news, developments in the world today. That’s the biggest inspiration for what we’re doing. Our political context is also an emotional one, and carries a human cost, and I think it’s important that both of those things are expressed in what we’re doing.”

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 10, No. 3 (Nov/Dec 2017).

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