Fighting Words

The Stanley Bridge Centre is launching a new feature called Fighting Words, in which area residents offer their opinions on the issues of the day, from the serious to the whimsical. The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the Stanley Bridge Centre.

How Rude!
By Michelle M Arsenault


 
Michelle M Arsenault, known as MIMA to her many loyal readers, is a prolific novelist based in Cape Wolfe, Prince Edward Island. Her ninth and most recent book, A Devil Named Hernandez, was published in February. Learn more at www.mimaonfire.com. She can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter at mimaonfire.

It’s nothing new to talk about how rudeness is a problem today; whether it’s the person who ignores everyone at the dinner table to play on their phone or the jerk who can’t thank you for holding the door open for him, this is something we hear about all the time. Ms. Manners, whoever she is, would cry mournfully if she saw how most of us tend to behave. However, there’s one place that I find this to be especially frustrating and that’s in emails.

Ok, so let’s be honest. The way people communicate these days is often terrible to begin with. So why am I focusing on emails? Is it because the writer in me is perhaps a tad sensitive to things like tone or grammar? Are my expectations too high? Do I want to be entertained and dazzled by emails? The quick and easy answer to these questions is no. In fact, I know the difference between a hurried email from a BFF complaining about her migraine and an email that should be much more professional in tone. If you haven’t guessed it already, my beef is with the latter.

Not to suggest that every professional email I receive is terrible. In fact, I’ve found a few in my inbox that impressed me because of the overall tone; one of friendliness, yet answering my questions in a respectful way. They weren’t necessarily long replies, perhaps limited in details, but I finished the email with a positive impression of the specific companies, feeling that they appreciate my business.

The unfortunate other side is that I often received sharp, curt and sometimes even slightly hostile replies to my questions or concerns. I’ve had a few that have caused me to return to the original email to make sure that I didn’t, in fact, come across as rude or obnoxious, first. I hadn’t. This is without even talking about the emails I have sent to various businesses that weren’t even answered at all; that’s another topic for another day.

Now getting back to what I was saying earlier, I don’t expect to be dazzled or entertained and I’m far from Miss Manners myself. However, I do think that it’s nice to set a tone that is helpful and sends the message that whoever you work for (including yourself) is approachable, friendly and wants to help.

Its even crossed my mind that perhaps people aren’t even aware they’re being rude, abrupt or unprofessional in their emails. Perhaps, in a hurried state, they’ve typed up something fast without taking a moment to check the content before hitting send. I know I’ve had to pause on more than one occasion, especially when I’m frustrated with the recipient to take a breath and review my wording. In my experience, sending a rude email to someone only gives you temporary satisfaction, quickly followed by regret.

I did a quick search online to see what other people thought of this topic and quickly learned that I wasn’t alone. Rude, stiff and snarky emails were listed as some of the most off-putting responses and I have to say I’ve been on the receiving end of such messages and it didn’t exactly turn my crank.

As an example, I recently contacted a lady in real estate about an apartment I was potentially interested in renting. After some thought and research, I kindly told her the location might not be a ‘good fit’ for me. She replied to my email by curtly telling me why I was wrong, made a couple of snarky references to finding an apartment that was a ‘good fit’ (for the record, she actually used the quotation marks too) and then went on to tell me good luck and seemed uninterested in helping me find another apartment. It was weird.

Having said all this, what makes for a nice, acceptable email? Personally, I think it’s about tone. Friendly, warm and yet giving direct answers to any questions. If you’re not sure of what the person on the other end is trying to ask or tell you, reaffirm their message (ie. “So by ‘good fit’ what exactly did you mean? Maybe we can work together to find it” or “Have you considered why this specific apartment might actually be a better fit for you? Here are my thoughts.)

Not to suggest that your professional emails have to be warm and snuggly like a Christmas card from grandma – however, you might want to communicate with the other person in a similar fashion as you would if they were standing in front of you. I could be wrong, but chances are if I spoke to this real estate lady face to face I probably wouldn’t have seen her as abrupt and rude. Then again, if I were speaking to her face to face, she probably would’ve been a little more careful about her wording as well. At least I hope so.

Perhaps we are lowering our standards and getting a little too casual in emails. Professional or personal, isn’t it time to be kind to one another again?


If we can’t support each other, what’s the point of it all?
By Michelle M Arsenault


I love people who take chances; who are ambitious and do things that scare them for the betterment of their own lives, those who aren’t afraid to color outside the lines. It’s not easy to take a chance and go after something you really want because the chance of disappointment is always lurking nearby; but it’s the people who try anyway, refusing to allow fear to take over, that I respect the most. They inspire me.

It’s for this reason that I support anyone who does something positive to move their lives forward. I love hearing stories of people who were unhealthy changing their diet and lifestyle. I smile when someone talks about going back to school or learning a new skill. I’m impressed when people make an effort in their own lives even though it would be easier to sleep in on the weekend or watch Netflix all day; they choose instead to find the time to go after what they really want. Not to suggest goals have to be lofty; you may not want to win an Academy Award or climb the highest mountain, but taking a chance may be as simple as changing the way you view the world or dropping that friend who always lets you down.

It might surprise you that what I dislike isn’t the opposite; I don’t necessarily have an issue with people who aren’t so inclined – whether it be due to laziness or lack of confidence, they may still get there when it’s their time. Actually, the people who really frustrate me are those who don’t support other people’s goals. There’s nothing more annoying than someone who tries to knock down other people’s dreams simply because they can’t envision them or have none of their own and therefore assume they aren’t possible. However, having said that, it’s understandable. If you can’t envision an amazing life for yourself then it’s easy to see how you may not be capable of envisioning success for others.

For that reason, I think the most frustrating people are the obvious attention seekers of the world; we’re talking about the people on your Facebook list who let everyone about all their successes but never support others in the same way they expect to be supported. We’re talking the people who practically want a parade every time they have a successful bowel movement or go to the gym but remain blissfully unaware or uninterested in what others are doing. Nor do they care.

Some people may call them narcissists. Others may call them assholes. Personally, I call them energy vampires; and we’re not talking about the kind of vampires I’ve been known to write about – sexy, savvy or smart – we’re talking about the self-absorbed yet, quite often, terribly insecure jerks who only are aware of your presence when you’re around to pat their back. If put on the spot, they will pretend to care about your life but as with everything, actions speak much louder than words.

Personally, I’m happy when people are excited about my accomplishments but at the same time, I’m also very excited when other people succeed. I don’t even have to know the person to be happy that they’ve reached a goal, overcome a struggle or took a chance to better their lives. That’s not the point. The point is that you get more out of life if you support others than if you look for support.

The more I do in life and the more I accomplish, the more I see the people in my life changing. Sometimes it can be a bit of an eye opener, but for every person that I’ve left (or will leave) behind, I find a new, positive, awesome person who I wholeheartedly support and who does the same for me. If we can’t do that for each other, then what’s the point?


It’s time to start treating people with respect again
By Michelle M Arsenault

Michelle M Arsenault, known as MIMA to her many loyal readers, is a prolific novelist based in Cape Wolfe, Prince Edward Island. Her ninth and most recent book, A Devil Named Hernandez, was published in February. Learn more at www.mimaonfire.com. She can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter at mimaonfire.

I’m currently looking for an apartment. For some reason, I assumed I’d have my pick of the litter since I’m mature, responsible, quiet and have great references. I’ve always believed that whether I’m contacting a landlord, a potential employer or someone in customer service, it made more sense to talk to them in a respectful, friendly and direct manner. Makes sense, right?

As it turns out I was wrong. In fact, my honesty almost appeared to turn them off. It didn’t matter if I told them I was mature (ie. not partying every weekend and therefore not likely to vomit in their front yard every Sunday morning), responsible (I can pay the rent!), quiet (I won’t have music or the television blaring at midnight) or what I was looking for as a tenant (a central location where I could walk to most amenities) because what I was met with was quite unexpected.

Many were abrupt, rude, ignoring most of my message and questions and tossing a ‘so when are you gonna come see the place?’ at me. Others simply disregarded my message or coldly responded that the place was ‘already taken’ even though it continues to be advertised online. My favourite was a lady that literally wasted an entire week with a series of hoops that I had to jump through; all of which I did, providing her with terrific references, proof that I could afford her place and yet, with each response, she seemed to stretch out the amount of time before replying until, yes, an entire week passed and I was still no further ahead.

But that’s fine; it’s not as if I have a life to figure out or anything.

The point is that this experience is becoming quite dehumanizing. However, this shouldn’t surprise me since this has become the theme in our society over the last few years. Try calling for customer support anywhere and you will probably get a robot-like voice on the other end of the phone and I don’t say that to put down the people working at call centres; I’m saying that because many businesses want their personnel to be like machines. I once, briefly, worked at a call centre where I was expected to read from a script and we were chastised if we didn’t follow it. I remember asking a customer one day ‘What can I do for you today?’ rather than ‘How can I help you?’ and being raked over the coals. I didn’t sound professional enough and perhaps I sounded like a real human being. This was apparently a problem.

And then there’s social media and the comment section of…well, anything online. People rip each other apart. It could be the journalist writing the story, the topic of the story or another person’s comment on the story. It doesn’t matter. People feel justified to do so and yet, if they were standing in front of that other person, I almost guarantee they would scurry away like frightened mice.

I’ve actually had a couple of situations in my life where men I dated took the liberty of attacking me in emails. I found it interesting in both cases because when challenged to say the same words to my face, they declined. It’s not cause I’m a large, massive woman with mixed martial arts training or that I carry a weapon in my purse, it’s because most people can’t look each other in the eye and say what they are willing to say online.

We’ve become a society of people taught that human life doesn’t matter. Perhaps it is because violence and death are so regularly highlighted on the news that we forget that there are actual human beings behind that bombing in Syria or the murder in Toronto. Then again, maybe some can’t think about that because if we started to see each other as humans and not faceless people on the Internet, a ’moron’ on the other side of the phone or ‘just another dead body’ on the news, we might have to feel something that isn’t terribly convenient, which is compassion.

Perhaps life is easier when you’re disconnected. Maybe discrediting someone is the ideal way to not feel guilty or accountable. Anyone who’s ever had a ‘close friend’ ignore them during a bad time knows exactly how that feels and, of course, they do it because it’s easier to not extend themselves.

The good news is that sometimes it simply takes a little boldness to get these people back down to earth. Sometimes the solution is to let people know that they are, in fact, dealing with an actual person in these circumstances.

Many years ago I had to speak to someone in IT about my hacked website. Back then, I had a terrible host that essentially put me in the position of talking to an uninterested employee at a call centre. He was giving me attitude, talking to me like I was a moron and generally making me feel more frustrated, even though I was sincerely attempting to understand all the tech talk. Finally, I grew angry and said, “You know what? You can speak to me as if I’m a real person. Not everyone has been trained in this area like you and I’m sorry that I’m not a tech expert but you don’t have to talk down to me.”

I’m not exaggerating to make a point, I really did say that to him. He immediately changed his tone and became helpful. I’m thinking that we all should be doing that exact same thing a little more often. Maybe its necessary to give those disconnected people an abrupt and direct reality check and bring them out of their apathetic, disconnected world and back down to earth.


The Passover Day Massacre: From Zionist Dream to Nightmare?
Avrim ben Ezra, aka Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B. Stanley Bridge, PEI

We in the Jewish community recently celebrated Passover, the secular holiday commemorating our escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. As well, it celebrates freedom as an important political value for all people. But it is necessary for us to take stock of what is now occurring in Israel and at what cost to Jewish values.

The Passover Day Massacre which was recently carried out by the Israeli army (IDF) against unarmed civilians in Gaza who were demonstrating for their right of return to Israel was premeditated murder. Palestinians in the Gaza exercised their freedom of association, and no demonstrator came close to breaching the Israeli border. Yet 17 people were shot, two in the back, and more than a thousand others were wounded.

When the former white South African government committed the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 the world was outraged. Israel has now had its Passover Day Massacre. History will remember it. It marks a turning point. But the international community does nothing. We in the Jewish community have forgotten our history and have forgotten how to empathize with the oppressed, despite our Passover seder platitudes. Israel has gone from being the oppressed to being an oppressor.

Today Israel is engaging in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Any internal political or cultural dissent or criticism of its racist and expansionist policies against the Palestinians is being crushed. Israel is increasingly becoming a theocratic police state. And many of its policies against the Palestinians are similar to those of the former white South African government. It is no accident that Trump and Netanyahnu support one another.

Good Jews must speak out. Zionism is not Judaism. For too long Jews who have been critical of Israel’s repressive policies against the Palestinians have allowed themselves to be cowed by the Jewish establishment by being called “anti-Semites”, “self-hating Jews”, or worse. However, Mordecai Richler, Canada’s leading Jewish author, was an outspoken critic of Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories in his book, This Year in Jerusalem (Vintage, 1995). The Canadian Jewish establishment hated Richler. One of the main characters who moved to Israel put it bluntly: “Something has gone wrong here.” And what has “gone wrong” with the Zionist experiment are Israel’s repressive, vicious, and racist policies towards the Palestinians that undermine and corrode Jewish values, and fuel a perpetual cycle of violence.

Israeli PM Netanyahu has adamantly refused to endorse a two-state solution (Times of Israel, Feb. 16, 2017). However the World Jewish Congress (WJC), representing over a hundred countries, is a strong advocate of such a policy. WJC president Ron Lauder, as early as 2015, endorsed new peace negotiations based on a two-state solution (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 24, 2015). More recently, Lauder warned Israel’s PM the lack of a two-state solution and a lack of religious pluralism within Israel would endanger its very existence (Haaretz, March 19, 2018).

The Israeli documentary, The Gatekeepers (2012, dvd), interviews the six surviving heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service, all of whom bluntly state the occupation has been a disaster for Israel. Significantly, they relate that Israel over the years has systematically undermined and sabotaged any peace negotiations

In order for Israel to expand territorially it must remove the Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem. This has much in common with the US strategic hamlet program in Vietnam and the white South African government’s Zulustan strategy. The situation has significantly deteriorated since President Donald Trump unilaterally reversed long standing American policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, not withstanding worldwide condemnation. Consequently, in March 2018 Israel passed legislation allowing them to unilaterally revoke the residency of any Palestinian living in Jerusalem, contrary to international law. Those residency revocations have begun.

Israel is now trying to forcibly “transfer” Palestinians from three areas in the West Bank (Area C) to build housing for Israeli settlers (B’Tselem, March 22, 2018). As well, the Israelis are demolishing the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran and expelling its residents to provide liebestraum for Israeli settlers (IMEU, March 22, 2018). The white South African government passed the 1950 Group Areas Act specifing where blacks could live; Israeli policies will have the same effect for Palestinians.

Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is driven by an increasingly overt racism. For example, the Jewish village of Kfar Vradim recently passed a bylaw withdrawing plots of land for sale since they were being purchased by Arabs and Palestinians. The mayor said this was done, “to preserve the community life and [Jewish] character” of the town (Adalaah, March 18, 2018). The US Supreme Court struck down racially-based restrictive covenants in 1948. In some towns Palestinians have been banned from muncipal swimming pools. As well, gangs of Israeli thugs go around beating up Palestinian men who date Jewish women (Haaretz). Recently, Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef called blacks “monkeys” ( Haaretz and Times of Israel, March 20, 2018). Recently Israel’s PM said that, “[black] Migrants are a bigger threat than terrorism” (Haaretz, March 20, 2018), Israeli settlers beat up Palestinian farmers with impunity. There is a reason why some say that Zionism is racism.

Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories violate the spirit of Passover and formal international law. For many Jews Israel is rapidly becoming the God that failed. The draconian Israeli measures against the Palestinians are negatively affecting the attitudes of many American and Canadian Jews towards Israel, especially young Jews. The schism between Israel and North American Jews will inevitably widen, both politically and religiously. Israel will soon have to make a decision as to whether it wants to be Jewish or democratic.


If you were a man, would you even be asking this?
By Michelle M. Arsenault

A friend recently commented that she felt the need to hold back announcing her amazing accomplishment on Facebook. She feared it would seem like bragging and it would turn people off. I asked her one simple question;

If you were a man, would you even be asking this?

Certainly not to suggest men are the ideal that women should be modeling themselves after, but the idea behind the question is to change your perspective. For example, you might ask someone what the 5-year-old version of themselves would think in the same situation or if this issue would matter if they were currently on their deathbed. The angle for which we view things can sometimes change everything.

During this particular conversation we decided the male version of her wouldn’t hesitate to announce these accomplishments; in fact, he would probably relish doing so and have little concern if it ruffled anyone’s feathers.

I think one of the biggest mistakes women make is worrying about what others think. It’s almost like there is a set of unwritten rules for females that are cryptic and assumed to be common sense, and you’re judged when you don’t comply. I certainly have felt the pressure over the years and where it once weighed me down, it no longer does.

At any rate, I’ve used this change in perspective experiment to work through a recent issue that was lurking in the back of my mind.

I had a concern regarding some people in my life who regularly lie. It’s obvious and I’ve caught them on it more than once. So I used this different perspective experiment and here’s what I discovered;

– The male version of me just shrugged it off with ‘that’s just how they are’ mentality and didn’t let it bother his day.

– – The 5-year-old version of me didn’t understand, assumed these were bad people and went on to play with a Barbie doll, quickly forgetting the issue.

– – The person on their deathbed felt pity for those not strong enough to face their own truth or to be honest.

When you look at things that way, it really gives you food for thought. I believe that, as a woman, I often over think and over analyze both people and situations that are often not worth the time and energy that I end up wasting, not to mention the mental frustration.

So next time you’re in a troubling situation, ask yourself; What would you think if you were the opposite sex? What would the 5-year-old version of you think?
What would you think on your deathbed?

See what you discover.

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