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Awareness. I’m often split regarding what to think about it. On one hand, it can end up a form of slacktivism since it implies that you’re stuck in that first step rather than taking further steps to get something done. On the other hand, a lot of people haven’t even taken one step. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but if there was anything good to come out of Michael Brown’s death, it’s that more Americans (and people around the world, for that matter) are paying attention to the systemic police brutality against black people. I myself am ashamed that it took such a tragedy (and ensuing travesty of justice) for me to realize the full extent of this considering it’s a fact of life for so many. Sure, there are still people who try to treat it as an isolated incident in willful, but at least for now it’s a serious conversation. So for me, that is the most important issue of 2014, and I hope it’s not one to be forgotten as these topics typically are. Maybe then we can start taking more than one step towards ensuring fairness and accountability in law enforcement not only in the USA, but here in Canada as well with regards to the disproportionate criminalization and violence against First Nations.

The case against Jian Ghomeshi was also significant as it seems to signal a change in how we as a society treat sexual assault accusations. Aaron Sorkin aside, people seem to be becoming more willing to trust women rather than treat them with the same contempt as characters in a slasher film trying to warn others about the killer on the loose. Similarly, the accusations against Bill Cosby are also beginning to be taken seriously, and students are becoming more vocal about sexual assault on campus even if administrations are slow on the uptake. The narcissistic “what about the menz?” mentality is still a significant force particularly on the Internet, but I hope this all means we are more willing to give empathy a chance.

I must admit, I haven’t posted much in the past year due to adjusting to PhD life and moving to Vancouver, but I did get to witness the protest camp against the Kinder Morgan pipeline on Burnaby Mountain in person, albeit during the twilight hours. Its origin sounds like it came straight out of The Lorax as it started with Kinder Morgan cutting down trees for survey work. I’ve always admired the environmentalist culture of British Columbia, and how it seems to have no boundaries with regards to age, race, gender, etc. despite our federal government saying otherwise. There’s a wonderful sense of camaraderie at the camp site, and when Neil Young was blasting the oil sands, I remember thinking I wanted to be that cool when I grew that old. I get the same feeling with the seniors that fearlessly took part in the protests in the past months.

And last, but certainly least, GamerGate. I avoided bringing this up previously due to the swarm of trolls waiting to mansplain, but fuck it. It’s stupid because the supposed impetus of Zoe Quinn sleeping for reviews was completely made up. It’s stupid because despite its members constantly terrorizing women online, GamerGate was never responsible for harassment (that last bit was sarcasm, which I had to point out because Gators are that stupid). Most of all, it’s stupid because the Ferguson protests happened about the same time, yet they think video games are the defining culture war. Yeah. Video games, which nearly everyone has played these days. Those are the stakes. Unfortunately, with every step forward, there are reactionaries such as these, but we can always hope for a net positive.

So, for 2015, let’s try to maintain the lessons we learned in the past years, prove that love isn’t an old-fashioned word, care for the people on the edge of the night, and change our way of caring about ourselves. I guess I’m optimistic because the alternative, cynicism, is counterproductive to those goals, but as long as people give love a chance, it’s worth being optimistic.

Also, let’s hope 2015 not only means the end of Stephen Harper, but that we also reform, or at least keep a close eye on the flawed political system that gave him so much power in the first place.