Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The World According to Morgan Baskin

Morgan Baskin ran for mayor of Toronto when she was just barely out of high school. Now, two years later, she's done talking about it.  

The only campaign that Baskin is currently focused on is finishing college, but that hasn't stopped her loyal followers from asking her to run for office again. No doubt, the twenty-one year old still has her strong supporters, and no one is more surprised about that than Baskin herself.

We caught up with the former mayoral candidate at the Brick Works, where she passionately shared her latest thoughts on politics, sexism and Black Lives Matter.

Justin Trudeau’s performance so far 

TorontoVerve: Since we last spoke, Trudeau came into office. What are your thoughts about him?

Morgan Baskin: I think my thoughts are pretty mixed. I was never on the Trudeau train. I think there’s a lot of space for improvement, but we do seem to be moving in the right direction. I’m just weary of getting too excited that he's better than Harper. I think ‘better than Harper’ is setting ourselves up for a really low bar. I think we need to be asking more from him and really push ourselves further as a country and not just solving Harper’s mistakes and calling it good governance. So I’m pretty mixed, but optimistically mixed, but it’s his government that approved the permits for the Site C dam out in BC; which involves flooding First Nations land. Those First Nations are currently appealing the construction in September. Whether or not the project is viable is a completely separate discussion, but a project that has a legal challenge against it just feels off to me, and against the kind of discussion that Trudeau has had about respecting our indigenous people. There’s definitely stuff that’s really great and then there’s stuff that’s not so great.

Black Lives Matter and police accountability 

TV: What were your thoughts about the Black Lives Matter movement asking for the police to not take part in the Pride Parade? People are upset that excluding them isn't being inclusive. 

MB: I think that excluding a group that perpetuates violence against marginalized peoples in completely inappropriate ways from an event that is about inclusion is not actually inclusion. I think asking the police to not participate in the parade is perhaps not necessarily the right choice, but I understand where it comes from. For right now, the police have not proven themselves able to be an organization that’s respectful of marginalized peoples. I would much prefer to see the police move forward to a place where that’s what they are. I think that Queer people and People of Colour get to make that choice for themselves. I’m a straight white woman and my opinion on the subject is that marginalized people should make the choice about who gets to participate in their event. A group that experiences a ton of’s not really exclusion. It’s creating the safest place possible for the people who it is meant to be celebrating. I mean, we just had Officer James Forcillo found guilty of the attempted murder of Sammy Yatim. We just had that incident in Ottawa a few weeks ago [where Mr. Abdirahman Adbi was killed during a confrontation with the police]. Police violence is not stopping because people are paying attention. That indicates an immense amount of privilege and entitlement. It’s the dehumanization of large groups. The fact that Black Lives Matter has to be said is ridiculous. The fact that a group of people has to state that their lives are worthy of existing is mind blowing. Actually it’s not surprising considering the state of things. It’s completely tragic and it’s not where we should be at all. But Pride has always been a space of protest as long as it has existed. People using it to protest certainly doesn’t feel wrong to me — especially when cameras are there. Make the most of your moment.

TV: Unlike the States, the identities of Canadian officers are not released in shooting investigations. What are your thoughts about that? Should that change? 

MB: I understand where that comes from. In some ways that makes a lot of sense to me, but at this point, I don’t see any good sense in protecting police officers. If you can’t attach that violence to your name, then maybe you shouldn’t have perpetuated it. I don’t think necessarily that police can avoid perpetuating all violence all the time in every situation, but you should be able to stand behind it, state what happened and feel like you’ve made the right choice, and if you haven’t, then it shouldn’t have happened and you need to answer to the consequences. Your actions should matter — even when you wear blue.

The American election 

TV: What are your thoughts about the American election? Were you a Bernie supporter? 

MB: Oh God, no. I find Bernie Sanders the man himself far less frustrating than Bernie Sanders the rhetoric — the rhetoric of him being suddenly anti-establishment. I’m sorry. You’re running a campaign in an arena that requires millions of dollars and you’ve been in politics just as long as Hillary? Please don’t tell me you’re anti-establishment. And the complete ownership and disregard that his supporters have for anything he says. They have taken very little time to examine why they’re thinking the things that they’re thinking. On some level I get it, but I just find it frustrating. Bernie Sanders would not be able to solve all of the problems that exist in the States. He will not magically make everything better. Honestly, it’s the exact same rhetoric we heard about Justin Trudeau. “He’s going to sweep in and save the day.” As soon as you do that, you’re removing the responsibility from yourself. Wherever you choose to live, you have the responsibility of making that place better. When you say, “Bernie Sanders will save the day” or “Justin Trudeau will save the day,” you're saying that you don’t have to save the day — even in any small part. You’re also saving yourself up for disappointment.

TV: That’s exactly Trump’s platform. He alone is going to “make America great again.” 

MB: I have very little to think about Trump that I didn’t think about Rob Ford. We have to follow the logic to how you get to supporting Trump and you get there by feeling really marginalized, unheard and hurt by the economy. A lot of those people would have lost their houses in 2008 and they’re really struggling. I don’t necessarily think that they’re the most hard up people in America. Yes, their ideas are racist and they’re agreeing with someone who has a lot of awful ideas about what to do with America, but they’ve got to that space because no one else was showing up for them and Trump showed up and said, “I’m here for you.” That’s exactly what happened with Rob Ford. When we forget that there are people who are not willing to listen to how people became conservative and how people came to those views and how people became bigoted, then that’s how we lose any ability to change minds. We’re just the flip-side of Conservatives. That’s not Liberal or Progressive in any way. That’s just your own propaganda. Yeah, it’s different and maybe less racist, but is it any less close-minded? Not necessarily.

TV: And Hillary Clinton? 

MB: She is not perfect and I will never imagine or claim that she is perfect in any way, but the more I read about Hillary Clinton and her record and what she’s done when she’s been elected to office, the more I like her. She spends a lot of time listening, writing policy, putting in the work and shaking hands to get policies passed. There’s a really great article on about why the Hillary Clinton we see in the media is not the Hillary Clinton that people who know her talk about. That’s really integral how I moved towards Hillary Clinton. She in many ways reminds me of Olivia Chow. Her campaigning doesn’t necessarily translate to media or a TV camera, but when people meet her and sit down with her, they speak incredibly highly of her.

TV: I think people think Hillary Clinton is disingenuous because she comes off as a real politician. She always sounds scripted — her words are specially chosen. 

MB: They are specially chosen. She comes off as a politician because she is one. I think she’s really hurt by sexist ideas about what women should be like. How much has our opinion about Michelle Obama changed in the last eight years? It’s changed drastically. There were times when she had to step back from campaigning because people were so derisive and so sexist and so awful to her. I think that shit is real and it affects how we perceive Hillary.

Convicted rapist Brock Turner and sexism in the justice system

TV: How angry were you when Brock Turner received a lenient sentence after being found guilty of rape? What a gross injustice.

MB: You know, I’m not that angry anymore. I don’t even know if I was angry at the time. I wasn’t surprised. I have a deep sadness and distrust of the system. I watched it happen in Canada and I got to watch it on uncomfortably personal levels in my life. I have zero belief in the system anymore. At this point, it’s not even anger. I can’t muster anger any longer for the way women are treated by the justice system.

TV: It’s sad. Despite having two very credible witnesses who caught him in the act and a heart-breaking letter from the victim, the judge gave him a light sentence. It’s hard to believe it wasn’t enough to put him away for many years. 

MB: Nothing is enough apparently. You can hope that you have a sympathetic judge, but there’s no proof that you can present that can make it real.


TV: Let’s talk about your recent tweets. 


TV: On July 25th, you tweeted: "Honestly find the DNC far scarier than the RNC. At least the Republicans have their shit together. It might be awful but it's together.” You’re obviously talking about the infighting between the Bernie-bros and the DNC camp. 

MB: Yes because I see it here. Liberals spent a shit ton of time wrapped up in their own nonsense. Nitpicking over sentences and tiny policy differences. If you line up Bernie and Hillary’s platforms, they’re practically identical — especially now when Hillary has moved more towards a Progressive place because of Bernie. I just find all the infighting exhausting.

TV: On July 15th, you tweeted: "Spent all of my time in public in the last ten days with a male companion. Zero street harassment. Was alone today and it happened twice." You also mentioned how normal it feels. What did you mean? 

MB: I had my significant other visit for ten days and I realized how that changed the way I moved through the city — how comfortable I feel going to places at night. We walked through the Don Valley at night. I would never ever in a million years do that if I was alone. When you go back to the way people treat you when you’re alone as a woman in public, it’s jarring. It’s like putting on an old sweater. “Yep, I know how to deal with this. I know how this works. ” And when it happened the second time, I realized how normal it felt to be treated that way. You can’t get upset about it every time — not because it’s not worthy to be upset about it. I don’t have time to spend 20 minutes getting worked up about it and then getting unworked up every time someone hits on me in the street. It ranges from guys saying, “Hey, baby, what’s up” to guys slapping my ass. And if you react in a negative way, it gets worse. The other day, I gave a guy the finger and he said, “Oh, you’re getting feisty, bitch.” I don’t have the emotional energy for that in my life anymore. It’s too exhausting.

TV On July 4th, you tweeted: "It's my favourite when middle aged white dudes not only tell me what to think but also promote themselves in the same breath.” What happened there? 

MB: [Laughs] Oh, my goodness. This summer, I’ve been working on an electoral forum; which is a space that’s really dominated by older white men. I tweeted that I was having a focus meeting to engage young people, and some dude replied to the tweet saying, “I hope you’re not pro-proportional representation (pro-PR). You should listen to this podcast.” It was his own goddamn podcast! So you’re telling me that I should not be working in a pro-PR space; which, first of all, my initial tweet was pro-PR so you know I’m pro-PR. And then you’re promoting your completely fact-less podcast that’s anti-PR. I”m sorry. You’re wrong and inappropriately engaging in this conversation because I literally never spoken to you on the internet before this moment. And then you’re also promoting yourself? It’s like you’re being a shitty human and promoting your shittiness. “Hey, lady. You know what you should think? You should think what I think and here’s my podcast about it.” Goodbye.

TV: On June 28th, you tweeted: "Spotted: Dude in a Death of a Salesman shirt. How likely do you think he is to talk your ear off about how well read he is on a date?" Sounds like you had a date from Hell. 

MB: [Laughs] The pretentious Toronto intellectual is a breed of man. You know, he’s making a short film, reads Shakespeare for fun and attends weird art openings. He just wants to really talk about how interesting he is, how much he’s read, and he’s got this friend who’s in this band that’s really cool and they’re playing in this spot that you’ve never heard of, where the drinks are $12 and the bar doesn’t have a name. “We should go there next weekend.” I’m like, “What? You literally talked about yourself for two hours.” And none of it was actually interesting.

TV: That breed of man isn’t interested in learning who you are and what you have to say? 

MB: Even if they are, I find myself so distracted by the fact that they’re so self-obsessed that I can’t even talk about myself. I’m shocked. “You literally talked about your film for 45 minutes and it sounds terrible.” At this point, I’m in a relationship so I’m not in the dating scene anymore so it’s easy to be derisive about all the men I went on dates with; which is honestly not that many.


TV: So you’re thinking about starting a personal blog. What are some things that you want your followers to know about you? 

MB: I’m at a place now where I’m interested in talking less about issues and more about what’s going on inside my head. Politics, urban planning and city building are very interesting to me still, but I’m also really interested in talking about what it’s like to be me — to be twenty-one and trying to figure out life. I don’t think we hear enough from young people about what’s going on in their heads and what they are struggling with. Where I find writing really helpful to me is a space of exploring what’s going on inside my head and really working through stuff. I want to find interesting ways to engage people in conversation and to create space to have some emotional vulnerability in the world because I think that’s really important.

TV: Do you think Millennials are misunderstood? 

MB: Yeah, 100%. I think there are tons of generalizations made about a huge group of people. We’re honestly trying to figure out our lives and millions of people are watching. We’re in a completely different landscape. We’re having to make completely different choices and that’s OK. “Millennials are having less sex, Millennials are interested in hook-up culture, Millennials are not working, Millennials are working too much, Millennials are not going to school and Millennials are really in debt over school!” We are definitely struggling with stuff and in Canada, housing in the city, where the jobs are, is really expensive so we’re figuring out interesting ways to make that work. Yeah, we’re working multiple jobs and we’re doing what we love — trying to monetize what we can because we’re broke and have student debt. I think the most interesting thing about Millennials is that we’re so different and we’re figuring our shit out so differently. We’re making immensely different life choices from each other, from our parents and from our grandparents. The expectation of going to school, leaving with a piece of paper, getting a job, buying a house, having a family and then having a pension and retiring is impractical and unfeasible. It’s terrifying and provides a lot of space to fail, but also provides a lot of space to do something completely different and to not end up unhappy doing the same thing as everyone else. And if any of us end up unhappy as people in our parents’ or grandparents’ generation, I’m pretty sure we’ll be unhappy completely differently and I think that’s cool.

TV: I think people are terrified of Millennials because they’ll represent 75% of the workforce in 10 years. 

MB: You know what? Good. Be scared. I think that people have spent so long being stuck in their ways. If you’re scared of us, fine. Be scared. And you know what? Get the f@#$ out of the workforce! I need a job. [Laughs] I graduate in three years so if you want to be scared of me, get out! Take your pension that my tax dollars will be paying for and get out! [Laughs]

* * * 

Read our previous interview with Morgan.

Follow Morgan on Twitter & Instagram

TorontoVerve made #8 on Street Style News' Daily Most Popular Chart!

No comments:

Post a Comment