Over the past week, the Martlet received quite a few letters in response to writer Arianna Klus’s “A Modern Modest Proposal: How to liberate the destitute and drug-addicted from their plight and for their potential to fuel the local economy” piece in last week’s Humour section. Some of those letters are featured here, and the Martlet’s response and clarification is printed on page 18 of this issue, in the section in which the article originally appeared.
Community reactions to
“A Modern Modest Proposal”
(Volume 65, Issue 27)
I was absolutely disgusted to read the “humour” piece on intravenous drug users in the Martlet.
I get that this is meant to be some misguided attempt at poking fun at how mainstream Victorians view the homeless and intravenous drug users within our city. But the fact is, this is one of the sickest, most dehumanizing articles I have ever read on the issue, regardless of what the intention is.
To suggest the extermination of an enitre group of people, for any reason, is not humorous. It is also not humorous to dehumanize street-involved folk, suggesting that their lives are worthless, or that their assumed lack of participation in mainstream economy or labour force is somehow an individual, personal issue.
It is framing such as this that puts the focus and blame on individuals who are suffering from the lack of funding for harm reduction, low-income housing, drug education programs in schools, medical treatment, counselling and supplies, etc. mentioned in the article. This kind of article is dangerous, especially for those without a critical eye. It is bad judgment, at best, and borders on hate speech. I hope that the Martlet will retract the article from its website and offer an apology.
So, the Martlet is publishing hate speech these days? I cannot begin to express how horrendously hateful and dehumanizing this article is. Talking about PEOPLE being used as fuel because they currently serve “no purpose” in society only serves to further marginalize an already extremely vulnerable group.
It also perpetuates the idea that it’s okay to see these people as less than human, which can only lead to greater stigmatization and violence. I have been a street outreach worker for almost two years now, and I have gotten to know many people in the street and drug-using communities. They are people with friends and families and who deal with death, poverty and societal shaming on a regular basis.
I thought your constitution meant something: “We believe that one of the roles of the student press should be to give a voice to those communities which have been marginalized . . . in Canadian society.” This author did exactly the opposite. Her piece sought to shut this community up, speaking of them as though they’re useless objects. It’s disgusting, violent and incredibly heartbreaking.
Looks like you need to take this article down immediately. I would then seriously consider writing a public apology immediately after.
I’d like to think that Jonathan Swift would roll in his grave at such a ham-fisted attempt at satire.
I am frankly disappointed in the Martlet for publishing this and Arianna Klus for writing it. Clearly, from her second-to-last paragraph, she has some good ideas about how to combat the violence of extreme poverty and homelessness. Unfortunately, those good ideas are surrounded by violent imagery that negates any good those words may have done.
Satire, when done right, calls attention to injustice, calls for change, makes people uncomfortable with their complicity. This? This just mocked homeless people and yukked it up with calls to burn homeless people.
In my community, there was recently a service for a woman who had spent much of her life homeless. She was beaten to death outside of a homeless shelter, and we don’t know who did it or why. It was ugly, brutal and senseless. I work with homeless women every day, and the levels of violence they face and survive every single day would make you weep. I’m disappointed and outraged that the Martlet would contribute to that violence by publishing such a piece.
I was saddened and outraged to read an article advocating for the killing of a marginalized population in last week’s issue of the Martlet. Yes, “A Modern Modest Proposal” appeared in the “Humour” section and was intended as satire (I think). Unfortunately, it was not in any way funny. Worse yet, it was hateful and stigmatizing. The author relied on tired and dangerous beliefs about people who are low income, who use drugs and/or who are unhoused. It is these beliefs that deny the humanity of entire populations. The perception that low-income people are disposable is the reason that murder cases go uninvestigated (Pickton’s victims are one example of this). The idea that those who use drugs decrease “the aesthetic value” of Victoria is the reason that harm-reduction programs fail to get the funding and support they need. Instead, folks are denied potentially life-saving services because of the very stigma and marginalization that this article perpetuates. In future, I would hope that the Martlet prints effective satire that punches up and considers whose lives it is affecting before doing the opposite.