Thursday, December 18, 2014

RE: Post-Materialist Gifting

The holiday season got me to thinking about gift giving as a practice. Gift giving is a symbol of appreciation that shows understanding of the recipient's unique character and their relationship to the gifter. Unfortunately, much of this intent is lost in the material conventions of gift exchange.

Often, non-physical gifts better suit the purpose of gift giving. Reciprocal appreciation for a material gift is only achieved if both parties share the same value for the object. Let's be honest. we've all gotten something we weren't in love with, and sometimes the gift receipt is the best part of the gift. And lest we forget the waste created by holiday traditions of gifting and wrapping.

Inherently, a non-material gift transcends expectations. Non-material gifts take into consideration how the recipient spends their time and money. By gifting a future event, like a movie date or a trip, you affirm your relationship by promising it into the future. By gifting money or gift cards, the autonomy of the recipient and the gifter's trust are confirmed. Non-material gifts are appreciated because they're either be some thing that you do together with your loved ones or something the recipients get to do for themselves.

I'm not saying these non-material gifts can't have fun symbols wrapped into a box for dramatic effect. I'm also not saying you can't give money in fun ways (like gifting the value of 6 months of Netflix). Event gifts can be simple cooking or crafting with the little ones, or sexy times with a partner. If you have more resources to invest in event gifting, Iceland and South Africa are atop my to visit list.

Because time is a constant in all our lives, the gift of experience is better than the gift of property. It would be a really neat way to tone down the consumerism if families took up the challenge of non-material gift giving this holiday season.

Just a thought.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

RE: HIV Non-Disclosure

Dear Peter MacKay, Justice Minister, (TW- grey rape)

HIV non-disclosure should be a unique and explicit criminal offence; I write to you today to ask that you consider proper parliamentary processes to write HIV non-disclosure into the Criminal Code of Canada as a summary offence. While I concede that aggravated sexual assault charges are an inappropriate response to HIV non-disclosure, I believe the act to be a criminal breach of Canada's social contract. My suggestion is not toward the misrepresentation of HIV status or the willful exposure to serious infection risk. These crimes are appropriately prosecuted with existing sexual assault laws.

Medical advances have reduced the biological risk of harm necessary to pursue aggravated sexual assault for protected sex with an HIV patient of undetectable viral load. What can't be measured in a laboratory is the psychological impact on the victims of HIV non-disclosure. HIV non-disclosure is a perversion of informed consent.

I understand HIV non-disclosure as grey rape. Grey rape is sexual assault that happens under conditions of questionable or compromised consent. For example: the misrepresentation of condom use or mutually intoxicated sex. Grey rape can mean consent was given to sexual acts but not the conditions that they transpired within (or given to the conditions, but not the acts). HIV non-disclosure is a substantive omission of information that in many cases would preclude sexual activity.

Consent or the withdrawal of consent does not need to be justified, ever. Consent is the basis of self-determination and liberty. Thresholds of consent are personally constructed by establishing an understanding of risk.

Draconian, our government imposes a narrow scientific definition of HIV risk based on heterosexual data on all citizens. The relationship between HIV non-disclosure and risk is one of flux; therein, the legal contingencies for sexual assault fail to meet to socio-medical complexities of HIV.

HIV is unique as a disease and a cultural phenomenon. The global specter of HIV articulates our reality wherein HIV non-disclosure should be considered a communication crime parallel with hate speech. If a communication can be so heinous it needs to be banned, a heinous non-communication may also be prohibited. HIV non-disclosure is should not be criminalized for its relationship to risk; HIV non-disclosure should be criminalized for its relationship to respect.

Punishment must also fit the crime. Imprisonment is not an appropriate deterrent for HIV non-disclosure; largely, prisons are violent proliferators of disadvantage. The best way to curb non-disclosure is to tap into the power of social surveillance. I suggest the option of a nominal fine or community service and the registration of HIV non-disclosure on criminal records. If HIV is to be stopped, the stigma associated with the disease must be transferred away from the people responsibly living with it unto pernicious acts of its willful non-disclosure.