My Sweet Devlish Two-Faced Piece of Chocolate

I love chocolate – No I mean really love chocolate. I have a sweet tooth that would make a pregnancy craving look like a minor hankering. It’s sweet, it brings back memories of Mom’s cookies after school and Grama’s peanut butter balls at Christmas (and well pretty much anytime I wanted them!).

But Chocolate has a horrifying side! Most of what you see at the checkout aisle and in front of the counter at the convenience store is harvested on the backs of child slaves.

Thousands of child slaves work in the cocoa fields across the developing world. In Africa, the Ivory Coast alone has more than 15,000 children working in ghastly conditions, most transported from poor villages across the continent and sold into slavery to work the fields.

Here is a Preview of Semisweet Life in Chocolate. It features 3 Continents, 4 Stories, and 1 Connection – Chocolate

You can watch the full documentary for free here

If you’re looking for documents that prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, slavery in the cocoa fields click here (A Taste of Slavery), or here (The CNN Freedom Project), or here (From the organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development), or well…you get it…

Another great documentary – The Dark side of Chocolate focuses on the nefarious methods of the big chocolate producers.

Exposing the intricate network of slave-chocolate is dangerous work.

Journalist Guy-André Kieffer got too close to exposing the corruption at the highest levels and his body has never been found – for more on the Canadian Journalist see: Kieffer was deep into the investigation of the Ivorian Government involvement in the Cocoa industry.

There is an easy answer: Fair Trade Chocolate


Medécasse is a wonderful brand that stands on the same principles as Oliberté. Founder Tim McCollum said it best – “Care authentically and good things will happen.”


Even better if you order with Oliberté’s discount code oliberte15 you’ll get yourself an additional 15% off on your guilt free delicious chocolate. I ordered mine!

Some of the big manufacturers are also making a move that way. Cadbury and Mars announced that by 2020 their entire chocolate bar lines would be fair trade. It has to be difficult moving a behemoth of a company like that.

Even if I wish they would move quicker, when I’m craving milk chocolate I try to pick up this one!


When we feed our insatiable sweet tooth with non-fair trade chocolate, we’re willfully ignoring the plight of those children. We’re telling the world your life is less of a concern than my immediate need for sugar. It’s one of my biggest weaknesses. Just last week I had a few Peanut Butter Cups. Given my youngest is deathly allergic to peanut butter it’s a treat to have when I’m away from her.

My urges will have to play second fiddle to this horrifying global atrocity. And it really isn’t that much more effort to make sure the Cocoa beans have been picked properly. The ethical options are in every major grocery store – it’s just a matter of looking for the Fair Trade symbol…

That’s my commitment – with my wallet I’m going to help the UN end Child Slavery by 2020


My Journey to a Sustainable Existance

I tried to start this written journey almost a year and half ago…and then life got in the way.

Living a life wearing clothes made in a sustainable way, eating food grown and nurtured on organic pastures, travelling around the world by car, plane and train without a carbon footprint  – well it seems virtually impossible and a massive inconvenience in a world where we barely find time for dinner let alone actually understand the supply chain of our clothes and roots of nourishment.

But I have a thirst for knowledge

And over the last three years I’ve been unable to ignore the nagging inner voice that demands responsibility for the dollars I spend.

What do my purchases say about me? Am I merely supporting a perverse form of 20th Century Slavery that hides behind clothing and electronics?

You’re not going to find fair trade shoes at basement bargain prices – though they do have sales all the time – but as Globe and Mail writer Sujeet Sennik asked – Shouldn’t a T-shirt cost more than a Latte?


In the wake of the disaster in Bangladesh the imagery is haunting, the loss tragic, real and avoidable. I hesitated to put this photo up but I think only images of people can allow us to understand the impact of our financial choices. Bangladesh is only the most recent horror show in the long road toward the modern economy.

I’m not perfect  – and I won’t pretend to be – but this blog is an outlet for you to join me on that journey.

Right now I find myself in the market for business clothes – head to toe but I’ll start at the toe.

There are two great companies that I have found so far that offer a variation of what I need

I love everything Oliberté stands for. They make premium leather shoes and gear in Africa. Their mission is simple: “We believe in pride and creating Long-Term Change. We dig the outdoors, smart people, and quality goods with a purpose.” That’s the short story


The long story – Oliberté, led  by founder Tal Dehtiar, believes in nurturing and contributing to the growing African middle class. A thriving middle class is the single most important stabilizing feature of a democratic and successful society. In August 2012 they opened their first factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Their plant pays fair trade wages and women comprise about 60% of their workforce. They ensure their supply chain across Africa – in Kenya, South Africa, Muritius and Liberia – adheres to the same ethical practices.


Visual from

They don’t stop with ethical practices though… – Their water is certified, their animals have lived a long free range, hormone free life and their rubber is sourced straight from rubber trees. Once you’re finished with your shoes they will recycle them for you. Right now they are working on how to decrease their carbon footprint.

Oliberté has a stylish selection of boots and shoes (and a wallet that is just awesome!) but only a few pairs that “could” pass in the corporate world.


Nisolo follows a similar model but in Latin America. Their team, full of social entrepreneurs, are hoping to inspire what they call the “growing culture of conscious consumerism” by bringing together a group of talented and hardworking artisans and helping them gain access to US Markets, to understand sound business principles and what goes into creating a Brand.

If you have time the founders talk at the Clinton School of Public Service it is worth engaging with.

In essence, the path forward is not about giving our old clothes or fixing wells. It’s about a holistic approach to the problem and looking at the whole before attempting to “fix” one small part. Between 1980 and 2000 – It is estimated that the cause of a 50% increase in unemployment came from the huge surge of clothing donations from “Developed World.”

At the risk of moving too far off course – It is why I love the philosophy of the Me to We foundation who insist on a holistic approach while inspiring kids – like my young Hailey to build a school in Kenya. She raised the full amount and having just returned from helping to build a different school with her mother and grandfather they witnessed first hand the sustainable approach.

The old adage remains true. “Give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Back to Nisolo – In their current line-up they don’t have a black shoe but through Ethical Ocean (more on their site in another post) I was able to get this shoe – they look even better on my feet. (even if they did come with a $63.00 customs, tax and handling additional charge)


I’d much rather buy a product (or give a gift) with a story I can stand behind.

The next step is to find a suit with a story I can be proud to share. If anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them…

Process NOT content – All in on the Digital Humanities

“If the Humanists can’t make what we do central in the Information Age, we never can.”

–          Cathy Davidson

All in on the Digital Humanities

This blog will highlight the trials, tribulations and my developing thoughts as I complete the dissertation portion of my PhD.

I’m not the first to do so but this is my voice

As the Online Editor of and the Publications Manager for the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament (LCMSDS) studies I am in regular contact with both spheres of the publishing world.

The first book I worked on The Canadian Battlefields in Italy: Ortona and the Liri Valley written by Eric McGeer, allowed me a glimpse at the hybrid peer-review process at LCMSDS. Since then, my name has found itself on the front cover of four more guidebooks and behind the scenes I’ve worked in some capacity with a half dozen other publications.

This May, WLU Press released Canada and the Second World War: Essays in Honour of Terry Copp edited by Geoff Hayes, Mike Bechthold, and myself. Here, I helped pull together a 21 piece collection and work through the traditional annals of the academic peer-review process. Undoubtedly there is merit to this process (How important that process is has been questioned recently).

BUT isn’t it the intellectual exercise that is most important?

Why then do we HIDE the thought PROCESS (and development) of the humanities? [1]

And that is why I’m starting this blog

I would surmise that the very best educators know this and inspire this in their own students through the Hedgehog concept of the Humanities

Critical Thinking, Creative Thought, Clear Communication

Terry Copp, here at LCMSDS, has lived the role of educator for more than 50 years now. The video detailing his career is on our site and well worth watching.

Cathy Davidson, one of the true leaders in the battle to showcase the importance of the humanities, wrote a brilliant piece – Strangers on a Train – on what must change for our discipline to matter.

This single quote that now sits atop my one-page teaching philosophy and started this post is worth writing again:

“If Humanists can’t make what we do central in the information age, we never can.”

Truer words are rarely been spoken

It is likely that only my advisory council and 14 future unsuspecting graduate students will read my work at the cross hairs of Sport, The Military and Masculinity studies – (my parents and girlfriend are incredibly supportive and will no doubt try to read the end result but it is unlikely they will work their way past the introduction). If I’m fortunate, one of the major academic presses will pick it up and then in 1-3 years, once I’ve worked out the academicspeak, it might be ready for a print run of 500-1000 copies.

I’m not so foolish as to think that my research as a humanist is going to cure cancer or build a safer bridge. The true value of a PhD is brilliantly illustrated here by Matt Might, Assistant Professor at the University of Utah. I do believe, however, that the critical thought process I will employ as I work my way to some sort of understanding of my nations past through sport, the military, and what it means to be manly will offer insight into how others can navigate the steady of flow of information we wade through everyday.

It is the critical thinking process of the humanities can turn a Fire hose (or Tsunami) of information into a Drinking Fountain…


The process can make the Information Age manageable.

There are other practical considerations too

Blogging keeps me writing; my own research suggests there are two keys to writing well

–          Read a lot! (I do this)

–          Write a lot! (I’m not so good at this)

Most PhD Students are worried about someone scooping their sphere of the academic world and relentlessly hold on to their developing ideas, thoughts, and archival sources until their dissertation is published. They are scared they will be scooped or that a better writer will take their ideas and produce their thoughts in a way for public consumption.

Perhaps in the age where physical libraries held information and professors were (seen as) sages in front of a room of “spongy” students that made sense.

In a world where Harvard and MIT have joined together to offer free online courses and Universities are wallowing through an identity crisis (Seth Godin has predicted their demise within 10 years), I see only one path forward for the Humanities – Recognizing our Strength, Opening up access and evolving as educators to highlight our true potential importance.

Our job, as Humanists, is to facilitate the education process not play the role of pontiff – The grey haired subject matter expert (though we’re that too in our own little tiny corner).

The best have always facilitated this process…

Seth Godin, one of the modern world’s greatest thinkers, encourages students with this advice:

Don’t pick a job that likes cogs.
Don’t pick a job that insists on advanced degrees.
Don’t look for safety.
Fail often.
Fail in public.
Try to find things people will criticize.
Learn from your mistakes, with eagerness.
Do difficult emotional labor that others fear.
Be generous.

This blog will leave a record of my developing ideas on sport, the military, constructs of masculinity, and the evolution of Canada as a country. More important, it will chart my progress in the Digital Humanities and open up the thought process, warts and all, of one PhD student and hopefully encourage others to examine and reexamine Why, What and How they think.

This is not the safe route, I may fail, and that failure will be public but it is worth it.

[1] Hate 2.0 with Jennifer Evans (History), Josh Greenberg (Communications) and Christiane Wilke (Law), together with a host of undergraduate and graduate researchers at Carelton University, analyze how state institutions and civil society are using digital media to counter its reach and appeal.  Dan Cohen, is the director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Mediahis personal blog and the site are pioneers in the digital humanities and deserve a day of your time at least – their essay section is full of brilliance. Finally CUNY is on the leading edge with an open peer-review system


Curriculum Vitae

Part 1 – Academic Preparation

PhD Candidate in History, (ABD) – Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, (On Leave)
Masters of Arts in History – Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo 2007
Bachelor of Education – University of New Brunswick, Fredericton 2004
Bachelor of Arts in History – First Class Honours – University of New Brunswick, Fredericton 2004

Areas of Interest

My interests currently focus on gender, sport and war and society studies. More specifically, I am examining the ways in which recreational sports, with their emphasis on manly fitness, honour and the competitive spirit, were integral to the training of Canadian soldiers during the Second World War.  To that end I have completed the Major Field in Canadian History and minor fields in Sport and Leisure as well as War and Society.

I also have an interest in the study of war and memory and war and society/cultural studies with a focus on The Canadian Art Program, Memorials, and the memory of Canadians in the First and Second World War. My Masters Major Research Paper examined the memory of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade and the way the different regiments are remembered in Normandy, France.

Academic Positions, Relevant Job Experience & Volunteer Positions

Publications Manager, Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies. Responsible for liaising with WLU Press on more than 25 Distribution Titles published by LCMSDS as well as working with WLU Press to acquire titles for their growing war and society studies publications. 2009-2013.

Online Editor, – responsible for the content (including the development and overseeing the peer-review book review section), the social media, interactive and aus. 2009-2013.

Congress 2012 – Responsible for Organization of the student Volunteers for the Annual Canadian Historical Association Conference, the administration and preparation of the War of 1812 Battlefield Tour, and  2012.

HI 341 Canadian Military HistoryCAS position Fall 2011

Teaching Assistant, Courses include HI 248 (4 times), HI 249, HI 110, HI 229, HI 249, HI 233 2005 – 2012.


Vance, Jonathon, Matt Symes, Kellen Kurschinski, Steve Marti, Alicia Robinet eds. The Great War: From Memory to History. WLU Press: Waterloo, Ontario, 2015.

Copp Terry and Matt Symes “Canada’s D-Day: Politics, Media, and the Fluidity of Memory” in D-Day in History and Memory: Comparative Perspectives of the Normandy Invasion, UNT Press, 2014.

Symes, Matt. “War in the Abstract: Canada’s Great War through Art” Canadian Military History Waterloo, Ontario, 2013.

Symes, Matt. “The Personality of Memory: The Informal Process of Commemoration in Normandy” in Geoff Hayes, Michael Bechthold, and Matt Symes eds. Canada and the Second World War: Essays In Honour of Terry Copp. WLU Press: Waterloo, Ontario, 2012.

Symes, Matt. Review of Michael K. Carroll’s “Pearson’s Peacekeepers: Canada and the United Nations Emergency Force, 1956-67” War and Society Reviews,

Copp, Terry, Matt Symes and Nick Lachance. Canadian Battlefields 1915-1918: A Visitor’s Guide Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies Press: Waterloo, Ontario, 2011

McGeer, Eric with Matt Symes. The Canadian Battlefield in Italy: Ravenna and the Gothic Line. Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies Press: Waterloo, Ontario, 2010

McGeer, Eric with Matt Symes. The Canadian Battlefield in Italy: Sicily and Southern Italy. Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies Press: Waterloo, Ontario, 2008

McGeer, Eric with Matt Symes. The Canadian Battlefield in Italy: Ortona and the Liri Valley. Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies Press: Waterloo, Ontario, 2007

Conference Presentations

“Why study (war and society) history? Making the Arts Classroom Relevant in the 21st Century. 23rd  Military History Colloquium, University of Western Ontario – May 2012

“War in the Abstract: Art as a Window into Canada’s Military Past.” Guelph Historical Association Talks (Att: 85) February 2012.

“War in the Abstract: Canada’s First World War through Art.” Windsor Military History Conference (Att: 267) January 2012.

“The Personality of Memory: The Process of Informal Commemoration in Normandy.” York University Military History Conference – May 2010

“One Brigade, Three Memories: Commemoration of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade in Normandy.” 18th Military History Colloquium, Wilfrid Laurier University. May 2007.

“Their Own War: Italy’s Tenth Light Flotilla.” 17th Military History Colloquium, University of Western Ontario. May 2006.

“Their Own War: Italy’s Tenth Light Flotilla.”  Tri-University History Conference, Wilfrid Laurier University. October 2005.

“Stalin’s Secret Weapon: The Red Orchestra and the War on the Eastern Front” Canadian Association for Securities and Intelligence Conference, Simon Fraser University. October 2003