Archive for April, 2009

Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

April 20, 2009

Recently I’ve been thinking about starting a church. For those of you still reading, I’ll explain. First let me say that our current social institutions are very complex in their creative and sustaining powers. What I mean is, and I’ll use the church as an example, the institution makes us who we are in that it creates, at least part of, our consciousness, and then sustains, through the maintenance of a social environment, that consciousness. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this is a good thing. I am an admirer of the church. That’s why I want to start one. But as somebody who desires social change, I recognize the need to change our social institutions. The church I have in mind will create a different consciousness.

The first, strongest, and pretty much only objection to change, or even criticism of the way things are done, is always the collapse of all that is good. Examples: Gay marriage – “What next people marrying their dog?” – “This will be the end of family!” Evolution(Godless creation) – “What will stop people from killing whoever they want?” There’s the idea that good and morality are so completely linked with God or the institutions He gave us that without the God-founded institution a sort of totally psychopathic existence would be unleashed.


So today I didn’t go to church, but what I did do was very similar. I went to Pivot’s Reel Justice Film Festival and snuck out for a bit to see the People vs. The City of Vancouver. Oddly enough what separated these Sunday events from church services was a social quality. Anyway, chances are I’m not going to start a church anytime soon, but there’s something here, there’s a thread.

I caught the noon showing of The Way Home. It started with a section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The first speaker was Native and talked about our ability to connect to the world through a house as a spiritual connection, a kind of gift from the Thunderbird (Just as an aside, I was at Judy Rebick’s book launch on Thursday (see sidebar for a short video clip) and she spoke of her new found understanding of indigenous peoples’ spirituality.) The documentary was crushing. One social worker breaks down talking about the causes of homelessness, and then at the end one homeless man answers the question, “What’s the hardest part?” and he says, “Tomorrow,” and starts to break down, “You never know what will happen tomorrow.” and he turns away, trying not to cry on camera. It was heartbreaking.


Carts of Darkness was a lot more light-hearted, at least on the surface. There was a lot of humour, joking around, friendship and good times. But when one man was joking about hanging himself, his friend says, that’s not really funny. The film is a celebration and a meditation of what it means to be alive on the margins. The cruelty of life on the margins comes through not long after the laughter stops.

The last film I saw was We Are All Key. Here’s the writeup from Pivot’s site:

We believe there are two sides to the homeless story. On one side of the homeless issue is the story of people and common decency. This side of the story focuses on the human right of people to have access to safe and decent housing in a civil society. The other side of the story is about common sense. It is about numbers. Studies from various cities show that taxpayers pay anywhere from $55,000 to $135,000 a year for someone who is experiencing homelessness. No matter how it’s measured, it cost less to provide these people with decent and safe housing. This short film is produced by Streetohome, a community-based foundation working to ensure that all Vancouver citizens have access to safe, decent and affordable housing by 2015.

This film made me want to vomit.

The People vs. The City of Vancouver

The following is from The People vs. The City of Vancouver’s Facebook page:

Synopsis: Since the Olympic Bid of 2003 the City of Vancouver has waged a violent war on the community of the DTES. While it boasts ‘revitalization’ and it’s ‘Civil City’ campaigns as progressive, such activities in fact terrorize and displace those most marginalized in our city. Community members have been literally forced onto the streets as homelessness has more than tripled in the neighbourhood. Once evicted from their homes residents are further brutalized with ticketing for sitting or lying on the street & asking for spare change among other by-law ‘offenses’. The City of Vancouver has literally criminalized the poverty it has created. The Community is fighting back!

On personal constellations

April 7, 2009

Bear with me now, this is going somewhere. (After rereading I can assure you it goes nowhere.) Just recently I revisited an old online discussion because I’d been thinking about the topic, or at least what I remembered the topic to be. I was thinking about facts and meaning, without going too far into it, the discussion went on for thousands of words, and really, when it comes to meaning, and this is what I’m getting at here to begin with, you’ve got as good a chance as reading meaning in your day to day experiences as you do reading it in the stars. And that’s what I’m doing right now, a sort of personal experience/star reading, a sort of…

There’s no up or down in this, no ranking, or order of importance. (I’ll come back to this) I don’t even think I could recall a time line. Should I just list the moments and go from there? This is going to be a long drawn out post, a bit of an experiment for me, but also an answer to a few questions posed very recently. I should say response to questions, because there are no answers here.

This post could also substitute for an about me page, or one of those 25 random things list, but instead of a list, you’re getting an unnumbered look at a series of moments. I haven’t been writing about all the things that have come across as possible topics and as is the case here, these potential posts are being mashed into one long unmanageable go.

Favianna Rodriguez, I haven’t written about her yet. She was in Vancouver a few weeks ago, and I went to a couple of her talks, took a few photos, made a few mental notes, and nothing. There are posts from others online about her visit (Kate) (Sue) (WOC), but I’ve yet to tackle it. And this inability to get into it is one of the problems I’m dealing with here. Just a couple days ago, Raul made a pointedly personal blog post, and another writer, who shall remain nameless, has come out anonymous, like flip sides of the same coin, these two posts have got me thinking again about what it is I’m doing here. I’ve dealt with this subject before (here) and (here). In those posts, I deal with the question of being openly personal and nothing was resolved, I mean, I continued to write in the abstract or not at all. It looks like I’m dealing with it again. Favianna was so completely open that it’s been a challenge for me to write about her without revealing too much of my own self. She’s been an inspiration, but as you can see I’ve got some junk to deal with, before that inspiration can lead to any action.

I’m thinking about “really personal blogging” about putting it all out there, getting into it. I have yet to let go. Most of my writing on line has been abstract. I think that’s the reason no one reads it. I literally have to beg my friends to read some of the things I’ve posted, so we can talk about the ideas. And that’s it, I’m not writing about me, I’m writing about ideas. So I tell myself anyway. At some point I need to accept, the relationship between a body and the ideas contained. [[But where’s the line? (And I don’t really take this ‘extreme-end’ argument too seriously, but it’s all in good fun.) Once I lose my inhibitions, will I open my sphincter for a camera crew’s look see, (have you seen Pink Flamingo?) or maybe suck my own dick for your viewing pleasure? (The copy of Short Bus that I rented was scratched and skipped unwatchably near the end. So I haven’t seen the end yet. Is it worth it?) Chances are you don’t have to worry about either of those scenes from me. But where is the line?]]

The line between free thinking/writing and video exhibitionism isn’t that fine, I am just taking a joke too far there, but there is another line that can be crossed. I’ve crossed it in conversation a number of times. I take no pleasure in it, I mean I don’t get off on pushing peoples buttons, but I do like to roll with the conversation. What’s happening here now, one of the things I’m doing on this site is trying to draw people in to a conversation, any takers? At the same time I’m dealing with my own reflections. I’m drawn to the idea of socializing reflection. Without others to bounce your ideas around with, to build on your experiences together, there is a time for solitude sure, but without communication a very crucial component of human development is missing.

The problem with abstraction, is that it’s a barrier to communication. Really, what are you talking about?? Recently someone who came across my blog said, “There’s so much stuff on there! Say if I could only read one entry, which one should it be?” That entry, the only one you need to read, hasn’t been written yet, but the post I suggested is a selection of quotes from other writers. I read other writers, I read a lot. And I read mostly philosophy.

Jumping to the side for a second: There’s a line in a recent article in the Georgia Straight about the documentary An Examined Life where the filmmaker (Astra Taylor) says she doesn’t want to make people feel stupid, or would be horrified if she made someone feel that way. (“I would be horrified if I made a movie about philosophy that made people feel stupid,” she says. “I really want people to be inspired to think for themselves. I would be quite sad if they felt as though only established thinkers are allowed to ask these questions and to go on like this. I hope the movie doesn’t have that effect. At the same time, I didn’t want to alienate the ‘inside baseball’ crowd by making it mindless.”( totally blows me away, I could write for days about this, but to the point, I feel stupid all the time. I read philosophy that I don’t dare write about. I’ve read both volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia (twice!) and there’s no way I’m touching it. Derrida, sure I’ve read a number of his books, but I think only a line from the documentary is in this blog. Foucault and Marx, I’ve read a good chunk of their works, but again, I’m in no space to write about it. Slowly, the reading is building into some sort of understanding, Oh, and the chapter on The Image of Thought in Difference and Repetition, I know there’s something there, I’ve read the chapter three times, I’ve made notes, but I couldn’t write about it. These are revolutionary writers, who are definitely on to something, who are completely necessary for making a difference in the world, and do they make me feel stupid? I do feel like I’ve got a lot to learn, like I’ve got a lot of thinking to do, like i don’t understand something I have the feeling is important. I do stupid things, i say stupid thing, I have reactionary thoughts, singularly definitive thoughts, I make mistakes, and in my private life, I’m ok with this. Why am I hesitant to go public? Why am I so scared not to know something in public? This fear of not knowing, the silencing label of stupidity, and on its flipside the expert, the authoritative voice, needs to be overcome. I’m not saying it’s going to happen overnight. But I’m coming out as stupid. I prefer “willful ignorance”

Grand March For Housing

April 4, 2009

Grand March For Housing

Originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque

At today’s rally Jenny Kwan said, “Homelessness is not like cancer. There is a cure. It’s called, building affordable housing.” To get action on these few words is why thousands marched today.

(Lyotard says something about homelessness being solvable, but that solving the problem wouldn’t boost the systems performance, so there is no will)

The Grand March For Housing brought out an enormous crowd demanding immediate government action to build social housing, raise welfare and the minimum wage.

I’d like to mention this video, again, about Little Mountain Social Housing Complex. That over 200 housing units sit empty while people sleep on the street should not go unnoted. Alleviating the suffering of homelessness is as simple as accessing alreading existing buildings.

Here’s Press TVs coverage of the event: (link)

On Urgency

April 3, 2009

It’s part of our Heritage, some guy, an extra on a movie set, wearing a sandwich board proclaiming “The End Is Nigh!” Am I wrong to imagine I’ve seen him in a lot of movies? That guy, or at least the message he carries is all over the internet. This is our final moment, we’ve got to act now!!

It’s never a good idea to argue, I was going to write, with these maniacs, but unless you enjoy the sport, I mean you get a kick out of the hilarity of a fixed mental position, most argument is pointless. If someone thinks it is ‘over’, you are not going to convince them otherwise. And to complicate things, this sense of urgency, this need to act now, this feeling that the time is now or never is part of our heritage, it’s a social condition.

It’s not just the lunatics who suffer the delusion of now. In Digitize This Book!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now, Gary Hall on the issues of new media and open access argues that “this is a chance that very much has to be taken now.” He goes on to say that if corporations figure out a profit model “then the opportunity to set the policy agenda for open-access archiving will very likely be lost.” (I’m currently working on a review of this book. I mention this because the point I’m criticizing here is a very small point in a pretty good attempt at thinking a situation through.) Can you hear Eminem “You only got one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, ’cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime…”? I’m not talking shit, whistling Dixie, this sense of urgency is well documented, but not in a way that makes us aware, these documents are all telling us to “do it” to “just do it” and do it now.

This reactionary thinking, (I just mentioned something similar to this to my four year old daughter today, “You’re not really thinking, you’re just wanting.”), this thinking in, about and for the moment, is socially conditioned. It’s the way of thinking within a capitalist society. We are always capitalizing on moments, trends, the way things are. For revolutionaries, this thinking is a problem. The Communist Manifesto, suffered from this problem. Propaganda tries to quickly, and sloganeeringly, drive the masses to action. Many of the radical ideas Marx and Engels tried to get down before and after the Manifesto was written, were simplified, and dodged to produce a pamphlet for consumption by the masses. And where did this get us! The revolution will be a slow burn, the deep restructuring of a new consciousness. The revolution will not happen overnight. (there you go, I’m a sucker for slogans) A long process of developing a revolutionary consciousness, which is the revolutionary process itself, is not something one can do to an other, and I don’t think it’s something that can be done alone.

In Workers of the World Relax, Conrad Schmidt answers the democratic revolutionary’s question.

How do we lose an election proudly?
Don’t try to win at all. Discuss issues you believe in.

Financial Fools Day

April 1, 2009

Today the TILMA agreement comes into effect. If you’ve never hear of it, that makes two of us. But there’s a campaign underway to get the information out. Tonight at SFU Harbour Centre, the Council of Canadians organized a panel discussion. The panel was a diverse group of interests, that hold in common our social well being. Here are some notes and links. (There is another meeting Wednesday April 22 7pm at the VPL Downtown to discuss the harmful effects of privatization. “What You Should Know Before You Vote On May 12” (no link yet))

These agreements are about corporate access to resources and restructuring economies to facilitate profiteering.

The Panelists:

Caelie Frampton (BC Stop TILMA Coalition) -From NAFTA to TILMA: Re-examine trade agreements.

Proma Tagore (No One Is Illegal) – Bilateral Trade Agreements: Canada displacing communities in the Global South.

Kyla (SFU Students against corporate education) – Reduction in public funding, privatization of education

Colleen Fuller (PharmaWatch and the BC Health Coalition) – Neo-liberal agreements, corporate lawsuits and the healthcare system.

Gord Hill (Olympic Resistance Network and – Looking back to Seattle 1999 and forward to Vancouver 2010.

How does neoliberalism affect our lives?

Caelie Frampton (is not at all responsible for these notes!!!) Why are we seeing agreements? The Bilateral agreements (Canada and Colombia, Canada and the EU, etc.) are a response to collapsed talks at WTO level. There has been an increase in trade agreements. The government in power has a deregulatory agenda. TILMA (Trade Investment Labour Mobility Agreement) is an agreement on Internal trade. It’s main thrust is “No obstacles to investment” and it sets up a “Private Courts Systems” to deal with disputes. This agreement threatens to block any social and political alternatives to capitalism. It was signed and passed behind closed doors. Why doesn’t the government want any public consciousness? In the past anti-trade agreement activists have talked about saving Canada. What? Save a colonial and imperialist nation?

Proma (is not at all responsible for these notes!!!) – No one is illegal – “The people may or may not use the word, but they live globalization.” – Trade Agreements are form of Colonial and Capitalist Expansion – Free flow of capital – white settler state – 1994 NAFTA Implemented – displaced farmers from Mexico move north into low paying work. – Immigrant detention industry is the fastest growing industry on the west coast – Global racism – directly and actively – states role in perpetuating global racism – “Israel’s values are Canada’s values” Paul Martin

Kyla (is not at all responsible for these notes!!!) – SFU Student – shaping social, who has access good jobs, power is moved from accessible institutions to private business models – offer degrees – labour market preparation

Colleen (is not at all responsible for these notes!!!) Pharmawatch NA is becoming increasingly integrated – Insurance is a NA industry – BC government undermined access to health care – People are fighting to maintain health care. Health care and education – link HC to housing, social assistance, disability, – fight to expand not simply defend. Develop allies across the spectrum of society.

Gord Hill (is not at all responsible for these notes!!!) organizing against the 2010 Olympics Antiglobalization protest time line – 1989 – state communism collapses, the triumph of a straight global capitalist system. 1994 Zapatistas develop language of neo-liberalism and anti-capitalism – re-inspired social movements – 1999 Seattle – convergence of social movements, mass mobilizations “Resistance within the belly of the beast” – anti-globalization anti-capitalist – Trade agreement impacts are so widespread workers – poor – even middle class – 2001- the movement gains momentum – Quebec Security fence taken down – movement reinvigorated. – War on terror – chilled social movement – climate of fear – movement set back – 2007 re-emergence of strong movement – militant campaign against G8 – Scares the ruling class. They don’t even want to see people taking action!! – Unemployed , crisis, – (there is a contradiction here.) – Public Direct Action No 2010 Olympics. There has been an increase in homelessness in Vancouver since the Olympic bid was won – Sea to sky highway is having detrimental environmental effects – fight social and environmental impacts of Olympics/Capitalism. The resistance is promoting an anti-capitalist ideology. Why? Capitalists don’t care about people. Thousand of people involved – Alternative media helped build the movement – civil disobedience – show respect for diversity – there’s no one correct way to do things – anti-colonial aspect housing homeless – movements are diverse – Will show the impacts.

Discussion: solidify our movements so that regardless of government (and corporate rule) we can be a force. Taxpayers and parents – holding government accountable. Converge on the Olympics – want to see more people there after the Olympics – bringing people together for after the olympics all these cmovements came together for one big coalition Save the CBC Unionized workers – Appeal to the mainstream – take advantage of this crisis. Socialism for the rich is fundamentally unjust – Lou BC Health Coalition – on behalf of patients? What? right to challenge, right to a need (health care)– legal strategies? – rethink how we organize – how are we organizing? – Saul Alinsky – Do something good – tactics – sport medicine for-profit clinics will be legacy of Olympics – housing – oppose the olympics – So was a different time the 50s – door to door – Current media is better for seniors and writing letters – language translation for cross-cultural coalition building – talk to people for organization – old school union union style: small, workspace, simultaneous organizing – The government plans to use the Olympics to promote their economic plan – indigenous issues, education, race, sexism, work, all together – Olympics a springboard for continuing to organize. – AND FINALLY – STV Win and we won’t have a majority government ever again!