Posts Tagged ‘a million manifestos’

Rambling on the DTES

May 7, 2009

Jane’s Walk

Originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque

Jane’s Walk is held simultaneously in 11 cities across the country and this past year was a first for Vancouver. Inspired by Jane Jacob’s grassroots vision of the city and her belief that in order to know your city “you have to get out and walk,” Jane’s Walk is a simple idea. It is free, it connects people and builds communities by promoting urban literacy and citizen engagement.

This past Sunday, Wendy Pedersen took a group on tour around the Downtown Eastside. We were shown some of the community successes, and some of the failures. The failures must be properly dropped on the governments, federal and provincial, that let the people down. Political decision making in the past couple decades seems to have leaned more toward the interests of profiteering developers. The tour did show there’s still a whole lot of fight left in the DTES community.

There are empty lots the community wants a say in developing. (There’s one of the lots behind Wendy Pedersen in the picture above.) In a democracy would development be decided by people or profit? If you’re interested in learning more about the DTES community check out the Carnegie Community Action Project blog.

This is as good a place as any to write about Krishna Pendakur‘s talk at the Reel Justice Film Festival. During the festival there were two constantly conflicting lines about the issue of homelessness. The one line is that the issue is complex, or the solution is complex. And the other is the issue and solution are simple.

The issue can seem complicated by drug, family breakdown, mental health, youth, age, race and disability issues, but Krishna Pendakur presented the problem as simple and solvable. Quite simply, homelessness is an issue of high rents and low incomes. That the problem is growing, that more people in BC are becoming homeless is simply the result of government policy decisions.

In the early 1990s the federal government quit subsidizing rental housing builds and then the province followed that lead in the early 2000s. Another policy decision, the condominium act, allowed buildings to be more easily broken up for sale. This policy decision helped reduce the number of rental units available.

Pendakur sees the issue as solely the result of government policy. He said we can undo these choices; an election is coming. One group that’s trying to get the issue of homelessness on the political agenda is the Organizing Centre for Social and Economic Justice. They’ve organized a rally for this Saturday, May 9. It starts 1pm at Clark Park.

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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.

What?

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.

promostill

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 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.

Review: RIP! A remix manifesto

March 20, 2009

Who should see this film?
Although it’s a manifesto, which carries some radical undertones, the documentary is more of a journalistic piece that explores our human connection. Anyone interested in development in the areas of health and science should see this film. If you’re interested in developing nations, the World Trade Organization (WTO), Empire, American trade policy/strategy, and understanding why North American manufacturing jobs are disappearing, you should see this film. If you like to party, if you like to get down, you should see this film. And finally, if you’ve ever heard, read, or seen anything produced for your consumption and thought it could have been done better, you should see this film.

In Vancouver it’s playing at the Ridge starting tonight. I saw it last night at District 319. If you’re in Vancouver and you like film, you should check out this venue. There’s a bar area where you can talk before and after the film, even the theatre area is licensed. Canada Screens has a line-up of films at this venue.

The review
The documentary starts with a personal reflection, and I had a sinking feeling. I’d seen My Winnipeg, and although I liked that film, I wasn’t really in the mood for another deep piece of Canadian-artist narcissism. But this didn’t happen at all, in fact the initial personal piece went no where, and the “artist” seems to lose control, or disappear, or maybe the subjects themselves take over. The history of the copyleft movement takes over. The whole issue of copyright, intellectual property rights, opens up as the film goes on, and remain open. The film maker’s intentional practice urges us to continue the discussion, to actually become creative in the process of discovering our world.

Before the film, Brett Gaylor, in a video introduction from Montreal, said our viewing experience should be participatory. We were to boo the bad guys and cheer for the good guys. Very little of this happened, but the participatory ethos of the filmmakers, was embedded in the subject of the film. You can remix the film on line. It’s an interesting experiment in a resistance movement against corporate control of what we can do with our experiences, how we can express ourselves in a mediated language that surrounds us, speaks to us, and is owned and controlled by corporations.

The good
The scene in the boat with the Clinton administration wag. This was good. This was intelligent, brilliant documentary work. This guy told us the strategy of the american government when it came to intellectual property, the information economy. WTO. The american government gave up its manufacturing sector, by allowing free trade, opening up its borders to imports with the agreement that all its trade partners would follow its patent and copyright laws.

And the Brazil scenes were all great. Brazil copies AIDS treatment, messing with pharmaceutical corporations. The business model, the profit paradigm, is not fair. It’s inhumane and wrong. That a government chooses to resist corporate domination to give medicine to citizens who need it. It’s a start.

And the scenes dealing with science, the idea that ideas that could be beneficial to the public were locked away in a corporate hold. This was good informative stuff. It’s current and gives us an argument here in Canada for fighting funding cuts for science.

The bad
As a manifesto for a resistance movement, I’ve got a complaint against the filmmaker. There was a rave scene where kids are dancing and the narrator says something like (I need to see the film again to make this a little more accurate) “the dancing kids are exercising their right to culture” or some such thing, it was a complete fabrication. Kids are mindlessly (and this isn’t a value judgement) dancing (is a liberating experience, fuck, let loose) and the narrator imposes some form of the manifesto on them. As far as propaganda goes, sure that’s fine, look at the numbers on this side of the copyleft movement. But for organization, for creating a movement, there needs to be a more strict measure of reality. It does no good to create illusions.

I’ve been complaining for years about the quality of journalism. Paper, television and radio news, lack a quality of depth, a quality that I think is necessary for understanding our world as opposed to being confused by the news of it. Yes. I do realize that I should be making this quality journalism myself if I’ve got such a problem with it. I understand that. But do you understand how hard it is to do the type of work I’ve got in mind? I’m talking journalism that illuminates. Journalism that goes to the root of a problem, finds connections with other problems. A journalism that digs to understand the complexity of our problems and then explores possible complex solutions. This isn’t pyramid style journalism. This isn’t segmented journalism. This is journalism with a memory, an open archive, and collaborative practices. This is the exact opposite of corporate journalism as it’s practised today. And this is why, if we want a better press, we need a revolution. RIP! A remix manifesto is the kind of journalism we need.

The conclusion
We need the RIP! kind of journalism because it’s open and freely exploring, and is given to us as a starting point where we can begin our exploration. It’s a practice of journalism that allows us to take the weak stories, closed stories, and add depth, find connections and explore solutions. Who is working on this problem and what are they doing that we can do? What are our alternatives?

Not knowing when to stop…
Here’s an example of good journalism. This is Robert Scales on Vancouver’s housing crisis. Something like this could be the start of a movement to understand the root of the problem. Speaking of housing, There’s a march this April 4. Details to come.

Freedom not power

January 26, 2009

[This was a facebook note]

Watching the Chicago 8 trial documentary I was struck by the forced conformity. There was a very large group of Americans who were expressing a different way of being. The point is that a social dialogue about social change was in play, and the state mobilized its armed forces to silence the peaceful movement for change. It became apparent that conformity is the only option. Sure we are free to live within the parameters of the system, and sure those parameters are quite broad and loose, but we are not free to change the system. We can try to change the system, but there is a power at work that will fight you all the way to your bedroom. (Ballistic evidence showed that most bullets during the raid were aimed at Hampton’s bedroom. ( http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAhamptonF.htm ))

A distinction needs to be made between freedom and power. That I have health and nutrition, social and manual skills, and access to credit means I can exercise most of my charter rights and freedoms, but this is a “power to exercise” granted by the system. I am bound to this system or powerless. Now, begrudging this dependence is seen as selfish and ungrateful. I should be grateful for the power given me. And if I were a selfish individuated person with no desire to be social, maybe I would revel in the power that is mine, but I do desire to be social, so like the Chicago 8, I speak out against the hierarchal systems that condition the social. I speak out against, to name a few, the family, the state, colonialism, the military, capitalism.

I’m not content to live under a capitalist state system that grants more personal power to the individuated agents of its middle class than it allows in the colonies. I’m not fascist, I want freedom not power. This system, where we work beyond the necessary for a profit while others starve, needs to be considered.

When we fear human nature, we fear freedom, because freedom is social self-determination, freedom is the opposite of external controls. Restrictions impede freedom. Restrictions impede human development. That a material necessity exists, that there are material limits to freedom, shouldn’t be reason enough to accept these social limits to freedom. We can do better than this.

John Barth Beresford at 1:04pm January 27

Every damn day we’re changing the system but it’s gonna take years decades to notice. I’m not interested in too much change in one noticeable gulp. It would be perceived as a mass hallucination that would terrorize the happy, undermine the progressive, and make all the powers that be even more powerful. So go about your good deeds quietly and keep up the good work! Thanks for your support and cooperation Rodger X.

Rodger Levesque at 6:39pm February 1

Was it your plan to enrage me? Was it some flippant move, like aiming for the chest in air hockey? Or maybe putting on a Nashville hockey jersey? Were you trying to antagonize me?

Rodger Levesque at 6:42pm February 1

Luckily I thought it through before responding like Dan Ackroyd on SNL “John, you ignorant slut.”

Rodger Levesque at 7:00pm February 1

You know I’ve never been much of an activist. Have you seen “Into the Wild”? I recognize that rage and frustration. Activism drove me nuts, and then journalism wasn’t much better. Hey have you ever read my blog? (Don’t worry about it. No one reads it. Who could? It’s a ridiculous expression of complete confusion. But…) Something I’ve been writing about speaks to what you wrote. The blog is called “Not Left To Chance” and it gets its name from a line about education being socialization that isn’t left to chance. I liked that, not the cynicism of it, but the reality. When you write that “we’re changing the system” like by some sort of chance one day the system will be something other than it is. But the system is reproduced by command and control. Our socialization hasn’t been left to chance. We’re conditioned by the system to reproduce it. Have you ever seen A Clockwork Orange? After Alex has been reconditioned, the thought of violence incapacitates him.

Rodger Levesque at 7:01pm February 1

What thought incapacitates you? That’s the thought you need to put into action if you want to change the system.

John Barth Beresford at 10:33pm February 2

You express such optimism to began and then complete resignation to finish. If you can’t see a positve result, why pitch it happening at all? You’ve already decided you won’t make a difference. That’s alright, that way you won’t be disappointed by hope and perhaps might even be pleasantly surprised by a change you never expected to make.That’s some pretty serious resocialization you’re talking about and besides Alex at the end pulls off another fast one, it’s suggested with raised eyebrows. He’s all about ego-based will, anarchism. I’m saying the more anonymous your approach and the more random per-chance your focus, as opposed to your obessed ‘incapaciting thought,’ the more effective your result for a greater number of people in a freer self-empowering way.

Finally, yes, I was saying if you think more that way, if you observe and follow, ironically you’ll be defining yourself as an individual.