Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Water off a duck’s back

August 31, 2010

The rains have started falling here in Vancouver. It’s the kind of rain that brings with it a feeling it won’t end any time soon. My two youngest children are at a neighbour’s house playing inside with their kids, and two neighbourhood kids are here inside playing with my oldest. We’re all inside today.

We took advantage of the weather and cleaned the aquarium, after a month or so of neglect. This summer has been a whirlwind of daily activity. It’s a local motto “If the sun is shining, we go outside.” or “the tv is off” there are local variants to the motto, but the point is, sunshine is a precious resource not to be squandered.  Greenie, however, seems to enjoy her overgrown space. Greenie is a five year old Green Terror. She lives alone. Here’s another lesson picked up quite spontaneously by a five year old, “If you don’t want to be lonely, don’t eat your friends.” That sort of sums up the long and sordid tale of our aquarium’s inhabitants.

Greenie, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

And now I’m taking advantage of the weather to catch up on some writing. I tend to plan to write more than I ever in fact write. I even write about what I plan to write instead of actually writing, but those who write know planning is the easy part, actual writing is hard and takes time. Writers love rainy climates. Tom Robbins writes an ode to the writerly Northwestern climate in his Ducks Flying Backwards. If you live on the wet coast and write, you should read this.

I’ve been meaning for months to write up Alternatives to Growth. The praise for the book is on its website, and inside the book’s front cover, so I don’t need to add to that. What I’d like to do right now is situate it in a discussion of the Left about the Left. I say “like to” because I don’t think I’m quite capable of doing that sufficiently, but I have a vague idea, and we’ll find out soon enough just how inarticulable it is.

I’m a lay-writer,meaning not part of the academic left, not an expert/master, so the left I will be writing of may be neither the common nor the academic concept of left.  There’s nothing more common than newspaper columnists, so when I came across Rick Salutin’s article on the Left, I suffered that motion sickness so often caused by immaterial logic. In this article, Salutin holds a concept of the left, he looks in two places, doesn’t see his concept of the left and in newspaper writer style concludes in his opening that the left doesn’t exist; equating the left with a phantom limb.

For Salutin the Left is manifest in a political party and plays its role of difference within the hierarchy.

More marginal parties, like the old Reform or the old CCF-NDP, play a different role: they float innovative ideas like populist democracy or socialism. But a narrow focus on power means a shrinking focus on those ideas. Why notions like democracy or socialism, which have (or had) lots of general appeal, fare so poorly in an electoral context is a mystery I’ll leave for a more contemplative time.

The left is a historical concept for Salutin. It would be too simple to dismiss Salutin as a relic, because upon a deeper reading this little article totally blows my mind. Someone once said that we see things as we are. You can follow that line to a conclusion that to know the world you must know yourself. This line is often corrupted by new age spiritualists who fixate on knowing your true self, and then discounted as new age spiritualism by more realistic thinkers who fixate on objective reality. Salutin’s writing shows this type of error. He holds an idea of a real left. When he looks in the world for this reality he can’t perceive it.

There’s an old anarchist line that the problem with scientists is that there are too few of them. Salutin could benefit from a more scientific method in his writing. This article is exemplary. It’s incredibly short, but contains a whole world of conceptual confusion. Salutin is literally writing down things he can’t see. The concept he’s looking for is blocking his vision, but his senses are in working order.

If you’re a genuine left commentator like Yves Engler (Who? you say) with four good books to your credit, you probably financed your magnum opus on Canadian foreign policy by working nights at a Montreal hotel and only rarely sneak onto those left-wing channels.

Here Salutin reveals a “genuine left commentator” but because this writer is rarely published in the mainstream, and because right wing confusionists complain of the left wing mainstream, Salutin concluded that there is no left wing media, and this is generalized into no left, even though he can clearly see Yves Engler.

He introduces us to one of the left and then asks:

where is the phantom Canadian left? Who is it? Is it?

Then he goes on to say that “there’s lots of left activity but not much definition.” I’m not exactly sure how to read this. There is “left activity” but no left? Whose definition is at issue here?

The old centrepiece of socialism is either missing or under heavy, tentative reconstruction. (I’d put my money on an anarchist version.) Unions, once the left’s backbone, are in serious decline precisely when most working people need a way to resist the power of an increasingly compact corporate sector. It’s unclear whether labour can rejig itself to meet that need. There’s lots of disparate activism to support foreign “struggles” (Haiti, Free Gaza) along with environmentalism, save public health care, etc. But in mainstream party politics, or in the mainstream media — Poof! Now you see them, now you don’t.

He again tells of left actions but that they’re not mainstream, or even acknowledged by the mainstream he can’t see a left. What’s amazing is that the mainstream media’s trick of denying dissent any logic or rationale, and sometimes the very existence of dissent, this form of magic, this slight of mind has confused Salutin to the point that he can’t even see what he’s written down.

It’s within this confusion that I will be discussing, another genuine left commentator, Conrad Schmidt’s work. (at some point in the future).

Review: Digitize This Book

May 22, 2009

The question of access is totally political. Democracy, and to be clear we do not live in a democracy, needs an open environment to be possible. Without access to relevant information, we are incapable of both our highest self-development and informed participation in social questions. Today information is exclusive in its distribution. Decision making is also an exclusive process. In capitalist systems of government, the decisions that affect our lives are not ours to make, and the information on which those decisions are made is not ours to scrutinize.

New media has given the potential of broadcasting to everyone with internet access. This growing access has been revealing the limits of access, as well as the possibility of information distribution. It has called into question notions of authority, and the control of ideas. The lines between the private and communal right to ideas have been blurred. The control of ideas by commercial organizations has become an active question, the situation has become political. In Bolivia when private commercial organizations tried to control the flow of water, the question of the possibility of democracy in a country controlled by private interests erupted in a wave of social organization. And while information is not as important to life as water, the question of who controls the flow of substances necessary for human development in each case, nonetheless, is activating the political.

Digitize This Book!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now is a completely frustrating read. What are the politics of new media? And why do we need open access? Those  questions have radical implications. The title, however, with its allusion to Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book!, is misleading. I had expectations of a freedom-loving-people-first radical “we” in need of open access, but, unfortunately, the “we” in the title refers to career-building professional academics.

And unfortunately the politics in this book limits itself to the institution. Hall delivers a book on using open access for professional political purposes. The idea of open access as it relates and presents the  possibility of free education and real democracy is the idea I’d have liked to see written out. But Hall didn’t do that. Hall limits himself to an academic discussion in a way that makes the book nearly irrelevant to anyone outside that world. I’ve been putting off writing up the book.  My reaction is to write off the academic world as career-minded, grant-chasing, intellectual conservatives, and while the academic world is definitely heavily populated by this type, of which Hall fits, the academic world is also all we’ve got. The main space left where thinking happens is the academic world. So writing them off isn’t really an option. This book of Hall’s is a disappointment for sure, but in it there are some points on which to get started.

First, there’s the difficult concept of a desire for changing one’s place in the order of things. This concept — and you can correct me if I’m wrong, or out of line – may not be a concept so much as a cognitive disorder; a desire for change without anything changing. Gary Hall seems, and he’s not an activist, to suffer the same affliction as a lot of activists. He wants a better world for himself — and others — without making a change in the world. Sure he calls the institution into question, but finds it necessary, it’s just maybe if he had a little more control over his work. This idea of a little change is something that needs to be thought through. Any change is a leap, a little change is a big change. In the case of institutional legitimation, where an author’s work needs to go through a series of controls, these controls can seem oppressive. Hall has found the process of publishing online can bypass these controls, but without the control, his status as a legitimate academic is at risk. Hall needs the oppressive control to exclude others and maintain his identity.

Hall conceals this return to a desire for oppression and control in the face of the possibility of freedom, in the terminology of Derrida. He uses Derrida as a cover, but also a legitimate currency. He draws on Derrida like one draws on a bank.

This is another starting point, the academic use of the names of our most radical thinkers as coinage. Hall does this on a number of occasions. The issue of legitimacy and authority, through drawing on the value of names. But the name becomes separated from the body of work, legitimating in this case a Cultural Studies critique.

Halls desire to maintain, in the shift toward digital publishing, the authority of print is just not a concern that anyone outside the university would have. It could be seen as similar to the grumbling of journalists, and Hall’s dismissal of the amateur is very similar but the question is New Media. What are the politics? What is happening to whom and how? But can an academic, especially one with an interest in career building, clearly think the university? How does the commercialization, the manipulating market forces on the practice of the university look to an academic? And in Hall’s case an “academic with no preconceived politics”? How much of this thought was forged in the free-market furnace?

On authority, and it’s similarities and difference to worth, an essay of Derrida’s is difficult to follow, and a book like Hall’s which trades on Derrida’s style and terminology is difficult in its counterfeit. The question of worth. It’s something to think about. No one is going to take the time to read anything I write. They might be interested in a quote from Deleuze. But Hall does something less. He drops names, Benjamin, Foucault, Deleuze, he drops these names without a direct reference to their work. Nietzsche  says something about those who use superlatives reaching beyond their grasp. And in this instance, the use of these names to legitimate his book, Hall completely steps out of his depth.

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.

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.

…to win the battle of democracy

March 17, 2009

Back when it seemed a possibility that a coalition government would take over parliament, my dad and I started a short conversation about the meaning of our vote. He was angry that the party he’d helped vote into a minority government was about to be reduced to the opposition. “What about my vote?” he asked. I asked him the same question. I was joking. I’d voted for the communist party, so my ‘voice’ was useless. Really, voting has little more use to me than backing a hockey team. But my father asked, “no one wanted your party, why is that?” Yes. Why is it people are not voting communist? I know it wasn’t a real question, I mean, I know he wasn’t looking for a real exploration of the possible reasons why. But I saw it as a baited hook, and bit. I started writing an essay, but it’s way too long, meandering and not really much of a conversation starter.

Before this conversation started, just before the last election, I had written an open letter to my father explaining the reasons why I was voting communist. It wasn’t very persuasive. I sent the letter to every member of my family on facebook, and I am pretty sure it had no effect whatsoever on the votes my family cast. One of my cousins accused me of just fooling around. There’s something to this. Communication needs a hook. Talking about communism is talking about old news, an already decided subject, there’s nothing to connect the talk to. There’s no reason to talk about it. Bringing it up now has a bit of lunacy to it. My cousin knows I’m not crazy, so if I’m talking about communism, I must just be fooling around. Today there is a hook. The news of 1200 jobs lost in Windsor (again this year), gives us a reason to talk about capitalism (masters of industry and wage slaves), the violence of profits before people, and the socialist idea of worker control.

I’ve been thinking and reading about and writing down some of the reasons people aren’t voting communist, but I’ve also been aware of the madness associated with talking such nonsense. There are differences between capitalist values and communist values that require a complex conversation, rethinking how we live on the level of the day-to-day. It requires becoming aware of our condition. I’ve asked my network of friends and family into this conversation, so I should start with something.

Let’s talk about the word ‘communism’…

From the response to my last open letter, it’s clear that ‘communism’ is understood as a dirty word. I just recently read an article about ‘socialism’ being used as a slur. After you accept the fact that corporations produce our culture and meaning, it makes perfect sense that these powers would try to poison the words that will launch a revolution; democratize production; replace capitalist controlled corporate power with worker controlled corporate power. Revolutionaries understand ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ to mean ‘the creation of something which does not yet exist.’  The words signify new relationships to each other, where radical democratic associations of workers motivated by human development take control of production. The American and French Revolutions replaced monarchy with hierarchy. The coming revolution will replace hierarchy with anarchy. The coming revolution will be the end of profit-for-the-few and representation-by-the-few. The revolution will bring new values of human (species) development and radical democracy.

Where do we stand?

February 7, 2009

New illegal signage bylaw may silence free speech. See Changes to …

“Add clause 17 that states none of the above applies to protests, demonstrations, political picketing or political theatre,” said Shaw. “Then we will all know where we stand.”

An Open Letter to My Dad

October 10, 2008

or

Reading Vaclav Havel’s The Power of the Powerless

or

In Praise of Lost Causes

or

Why I’m Voting Communist

The other morning on the radio I heard Stephen Harper giving the Conservative political line that “in these times of uncertainty you should vote for the only party with an economic plan,” the subtext, if it wasn’t directly stated before I started listening or after I turned the radio off, is the Conservative promise of certainty. This probably would have made me smile, that smile of sad understanding, as I turned off the radio, I mean on any other day, but this day I heard this knowing that you, my own father, might be voting for this certainty. This day I turned off the radio knowing that my dad had succumbed to the fatalistic thinking that threatens another term of inhumane government. I say fatalistic in the sense that life is always and can only ever be uncertain. Death is the only certainty and in this sense a wish for certainty is a death wish.

Faced with the mainstream political choices available (what you call the Fiberals and the Non Democratic Party) death is a reasonable alternative. Death may seem too strong a word, but the Conservative plans to step up our role in the military industrial complex abroad and remove aid to the most vulnerable here at home is a choice for actual death. And with this agenda softly mirrored by the only other viable voter choice, a strategic vote is a vote for the same, of course with a little less fear and resentment.

Luckily I’m currently reading Vaclav Havel’s Power of the Powerless. He saw that democracy as it’s practiced can do nothing to change the corporate agenda for a human agenda. But he shows an alternative. He refuses to give up hope.

“It would appear that the traditional parliamentary democracies can offer no fundamental opposition to the automatism of technological civilization and the industrial-consumer society, for they, too, are being dragged helplessly along by it. People are manipulated in ways that are infinitely more subtle and refined than the brutal methods used in the post-totalitarian societies. But this static complex of rigid, conceptually sloppy and politically pragmatic mass political parties run by professional apparatuses and releasing the citizen from all forms of concrete and personal responsibility; and those complex focuses of capital accumulation engaged in secret manipulations and expansion; the omnipresent dictatorship of consumption, production, advertising, commerce, consumer culture, and all that flood of information: all of it, so often analysed and described, can only with great difficulty be imagined as the source of humanity’s rediscovery of itself.”

What’s needed? What is to be done? It’s a simple, basic plan that Havel offers. We need to simply develop values like trust, openness, responsibility, solidarity, love. It’s a matter of renewing our relationships with other human beings. These values and relationships do not exist in the corporate system. There is a major contradiction in Harper’s aura of Christian values and his drive for war and withdrawal of support of Canada’s most vulnerable people. Jesus wept. Harper smirks. But there is no viable alternative to this corporate agenda in our system of government. This is why we need to rekindle hope by renewing our human relationships, sure I can vote communist as a joke, as a way of confirming that if you’re not in line with the system you’re outside the system. Values like trust, openness, responsibility, solidarity, love are outside the system as well.

The problem is not with the Liberals or the NDP, and voting Conservative will not fix anything. The problem today is with life itself. Are we living to serve the system, or is the system serving us? Havel writes,

“Every society, of course, requires some degree of organization. Yet if that organization is to serve people and not the other way around, then people will have to be liberated and space created so they may organize themselves in meaningful ways.”

“Thus defending the aims of life, defending humanity, is not only a more realistic approach, since it can begin right now and is potentially more popular because it concerns people’s everyday lives; at the same time (and perhaps precisely because of this) it is also an incomparably more consistent approach because it aims at the very essence of things.”

There’s more hope in not voting at all than in voting Conservative, because really things need to change. I’m voting communist because I like the idea of community councils, small structures and the development of human relationships. I have hope for a better, and of course, distant future, because I also have hope for my children, your grandchildren. A hope that they’ll be prepared to not only cope but thrive in the new world of difference, and have the strength to overcome the fear and resentment that’s fueling this Conservative vote. Do you really want your granddaughters growing up in a society that’s opposed to women’s liberation? Overcome your fear of freedom, and by that I mean the freedom of others as well as yourself to be who we will become and vote with hope.

Your son,

Rodger

[from facebook notes]

Jodi Kessel Levesque at 1:33pm October 10

I agree with Rodger’s words.

There are ways to develop positive, loving, nurturing human relationships. There are ways for people to discover the true essence of their being and live a truly happy life, loving, forgiving, living in the moment, walking with God, if you wish. We must end the pursuit of personal happiness through the consumption of goods and services. This only leads to more misery and personal suffering.

One way to achieve a personal state of peace (I do believe we need to achieve personal peace and love before we can nurture this in our relationships) is Vipassana. It is a process of self discovery that transformed some of the worst criminals, in some of the worst jail systems in the world; namely India. I figure there are not many differences between criminals and politicians. A very fine line separates all of us really. We all have the potential to lie, steal, harm others with our thoughts, words or actions. Politicians wander around full of ego, with supposed agendas to serve. Not realizing they are just a bunch of I’s bumping into each other and this pursuit of power only harms the individual (and the group) in the end.

I propose that our politicians (like the criminals in India prior to entering civilization) should be required to take a Vipassana course, including a 10 day silent meditation, prior to joining a political party! Just my thoughts. Let’s lead with our hearts, reach for something bigger and treat all human life with love and respect. We can’t fight war with more war. There are countless individuals who have demonstrated the ‘Power of One’ creating great change on this planet through love and acceptance. What can we do? First step; be the change you want to see in the world.

Jessica Wadsworth at 2:05pm October 10

Thanks Rodger. And thanks Jodi. I guess the Levesque’s change the world as a family….. How’s that for family values Harper??

Maggie McLean at 9:35pm October 10

We are in the season of Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for family who have the freedom to talk politics and have choices in who leads our country.

I am thankful to not be under a Communist system of government who thinks that the people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves, and the wise all knowing Government will make ALL decisions for them.

I am thankful for a brother (Raymond) who loves me & is ready to help me anytime that I ask.

I am thankful not to fear death because I have the Faith in Jesus for eternal life.

I am thankful that God is no respector of persons, meaning that we are all created equal, man or woman, rich or poor.

I am thankful that I have found peace and freedom in obeying God laws, the first being: “Love the Lord thy God” and the second: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I thank the Lord for sending His Son to die for me so that I may have eternal life.

I am thankful that we can love each other despite out differences.

I am thankful that we don’t have walls between us, (like the one the Communists built in Berlin).

Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

Renee Nantais at 2:50pm October 11

ok, voting communist, c’mon rodger you’re just trying to stir up the shit! and using havel that way…shameful!

why don’t you vote green?

Rodger Levesque at 6:45pm October 11

I would vote Green if it were possible to vote for all the parties that could represent me. I’d also vote NDP, Communist and why not, for the Marijuana Party as well. But we can only hand our responsibility over to one party, so I’m voting for a party, Communist, that would help develop small, local organizations, community councils that would try to make life better for everyone. So yep, stirring it up.And if by shameful, you mean that I’m using Havel’s essay, an essay critical of The Communists, to explain why I’m voting communist then you should read the essay. (http://www.vaclavhavel.cz/showtrans.php?cat=clanky&val=72_aj_clanky.html&typ=HTML ) He is definitely proposing a form of communism. It’s a form very similar to deep participatory democracy, but Havel doesn’t give up the ideas of self-determination and complete liberation, that means the abolition of wage slavery, and that is communism. Can you smell it?

Raymond Levesque at 7:11pm October 11

It is said as you think so shall you be. A truth is a truth until you try to organize it, then it becomes a lie. Very often because the organization becomes more important than the truth that were attempting to learn. If removing aid to the most vulnerable here at home you are referring to the cut back of money to the arts then I am with him on that. With all that schooling, with grants and loans, paid for by us the taxpayer, that will never be paid back, because they can never support themselves after all that schooling and want to live on more gov. money to support their lives, yes I agree with him on that.

Raymond Levesque at 7:26pm October 11

Vaclav Havel’s Power to the Powerless, he saw that democracy as it is practiced today, can do nothing to change the corporate agenda. He is absolutely right because the corporations run the governments,they have the power and the money,not us. this tells me that you can elect Pavlov’s dog and nothing will change until these people with the university educations get into the main political parties and start making changes that are needed to bring the gov. back to the people. the problem with that is most of these people will get corrupted by the corporations along the way. Our gov. do not run Canada, the corporations do along with the G7, the W.T.O the F.T.O. and a few more that don’t come to mind at the moment.

Raymond Levesque at 8:00pm October 11

Voting, that is something they allow us to do to make us believe that we are in a democracy. We can develop all the values, like trust,( who can we really trust?) solidarity, love, ( who can we really love without being hurt or rejected by the ones you love). You are right the problem is not with the libs, ndp.or the conservative gov. But with the corporations that run them, that we the people allowed to happen. We the people cannot even elect the proper people to run our provinces or cities, let alone our country. The reason being that we are programed by the corporate agenda from kindergarten on to university, so we are programed to follow. That is why you will never see a real change in our gov. so vote for the one that will extort the least money from you and give you a little more to live on, but watch out what the feds give you back the province will take back, you know the one you forgot in all this. Canada as a whole does not oppose women’s liberation, and I as a person am not opposed to equal rights for both men and women, but by women’s liberation do you mean the killing of babies that they don’t want after a night of unprotected sex, and I am not talking about rape or incest, that is different. I as a person with four beautiful children,10 gorgeous grandchildren and one beautiful great grandchild am strongly opposed to. I believe that after an egg is fertilized we have a baby, and it disposal through abortion is nothing short of murder. Freedom? I have freedom, all the freedom that the system will allow me. If this were communism I could not write this letter. Love to all.

Rodger Levesque at 3:35pm October 12

No. The most vulnerable here at home are the homeless and the drug addicted. Debbie was just at a conference where Gabor Mate spoke. He’s a doctor working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where those most vulnerable collect. Mate found in his research that 100% of drug addicts have been abused. I mention this because no kid chooses to be abused, and that type of violent conditioning leads to self-destructive behaviour that no healthy person would freely choose. Haven’t these abused kids been punished enough? The Conservatives are pulling money/support from programs, health programs set up to help with the problem.And where is the money being diverted from health, education, culture going? Into the pockets of the working class? Maybe the little tax break promises sound good now but the coming higher costs of health and education, and increased military spending, which converts the taxes you do and will pay into violence, don’t sound all that appealing.

The Liberals will only more softly take us down this same violent/corporate path. The Greens, the NDP and the Communists are the parties that will stand up to the corporate system, for people, their health and well-being. Fighting corporations is a lost cause, sure, but what else can you do? Give in?

Rodger Levesque at 3:38pm October 12

http://www.vch.ca/sis/

Rodger Levesque at 3:39pm October 12

http://stophomelessness.ca/

Rodger Levesque at 9:46pm October 13

Aunt Margaret, I wasn’t ignoring you these past few days. It’s just that your response was so overwhelming. At first I didn’t know what to do with it, but then I thought maybe a sentence by sentence approach would work.

“We are in the season of Thanksgiving.”

Yes and the season coincides with an election. So unfortunately there will be criticism. And also unfortunately the only time people seem to be able to stomach heavy political discussion is during an election so I launched a pretty massive criticism.

“I am thankful for family who have the freedom to talk politics and have choices in who leads our country.”

So let’s talk politics! I’m not happy with the choices I’ve got, and really if you think about it, I mean really think about it, there are a lot more possible choices than who will lead our country. What about how our country should be organized? Many of the First Nations would choose a number of chiefs prior to being forced under the dominion of Canada. After their colonization the different groups were allowed only a single representative. I mention this only to show that the choice you’re so thankful for isn’t really that free, it has been given to us. If you were really free to choose, I mean really free, what would that choice look like?

“I am thankful to not be under a Communist system of government who thinks that the people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves, and the wise all knowing Government will make ALL decisions for them.”

First, this is the system of government that Havel criticized. I’m not voting for a totalitarian regime, but a future organization of community councils practicing radical participatory democracy. This is the kind of communist organization that Havel proposed; truly liberated people making all the decisions for themselves. Secondly, what decisions are you making under this capitalist system of government? The Masters of Industry are free to make choices without concern for the affected communities. And we wage-slaves are forced to deal with those choices. If we lived in a truly democratic system, a system that was truly based on equality, major decisions like plant closures that devastate communities, would not be out of the hands of the affected communities, truly empowered workers in a truly democratic system would make very different choices than the ones being made outside the democratic system today under this capitalist system of government.

“I am thankful for a brother (Raymond) who loves me & is ready to help me anytime that I ask.”

That’s my dad. He’s always working for somebody, without any concern for payment. He loves working with and for people. He loves people. And this is why I wrote this note. He mentioned on Rodney’s wall that he was voting conservative, and it was a shock. How can somebody who’s always there to lend a helping hand vote for the party that’s not willing to help anything but industry. And you may say that we need industry, but it’s also true that industry needs us. And I’d also say that industry should be democratized. If our democratically elected government is more concerned with industry than people shouldn’t industry be run democratically?

“I am thankful not to fear death because I have the Faith in Jesus for eternal life.”

No comment.

“I am thankful that God is no respector of persons, meaning that we are all created equal, man or woman, rich or poor.”

Rich and poor are not equal. Seriously, do the math. (And how easy for a rich man to enter heaven?)

“I am thankful that I have found peace and freedom in obeying God laws, the first being: “Love the Lord thy God” and the second: “Love your neighbor as yourself.””

In a nod to Jodi, I’ll use a little Gandhi to deal with this. For anyone who wants to change the world, a world conditioned to obey, how do I even finished this sentence? You see the trouble? If everyone is doing what they are told by authority, how do you fight that authority? Gandhi used fasting as a weapon for change, but he was aware of its limitations. He said, “I must state that I cannot give up an opinion honestly held even if the whole world fasts against me. I might as well give up my belief in God because a body of atheists fasted against such belief.” That said, in a world at war, peace can only be found in freedom from reality. I need the freedom to change the world, that means doing things differently, get it? Change = Different. That means from time to time I can’t obey.

“I thank the Lord for sending His Son to die for me so that I may have eternal life.”

Wow. I mean, No Comment.

“I am thankful that we can love each other despite out differences.”

I like to think we can love each other for our differences.

“I am thankful that we don’t have walls between us, (like the one the Communists built in Berlin).”

What about the wall the Capitalists are building on the Mexico-US Border? Just saying… But on another topic, but still talking walls, I’d like to see everyone in Canada protected from the weather, by walls and a roof and doors that open and close freely.

“Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.””

Here we go again with the “do as you’re told” line. I don’t want what I’m being given, and I can’t believe that anyone living in Windsor, or aware of what’s been happening in Windsor would want what they’re being given. There are other ways.

Rodger Levesque at 11:39pm October 13

If you think we’re really free in Canada to know what is going on in our government, just check this out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6L14UpOVg0

Re: Let the objections finally cease

March 16, 2007

I wrote and sent this letter to the editor at the Globe and Mail:

As a Canadian who takes as fact the First Nations’ responsibility for their own lives and communities, I’d like to answer John Ibbitson’s question, “So what are you doing to help them reach that independence?”

First and finally, I’m not suggesting we take away their autonomy regarding self-education. Integration is not, as he writes, “the only solution.” The last time Ibbitson made this suggestion (Dec. 21/06) Phil Fontaine (national chief, Assembly of First Nations) replied, “our dedicated leaders and educational professionals have developed a plan that will more effectively meet our needs.”


It wasn’t printed.

Just as a note, I use “we” (italicized in the letter) very self consciously. Ibbitson draws his readers into this “we.” He writes:

Let’s say to each other: We will bring status and non-status Indian, Inuit and Métis high-school completion rates up to national average in this generation, and we will not let jurisdictional disputes, funding shortfalls or anything else keep us from reaching that goal. And we will hold our politicians, our native leadership and most important ourselves to account.


I am a part of this we, and bothered by the inclusion. I become an actor in a conspiracy, a conspiracy I want no part of, and must respond with “we.” And there is a conspiracy here. “Integrating native schools into the provincial school systems is the only solution,” A conspiracy against First Nations autonomy.

Another note, When Fontaine writes “our dedicated leadership” and Ibbitson writes “our native leadership” the same possessive pronoun refers to different groups.

And another note: Ibbitson writes:

Those close to the issue are shaking their heads. They know the federal government would never surrender jurisdiction, the provincial governments would never agree to assume it and native leaders would never give up control.

We’re shaking our heads in Ibbitson’s mind because of what we know? But he’s proposed the solution, what he goes on to call the only solution:

The solution would be for Ottawa and native leaders to let provincial governments — who actually know how to run an education system — assume full responsibility for native schools.

For the record I’m not shaking my head, but if I were it wouldn’t be for the reasons Ibbitson puts forth. First is the repeated proposal of integration that Ibbitson is making. There’s a question; What are his intentions? The last time he made the suggestion the native response was clear, they’ve got it under control. So this second proposal, essentially ignoring the First Nations response, has got to be questioned. I don’t have an answer, just a question; What are his intentions?

Next, the interjection, “who actually know how to run a school system,” might provide the answer to why Ibbitson ignores the First Nations response. The First Nations are obviously not “who” for Ibbitson. This is actually offensive. All the more so, when you consider the influence the provincial education systems have had in the north. The provincial education system doesn’t work for low income kids.

And third, why wouldn’t the federal government want to drop this hot potato? Why wouldn’t the provincial governments take the money? Most kids fly out for high school already, integration wouldn’t be much of a change. These two objections are fabrications to make it look like the First Nations aren’t the only ones who don’t want this.

The First Nations are in an excellent position to experiment within education and find different practices that work in their many different communities, languages and cultures. There can not be an “only solution” when it comes to education in the north.

I now know why the question “How Canadian are you?” bothers me.