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Poppy Talk

In some cases, I can see things from several, seemingly contradictory points of view. I empathize with those that feel the red poppy of Remembrance Day doesn’t mean what it once did, or originally meant to “mean.” As an artist, I’ve become accustomed to arguements about symbolism and interpretation. As an activist, even more so. Like the Christian cross, some will see a symbol of love and sacrifice, while others, legitimately, will see as a sign of oppression. Like the Nazi swastika, a relatively innocuous mandala became an international symbol of hate. The red poppy in this century has been reinterpreted as a pro-war ornament, akin to the “Support Our Troops” magnets. And it’s easy to understand why, or how this happened. Imperialist war mongers such as British PM Blair or Canadian PM Harper both wore the red poppy while advocating continued violence in Afghanistan and the “Middle East.” It would have been difficult to imagine that happening when I was a kid in the 1980s. War was considered horrific and ultimately unnecessary, only to be used, perhaps, as a “last resort.” It was not something to threaten when you didn’t like what was going on in another country or state. It was not something a Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat would advocate. Yet today, at least in the last 20 years, being pro-war is common. And military involvement is considered a fact of life for many “democratic” governments. In the last American federal election, an anti-war (peace) candidate was considered unelectable. Hillary Clinton championed regime change in Russia!
So it’s no wonder that some see the red poppy as ruined in a sense. It’s a perspective that is neither correct or incorrect. Perception is what we observe, and there is no arguing with that. There is no right answer. To me, all those old assemblies in school for Remembrance Day stuck. There was a true reverent feeling unsullied by pro-war propaganda. War was considered a thing of the past that we owed those that had served to never engage in again. Never Again was thought of literally, and we truly believed that war meant the end. In part it was because it was during the last days of the Cold War. In Canada, the most recent war was with Korea in the 1950s. Ancient history.
One of the things we have to consider about in art, as in law, is what was the artist’s (or law’s) intent? Because that matters–no matter what modern culture or interpretations turn things into. I think the original intent of wearing the red poppy was honourable. As such, it seems to me to be a way of honouring my grandfather and great-grandfather (who fought in the Second and First World Wars [respectively]). There is very little that anyone (or state) could do with the red poppy that will change how I feel about it. I was at one time so pro-poppy that I wore one constantly, right next to my carré rouge and and a Starfleet pin my sister gave me. As I would explain, it was the trinity. The red poppy represented the past; the square, the present; and Star Trek was the future. Then one evening I was approached by an older military man. He had noticed my poppy. First, he said if I had a special reason, or association with the poppy that was one thing. But to him, he said, there was specific time for the red poppy. And that was two weeks before and after (if memory serves) November 11. Any other time was triggering to this man. In fact, he began to cry as he attempted to explain. The placement of the poppy was also significant. It was not for your hat. It was for your left lapel. And again, he reiterated that if I had a special relationship with the poppy, that was one thing. But using it in a non-traditional manner was obviously painful for this man. And I almost immediately removed my red poppy until the following November. He was also not fan of the white poppy. In general, I don’t want to do any harm to anyone, even offend. There’s no point, especially among allies. And we are allies. Respecting this man was also a way of respecting my grand fathers.
I would go further, and suggest that using a pin with the Canadian flag, or anything else on top of the poppy is appropriative. It bothered me when I saw red squares with a peace sign or an anarchy symbol on top, as if it required qualification. As if to say, we only support the student movement if it’s peaceful, or anarchist based. I would also consider that one of the main purposes of the poppy today is financial support of the Legions. Because those Legions are important places. Perhaps not to you, but then it’s not for you.
It also seems like folks of my background and privilege are the ones that feel the most comfortable abandoning the traditions of their parents or grand parents. It has not gone unnoticed that those wearing white poppies, or antagonistic against the red are about my age and complexion. And, that many members of various Indigenous communities continue the red poppy tradition. Red poppies in bead form are not uncommon. Settlers have a lot to learn, or unlearn and understand about Indigenous culture, and how to honour our ancestors is one of them. It’s also been observed in other marginalized communities, not only of respect, but of pride of service. Pride in a contribution, representation, and recognition of that due pride. I see all religious groups wearing, and commonly respecting the red poppy. I even saw Doctor Who wearing one once. As blatantly nationalistic as the modern Doctor Who series could be, they were never a war monger. And if you see me wearing one, I’m not advocating any military actions either. Neither are, I imagine, most wearers. And, even if some people did, or do, it’s no reason to go to war! I think we can tolerate our differences on this one.
And yes, things change. Meaning changes. I would not suggest anyone wear a swastika, even if they think of it as just a mandala. But a red poppy is not a swastika. There is also something to be said for honouring the dead. The living don’t do it very often. And who will honour us? And will it be fashionable at the time? Another question to consider, for those who believe the meaning truly has changed: Could it change again? Is this perhaps a phase? And when it’s over, will we know? How do we use a tarnished symbol well? Then, not everybody has to wear one. Fortunately, it isn’t mandatory, like a draft. Our relationships with objects like the red poppy are complicated. Can we take what we want? Is every meaning meaningful? Do all babies come with bath water included? Does your interpretation disqualify mine? Obviously, I don’t have all the answers. Mostly questions, always questions. And I’m definitely not a qualified judge of whether people should wear a plastic flower in November. But I get it. I’ve judged people for not wearing a red square, for not showing up at a protest. There are all kinds of reasons to judge. The nice thing is that judgements, like thoughts, like interpretations can change. And it happens again and again.

Where Do Rapists Come From?

I am reminded continually of how important is is for men to talk about and take responsibility for violence against women (all women, all men). At an event recently with Lucy DeCoutere (TPB) and Jessica Ruano (The Ghomeshi Effect), I was one of about three men among thirty-plus women in attendance. Hence this, the sequel to “Where Do Racists Come From?”–not because any hierarchy of relevance, but an obsessive compulsive alphabetical orderliness (P comes after C).
Let’s get the nature out of the way. We may be born with violent instincts. Some might argue that aggression is as innate as the urge to eat or excrete. But those impulses can be controlled. Aggressive public behaviour is a lot like not being toilet trained. With the exception of those few cases where behaviour is medically uncontrollable (such as Tourettes, PTSD, &c). The wrong conclusion is that if it comes from nature, there is nothing we can do about it. I hear the same argument used in favour of capitalism. But by definition, socialism is humanitarian. The capitalist is a sociopath, with no bounds in law, religion, philosophy or science. It’s also very basic to love and feel empathy.
Where the nurture part comes in begins at cognitive awareness. It is very possible to over shelter a child. Which is another primal instinct, to want to protect our children. But too sterile an environment can lead to a lack of immunity and anti-bodies, leading to disease, infection and viral out-brake. The same is true of the mind/spirit. THE BIGGEST MISTAKE A PARENT CAN MAKE IS NOT TALKING TO THEIR CHILDREN ABOUT CONSENT. Rapists, unlike racists, don’t wave any flags or badges. They can even come across as nice guys (Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson, Nick Carter, &c). And here I will mention Ghomeshi. He fooled a lot of people into believing and supporting him. He had an entire national network working for him. And he used that position to cultivate an image, and ingratiate himself with all our beloved personalities. Even Amanda Palmer spoke out in his defence. Like Lena Dunham defended her former associate on “Girls.” Here is another place men feel invulnerable to attack or criticism: when they have strong female allies. Or as one dude once put it, ‘How can I be sexist when I have a girlfriend?!’–like the often referenced friend of colour who instantly exonerates all possible racist thoughts. Bosses often tout their openmindedness by pointing out they exploit the labour of all genders/sexes/races–NO HATE HERE!
A common trait among boys is stalker-type behaviour, which usually manifests itself in following somebody. I did this once or twice when I was about twelve. It may have been harmless–but it could have made someone feel legitimately unsafe. A common conservative mantra has been “fuck your feelings.” As if, 1) they don’t matter, and 2) is not itself an emotional response.
When I was fourteen, I had a girlfriend. In the beginning I was petrified of touching her. In the end I was the typical handsy dude. Constantly pressuring her about sex, which neither of us had ever had. I can’t remember exactly, but that was probably why we broke up. Basically because I was a baby. And she was really cool. She did Tai Chi and introduced me to the Sugar Cubes and Pachelbel’s Canon in D. I wouldn’t have another girlfriend for four years. But my stalkerish behaviour continued. One year I rode the bus back and forth from Sunnyside to Rideau. Thinking, hoping I might run into her somewhere. Whoever she was. Who she was changed. The next year I would go biking in the neighbourhood I thought she lived in. Just wishfully biking about. Fortunately for her–I had no actual idea, and was never ever near her house. I wasted a lot of time and opportunities in high school pining for one or awkwardly rejecting another. Absolutely backward. And by this point, I had my own experiences with sexual harassment from men.
Objectifying women starts early. Thankfully, I had two things going for me in high school. 1) Life studies. Enrolling in Canterbury’s fine arts program meant looking at naked people (in grade nine). And all of us seemed to adapt quickly. One day we were drawing a man in a thong, and the next a naked woman was there. And I think we behaved ourselves. I don’t remember anyone saying anything inappropriate, or doing anything weird. We all just grew up one day in September, 1990. And the other, 2) being a co-op at CKCU, (1992). Here I learned how to have adult conversations with all kinds, including women. The age difference meant I didn’t generally see them as potential partners. This is also when I started drinking, and smoking pot. And in a way, became more distanced from goings on at Canterbury.
Then, in my early twenties I was, what I called, a “scoundrel.” I lived my boyhood fantasies of promiscuity. And in the process I hurt people. With role models like James Bond and James T. Kirk, how could I go wrong? Only the weak will be hurt. Then one woman I had an affair with (she had a boyfriend at the time) died. They said it was suicide. My treatment of her may not have been a factor. But I’m sure it did not help. I never supported or cared for her. I used her like a Bukowski character might (another role model). And at that same time I began another “affair” with a woman I had fallen deeply in love with, but I was unprepared, and still too much of a child to be a good partner.
I should also point out that there were other factors to consider, at least in my behaviour. Alcohol and mental illness. I was depressed, even for a someone with a bipolar condition. And the booze didn’t help (more, like Bukowski).
I wouldn’t blame religion more than the people who falsely interpret it. One such character from the US, was recently interviewed saying, since “murder” is worse than “rape,” rapists have more rights than women who have had an abortion… What also doesn’t help are Catholic schools. Every year they attempt to radicalize children with bus trips to Parliament Hill to protest women’s autonomy. Paid for by us, if you live in Ontario.
Ultimately, the answer to the question, like “Where Do Racists Come From?” is: us. They are not some outside force breaking into society. Racists and rapists created this system, from George Washington to John A. Macdonald. Yet, we are continually surprised when it works in their favour. Our governments often have a consent problem. They are elected, and feel entitled to do what they want with the air, land and water. They act without honour or respect for the people the land was taken from, or, for the majority of people that did not vote for them.
One of the root causes of rape culture is that men often have more sympathy with the rapist than “alleged” victims. Why? Partly because men often have a history of inappropriate behaviour themselves. Some men, take men’s side, as if they were all on the same team–of boys against girls. It’s also because many men don’t have close enough relationships to know that they know survivors. It might be more difficult, for example, to laugh at a rape joke when a survivor is in the room–but you might have to know that. And most people aren’t going to share that kind of information with everybody–NOR SHOULD THEY HAVE TO. Again, AWARENESS. If you are truly aware, you know that you don’t need to know everything. In fact, it’s that awareness that you don’t know everything, and that you never need to, you need to make the best decisions. Nor should we require every example of humanity to be present for us to act respectfully.
I have found that one of the keys to empathy is imagination. It’s a lack of imagination (and critical thinking, fear, &c) that leads to hate. It’s easier to hurt people where there is distance, both physically and metaphorically (in war, lynchings, sexual assault, &c). Another historical recurrence is the dehumanizing of the subjected. It is never enough to colonize and enslave. An hysterical level of hatred needs to be constantly maintained. Any granting of rights or freedoms will be seen as a betrayal, a concession. The ruling classes will become jealous–as if it meant less rights for them, or “special rights” for a few. The same people confuse Feminism with matriarchy, and BLM with terrorism. But people see what they want to see, or what they’ve been trained to see. Often, casting themselves as the victim.
If you’re a man, and you’re reading this, you might ask yourself, “Am I a problem?” And the usual reaction is, “No, of course not.” Most men will fail this test. Can a woman walk by without you staring at her? And do you? Could a woman go topless without you gawking at her? Because this is the kind of daily harassment women have come to expect. Today (2019). “Catcalls” being the auditory version. Even our eyes can be weaponized. Some men (through no fault of their own) have faces that are intense, eyes that pierce. And that’s all we need to know. I try to smile. I lift my eyebrows from their natural scowl to a more neutral position. A man’s body can itself be intimidating–and most men fail to appreciate that. It’s actually extremely easy to be better than “most men.” Just being aware of yourself is a huge, huge hurtle. But we have to try. I try, and often fail. But the meaning is all about intent, not necessarily about how it all comes out. Like, I’m not entirely sure I’m expressing myself clearly enough here. Perhaps some of my words have been misused or loaded in ableist terminology. This happens. We have to forgive ourselves and others for our oversights. It’s a bumpy road, especially if you’ve had blinders on all your life. And accept the checks to your privilege, language and behaviour. When someone checks you, search yourself deeply. Don’t just jump to a defensive position. Learn to love being corrected. You will ultimately be wiser for it.
What I’m working on now is fear, and ego. Sometimes it can be frightening to do the right thing. And often our egos get in the way. We often won’t allow ourselves to do the right thing because we were hurt. But we can change all that. We can become more afraid of not doing the right thing. Guilt can be a powerful weapon against tyranny. And it can become habit, like all those “bad” things.
One night, some years ago, I was stuck in Montreal. I missed the last bus to Ottawa, and had to wait at the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts until six AM for the next one. At about three or four, the place was hopping. Full of people coming from neighbourhood nightclubs. I was sitting at a booth, with a coffee. And at the booth next to me, a young man was yelling at a woman. He was very angry, and verbally abusive. And everybody, including myself, were trying not to notice. Then he got physical (TW). He put a lit cigarette on the table, grabbed her by the back of the head, and tried to push her face down on it. At this point, I stood up, and said, “Hey!”
And he said, “What’s it to you?! You like her or something?” I was more interested in de-escalating, rather than getting into a fight myself. And I recognized his attempt at making it personal.
So I said, “No. I’m just trying to have my coffee. And you are bothering me.” And I guess this tactic worked. Either he understood my reasoning, or I didn’t antagonize him anymore. Either way, he apologized–to me. And he and his partner slowly collected their things and left. Afterward, a few people sitting nearby thanked me. And I felt awful. That poor woman. And I thought about all the women who were at home, where no one would intervene. I might have given her a break, for a moment. But they were leaving together. And I couldn’t think of anything else I could do. This was before the age of cellphone cameras and social network shaming. There were definitely better ways to have handled it. But we often aren’t able to think clearly at times like these. I did the least I could. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, that is enough.
My first word, when I was a baby, was “No.” And I’ve been quite comfortable to deny consent since. But what was perhaps “natural” for me, doesn’t come so easily for others. Thus, we must always encourage dissent from our children. To question authority. To question orders. Continually question. And never settle for a poor explanation. Teach your children, not to “behave,” but to rebel. And like me, they may have the instinct. But without direction, that rebellious spirit can turn into manarchism, toxic masculinity disguised as fair, progressive, even “logical.” As it did with me. But I changed my mind (with a little help).
With regret and thanks, to all the women that have suffered, and that have had enough–and told us all, many times. Some of us are beginning to listen. Temba, his arms wide.
Jack Frost (James Brumal)
PS: If you’re a parent and you’ve read all this, you may be saying to yourself, “That’s great, James. But my boys would never ever do anything like that.” YOU OWE THEM THIS TALK, wether you think it’s relevant or not. Believe me, I was a sweetheart too. But I didn’t get it.
PPS: If you’re a parent and you’ve read all this, and think, “This doesn’t apply to us, we have girls.” You would be mistaken. For one thing, talking about consent means explaining that your girls never have to give Uncle a kiss, or sit on Grandpa’s lap if they don’t feel comfortable. Girls (like anybody) also need to know how to respect other people’s space. And girls can be boys. Boys can be girls, and all combinations between and surrounding. EVERYONE needs to learn these lessons. Even if you’re just now figuring it out at forty-three. Or you want to give your kids a head start.
Rape Culture: when the judicial system finds in favour of the rapist, seen on video and labeled (by the rapist), “When your first time having sex was rape.” Brock Turner’s judgement was not an aberration. It was a part of a trend, that spans across the male dominated world.

Where do Racists Come From?

Chinese philosophers had a great way to avoid semantic arguments. Often at the beginning of a book, they would define the words they were using. So Lao Tzu or Tung Chung-Shu would write, “Does not the term “nature” mean what is inborn (sheng)?” So, in this vein, I shall spell out a few things. When I suggest that some forms of “censorship” are necessary, I am talking about the following: self-restraint, manners, filters; protecting private information, removing photos or video of ‘revenge sex-tapes’ and child abuse. I am NOT talking about government mandated language or book burnings. If that is all you can imagine resulting from some limit to your language, its officially no longer my fault. If your imagination is so limited, you may not survive this little “note” without being horribly offended. Another phrase that gets thrown around a lot is “free speech.” An early institutional guarantee of this can be found in the American Declaration of Independence, and the famous 1st Amendment. Now, was it created to allow racists to say whatever they wanted? No. Slave owners committing genocide don’t often have a grasp of “racism.” Hopefully, I don’t have to define racism here. The amendment was written after years of having to watch their revolutionary tongues, because it was “treason” they were talking about. And they could have faced all kinds of consequences for criticizing the Crown. So, at equal importance as freedom of religion, of the press, and to peaceably assemble, was “freedom of speech” and “petition for a governmental redress of grievances.” Although never guaranteeing freedom from libel. Another phrase, although I’m not using it much here, is “Safe spaces.” Which are also bitterly complained about by predominantly old white men (John Cleese, Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Gervais, Bill Mahar, Stephen Fry, Donald Trump, &c) in the same breath as “PC culture.” “Politically Correct” was itself a phrase created by conservatives protecting their racist rights about 25 years ago. Liberals joined in, and its been a misused and abused fear tactic on either side ever since. Hence, any debate is often met with hysterical offence–the very thing they say they abhor–sensitivity. They ignore the purpose of safe spaces, and quantum leap to 1984. The purpose being to create places of some comfort and mutual respect in communities, schools and work places. So people are on their best behaviour, not shamed necessarily for their misuse of words or offensive language by some higher authority (although it can definitely happen). But really, why would a defender of free speech be afraid of being shamed? Isn’t that a little over sensitive? But I digress–or progress…
The “slippery slope” defence. The suggestion that once we do away with hateful expressions, such as “red skin” or “kike,” all kinds of words like “gypsy” and “tranny” will be lost for all time. The limits this would place on artistry is unfathomable. The internet and media will be controlled by one big “safe space” and white men will be made to feel uncomfortable. And socialism’s nasty red side will burst into full blown Communism! And yet, conservatives are okay with the state telling people which bathroom they can use. But, you know, it starts and ends in in the bathroom, so…
I have to also point out that I was once one of you–defending the almighty artist’s right to say whatever. Because I am an artist. But I grew up. And I forgive anyone that doesn’t get it, because Voltaire would have a hard time understanding what I’m trying to say. I wouldn’t want to be debating any of the old masters on this subject. Alan Moore and Robert Crumb would disagree with me, and I, with them, on this. But, most people actually believe in some form of “censorship,” even if they can’t fathom it (or define it as such). Anyone thats been in a real relationship knows there a certain words, certain subjects best left unmentioned. Unless somebody really wanted to hurt the other person. Parents often ‘protect’ their children from seeing or hearing certain things–Is that censorship? Are children being mistreated by not being allowed to watch a scary movie? Nope. That would be ridiculous. Johnny is going to have bad dreams! The reverse is also true. Do you allow your parents to be berated by verbal abuse–on principal? And how about gramps? Think your elders should “toughen up?” Who else is entitled to verbal abuse? Can you imagine of a more clichéd situation, than that of man not appreciating his female partner’s pain? How many men have you noticed, never “getting it?” Men will even ridicule their partner’s discomfort. I know, I’ve done it. And its an awful thing. Good partners will support each other. And they tread carefully. So we actually censor ourselves around family and loved ones all the time. Yet we tell strangers that they are being “too sensitive” if they are offended by a random remark. Its like the abnoxious tourist syndrome, that seems to affect mostly white men (coincidentally, of course). We know we’ll never likely see these people again (as in, not face consequences), so we act like jerks. Which is also what is going on on-line, another white/male dominated problem. Where there is often zero accountability. Facebook’s removal of photographs with women’s nipples showing compared to their ‘hands off’ approach to holocaust denial pages and “shoot an Indian day” is very revealing (pun intended). But, you know, PC culture has gone too far. I don’t want to debate the old masters–but it is the student’s duty to surpass them, to look beyond what they saw. People who grew up in the 1950s appreciate a certain amount of irreverence, in part because of how square and restrictive Western society was at that time (family, church, school, government, &c.). But that is a rebel’s reaction to control, which is fine. But today, irreverence is a staple. And a lot of classical control mechanisms have been made obsolete by the internet. If the Rolling Stones can’t keep that incriminating film of theirs from popping up on YouTube, how likely is it your government can ultimately restrict any information? Think Manning, Snowden, Assange, Anonymous, Russian hackers, Chinese hackers… But yeah, I get it. There’s nothing nobler than defending the right to say whatever. Fuck people’s feelings. They’re just feelings, after all. Isn’t that the attitude of a sociopath?


Crying Nazi needs a hug.
I remember 1993, and falling right into the trap of hating the hateful thing known as “Political Correctness.” There seemed no other option but to hate. That was 25 years ago. And I am a very different person today. I was dumb, and over confident enough to tell a black man that racism was “funny.” For real, I did that. And no one told me how stupid that was, other than him. But I didn’t take him or his experiences seriously. And I continued to have that refined sense of artistic integrity–where no words were forbidden! Much to the embarrassment, I’m sure, to some people in my life. I used the n-word, in the height of arrogant “irony” with the most intellectual of excuses. The more creative you are, the more imaginative your explanations can be for your behaviour. I could write books about my divine right to say whatever. Fast forward to 2018, I’m a 42 year old white man, and I’m taking responsibility. How novel! I was wrong, so terribly wrong thinking I was somehow above the meaning, implication and context in using that word. But I learned. I adapted. Because I started working with groups like Occupied Ottawa–and them/they don’t tolerate that shit. I learned that my words have power and privilege attached. And we haven’t moved beyond racism being an issue, like in Star Trek. Race is still a big, big issue. And just because you are literally too privileged or tone deaf to hear it, your words have an effect. As to the 23rd century, we aren’t there yet.
The “who’s going to decide, you?” defence. Because thats what I’m somehow suggesting, that I should be Big Brother–or somehow want to be. I’m interested in creating consensus. Like, if a consensus of scientists said something like climate change was created by humans, you would take them seriously, right? Well, if there is a relative consensus in your community (family, office, wherever) about what words shouldn’t be used, then that’s the decision. If the choice is from one person, or one little group it won’t work. It has to be commonly accepted. Because that’s another thing this is really about, and that’s consent.
You want to know where racists come from? Unconditionally loving parents. The tolerance of racism. They come out from under bridges and show off their swastikas because they know you won’t fight them. They count on our high tolerance levels. My grandfather killed Nazis, while kids today want to let them “have a voice.” You know who else gave Nazis a voice? Germans, and look how that turned out. And yet, the great defenders of FS will compare censorship to fascism. And yes, there were books burned. Anything they considered ‘deviant art’ was taken away. But again, context is essential. THEY WERE NAZIS! They didn’t like most things. The people we are supposed to be afraid of here are teachers, feminists, socialists, BLM activists, Gay-straight alliances and Jews! Basically, the opposite of Nazis. What I’m talking about are community standards. As in, try not to be an asshole. That’s it. Self restraint. Nobody is calling for the formation of the PC police. Nobody is suggesting the government should control everything we say. What we are asking for, is that on occasion, people restrain themselves. And if they can’t control the racism inside them, I think a little lecture might be in order. Or in extreme cases, a punch in the face. And you know what? Its not easy. Controlling yourself. It requires a lot of responsibility. I usually have to work on it a little everyday. If I leave the house, that means that I will be surrounded by different kinds of people. There might be children walking by, or elderly people with sensitive dispositions. And I remind myself that my actions have consequences. We effect one another with just our proximity, on so many levels. But, not everybody is going to get it.
Maybe tell Johnny he shouldn’t use certain words? Parents often feel entitled to manage every aspect of their children. From what they eat, to where they can go. Why not tell them there’s some bad words out there? And this is really important, there’s a reason we don’t use them. Tell them that them their words can hurt people–and you know what, children will understand. If you have to keep peanut butter out of school lunches, you can try keeping the racist words down to a minimum.
GMCFOSHO advises, “White people you can sing it too, just change the N to a W. I miss my wigga, I miss my wigga…”
The basic moral of this story is that you have to take people seriously when they say something hurts. Just because its not hurting you, doesn’t mean its not doing damage. Is the rape survivor being “too sensitive” when she can’t appreciate a rape joke? I told one once. And I deeply regret it–every part (More on this in the sequel to this piece, “Where Do Rapists Come From?”). Its impossible today to talk about being “too sensitive” without thinking of Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette.”
She has helped define a movement with no satisfactory name or description. If you haven’t seen Nanette, do. Consider it homework. Today, people are calling it the “#MeToo era.” But it started well before Weinstein and company’s infamous evil. It’s a changing attitude (not a new one), and a progressive one–one that doesn’t tolerate intolerance. We kick the Nazis out of the circle without entertaining any of their notions. Hashtag #FuckNazis.


Because pictures help.
And then, at last, they will call you Nazi. Because you won’t suffer their presence. Literally because you are against Nazis, they will call you a Nazi. How hilarious is that? And the ones that howl against rules, they reveal themselves as the truly “sensitive” ones. They are the epitome of the “snowflakes” they abhor. Because they are “just words” aren’t they? White folks get all revolutionary when you tell them they can’t say something. Now try living in a world where people feel entitled to say whatever they want, whenever they want, just like the internet. Wouldn’t that be great? And just like the internet, the comments would never stop. To some of us, that would be a living hell. The fear of reprisal after saying something hateful is the thin line holding society together!
And how many new words are created in the English language every year? And someone is worried that we will somehow miss a racist term like “jigger?” How many people know about the word now? Is there a racism historian saving this valuable information for future generations? One person told me to “move to China” if I liked censorship so much. Overlooking the obvious racist undertones; the dead horse of “if you don’t like it, leave” is a vast over simplification and really undermines any pretence of a democratic society. “Don’t like it, leave” might make a great motto, but not exactly the best attitude–especially when said by European settlers. Our ancestors didn’t like it, and stayed. Assuming it was theirs and God’s to do with as they pleased. Which has often been part of the problem, that really we’re doing it for everyone’s “good”–being insensitive. Now we have temper tantrums because we have to be treated like children–because we are children. And children need structure. And whats also a choice, is to grow up, or remain forever in a man cave.
I don’t know if I’ve proven my point here, or merely ranted about it. But I felt it necessary to write. Nothing forces one to define themselves more than being misunderstood. So, I try to explain. Tell me what you think–because it is a dialogue, a philosophical discussion. And as I said, its still developing. I’m still learning and developing. My language still needs work. I still use ableist words. This isn’t coming from on high, or a place of superiority. I am down here in the trenches with you. I make mistakes all the time, and I try to forgive myself. But here’s the great thing: you don’t need to make my mistakes. You can make your own mistakes! Use your fear and guilt for good! #WhiteGuilt can be a powerful tool. Just don’t let it turn into #WhiteFragility. As in, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t use the n-word.
Here is a link to an article I read after writing the bulk of this, and looks at the same issue from a different angle:
In solidarity,
Jack Frost,
Snowflake Syndicate


Left v Right

Here’s some more helpful information…

Safer Spaces

Where everyone is welcome. Where we try to treat each other with dignity, respecting physical and emotional boundaries (consent). Where we attempt to free ourselves from all forms of oppression (actions, behaviours, and words).

We say safer because a safe environment is what we work towards, but cannot guarantee. We recognize our communities are still greatly effected by a continuance of the colonial and capitalistic attitudes of hierarchy, power and privilege.*

Oppression includes violence and discrimination based on ability, appearance, age, class, ethnicity, gender identification,** language, religion, &c.

* White Privilege: “1. a. A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by white persons beyond the common advantage of all others; an exemption in many particular cases from certain burdens or liabilities.”

** Gender Identity: “One’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different than the sex assigned at birth. Individuals are conscious of this between the ages 18 months and 3 years. Most people develop a gender identity that matches their biological sex. For some, however, their gender identity is different from their biological or assigned sex. Some of these individuals choose to socially, hormonally and/or surgically change their sex to more fully match their gender identity.”

“Gender identity is the inward sense of being male, female, both, neither, or any other gender(s). This identity is not visible. Gender expression is an outward means of expressing a person’s gender and can include mannerisms, clothing, hair, and other modes of expression. While gender expression is often visible, it is not necessarily an indicator of a person’s identity. The only way to know a person’s gender is if they tell you.

“A common misconception is that sexual orientation and gender identity are the same. In short, gender identity is an inward sense of gender and sexual orientation denotes the gender or genders a person is sexually attracted to. Just like cisgender people, trans* people can be queer or straight.”



TransCanada’s Energy Beast

By James Brummel
September 24, 2013
Nothing invigorates or creates a movement like a threat.  Pride was started because of police violence at Stonewall in 1969.  The Slutwalk was started because a Toronto police  constable suggested publicly that women could avoid sexual assault by dressing differently.  Occupy Wall Street wasn’t started because of the 2008 market crash.  It was because the major banks were greatly supported financially by their affiliated governments; while the poorest, most at risk people were ignored.  Years later, none of the criminals that caused the crash were ever charged or adequately investigated.  And to make matters worse, governments of the world used the recession as an excuse to enact austerity legislation.  OWS was an attempt, in one regard, to take back some of what was taken.  It was thought that the West should have its own Arab Spring.  The student movement in Quebec was started when the then Liberal government proposed raising tuition.  In the United States, TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline became such an issue last year that Obama postponed any decisions until after the election.  There has been a huge resistance, in particular because of its transportation of Tar Sands dilbit (diluted bitumen).  In Canada, the story is similar.  TransCanada, amongst others corporations, have been carving the country up with pipelines and pipeline proposals.  The latest local concern is TransCanada’s Energy East, surpassing Enbridge’s Line 9 in relative scope and immediacy.
The list of reasons against this pipeline is about as long as the list of organizations standing up against it.  The Council of Canadians, Ecology Ottawa, Occupied Ottawa, Solidarity Against Austerity, Dec-Line 9 Ottawa, Coalition of Concerned Citizens and Sustainable North Grenville are a few of the closest ones.  #tarfree613 has been a commonly seen hashtag.  The latest, and perhaps most impressive direct action has been the SaveCanada routine.  When we were driving to North Bay on August 27th, 2013, as part of our (OO, SAA & DL9 coalition) “TransCanada RESISTANCE Tour,” we had no idea what we would be witness to.  Outside the West Ferris Community Centre, there were several tables occupied by local people wearing shirts that read: “Concerned Citizen.”  And inside, as well as out, there were the blue shirts, looking almost identical to those of the TransCanada reps, that read: “SaveCanada.”  Which really took awhile to even notice.  It was surreal.  One of the articles about the action describes them “schooling” TransCanada, but they really schooled us.  We were going up there thinking we might have some solidarity to share, and we did, but we received way more than we could have given.  The people wearing SaveCanada shirts mingled with the other TransCanada blue shirts, and offered another perspective–one that TransCanada would not have given.  Their main concern was their beloved Trout Lake, the town’s drinking water, which the pipeline would immediately threaten.  But of course there were also broader concerns.
And what problems could anyone have with such pipeline?  I’ll go over a few of the more obvious before analyzing TransCanada’s sales pitch at these “open houses.”  1) ALL LIFE ON EARTH.  It sounds a little over dramatic, but not if you are actually paying attention to what a majority of the unmuzzled scientists have said.  Global temperatures have increased in the last thirty years.  The more extreme examples of climate change have been seen in New Orleans, New York, Calgary, Toronto and recently Colorado.  If CO2 emissions are not significantly reduced in the next decade, there may be nothing further we can do.  And those whose enterprise are based on this are a) ignorant b) know the risks, but accepts them (as in, make as much money before the end), or c) both.  2) OIL PIPES SPILL.  This is an inevitability.  TransCanada themselves (at the “open houses”) say that pipelines are “99.99%” safe.  That’s one in ten thousand.  People buy lottery tickets with higher odds.  And which First Nation’s territory, provincial park, lake, river or farmer’s field will it be?  Its a long pipeline that crosses most of Canada.  And the proposal includes using an existing 50+ year old gas pipeline–and pumping dilbit through, exactly like Line 6 in Kalamazoo (Enbridge).  3) ALTERNATIVES.  Tar sands oil or fossil fuels in general are NOT necessary, not for “jobs,” “demands,” “energy security” or any economy.  Solar power has also made some significantly accessible strides.
What with the billions of dollars at TransCanada’s disposal, one would think they would have some sophisticated mechanisms in place for their side.  And they do–all that their money can buy.  Yet there is this cheap arrogance, that only giants going through the mandatory motions are capable of.  With the “Energy East” merchandise, like pens, carabiner key chains and tote bags, and the vegetable, fruit and dessert plater at their “open houses.”  I use quotation marks because they aren’t that open–more like a trade show.  There is the distinct impression that there is a script, and little pertinent information provided.  They also take great pride in employing and “educating” members from First Nations communities.  It was disturbing to see the only one from Nipissing First Nation at the North Bay event was employed by TransCanada.  They have hired Phil Fountaine’s company Ishkonigan to represent TransCanada’s interests in neighbouring reservations and traditional territories.  They are also present at the open houses, making it seem that there is consensual colaboration with the First Nations.  TransCanada’s pamphlet entitled “Aboriginal Relations,” highlight the facts they have “Aboriginal human resources strategy,” “opportunities for Aboriginal businesses” and “has been a long-time contributor to many educational initiatives.”  All of which sounds really, really bad.  What could TransCanada be teaching “Aboriginal communities?”
Just going by the propaganda they provide, Canada (that is, the air, the land the waters and living things within these borders–not the government) is in serious trouble, and might be worth ‘saving.’  In one brochure titled “Pipeline Reclamation,” they refer to themselves as being “Committed Stewards of the Land.”  Wow.  You know who I think the stewards of the land are?  It sure as hell isn’t TransCanada.  Another pamphlet from the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association says that “94% of the energy used for transportation in Canada comes from petroleum products.”  That’s nothing to be bragging about, that’s a sin.  With all the alternatives, why would a monopoly on fuel for transportation in Canada be a good thing?  Obviously its great for the oil companies and their collaborative pipeline, rail and shipping corporations.  It means they have no competition, and can therefor set whatever prices they wish.  There should be a law against it.
On September 4th we were in Martintown, ON.  There wasn’t a great deal of resistance there, other than one or two outspoken landowners.  And this sign, which I had to point out to Kurtis, because I knew he would appreciate it.
When we asked at the local “Trading Post” nobody knew anything about  the proposed pipeline or open house at the Community Centre.  There was actually a more attended horticulture meeting afterwards.  People were bringing big green plants in, as we left.  Deep River on September 11th was fun.  There was five of us instead of just Kurtis and myself–which was cool.  Numbers always help.  Both Kurtis and I wore the SaveCanada shirts, and were greatly supported by our friends from Ottawa.  As they used their numbers to divide, we used our numbers to unite and create the kind of group (or community) dynamics that they didn’t want.  At one point, with one plain-clothes-comrade behind me; our ‘dialogue’ had to be broken up by one of the handlers.  There are all kinds of roles being played out by the TransCanada theatre company.  Its difficult to discern whether they are indeed “pipeline experts” or ill-informed actors, only given certain lines of information without possibly conceiving of the bigger picture.  When I brought up things like climate change–which their information acknowledges, it was like asking if they believed in god.  Its like this philosophical question, where all answers are equally true.  Kurtis had me pose next to one of their pipeline samples for scale.
One of the “experts” I spoke to referred to TransCanada hiring “environmentalists” to check out sensitive areas like lakes and rivers for Energy East.  The company he was talking about is called Stantec.  They aren’t environmentalists.  They are another corporation that does work for oil and gas companies.  I’m an environmentalist.  David Suzuki is an environmentalist.  Stantec are not, nor would any reputable environmentalist, or eco-friendly organization make money from TransCanada.  Which reminds me of what scientists call the precautionary principal.  It also has demands, and they are two (2).  Is there a need, and is it safe?  As for needs, there is none.  I’m not aware of any great “oil shortage” in the world, or Canada even.  The last time I heard about something like that was in the 70’s.  And as stated earlier, there are alternatives.  IS IT SAFE?  HELL NO!  Mostly safe isn’t safe.  Not even 99.99% safe.  We’re talking about transporting dilbit, a relatively new thing, with one of the highest margins for error.  The weather isn’t even what it was two years ago.  Hurricanes and massive flooding are now common.  How could a 50+ year old gas pipeline pumping hazardous materials be safe?  Perhaps in a laboratory.  But our planet isn’t worth experimenting on.
And I can’t help but think there must be a script for these actors.  Because when confronted with irrefutable arguments, such as climate change and pollution–by me–in two different occasions, the answer was this: “Did you drive here?”  The intellectual equivalent of whoever smelt it dealt it.  As if, being a customer or consumer meant that you had no right to complain.  That we are all equally guilty of destroying the world as TransCanada.  This logic would be some news to all the movie, book, restaurant reviewers, and assortment of other consumer review-type workers out there.  Yes, we paid, and are paying; but the service is terrible.
Speaking of which, one their reps said he didn’t know how to use his phone.  This is the same guy that called Stantec environmentalists, asked if I drove here, and had to be escorted away.  Outside the library where the open house was held, Kurtis thought this guy was taking his picture with his phone and asked him to delete it.  He said that he didn’t, and if he had he couldn’t delete it or even scroll through his photos because he didn’t know how it worked.  TransCanada seems in capable hands.  Stewards, indeed.
And September 12th in Pembroke was good too.  Again, donning our blue shirts we carried on.  This time with a few local students from the newly minted Algonquin College.  I’ve learned to enjoy our talks with TransCanada.  I’ve subsequently gotten to know a few of the regular reps well enough.  And enjoy the challenge.  The open houses are a really interesting opportunity for people to”engage” with what many of us consider the “enemy.”  But it is entirely civil, and catered.  Its not that often that they leave their Calgary offices, and the “Operations Control Centre.”  Which overseas the entirety of the pipeline, remotely.  They are quiet proud of taking out the “human equation” with computers.  “If an irregular condition is detected (e.g. a drop in pressure), the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) will alert operators in the OCC to immediately shut down pump stations along the pipeline segment.”  Yes, that would be nice.  Let’s hope nothing happens to those computers, or their operators in Calgary, otherwise the rest of the country might be a little vulnerable.  Are they in some highly fortified disaster proof super structure?
Then there is the true evil.  The evil I dread to speak of, but feel the need because nobody seems to.  There are those that have given up hope.  There are those that look upon this earth as a going out of business sale, and that everything must go.  They believe we are all doomed and dead shortly anyway, so why not make as much money and have as hedonistic a lifestyle as possible before the end?  But I can’t give up like that.  I can’t even conceive of it.  I bet on survival, every time.  Its only money.
Next up is Kemptville (October 2nd), Horton (October 3rd) and our tour ends in Stittsville (October 10th).  And by no means will the resistance end there, it is really just  beginning.  As TransCanada continues its push, we will continue to push back.  It is, after all, self defense.  And yes, we may all die anyway, everything ends, and there are some things we cannot stop; but how do you want to go out?  What will you tell future generations when they ask why you didn’t do everything you could to prevent global warming?  Will you tell them about how important jobs and the economy were?  People have made sacrifices before so that we could be where we are today.  They conquered kings, dictators and bosses.  They won rights and ended wars.  Yet we cannot curb our consumption?  Are we nothing but Pavlovian dogs–victims of our own conditioning?  In a non-monetary sense, we cannot afford to be.  “$ave¢anada.”
STORY UPDATE:  Officially, Energy East is dead.  It was not approved by the current government, and is no longer a concern.  Resistance is never futile.

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations

By James Brummel

August 8, 2013


In solidarity with Ottawa PRIDE in August 2013, I felt it necessary to talk about Star Trek.  Being something of a small expert on the subject, an amateur Mr. Atoz.  It has often fallen on me to educate about my favourite television program, phenomenon and subsequent franchise.  And so we boldly go to that hopeful place at the final frontier… but first, some history.

Although pitched as an action/adventure “Wagon Train to the stars” by Gene Roddenberry, the program he created also depicted an almost Utopian 23rd century.  War and poverty on Earth were things of the past.  Women had equal roles.  All races and religions were respected, as science and exploration led the way.  Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) once considered leaving the show, and a fan, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King convinced her not to.  It seemed important.  Even to one of the greatest civil rights leaders of the 2oth century.  Yet there was a large segment of the population that was never acknowledged.  As progressive as Star Trek (1966) was, it never really touched on any non-heterosexual orientation.  Now some will argue this point, and their opinions are very valid.  That’s part of the beauty of Star Trek, a diverse universe, with equally diverse interpretations.  All kinds of people love Star Trek for all different reasons.  One woman I’ve spoken to, for example, firmly believes that Star Trek was about the love affair between Kirk and Spock.  And no doubt, do these two characters love each other.  And there is a plethora of fan fiction based on the Kirk/Spock relationship.  But this was the mid-60’s, and as it was forbidden to criticize the Korean War on television, it was also impossible to have stories with any explicitly homosexual characters.  George Takei, the actor that played Sulu was not open about his sexuality until 2005.  He has since become one of the strongest voices for queer communities, and has recently been leading the American opposition to Russia’s criminalization and oppressive treatment of its non-hetero citizenry.


Even in Roddenberry’s second baby, Star Trek: the Next Generation (1987,) when “all men were brothers;” there was no queer content.  They only flirted with the subject in two episodes, but never actually showed any human gay characters.  In the first (“The Host,” 1991), Crusher (swf) falls for an alien (stm) with a symbiotic, sentient parasite inside him.  The alien is mortally wounded, and in order to save the symbiote from the dying host, it is removed and placed inside another humanoid body, this time a female body.  Despite her love of the previous incarnation, Crusher is unable to continue their relationship–mainly, it seems, because of the gender change.  In the second (“The Outcast,” 1992), Riker (swm) becomes enamoured with an alien whose species are mostly androgynous.  She identifies as female, a gender, considered by her planet’s government as an illness, to be “cured” and treated.  Number One attempts to abduct her, despite Starfleet regulations.

In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1992), the symbiote stories continued with the alien science officer Dax, her previous hosts and their subsequent partners.  And Quark, the Ferengi bartender, had his body surgically altered to female (“Profit and Lace,” 1998) , furthering women’s rights on his home world.  No big deal.  And still no humans involved.  Sex changes and women kissing each other are things aliens do, did, or will do, not humans, not people as we know them.

Less said about Star Trek: Voyager (1995) or Star Trek: Enterprise (2001) the better.

Now we have the Age of Abrams, with Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).  And we have another gay actor, this time totally out and playing the role of Spock (Zachary Quito).  And oh yes, remember that fan fiction I mentioned earlier?  By now its morphed into online fan-funded and produced episodes (Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II, Star Trek Continues).  A hallmark of these features is their use of original Star Trek actors.  Sulu (played by Takei) and Chekov (Walter Keonig) finally get their own story lines!  Some of these actors most of us haven’t seen since the 1960’s.  And something else.  Something that surprised the hell out of me, when it really shouldn’t, because Trek fans are taught to expect the unexpected.  But as I watched one of the more recent episodes online, it struck me, I was watching the first gay episode of Star Trek!  It had taken almost 50 years, but there it was.  And no revenge fueled-shaky camera-cult reboot could compare.  This traditional, faithful recreation had a gay story, gay characters, and the best part was: it wasn’t about them being gay!  Like BBC’s modern Doctor Who (2005) and Torchwood (2006) series, the subject was treated exactly as it should be; a non-issue, normal, natural part of the human equation.  I won’t spoil it anymore, because you should watch it for yourself.


Now if they asked me, and I often wish that they would, the best thing the next Star Trek film could do is have some human LGBT&c-type characters.  Take a page from its rebellious beginnings.  Make history.  It doesn’t have to be Kirk/Spock–although that would be awesome.  It could be Chekov/Sulu, or McCoy/Scott, or Ensign Ricky and Red Shirt #7; I don’t care–but make it so!  Otherwise, my beloved Star Trek, you remain as vanilla as Star Wars in the 21st century.

Its akin to watching earlier science fiction, where the future of the human race was often represented by a small assembly of white actors.  And nobody in production seemed to consider the weirdness and sinister implications.  A viewer could well wonder, “Where are all the other people?”  And, “What the hell happened?”  Who cares about aliens and starships if it seems like everybody didn’t make it.  As it should be equally disturbing not to see at least some gay relationships on Star Trek in 2013.  Has Earth become the opposite of Riker’s androgynous planet?  Perhaps this too is a part of Abrams’ darker, dystopian future.


by A. James Brummel (Notes) on Sunday, 9 June 2013 at 18:10
 June 8, 2013 — Parliament Hill — Unceded Algonquin Territory

I am not an expert on Turkish law or society.  I’ve probably learned more about Turkey in the last two weeks than I have ever done.  What I have recognized — and what I think most people can recognize is injustice.  We can all recognize brutality.  And we can all recognize a complacent government.

We’ve seen it here in Canada; at the G20 in Toronto, on the streets of Montreal, and on the sacred land and waters of our First Nation, Metis and Inuit.  There is an unsettling sense of familiarity when we see protestors being assaulted by those who are ‘sworn to protect.’

As the occupiers of Gezi Park have stated, its not about a park.  Its about democracy.  Its about fundamental freedoms.  And its about consent.  Without the consent of the people, no ‘democracy’ is legitimate.  Rebellion, resistance and revolution should be expected, not condemned.  The more our institutions try to take from us, the more we are driven — the more we must be driven to fight back and defend ourselves.*

*At this point, I meant to say something about solidarity, from the occupied in Ottawa.  I would have also written (and said) more, but I chose my words carefully, and I only had one evening to work on it.  A local organizer asked for a speaker from Occupied Ottawa, and my friend Obert and I were happy to help.  His speech was much better than mine.  It was one of the most festive and inclusive actions I’ve participated in on the hill.  And I greatly appreciated being in on the jokes, themes — and most probably memes.  When the Prime Minister of Turkey called the protestors çapulcu — a word meaning looters or vandals — the people decided to claim the word, and use it proudly.  And then there are the penguins…

Printemps erable (1-9)

by A. James Brummel on Sunday, 17 June 2012 at 23:15 ·


It has been painfully obvious that many, if not most people are still unaware of what is actually going on in Montreal.  Even as Occupy groups, student groups, anti-austerity groups, teachers and unions all over the world have been holding solidarity casseroles and looking at Montreal (and Iceland)* as a leader (of leaderless movements).  I am not a student, and I am not living in Quebec.  Although I have been involved with protests and activism since high school, in Ottawa (Canada)–so you would think I might have some insight into this.  In fact, its taken me months to come to the understanding I have now.  Which is not to say it won’t change or deepen.  Again, I am an outsider, looking at Montreal without actually being there.  When I get over there next weekend (hopefully), I will likely have a very different perspective.  What I have found so far is as follows…

*Next note.

1) First, the student strike was in response to the proposed 75% raise in tuition fees in the province of Quebec.  Even, as the Charest government has repeatedly reminded us, it is over the course of 5 years; is this raise reasonable?  Here, as in other parts of the world, austerity is the government’s response to recession and increased expenses.  Is it reasonable to make the next generation of Quebec students pay for the failings of their parent’s financial institutions and over-spending?  Is it not possible that those institutions should pay, or that a lot of funds are actually wasted?  Is it reasonable to expect students to knowingly go into debt when the education they pay for does not guarantee them a job?  The most popular argument from outside on this subject has been, “We have to pay more in our province/state/country, why shouldn’t they?”  Or, as one young man yelled at me, who recognized my red square, “That’s not the way the world works, you fucking moron!”  Both these statements betray a resentment of people with a better quality of life, or supporters thereof; in this case, Quebec.  Quebec has always been distinctively different, they have fought for that, as soldiers, activists, artists and voters; and they have won.  Canadian history is replete with examples.  It should not be a surprise, insult or example of privilege that people in Quebec feel differently about their education.  It seems like what angers most people is this perpetual threat of increased taxes.  If you don’t live in Quebec, 99% of your taxes aren’t paying for Quebec education, health, or all that tear gas and pepper spray.  So, you really don’t have to complain about it.  Unless, an infinitesimal amount of tax for education (&c.) in Canadian provinces are offensive.  I could easily list hundreds, if not thousands of frivolous things the Canadian government will be taxing you for.  Your money is being spent on reality television programs and celebrating the War of 1812.  While again, its education that is no longer affordable.

2) The second most popular complaint (or misunderstanding) about the strike is not allowing non-striking students to attend classes and blocking traffic.  This one comes as more of a surprise to activists and labour organizations, because they are two of the oldest tactics strikers and protesters have used.  Blocking the entrance of scabs has been been practiced by most unions for decades.  It is a non-violent approach to put pressure on the employer, to either negotiate or make some reasonable compromise.  And as to stopping traffic; so has the Santa Clause parade, Saint Patrick’s Day parade, PRIDE, construction and many other things.  Tax payer money is used to help coordinate all these (police, fire department, city workers, &c).  So why get upset about students fighting for affordable education?

3) The key word being affordable.  The 75% increase would not have bothered so many students–if they could afford it.  Effectively it means fewer people will receive an education in Quebec, and at a higher price.  Some people believe that a university or college education should be free (as in Mexico, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Finland, Germany, &c).  While others believe it should at least be affordable (as in Austria, Norway, &c).  What both parties agree on is that going into unmanageable debt for education is unacceptable.  And why, in a province as rich as Quebec, can they not expect what Mexican citizens two borders down take for granted?  Because, this is not actually how the world works, its how we make it work.

4) Violence and the destruction of property.  This is what you hear about from police, photographed and publicized by major media.  In the hours I’ve watched the livestreams from CUTV of the protests in Montreal, I have never seen anything violent or destructive from the people on the street.  Although I have seen a great deal of violence from the police.  Which isn’t to say violence or vandalism doesn’t happen, it does, but by a tiny minority.  The vast majority of participants in the manif nocturne have been peaceful, and formally law abiding citizens.

5) Formally, because of Loi 78.  The nightly marches in Montreal moved organically, with routes decided block-by-block.  This added a spontaneity and maneuverability around police intervention.  Loi 78 directly prohibits that, by making marches of more than 50 participants illegal without a route given to police eight hours in advance.  University, college campus and property are also off-limits according to what is commonly described as a draconian law.  The new law also bans the wearing of masks at protests.  Police and government officials would have us believe that the masks are to hide our identities because of criminal activity.  But my own experience with activists would suggest otherwise.  Many wear masks to shield them from pepper spray.  Others wear them because of fear.  Fear of loosing their job, fear of being targeted, identified and investigated by police or their government, fear of having their families or loved ones threatened.  The fear is rampant, fear and apparent apathy.  But Loi 78 had the opposite effect for which it was presumably intended.  Instead of ending the student strike, it dramatically increased public support.  People of all ages and backgrounds started banging on saucepans or casseroles.  It has also been pointed out that the law is in in fact unlawful, as it contradicts several sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

6) Another important thing to consider is how responsible, or irresponsible law enforcement has been.  Historically, the police in Canada have been instrumental in causing protest, violence and riot; from the On to Ottawa Trek to Montreal.  Students, occupiers, the G20 and Montebello have clearly shown what the poor, under-privileged, people of colour, LGBT communities, indigenous people, mentally ill, panhandlers, sex workers, addicts and street people have always known: our police can be brutal.  But now its your white, privileged, straight, male relative/friend being beaten and pepper sprayed.  And yet, many will still look at those photographs and videos and assume that that Canadian citizen deserved a billy club to the legs.  That is a problem.  Police brutality at a bath house in Toronto resulted in the first PRIDE parade in that city.  An insult from one police officer resulted in the Slut Walk.  The riots in England of 2011 were caused by police violence.  One might suspect the police of giving themselves more work.  The exploits of OPS officers have appeared regularly in both local newspapers (in Ottawa) for decades.  In the last two years the number of lawsuits and complaints have risen dramatically; from racial profiling and Stacy Bonds, to Confederation Park and Obert Madondo.  And this year Ottawa Police Chief Verne White was given a seat on the Senate.


7)  It has been categorized as the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.  That is something to be proud of, as the cause is just.  And its getting bigger, as more neighbourhoods and cities across Canada are having solidarity rallies.  Never before have Canadians protested in such numbers.  The Occupy movement has always been criticized for not having a clear enough message or demand.  Well, here it is.  A clear, and popular demand for affordable education.  And now, its not only education, but the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom to protest that are on the table because of the Charest government.

8)  If you love your freedom, thank an activist.  There are those that say protesting (marching, or “camping in a park”)  will never accomplished anything.  Canadian history contradicts that assessment.  If it were not for five women who protested, women in Canada would not have a vote or be eligible for election.  No soldiers fought or died for these rights–it was the result of protesting.  The civil rights movement in America of the 1960’s ended segregation (Brown v. Board of Education), banned discrimination in hiring and public accommodation practices (Civil Rights Act of 1964), reinforced voting rights (Voting Rights Act of 1965), and banned discrimination in renting of buying property (Civil Rights Act of 1968).  The Columbia University protests of 1968 worked in ending the university’s affiliation with the IDA and building of a controversial gymnasium.  Protesting also greatly contributed to ending America’s involvement in Vietnam.  The standard response to such historical scans is that: things work differently now.  And that is true.  One man (Mohamed Bouazizi) in Tunisia setting himself on fire directly resulted in the Arab Spring.  Which was also indirectly started by police harrassment of Bouazizi.  The entire government was overthrown.  In Egypt, one woman’s video request on-line for men with honour to come and protect her from police, resulted in Tahrir Square.  That government was also overthrown.  One man in Canada also used social media, suggesting people occupy Wall Street–as financial institutions occupied public money.  That resulted in similar protests around the world, and the discourse changed forever.  The public and media no longer only asked what their leaders were thinking, but now what these average people were thinking–most of whom had never protested before in their life.  An honest dialogue was started.  And a movement of solidarity was created, unseen in the Western world since the 1930’s (according to Noam Chomsky).  Which has made the 1960’s look like a smaller prelude to what’s happening today.  But again, its the students that are leading this fight.  And I support our fighters for freedom.  That’s why I wear a poppy.  And why I wear a red square.

9) I also wear a poppy to honour those freedoms that were fought for by my grandfather, and his father.  Several of which are being severely limited in Quebec, and in other parts of Canada.  That’s why its important to support the resistance.  Because sometimes, as in other fascist regimes, the dictator is not the result of a military coup, but of a minority of votes.  And one way or the other it is our duty to resist.  Fear, apathy and ignorance are things we can no longer afford.  Whereas we can always afford education.  Its simply a matter of making it a priority, instead of a luxury item.  Education is not a privilege.  It is a right.



review by James Brummel

David Scagnetti’s “Simon the Killer Teddy-Bear” is an instant Canadian classic.  Imagine Wolverine as a suicidal stuffed bear…  Scagnetti entrenches his characters and stories in the tradition of the great masters, like Will Eisner and Frank Miller, with a distinctively Northern touch (and humour).  Each panel on every page is super clean and sharply shows a careful narrative.  Simon is described as “a highly skilled special ops soldier who’s soul is trapped in a teddy-bear along with a portal that gives him special powers.”  One of which, seems to be immortality, and the other is having an infinite amount of weapons furnished out of a zipper in his back.

Then there’s Smith and Jones (two aliens), a robot that is trying to find the portal, Shexy Brass and her father (Mr. Brass–the boss), Dr. V, Professor Tony Twistedowski and the world’s first “real” superhero–The Ultra.  A moon that is not a moon, and a bear that is not a bear.  The humour is shadowed by Scagnetti’s reality based themes, like Simon’s desire to die and his murdering of child sex offenders.  Dark and light themes mirror the black and white balance.  There seems to be little room for grey–everything is defined.

Most people will probably read this comic on a computer screen.  But the paper can almost be seen under the ink, under the pencils.  In part, its because Scagnetti’s lines are so tactile.  Its also the result of a certain looseness in the strokes.

The love of the art and of various genres is explicit; from Smurfy cuteness and simplicity, to science fiction, gritty criminal drama, superheroes to beer-soaked cigars.  Its ambitious, to say the least.  Having disparate stories lines can be difficult enough, but disparate genres?!  Its a total mash-up, worthy of Girl Talk.  But unlike Girl Talk, Scagnetti is making it all from scratch.  Its all from the same pen, the same hand.  So there is a continuity, and also an understanding that above it all there is a story.

“Whatever that light phenomena was, burned away my body and left my soul in this…this teddy-bear!  Your test revealed that I’m not aging and through some of my own…experiments…I figure it’s a possibility that I am indestructible and might not ever die!  Nobody should live that long, Doc!”  Perhaps not.  Regardless, Simon is destined to live on for a long, long time.