(Hey! Wake up! It's the planet eh.)
Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript (OISE General Assembly).
From sea to shining sea.
In Brazil it's 'Do Oiapoque ao Chuí' / From Oiapoque to Chuí: Oiapoque being the northernmost border town and Chuí the southernmost. Chuí, on the border with Uruguay remains the undisputed southerly point. But roads are built and the northerly point is argued about, discussed; it might now be Pacaraima or Monte Caburaí near Boa Vista, or even Uiramutã, depending on which Chamber of Commerce you are listening to.
I like it that things are flexible in Brazil - but Oiapoque (oh-eeya-poke) has a nice ring to it. (Some background if you like, here, in Portuguese.) Chuí is renowned for 'border bargains' - and the guys in the Rio Grande shipyard used to organize road trips ...
Music this time from the soundtrack of Sweet Crude by Julie Wolf: Sympathy for the Devil.
What if the world paid attention before it was too late?
Good question. Watch this movie. I was put off at the beginning, there was an air of ... I can't quite remember what it was - almost didn't carry on with it - but I was mistaken. You can buy a copy on their website, and it's on Demonoid.
(Previously in this blog, Lars Johansson's Poison Fire.)
OCCUPY TORONTO General Assembly on Thursday October 13 5PM OISE.
I love it when an aspiring NDP leader uses phrases like 'blindingly obvious' (I am sure that is what he meant to write before the Globe proof-readers fluffed it):
"It is blindly obvious what the Wall Street occupiers and ordinary people all around the world want.(See Brian Topp here.)And he goes on to present a thoroughly false distinction between the "fantasist right-wing populism of the American Tea Partiers" and "modern, prudent, determined and fearless social democracy" à la Jack Layton. Doh?!
They want an end to reckless, heedless bingo parlour economics.
Interesting that Kalle Lasn doesn't quite get it either: He seems to think that precision in 'the demand' is desireable and maybe inevitable - it isn't and it isn't. Indeed, one of the most effective features of his poster is precisely that the line after 'What is our one demand?' is blank. And he indulges in ageism - it is not just the young who are engaged here, it is also the older generations and the Boomers finally recognizing their complicity ... and yes, culpability.
The 'close but no cigar' editorials are nonetheless getting more numerous, more respectable, and even ... closer to the mark (see Paul Krugman last week: here & here).
They are 'homing in' these pundits, like some flock of wierd (more-or-less) intellectual drones ... this time of year it reminds me of those pesky yellow-jackets hovering around the last outdoor pint of the season as you sit in the fading sun on a patio ...
(Pictured is the 'Cormorant' by Lockheed Martin - a 'surveillance' drone released from a Trident missile tube on an Ohio-class U.S. submarine.)
Something else is obvious as well: Go here and read this petition and consider signing it - Petition: To Chief Bill Blair and the Toronto Police Service.
(Two, or three depending how you count, of these photographs are from Alex Waterhouse-Hayward.)
Something fierce: Memoirs of a revolutionary daughter, this year.
You can listen to her back in May on CBC Radio's The Current playing with Anna Maria Tremonti, making that estimable CBC maven tremble (and even quiver) a bit I'll warrant.
Charlie Smith muses on a "political perspective [that] does not normally show up in metropolitan Canadian daily newspapers." Well Charlie, it doesn't show up very often anywhere in k-k-Canada now, does it? Very often!? More like: Not ever!
No cheap copies of this one at Abe's (yet) so you will have to go to your library. Do it.
One: Couldn't be more timely as we consider facing Bay Street on Saturday. And just nevermind quibbling over issues of degree, overstretched analogies and the like ...
Two: Sure, I know there are others of her calibre in this country - I can even name some of them ... but today my mind is full of the thought that there is certainly this one.
(So much of this kind of dreck [I mean this post of mine not her book] gets assigned to the bin for the wrong reasons. I watched her performances in Endgame - her stature, her strange facial immobility. And, since I have the book for another few weeks, re-reading parts of it, seeing the flaws. She is no paragon, nothing like it. That is not it at all.)
If there is a very-most-important event in this age so far ... it might be the Holocaust (Was it an 'event'? Is it over yet?) - certainly it is in the Top Ten. Even as a relatively small child I think I knew about it. Blurred of course by my Presbyterian & United Church upbringing: When I got around to asking why Jews wear those little hats, my mother explained that it was so God wouldn't see them in their shame over having killed Christ.
And the Holocaust is perennially thought about, reconsidered; because it touches on that fundamental question: Am I my brother's keeper? That so many of the end-run arguments rely upon proofs that some class or group or individual is not really my brother or sister, or is not comprised of brothers and sisters, tells the story for me. QED. (Or not as you like.)
And there is a quality (a simple and obvious and unremarkable quality) in the word Auschwitz that sticks in the imagination - of a middle class kid in the Toronto of the 50's at least.
Which quality is about perfectly contained in that very first photograph there.
And now, today, this month, this year, there is a whole new collection of exotic names: Dadaab in Kenya, and lately, others: Tarabunka, Sayidka, Badbaado (being locations in Mogadishu, and there are dozens more as you can see on that UNHCR map I posted a few weeks ago).
I started out keeping this map - not very many of the places named in the news show up in the 'Search' feature, so you have to dig around a bit in the ol' Internet dung heap looking for them ... and even so, often end up guessing.
So, what is this then? Hand wringing? Social pornography? Idle curiosity? Peeping Tom-ery? Some other kind of end-run? A psychological avoidance mechanism? Feckless emotion? What?
All of the above?
None of the above?
Can't say. Dunno.
Quacks: (A-and anyways, I've got my own problems eh?)
Can't piss right anymore. Not cancer - I got that much from my doctor in Brasil. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), hypertrophic prostate, (hypertrophy: enlargement of a part or organ of an animal or plant, excessive growth or development, opposite of atrophy from the Greek τροϕή/trofh food, nourishment - some humour in that eh?). An' some other kind'a thing poppin' outa my umbigo. Umbilical hernia I figgure out.
All good. I don't mind sitting down to pee - gives me a clever comeback for the feminist trolls (which, bad as I am, I have never mooted). Naturally lazy. But the gout is a problem.
The walk-in clinics are not so good, hospital emergency wards are better; but I know that using either is wasting resources, including my own. Finally, tipped off by a kindly nurse in the St. Mike's emerg one afternoon: There is a way to find a GP.
So, to the website for a phone number, call it, answer all the questions (mostly, it seems, to determine that I am not a drug addict), wait, get mail, more telephone conversations (someone has lost whatever form it is they use to record that I am not a drug addict), get an appointment, go there ... answer more questions posed by a young woman who seems about 20 but eventually tells me, unwillingly (Uh Oh!), that she is 28, she disappears, a middle-aged woman, who is clearly the Head Honcho über-quack, returns with the young woman and two other young people in white coats - 'doctors' (or close, or something ...), all of 'em - tells me that my opinions are too extreme, doesn't want to hear that I was just doing my best to answer the questions that were put to me, obliges me to apologize, abjectly - not just apologize but retract, I realize that she has convened an impromptu 'lecture' here for her 'students' on how to manage patients, OK, I am here asking for help, I retract ... by way of being gracious she glances at my belly button, gives it a perfunctory poke and pronounces 'not a problem' unless it gets very much larger or discoloured or begins to hurt ... and finally I am left alone with one of them, a young man who wants to schedule a blood test for prostate cancer, I explain (carefully) that this is not necessary, and he explains that he has to ask (has to?), we schedule a general physical in a few weeks and I hobble back to the TTC (it was the gout that took me there y'unnerstan') feeling strangely elated.
Sorry that this is such a long story ... make it short ... I have his card with the appointment written on it on top of the detrius that is my computer desk. I look at it every day for a week. Pick it up and read it again and again. ... Then I call and cancel the appointment.
Boo hoo? Not at all.
I think the business of adding a consultation to every prescription for Indocid is a racket. This opinion is shared by at least one Canadian doctor - the one in the St. John's emerg who gave me a prescription for (virtually) unlimited refills when I explained the situation. I think the business of using a GP practice as a school is a racket too. If the users of Medicare could ask to see their account - to see what the services provided to them actually cost ... well, who can say? Are services provided by students billed at a reduced fee? I doubt it. Will you find the same group of students there year after year? Hardly likely. Is the Über-Quack getting a cut on all the billings? Indubitably.
I made no insulting remark to the young woman student-doctor. If she thought I had, why couldn't she just tell me herself? There was no need for semi-public humiliation - except possibly in the mind of someone already insecure over being so involved in ... a racket.
I sometimes used to share a bench in the park with a fellow who was often there. A beggar. I shared my cigarettes as well and sometimes a few bucks. He had a chronic hepatitis infection which had moved on to liver cancer. He liked his wine in the summertime - sometimes he would be passed out beside the bench. I know - wine and liver cancer - he really liked his wine, must have. He went missing for a month or so and then turned up again. What happened to you? Well, I made the mistake of telling one of the doctors the truth - that I sometimes think of suicide - and they stuck me in the psych ward to straighten out. Oh yeah. Gotta be careful what you say to those boys.
He got fatter and fatter - in the way that people with liver cancer do - and his face got thinner and thinner. Last time I saw him he was about to go in for some surgical procedure - no hope he said, but it passes the time. That was months ago. I miss him. If he's still alive he knows that - sometimes you can manage to be clear.
Mad. Mad as a hatter, gentle reader. But not dangerously so I don't think, rather the opposite - no risk, not certifiable.
Here's a pome:
Tarabunka, Sayidka, Badbaado
this is no more
than exactly what is before me:
feeding the plants,
a flick of cigarette ash
crushed egg shells
from the aquarium.
I will go to the Occupy Toronto General Assembly this evening (where I believe the gentle mad are permitted) and report tomorrow.
Postscript (OISE General Assembly):
In a word - Yes.
The Food Committee works - donuts were graciously provided and donations were graciously accepted. A sort of an agenda and a good sort of order and good humour prevailed.
The business of repeating every phrase is somewhat foreign to Torontonian sensibilities; but yesterday evening's experience warrants that (even) they can learn, embrace, expand.
The central (to me) question of how to deal with violent interlopers was not dealt with. A marshalling workshop is planned for this (Friday) evening on the 7th floor of OISE from 7-9 PM on this issue.
I forgot my camera. Doh?! I forgot myself - disconcerting, but inevitable I guess.
1. Occupy protests herald a party that’s almost over, Brian Topp, Tuesday October 11 2011.
2. Petition: To Chief Bill Blair and the Toronto Police Service:, Change.org, October 9 2011.
3. Adbusters' Kalle Lasn Talks About OccupyWallStreet, Sam Eifling, 7 October 2011.
Occupy protests herald a party that’s almost over, Brian Topp, Tuesday October 11 2011.
Wall Street is “occupied.” What do the occupiers want? Where to begin? How about here: The top 1 per cent income-earners in North America have appropriated most of the wealth created in the past thirty years. But what do they want, those protesters and their sympathizers?
Here's another fact on their minds. Politicians in North America engineered the good fortune of the wealthy through a systematic assault on the family incomes of everyone else. And simultaneously encouraged access to an ocean of cheap and easy credit.
So, while average families haven't seen a real pay raise in more than a generation, they have drifted into a disastrous dependence on debt (higher in Canada than in the United States). Which helped fuel housing bubbles. Followed by a financial services crisis. Followed by a sovereign debt crisis that now threatens the foundations of the world economy.
But why are they interfering with the lineups in front of the latte counters, those protesters? In Spain, unemployment teeters around 25 per cent. Catastrophically higher for young people. That is depression-level unemployment. The number of people living in poverty in the United States has reached record levels.
But why are those people waving those rude signs at our nice banks and brokerage firms? In Israel, the “occupiers” are talking to the right-wing Netanyahu government about the intolerable cost of housing, of food, of utilities, of health care, of everything else needed to live a normal life. But what do they want, those people? It is blindly obvious what the Wall Street occupiers and ordinary people all around the world want.
They want an end to reckless, heedless bingo parlour economics. In which wealth is concentrated into far too few hands. In which people's savings and pensions are funnelled into unproductive financial game-playing instead of into the real economy. In which the Masters of the Universe, there on Wall Street, keep all the winnings on a good day and slip their losses into the public debt on a bad day.
We like to tell ourselves that Canada has avoided the worst of it, despite the best efforts of our governments in recent years. But the income gap between rich and poor is every bit as depressing in Canada as it is in our friend to the south (see here and here).
After a long sleep, the public interest is waking up in North America and around the world.
There are false roads open – like the fantasist right-wing populism of the American Tea Partiers. And there are better roads open – like modern, prudent, determined and fearless social democracy, of the kind Jack Layton was talking about.
Perhaps we will go down that first road, brought to us in Canada in our mild Canadian way by Stephen Harper and his team. Hopefully we will go down the other, on offer in Canada through Mr. Layton's team.
But the Wall Street occupiers are there to let the Wall Street revellers and bonus-hunters know that their own particular party – and the whole approach to government that made it possible in the United States and here in Canada – has just about had its day.
Brian Topp is running for leader of the federal New Democratic Party.
Petition: To Chief Bill Blair and the Toronto Police Service:, Change.org, October 9 2011.
In June, 2010 at the G20 summit Toronto saw the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. Complaints too numerous to mention were filed against police officers and many of the investigations and law suits that resulted from that weekend will be ongoing for years to come. On October 15 another mass demonstration is coming to Toronto as part of the Occupy Everywhere movement. Neither the people of Toronto, nor I'm sure, its police force want to see a repeat of the G20 weekend.
We, the undersigned, expect that officers will be professional, will attempt to communicate with demonstrators at all times, will make any requests or demands clear and will give citizens including demonstrators, passers by, observers and the media every opportunity to comply with those requests before taking any action.
All officers should have their badges visible at all times, be prepared to produce identification and/or provide a business card on request.
If there is violence it should not, under any circumstances, be instigated by the police and in the event it is necessary the minimum possible force should be used. Under no circumstances should police resort to the use of tear gas, pepper spray, tazers, rubber bullets, sound cannons or any other device, substance or method that may harm individuals other than the intended target.
Individuals should neither be arrested nor detained unless there is an intent on the part of the police to charge them with a crime.
Individuals should not be kettled or impeded in any way unless there is a belief on the part of police that they were involved in a crime or are about to commit a crime.
Police should prioritize their concerns and take a realistic view of potential security threats so that this isn't a repeat of the "Officer Bubbles" incident.
Police should not, under any circumstances, threaten, harass or impede medical volunteers attempting to treat the injured.
All individuals, including those who have been detained and arrested, should be treated with courtesy, dignity and respect. This includes insuring that their human and civil rights are observed, that they have access to legal council and adequate food, water, sanitation and medical attention if necessary.
Above all individual officers should be prepared to be held accountable for their actions. Toronto, Canada and the world will be watching. The demonstrations will be heavily photographed, recorded to video and otherwise documented. "Following orders" will not be acceptable justification for the mistreatment of individuals.
Canada is a democratic country and its citizens are gathering, in solidarity with individuals around the world, to demand reform. They have every right to do so. It is the responsibility of the Toronto Police Service to insure the safety of citizens, insure that individual rights are upheld and that property is protected, not to act as political agents on behalf of the current government. Many of the reforms being sought would, ultimately, be of benefit to police officers and their families. Perhaps, if the Occupy Toronto actions go well, the rift between Toronto and its police that opened as a result of the 2010 G20 meeting can begin to heal.
Adbusters' Kalle Lasn Talks About OccupyWallStreet, Sam Eifling, 7 October 2011.
The veteran culture-jammer on his role in getting the protest rolling, magic memes, what he would demand, and more.
Since Sept. 17 the streets of south Manhattan have been chockablock with people protesting -- what, exactly? At times not even they seem sure, perhaps because their cause for being there is so vast and miasmic that they can grab hold of any part of it and make a credible claim for anger. Banks too big to fail. Soaring college costs (and debt) in a time of jobless youth. Cronyism, lobbyism, corporatism, deregulation. It all falls under a hashtag that began far from the pepper spray and mass arrests, in the offices of Vancouver's own Adbusters magazine, as #OccupyWallStreet.
The movement has been at turns derided by Republican presidential candidates ("I think it's dangerous, this class warfare," Mitt Romney said) and by major media (quoth a New York Daily News editorial: "This bunch ought to get down on their knees in thanks that America's capitalist Founding Fathers saw fit to protect the privileges of the dumb and obnoxious along with everyone else"). Nonetheless it has mushroomed from a few die-hards in the early going to a pulsing micro-city of thousands and has spawned smaller protests around America. Unions and student groups have joined in solidarity, and on Oct. 15, Toronto and Vancouver will see their own "Occupy" demonstrations.
Although it was inspired by the methods and successes of the Arab Spring, the original expectations were more muted. When Vancouver-based Adbusters presented the idea to the world, it did so in the form of a poster that featured a dancer posed on the shoulders of the Wall Street bull statue, a foggy clamour of demonstrators behind her. The poster asked the question, "What is our one demand?" Activist groups seized on it, as did the hacktivist group Anonymous, and a collective began to form. The arrests of 700 demonstrators on the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1 pushed the event to the fore of media coverage.
To hear tell from Adbusters founder and editor Kalle Lasn now, the question of that one demand still needs to be answered concisely and directly. But as the movement overspills Wall Street, he describes it as the most successful in the 22 years he and his magazine have been advocating "culture jamming," which originally sought to subvert consumerism. The Tyee sat down with Lasn in the office of Adbusters -- south of False Creek, with a fine view of downtown Vancouver -- to address that singular demand, his renewed faith in the left and the soft power of ballerinas.
On the ballerina atop bull imagery of Adbusters' original #OccupyWallStreet poster:
"To me it was a sublime symbol of total clarity. Here's a body poised in this beautiful position and it spoke of this crystal-clear sublime idea behind this messy business. On top of the head it said, 'What is our one demand?' To me it was almost like an invitation, like if we get our act together then we can launch a revolution. It had this magical revolutionary feel to it, which you couldn't have with the usual lefty poster which is nasty and visceral and in your face. The magic came from the fact this ballerina is so sublimely tender.
"There's some idea there, and the power of it comes from the fact that most of the time you'll never be able to answer what it is. It's just there. It's just a magic moment that you can feel in your gut that it's there, and you're willing to go there and sleep there and go through the hardship and fight for it. Once you start answering it too clearly then the magic is gone."
On the revolt's many parents:
"We have a network of 90,000 culture jammers who are tuned into us at various levels. The biggest brainstorms happened between myself and Adbusters senior editor Micah White, who lives in Berkeley. We were the two key people who got excited, and more and more excited, morning after morning, and eventually decided on that hashtag, #OccupyWallStreet. When we launched that hashtag, the twittering came on so hard and fast that it drove us. We suddenly said, 'Hey, this could actually happen.'
"Anonymous gave us that -- I don't know what you call it, that sort of anarchy cred. All of a sudden this organization that has this strange mystique to it, they're saying, 'Yeah, occupy Wall Street!' That first video of theirs was quite a delightful little piece of videomaking, and at that moment I could feel that we got a mighty boost forward.
"We always thought of ourselves as the catalyzers, the people who set that meme, as we like to call it, in motion. And right from the start we decided that we're not going to play a part on the street, that if our meme flies, if people love it, then we're happy to come up with posters, and we did send them all kinds of handbills and we sent them corporate America flags. So we left it pretty well up to them.
"But we do try to influence it on the deeper level. Our poster said, 'What is our one demand?' They didn't like that. And we thought it was very important, for them to have peoples' assemblies and for them to demonstrate how radical democracy really works. We thought it was a mistake for them not to discuss what some of the demands could be, and we pushed them very hard to get some of their demands together, so when a New York Times reporter phones you up and says, 'What do you want?' that you can at least answer that question. That debate is still continuing now, about whether we should have that one demand.
"I've felt like this all my life and even though I'm kind of an old guy now, I must admit age doesn't seem to come into it. I feel like this is the first time in the 20-plus year history of Adbusters that we really have a chance to pull something off, and it's we. Let's face it, most of the people, probably 90 per cent of the people camping out on Wall Street are young people, and even though I'm not sleeping there I still feel it's we. It takes old people like me and theoreticians like Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, who are writing for our next issue, and people like David Graeber, the anarchist, and Saul Newman, the guy who recently wrote a book about anarchism. It takes all kinds of people to launch a revolution, but the cutting edge is young people who put their asses on the line."
On watching the occupation from afar:
"I must admit I was very buoyed that people immediately started organizing in New York, and we knew that this thing was going to happen, even weeks in advance, that there were pre-meetings. But, you know, when that first Saturday came, Saturday, Sept. 17, then I did have this feeling that the whole damn thing could fizzle, and that we would be there for a day, and if we were lucky half a dozen people would stay there all night, and the whole thing could be just a puff of wind that came and went.
"It has grown beyond anything I thought was possible in the early days. The mood changes every day, and this realization that all of a sudden it's a nationwide movement in the United States and now it's even creeping into Canada. That's -- what can I say? It's beyond anything I imagined early on. I've been sort of running with it day by day, and now it feels like anything is possible. It's a good lesson for me. I've always been reticent and careful and doing a lot of planning and stuff. For me personally it's told me, don't hold back. Just go for it. You never know what'll happen.
"The most remarkable thing that inspired me, when I first started looking at the original videos that first started appearing on Russian TV, and other videos that were made, and they went up to people in Zuccotti Park and asked people, I just couldn't believe how articulate and how tuned in these people actually were. I'd gone along with this feeling that a lot of the political left is just a loony left, and there's a bunch of granola people running around saying, 'We want to overthrow capitalism,' and that sort of stuff. Here we are brainstorming, trying to come up with slogans, and all of a sudden they were spontaneously saying things in the street that inspired me. They said it better than what we could come up with in our brainstorming sessions! That told me that maybe the political left isn't as loony as I'd been thinking for the past 10 years. Maybe there is a spark of revolutionary fervor there after all."
On harnessing the momentum established thus far:
"We know there's going to be another big moment Oct. 15 when the people in Europe start getting their act together. And then now we are sort of strategically trying to up the level and see if we can't pull off something even crazier than Occupy Wall Street, whether we can pull off a sort of global Tahrir moment.
"I know it sounds kind of grandiose, but it seems like on Nov. 3 and 4, when the G20 meet, it is possible to have millions of people marching around the world, all demanding one thing. And we believe that one thing could be the Robin Hood tax. The Tobin Tax, what we're calling a one per cent tax on all financial transactions. And this could be a tipping point moment where we the people tell our politicians and our leaders what we want to happen to our economy, rather than having to listen to their bullshit about shall we have a stimulus or shall we not, or shall we do this or shall we not. Let's slow down fast money with a Tobin Tax, and we feel that over the next one month we may be able to instigate a global movement where the young people of the world stand up and say, 'We want to have a Robin Hood tax.'"
On the possibility of an American version of regime change:
"For the last 20 years we've been talking about cultural revolution and we've launched various campaigns. Something kind of magical happened around the time that that guy burned himself in Tunisia, and it suddenly sparked that regime change in Egypt. There was something about the way it was generated by Facebook and Twitter and a few key people, very creative people who did something on some web site and called for people to go out in the street and then expecting 500 or 5,000 and all of a sudden they got 50,000. Strategically it suddenly became possible to get a huge number of people who are angry about something, or who are deeply concerned about something, it's possible to get them out and to get them to strut their stuff. So that was the inspirational moment that we talked about a lot in our brainstorms here.
"We decided in our brainstorming sessions that regime change in America wouldn't be like regime change in Egypt, obviously, because it's a totally different kind of a situation. We don't have some torturous dictator that's calling the shots in North America, or in America. But it did feel like there was this kind of a soft regime that was controlled by the power of finances and by the power of lobbyists and by the power of corporations to get their own way. And it felt like some kind of a soft regime change was necessary there. So we felt, to put it succinctly, that a Tahrir moment for America was in the cards, was definitely possible."
On why it took three years after Lehman Brothers' implosion for people to storm the streets:
"When the financial meltdown happened, there was a feeling that, 'Wow, things are going to change. Obama is going to pass all kinds of laws, and we are going to have a different kind of banking system, and we are going to take these financial fraudsters and bring them to justice.' There was a feeling like, 'Hey, we just elected a guy who may actually do this.' In a way, there wasn't this desperate edge. Among the young people there was a very positive feeling. And then slowly this feeling that he's a bit of a gutless wonder slowly crept in, and now we're despondent again.
"On the Egyptian side, even though their techniques were very inspiring, in the beginning there was this feeling that this doesn't apply to us. This applies to nations who have monsters like Mubarak who routinely torture people every day. Theoreticians and pundits say now, people I talk to, that ultimately this Tahrir moment that happened in Egypt, that it ultimately will apply more to first world countries and to young people all around the world, that soft regime change may actually be the great achievement of what Tahrir taught us."