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A Better World is Needed: The oh-so ‘Canadian’ style of dissent

It’s Canada Day, which is apparently a day for Canadians all across the country to dress up in red and white and wave flags and yell “Oh Canada” and paint their faces and humbly comment on what a polite and kind country we are, because we’re number one!

For me, Canada Day is an interesting holiday.  I certainly acknowledge that this country — this state, this creation of lines drawn on a map — is a nice place to live.  I’m lucky to have been born here.  There are places in the world where I wouldn’t be able to write things like this.  But even as I acknowledge the relative comfort in which I live, I find myself acknowledging how much of a better world we could live in.  There is exploitation and subjugation and destruction in the world.

To echo and twist the oft-repeated phrase, a better world is not only possible – it is needed.  And Canada Day highlights this for me, as we celebrate the popular myth of Canada: the benevolent state that engages in cultural genocide, the peaceful state embroiled in foreign and domestic wars, the free state that does crushes basic human rights.  Yes, a better world is needed.  And we need to get there.

But thinking about how we do that and putting those thoughts into action is just as confusing as it is liberating.  To me, one thing is simply obvious: the oh-so ‘Canadian’ way of dissent, that which is so polite, so pleasant, so quiet and careful, is rendered nearly meaningless when it comes face-to-face with the Canadian state, emblazoned with maple leafs but carrying shotguns.  A better world is needed, and we need to actually work for it, not just hope that someone powerful might take pity on us.

My original idea for this piece was to question why so many activists in Canada see a desperate need to ‘play by the rules’ that the state sets out for dissent.  This comes after the Toronto G8/G20 protests, where a fury of righteous indignation erupted after people happened to take to the streets, inconveniencing some commuters while police either encouraged property destruction or police agents provocateurs actively engaged in it themselves.  A flurry of self-described progressives rushed to condemn protesters and support the police, because some windows got smashed and some police cars burned.

Later, after the ‘left’ spent large amounts of time condemning itself, stories emerged that the Toronto Police Service was enforcing a law that it knew didn’t exist in order to illegally search, question, identify, and detain activists, marchers, or residents who strayed within five meters of the military-style fence erected in the Toronto downtown.  Stories emerged of horrid conditions in the temporary detention camp built in a movie studio.  Stories of threats of violence and rape emerged.

This is all part of the plan of the neoliberal state: impose policies that enforce capitalist expansion and exploitation, remove social programs, and delegitimize dissent.  Capitalism may be protected, but nothing remains of liberty or democracy.

A better world is possible.  A better world is needed.  But we won’t get there through the oh-so-Canadian style of dissent that so many left activists take to heart.

(more after the break… click ‘read more’ to continue)

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