All posts by Guest Contributors

Politics, Re-Spun welcomes guest contributions from activists, organizers, and people who really care about their causes and author pieces we'd like to highlight.

Disaster Tourism at the English Bay Oil Spill

By Emily Griffiths

In the wake of the oil spill a few days ago, I set out this morning with my partner to see the aftermath first hand. I really didn’t want to go, because I don’t enjoy feeling depressed or enraged, but denial isn’t a healthy choice, either.

We arrive at English Bay around noon. It’s almost as if nothing has happened. It’s like any Saturday, folks are just out here, doing their thing; people jog, walk, or cycle along the seawall, a mass of tankers blocks the horizon. We know something’s up, though, as a helicopter hovers by and the Coast Guard passes back and forth in their little boat. A bizarrely D.I.Y. handwritten sign reads “Oil Spill. Area Toxic. Do Not Touch Rocks or Sand. Do Not Go Barefoot” in blue Sharpie. A row of more formalized signs lines the shoreline, providing an official “Water Safety Notice” from The City of Vancouver.

Oil Spill 1.1

A lone Park Ranger in a neon orange windbreaker strolls back and forth across the sand, pausing intermittently to speak to folks wandering by. People are jumping for the chance to share their opinions and concerns regarding the spill, and are happy there’s someone official-looking to engage with. I overhear the Ranger thanking two women for “taking an interest in our beaches.”

There’s not a whole hell of a lot to see here, so we make our way along the seawall towards Stanley Park. En route, we come across a man lining up oil covered rocks on the side of the path. He’s wearing white latex gloves smeared dirty brown with oil. He’s repositioned one of the official signs as part of his display. His name is Jakub Markiewicz and until we ran into him, I was feeling completely powerless in the face of this ugly event. Just by standing here behind a collection of oily rocks, Jakub is asserting himself and his opinions. When I approach him, he is already talking to a group of passerby’s.

Oil Spill 2

Jakub is telling them that even though this is a relatively small spill, the effects will linger in the environment for a long, long time. It is impossible for us to totally “clean up.”

The older woman listening asserts that, since the tankers are so far out, we shouldn’t have to worry about oil washing up on our beaches. She’s clearly one of the Not-In-My-Back-Yard types; folks who remain unconcerned with catastrophe, so long as it doesn’t affect them personally. Who cares about the sea-life and smaller coastal communities?

I can’t help but feel that this spill was inevitable. I’ve been watching the tankers encroach over the past few years, growing in number each season. They assert a sense of foreboding onto the otherwise picturesque landscape. Each tanker can hold up to 300 million liters, hinting at a possibility much worse than a 3,000 liter leak. It’s evident that even 3,000 liters is causing its fair share of destruction.

Further down the seawall, a couple has parked their bikes and decided to create an impromptu art project. Using scraps of cardboard to protect their hands, they gather oil-covered rocks and spell out “STOP HARPER” in the sand.Oil Spill 3

We eventually catch up with the clean-up crews over at Third Beach. When I think of oil spill response and clean up, I think of special technologies separating out oil from water. I expect a large-scale, highly specialized and professional operation. This is not what we find. Instead, there are two white pick-up trucks with HAZ-MAT RESPONSE stenciled on the side and a smattering of volunteers dressed in full body yellow plastic suits with red lifejackets laying specialty paper towels along the rocks. I know these dedicated folks mean well, but how do they confront the futility of wiping off individual rocks with paper towels as multiple tankers float ominously in the background?

Oil Spill 4

A neon orange Park Ranger and a burly police officer supervise the rock scrubbing from a series of nearby park benches. The Ranger asks the cop, “Are you guys here because of protesters?” The cop responds, “We’re just here to make sure these guys can do their job.”

Sure, Friend. Who’s going to stop them?

Oil Spill 5

I get the feeling that this whole “clean-up” thing is little more than a token effort. The Rangers, the police, the yellow-clad cleanup crew, the helicopters, and the Coast Guard boats are only here to make us think that the city/the province/the country is doing something to rectify what’s happened. No doubt the media discussion will soon shift from the poor reaction time to the “success” of the clean-up.

Many of us out here today are outraged by the spill and are looking for a place to direct our energy. A wrong has been committed and we feel the need to do something about it. But what can we do in the face of oil spills, impending pipelines, the Harper Government and the global oil-based economy? Perhaps we can do what the Indigenous Land Defenders are doing, which is frontline direct action. But this comes at a risk of being arrested and charged with terrorism, under the new definition. This is a risk, but without risk, there is no reward. For many of us, it’s much easier to allow our energy to be coopted into volunteer clean-up labour.

Oil Spill 6.2

Pink Washing: Does This Pink Shirt Really Say Enough?

PNKTYTBy Emily Griffiths

Pink Shirt Day is almost upon us. The annual campaign to raise money and “awareness” on the issue of “bullying” takes place on February 25. As this date approaches, I’m sure you’ve noticed an inundation of bright pink. Even at this very moment, I am sipping my tea from a Blenz paper cup, wrapped in a festive Pink Shirt Day cardboard sleeve. Blenz is one of “a bunch of great businesses [that] are holding fundraisers during the month of February with proceeds going to Pink Shirt Day.” Blenz doesn’t actually give money; they just provide us consumers with a number to text, so that we can “have $5 added to [our] monthly mobile bill, to be donated to support anti-bullying programs.” For their effort, Blenz can piggyback on the all the symbolic glory of philanthropic pink.

The colour pink ties in nicely with the Valentine’s Day displays around the city. This is the season of love and compassion, or at least the symbols of love and compassion. Pink also works well as the spokes-colour for anti-homophobia, which brings us to the Pink Shirt Day origin story: Two high school students in Nova Scotia witnessed a male classmate being harassed by a fellow student for wearing pink, a colour associated with the antithesis of masculinity. The witnesses went to a discount store after school, purchased 50 pink t-shirts, distributed them to their classmates the following day and stood in solidarity with their previously demeaned classmate. This display of empathy, solidarity, and community action was inspiring! The Premier of Nova Scotia declared the day officially and momentum has been growing ever since.

This type of origin story is familiar. Without it, Pink Shirt Day might be read as a superficial government/corporate campaign to boost their image as community-based philanthropic entities, as well as a gross simplification of the real and complex problem of inter-student violence in schools. The origin story works to root the event in an authentic action, thereby lending perceived authenticity to the entire “movement.”

This tactic is nothing new. The Pink Ribbon Campaign for Breast Cancer “awareness”, introduced in 1992, has an authentic origin story of its own behind all the colour-coded marketing. Charlotte Haley is the “granddaughter, sister, and mother of women who had battled breast cancer.” She made peach-coloured ribbons by hand in her dining room, and distributed them at the local supermarket. This origin story does not have such a happy ending, as Haley rejected Estee Lauder’s request for her ribbon, saying they were “too commercial.” Estee Lauder lawyers suggested changing the colour of the ribbon to avoid a lawsuit and proceed without Haley’s involvement. Voila! The pink ribbon was born!

Both the Brest Cancer and Anti-Bullying campaigns involve the corporate appropriation of authentic political and community action. This can be called “Pink Washing”, and it functions similarly to Green Washing. Just as we are reassured that using reusable shopping bags will save the planet without any real effort or sacrifice on our part, so are we reassured wearing the official pink T-shirt, posting a selfie #pinkshirtday, or participating a dance flash mob will bring an end to inter-student violence, oppression, and harm. I love a good dance flash mob, but is this the type of action that facilitates meaningful discussion and problem solving, or is the effect more so one of surface appearances?

I am not here to claim that Pink Shirt Day offers nothing of value to those who participate. The colour pink itself can help youth question gender norms, and I’m sure some deeper conversations of empathy and community do arise. What I do propose is that Pink Shirt Day serves to simplify a complex issue. One way this is done is through the use of language.

We use the word “bullying” as a catchall. Why do we call a harmful act or series of acts “bullying” rather than homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, and classism? These more specific and political words can help us more deeply understand the various forms of power and oppression rampant in our schools and broader communities. An awareness of interlocking systems of oppression can help us work to dismantle these oppressions from an educated and empathetic perspective. Calling homophobia by its real name can help young people make sense of their own felt experiences. This is the first step in talking openly and constructively about the systemic injustices they face, and working towards a place of safety and empowerment. Painting all oppressions with the wide brush of “bullying” undermines the intelligence of children and youth by artificially simplifying complex problems.

One reason I think we are so drawn to Pink Shirt Day and other similar campaigns is that it offers us a feel-good “solution” to a known problem, without us having to give anything up. All we are asked to do is wear pink and donate a little money and we can go about our day believing the problem is solved. If we are forced to abandon the word “bullying” and talk openly about patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity, and the exploitation inherent in capitalism, we will be forced to acknowledge our own relative privileges within these power relations. When Amanda Todd committed suicide in 2012, the community was outraged at the horrific “bullying” she had been subjected to. The use of the word “bully” in this instance works to evade discussion of patriarchy and rape culture. We’re told the solution is to “stop bullying now” rather than work towards dismantling rape culture, problematizing male privilege, and empowering young women.

While we’re on the subject of language and how it can be used to obscure the truth, let’s consider who exactly a “bully” is. “Bully” is a word we use to call a human being. Naming a person “Bully” allows us to dehumanize that person and ignore the possible reasons behind their violent behaviour. How many times have we heard the tale of a school bully getting abused at home? This child is rendered powerless by his parents, and therefore seizes power in the only place he can – on the playground – and in the only way he has been taught how – through violence. If we really wish to eliminate bullying, we must look closely at the deeper causes.

People don’t often fit into distinct categories of “bully” or “victim”. Many of us do find ourselves in both of these roles depending on the situation and the specific power dynamics involved. Using language that enforces this binary is overly simplistic.

Pink Shirt Day does give the problem of inter-student violence status in the classroom and in the national consciousness, but I worry that the campaign elevates the image of solidarity above actual acts of solidarity. Perhaps wearing pink on February 25 is a step in the right direction; or perhaps it is a shallow distraction from considering the complex power relationships that underscore violence. Either way, the question must be asked: Does this pink shirt say enough?

The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped!

Mulgrew: Costly Transit police force takes taxpayers for a rideBy
Emily Griffiths

The Transit referendum “Yes” campaign has been asserting itself all over Facebook, Twitter, neighbourhood news boxes, and I can’t help but ask myself, Since when is increasing a flat tax a leftist thing to do?

Oh! The word “transit” has been attached to the newest proposed consumer flat tax increase, therefore rendering it “left” and “sustainable”. Have we forgotten that the poorest members of our community are already shelling out $91-$170/ month just to be able to ride a crowded bus to work and back without risk of being detained by over zealous transit police (the only armed transit police in Canada)?

These transit thugs in bullet proof vests just love detaining non-white Lower Mainlanders, corroborating with Border Patrol, and imprisoning suspected immigrants. Heaven forbid one try to save some grocery money by risking the month without a bus pass. A lost profit of $2.75 for Translink can result in a $173 fine for the already struggling rider. Heaven forbid you speak English with an accent, for your fate could be much worse. (Read about Lucia Vega Jimenez).

In all this talk of “transit” improvements, where is the case for free transit? Instead, fellow “leftists” on our Twitter feeds are regurgitating Mayor’s Council propaganda to achieve an ongoing increase of our provincial sales tax. I’m not sure about every “leftist”, but I myself am not one to support Gregor Robertson and developer funded city council. Why would I trust the gash-grab excuses of the same folks who are destroying the DTES, China Town, and Grandview-Woodlands for unaffordable condo development?

Why would I trust that the Provincial Government, run by Christy Clark and made up of conservative “Liberals”, will funnel their new citizen-approved revenue stream into the promised area? I have heard more than my fair share of broken election promises. What makes the transit tax different? After all, there are no legal stipulations that this additional government income must indeed be invested in transit.

The “Yes” campaign rhetoric assures me that this cash will improve Skytrain infrastructure and increase bus service. Are we honestly expected to believe that the money Translink rakes in equals a benefit to transit riders? What about the $200+ million wasted on fare gates and Compass cards, an infrastructure that was already proven a failure in Chicago?

What about the salaries of transit cops? The minimum annual salary for a Transit Police officer is $75,000, with more than one third making over $100,000. What about the mere existence of transit cops? What about the salaries of Translink Officials? Translink CEO Ian Jarvis raked in $468,015 in 2013. Sure, this salary may be on par with other multimillion dollar corporation CEO’s, but should PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION really be rendered into a for-profit company?

I am confused as to why we are being asked to pay more money for transit. We already pay 12% provincial and general sales tax. What is this covering, if not basic infrastructure like transit, roads, and bikeways? I know some of it must go to other essentials like health care and education, but then why is our health system resorting to corporate sponsorship (#BellLetsTalk) or emotionally manipulative attempts at securing private donations (those tear jerker bus ads for Children’s Hospital), and why are schools being consistently underfunded, with ever increasing class sizes, less support for children with special needs, and teachers being bled dry when they try to stand up for their collective rights? If our tax money isn’t going to healthcare, education and infrastructure, where is it going? Perhaps it’s not more money our governments need, but better priorities.

And if it really is more money that our local and provincial governments need, why not lay off on all those corporate tax cuts (HootSuite, property developers) and we can get a little more money out of the multimillion dollar companies benefiting from the same infrastructural improvements that we residents will be. Doesn’t Telus need their employees to get to work? Doesn’t HootSuite want better bike lanes, to move employees and to enhance their green hipster branding? Won’t property developers be thrilled when new Skytrain stations pop up in Surrey, Guildford, Newton and Langley, providing perfect sites for new clusters of expensive glass high rises?

Our big corporate neighbours are all too keen on showing their sense of “community” and scoring the big tax breaks on their public philanthropy. What better way to show your dedication to the community than pay more taxes? Sadly, corporations don’t want to put their cash towards anything they can’t put their name on. Would Vancouver World of Science sound anywhere as good as Telus World of Science?

And what about income tax? There are residents of the lower mainland bringing in huge skrilla each year. Why can’t these folks contribute a little more towards the infrastructure that helps them get rich? A 0.5% increase of flat taxes hurts those earning $8,000/year a lot more than those earning upwards of $500,000. This is an old argument. It strikes me as incredibly odd that this criticism isn’t popping up more. Is Tax the Rich such an absurd slogan that no self-respecting politician will even mention it? What about any self-respecting “leftist”?

Emily Griffiths is a writer, performer, and child care worker, living on unceded Coast Salish Territories. Stay tuned for her upcoming book, Disney Dream Machine.

When Shaming Survivors is Not Enough: Police-State Motives Behind Sexual Assault Transit Ads

Photo credit @the_noush. Permission to use granted.
Photo credit Instagram: @the_noush. Permission to use granted.

By Emily Griffiths

The Transit Police got burned in the media recently, when rad feminist transit riders called them out publicly for their summer-line of sexual assault ads. These ads use language that shames the survivors of sexual assault, stating, “the real shame of sexual assault is that it goes unreported.” It turns out that the transit police were the ones doing something that “doesn’t feel right” and making riders “uncomfortable.”

The whole thing was a PR blunder for the transit cops, who realized it right away and are now busily placating the public, regrouping, and working toward Version 2.0. This time, they’ll be sure to “include representatives from women’s rights groups” so as to remain in public favour. Great! Problem solved, right?

Maybe. If the ignorant and hurtful language of the original ad was its only flaw, the only reason to be concerned, and if there wasn’t another, equally repulsive message lurking underneath, then, yes, the problem would be solved. Sadly, that’s not the case.

The sinister implications of this transit ad not only shame survivors of sexual assault, but they also work to bring us all deeper into the police-state that Canada is quickly becoming (and perhaps, for those who are marginalized, always has been). An important piece of information appears at the bottom of the ad, in the second biggest font, urging readers to TEXT 87.77.77.

I’m sorry, what? We’re texting the cops now?

Yeah, what’s wrong with that?

Well, don’t you think it’s a little weird, like, ratting on random people to the authorities? It’s a little sci-fi. …a little Soviet Russia…a little Nazi Germany…

You’re so negative! Besides, it’s to stop sexual assault! You don’t like sexual assault do you?

The theme of sexual assault serves as the catalyst for gaining public acceptance for the practice of text messaging the police, for promoting and normalizing a tattletale behaviour in the populace. It functions much the same was as the issue of child pornography functions online. Child Pornography serves as the excuse for police-state surveillance tactics in the digital realm. Everybody hates Child Pornography. Everybody hates Sexual Assault. These issues serve as PR strategies to introduce the public to a new tool for surveillance and to further limit our freedoms. The report-your-neighbour text-message campaign goes nicely with the transit police smart phone app, OnDuty, which enables users to report “crimes”, view “Crime Maps”, and check out who is “Most Wanted!” It also gives the transit cops opportunity to gain access to your call logs, photos, locations, and more.

But what kind of ‘crimes’ can be reported on a smart phone?  Is it just sexual assault? This question is asked in the comments of the Transit police reddit article:

Can I report someone on transit for being drunk and loud?

You can definitely report those situations. It’s an offense in the criminal code … We are very accountable, and are legally required to act to protect the public and preserve the peace.

So, perhaps it’s not only crimes that are being reported. After all, both the text service and the OnDuty app are for “non-emergent” reports only. And what kind of sexual assault is “non-emergent”?  Traditional 911 works just find in summoning urgent police presence, so why these new social tools? It seems like they exist for reporting suspicion, rather than dangerous ‘crimes.’ In this arrangement, every person with a smartphone is a potential cop, a potential punisher, and people learn to suspect each other.”

“See something. Say something,” the transit ad reads. This isn’t entirely a bad idea. But to whom do we “say something?” It’s assumed that the answer is the police. They will swoop in and save the day and no one has to feel guilty for staring passively at their phone while someone is being assaulted, In Real Life, right in front of them. It’s understandable that even bystanders feel unsafe in these situations and may not be able to intervene, but we do have a collective responsibility. We need to decide whether we want to create a community in which a bus full of people band together and say “No!” to abusive behaviour, or to create a ‘safe’ community in which people are picked off the bus, one by one, by big men with guns?

We know which world the police are envisioning. There seems to be a real emphasis on punishment over prevention, in the language used by transit police. The Transit Police ad tells riders that not reporting sexual assaults is the real shame, rather than the fact that these assaults occur in the first place.

Spokesperson, Anne Drennan is quoted in the Metro as having never intended to “lay blame on victims in any way, but rather to suggest that it’s a real shame that these people get away scott free when these incidences are not reported.” It sounds as if the goal is not to stop potential abusers, but to punish perpetrators.  Rather than prevention, the ad itself, supported by Drennan’s comments to the media, implicitly promote eye-for-an-eye, revenge-style ‘justice’ which serves as reinforcement for role of police in our communities.

The language of the transit police also includes a heavy use of the word “victim”, to describe those folks who have experienced sexual assault, despite the fact that the chosen identifier for these folks is “Survivors.” A survivor is strong and empowered, while a victim is weak and in need of protection, presumably by the police.

It’s clear from their language that neither preventing assault, nor empowering women and the community, are top priorities of the transit police. Instead, they actively present the world as a scary place and the police as our only protectors. If we need the police, if they are keeping us safe, then we won’t have a problem with them invading every aspect of our public and private lives, cracking down on every transgression and injecting our community with suspicion and fear.

Emily Griffiths is a writer, performer, and child care worker, living on unceded Coast Salish Territories.


We Support The Veterans Transition Program

Submitted by Robin and Stewart on Mon, 10/07/2013 – 12:59

1999 saw the rise of the Veteran Transition Network (VTN) through the sponsorship of BC/Yukon Legion Branches and the University of British Columbia.

Its mission is to help Canadian Veterans across the nation re-integrate into society, local communities, and with family. To date Veteran Transition Programs have helped close to 400 Veterans rebuild relationships with partners, spouses, and children, while supporting the creation of meaningful career paths. And it’s totally free due to generous partners and donors, such as you!

Doctors Marv Westwood, David Kuhl, and Timothy Black are the founding members of the VTN who are accompanied by a number of top-shelf clinicians and staff. The website is impressive and encourages Canadian Veterans to contact them via phone, email, Facebook, or Twitter.

The programs have been refined over 15 years of research to help Canadian Veterans with:

  • Adjusting to living back at home
  • Trying to make sense of their military experiences
  • Getting a job and finding careers
  • Exploring who they are now
  • The desire to tell their story
  • Rebuilding relationships with family and friends
  • Wanting to find themselves again
  • Moving on and getting back to “living”

Admittedly, I wish there was a program like this when I left the British Army.

I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and completely clueless as to where to turn. I was lucky in having a decent trade that landed me a job in no time – although it didn’t take much negotiating. I was confused by the varying benefit packages, private pensions, healthcare, dental, and generally why everything was so bloody expensive. I was missing the PX. Who didn’t love those stores! Cigarettes were a few dollars a pack and being on NATO missions meant I had access to so many of them. I’d get Dom Perignon from the French PX (I still have a bottle), backpacks and fleeces from the Norwegian PX, Swarovski crystal (for the folks back home) from the German PX, and pretty much everything else from the American PX (Bowling Balls to Pickled Pigs Feet). I’d come home on leave feeling like Santa. I was filled with pride at what I was doing, how my family and friends viewed me, how everyone back home viewed me.

You’re one day flying high with a regiment of friends, friends willing to fight and die for you, with everything taken care of, and more perks than you can wish for, to the next standing in the street, resume in hand, staring up at the towering buildings around you, and feeling the warm embrace of the army slowly dissipate. You’re alone and have nobody to turn to. It’s hard for family and friends to understand. Your buddies understood, but they’re not around anymore to sympathize and offer support. Like I said, I wish there was a program like this when I left. It would have helped ease the transition and show that there are others in the same boat, like me, trying to make things work and lead a happy and fulfilling life.

The good news is that this program exists now and has helped close to 400 Veterans transition from the Canadian Forces to a life worth living. They didn’t do it alone and couldn’t have without the support of generous donors, such as you, which we are hugely grateful for!

Here’s how you can contact the Veterans Transition Network:

Office hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm Pacific Time.
Phone: 604.559.8155
For general inquiries (including program registration):

– See more at:

I don’t have PTSD!

I don’t have PTSD! by Stewart, who is accepting donations here!

Last week Robin touched on her personal experiences growing up in a military environment and how her endeavour to learn more about PTSD has shone a different light on those memories, reactions, and actions of those around her. It’s changed her. It’s changed how she views the world, politics, war, soldiers, veterans, and even how she views me.

We’ve been so busy running, working, writing, running, eating, running some more, and trying to stay awake in the afternoons, that I’ve not had time to ask her how differently she views me – I hope with more patience. You see, this endeavour has also changed me and in ways I’m finding hard to comprehend. It’s made me reflect on memories, past events, and how I reacted and dealt with them. How my friends reacted to things that happened to them and the different paths we all took when we left the Army. Some started businesses, some became security contractors, some joined back up, while others, like me, left Britain for greener lands. I’m thankful for choosing Canada. It truly is a beautiful country. Yet, those memories and past events followed me here, as did the dark moods that came with them. They’re not as bad as they used to be, although I often find myself apologizing for my army humour.

This isn’t easy to write. I’m literally squirming in my chair. I can’t help wondering why that is. Maybe it’s the thought of letting someone peak under the hood. I don’t have PTSD if you’re wondering. I know I don’t. I’m quite sure of it. I think. I consider myself quite lucky really. Normal I’d say. Nothing extraordinary happened to me. I mean compared to some people. I’ve got all my limbs. They’re even in good working order – it might be different after the marathon though. But, why does this bother me so much…

I know I found life hard when I finally, and honourably I’d like to add, left the British Army. I was lost in civilian street with my RSMs last words, “you’ll never make it sonny”, freshly ringing in my ears. I wish I could go back now and show him different, that I’d made it, but maybe he was projecting his own fears. I remember getting confused about having to pay for water and all the other bills. My new paycheque was hacked down by one bill after another. What was left was a pathetic amount of beer tokens. Everything was taken care of before, the roof over my head, the food in my belly, medical, dental, even water. The money at the end of the month was for me to do with whatever I liked. Things had changed though. Work was a challenge. People were continually squabbling and wasting their days away moaning about what seemed meaningless. All I could think of was what I’d seen, real pain, real suffering, death, the smell, the taste. I was engaged when I left. We struggled though, and soon separated, with her joining back up. I wanted to join back up. To be back with my mates. All of us in the same boat. I didn’t. I guess, in the end, it was those words my RSM spoke and my stubborn streak that kept me soldiering on. I ended up moving away and getting a better job, a house, and a fancy car (or two). But those dark moods would follow, as would the loneliness, and my continual attempts to drown them out.

I have friends who’ve struggled with PTSD. Some still do. It’s a horrible thing to see. It seems to fade with time for some – for the lucky ones. I remember one guy lost it on a firing range, stood up and started waiving his rifle around, until he got decked by the butt of, ahem, someone’s rifle. I was put in charge of him until further notice. To be his shadow. To kick his ass into shape. I didn’t know what I was doing and was far from qualified. But I tried. We’d just come back from Bosnia, which was a mess. The main fighting was over and we were there to rebuild that god awful place. We saw some sights. Most of us would drink things away, but not for him. Some days his eyes had a deadness to them. It was like some invisible darkness had entered him and was sucking the life out of him. I couldn’t get him out of bed some mornings, even when the RSM was coming around to inspect. I tried everything. Gentle encouragement. My boot up his ass. When he screwed up it would be me running around the parade square carrying, pulling, and pushing all sorts of crap. I loved physical fitness though, so it didn’t bother me too much, but I felt angry at those who put him in my care. It was clear they didn’t understand him and just saw him as a nuisance, a pain in the ass, a weak man, and certainly not fit for fighting wars. It wasn’t long before I was sent off to Bosnia again where I lost touch with him. I found out later he discharged himself, went off to London, and hit the bottle with a deadly passion. Until this day I don’t know what happened to him. Maybe he managed to get help and pull things together or maybe he’s on the street, like so many Vets, fighting for each day most of us take for granted. God I regret not being able to do more.

You see, I’ve realized that PTSD is not just about those suffering with it. It’s also about those who’ve escaped it. It’s about their attitudes, knowledge, understanding, patience, compassion, empathy, and heart strong desire to help those who clearly need it and deserve it with the right tools we have to available!!

I don’t have PTSD, but I have friends that do, and it’s for them, as well as for me, that I run and will keep on running. It’s the stigma that bothers me, the sigh when it’s brought up in conversation, the avoidance, and the cognitive dissonance. I’m continuing to meet some inspiring people on this journey who support me while I try to support others. Isn’t that what life’s about – a mutual championing of one another to climb that ladder, to better oneself. I want to say thank you to everyone championing me and my amazing partner Robin. You’re amazing and we’re very lucky to have you in our lives!

The Pidgin Picket, the Housing Crisis and the State

The Role of The State in Gentrification, the Housing Crisis, and its Ability to Relieve or Maintain the Current Situation

by Rachel Goodine

Pidgin, a new fine-dining restaurant located on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, moved in to the neighbourhood on February 1 of this year, prompting plenty of controversy. It’s located right off of East Hastings on Carrall Street, directly across from the notorious Pigeon Park. Many who do not live in the neighbourhood regard Pigeon Park as a drug haven, however for many residents the park is known as a gathering spot that hosts various festivals and street markets organized by the community. Pidgin is just one of many establishments actively contributing to the current gentrification squeeze. Although many regard gentrification as a good thing, it is ultimately contributing to the life and death situation that is the housing crisis in British Columbia. The idea that money accrued from business will trickle down to the poor through tax revenue is a common one. So is the idea that British Columbia simply does not have the money to put into social housing to address the needs of residents of the neighbourhood. In reality the priorities of this government, and the resulting hegemony seen in the majority of citizens, leaves the state with plenty of cash to be funneled to corporations as well as the military, in addition to funding coercion and repression tactics that maintain the status quo.

Continue reading The Pidgin Picket, the Housing Crisis and the State

We don’t want your dirty gold: corporate donations and the university

The following is a piece written by contributor Kevin Harding and guest contributor Natalie Gan.  The piece was written in 2010, but is being published on Politics Respun for the first time.

The issue of controversial corporate donations to public universities is a live one, with the Munk School at the U of T, the Ridell Program in Political Management at Carleton, and others being more and more discussed. Below is a discussion of the Goldcorp donation to Simon Fraser University.

We don’t want your dirty gold!

The pervasiveness of neoliberal capitalism and its continued impacts on every facet of our daily lives are realities that seem to be, all at once, immediately pressing, immense, and impossible to challenge. Recent experiences at Canadian universities and in the arts reinforce the immensity of the challenge, with corporate ‘donations’ being offered to cash-strapped institutions, continuing both the precariousness of public education as well as its marketization, or corporate patronage of the arts, commodifying art as a product of cultural expression to be sold.  Worse, many of these donations— essentially purchases of commodified reputation or goodwill —come from corporations that have been accused of enormous violations of environmental, ethical, and human rights laws and standards.  Adding to this already deep pile of problematics, some recent donations link areas of life that have not yet been fully ‘neoliberalized’ or completely and forcibly subjected to the vagaries and whims of the market, like education and the arts, with the realities of mining and resource extraction in the global south, solidly connecting different cycles and processes of capitalism and uniting them in a frenzy of accumulation by dispossession and capitalist expansion.

Continue reading We don’t want your dirty gold: corporate donations and the university

No, Taylor Swift. No.

[Here is what some of us have been wanting to say about Taylor Swift, but didn’t because A. Lynn did it first, and perhaps best, reposted her with her kind permission. Thanks to Jarrah Hodge for pointing us to this piece of brilliance! Enjoy! – seb]

I’ve been mentally composing this blog for forever and now I’m finally trying to piece it together. Hm. How do I say this?

Y’all…Taylor Swift is the worst.

Whelp. There it is. That’s my thesis and let me now back it up.

I’ve long argued that girl on girl hate is awful and counterproductive so I’m truly trying to stay away from that. This isn’t a complaint about something nit picky like her hair or her clothes or her voice–I could take or leave it all. I mean, it’s true that something just rubs me the wrong way about her but I’m putting all that aside because I really do have legitimate feminist concerns with Swift and her place in pop culture.

1) Swift is peddling dangerous messages to girls.
I’ve written about this before so I’m not sure I need to rehash it all. Basically, the bulk of Swift’s music is focused on boys and them being her Romeo or her knight in shining armor. But Swift’s brand and its messages for girls goes beyond that. In a piece for the Huffington Post, Andrea Lampros detailed her experience at a Swift concert with her children. She said,

If you’re thinking you’ll see a sweet Southern singer/songwriter on stage with her guitar, a few pretty dresses, and simplistic but heartfelt lyrics, you won’t. The overwhelming message of the Swift concert to the sea of girls ages 5 to 55: be pretty, be conventional, be quiet (well, it’s OK to scream for me), and definitely put on some lipstick.

…The scene was sweet until you got to the CoverGirl stands (Swift is a CoverGirl) where girls of all ages sat on stools before stage mirrors to receive makeovers — perhaps selecting the lip and eye colors that Taylor wears.

…The message — you’re not really beautiful until you cake your tiny, pre-pubescent face with makeup — wasn’t the empowering one I had envisioned.

…I didn’t expect Taylor Swift to make any radical, edgy, feminist remarks, but I also didn’t expect Gidget meets the Little Mermaid. What an incredible platform for Swift to say something as simple as “Girls rock!” or something even crazier like “Love yourselves!”
Instead, she finished each song by looking wide-eyed into the crowd and noting how “amazing” it was that so many people came to the show and how “beautiful” everyone looked (incredible how she could see people with all those lights in her eyes).

2) She believes in the post-feminist myth.
Lampros wrote that piece in 2009, and now having heard Swift’s recent comments about feminism, I’m not surprised that her concert in no way challenged the super typical pretty, pretty princess messages that girls receive in their daily lives. When asked about feminism Swift said, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”

This type of post-feminist nonsense is commonly peddled by people who have never really examined gender but who are asked about feminism and taken off guard. I expect that Swift is in that boat. Knowing her songs and persona, it’s no surprise that Swift doesn’t “get” feminism  (It would have been really shocking if she DID, especially given that there are so many voices, specifically other pop singers, disparaging it as well.) Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky pretty nicely summarized my thoughts on Swift’s comments.

Are we surprised that Taylor Swift doesn’t really consider herself a feminist? Not really. But it’s still completely dismaying that “guys versus girls” and that when women don’t succeed it’s because we just didn’t work hard enough is apparently what she thinks feminism is.

And you see, this is but yet another message that Swift is saying to girls…she’s quite literally telling them that she’s not into feminism because it views men as an adversary. It’s absurd. And if you think her audience isn’t listening or paying attention to her every action, you obviously haven’t been around a tween girl lately.

3) Swift is specifically marketed at the youngest girls.
The real kicker as to why I’m worried is because Swift is widely considered a “safe” option for tween girls. There are so few tween-friendly acts that when someone nice and sweet comes around, parents just assume that their girls should be listening to her. I remember when I went to the Miss Representation screening and one of the super concerned parents said something to the effect of, “It just feels like the only singer I can trust is Taylor Swift!”

I almost screamed. Like I mentioned when I blogged about that screening, too many of the parents were looking for ways to shield their kids from everything instead of actually helping their kids become critical consumers of media who analyze and question the messages they receive.

I have a feeling that if more parents actually stopped and thought about what Swift is peddling, they might not like what they’d see (like Lampros.) I remember having a discussion with my friend Myranda the last time I was home in Indy about how we’d take Nicki Minaj over Taylor Swift any day. I know it’s a controversial viewpoint, but it’s not a joke. When I stop and really think about the messages each of them are sending, I do have more concerns with Swift.

And, again, because Swift is specifically marketing at and intended for teen girls, adults far too often give her a pass without actually thinking about what they want for those girls. It’s not OK. Just because something appears innocent or cute, like Swift’s persona, it doesn’t mean that it’s not perpetuating the same sexist BS.

I understand that finding empowering pop role models for girls is nearly impossible, but perhaps we shouldn’t be looking to pop starts to be role models at all. Yes, girls will continue to consume pop music regardless, and that’s why it’s our duty as adults to have actual conversations about it all.

Imagine if the Olympics Really Benefited the People of the Host City

The London Olympics games closed with the words of “Imagine” by John Lennon and “Freedom” by George Michael.  John Lennon sang “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” And then Eric Idle sang “Always look at the Bright Side of Life.” But what did the Olympic Games really bring to London?

The idea of the Olympic Games is supposed to bring peace and harmony to the world.  But do they really?  What benefits do they bring the host city? Who do they really benefit? These Olympics were held in East London. Rather than leaving a legacy of benefit to East London, one of the most successful housing cooperatives was torn down to make way for the Olympic Athletes Village displacing many residents.

Many promises were also made and broken during the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.  But who really benefited from both Vancouver and London games? Imagine if the Olympics really benefited the people of the host city.

One legacy that came out of the Vancouver Olympics was the establishment of the Poverty Olympics and the tradition has been carried to the London Olympics as protest and critique of the failure of the Olympics to bring real benefit to the people of the city that host them. Anti-Olympic organizing has already begun in the cities where the Olympics are going next.

Now that the London Olympics games are over, the media focus on the Paralympic games will not be the same. There will be little coverage and sponsorship as was the case here in Vancouver. These Paralympic games may not bring the coverage and sponsorship, but they do bring an opportunity for community organizing, support and awareness for people living with disabilities.

Maybe this Anti-Olympic organizing will make future cities hosting the Olympic really think about what social benefits can be gained from hosting these Olympic events rather than simply being projects of gentrification and economic development that benefit the corporate agenda. But it will also build a movement for social development with a growing network of anti-Olympic organizing.

Please follow this link for more Poverty Olympic coverage.