There are those who enjoy mass demonstrations and rallies. Some people find them empowering, they say “solidarity” and mean it – they’re changing the world. For some it’s also an artistic outlet, fuel for creative collaboration on a truly awesome salmon puppet – I respect all of these people. But, I confess I’m not really them. And then there are those who like to shout, who have a lot of anger, at the state, or in general: alpha male behind a bullhorn, instead of in the boardroom. I tolerate these people, but I tend to think of them as inarticulate assholes. I really don’t like loud noises.
I also dislike breathing clouds of marijuana or tobacco smoke; I get headaches and nausea. But. Being comfortable is not the point of a demonstration, and I do attend on occasion, willingly if not enthusiastically, and especially when they tell us we can’t. Can’t protest outside of the designated zone, can’t carry an anti-Olympic sign – at these times, it becomes necessary.
I wanted to feel good about disrupting the route of the torch, and that we accomplished that without any violence. But I had a distinctly creepy experience walking towards the VAG last Friday. You know when you cross the border into the States and not much has visibly changed except from kilometers to miles, but then you realize that there are flags everywhere, and even though you know to expect it, it still evokes this kinda amused/incredulous/weird creeped-out feeling?
I had that exact feeling, in canada, last Friday. Walking past hundreds and hundreds of Olympic fans with Olympic scarves pins hats & backpacks, carrying and wearing canadian flags, with the maple leaf temporarily tattooed on cheeks and forehead – this in particular gets to me, by the way, because I can remember when maple was the trees I climbed whenever I had the chance, and an annual autumn display of a hundred glorious shades of red, yellow, orange and deep deep purple-maroon in southern Ontario, not this particular branding of what is somehow passing as patriotism. I almost expected one of them to accuse me of not supporting the troops. I’d thought my cynicism was thick enough to protect me, I thought I was past the point of disappointment. I thought I had accepted the fact that, to a lot ordinary canadians, the Olympics are a fun party to attend or just watch on TV, and they are pointedly disinterested in the compellingly obvious connections between things like Olympic corporate funders and environmental destruction, the tar sands and genocide, growing poverty and the social control industry, a crushing public debt and the cost of fake snow…but apparently there’s still room for shock in me.
In fact, if I were inclined to speak of a country as a person, instead of a collectively agreed upon narrative created by arbitrary lines on a map, I might say that canada hurt my feelings last Friday, and it made me so, so angry. Before I knew it, I had just about become one of those inarticulate assholes, staring back at red-leaf-decorated zombies attending the games…all I could think to say was Grow A Brain. Grow A Fucken Brain.