Tag Archives: Olympics

To throw stuff or not to throw stuff?

I’ve scanned the blogs, on-line news and watched the footage on TV of the Heart Attack protest on Saturday February 13th- Day 2. It was also referred to as a riot. The first riot of the riots that were announced 5 years ago, so we knew they were coming. I always thought it was kind of silly to announce a riot, since I na├»vely thought they occurred spontaneously. It’s kind of like letting people know your going to break into their house. I don’t want to mock them, but they invite a bit of mockery. The black clad “anarchists” that apparently stole a ladder(news report) from London Drugs at Georgia and Granville. I don’t even think they have ladders at London Drugs. It might have been tucked inside somewhere, or maybe they let the London Drugs staff know about the riot, and being the accommodating sort that we are, one of the staff might have brought it up to the front to save time. Anyway, the blogs, the news, Facebook, the debate is heated, did they really set back the “cause” years in hard work, or is our sense of outrage misplaced? As it is being pointed out, they harmed buildings, mailboxes, and indeed, a few police officers. I don’t support harming people, and not sure about scaring the shit out of them either, but basically we are condemning the destruction of windows, mailboxes and signage. The crimes of all the corporations that are funding this party are in a whole other, much more sinister category. I am well programmed though, you don’t wreck other people’s stuff. It is engrained in our culture that the rights of property and property owners, outweigh the rights of people. Unfortunately, few people are going to get the message that we should be respecting people more than stuff. We rarely seem to get that one.

I have met some of the people who have been a part of the Anti-Poverty Committee over the years, and I was never sure that their tactics were anything more than the actions of a bunch of self-absorbed, middle-class kids who’ve read a lot of theory, romanticized the revolution and don’t give a shit about who gets hurt in the process. The Heart Attack protest was to demonstrate the injustices of the Olympics. Not sure if that was clear to the freaked out bystanders. From all the dialogue I have witnessed on-line, they seem to have done a good job of dividing people, or giving the illusion of division so their more peaceful counterparts look reasoned. I don’t know that they set back the cause though, or shattered the message. The cause will recover, they made everyone else look good, “legitimate protesters” as Police Chief Chu put it; and the message was already hard to hear because there are so many of them. Stolen Land, corporatization of our public space, environmental destruction, homelessness, free speech, businesses going bankrupt, school closures, health care facilities being shut down, and arts funding being decimated. It makes me feel like throwing things too.

I’m no expert at any of this, and I do think it’s important to protest, but I don’t always know that multiple-messaging is the way to go to promote further action by Governments and a public, that at the moment have their fingers in their ears so they can just watch ice skating, and downhill moguls in peace. For anyone that is paying attention, it is coming across loud and clear that all is not well in the “Best City on Earth.”

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Here we go…

I have always been fascinated by the dynamics that happen around events. When I was little, and my mother would be preparing for the jewish holidays, she would be in a frenzy trying to get everything done on time. Her mom, my Bubbe Marie, would be there to help sometimes, my Bubbe Asne, my father’s mother would come, but mostly she was alone. Trying to manage making a dinner for 15-20 people in a house with 4 kids, a nutcase for a husband, and a body that had been failing her since her 20’s.

Vancouver is in somewhat better shape for their big event. I have watched as every available surface has been coated with advertising slogans, mascots, and lots of pictures of happy, healthy, good-looking people, maybe it will make up for the reality on the streets. If people see enough advertising, maybe they’ll look real. Each day, the pulse increases, and we are about to burst. There are so many layers to what is happening right now, and many people I know, including myself, are feeling incredibly conflicted. Excited by the fact that our “no-fun” city is filled with people playing music, and people of all ages out in the streets. While artists are being muzzled, citizens being muzzled, and over the next few weeks potentially much worse. I hope not, but both sides are basically saying “make me..” As a storyeller, and new filmmaker, I am excited by what I could do with the footage I capture, and the stories I can gather from what I see over the next few weeks. At the same time, I am very aware of the anxious mother hovering over the city right now; wanting everything and everyone to look nice, everything to taste good, and most important, no fights during dinner. Not much luck of that happening.

Maybe in the end, after everybody has gone home, and it’s just us again; maybe something will have changed for the better. That deciding it was okay to take our right to express away for pop and stuffies, was a really bad idea. Maybe you will have learned that no matter how hard you try to keep the peace at the dinner table, if the kids aren’t happy, they’re going to let you know it. Every family that lives in denial of the problems they have are inevitably faced with them, and the more you push them down, the harder they will push to be revealed. This could have gone differently, we could have paid attention to the evidence. Did some real research on the impact before we put together a bid. Looked around the house, and saw how people were suffering, struggling, and not just people in the Downtown Eastside, but all over the city, and we could have made the descision to take care of our house and the people in it, before we invited in an army of strangers, and an army to protect them. It’s almost as if the guests mattered more, but isn’t that always the way with parties.

50 days(make that 48) until the Olympics

I wanted to start writing this post the day I noticed the Olympic clock showing 50 days to go until we get our “world-class” screw. The marketing is amping up. There are reports in the paper each day about another fucked up thing VANOC is doing to screw artists, small business people and of course the daily invasions of privacy by police and RCMP towards any dissenters and their acquaintances.

I was talking to some friends the other day about feeling like I needed a plan for when the Olympics are officially here. I started to imagine what I would do if I had unlimited resources and Bond-like equipment at my disposal, and I was a shape-shifter. I would perch myself on the top of Shangri-La (the highest building in the city of Vancouver) and I would set up my lair. I would have all kinds of tracking equipment. I would document everything that was happening everywhere for the entire Olympics. I could zoom in anywhere. Not sure what I would do from there. Mostly I just wanted to float above it, watch all of it, not the games, but the dynamics in the street. I feel afraid. I wonder if it will be like a lot of things that happen in this city, a lot of hype and then nothing. Or will it be like the many riots that have happened in this city over the last 100 years, resulting in deaths. I am trying to think of a third option, but all I seem to be left with is this sense that something deeper will be lost after everyone has gone home with all their souvenirs, Believe t-shirts and quatchi dolls.

What will be lost? What do I think I would see high on top of Shangri-La? I would watch the city I fell in love with lose any sense of innocence it ever had. Expo was a mild plundering, but the Olympics is a whole new level of criminal. No place is innocent, certainly not Vancouver. It’s not like we haven’t experienced collective trauma as a city. So how does this feel different and what do I imagine will happen to this not-so innocent place? Not sure. I just know that the city will be armed with a level of security that we have never seen before and it’s pretty clear that VANOC, and the City have no qualms about taking away our human rights for the sake of the games. People aren’t going to behave, and they shouldn’t. People are pissed, and for good reason.

People are losing their homes, they have friends that are losing their homes, we are paying more and getting less, and there are people dying on the streets. It’s magical actually, how we can put up new buildings on Hastings Street and nothing seems as bad, like somehow the problem with homelessness dissappeared. We can dress up the streets, repave, put in benches, gardens and nice bathrooms, and the poverty and addiction has vanished. It’s not just the Olympics that are trying to create the illusion that Vancouver really is “the best place on earth”. Our planning department, developers and local BIA’s have used it as an excuse/incentive to gentrify. To create a false reality. Where people are pretty, healthy and wealthy, and everything is “fine”.

So what do I think is going to happen? More accurately I will hope, because I can’t know. So I hope that no one gets hurt, but people have already been hurt. I hope that the Olympics will be the the much needed kick in the head to knock us out of our naval gazey complacency. Maybe that’s what we’ll lose, our sense of security that we live in the best place on earth, and that we need to fight to keep it that way, make it that way, and no political party, or international sporting/cultural event in the world is going to do that for us.