Winter of Discontent

With the consumer frenzy of the holidays now past and the grey drizzly skies of January above us, many seem to have descended into their own winter of discontent.  


In part, the malaise seems to arise from the sense that many of the dreams of the first decade of the 21st Century have gone badly awry, not simply shattered and discarded, but more bizarrely simply disconnected from reality. 


On the global stage, we’ve been offered a new American president full of epiphanies of hope and change who delivers the opposite. Instead of seizing an historic opportunity for restructuring the economy to benefit the country and planet, Obama opted instead for massive handouts to bankers and car manufacturers, topping off this largesse to the powers that be –the ones who put him in the Oval office- with an audacity of hubris that was simply stunning. Case in point: The acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize attempting to justify a massively expanded war in Afghanistan against people whose primary sin is that they are somehow a speed bump in the exit lane of a declining American empire. 


The economy of much of the world melted due to sheer greed and stupidity, yet the leaders of all the Western nations - the ones most responsible for the debacle – now talk about how the economy has turned the corner and we are back in boom times.  Alas, they’ve forgotten to prove this happy vision to all those who lost jobs, or homes, or both.  The same leaders speak eloquently of democracy for Afghans while systematically demolishing civil liberties at home, praise the sacrifice of our soldiers while sending more of them to die in a futile and endless war, while giving little rational exposition about how impoverished Pashtun farmers in a medieval society half a world away manage to pose an existential threat to our way of life.


Closer to home, we have a neurotically secretive prime minister canceling this winter’s sitting of Parliament at whim with barely a whisper of protest from the so-called opposition parties.  What it is the latter oppose remains far from clear, indeed their actual purpose equally vague since none of them really oppose, let alone propose, anything of substance. The same prime minister and government recently helped sink the Copenhagen meeting while spouting green platitudes. 


From the Liberals caucus in Victoria, we get endless glad handing about the alleged benefits of the upcoming Olympic circus, all the while ensuring that a virtual veil of secrecy surrounds any questions about the insane costs for the same. Endless lies about the harmonized sales tax and when it was planned are bandied about while the blatant scheming for “run of rivers” power projects and salmon farms remain ignored.  The absurdly feral scam surrounding the sale of BC Rail remains hidden under a rock with little more information available now than when the police raided the BC Legislature over six years ago. 


In Vancouver, the citizens elected a “green” mayor, a man now seen to be as famous for fruit juice as his penchant for kowtowing to the developer elite of the city.  The latter include those who delivered the financial train wreck called the Athletes’ Village.  City council puts marketing agreements to foreign corporations over the civil liberties and pays lip service to housing as thousands sleep in the rain.


And, lest we forget the greatest boondoggle in British Columbia’s history, the Olympics has become far more real to a lot of people as the burgeoning costs and upcoming transportation nightmares come into focus. As for the ideals, the so-called pillars of “Olympism”, there is this reality check: Sports are great, but not in our schools since there is no longer money for such frivolity; arts, but only as crumbs to the plebs for allowing themselves to be sucked into this gargantuan Ponzi scheme; environmental sustainability when it comes to grey water, but not for the animals or trees at Eagleridge or the Callaghan Valley.  And, before I forget, let’s not fail to note some of the other “promises” of our Olympic boosters. We would, they told us, always respect civil liberties, but it is more than OK to turn the Integrated Security Unit and its Keystone Cops loose against dissidents who dare state that John Furlong and his band of pirates have no clothes.  The economy, we were assured, would blossom under the Five Rings…just not for businesses along the Cambie corridor or for those unfortunate enough to have to forgo their customers for two months during the party.  Native peoples were to have their culture highlighted –many would say exploited- for the IOC and tourists, but treaty talks to address Native sovereignty remain dormant.  And, not least, the respect and inclusivity that the poor and homeless were supposed to expect have come to naught, the latter moved around by Vancouver’ finest like yesterday’s garbage.


Dark days indeed, but in my perhaps jaded view there is one light still shining in the otherwise bleak winter months ahead: In February, social justice activists from across the country and around the world will join their compatriots in the rainy streets of Vancouver to resist the 2010 Olympics. 


Resistance for those of us who will be out there is not a futile exercise for sore losers, rather a moral calling. It attempts to recapture the commons and to reassert the notion that people do come before profit, that civil rights are not for sale to the highest bidder, and that the streets of this city really do belong to all of us, not only those who pour money into International Olympic Committee coffers or the back pockets of the developers.  


Resistance is more a state of mind than any particular action on the ground and, as such, it can’t be stopped by police with Tasers, pepper spray and tear gas or soldiers with automatic rifles riding armoured personnel carriers.


Maybe suppressing a resistance movement would work in China, but not here in British Columbia. A large fraction of British Columbians are now in sympathy with the Olympic Resistance Network and its goal of actively fighting back against the Olympic invasion.  Against all odds and in the face of mainstream media hype, the numbers of those opposed to the Games are growing and, of a certainty, in 2010 it won’t just be radicals in the streets. 


Plenty of mainstream, ordinary, tax-paying people have now had more than enough of this crap. Action and energy has begun to replace inaction and apathy.  The power of people acting together now seems poised to supersede the assumed authority of three morally corrupt levels of government. 


The winter of discontent triggered by the disgust so many of us feel might just, in February, spawn a spring of…something very new and unexpected?









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