A few days ago, I had one of those “eff you, I’m turning off the radio and all y’all are just a bunch of paint-sniffing reticulated jerk muffins” moments. It was about Idle No More. If you’re Canadian and you haven’t heard about this grassroots protest against legislation that may infringe upon our treaty rights, you may be a cave dweller, or you may just be the sort of person who doesn’t pay attention to…you know…stuff. Like everything. It’s an interesting movement and protest, and I think it’s starting to polarize the country in a way that few other things have in recent memory.
We’ve had the primarily east versus west debate against whether gun registries are a good idea, but I don’t think that polarized anyone. There were folks with strong opinions, but central Canada doesn’t listen to them anyway, so it didn’t count as polarization.
But here’s the thing that upset me the other day. Chief Theresa Spence has embarked on a hunger strike in an attempt to get Prime Minister Harper to meet with her to discuss the concerns Canadians have with the omnibus bill that appears to target our treaties. She began her hunger strike in early December, and she’s living on an island within view of Parliament. And it’s come as a surprise to precisely no one that Prime Minister Harper has basically put his fingers in his ears and has been singing “LA LA LA LA LA I DON’T HEAR YOU!” ever since.
Our Prime Minister has made no secret of the fact that he’s a brilliant tactician, which means he’s a bit of a despot. He controls all the information that his party gets to have. He keeps his MPs on a short leash. He tells the media where and when they can ask questions, and if he doesn’t like the questions they ask, he doesn’t just refuse to answer them, he leaves. He does things his way, and he doesn’t give a fiddler’s fart what anyone else in Canada thinks about his way of doing things. He gets to run rampant over what used to be the best country in the world because Canadians can’t be arsed to vote him out. [Insert rant here about how democracy doesn’t exist in Canada.]
So someone in the media started bitching about how Chief Spence’s hunger strike involves her drinking water and fish broth, and how that doesn’t actually count as a hunger strike because a hunger strike is supposed to be when you don’t eat any food at all and clearly Chief Spence is doing it wrong and so that negates everything she says. And on the heels of that “neener neener we’re way smarter than you and can see right through your stupid hunger strike that isn’t a REAL hunger strike because if you were on a REAL hunger strike you’d be DEAD by now” opposition, there are people saying that the Idle No More movement lacks focus, is too vague, and is disorganised.
First things first. Hunger strikes were recognised as legitimate means of protest since the Irish invented it (which was a very long time ago. Seriously. I read it in a book. And
the all-knowing Wizard Wikipedia just confirmed it. So it has to be true.) Now, I’m not really sure if there’s a “Hunger Strikes for Dummies” book, or if there’s a how-to manual, or how people decide to use this form of peaceful civil resistance to protest laws they feel are unjust, but here’s what I have to say about it: if you feel Chief Spence is ‘doin it rong’, I encourage you to protest her protest by engaging in a hunger strike in which you consume water and fish broth. I also encourage you to do it at a time when your friends and family are celebrating the winter vacation and holidays with feasts and parties and being together. If you think she’s doing it wrong, or if you feel cheated by the fact that she is consuming fish broth, put your money where your mouth is and show her up.
If you don’t like what she has to say, fine. If you disagree with her point of view and with her claims, fine. If you think the whole idea of the Idle No More protests are unnecessary because you’re tired of Canada having a two-tier system that favours Native Canadians, that’s great. Go hard. Criticise her. Criticise the whole movement. Disagree. Call their facts into question. Call their arguments into question. Enter in to respectful debate. Don’t be afraid that people are going to call you a racist. Don’t be afraid that people are going to say you need to educate yourself on the treaties and on Canadian history. Those are the standard arguments you’re going to hear. But do it. PLEASE do it.
If the Idle No More protesters and if Chief Spence and if the people who disagree with the legislation that sparked all this aren’t able to respectfully and intelligently and kindly debate with you, with wisdom and facts-based knowledge, then you win! Good for you! You won a thing! YAAAAAY!
But if, on the other hand, you want to point your finger and snigger because a leader of the people is fleecing the Canadian people by eating fish broth, which means she’s not actually starving herself to death, you’re grasping at straws. Desperate people do desperate and foolish things (I’m referring to you here, if you’re the “Chief Spence is a big dumb liar lyingpants because she’s not actually dying” sort). This is the equivalent of calling someone Hitler when you don’t like what they have to say.
You can find a lot of information about the Idle No More protests on news sites. CBC tends to have a more pro-protest angle, and the National Post tends to have a more anti-protest angle (a phrase which, of itself, makes me smile). It’s interesting that it seems to be conservative, politically right-leaning people who have the most problem with the idea of protests of any kind. It was primarily that camp that got their panties in a knot over all those dirty homeless people who set up their filthy tents in parks that our tax dollars have been used to build so that they could basically be a public nuisance since their ‘protest’ lacked focus.
Granted, an awful lot of people who jumped on the Occupy protests didn’t pay much attention to the messages they were supposed to be sending. That’s kind of the downfall of grassroots movements. Come to think of it, that’s kind of the downfall of a lot of political ideologies that rely on more than a handful of people.
Anyway, I’ve digressed. Big surprise.
If you don’t agree with Chief Spence and the Idle No More movement, engage one another in actual discussion (not just flinging thinly veiled or passive aggressive insults at one another. Saying things like “you need to study the treaties” is passive aggressive, and it’s insulting and obnoxious. Cite the actual passages of legislation to support your argument. Don’t tell one another that they’re stupid or uneducated or racist. That just digs the hole way frigging deeper. And don’t assume that someone who disagrees with your point of view is arguing from a place of privilege or special interest. Sometimes, it’s okay to just disagree.)
In another bit of ridiculous trolling, someone used the word ‘ghetto’ in reference to having to drive through “the hood” and was immediately labelled a racist. And that just made me pissy. Because a “ghetto” is an area where underprivileged groups tend to congregate and live. That’s not racist, that’s a definition. And I’m all for using words in ways they are meant to be used. Every city has a ghetto. Many small towns have ghettos. Saying “I had to drive through the ghetto” doesn’t make you a bloody racist. It makes you the sort of person who recognises that there are areas of town where few people are employed, where addictions and (organised) crime are rampant. It means you recognise there are places in the communities in which you live where life is really, really shitty.
Now, if you say “I had to drive through the ghetto and I could feel all those [insert racial slur here] straing at me”, that’s a different story. But calling a ghetto a ghetto is not racist. It may be insensitive. It may be obnoxious. It may be incendiary. And it’s probably rude. You could pick a different word that’s less charged, like “the hood” or “the wrong side of the tracks”. But I don’t think the word “ghetto” itself is a “racist” word. And I argued this at the time, and I will still argue it.
I’m okay to disagree.
Also, to the person who recommended I “Google the meaning of the word”, I just kind of hang my head in shame. Not that there’s anything wrong with using Google to find word definitions. I just…well. That’s probably not worth debating, actually.