02 August 2011

If Only She'd Run...

Margaret Atwood asks: ‘Are people like me welcome in this city?’

She means artists in Toronto. Since last year, Toronto has a mayor who makes Sarah Palin seem intelligent and literate. He was elected by the areas of Toronto which used to be suburbs but were swallowed during the nineties' trend of turning every big city into a mega-city. People who live in the old suburbs tend to prefer cars to public transit, sterile streets to funky, graffiti-ed ones, tidiness, not creativity. 

Well, Rod Ford is his Fool, of a brother, Doug Ford, have surpassed all expectations. Blind privatisation, transit, garbage disposal, libraries are being discussed even if such policies will affect service and cost billions more to the taxpayers (watch this public debate on public transit ). The right-wing disease has grown savage in recent years, mindless and cruel and it is spreading fast in Canada. Poor people are scum and don't deserve human dignity, don't you know. Toronto, with its urban heat, can get to 50 degrees Celsius in the Summer, but Ford resisted for a long time before finally declaring an extreme heat alert for the first time this year, two weeks ago. He resisted because such an alert triggers measures like keeping pools open late for people without AC and leaving homeless shelters open during the day. This costs the taxpayer money.

Like a mad hatter, like an American Tea Partier, Ford wants to rule not to make the state work but to make it disappear. And like those false libertarians South of the 49th, he hates gays and immigrants and artists, with a special kind of wrath for cyclists.

I am an artist and I left Toronto months ago. I don't think Toronto is a good place for a creative person to be right now.

Of course, I still live in Canada, a place now ruled by that horrific Lord Protector Stephen Harper. He takes money from small theatre companies and gives them to big arts organisations that don't need it nearly as much. He is worse than Ford in many ways and his power has greater reach. And he's not found of the LGBT community or brown people at all.

These are dark times for liberals. Dark times for all intelligent, free thinking people. After Doug Ford criticised the existence of public libraries, writer Margaret Atwood rose to defend them. Many think like her but individual wingnuts are calling for people to burn her books. Book burning. In Canada.

It's true that the fall of the Soviet Union is partly to blame for this. I hate totalitarian regimes as much as the next guy, but communism forced capitalists to participate in some wealth distribution, pensions, unions, universal healthcare of some form of it in many western countries. I also believe this is a white man, white race problem. Heterosexual white men (well, the ones who insist they are) feel threatened in a world where women, visible and invisible minorities have taken power and ceased to be voiceless. Several American states have a white minority and 18% of Canadians were not born in Canada. Of course, this last figure is interesting because in 1931, 22% of Canadians had not been born in Canada. One thing for sure, the shift in immigration, from immigrants of European extraction to those from Indochina, Africa and the Middle-East means that to some narrow-minded people, Canada doesn't "look" the same and this stirs up fear.

In the last quarter only, since the Lord Protector has gained his majority, immigration has fallen by 25% in Canada. It would be interesting to know how that reduction has affected immigrants from European countries.

Toronto, Canada, are undergoing a makeover. And when everything is wrecked, infrastructure, social programs, the arts, when children and women have nowhere to turn to when they are abused, who will pick up the pieces? I used to joke that Blade Runner was becoming more true everyday and I think savage and cruel capitalism will create the dystopic world writers like Suzanne Collins are writing about today. Not an exact copy of course, but her post-climate-change world (because, of course, Harper and Ford couldn't care less about the environment) in its resulting social inequities, may just around the corner for us.

Artists don't run for office and I very much doubt Atwood would. They shouldn't be an election for another four years, but I have high hopes Ford is a dirty politician and that something is afoot between him and KPMG. After all, it seems hardly possible to underestimate the man.

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