Jack be nimble
You see, you don't have to CRUSH dissent to get rid of it; you just have to tire the dissenters.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
What do we have to fear from the new majority Conservative government?
Unless we, as parts of the greater artistic community, splinter apart and let the Tories weaken our institutions as they did the last time they had a majority - under Mulroney. Jobs that were sure things at CBC Montreal disappeared. (I know because my life as a radio dramatist ended.) Grants from the Canada Council which sustained a new generation of artists also went down the toilet. (I know, mine were among them.) We also need to fear that after Harper, like Mulroney, has weakened the big boys, he also begins to destroy the second tier companies. (ie: Centaur survives, Infini does not.) Important, smaller companies across the country, died under Mulroney - Toronto Workshop Productions, Victoria's Bastion Theatre, to name just two.
With Harper we have a backbench that is full of religious zealots and gun-loving hicks who want nothing more than to destroy all those faggots in the arts.
And during those bad old days? Yes, Actors Equity and ACTRA and all the arts organizations in the country yelled but the huge common front which would have been required to fight the mighty Mulroney never formed. There were artists for peace, artists for the environment - artists so overwhelmed by what Mulroney did to the entire society that they never formed an Artists For Artists. All of us espoused causes all over the place and so became unfocused on getting ourselves through. We left ourselves completely vulnerable.
I worry this will happen again because I see on Twitter and Facebook all the fine people in the arts running off in 50 directions at once; jacks of all causes and masters of none. (Or Jacks, if you will...) All these causes are truly important, don't get me wrong, but we'll all be of little use to any of them after we come home exhausted each night from our jobs selling shoes.
And how are we facing this threat? Scattered.
And this time things are much worse, folks. Because with Harper we have a backbench that is full of religious zealots and gun-loving hicks who want nothing more than to destroy all those faggots in the arts. Our lives and work mean nothing to them. Worse, we are seen as pernicious. Harper courted those backbenchers and their followers to win this election. Moreover, Harper is himself an Evangelical. It might be too late for him and his people to get the baby-killers and sodomites but, by God!, aren't all those pesky Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver elitist sissies easy pickin's!?
And how are we facing this threat? Scattered. I've seen Harper called an idiot and he certainly is not that. He is a master politician who will do anything to stay in power and step one is to rid himself of dissent. You see, you don't have to CRUSH dissent to get rid of it; you just have to tire the dissenters. Five years is a long goddam time and, as individuals, it is probably too long.
We have to stop splintering and saying stupid things like, "Well I don't get it either," because that is all the Harperites need to hear.
I want to see artists unite. I want the larger artistic community - French-speaking, English-speaking, journalists, dancers, actors, writers, painters, poets - to scream as one. When a single one of us is targeted by a Tory backbencher because we "offended" him, we have to protect that one with everything we have. When opera and ballet is singled out as blue-blood we have to scream as one, because next time it will be theatre and symphony. When a work of art - like Barnett Newman's Voice of Fire purchased by the National Gallery or Jana Sterbak's Vanitas: Dress for an Albino Anorectic (the famous pre-Gaga meat dress) - is misrepresented by the Tories and misunderstood by the masses, we have to be the bigger mass saying these artists are ours and we support them and their explorations. We have to stop splintering and saying stupid things like, "Well I don't get it either," because that is all the Harperites need to hear; in effect, we've been recruited. (When I hear a soi-disant artist say, "My four-year-old could have done that!" I want to say, "You must be so proud of a child who has surpassed you in imagination.")
There is a rainbow, I think. A colleague of mine here, at CharPo - Valerie Cardinal - suggested the possibility of the Tories, now in power, splintering themselves; a Canadian Tea Party rising and horrifying centrist Canadians. I like this idea. However, Harper - no fool, remember? - is a strong leader and excellent at silencing the wackos in the fold. Unless...unless...there are too many of them. (One can dream.)
Bottom line, though, and for the next five years we are talking about survival. We can do it as one force.
If we don't we have more to lose than our jobs. We will lose our identities.