march on, monks

they started beating up monks today. a couple of midnight raids later, over 70 monks had been snatched by the junta and at least five murdered. amid the tear-gassy aggression in rangoon, lay demonstrators scrambled to shield the monks.

every person out there knows they are taunting death. they think it's worth it.

hard to articulate why the monks move me so. the grainy contraband cell phone video footage continues to catch my breath. they dedicate the whole of their lives to being quiet, unassuming. it is an overwhelming and powerful thing for them to defy the law banning protests, to assemble so defiantly in the name of democracy. BAREFOOT. for what, a month now?, those monks have been getting all up in the face of everything that is wrong with the world – tyranny, oppression, ignorance, violence. they're not allowed to. they don't have to. yet they march. they are conviction personified.

on this side of burma's information clamp-down, i gotta wonder what was the tipping point for the monks? like, at what point does a malevolent dictatorship become just too much to take, compelling the monks to rise from their peaceful, private prayer and move bravely through rangoon streets. how far will they take this revolt? now that the junta has finally begun unleashing, how ultimate does a monk's life of sacrifice have to be?

not to place a higher value on the protest and bravery of the monks over the thousands of inspiring resisters the world over who dare risk their lives on behalf of beliefs i share. images of those monks can't help but humble you, though. we know the burmese monks to have centuries of political activism, even playing a major role in the burma’s struggle for independence. still, a buddhist monk is such the symbol of humility. so when that symbol spills out of monestaries with so much fearlessness, how not be stirred over and over again? gandhi-esque, really, when people whose entire life is based on peace and asceticism decide to step out and collectively flip the bird to injustice.

i fancy myself a gutsy gal; i'd even like to think i walk pretty darn steadfastly in my own convictions. but i'm honestly not sure i’d ever have the balls enough to walk right up to the (literal) barrel of a machine gun held by the murderous forces i oppose and say FUCK YOU. i sure wouldn't do it with the mighty grace of those monks under the direct threat of such brutality. it's all well and good to be a pissed off activist over here, to agitate in safe ways against all kinds of bullshit. but if the chips were as down as they could ever get, if Push came to the worst of Shoves, would i risk being killed for my beliefs?

what would you die for?





this is what an annoyed feminist looks like

yes, i will take part in tonight's 'take back the night' march in ottawa because it's one way to make a statement about violence aganst women. such demonstrations of unity, outrage, and defiance are part of what we must do. STILL. because it is apparently ok, STILL, to view women as inferior, as sexual objects, as targets for violence. we will issue our collective request to be given back our night, please. but like most women i know, it makes me fucking sick that we even have to question our right to move about the planet free from worry about the violation of our space, our bodies, our freedom.

yes, it is the year 2007 and we live in exciting, progressive times. so why do the headlines keep blurring it up all dark ages style when it comes to how women are STILL seen, treated, discarded? the awareness and political campaigns of our mothers and grandmothers sound no different than the ones we churn out (by rote, almost) today. god only knows if our daughters and granddaughters will STILL be making the same outrageous demands for equality in the same outrageous manner, wishing the world to possibly lay off their bodies and their safety once and for all.

what a relief to be in canada and not some backwards backwater place on earth where neanderthals drag women around caves by their hair, as mere baby machines or cooks should be... where women are slaves who happen to bear an evil clitoris. oh no, we live where incidents of violence against women are bizarre anomalies, not like in less enlightened places on earth. we are a modern society that well recognizes the value and power of women as equals.

err, reality check: we are so STILL not there. as if
robert pickton confessing to killing almost 50 women isn't gruesome or telling enough, never mind the unending list of hundreds of aboriginal women who go missing or are murdered without hardly any consequence...

in the very shadows of those iconic symbols of freedom - the parliament buildings, the peace tower - women are being snatched in daylight, violated in darkness, eliminated like ragged nothings.

just this week:
two women in the Ottawa area were forced into vehicles before being sexually assaulted earlier this week, police said.

just this month:
an unknown man attacked a 23-year-old female student while she worked alone in a [carleton university] computer lab.

just around the corner from my house: [kelly morrisseau, pregnant]
was found naked, bleeding and near death in a Gatineau Park parking lot on Dec. 10.

from full-on gendercide to gender-tinged misdemeanors, the fact is that in 2007, women STILL have reason to doubt our safety, and therefore, our equality and autonomy. don't get me wrong -- i'm super grateful for my vote, my home ownership, my career prospects, my birth control pills. but so long as gender is STILL a target, there is no equality. and we can't ask to take back what we never had. we have to build it.

so yes, we'll gather tonight as thousands will in thousands of communities in a show of solidarity to reclaim 'the streets', just as we'll spend another december 6th lighting candles at quiet vigils in honour of the
14 women infamously murdered for being women, and we'll engage in yet another campaign to see if we can't set ourselves up with some true equality around here, despite best efforts to make sure we can't. because there's STILL a long way to go baby.


monsieur mulcair goes to ottawa?

i'm trying to decide whether or not to head to outremont to help out in the final stretch of campaigning frenzy before monday's by-election. insiders and outsiders alike are anticipating a tight race between the ndp and the liberals for that seat. recent polling would substantiate the hype. to steal the riding from the libs who've held it almost steadily for over 70 years would be one thing. at a time when dion is so desperately trying to hang on to credibility in the region would be another. but for the ndp victor to be a former provincial liberal cabinet minister - oh god.

i can't help but wait until the final ballot is counted, though, before letting any giddy seep outta me. the quebec electorate has proven itself - especially lately - to be unpreditable. disappointing. downright daft.

oh sure, the ndp has been able to capitalize on mulcair's reputation, tap into raw sentiment about afghanistan and the environment, and take advantage of the weak opposition campaigns. but in the end, quebec voters could still surprise us. they tend to base their ultimate decision on issues much closer to home, closer to the skin. questions of war and peace surely grab the gut of many savvy urban voters, but will the ndp's position be enough to pull them over to a party that has only ever elected one MP from quebec (nearly 20 years ago) in it's entire history? is the resonance and familiarity of mulcair enough to persuade long-standing liberal supporters to jump ship? is current liberal lackluster (or reverberations of recent liberal error) enough to knock voters off their pattern? quebeckers are, if nothing else, loyalists to party and cause - it's a bit like saskatchewan in that way, here, where political alliances are practically woven into genetic coding.

could now really be the magical moment when enough voters will break with ties and shock the nation... my faith in the quebec electorate needs restoring, so i'd really like to believe. but given my general philosophy is to keep all expectations low, i shall wait until the last second on monday night to exhale, to begin to forgive the very voters who
gutted me with the last provincial election, leaving me wondering where the fuck it is i've decided to plant roots.

my curiosity in all this is just that - curiosity. what with my wavering interest in and unplugging from politics this year, this by-election is something i've been watching, not feeling. no investment. no hope. i haven't felt a single tinge of guilt about not participating in the planning or execution of the campaign. i do think about how refreshing it might have been to work alongside those colleagues in an environment possibly not fraught with negativity and bad behaviour, where we were all finally aligned with our eye on a real prize, for once. but i've been content to stay away.

ok, i may not necessarily WANT to dive into the phone bank on monday or screech around montreal side streets in the choreographed relay of voters' lists. but i'm a political junkie to the core - one on hiatus, yes - but a political junkie nonetheless. can i really resist the adreline rush that is a close and heated e-day campaign? why would i? especially a body-beating e-day that - dare i even whisper it - might end in a win. lord knows i haven't felt that in a long while. our wee ndp project in quebec could use a success of any sort, for chrissakes, never mind a victory this huge. wee hiatus or not, i might just want to be in the room with those colleagues with whom i've been through so much shit ... to savour the moment. that's right, the moment i'm not holding my breath for.


fear not the art

well, it's finally done. the peptides (aka claude) officially launched the debut cd, i'm a spy, at a magical tiki-torch lit party that took place on sunday night. i've been going back and forth all week on what to say about it. because there's so much. but the so-called wordsmith has had trouble giving description to it all.

claude sailed
through the set
we played
to an
adoring crowd...

sans puking.

oh sure, i could be all objectivey about it and say the cd project has been fascinating to observe, the music is really fucking good, buy it! yay! tell your friends! i could say that the pink house entourage far outdid itself in throwing what could easily be classified as the best party of 07. i could talk about how fun and exciting it has been to be involved in any way shape or form in this, claude's newest creative journey. but it'd all fall quite short of The Point.

to the naked eye, claude is an intrepid artist who moves seamlessly from one form of creative expression to another. and that naked eye would be right. but with this crazy music thing, my friend has truly climbed a mountain. and he has turned around. he calls it his 'stay of execution'... i call it moving.

those of us who muse about the muse would do well to take a cue from the peptides. true artists know all about risk. they flirt with and conquer it every day. but too many of us linger long at the precipice, paralyzed by fear and excuses and whatever other nonsense tells us to stay safe. but art should never be safe. whether it's a humble home-recording thing like claude's or a big fat poetry manuscript, we have GOT to bear down and push out the thing. release it. put it out there. free fall.

in my few seconds worth of unrehearsed remarks at sunday's launch, i'd intended to say something about my friend's Labour of Love. i failed to do that, fumbling instead through a corny toast about artists and quality material and free cocktails. what i might have said, had it not been for all the pre-performance 'panty removers' (bartender's name - not mine - for gin & tonics), is this: you are bearing witness to the taking of an enormous risk for someone you'd think is long accustomed to the creative stretch. sure, the album is a labour of love. but it is much more: a labour of guts, of vulnerability, loss, fear. it has pushed him further than even the most resilient risk-taking artist might try to go. it may well be his most important milestone to date, and should make anyone incubating an art idea want to just set that bastard free.

at the risk of over-shmaltzing this thing to the point where claude will totally disown me, suffice it to say that i'm overwhelmingly proud of my boy. but much of what i'm saying and feeling here has nothing to do with my boy at all. i'm talking about telling fear to Fuck Off. i'm talking about inspiration, people, and how we should grab it wherever it appears. and how we needn't always gawk up at the big shit for it, either. it can be small, but it's there. just squint.

it would seem artists make art because they have no choice: it's what they must do. in seemingly small ways, we put our shit Out There and in doing so, perhaps only experience as small pods of allies the momentousness of our artistic achievements. but cumulatively, what brightening of the world occurs.

i applaud you, my claude, and i thank you. for so many things.