The Unstoppable, Viral, Political Change of the People

The recent passing of Bill C-51 is a significant legislative step down a pretty freaky road. That is to say, it opens up the legal space where the Harper government, through CSIS, has increased powers to secretly disrupt, manipulate and detain people based on arbitrary designations of “terrorism” (to view the text of the bill go here 1).

Obviously this bill is not popular with the majority of Canadians, and has been trashed and decried by the legal community, civil society, indigenous groups and just about every half-right thinking group out there. However, as bad as C51 may be, it is part of a larger pattern of of legal, political and financial manipulation used by the Harper government to advance a very particular variety of “the Canadian National Interest.” Fittingly, Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians released a scathing report on May 8th – the day after C51 passed – called “BROKEN COVENANT: HOW STEPHEN HARPER SET OUT TO SILENCE DISSENT AND CURTAIL DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION IN CANADA” chronicling how the Harper government has systematically set about re-engineering the Canadian political landscape (see the report here 2).

Harper and his special interests groups have had to rely on ridiculous legislation, backroom dealing and fascistic policing practices because they are, at a fundamental level, losing their power. I don’t simply mean they’re going to be voted out – which I hope they are – but, rather, that their capacity to harness and work with the social force of the people is increasingly negligible. The fact that bills like C51 are borne out of the fear of the governing WASPs and a handful of Richie Riches  demonstrates their desperation in the face of a global surge that is changing the nature of power relations.

Movements like Idle No More, the fight against pipelines and environmental destruction, new Immigrant Deportation rules, and resistance to a series of totally lopsided free trade agreements is spreading virally. The intersection of all these movements is natural. People are not blind, nor are our feelings totally turned off. We can see that these issues are all benefiting the same select few and that they have absolutely no problem using whatever means necessary to make their money and keep their power, no matter what the consequences. We can feel hope in communities, in the energy of art and music, and in the victories that are happening when people come together and to fight as a diverse but unified movement in touch with itself, connected to each other and responsible to the earth.

A recently published report by APTN indicated that the “Idle No More is like bacteria, it has grown a life of its own all across this nation.” It continues that, “It may be advisable for all to have contingency plans in place, as this is one issue that is not going to go away.” 2 Of course, the report suggested that this could escalate to direct violence – which is the same rhetoric that underscores much of Bill C51 – but in fact what is most telling about this is that it reflects the government and the po-po’s inability to control a natural spread of ideas and actions that not only unite people, they have the capacity to create a very different social and political reality. The viral spread of communities organizing in non-hierarchical ways which are healthy and positive is the greatest threat to a plutocratic system of corporate governance that is both boring and sick.

Whereas the Harperites try to structure things for their own benefit through laws and economic investments, the new politics is fluid and creative, it’s really compelling. Harper’s agenda panders to greedy soulless demons who already have way too much money and power, and continue to do far too much damage. The current political momentum is being spurred on and guided by the people most affected by the colonial-capitalist machine, and they’re creating something at once new, while also remembering and reconnecting with teachings and truths that are very very old. The Harper regime is extractivist, it takes away life and leaves devastation. The new movement is activist, it gives life, cultivates, plants and nurtures seeds.

Of course the powers-that-be have a long history been of labeling internal threats to their power “bacteria,” “germs” and “insects.” Canada’s new laws enable racism and have handed over the state’s “legitimate” power to some of the most violent and unjust people in society. These laws are made in service of corporate finance, they rely on bigger industrial projects, more infrastructure to ship oil, and more jails to keep people locked away. The spread of resistance and creativity is natural and spreads through culture, touching individual hearts and minds and speaking truth to power.

It’s not a fair field of play for those staunch old bastards. They cannot win, and they have less and less real power than ever before. They are fighting a losing battle and they know it. Resistance is fertile.

1.https://openparliament.ca/bills/41-2/C-51/
2.http://canadians.org/media/broken-covenant-blistering-report-9-years-harper-agenda
3.http://aptn.ca/news/2015/05/07/idle-movement-like-bacteria-says-internal-rcmp-document/

‘Land is Relationship’ – Legality and Emotion

In a recent piece featured in Rabble.ca 1, activist, author and founder of Vancouver’s migrant justice organization, No One is Illegal 2 Harsha Wallia interviews indigenous scholar Glen Coulthard, whose recent book “Red Skins, White Masks” is getting much buzz these days 3. This interview – and indeed the ongoing conversation between immigrants and indigenous peoples – represents a growing movement based on new relationships that challenge the dominant discourse of colonial Canada. For Coulthard, these relationships are inextricably tied to the land:  “Land is a relationship based on the obligations we have to other people and the other-than-human relations that constitute the land itself.” 

Coulthard discusses the powerful role of emotions in the current indigenous resurgence. While he recognizes the harmful impacts of internalized anger within communities, he suggests that this “anger and resentment [can be] a critical, even cathartic, antidote to the current infatuation with “reconciliation” and ‘forgiveness,'” and that “There is another story to be told about these emotions.” In particular, Coulthard stresses that “these emotions can also serve as a catalyst for change. They’re explosive and prompt people to act, to take matters into their own hands, individually and collectively.”

These emotional dynamics raise a number of important questions about what causes these powerful emotions to be expressed in harmful ways and what it takes for them to drive transformation? Are their particular issues that serve as affective edges which, once crossed, have a determinant impact on whether emotional expressions have a productive or destructive outcome? Unfortunately this is not a discussion that Wallia and Coulthard address directly in the interview. Coulthard does, however, indicate that at the core of relationships with the land as well as relations with other people, the issue of sovereignty is always in play.  This has led Coulthard to have “…concerns regarding how some non-Native movements express their support for Indigenous sovereignty movements because they may see similar interests aligning around, say, environmental protections but have little interest in supporting Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. This seems overly instrumental, not based on an ethical obligation to support Indigenous land and treaty rights.” 

New relationships need to involve new modes of relating to state sovereignty that reflect and respond to the emotions and experiences of different groups of people within Canada. This need for new relationships between Canadian state-sovereignty and the people is also a fundamental issue for groups like No One is Illegal. Colonial dispossession in other regions is a major reason why many of the most precarious migrants in Canada have been forced to take part in the global pool of migrant labour. Many immigrants and migrant workers continue to be forced into positions where they are treated as less-than-human, because of their marginal position in relation to Canadian sovereignty.  Going forward, these legal and emotional divisions provide a common terrain on which upon which alliances between indigenous peoples and immigrants is emerging. The full extent to which these relationships will be able to manifest in concrete actions and alliance building that are able to re-constitute Canadian sovereignty remains to be seen.

1.http://nooneisillegal.orghttp://rabble.ca/columnists/2015/01/land-relationship-conversation-glen-coulthard-on-indigenous-nationhood
2.http://nooneisillegal.org
3.http://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/red-skin-white-masks