Thursday, October 27, 2016

Letter to Department of Canadian Heritage Review of Cultural Policies, Regulations and Legislation from DC Reid

League of Canadian Poets Directory
To: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Canadian Heritage M√©lanie Joly Government of Canada 

Hi Justin Trudeau and Mélanie Joly

During the Department of Canadian Heritage’s review of cultural policies, legislation and so on, I hope you will keep as your first item: paying artists a living salary so they can make their art.

The sad reality is that artists receive so little income that the Writers Union has calculated that the median income for a writer is $5,000. It should not be this way, but it is this bad, and has been so for decades. It is finally time to pay artists for creating Canada’s culture just as is done in Europe. We don’t have pension plans either, and these would be thankfully received, as well. Please consider that when the time comes for you to receive your pension, one year of it will exceed what virtually all artists make in their entire careers.

My 13th book will be published in early 2017, and the sad reality is that I have never been able to live off my 40 years of artistic writing, despite winning many awards. I am also at work on a half dozen other books that I don’t expect to earn me a decent income, if nothing changes. Don’t spend millions on your review, and then not pay artists. Please pay artists a living wage as your first priority, or don’t bother doing the review. Many arts, for example, poetry, can never provide an income for poets, yet it is important to Canada’s view of itself, now and in the future, that the poetry be written.

In addition, the Copyright Act needs updating, including Harper’s giving away all of our remaining income to the social policy goal of giving Canadians free access to the information they expect to get for free on the internet. Giving this away, should be coupled with governments paying artists for their work. I am also a digital artist and the situation is the same for those of us moving into the future of new art forms. In this new and exciting frontier, I have six websites and blogs. Google: DC Reid and you can find out what I do.
Finally, Access Copyright and Public Lending Right are shadows of what they should be. It grieves me to note that the base AC payment for an artist is about $75. It really is that bad.
Stats Can’s most recent figures – 2010 – for the industry perspective are that the GDP of culture industries was $53.4 billion, 3.4% of Canada’s GDP and 707,012 jobs. And yet artists have no income for their contribution.

Please address the ongoing reality of an artist’s life, and do the right thing.

DC Reid


This letter from DC Reid to Canadian Heritage Minister and our Prime Minister details the problem of culture in Canada - primarily that artists cannot sustain themselves. The question is how will we know ourselves if the only paid voice comes from the corporate world?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Greatest Poverty

The greatest poverty of our age is when you have no control over the room you sleep in, or where the next meal is coming from. Or even worse, when social services assumes you are an unfit mother because you are too poor to give your children what they need, and you fear you will lose them.

The next greatest poverty is when you yourself assume that those living in poverty are there because they failed in some way. Or that people who have addictions are weak willed and have simply given up.

And the next greatest poverty is if you live in a society where these attitudes prevail. Because you will find categories but not the causes of social problems.

Categories really help the ones who organize society - but who are they now? Is the government organizing anything beyond budget, traffic and policing? When police officers, doctors, nurses and social workers keep fixing the wounds, go home, come back to find only more of the same, do they begin to question if they are helping at all?

Who is responsible for taking care of the bigger picture? If our prime minister is unable (or unwilling) to keep the promises he made during elections - who exactly is in charge? And if we don't know who is in charge of the infrastructures of our civilization, aren't we just refugees with debt?

The greatest poverty of our age, as I see it, is when we don't care about the infrastructures in terms of how it impacts our quality of life. It's Bleak House on a grand scale. It's like having plenty of electrical sockets in your house but you don't know which ones will charge your cell or blow you apart.

The emphasis on trade deals are saying to us - we cannot survive without plugging into a system we do not have the vocabulary to understand.

Poverty is not being able to navigate our future because the options are not available to us. Scrolling through Facebook is an inventory of injustices and structural violence from around the world. Nanosecond updates on all that is wrong and all that we (humanity) are failing at, and none of these observations and news items direct us on what we can do about it.

In this way we do not have a society, just overplayed myths about who we are, and who we are better than.

What can we plan without bullying or criticizing others? How can we hold onto a vision if no one else cares? How do we measure what matters if we have been reduced to the Gross Domestic Product?

How can we challenge one another without exploding the rage we all feel just under the skin?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Feeding Big Man (a story for adults)

Once there was a village near the river
like other villages, but in this village stood a man
taller than the others, jolly and bright. He built huts,
ploughed fields, caught fish, forged tools.

There was nothing he couldn't do. He grew
faster, stronger, with each passing day 
while others so impressed with his speed
saw their own skills pale in comparison

So in awe of his strength they left him to his jobs
while they struck a committee, elected a chairman
wrote up a roster to feed, wash and clothe him.
Villagers laboured to keep him strong and beefy.

Big man got bigger, got stuck behind his door.
Couldn't leave his house, couldn't do his chores
so the villagers had to do them as well as care
for him in the style and manner to which

he was accustomed, his large appetite, rich tastes
too big for his humble home, he demanded more
– a castle or a mansion, while the villagers bore
the cost with their labour, health, and savings

they were tired, worn down, enslaved by his needs 
but what could they do? What could they say?
Trapped! Until a child crept with courage to the castle
late at night to plead and show the man how the village

had become so poor, so weary, her last feint hope 
for reason and compassion and he wept, overcome with guilt 
he thanked the child, promised to care for all, the way
he had been cared for. She ran home to tell her folks

who were relieved, happy, and praised the child
until the mayor and town planner heard the story
charged the girl with treason, banned her
from the village for going above her station.

Just who did she think she was to enter
the sacred castle of the big man? The good
villagers argued with their neighbours.
Was the child right or wrong? 

Alone with a broken heart she wandered hills
and valleys, starved and cold she died
in a distant valley by a different river
while villagers wrote laws and manners

so that no child would embarrass her elders
by showing more courage and gumption
than they. Never again. The lesson well learned
life got back to normal, a solemn duty bound

tradition, a weary acceptance, the sober 
second thought, everyone in their place.
A trap they felt but never dared talk about.
The way things are. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

If Trump Should Win the Election

Roger Cohen's piece "The Trump Possibility" in The New York Times articulates a list of why it is possible
for the world's most powerful nation to elect an idiot. These include fear, anxiety-multipliers, trillions spent on two wars without victory, the crash of 2008 which rigged the global system and granted impunity to an elite, growing inequality, white losers from globalization, minorities who will be the majority by mid-century, abandonment of the working class, and the perennial folly of blaming those who have the least power.

All of this tells me the overwhelming failure is of the education system that has only focused on getting kids ready to work rather than understanding how power works, how society can work when its citizens are educated.  It's not teachers or superintendents that are to blame. It is the ideology that the market is the central measure of meaning in human endeavour.

But as we've witnessed in all political systems so far, power is everything and life is something to sacrifice for the cause. As workers and consumers the system is not interested in how long or how well we live, or that our grand-children have the opportunity to experience life. The system is structured so that all nutrition is sent up to the top, and in this century, the system has become more powerful.

Trump is the latest symptom of dysfunction where sentient beings are trained to endure their abuse through various fantasies of greatness because the system's contempt for us is too hard to bear. If Trump becomes president we shall feel that contempt on a personal level. Because the animus of this candidate is revenge. The middle finger in action. The war against the beating heart so full of grief only suicide will stop the pain.

This new "great" America will shut down public education and replace it with a specific indoctrination that further glorifies power. End taxation and shut down civil services such as transport, hospitals, sewage systems, institutional breakdown, community collapse.  Screen propaganda will shift from the cruelty based reality shows that shame those who don't win, and will focus on the actual torture of prisoners.  The humiliation and rape of environmentalists, feminists, liberals, Muslims, African-Americans, Mexicans -- will be lauded as "great" entertainment and shared among the viewers as "proof" of America's new "greatness". All culture will be subjugated to the revenge project.

First of all, Trump is not working alone - he is the body and mouth piece of values and aspirations that have been developed over centuries of white male supremacy.  Machismo has moved beyond masculinity, the sacred warrior, into the self-hating force.  This is toxic machismo. Monty Python, 1984 and Brave New World colliding in rage.

This new "great" America will look like North Korea, Syria, the Congo, Uganda, Nazi Europe, Mao's China and Stalin's Russia. None of this is new and no nation is saved from it, unless the people are educated about how power works in civil society - the duty of citizens to revere life so that it grows healthy.

Trump is just another symbol of our ignorance. As humans we cannot understand ourselves alone. We cannot win alone. We cannot be "great" alone. We do not, never have, and never will have power alone. That is the purpose of a responsible society that reveres life and is the conscience of the system it creates.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Greatest Mental Disease of Our Time

The primary mental disease of our time exhibits many habits and symptoms, but two come to mind here: 

Entitlement. The idea that we have more because we earned it.

Power. The worship of force, power-over, that is dislocated from the life force it seeks to control.

Entitlement and Power are instruments of oppression developed over centuries. Each of these create systemic violence within constructs of established and new fantasies.

Village folk, having learned through generations of civilization, understand we would not survive beyond infancy without love and cooperation. Language, literature, and knowledge are the trinity of civilization. Now with imagination and technology we have created higher standards of living. But these are soon lost if we adhere to a propaganda that promotes selfishness exclusively. Our wealth and intelligence becomes more powerful when its shared with the whole Universe to sustain and protect our ecosystems.

Taxes are investments in the human future. Roads, hospitals and schools are vehicles to richer lives.  We take these vehicles of infrastructure for granted if we succumb to adolescent ideologies that worship the winners and express contempt for everyone else.

Entitlement blinds us to the centuries of socialization that has invested in our well being.  Who will benefit by this ideology? The arms industry?

Power that continues to rape and pillage - physically, spiritually and emotionally is a power that eats life - through forced labour, racism, misogyny, poverty and pollution of the planet. This leaves the conscience and consciousness feeling powerless.

Driven in this way, we destroy nature, the planet, our families and friends, and our own future. We destroy our nation just as the Nazi's destroyed the country they claimed to love. The routine torture and murder of unarmed imprisoned people is the result of this madness. Power is as stupid as it is brutal.

Because we allow ourselves to be oppressed by the devices we created to prove we are entitled to have power over others,  we have made our own lives contemptible.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fantasy Industrial Complex and the Anthro-Hyena

"Here’s a hypothesis, ugly, uncharitable, but given our recent history it begs inquiry: most of the time most Americans don’t know what’s real any more. How else to explain Trump, a billionaire on an ego trip capturing a major party’s nomination for president?" Ben Fountain, The Guardian.

America is not alone in this.  Fantasies or lies have built great civilizations.  Take for example the Doctrine of Discovery where Europeans came to America, killed off the people living here by various means, stuck their flags in the earth and claimed it available for their use. And what about the belief that man was chosen by God to rule over the earth? Centuries keep spinning stories of superiority to disguise the brutality of our greed. All of the problems are caused by the notion that the very best of us rise to the top to rule over the rest, be they kings, emperors, presidents or CEO's.

Which brings me to Trump "the ultimate creature, and indisputable maestro, of the Fantasy Industrial Complex" writes Ben Fountain in The Guardian. Trump was mostly known for "The Apprentice", a reality show based on the fantasy of success, wealth and power.  These being the trinity of ultimate purpose in life, which has been, well interrogated by Eleanor Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and George Carlin.

But most of the oppressed shy away from any news or information about the cause of their oppression. According to one Trump supporter interviewed, there is absolutely no need to read articles or be curious. Now the "proof" of a leader's ability to rule the world is the Nielsen ratings.  The more viewers you attract the better person you are.

Some might point out the lack of intelligence, integrity, good policy, or respect for others, but now none of this matters because the Anthro-Hyena, has succeeded in silencing the human voice of vulnerability for the doctrine that power is the only thing that counts.  And those of us who have come to believe there is no such thing as personal power will unwittingly vote for guns, big mouths and cars, in order to survive.

The sad thing is we won't survive a Trump presidency, and if we do we may wish we hadn't. Then we will know in a very painful way that no matter what poetry, science and our mother's love has taught us, no matter what complex ways we have of fixing problems, no matter how often good people advise us not to support sociopaths - it will be too late to defend our world against the next level of slaughter. The slaughter of any knowledge or memory of truth, compassion or peace, so that we forget who we are. Forever.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How to Exterminate the Anthro-Hyena

Actually you can't exterminate them.  They dwell in the depths of life forms everywhere. In good times they are asleep.  In bad times they rule the world, spilling blood copiously. Not their blood  - the blood of their victims.

Homo Sapien
But how can humanity survive this threat? Like Thomas Paine's answer to the price of freedom - it's eternal vigilance.

Vigilance to what? The many ways humankind has chosen the will to power which normalizes oppression. Below is a list of habits that will maintain our relationship to the world and silence the Anthro-Hyena.

1. Question every decision that will affect the most vulnerable.
2. Reject notions of superiority. You are not superior. No-one is.
3. Listen to others.
4. Eschew violence wherever it is.
5. Admit to being vulnerable because we all are.
6. Write a list of all the times you felt oppressed but kept silent.  What kept you silent?
7. Apologize to those you have hurt.
8. Engage in difficult conversations with an open mind and heart.
9. Let go of being right.
10. Ask your inner child for their opinion of who you have become.
11. Know you belong here.
12. Get used to the fact that all who are here belong here.
13. Don't attempt to make others do what you want them to.
14. Take care of your home and all who live in it.

There is no magic in this. It is not a recipe for saving the world. It is a primer for keeping a society civil so that we can live together without causing harm. Be prepared for hard work without thanks. As the poet Mary Oliver says - you do not have to be good.