Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After Dark, October 30, 2012

Why We Must Care
An election is coming and it could hurt
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

It was an awful time. Ronald Reagan was president and Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney were prime ministers. Moreover, the three loved each other. There was a pall over the world. When we were not preparing for the end of the world, small-l liberals were watching everything they cared about go into the toilet.

What was worse was the utter lack of organization on the left and by the opponents of the unholy trio. Lesbians and Gays were fighting, feminists and free-speechers were fighting - each other! It was all over the issue of pornography. Miners in Britain were treated like Mongol hordes and sometimes acted like that. The IRA was blowing up innocents when they weren't starving themselves to death in prison. A play about Margaret Thatcher caused consternation - even on the left! - because it was called Ditch the Bitch. (This before a play called The Happy Cunt toured the Fringe circuit.)

"We are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic."

Just to show you how imbecilic opposition was... I was working for Greenpeace, and at one demo to protest Reagan's visit to Quebec City we could't inflate a giant artificial smokestack because the asshole anarchists were beating it with sticks. That night, at Quebec's Grand Théâtre, Mulroney and Reagan sang "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" accompanied by Maureen Forrester - the fucking head of the Canada Council which was being gutted by the Conservatives.

Meanwhile, at ACTRA - where I was a national council member - at the annual national meeting we spent more time talking about the Gemini Awards than about any other issue on the table. As one friend put it, "We are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic."

Next week the US faces a crucial election and we should care. If Mitt Romney is elected, a fundamental sea change will occur. We will have - in Britain, Canada and the US - a hideous confluence of conservatism that will feel and wield its strength like it has not been able to since the 80s. The arts will, quite automatically, suffer (as they did in the 80s when we treaded water for a decade). Moreover, all the natural allies of artists will disappear because, simply, they will be occupied elsewhere. Educators will be fighting for kids, women for their lives, liberals for the environment.

It is a pattern made even worse by the fact that conservatives and their media lackeys (which during hard times is damn near everyone) encourage dissent between leftists. (In the 80s, there was nothing more hilarious to the rightwing pundits than when censorship laws pushed by Lesbians and feminists were brought down on Lesbian and Gay literature.)

It's not that David Cameron, Mitt Romney or Stephen Harper are - in and of themselves - evil but it's about critical mass. Also, individuals themselves become splintered - am I Gay, a feminist, an artist, a journalist, an environmentalist? - and sub-splintered - am I a theatre person, a film person, a TV person, a director, an actor? Each of these sub-personae - when conservative critical mass is reached - will have a cause to fight for.

I worry because I see arts groups in chaos already. I see artists vs. artists in Toronto over Ken Gass's dismissal. I see artistic directors vs. playwrights. Ridiculously symbolic of this is how theatres in every major centre can't seem to organize their opening nights so they don't get lost in the media shuffle.

So, simply, we are not prepared for a Romney presidency because, as they say, we have learned nothing from the past so are doomed...

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