Monday, February 14, 2011

Some Things to Learn from Egypt by Alex Snider

Stephen Harper, seconds before biting off the head of that innocent kitten
I find it absolutely heartening and inspiring to watch major protests in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Albania, Zimbabwe and Iran (and many, many, many others); countries in which protesters who challenge the status quo run the risk of jail, bodily harm, death unto themselves and their families, yet there they are: standing up for what they believe in, fighting for their right to have a say in their lives, countries and futures. (more after the jump)

Even when there is little chance of change, when the system is so corrupt that voting is often seen as an act of futility, the people are out there filling out their ballots, standing in the streets calling for action -- regardless of the consequences.

Over three hundred protesters in Egypt have been killed in less than a month, thousands have been jailed and the threat of martial law is coming to fruition, and still the people are in Cairo square demanding to be heard, demanding that thirty years of corruption come to an end.

And, then, we have Canada. Our minority government is enjoying the one of the lowest percentages of support (34%!!!!!!) in Canadian history. They are working at destroying the social fabric of Canada by slashing funding, pushing through ludicrous Bills not even thinly veiled to hide their neo-fascist agendas and burying Bills that are actually set up to help Canadians.

We are drowning in the oil sands; we are an embarrassment on the international stage -- even the UN doesn't like us. The conservatives are endorsing torture and calling timeouts when confronted; they are throwing our long form census out the window, losing touch with the diversity and needs of our citizens; Canadians have watched as one of the biggest cities in the country became a (very minor by world standards, but huge by Canadian) police state for a weekend last July; our government supports third world women's health only up to a point because religious beliefs somehow trump a woman's autonomy and her right to live; they have just spent billions of dollars on fighter jets that are completely unnecessary and billions more on a war that we do not belong in.

And, what do we do? Well, 59.1 percent of us show up to vote. We sit smugly and say at least we aren't the US (ha -- like that shit's holding any water nowadays!). Sometimes a scandal gets people riled up for a few minutes before the next hockey game or Dancing with the Stars comes on. And... That's it. We are living in a country where we are free to protest; where voting actually counts for something; where our politicians are actually accountable and really what the fuck do we do? Nothing. We sit around complacently, whining periodically about taxes and watch as our minority government destroys the fucking country.  What is it going to take, Canada, for us to take a page from the Egyptians and demand better? I am feeling so fucking dejected about the political climate here that I think Stephen Harper could go on the news raving about drinking the blood of newborns and bathing in the tears of war widows and all we'd do is sigh and turn the channel because "there isn't any alternative".

But, there is an alternative -- several actually -- you could vote for someone else. Vote for someone else -- alien concept, I know. Ignatieff isn't perfect, he might even be a huge dickwad with no discernible leadership skills, but, man oh man, could he be worse? I guess he could be if he started killing women and sewing their skin into some sort of fashionable frock. What about the NDP? Or the Green Party? What about a frakking coalition government?

I know the problem with voting for any of the other parties is a mixed bag of vote splitting and crappy leaders and this Greek tragedy-esque, fatal-flawy desire for power whilst shunning all noble and honourable intentions (psst, check out this article about the vote splitting on the left and coalition governments by my friend, Adam -- he illustrates some of the issues much more eloquently than I ever could and he's super awesome) but really, we are in a very privileged position of being able to safely protest (the G20/G8 debacle not withstanding) and demand that our elected governments represent us in the way we wish to be represented.

So, just vote. Send the message that Canadians aren't apathetic blobs who don't give a shit about anything so long as they're personally comfortable (don't get me started on the apathy of Canadians towards their own fellow, 'less fortunate' Canadians who face constant struggles -- the mentally ill, Aboriginal people, refugees, homeless, poor people... the list goes on and on and on). Send the message that we demand accountability from our politicians; that we care about things like the environment, Aboriginal rights, immigrant rights, women's rights, education, access to clean drinking water and international human rights.

Let's all look to the Egyptians and the Tunisians and the Iranians and the Albanians and the Zimbabweans and the countless other peoples worldwide who go out and bravely demand, often in the face of death, better of their governments and fucking vote.


  1. Great post, Al.
    It seems that apathy is an unfortunate cause of having the freedoms that we do.

    I will, however, always disagree that Toronto became a police state. It was an unfortunate situation, but luckily Toronto at it's worst is not comparable to police states such as Syria, where literally ANY government opposition could get you put away for a very long time.

  2. True enough, I should have qualified that further by putting it into context in terms of the Canadian experience with police. I don't mean to diminish or marginalize the fear and oppression that police states create.

  3. Increasing voting participation doesn't always lead to better results...

    "Ford was elected mayor with 380,201 votes (47%) over Smitherman's 287,393 (35.6%) and Pantalone with 94,840 (11.7%). The voter turnout was around 52% of registered voters, the highest in Toronto's post-amalgamation history." (

    Though 52% being considered a statistical high is embarrassing.

    Nevertheless, I do agree with you. I can easily name 10-15 people who were pro-Smitherman/Pantalone, but couldn't find the time to go vote.

  4. Conservative support is so ridiculously low that it really wouldn't take much for the Liberals to pull their heads out of their asses (well, I guess it would as they've had years to do so). I was more aiming for just showing up to vote to send the message that, even if the conservatives won again because of vote splitting, Canadians are at least paying attention. The apathy is killing us.

  5. And, with regards to the Toronto election, the high voter turnout in the 'burbs sends a message that, even though amalgamation was and is a terrible experiment, they also have a say and they're saying they felt ignored by the last government -- an important thing for the next Toronto-friendly candidates to keep in mind.