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Dionne Brand's blog
Dionne Brand is a poet, novelist and poet laureate for the city of Toronto.
It's difficult to know where to enter the conversation on the threat to public libraries (and the threat to everything else for that matter). There is no point that one can enter in a sane manner: to cut public libraries, perhaps in the end the most democratic of public institutions, is to say something about the end of the civil. Forgive me, that is a conceit. There is no ‘conversation' on the threat to public libraries. There is no interested interlocutor who will be persuaded by arguments as to the necessity not simply for the present libraries but for more support to libraries.
I admit to getting off to a slow start here but I simply could not make sense of anything said by Conservative leader Stephen Harper in the first moments after he announced the election. I'm still in a quandary because I take language too seriously and therefore I sometimes don't understand the systems of meanings used by politicians -- I won't call this language because as I said I take language too seriously. What politicians do is ventriloquise a set of sounds meant to gesture to some issue or event but if we really listen these words are completely incomprehensible and have no relation to their meaning.
Over the last two decades, debates on religious conservativisms have supplanted debates on feminisms in the public discourse. That is no coincidence; the old forms of social organisation represented in religio-conservative ideologies recognized themselves as under attack from the international movements of women for social and political freedom and have tried to reestablish themselves as the loci where women’s rights get negotiated in any given society. Why one may ask do matters of ‘faith’ have so much to do with the control of women? Why is the control of women so important to a belief in a god?
In recent days I am struck by how many pictures of distraught stockbrokers, stock analysts, bankers, traders, buyers, sellers, I’ve seen in the news. They’ve occupied the focus of web pages, and newspaper front-pages with their dramatic poses. We are alerted to their plight at the start of every newscast, and in extended treatments on cable networks and magasines. Their problem, we are exhorted, is our problem.
God help me I’ve been visiting the Conservative Party web site. Now being an atheist you know when I invoke god I’m truly in trouble, but the web site can generate a Women’s Studies course all on its own. It is a study in patriarchy. First, at the top of the web page there is an image of Stephen Harper, his wife and their two children, read wholesome family with good patriarch, meaning patriarch of good wholesome family makes good political patriarch, eh, I mean, leader.
Conservatives and their satraps religiously haul out the ‘law and order’ stick each election. Fear not remedy is at the base of their deploying this trope. No one is against law and order, it would be like being against water, or against air or something; so the fake attacks about who is soft, and who hard, on crime are really just so much fear mongering and macho posturing. The Conservatives’ especial Judas this time is ‘youth’ and the Young Offenders Act. In urban and suburban Toronto and Vancouver, gun violence has plagued communities, killing young people and wrecking people’s lives.
It’s odious the way political parties talk about art and culture. Like the Conservatives, they think it’s a waste of money (unlike, of course, the waste of money on subsidies for big business). The Liberals and the New Democrats, they think that they have to justify it in some actuarial way. To combat the argument that paying for the development of artists is a superficial, even frivolous, act and not a civic one, the ‘progressives’ counter by saying the ‘return on investment is phenomenal’. In other words we can make money out of it. That’s the dreary world of the Conservatives and I’m not sure what it profits to enter its short, brutish thesis.