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Well, we’re all still here. December 21, 2012, it turns out, was just yet another occasion for jokes on Twitter…
Seeing the social media frenzy last night actually had me feeling a bit despondent and hopeless. Not everyone can enjoy the luxury of the limitless irony and wit to be had at the expense of New Agers’ silly misinterpretations of the ancient Mayans.
Couldn’t the Twitter fun pause, even for a moment, to contemplate the millions of actual Maya who live today in Guatemala and southern Mexico? Today’s Maya are less interesting than their fictionalized/essentialized ancestors — granted; they are, after all, people who continue to suffer the burdens of racism and oppression.
Today’s Maya people sometimes have to die for the profits of Canadian mining companies. For these communities, as for so many others living on top of the fossil fuels and minerals of this world, it’s Apocalypse Now. Modern doomsday industries are most often an indulgence of populations not facing an existential threat.
This morning my despair turned to anger, as even Stephen Harper — or rather the highly paid communications staff hired to come up with jokes for the @PMHarper account — joined the fray, Tweeting:
“Mayans were wrong. I guess I should start Christmas shopping…”
Unoriginal in the extreme, the joking Tweet is also insensitive in the extreme on this day in particular.
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is now on Day 11 of an indefinite hunger strike demanding a meeting with the prime minister. There has been a wave of support for her, as part of the Idle No More movement — with a barrage of Tweets directed to @PMHarper asking him to meet with Chief Spence and to respect First Nations.
In response, @PMHarper has been completely silent about Chief Spence and Idle No More, while cracking jokes about everything from the CBC to Chinchillas. (Update: Just after 4p.m. EST today, @PMHarper Tweeted “mmm… bacon,” accompanied by a video clip from the Simpsons. No, seriously.)
This social media performance is utterly typical of a PM who serially disrespects and attacks the rights of Indigenous people.
Back in 2009, Stephen Harper even went so far as to claim Canada has “no history of colonialism.” Usually the denial is more subtle.
But then Harper’s government has served corporate interests un-subtly and relentlessly, harming Indigenous people, the environment and human rights, both at home and abroad.
A few years ago, Stephen Harper killed a Bill (C-300) that was intended to hold Canadian mining companies accountable for what they do abroad. Harper initially refused, along with only a handful of other world leaders, to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. (Eventually his government agreed, with conditions, to sign on.)
Widespread ignorance of the real history of Canada makes possible the continued marginalization and disrespect of First Nations here, and allows a blind eye to be turned to corporate Canada’s crimes abroad. The Idle No More movement offers a chance to expose the real history of colonialism in Canada, and an opportunity to unite Indigenous and non-Indigenous movements to push back the Harper government and its neo-colonial agenda.
A couple of weeks ago, I got to participate in a wonderful forum, Cafe Rebelde, held at Rhizome Cafe. The theme was Indigenous people’s struggle against extractive industries, from Guatemala to First Nations here in Canada. A Mayan speaker from Guatemala spoke about the injustices visited on his people today, while Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation spoke about his people’s resistance to the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline project.
It was a powerful reminder of the centrality of Indigenous struggles to all of the efforts to stop Harper and the corporate agenda. And now, just in the past two weeks, a mass movement has started to blossom — in the middle of winter, no less.
At the darkest time of year, Idle No More lights a way forward. A creative, spirited movement taking over even the shoppings malls of the land, interrupting the consumerist rituals of the season. We can now dare to imagine a mass movement led by Indigenous peoples that can sweep away this rotten, cynical Harper regime.
So, December 21 is not the end of the world at all. In Canada, it is the beginning, or at least an important early milestone, of something truly beautiful and full of potential (which, by the way, is a lot closer to what the ancient Mayans may actually have been getting at.)
I’m now over my bout of social media despair. And, besides, I have no doubt that by later today #IdleNoMore will be soaring well above Apocalypse jokes when it comes to trending on Twitter.
You know, Harper, this isn’t a joke.
This is a movement led by Indigenous people demanding justice long overdue. May none of us rest idle until they achieve it.