On Saturday Aug. 27, thousands of left-winged pinkos and apolitical gawkers gathered in downtown Toronto to mourn the loss of Jack Layton, don paper moustaches, and witness the rare spectacle of a state funeral. There were two processions: The state's official ceremony, steeped in borrowed Royal tradition, lead the way to Roy Thompson hall. Behind it, the people's procession carried a celebratory and almost carnivalesque atmosphere.
We find in this divisive spectacle two ideologies vying for supremacy. At the front of the procession, with a police marching band, veterans, flags, the prime minister's entourage, and various ceremonial guards, the state-sanctioned spectacle serves to generate national pride (at a time when anyone who shares Layton's politics is likely to feel contempt for our nation's current political policy). This is the procession of officially endorsed ideology, and accordingly, this is the procession which photo-journalists scramble to record and transmit. Already, Stephen Harper is riding high on a wave of positive PR.
Following the state procession, and separated by a line of police, a heterogeneous crowd of spectacle seekers and Layton supporters march, carry signs, ring bicycle bells, and play music in a public parade. In the crowd of thousands there were at least two bands, a samba squad, hundreds of bicycles, and numerous pride flags. Many dressed in commemorative orange, some dressed for mourning, and others wore Che Guevara shirts and paper moustaches.
By all means, this was a fitting send-off for a public political figure who touched the lives of many. However, we must remain vigilant: In the face of so much vague symbolic celebration and media de-politicization we must remember the politics that we are actually celebrating (or risk turning Layton into a new, Canadian, Che).
To watch a video of the Official Procession and the People's Procession, click here.
Michael Toledano is a Toronto-based writer, photographer, videographer, and sometimes culture jammer. He edits and contributes regularly to TheMassOrnament.com, which originally published this piece.
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.