Roger Waters lifts the curtain

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Roger Waters. Photo: Erik F. Brandsborg, Aktiv I

So, every time the curtain falls
Every time the curtain falls on some forgotten life
It is because we all stood by, silent and indifferent­

A few mindful lyrics from Roger Waters’ latest album, Is This the Life We Really Want?, draws us to be present and not absent from what happens around us. 

That's what October 26 was like in a filled-to-capacity church in downtown Vancouver as Waters spoke about his music and passion for justice. At times dismissive, charged, and fervent, he laid out loud and clear his support for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in solidarity to end the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel.

Legendary music man and original front man for Pink Floyd, Waters shared his time and energy prior to his Saturday, Oct. 28, concert in Vancouver, the final night of the North American leg of his Us + Them World Tour, to talk tough about human rights, Palestine, activism and challenges we face. 

Looking a tad tired (“I gotta cold,” he said), with his grey white hair plastered forward, Waters sat in the middle of his two interviewers Itrath Syed and Martha Roth and jumped right into BDS — "let's get to it."

He proceeded to explain his planned concert 11 years ago in Tel Aviv until he cancelled it in response to those who urged him not to play in order to show support for the plight of Palestinians. He changed the concert venue to an integrated Israeli/Palestinian community and then later immersed himself in visiting occupied communities and people in order to understand the political and human rights environment for those under occupation. 

Waters has remained an outspoken critic of Israeli policies and occupation ever since, earning him both accolades and respect, as well as the seemingly requisite disinformation and smear campaigns. The latest incarnation of this is in celebrity chasing director Ian Halperin’s documentary Wish You Weren’t Here. But Waters carries on with his music and his speaking truth to power to wake up a distracted and disengaged public.

I know from my own experience in Ottawa how toxic the political environment is when it comes to BDS and criticism of Israeli policies. I was glad to see Syed in her questions to Waters shedding light on current PM Justin Trudeau’s tweet that BDS has no place in Canada: “The BDS movement, like Israeli Apartheid Week, has no place on Canadian campuses. As a @McGillU alum, I’m disappointed. #EnoughIsEnough.”

If the Vancouver audience is any measure, there are growing numbers of people who want to hear Waters’ message and support the movement for BDS. 

In addition to his concert and talk, the film Occupation of the American Mind, narrated by Waters, is showing on November 8 in Vancouver. 

Libby Davies is the former NDP Deputy Leader and represented Vancouver East as an NDP MP for 18 years.

Photo: Erik F. Brandsborg, Aktiv I

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