Art matters.

On February 25 my name was published along with those of 499 other Montreal artists in support of the growing international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state. It’s a strange thing, to feel one has no choice but to take a stand against something happening on the other side of the planet. But I feel that I am implicated in the struggle by my own Canadian government’s complicity with Israeli state-sponsored oppression and exclusion of the Palestinian people. I can in no way agree with the Israeli government’s utterly corrupt and indefensible policies concerning the Palestinians. I choose to claim my soul instead.

I have been aware of the struggle as long as I’ve been a conscious human being. My first encounters with the word ‘Palestinian’ always had the refrain ‘terrorists’ – in Life magazine and Time magazine in the seventies – ‘Palestinian terrorists’. There was never another side to that particular story, according to corporate media sources – because the other side were ‘terrorists’.

I became slightly more enlightened on the topic of the struggle of the Palestinian people when I read Jean Genet’s great book, Prisoner Of Love. It marked the transition point between being aware of Palestinians only as ‘terrorists’, and gaining an insight into their actual political situation. In other words, it was an artist who made this issue ‘real’ for me. In subsequent years, the more I learned, the more I became convinced that the current deadlock of injustice must end.

To put it country-simple: social justice and peace for all. Uphold human rights. A single-state solution would be best, in Israel/Palestine, but if necessary, a two-state solution based on the UN-defined borders of 1967.

Understanding the political situation between the Palestinians and the Israeli state can only come about if one has begun to understand, in general, the dire relationship between the hypermodern post-industrial war machine (aka ‘the developed world’), and those unlucky enough to fall of the far side of the perimeter. We might tut-tut the blatant nastiness of Israel’s wall-building, and yet privileged North Americans complacently follow a similar template in their own lives, sticking to safe social circuits at home and play, much as privileged Israeli citizens can stick to their own networks of roads and highways and never – or rarely – cross paths with those whose land they are stealing.

In North America, we wish the homeless bums would go away somewhere – it doesn’t matter where, just get them out of the way, so as to facilitate the smooth flow of commerce, of earning and spending power, without sending shudders through the system just by their mere presence there on the street with their dirty dogs and their crumpled paper cups full of change. It is a reflection of how fucked up our social system has become, that we can regularly glide past people who are literally dying on our streets. Yes, the machine runs so smoothly, so well, and as for those it excludes – too bad for them. The apartheid wall runs down St-Laurent Boulevard, and down similar streets in cities across North America and Europe, as surely as it runs through the wrecked olive groves of Palestine. It’s just not so visible here … perhaps because our dispossessed have learned to die so quietly.

The apartheid wall has invaded my consciousness, and hence my poetry. It has joined all the other signs of instability – protesters against police, soldiers on patrol, refugee camps, helicopters, surveillance cameras, suicide bombers. It has entered my poetry, and now I want to pound it, like a nail, into your mind.

Velcomen to mine page

Cheap black ink pen on cheap thin note paper – it’s bound to last at least a millenia, this stuff. How can I not succeed? I have mine new more powerful lamp from the street. I have no clothes on as I write this, the fan tenderly strokes my back with airy fingers of air. Redundancy is welcome, even encouraged here in my kingdom, my domain, my aerie. It’s a vile warm night but by far not the vilest, it has its moments.

Watching Agnes Varda’s Vagabond tonight, I was back in Wormwood’s with Sandra. Our serious conversation after the film, it was a serious film. It was a serious art film. Tonight I was alone tout seul like Mona / like Simone. I know that streak of self-destruction, I know that contempt for others. Everyone for themselves.

Nothing I could do I want to do, I blame the weather. It’s safer to blame the weather I’ll not blame myself. I’ll not take your side. I’m outnumbered already all alone tout seul I’ll stay on my side I’ll be my own best ally I’ll win I’ll carry the day.

I wonder when you lost your soul your poetic soul. It is as if you never had it but still you write well, what a waste to write so well for nothing. For a bunch of zombies and halfwits stumbing around drunk on all their easy money pretending to know what they are doing, where they are going, but they’re all just like you following some script, staying within the yellow lines, so all your hard-won skills are wasted playing on a field of nothing but shit. Shit ideas, shit goals, shit affairs, shit art.

Well, I have to go take a piss now. I wish you nothing but failure as long as you live. Only that could wake you up to everything you pass by as you expand your carbon footprint for that and for this, platitudes abound, the shadows my friend all the shadows that live, and breathe, and are aware, and are awake, and are outside your pickets, pallisades, outside your apartheid walls.

– 22 Aug 09 –

One comment

  1. Kevin · March 7, 2010

    brilliant post Vince. I’ve been attending some of the anti-apartheid activities, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is as inspiring as the situation is tragic. As you mentioned the other week, the fact that Ontario MPs have condemned “us” for our terminology probably means “we’re” getting somewhere. Keep on keeping on…

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