Today, on traditional QNY, I went to protest George W Bush’s visit to Calgary. Bush was speaking at the Telus Convention center for $400 per person. The scene at noon was of a thousand identically well dressed business elites lined up in a large “U” one block long in the Stephen Ave. pedestrian mall outside the convention centre. In the middle was the organized protest shouting various slogans from the profound to the inane. Intent on surveying the scene, I walked past the line of patrons and when I stopped to talk a picture, I noticed a understandable sheepish look on the people I photographed. Who wouldn’t be a little off put by a stranger talking their picture? but in that expression was a pang of guilt. Next I noticed 3 young, ambitious looking suits snickering at the protest going on in the middle. They oozed superiority that would infuriate even the mildest person. I walked up to them and took their picture as a statement to them that their support for Bush is not happening in a vacuum. Their expressions changed instantly.
I staked out some geography at the entrance to the center behind 4 calm but serious police officers and waited for people to start filing in. The expression on the faces of the men waiting to get in was fear mixed with a little guilt but masked over with faux confidence and nervous laughter. The more I studied these faces, the more I realized that these were mostly wealthy businessmen who were really just there to be seen and mix with other business elites on their lunch hour. My alderman was there looking for people he recognized.
I suppose there were plenty of businessmen who actually were there to politically support Bush but the networking fascists were really getting under my skin. It really started to bother me that these men would reward Bush with thousands of dollars in exchange for the privilege of being seen at a must attend social event. To reward someone who undeniably violates international law that Canada is a signatory to. To support such a villain and purveyor of injustice for their own personal networking and career advancement was a cowardly and banal kind of evil.
And so I looked each person in the eye as they passed and challenged them to explain why they were giving money to a torturer. Why were they giving money to a war criminal. “Why aren’t you outraged?” I casually asked a suit who looked me in the eye. He smirked dismissively. I told him he was a coward as I shook my head with very real disappointment. “How can you pay money to someone who ignored every freedom he claimed to defend?” I ask another smug businessman. He laughs a nervous laugh and I tell him that you would have to have no soul to laugh at such blatant injustices. I found that the most effective scolding came in the form of making eye contact (I’m standing about 3 feet from these people) and just shaking my head and saying “shame” as I look them dead in the eye.
Shame on these cowards. Shame on these wealthy businessmen for divorcing themselves from their actions. Shame for putting their own networking above the cause of justice. Shame for their cowardice.
Traditionally on QNY, “getting told” often represents the exercise of one’s freedom. Well, after “telling” a thousand people today, I feel as though I’ve accomplished in a very small way, the same thing.