MIDDLE OF BOOK – 2016 Reflections

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Hi folks,

Above this post (or, where ever Featured Images are hiding away on this current WordPress Theme, whenever you’re reading this are) I’ve plopped down the 1942 New Years Resolutions of one Woody Guthrie, the great songwriter, balladeer of the working class, and one-time foe of Donald Trump’s slumlord papa. For all Guthrie says here–and it’s fantastic, the whole list–the little note at the top ‘Middle of Book‘ catches my eye every time I see this image. Why?

Well, a new year and its start are pretty arbitrary. For us, we act as if they begin or end something–as if this time of the year is the greatest of bookends. And yet, as with Guthrie’s diary writing here, it could simply be the middle, the part of the narrative in-between start and resolution. Honestly, today could be any page within our personal little narrative, we honestly don’t know that and can’t.

But, for the sake of getting me to write again, let’s delve a bit into my reflections on the past year and–almost certainly–come back to talk a bit more about the list above.

‘Be An Exciting Nerd’

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So, my life this year has been one that’s taken some distinct turns. At the start of 2016, I was gripped with a certain sort of uncertainty that had been following me through the previous year. While things were good, I was kinda burning out in a lot of ways and places. Too many jobs, too far from lots of people that I love, and just feeling like the financial and other clocks were ticking. Also, I chaired more meetings for UTSU:859948_10156656706425271_5605371449830065937_o

But, after things started to slow down in late February and early March, things took a bit of a turn for the better–for the stable. Well, preceded by immediate instability of course. I left Toronto behind (except for visits on weekends) and moved to Guelph to work with the OPIRG here.

I can’t really put into words what these past nine months have been like. Leaving Toronto, as much as I love the city, has been like lifting a cloud from my eyes and a weight from my heart. Not every day is easy in Guelph–and I get dang lonely here sometimes–but I find myself with a hope that I’ve not had in many years. A hope in myself. This is the first year, in a long time, where I’ve felt like I know where I’m going, for me. And, with that all where it is, people I love are in touch and centered too. It doesn’t often come together that way–not for me or any of us–but for now, here we are.

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I’m doing projects that get me fired up–work projects, and as I’ve always said: my job ≠ my activism, just so we’re clear–and I feel like I’m in a supportive, different community. Also, can I just say, I missed being around more rivers and trees and all that kinda shit? When you grow up in Villageburg, Newfoundland, population -10,000, you grow deeply attached to these things (ps. before a certain someone reads this, yes, I know, there is trees and natural beauty in Toronto if you know where to look).

That said, it’s been hard to adjust to being farther from my networks and friends in the city–that has taken a while. But I am so lucky to have an amazing (brilliant, super-rad, butt-kicking) partner, who loves me so deeply, and a family that trusts me to make these leaps in life (who came to visit and ahhh, it was lovely! [I’m still super happy about all that]).

So, for me personally, I have to admit… this year has been one of the best I’ve had since moving to Ontario. I feel weird admitting this, knowing what the broader world has been like of late. Speaking of…

The World is a Tire Fire (like always)

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So, putting aside the celebrity deaths, Brexit, and the American Presidential Race (because everyone has beaten these topics to death), there are some major issues in the current year that deserve some reflection.

  • We have fascist groups popping up all across North America and Europe. While in 2015, some focus was on PEDIGA, recently it has been Sons of Odin with new chapters in Hamilton, Vancouver,  Edmonton, ReginaSault Ste. Marie, and the Yukon–along with many more. These folks are your soft-neo Nazis, your white supremacist leg breakers and so on. And they’re not even alone–in Toronto, Ottawa, and Brantford there have been so, so many reports of fascist violence over the past few months.
  • We have spent the year smashing climate records, roasting targets, having droughts, and overall failing to impede climate change once again this year. Even if the state of

    Wisconsin wants to pretend otherwise, we fucking did this. We did this. For the people in the back:

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    Our broader industrialized society has been in the spotlight more often this year as we broke spooky ground by crossing various no-return temperature and related thresholds this year.

  • Speaking of the environment, pipelines. We’ve all spent a lot of time this year talking about Line 9, Dakota Access, Kinder Morgan, Line 3, and many more of these snakes. While people defend their land and risk their lives, we’ve got so-called leaders like Chairman Archibald (at Standing Rock) forcing protesting indigenous allies to flee out of territories when battles were far from won and others like Slime Minister Justin Trudeau acted to assault indigenous sovereignty across so-called Canada.with his actions to approve various resource exploitation projects.
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    But, this only stands as a reminder that leaders–be they of our peoples, of our movements, or of the State–cannot be trusted or relied upon. Tough medicine for some, perhaps. For regular readers and friends, however, this is a fairly normal assumption.
  • And while the planet burns, pipelines snake through stolen land, and fascists climb out of the swamps and suburbs–we’ve got Jordan Peterson and the anti-trans movement at the University of Toronto. Hiding behind rhetoric of free speech (without acknowledging that freedom requires consequences and justice, while speech is levied by and for power), these dopes have successfully harmed countless, amazing people on campus while effectively doubling the salary of their supposedly harried Professor via Patreon. Those standing in resistance are, truly, stalwart people–who will need our support in their battles and in the everyday. Like the broader fascist movement in Southern Ontario and their direct antecedents (ie. the MRAs, the anti-immigrant fear-mongers, the fundamentalist right, and the paleoconservatives), the scum that follow Peterson engage in constant violence that amplifies the already present repression carried out by liberal society on the day-to-day, an amplification that desires to turn daily oppression into a Crusade.
  • In one brighter spot, though, both migrant worker justice (via Justice for Migrant Workers) has been a fight waged throughout the year with some notable successes. Yet, this work is harried constantly with the destruction wrought by State-driven violence and oppression. But, between a successful caravan and the release of the film Migrant Dreams, positive steps have been made in the public eye–even if not via the State.
  • And for another bright spot, challenges to systemic anti-black racism (via Black Lives Matter Toronto) have been made throughout the year in public and vibrant dissent. Pushing back on policing in Toronto–be it via carding or at presence at Pride–has been widely acknowledged and made part of the public discourse in Toronto in a way that hasn’t been so in some time. These folks have been fighting hard over these past few years, alongside their international counterparts, and that fight is far from over (with the useless core of folks in the Toronto bureaucracy and public tripping over themselves to defend State/police violence).
  • As for the House of Labour: What. The. Fuck? That’s all.

And, goddamn, so many more things. Like, I could write pages more in recap of events of the year. But I’m going to stop here before this becomes too overwhelming.

Back to Guthrie

So, I posted Guthrie’s Resolutions for a reason, earlier.
Take a look at them. Really take a look. I mean, the drawings are cute–but keep looking.

No matter the year you’ve had, no matter how the year has looked for the world–it’s time to love our comrades and families (whatever those things mean for you), make up our minds on the goals we see for ourselves and the world, wake up and fight for it. This year might seem heavy, it might seem like the weight of the universe–but, it is just the middle of our books. There is still so much to write and so much to fight in 2017 (and every year). But, we got this.

STAY GLAD. DREAM GOOD. BEAT FASCISM.
And, I’ll be here with you.

With love,
– Brad.

Image Credits:
Woody Guthrie's New Years Resolutions -- American Songwriters' Magazine.
UTSU AGM Photo w/ Ben Coleman and I -- The Medium (UTM), Edited by Abdullah.
All other images -- Brad.

Postscript

Here are some other photos of things from the past year. Signifiers, all.

Postscript II

Man, I really didn’t follow my own advice from last year and wrote a pretty personal post here. I’m really bad at internal-blog consistency. Also, like… I will get to all the topics I’ve mentioned writing about over the past two years, I swear. For real. No, really!!

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