Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Top Ten Summer Edition

I'm loving my Vancouver escape, there's something about the ocean air and mountains that calms the soul and quiets the spirit. I've also been listening to a good amount of music, mostly courtesy of CBC Radio Three, but also the Vancouver Folk Fest and a variety of other local concerts. It's time for a top-ten list.

Top Ten Summer Edition

1. Metric - Give Me Sympathy
2. Sunparlour Players - Pacifists Anthem
3. Geoff Berner - The Dead Children Were Worth It! (Official Theme Song for the 2010 Vancouver-Whistler Olympic Games)
4. Dan Mangan - Sold
5. Buck 65 - Bandits
6. K'naan - Bang Bang (feat. Adam Levine)
7. Gentleman Reg - How We Exit
8. Novillero - Lost Possibilities
9. Neko Case - Star Witness
10. The Stills - In the Beginning

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Top 30 Canadian Indie

I have spent countless hours since my arrival on the West Coast listening to CBC Radio 3 podcasts and several of my previous playlists refining the Top 50 Canadian 'indie' list I put together before I left Ottawa 3 weeks ago. Upon hopping into the car in Toronto with my friend and driving mate, I realized I left out several of my fave artists. Here's my revised list, to be revised several more times this summer I'm sure. It's one of my many West Coast projects.

To be eligible for the list, an artist must have 2 recent (2006+) songs that I've been listening to regularly. Here are my top 20 artists (Alphabetical), featuring a song or two for consideration. I also have a Top 15 "On the Radar..." list of artists about to break into the next top 30 list.

Top 30

1. Caribou- Melody Day & Desiree (Dundas, Electronica)
2. Chad VanGaalen- Willow Tree & Cries of the Dead (Calgary, Experimental Rock)
3. Forest City Lovers- Don’t Go & Waiting by the Fence (Toronto, Indie Pop)
4. Great Lake Swimmers- Your Rocky Spine & Imaginary Sky (Port Colborne, Melancholic Folk)
5. Hannah Georgas- The National & The Beat Stuff (Vancouver, Folk)
6. Hey Rosetta!- New Goodbye & A Thousand Suns (St-John's, Intense Gospel)
7. Numéro#- Chewing-Gum Fraise (avec Omnikrom) & La Vie D'Artiste (Montreal, Euro-Dance)
8. Sunparlour Players- Battle of 77 & If the Creeks Don't Rise (Leamington, Alt-Country)
9. Two Hours Traffic- Jezebel & Heroes of the Sidewalk (Charlottetown, Power Pop)
10. The Weakerthans- Pamphleteer & Tournament of Hearts (Winnipeg, Indie Rock)


11. Danny Michel- Feather, Fur & Fin (Kitchener, Folk Rock)
12. DL Incognito- Universal Love & Savoir Faire (Ottawa, Hip Hop)
13. Hot Hot Heat- Talk to Me, Dance with Me & Let Me In (Victoria, Dance Punk)
14. Metric- Rock Me Now & Gimme Sympathy (Toronto, New Wave)
15. Neko Case- Hold on, Hold on & Wayfaring Stranger (Vancouver, Alt Country)
16. Plants and Animals- Goodfriend & Feedback in the Field (Montreal, Indie Rock)
17. Rae Spoon- Come on Forest Fire Burn the Disco Down & We Become Our Own Wolves (Montreal, New Skool Folk)
18. Royal Wood- A Mirror Without & Juliet (Toronto, Chamber Pop)
19. Tegan & Sara- Call It Off & Take Me Anywhere (Calgary, Indie Pop)
20. Wintersleep- Avalanche & Weighty Ghost (Yarmouth, Indie Rock)


21. The Acorn- Crooked Legs (Ottawa, Folk)
22. Alex Cuba- Agua del Pozo (Smithers, Latin)
23. Jim Bryson- Clear the Crowds (Ottawa, Folk)
24. Classified- No Mistakes & Hard to Be Hip Hop (Halifax, Hip Hop)
25. Les Cowboys Fringants- Les Etoiles Filantes (Repentigny, Néo-trad)
26. Handsome Furs- Cannot Get Started & I'm Confused (Montreal, Indie Rock)
27. Newberry vs. Newberry- Upon the Boat (Peterborough/Toronto, Folk)
28. The New Pornographers- Adventures in Solitude & The Bleeding Heart Show (Vancouver, Power Pop)
29. The Souljazz Orchestra- Mista President (Ottawa, Afro Beat/Jazz)
30. Zaki Ibrahim- Joy & Die (Toronto, R&B)

Top 15 "On the Radar..."

1. Tricot Machine- L’ours (Trois-Rivieres, Pop)
2. Library Voices- Step Off the Map and Float (Regina, Indie Pop)
3. Dan Mangan- Robots (Vancouver, Indie Rock)
4. Deep Dark Woods- All the Money I Had is Gone (Saskatoon, Alt-Country)
5. Pierre Lapointe- Deux Par Deux Rassemblés (Alma, Rock)
6. The Arkells- Pullin' Punches (Hamilton, Indie Rock)
7. Sleepless Nights- Got Caught (Yarmouth & Halifax, Indie Rock)
8. Masia One- Return of the Bgirl (Vancouver, Hip Hop)
9. The Rural Alberta Advantage- Summertime (Toronto, Indie Rock)
10. Maybe Smith- You Would Never Survive the Winter Here (Saskatoon, Rock Pop)
11. Holy Fuck- Frenchy's & Jungles (Toronto, Electronica)
12. Julie Doiron- Consolation Prize (Sackville & Moncton, Indie Rock)
13. Hollerado- Got to Lose (Manotick, Indie Rock)
14. Paper Moon- People Were Talking But Now They're Forgetting (Winnipeg, Indie Pop)
15. Tanya Davis- Art (Charlottetown, Pop)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Love of Playlists

Here I am, planning my imminent departure for the West Coast, going through song after song planning 50 hours of music for the drive to Vancouver. In perusing my previous playlists and pouring over new ones on the likes of CBC Radio 3, I identified some themes. I made a selection of my favourite 50 (or so) Canadian independent artists of the last 2-3 years. Here they are, with their Canadian connection and an accompanying song to get the discussion going. Feel free to send me your picks in the comment box below!

1-10 (Alphabetical)

Caribou- Melody Day (Dundas, Electronica)
Forest City Lovers- Don’t Go (Toronto, Indie Pop)
Hannah Georgas- The National (Vancouver, Folk)
Jean Leloup- Le paradis perdu (Montréal, Eclectic Rock)
Lhasa- La Confession (Montreal, Eclectic Global)
Neko Case- Hold on, Hold on (Vancouver, Alt Country)
Numéro#- Chewing-Gum Fraise (avec Omnikrom) (Montreal, Euro-Dance)
Plants and Animals- Goodfriend (Montreal, Indie Rock)
Tricot Machine- L’ours (Trois-Rivieres, Pop)
Two Hours Traffic- Jezebel (Charlottetown, Power Pop)
The Weakerthans- Pamphleteer (Winnipeg, Indie Rock)


The Acorn- Crooked Legs (Ottawa, Folk)
Danny Michel- Feather, Fur & Fin (Kitchener, Folk Rock)
Elliott Brood- Edge of Town (Toronto, Alt Country)
The New Pornographers- Adventures in Solitude (Vancouver, Power Pop)
Metric- Rock Me Now (Toronto, New Wave)
Newberry vs. Newberry- Upon the Boat (Peterborough/Toronto, Folk)
Po’ Girl- Old Mountain Line (Toronto & Montreal, Urban Roots)
Rae Spoon- Come on Forest Fire Burn the Disco Down (Montreal, New Skool Folk)
Royal Wood- A Mirror Without (Toronto, Chamber Pop)
Tegan & Sara- Call It Off (Calgary, Indie Pop)


The Arcade Fire- Haiti (Montreal, Indie Rock)
Basia Bulat- Snakes and Ladders (London, Indie Pop)
The Be Good Tanyas- Littlest Birds (Vancouver, Alt Country)
Black Mountain- Modern Music (Vancouver, Psychedelic Rock)
Broken Social Scene- Our Faces Split the Coast in Half (Toronto, Indie Rock)
Hot Hot Heat- Talk to Me, Dance with Me (Victoria, Dance Punk)
Jill Barber- In Perfect Time (Halifax, Folk)
Jim Bryson- Clear the Crowds (Ottawa, Folk)
The Souljazz Orchestra- Mista President (Ottawa, Afro Beat/Jazz)
Spymachine 16- Reassured Backpacker in Search of Truth but Still a Little Nervous (Guelph, Post Punk)


DL Incognito- Universal Love (Ottawa, Hip Hop)
The Fugitives- French Tattoo (Vancouver, Folk/Spoken Word)
Justin Nozuka- After Tonight (Toronto, Acoustic Soul)
Les Cowboys Fringants- Les Etoiles Filantes (Repentigny, Néo-trad)
Matthew Barber- I’m Gonna settle my Accounts With You (Toronto, Folk)
Old Man Luedecke- Roustabout (Halifax, Bluegrass)
Rueben deGroot- You Should Put on Your Glasses (Kingston, Folk)
Stars- Calendar Girl (Montreal, Indie Rock)
Tokyo Police Club- Nature of the Experiment (Newmarket, Garage Rock)
Wintersleep- Avalanche (Yarmouth, Indie Rock)


Classified- No Mistakes (Halifax, Hip Hop)
Dehli 2 Dublin- African Odyssey (Vancouver, Global)
Feist- One Evening (Calgary, Indie Folk)
Handsome Furs- Cannot Get Started (Montreal, Indie Rock)
Mes Aïeux- Le Temps des semences (Québec City, Néo-trad)
Miracle Fortress- Have you Seen in Your Dreams (Montreal, Indie Pop)
The Most Serene Republic- The Protagonist Suddenly Realizes What He Must Do in the Middle of Downtown Traffic (Milton, Indie Rock)
Pierre Lapointe- Deux Par Deux Rassemblés (Alma, Rock)
Rock Plaza Central- Are We Not Horses? (Toronto, Indie Rock)
Serena Ryder- A Little Bit of Red (Peterborough, Blues/Pop)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Three Things

I met Emily eight hours ago. How or why isn't event important right now. I could go on for several paragraphs explaining why she is likely one of the most inspiring people I currently know. None of that matters all that much. What is most important are the questions she asked me tonight before saying goodnight.

Emily: What are 3 things you love and hate most about Ottawa?

Me: For sure, number one is that I grew up here. There's a part of me that will never let go of that. I left the lifeless suburb where I grew up convincing myself that I had moved on. Needed to move on. That this place was a barrier to my greatest dreams. That I was going back to a place, clearly figurative, but also quite literal, that one should never go back to...for a while there was no possibility for progress in that.

Emily: Wow, you started with hate...

Me: Number two...that I seem to find so little people who share my politics. I don't even know what I mean, but I get the sense that in other places I've lived this was more of a given. This place can be conservative and stifling and I always yearn for people who care, deeply, in some of the same things I care deeply about. Or maybe I will always yearn for that because a part of me needs to, because 'being' means yearning for more compassion, for desiring that look someone gets when they're bowled over by some visceral injustice that has nothing to do with them, nothing at least in a spatial sense, but everything in an ethical economy that is all about who and how we love the people we do.

You know, for being able to feel the joy of walking in a fading sunlight as the sun drops or rises. Without [the threat of] bombs falling on anybody's head. Of seeing how a note in a song awakens your heart to a new beat. And that beat transports you to your own understanding of the beat before, and then you see how your liberation is so bound up with another's that we are all lost together alone. Those moments make my heart flutter, my passion roar more than any material consideration could ever dare.

Emily: Hate it. Just hate it.

Me: Hmmph. Are you mocking me?

Emily: Never think of it.

Me: Number three. I hate that I can't really like someone in this city, you know, someone in any sense, without them knowing one person in my life. There's less than one degree of separation in my life here, and for some reason I can't stand it. You know, I meet someone and their best friend is my classmate's best friend or my friend's hairdresser. Or better yet, her hairdresser's lover, which is fine because she's in a poly-amorous relationship that involves at least six other people you know. And the last time they were all in a room together you developed a now-recurring migraine trying to get your head around all of them shooting the shit over the punch bowl. Did I miss something along the chain of command, or perhaps the Fordist assembly line, 'coz if I was any one of those people and I knew that my partner had fucked or is fucking, without any sign of me or my sorry ass, not just five other people in the room, but the five people who are hovering over her/him like wolves as we gaily discuss the latest Coen brothers film, than I'd have much more than a migraine. I'm not equipped with that technology, because I think it is technology, in that some of us can learn it, and some of us are still using the Commodore 64 and think the graphics are ok.

Emily: Like if you break up with someone than it all gets really messy. I get that.

Me: Well, it's more than breaking up with someone. I just mean everyone is up in your business, you can't find any anonymity.

Emily: I get that.

Me: And it's not that people mean anything by's just you know, I hear about X through Y and Z, you know, they do this, and I know them, and you do this too. That type of stuff. So I get to a place and meet my neighbour and I only see her through the things, whether laudatory or awkwardly personal, that I've been told. It becomes hard sometimes to just see the person.

Emily: Yeah, it's like pre-determined.

Me: Sure. I was going to say warmly personal. Number one.

Emily: Whoa, that was fast...

Me: I struggled with these things a lot when I moved here. The only way for me to let go of them was to mold them into things I could change. Like you were saying earlier tonight, so much of life is being open at any given moment and I have developed the uncanny ability to wander away from the current moment into archives that hurt bad and I question whether other people out there could ever get it. And realize that nobody is meant to, it's only for me to understand, and feeling lonely because nobody else could get it is a gimmick. A powerfully-programmed gimmick.

Emily: You were saying, number one things you love?

Me: That at any moment I pretty much know I can find a space where I will feel the loving warmth of somebody I love. Even if at that very moment it might not seem like I love them or that they love me. Just that I'm loved and love. This is embodied in so many places in this city that I already feel nostalgic for when it stops to feel that way. I feel it slipping away, is that loneliness I sense coming on, and then, no, that loving warmth is centre stage again. It spills messily into my body.

And number two. I love my relationship with place here. The landscape. How I know the colours will change and the spring will smell in that way only the spring can smell and the snow will fall and I'll get out onto it and rejoice in its appearance. Because if it didn't and I couldn't feel joy on it, I'd slowly wither away into nothing before the bleak coldness and the cracking trees. When the trees crack I know I can't stand outside without mitts and a toque for more than mere seconds. And knowing that, and the contours of the rivers and lakes around me, fills me with strength. And this isn't my way of avoiding any reflection on my role as a settler here in this place, but it is my way of saying that as a settler I'm constantly amazed at even the tiniest amount of knowledge I may have garnered through my time here, and cannot fathom what it must feel like to hold knowledge that overflows my sense of time.

And last. I love that one day I'll leave. It doesn't matter when. But I'll leave, and I'll remember like someone who only remembers in their hearts, so they can see the moment as it presently unfolds. Like someone I'm not right now, but can only be with foresight, with a sense of a new geography.

Emily: Wow.

Me: Thanks for asking. I never get to say that.

And that's why, in this case, spending time with a complete stranger was just what I needed. Emily, I may not know you, but we once wished upon the same falling star, and while nobody else is likely to wish on that same star, the feelings behind the wish will resonate well beyond that moment. Thanks for appearing right then.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Derek Gregory at Counterpoints Conference

As one of the organizers of the Counterpoints Conference: Edward Said's Legacy, I had been looking forward with glee to Derek Gregory's keynote address: War, Culture & Imperialism.

Gregory's presentation at the University of Ottawa yesterday afternoon -- attended by 120 people, standing-room only -- was fantastic. It was a chilling overview of military (im)precision and strategy from a geographical perspective, one that is sorely lacking in social theory more generally.

After patiently laying out the two types of war currently being employed by the U.S. military in Iraq, i.e., precision warfare (smart bombs, remote control drones, etc) and 'armed social work' (winning hearts & minds- re-building schools, etc), Gregory proceeded to debunk the myth of the humanitarian war by demonstrating how 'armed social work' actually solidifies the use of precision warfare.

The irony is that this new military humanism is meant to 'people' previously unpeopled military targets, to render empty spaces into human places. Gregory explains how this allows the attention to turn to the space of the encounter between soldiers and civiliians, for example, soldiers handing out candies to children or blankets to mothers, and facilitates our forgetting that behind this image bombs continue to rain down on people a couple of blocks away.

Of course, there was much more to Gregory's presentation, including a brilliant overview of the new military operations manual and a succinct explanation of the difference between 'our' wars (the West- smart, disembodied) and 'their' wars (the Rest- savage, visceral ). Overall, Gregory was well worth the hype.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

On Warm Fall Weather

It has been a lovely fall here in Ottawa. Besides the glorious colours associated with this season -- the reds and oranges have been stunning -- the weather has been warm and above all, bright and sunny. But this isn't a post about the weather. A few of my friends have referred to the weather as a sure sign of "Indian Summer", a term that very commonly refers to warm fall weather in Canada and apparently in the U.S.

There are a few historical reasons generally referenced for this usage, but the most common refers to the perceived deceitfulness of indigenous peoples towards Europeans. In other words, the phrase belongs in the same family of terms such as "Indian giver," which is based on this dubious duplicity. Therefore, in this usage, "Indian summer" would be a "deceitful and treacherous" imitation of summer, which appears to be a return of warmer weather but is really a relatively short-lived "lie" giving way to the "truth" of the usual cold and unpleasant conditions.

My point is not simply to debunk this usage or to list the many ways in which it is terribly inept. Instead, I'm writing this because when I hear people use the term "Indian Summer" I have a sudden jolt of pain run through my body and I thought I'd share why. Can we think of other terms that would suitably replace said term without relying on colonial frameworks? I trust with a little imagination we can...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Canadian Elections VI

After much discussion with friends, I decided to vote last Tuesday. And I didn't write in a protest vote, but I voted for NDP candidate Paul Dewar, as I had suggested I would in my last two posts (IV & V). Dewar ended up winning in my Ottawa Centre riding, so it became the first time I voted for a winner.

On d-day I just couldn't bring myself to casting a protest vote, or as I had been considering beforehand (I, II & III), not voting at all. There's something about the strength of the call to duty that proved much too compelling, the guilt lay heavy on my shoulders and in the pit of my stomach come election day, and the option of not participating at all was long gone.

My thoughts about the electoral system and the state's role in maintaining inequalities have in no way disappeared. But given my inability to express a clear alternative to voting, or at the very least, a politically consistent version, I decided I'd vote until I could better articulate this position.

I suppose this sets me up with a new research project. A long term project no doubt. This may just lead me to vote some more or maybe not, but either way, the feeling in my stomach when I did vote was unsettled at best.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Canadian Elections V

Election day is tomorrow and I stepped down from my job as a Deputy Returning Officer (DRO) this past weekend. Luckily Elections Canada has a contingency plan when it comes to people flaking out, so they found a replacement rather quickly.

As I've been explaining in my previous posts (I, II, III, IV), I've been working out my position vis-a-vis voting in the next election. This lengthy deliberation has now brought me back to a familiar place and a newer, protest-based place.

The first place is the one that would see me vote for a social democratic option, probably the winning candidate in my Ottawa Centre riding. While I have done so in the past, some fundamental part of me has been trying to articulate my critique of the Canadian voting system and the Canadian liberal-capitalist state through various means, including by not voting at all or registering a protest vote, which brings me to option two.

This second position sees me voting on election day but registering my protest by writing it out on the back of the official ballot. I have been reflecting on what precisely I would write and after talking with my friend who has seen this year's ballots, I'd say there's ample space to write something in.

However, all of this deliberation and participation in debates and discussions about electoral politics has me thinking about casting my ballot for the NDP candidate. Not so much because I've become totally convinced about the importance or perhaps usefulness of voting, though that is without a doubt a key consideration, but more so because I'm a closet political junkie who keeps track of polls and riding-by-riding analysis and all the other stuff that makes the election a hyper-text. Oh, and the other thing worth mentioning is that a good friend of mine who lives out-of-town but can't vote suggested rather kindly, no guilt intended, that I cast a vote for her. All very reasonable...

So then, I won't officially decide what to do until I walk up the hill to the polls tomorrow afternoon, but I'll make sure to fill you in. And stay tuned for my post-election round-up and commentary. There are few things I enjoy doing more than watching election coverage. Anybody up for watching the U.S. election coverage with me in a few weeks?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Canadian Elections IV

As I've been outlining in my previous posts (I, II, III), I'm deliberating on whether or not I'll be voting this election. Without totally re-hashing the reasons why I'm even having this debate with myself and others, suffice to say that part of my reasoning has been to enter into discussion about some of the inequities embedded in not only the electoral system (e.g., first-past-the-post, no party that fully represents my views, colonial heritage, etc), but also in Canadian society more generally.

However, as these discussions with my friends have progressed, both in support of and against my loosely-articulated position, I've begun to shift my own opinion. While I'm not entirely surprised, as I mentioned previously I've been here before, I'm leaning towards a new resolution to the problematic.

First, I've decided to step down as Deputy Returning Officer (DRO) in my Ottawa Centre riding. I won't get paid for the three-hour training session I went to, but besides being uncomfortable with upholding some of the regulations (e.g., citizens-only, no face coverings, etc), I'd rather spend 15 hours of my time working on my own work than working for Elections Canada. And, if I give up my spot it'll open a spot for someone else who might need the money more than I do. So, while being a DRO was to be a central plank in my expanded election coverage, I'll be taking it all in from another vantage point.

Second, according to all polls and even progressive voting sites, my riding is a safe NDP riding. MP Paul Dewar is poised to win again. Good for him and the NDP, in fact, I like living in an NDP riding. Knowing this and the way the first-past-the-post system works, my vote will be relatively worthless in terms of electing someone, even though it is kind of fun to vote for a winner for a change.

Because of this, I feel free to play with a couple ideas to operationalize my protest beyond writing about it here and chatting about it with friends. The first idea arrived on my lap via two friends, both of whom record their protest by writing it on the back of the ballot on election day. I'm seriously considering this option, given my general resistance to voting and the fact that the NDP, the only party I'd vote for anyways, will win my riding. Having been trained as a DRO, I know that DRO's must record why a ballot was rejected in the official poll book. So then, this option allows me to participate and protest at the same time.

The next option has come to my attention through facebook. There's a vote-swapping group that allows, say, someone living in Ottawa Centre willing to vote Green swap their vote with someone, say, in Oshawa, where the NDP lost to the Conservatives by 500 votes last time around. So, I vote Green for Jessica in Oshawa and she votes NDP for me there. Pretty straight-forward, though it probably works better when it's a NDP-Liberal swap, since the Greens only have a chance of winning in a handful of ridings in Canada. But there's no way I'm voting Liberal.

The other options are a) not to vote at all and record my protests in the ways I already have been and will continue to in the work I do or b) to vote NDP straight-up. But, as I've been suggesting, at this moment in time right now, I'm leaning towards writing in a protest vote or vote-swapping, primarily because it's innovative and it strikes me as a different kind of protest.

So then, I'll be back soon with more reflections.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Canadian Elections III

As I outlined in my previous posts on the subject (I & II), I have a new job as a Deputy Returning Officer in my Ottawa Centre riding. I went to the three-hour training session Monday morning, where I found out about the details of my job and even some of the mysterious inner workings of the Canadian electoral system. Spoiled ballots, rejected ballots, scrutineers, poll clerks, screens, deflections, oaths, and the difference between swearing and affirming.

Funny enough, despite my previous lack of enthusiasm for voting, or shall I say, my skepticism in the avowed benevolence of the State system, I'm leaning more towards voting than at any other time during this election cycle, mostly because the guilt of not voting is weighing heavily on me. I think it may have something to do with wanting to counter or respond to the trespasses done in my name. Before I hop onto any voting bandwagon though, there are a few key points sitting rather uncomfortably in the pit of my stomach.

Since my original post, I've had a number of conversations with friends about the importance of voting. A couple dear friends are steadfastly not voting, one choosing to write in her reasons why on the ballot itself, which basically amounts to a non-counted rejected ballot, the other staying at home to protest the state's inaction when it comes to a number of burning social issues, notably the result of War on Terror-like policies and laws on certain racialized groups. However, it seems the majority opinion is that voting for a social democratic party is voting for the betterment of our society, in other words, a more just society. To be clear, I've never doubted that a NDP government would make things better for a larger proportion of the population, economically, socially, etc. In fact, as I stated before, I have voted for the NDP before.

But, if we accept that certain governments will make things better for more people, let's say through universal child care or human rights legislation, how do we explain that for many groups living in Canada very little has changed in the course of the 140 years since Confederation? My question to those who are so keen to vote is how do we account for this discrepancy? Do we not risk participating in a system, one that rewards those who participate as being 'good' and 'ideal' citizens doing their proper duty, that in fact further solidifies inequalities in society?

Where does this idea that the government will do better for those most in need come from? I have received a flurry of emails and group invites urging me to vote, just vote for anybody but the Harper Conservatives. To be honest, I don't really see the difference between the Harper bunch or the Liberals, the only two parties with a chance of forming a government. Remember how the Liberals gutted most of the limited social programs that existed in the early 1990s? Thanks a lot Jean Chrétien, now sometimes nostalgically remembered as a socially-aware, if not casually inept, beacon of reason and fair-play.

The liberal, capitalist nation-state exists and has existed to marginalize, exploit, and manage certain groups of people (indigenous peoples, 'immigrants', people of colour, etc). After all, the Canadian version of the state is premised on the disavowal of indigenous sovereignty. In other words, our so-called freedom is premised on indigenous unfreedom. It is no small wonder that many indigenous nations/peoples refuse to participate in Canadian elections.

It's also no coincidence that such marginalization and exploitation occurs across national boundaries in eerily similar ways. Voting is meant to provide the mass of citizens, however this privileged group of people is selected in a given national community, the opportunity to enact citizenship, however inequitably citizenship is determined.

Besides the clear inequalities manifest in status, region, age, and many other notable social factors in the make-up of the electoral system, all tipped to the dominant race, gender and class hierarchies, election season brings on a number of platitudes about voting as a civic duty. My training session was chalk-full of such liberal doctrine.

What I'd like to suggest is that true change is not going to occur because of the benevolence of the state. This has never happened, the state after all has helped and continues to help constitute inequalities. It does not mitigate against inequalities, this is a central fallacy of liberal political theories. This is why those who vote with the hopes of making things better for a larger group of people will continue to be disappointed. It's a no sum game. Getting more water from your prison guard is something significant and no doubt needed, but it won't get you out of prison.

I think political action needs to continuously occur in relation to the state and its nefarious structures, after all, they continue to exert an extreme amount of pressure on certain groups of people, but I also think it's key to develop ideas and communities that have little to do with the state and its many structures. To articulate a vision of society that radically de-centers the state and builds capacity within various communities in society.

One important question then, becomes whether one can do this while at the same time voting, keeping an eye on the prize, a stateless, radically devolutionary society where groups of people form communities of affinity and organize their politics accordingly. Since I don't see this anywhere on the horizon, voting for a social democratic party like the NDP might just seem reasonable, after all, water when someone needs it is better than no water at all. Reasonable yes, if I can only get around the fact that the Canadian state and what it represents have been the harbinger of terror in the lives of so many people here and abroad. If only I can get around that.