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the right to be angry

January 22, 2013

I haven’t read Gord Hill’s new book yet, The Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book, though I do have many of Gord’s zines and the last graphic novel he published, The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book. I felt moved to write in defense of the book, though, this book I haven’t read yet, because of a critique written by Stu Popp for the blog Art Threat. I usually read Art Threat for inspiring examples of work that people are doing around the world, movies to see, different ways people are putting forward progressive ideas.  This book review, though, was an unusually negative piece. Not in support of something but rather against a work, something i’m unused to seeing from them.

The main criticism is that this book focuses to much on violent opposition, that it mocks non-violent activism. It suggests that The Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book centers on military and para-military responses to capitalism, which wouldn’t surprise me. 500 Years also deals in large part with organized, physical resistance to military incursions, genocidal warfare and colonial occupation. The reason people fought back instead of volunteering to be arrested or filling out online petitions feels obvious. Things were dire. And guess what, we are still living in dire straits. The RCMP is no longer stealing children for residential schools, the conquistadors aren’t slicing out people’s tongues, but the violence hasn’t stopped. We’re just outsourcing it now to the Middle East, for the most part. Idle No More has pointed out to anyone who may not have noticed that colonisation is an on-going process, here on occupied, Native land.

So if Gord Hill wants to focus on violent resistance to violent occupation, then I think that fair and well within his rights as an artist and as an Indigenous sovereigntist. Popp’s attempts to silence him, though, seem to fit in with a very old guard activism.

Ignoring the connection between violent protests and violent response to protests is perhaps my biggest issue with Hill’s glorification of violence as a method of protest. Hill ignores the possibility that the violent protests have the potential to force the police to increase the severity of their own response, much like law enforcement officials often ignore the similar effect that police actions have on encouraging violent groups like the Black Bloc.

I mean, this is liberal, Flower Power nonsense. This idea that activists are responsible for all the violence in the world is absurd. I know that isn’t what Popp is saying, rather that violent opposition to violence is simply playing into the cycle of violence. But if it isn’t the armies of the world who are responsible for perpetuating institutional violence, then who else could it be? Obviously the people being killed, it must be their faults for resisting. Or maybe Popp is simply suggesting that non-violence would be a better response to violence, that We Shall Overcome, and that we only have to show them the moral high-ground. Whatever. My Nonna thinks the same thing, and i’d never be caught trying to contradict her.

Popp goes on to accuse Hill of violating the dictum that respects a diversity of tactics. “Ironically, Hill makes it a point to chastise pacifist movements and protestors for lacking respect for a “diversity of tactics” because of their opposition to the violent practices of the Black Bloc protestors.” He doesn’t provide any examples of Hill’s mockery (maybe it sounds something like this: “I have nothing against “peaceful protest” and have participated in many more such protests than “violent” ones. It’s a question of tactics and strategy. I would say, however, that I am opposed to pacifist ideologues attempting to impose their beliefs on others while undermining militants.”), but let’s pretend that Gord Hill says something like “pacifism accomplishes nothing, non-violence is cowardly.” That would for sure be problematic and worthy of criticism. It’s ignorant of people to get caught up in this romantic vision of storming the Bastille or toppling the Berlin Wall without recognizing all the day-to-day work that people do.

Myself, i write about community organizing. It is a passion of mine, something i am familiar and comfortable with and an area in which i feel useful. But i wouldn’t be foolish enough to suggest that my style of activism is the end-all be-all. Popp’s criticism would have gone down easier if he hadn’t felt the need to paint this whole book with one brush, that it’s just some poorly-scribbled (very quickly, i love Hill’s artwork and so do many people. Just because you don’t understand the cultural underpinnings behind a persons work doesn’t allow you to refer to it as simple, cluttered or muddling) violent diatribe. If you are calling for balance, then have a spoon of your own medicine. And remember that anger is good, anger is healthy, anger is justified and anger is not the problem. Ignoring and silencing anger is a problem.

Check out Gord’s blog for more of his writing and up-to-date political analysis

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