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Where the Wild Things Are
A nasty new government inspires tree-huggers to action
Copyright 1995 by Lynna Landstreet. This column originally
appeared in Xtra
magazine. Published by Pink Triangle Press, 491 Church Street, 2nd Floor,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4Y 2C6.
while back, just before the last provincial election, I wrote about my hopes
that electing a government that was blatantly, rather than covertly, evil would
inspire activists in a variety of movements to become more militant. Well, it
looks like that wish may be coming true.
During the NDP's lackluster reign, I watched time and time again as otherwise
intelligent people backed off from confronting them on their numerous
hypocrisies out of some perverse sense of loyalty, like a kicked dog slinking
back to lick its master's feet. From loyal lefties who still believed, contrary
to all evidence, that the NDP were sincere about the spousal rights bill to
supposedly radical environmentalists who wimped out of a Queen's Park protest
aimed at saving Ontario's old growth forests because they didn't want to
embarrass poor little Temagami Bob, having a nominally progressive government
in power did more to stifle social change movements across the board than any
amount of state repression could have.
Happily, all that is over. The government we have now can't be bothered to
even pretend they're our friends. They know who their enemies are: queers,
single mothers, the unemployed, Natives, eco-freaks, and anyone else not
commonly seen wearing a three-piece suit. And this, correspondingly, makes it
refreshingly easy for us to know who our enemy is: them.
That difference was glaringly apparent at the recent founding meeting of the
Temagami Action Group. Whereas last spring environmentalists planning the
ill-fated Queen's Park-action-that-wasn't were hard-pressed to draw twenty
people out to a meeting, this one filled the 519's auditorium with a circle
three deep. The comments people left on the signup sheet which asked if they
were willing to risk arrest were also informative: "Anytime!"
"The sooner the better!" "Chain me to a tree!" If Harris
does send in the feller-bunchers this spring as he's threatened, he's going
to have a serious fight on his hands.
Another inspiring thing about the meeting was that there was a noticeable
sprinkling of queers throughout the crowd. Now, the location may have had
something to do with that -- could be some of them had taken a wrong turn
looking for the gay alcoholic adult children of UFO abduction survivors'
support group and were wondering what all this talk about white pines and
land claims meant, anyway. But I prefer to look on the bright side, and
believe this really may mean that an increasing number of my fellow sexual
deviants are starting to realize that Northern Ontario doesn't begin at
Bloor Street; that the smelly, dirty, noisy, overcrowded city centre is
not our natural habitat; and that hets don't own the wilderness.
After all, in a sense you could say that we should have more empathy with
endangered wildlife and wild places than anyone. Isn't it the same fear of
the Other, the uncontrollable, the wild and chaotic, that moves both the
gaybasher and the developer who wants to cover the world with concrete? Both
hate and fear what they can't understand; both seek to erase difference and
impose a sterile, ordered conformity on messy, disorderly, animalistic nature.
Those who cling to an unnaturally clean, controlled, predictable vision of
the world are as terrified of the unfettered expression of sexuality as they
are of being dropped in the middle of the wilderness with only a knife and a
canteen -- both threaten to strip away their veneer of civilization and
expose the beast within.
When I stand in defence of a threatened wilderness, I do it not out of altruism
or ideological conviction, but from a basic, gut-level identification with
the forest. Something inside says "This is like me," a wild
thing that does not conform to polite society's boundaries and definitions,
but insists on being what it is, however unprofitable or inconvenient
to the status quo.
For those who feel likewise, the TAG team has a civil disobedience workshop
coming up for those who'd like to be bound to something other than the bedposts
for a change, as well as continuing planning meetings at the 519. Actions will
probably be taking place in both Toronto and Temagami, call the phone numbers
listed in the box for details.
Hopefully, the same renewal of purpose and fighting spirit that I saw at the TAG
meeting will soon infect our own organizations as well. But in the mean time, I
'll see you where the wild things are...
This column was written in September 1995. For
a later report on the same subject, see Nihil
Obstat 313. Or for up-to-the-minute information on this and
other wilderness issues, see the Earthroots
or Wildlands League
web pages. And, of course, the Forest
section of this site.
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