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Friday, September 19, 2008

Finding the Fire

The second assignment that was given to me as an Intern over at Ink Canada had to do with listening to this podcast from the CBC's Q Radio show with Jian Ghomeshi.

Now, I've never really listened to this show before - and I realize now that it has been to my detriment.

I'm not sure why but I've just never been a 'podcast' guy. I understand the concept and all, but it's just never been my thing. Pretty much the same thing goes for Radio in general - not that I have any personal issues against it, I just never felt that they held anything relevant to me.

Again, to my detriment.

I'm not sure where these prejudices lie or even where they began, but somewhere, somehow along the lines they became 'not for me'.

And it was in the tail end of that podcast, as Deb Beauregard talked about how Canadians don't realize how integral the arts have been in their lives, that something clicked.

Somewhere, somehow along the lines, Canadians - the hard-working, brow-sweating and pencil pushing, poor and middle-class took a look at what the 'artists' were doing and said 'This is not for me'.

Time passed and, like any good prejudice, it became re-inforced. Maybe it was through the politics of the times, maybe it was through their own experiences; Giving the arts a chance, seeing that Canadian Film or reading that Canadian book or watching that Canadian show or going to that Canadian Music festival, and being disappointed.

Maybe it was seeing those artists 'suffering' while they were out there breaking their bones to put food on the table and wondering what they'd do if their crops failed. Maybe, it was seeing those artists 'free' to do whatever while they worked the lines or found themselves chained to their desk job.

Or maybe, like any other good excuse, it was simply indifference.

I have been so angry and frustrated, but what I didn't see, what I didn't get was not that my fellow citizens don't care - they just don't see how it effects them. They have their own rent and mortgages and bills to pay, they have their kids to feed and work to stumble through. In short they have their own worries.

Why does our plight matter to them? What do 'the Arts' really offer?

For surely 'The Arts' couldn't understand. Hell, the title itself - 'The Arts" - practically screams elitism, it spits in the face of the working women and men - those trying to break their bread but not their back. Those just trying to make it through the day and escape their ergo chairs and recycled air. Those wiping sweat and grease from their brows while breathing through a mask.

But what they may not understand - and what I think I didn't even understand myself - is that 'The Arts' for all that it is, is a service. It is not something holier-than-thou, it is not just upper-crust men dressed in cummerbunds and tuxedos and women singing in languages that don't make no damn sense.

It is a salve.

Your salve.

We may follow different paths, we may have different concepts of 'work'. But we artists - writers, actors, dancers, singers, directors, producers, editors, and more - stress ourselves, put ourselves through pain - emotional or otherwise - because we want to tell you stories. Stories that offer a way out from the burning pain of living - or inflame your passions - or tickle you pink. That show us the error of our ways or celebrate our foibles or piss us off.

We do our best to reserve a place for you in a different world, a world you get to call your own whenever you want.

Be they in Film or TV or on the Internet in animated graphics or podcasts or books or plays or ballet or opera. We break our own spirits, wrack our own minds because we want to usher people into another place. Offer a way out for those who suffer under the sun as those who would suffer under the pale flourescent light. A way to escape the monotany of being cooped in a cubicle or a tractor or a house with with screaming kids.

And it is in that these stories are Canadian, that they are reflections of the people of this country - reflections of the values that DO make us different than those of us down in the States.

Stories that are relevant to us, that understand having to wake up at 5am to drive 50 to 60 Kilometers to get to work on time. That understand being a single mother with 3 children and a welfare cheque. That understand growing up on a reservation and being called 'Canadian' but being treated like anything but.

We tell stories about our pain and our joy, our triumphs and our experiences. We tell stories with a perspective only we could offer ourselves, that can be self-deprecating and yet proud. That can have differing viewpoints but still have that hunger for unity. That can speak so many different languages and yet still communicate the heart that we share and the love for our home.

Stories that resonate not only here but with people all around the world, who hunger for our unique perspective and vision. A vision inspired by those around us, our parents and friends and the towns and cities we grew up in.

Inspired by those who worked so that we could dream.

And sometimes when we get caught up in the crap, in the slag, in the frustration of our lives we don't even realize it when we reach for that book or that TV remote or that Web link. When we need something to make us laugh or make the tears come out or make the pain go away or make it all make sense.

We need the Arts and we need these voices now more than ever.

And that is why I'm so passionate and why I'm so frustrated - for what do we do when that mirror to ourselves is gone? When the stories - and not just 'Canadian' stories, but all the stories - that we want to tell are being told by someone else?

Will you notice?

Will it matter?

I wonder: Are you, like me, prejudiced? Do you, perhaps, have something against this thing called 'Canadian Arts and Culture'?

I would ask you to ask yourself 'what is it, specifically, that I've seen or heard that caused me to feel this way?' and, 'Why?'

Because it's easy to say that 'all Canadian TV and Movies suck' or 'these books and plays are for other people' - but I would ask you this:

'Was the last thing you saw or heard from your fellows so bad as to taint your view on the entirety of what your country creates?'

'Was it so bad that you would allow our voices to be silenced?'

Thank you for your time,

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