I’m angrier.

Hello, Internet, today is Wednesday, February 22nd, and I’m so SO angry.

I recently had a conversation with a colleague who has known me for the past 10 years. Part of that conversation included a bit of chat about how people “mellow” as they get older – that their priorities at 22 are not their priorities at 32 and that they deal with the messed-up state of the world in a more measured way.

“Not that you have [mellowed],” he said.

“No,” I replied. “I’m angrier.”

It is true that, with age, I have gained a better understanding of what the people who disagree with me are seeing – why they feel what they feel and think what they think. This is both a defense mechanism and a tactic of combat. If I understand their point of view, I can often feel better about a world in which they get what they want, even if I don’t get what I want. But much more often, understanding their point of view gives me a better ability to pick it apart.

I am also more exhaustible than I was a decade ago. I get tired just reading phrases like “the wage gap is a myth” and “people on social assistance don’t want to work.” Sometimes I think that if I hear “she was asking for it” one more time I will either fall down dead or burst into flames.

But my 10 years of aging and wisdom have also coincided with the last 10 years of social media. I joined Facebook just under 10 years ago, and while I don’t find that it increases my rage to an unwarranted extent (though I certainly understand those who do feel that effect), it has undeniably changed that way that information – and misinformation – reaches us. We are told about world events as they are happening, in the heat of battle (literally or figuratively), and not the next day from the other side of a static piece of newsprint, or even through the jaded anchors on the 6 o’clock news. AND we are told everyone’s opinion – anyone who cares to take the time can voice their opinions on the internet – and sometimes we are told their opinion as though it is fact.

I was on vacation in Halifax when the U. S. Presidential Election was held. I couldn’t stand to watch the live broadcast, but I refreshed a site with the results every 10 minutes or so as the world, it seemed, screeched to a halt and then started moving backwards. It became clear that night that I was going to spend the next 4 years – at least – in a constant state of anger.

Since November, I have been through denial, disillusionment, and frustration, but through it all has been a thread of anger. And while I watch the happenings south of the border relatively helplessly, it is strangely comforting to be more productively angry about issues closer to home.

There are 2 things happening right here (as in, Newfoundland & Labrador) right now (as in, today), that are making me angry, and I can make myself believe that there is something I can do about them.

Constable Carl Snelgrove

Constable Carl Snelgrove is an officer with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. I use “is” because I take it, based on the fact that the press keeps referring to him as “Constable,” that he has not been fired, which just boggles my little mind.

PC Snelgrove is on trial for sexual assault here in St. John’s. The uncontested accusation is: while on duty, around 2am, he offered a young woman a ride home from the street which has the most bars per capita in North America. He drove her to her home in his cruiser, then helped her to break into her own home when she discovered she had lost her keys. After she let him in the front door, he engaged in sexual activities with her.

The young woman was so drunk that she does not remember most of the details of that night, but she remembers being anally penetrated.

What IS contested is whether or not the officer should have known that she was drunk (and, if so, incapable of consent, even if she had literally taken off all her clothes and jumped on him). I am not hopeful that PC Snelgrove will be convicted, considering that only 3 in 1000 sexual assaults in Canada turn out that way. I am relatively hopeful that he will be fired, since he is a) a police officer, who 100% should know the definition of consent and that even if the woman was stone-cold sober, the fact that he was a uniformed police officer and she a civilian gives him power which makes consent shady at best; and b) he was WORKING. He was a Working Police Officer who did not report to his superiors that he was bringing this woman home and who had sex with her while on duty. Even if she had been sober, this must be unacceptable behaviour, mustn’t it? And yet, “Constable” precedes his name at every pass.

What must someone do to be fired from the RNC?

Perhaps more attention is being paid this case because the press coverage of it has been so blindly rape-culture-y, to the extend that the St. John’s daily paper, The Telegram published, as its front-page headline, “Too drunk to remember.”

I wrote an angry letter. So did, it seems, hundreds of others. The headline was out Friday, and there was an apology – of the “sorry we offended you” variety – in Monday’s paper, along with an editorial written by the Executive Director of the St. John’s Status of Women Council. In a small way, I’d like to believe that we made a difference. To that paper, that one time.

The Department of Tourism, Industry and Innovation

When I woke up this morning, the provincial government department dealing with the culture sector was called “Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development.” But, in the wake of a first round of government layoffs (there’s going to be more, I expect, as this province’s government is still one of the biggest, clunkiest, and least efficient in the country… and also, we are heavily, HEAVILY in debt), some government departments have been on the receiving end of some shifting. And what this means, to me in particular, is the removal of my sector from the title of this, or any, government department.

It would be easy to think of this as “just branding.” After all, is culture – and theatre in particular – a part of tourism? Is it not also an industry? Is it not innovative?

Well, yes. Yes, yes and yes.

But is it what people think of as “tourism”? or “industry”? or “innovation”?

No. No, no and no.

By un-acknowledging culture in the department’s heading, it makes it all the easier to quietly defund the programs that support that culture. That culture that is so celebrated in all of the tourism ads.

Just as a juxtaposition exercise, here are some screen grabs from a single NL Tourism ad (you will have to forgive my childlike, touch-pad based printing):

This unicyclist is a circus artist – a part of the culture sector.

This musician is part of the culture sector.

This mural is part of the cultural fabric of St. John’s.

This shot is taken from The Rooms – a cultural institution.

Now, here is a screen capture from the government’s announcement of new departmental assignments. I have searched the word “culture” and found 2 references.

So, have we been sucked up into “tourism”? That’s dangerous, since not all art created in Newfoundland and Labrador has tourists as its primary audience (nor should it!). And I have been told point-blank by government officials (federal, but I imagine the language is fairly universal) within the past 6 weeks that culture is not generally considered to be part of “Industry.” And although we are innovating non-stop in our product, the basics of running a culture organization remain the same.

At the moment it is only rumours that are flying, but I am expecting the axe to fall within the culture sector in the coming days. I do not believe that this is pessimism. I believe that it is a realistic expectation of a government trying to manage intense economic strain.

But the truth is that the cultural sector is already working with less than it needs to be a healthy industry, and public funding is a key part of what remains to us. The de-emphasis of the value of culture in this latest government announcement is, I believe, the beginning of some very bad news for my sector, and by extension, for the cultural growth of this province.

 

It’s going to be a long future full of protests and angry letters. I’m only getting angrier.