By Ivan Doumenc
I recently saw a map of Vancouver’s downtown core showing the restricted zones for the period of the 2010 Winter Olympics. It hit me that, for the duration of the Games, I was going to be under siege in my own neighbourhood. About a dozen streets and 20 city blocks will be closed or severely restricted to the public. A long list of venues, restaurants, shops, and public places will also be closed in order to accommodate a variety of corporate-sponsored private events.
For all intents and purposes, the neighbourhood I live in will cease to support me during the Olympics. Like some obscure red- or blue-listed species I am about to lose my habitat, because people richer and more powerful than me are flying into town to enjoy endless parties behind highly guarded security gates. Talk about the enclosure of the commons.
Of course, I could decide to hold my breath for a few weeks and let this idiotic and degenerate storm of a party pass, and simply resume my normal life after that. Problem is, by all measures, there will be no normal life for Vancouverites to return to once the Olympic caravan and its corporate VIP guests have left the city. The Vancouver 2010 legacy will include:
”¢ A $6-billion public debt, mostly owed to transnational corporations, which will cripple our children’s well-being for most of their adult tax-paying lives;
”¢ A staggering $1-billion security budget paid on our own money to ensure that we, the people, are kept under control both during and after the Olympics;
”¢ The enactment of retrograde anti-protest laws, which are in direct violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights;
”¢ The destruction of unique ecosystems which were standing in the way of a highway expansion or Olympic facility;
”¢ The removal of affordable housing from the city’s core to make room for ill-designed, elitist, and downright useless condoland projects such as the Olympic Village fiasco, which was bailed out in secret by city council with hundreds of millions of our public dollars.
This massive transfer of public wealth into private hands has an extraordinary cost. In years to come, we will be asked to work harder to pay off an enormous public debt which we have not personally accumulated nor benefited from. As our taxes increase, we will discover that we are no longer working for ourselves, but to finance the extravagant way of life of the world’s hyper-rich.
Olympics watchdog Chris Shaw, who ran for city council with the Work Less Party in the last civic election, figured this out on day one, while the rest of us were still happily waving our Canadian flags and rooting for Vancouver’s 2010 bid. Recently, he has shown us the way by suing the City of Vancouver, forcing it to back away from its particularly repressive anti-protest bylaw.
No doubt the Work Less Party, a fiercely anti-Olympic political movement, is likely to have its “I told you” moment in the next few months and see its popularity boosted as a result. But it will be a bittersweet victory at best, since it will coincide with the demise of a city that we love, which held so much promise and had everything going for it, and will instead enter into old age and decay before its time.
Work defines us as humans, and at the Work Less Party I have met smart people with admirable work ethics. But the value and very purpose of our work has been confiscated from us by people in high places. They have thrown us into the bondage of debt, using schemes such as the Olympics corporate franchise to appropriate both our wealth and our future in the name of sport. It’s time to break free. Yes, I am proud of my work. But business as usual, work as usual is no longer an option. If that’s the deal handed to us by the elite class, then hell yeah, I choose to work less.