Work Less goes to "Church"

The brain trust of the Work Less party did not set its alarm clocks in time for federal election deadlines. As a result, the party that espouses working and consuming less and living more is on the sidelines as politicians clash prior to the January 23 election.

But the fun pioneers are not exactly slowing down for the holidays, says coordinator Conrad Schmidt. Schmidt gave up his well-paying hi-tech day job in October 2004 to get creative with the WLP, which has run political candidates provincially and municipally this year.

This time the WLP is teaming up with two unlikely allies-Anglican priest and human-rights activist Emilie Smith and Mexican political refugee claimant Raul Gatica-on a theatre piece entitled Church of Pointless Consumerism.

"I'm like a man possessed," Schmidt told the Straight on December 9, sitting with Smith and Gatica at St. James Anglican Church on Cordova Street. "To be honest, the elections were just getting in the way. All this politics was just getting in the way. But now the script has been written and most of the cast is in place, so we'll be seeing the Church of Pointless Consumerism next February [2006] at the absolute earliest."

Schmidt got to know the Rev. Smith at a Work Less party event. Both emphasize the serious intention behind the play. They also stress that the word church is not a slight on Christianity but a nod to this society's near- religious fanaticism for material possessions. Also, Schmidt says, there is what he sees as exploitation of cheap Third World labour and resources.

"Emilie was at one of the parties -all good things happen at the Work Less party parties-and she told me about what the Vancouver- based mining company Glamis Gold was doing in North and Central America," Schmidt said. "Then we began talking about lifestyle and how we are resource-dependent. This tied in with how I feel about the gold mining in South Africa, where I was born and raised."

Church of Pointless Consumerism pits the proponents and opponents of capitalism and consumerism against one another. The cast includes actors portraying businessmen, riot police, First Nations people, Christmas elves, chopper-bike activists, and (to be confirmed) Dinosaurs Against Fossil Fuels. Local choir Inchoiring Minds will add its songs.

Not to be forgotten in this production is Gatica, a founding member of the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca. Gatica spoke to the Straight on February 9, voicing support for his two friends. Actions he has led himself, standing up for indigenous rights in his native Oaxaca state, have always been nonviolent, he says, but he's been imprisoned 13 times in his 42 years.

"My group [CIPO] is well-known, and even [Chiapas guerrilla leader] Subcomandante Marcos will listen to what our group is doing," Gatica said. "Work Less party is very good. They are doing good things. There are ways to use the law so that you can be active. As indigenous people in our country, we are treated as if we are not human, as if we are a subspecies. They don't expect anything of us, but they should know we are smart, not stupid. But you can tell what [Mexican President] Vicente Fox thinks of me by the fact I am here as a political refugee."

With some translation from Smith-who was born in Argentina and lived for 10 years in Guatemala-Gatica describes protests and direct actions in Oaxaca. His group has taken over communications towers and stormed the governor's palace. "All of this has been done peacefully and with nobody harmed," Gatica added.

Schmidt told the Straight he "could learn a lot from CIPO". He explained that he's in the final stages of planning for Church of Pointless Consumerism. "The budget will be $5,000, which is nothing," Schmidt said. "We are aiming for St. Michael's Church [at 409 East Broadway] as a venue. Like all our parties, we'll charge $10 to get in, or whatever people can afford. Nobody is ever turned away."