Super Dialectacular Spectacular – Day 1
Nora Loreto – Co-host, Sandy and Nora Podcast
Loreto began her talk by laying out some of the problems she sees with the contemporary Canadian left. She pointed out that most left spaces in Canada are dominated by white settlers who don’t practice what they imagine to be the solution to colonialism. Loreto sees the NDP as an example of this phenomena, saying that the NDP prefers to operate within a colonial framework rather than opposing it from without.
Loreto stated that while she thought unions could be effective institutions to fight colonialism, the left shouldn’t expect to be led by higher-ups within the union movement. In her view, unions can be forces for progressive change but only when forced to be by a muscular left. She argued that much of the current-day institutional left in Canada has its origins in the nineties and said that she feels the mentality of the left is still stuck in that era too.
Loreto said she saw value in the fight for Land Back for indigenous people and said the most important input people could have in this fight is to do what Land Back organizations ask of them. When asked by the host if there were any international organizations that she found promising, she said that there weren’t. However, she did cite her experience working with an Occupy group to provide mutual aid to victims of hurricane Sandy as a more constructive form of political action than lobbying for government intervention.
James Wilt – Author of ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars?'
Wilt began his talk by saying that, although he was here to promote the idea of free transit, in the real world we need a push on all fronts in order to create a more just society. Whether this was a touching call for solidarity or a polite way for Wilt to say he rejected the very premise of the Super Dialectacular Spectacular we will leave for the reader to decide.
Wilt’s proposal is that the government should make public transport of all types free at the point of use. He pointed out that transit fees are an incredibly regressive way to fund transportation services and critiqued more generally the current model of funding transportation where the federal government is responsible for splashy capital infrastructure investment while municipalities get stuck with day-to-day operating costs.
Wilt pointed out the following benefits of free transit:
- It increases ridership and efficiency of transport (in terms of energy use per person).
- It allows even the most marginalized people to participate in transit services, which can fail to happen when fares are levied, even if the amount charged is nominal
- Removing the need to collect fares increases the speed of service for certain forms of transport (especially buses)
- Removing fare collection also decreases the number of unpleasant confrontations between transit workers and members of the public as fare collection often creates flash-points between these two groups.
He also responded to some of the common critiques he hears about instituting free transport (e.g. “But what if homeless people use it?").
Mumilaaq Qaqqaq – MP for Nunavut
Qaqqaq began her talk by giving a short introduction of herself. She pointed out that while she is commonly thought of as purely Inuit, she is actually mixed race (her mother is Danish) and she said that this background helped her see the grey areas in issues which other people regard as black-and-white.
Qaqqaq moved on to give a brief rundown of the various persecutions indigenous people in Nunavut have faced at the hands of Canada in the last hundred years. She mentioned RCMP violence in majority indigenous communities, the government killing of sled dogs, the sixties scoop and the forced relocation of Inuit people from North Quebec to Nunavut in the 1950s. She also touched on present day issues such as indigenous healthcare and the government’s treatment of Wet’suwet’en protesters.
In response to viewer questions, Qaqqaq spoke about what it was like to take her seat in Parliament. She said that in the beginning the experience was so overwhelming she would take the elevator between floors instead of the stairs to get some time alone. She also recounted the experience of having someone in the streets of Ottawa shout racist abuse at her when she was with her family and said that even as an MP she still feels unsafe when traveling alone in Canada outside of Nunavut.
When asked of international examples she looked to as models of how to handle indigenous issues, Qaqqaq mentioned programs in Greenland and New Zealand that she thought had been well handled. She also asked people interested in these issues to follow her on social media, listen to her podcast and contact her office.
Aidan Jonah – Co-founder, The Canada Files
Jonah began his talk by explaining how he came to found The Canada Files. He said he had started in journalism by writing pieces for other news outlets but had become frustrated when he was blocked from covering a student strike because his piece was deemed to be insufficiently neutral.
Jonah said he thought the left’s top priority should be creating a network of left-wing journalists that could support one another and cover Canadian issues from a left perspective. He pointed to right-wing projects in America that he believed were able to effectively mobilize people around conservative issues as a potential model. He also highlighted the creation of Harbinger Media Network as a positive development in the podcast space and bemoaned the lack of a similar organization for lefty written media.
Responding to host questions Jonah also gave a critique of mainstream media outlets such as CBC and Global News and gave his advice on how to consume media critically.
Christo Avialis – Writer and Youtuber
The main thesis in Aivalis’ talk was that leftist content creators on sites like YouTube (which use algorithims to deliver content to users) need to get a lot cleverer about gaming these platforms to get their content to the biggest possible audiences. He pointed out that independent channels covering political news on YouTube are already disfavored by the Youtube algorithm, which preferences videos from mainstream media sources such as cable news channels. Avialis said that right-wing creators had found ways to get around this by cross-promoting one another, as an example he cited the fact the Candace Owen will often appear of Ben Shapiro’s channel, which allows the audiences of both hosts to cross-pollinate.
Aivalis offered his advice as to the sorts of lefty media he thinks could succeed on Youtube. He said the top consideration must be creating something people are actually interested in watching, and said that he saw a gap in the market for shorter (4-10 minute) leftist content on YouTube. He pointed to the Gravel Institute as an organization he thinks could do a good job at counter-programming content from right wing channels such as Prager U. He also gave a number of ways content creators can maximize the chance that the Youtube algorithm will deliver their content to viewers, including tips on how to name videos.
Shawn Vulliez – Co-host, SRSLY Wrong Podcast
Vulliez’s idea to save the world will be familiar to anyone who’s listened to his SRSLY Wrong podcast: library socialism. Vulliez started with the observation that when we think about capitalist institutions that bring people the most enjoyment in their lives, such as shopping malls, we realize that what people like isn’t paying for things or participating in the ‘free market’, but instead the ability to get access to things with relative ease. Vulliez pointed out that the humble institution of the local library is in some ways an improvement on the mall as it allows people access things they want free of charge.
Developing his idea, Vulliez said that the current ecological crisis we face is actually a social crisis, underpinned by the fact that we have privileged a particular type of property relation in most of our institutions and laws; namely the idea that someone who possesses something has the right to dispose of it in any way they see fit. Vulliez would prefer us to build institutions around the principle of ‘usufruct’, items (or information) would be held in common ownership by library-like organizations with people given the right to use, and perhaps even profit, from them, but not the right to destroy them or deny other people the use of items not currently being used by anybody else.
Vulliez detailed his vision for how the left could organize around achieving library socialism. He said the left should embrace ‘an ecology of tactics’ (i.e. attempt many things and see what works). He was eager that the left build the institutions now that will protect the vulnerable through turbulent times, be it ecological collapse or revolution. He also touched on his concept of ‘sweetie-pie’ politics, saying it was useful to engage with existing social institutions in a non-cynical way in order to highlight the gap between the stated goals of given organizations and the actual actions they take in the world.
The JI Newsletter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. If using material from the newsletter, please credit the author and provide a link to the relevant newsletter in your attribution. Any content produced using material from the JI newsletter must be licensed under the same terms.