Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Men in White


Playing at the Arts Club Granville Island until March 11, 2017

I did not think that I had read about this play before I went to see it, but as I sat there watching the action unfold it did seem somehow familiar. Maybe because we have been, every so often, the only spectators at a cricket match in Vancouver where all the players were Indians.

There is only one set on the thrust stage - the angle almost bisects the front row of seats - but two locations, one a changing room in a park in Vancouver, the other a chicken shop in a market in India. The action alternates between the two locations: 

"When Abdul’s cricket team decides to take action to end their losing streak, they talk of recruiting Abdul’s brother, Hasan, who is an expert at the sport. But bringing Hasan from India to Canada will take more than just a plane ticket, and not all members of the team agree with the high cost."    

I am not going to reveal any more of the plot than that. It is probably significant that when Laura Evely did her pre-show announcement, she said that people leaving during the second act would NOT be reseated. It is also important to know that by the time that happens you actually care about what happens to the characters on stage. The suspension of disbelief essential for any drama to work is complete: the play is absorbing even if sometimes the dialogue is a little hard to follow.

This is a new play, commissioned by the Arts Club and getting its premiere here, where half of the action is set. I did not know that Sir Donald Bradman was so impressed by the field at Stanley Park, though I had heard heard something similar about Nat Bailey stadium. I have also actually played cricket in BC - for Sidney. You do not have to know much about cricket to understand this play but you will understand a lot about Canada - and by the end of the play - what Indians think about us. Indians as in people from India, that is.

I was saddened to see so many rows of empty seats at the back of the house last night. This ought to be a sold out show. It deserves a bigger audience.    

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Who are the trolls?

Rosa Brooks writing on Foreign Policy about the reaction to her purely theoretical think piece on what might happen if senior US military officers refused to obey an order from a clearly unhinged Commander in Chief "And Then the Breitbart Lynch Mob Came for Me" 

Sometimes I wonder who they are, these people who spend their free time sending vitriolic messages to strangers. Often, I imagine them as actual trolls, leaving their computers only to kick the occasional puppy, smack their children, or tend to their basement meth lab.
Other times, I imagine something even worse: Perhaps these are all seemingly normal people who go about their days smiling politely at strangers but then go home and start spewing.

I think at least some of them are police officers, security guards and employees of the Department of Homeland Security. I have certainly come across several who were themselves in the grip of some power trip.

Not every border crossing, but enough that I am beginning to get very wary of crossing the border if I am going to be asked to give up my smartphone and password. If my political opinions are going to be questioned. We have already seen people turned back at the border for quite egregious reasons, and appallingly bad behaviour by people who clearly have no fear whatever of being called on it. Police handcuffing a five year old girl (I thought that was an isolated incident until I did a Google search). Refusing entry to Canadian citizen with a valid passport and no links to any country on the already suspended "Muslim ban" Executive Order. Or because they intended to exercise their right of free speech.

On the most frightening books to read for me was "Hitler's Willing Executioners" - or Hannah Arendt's "Banality of Evil". Bannon and Trump are legitimising the knee jerk responses of those who are only to ready to see threats and enemies: who make huge assumptions based on little or no evidence, who readily confuse a sikh turban and dark skin with militant Islam.

I had a troll go after me on my other blog - until I blocked him. Because of that he confirmed his real identity. He is now dead, and I will not identify him but he was a popular mainstream leftwing political activist, and civil servant, who claimed his activities were simply "harmless amusement". He was actually driven by the common delusion that all progressive votes belonged to his political party, and that independents and third parties simply aided the powers that be to win elections with a minority. One might have thought that such a person would want to win over someone like me by persuasion or reasoned argument. Something had tipped him over the edge. He even invited me to talk about this over coffee: I declined.

I saw something similar once with a police officer who transformed from a possible source of assistance to a hectoring bully in the blink of an eye. I have no idea what set him off. But reading the reports of the various trials and enquiries that have occurred after the death of Robert DziekaƄski I began to see how some people seek out employment as police officers but ought to have weeded out long before they could do any harm. Of course, in many parts of the US police officers have been able to work out their racist and other phobias with little fear of retribution for years: if that were not the case there would be no Black Lives Matter campaign. There would be no account of a black man held for over forty years in solitary confinement and who had to sign a tendentious admission in order to get released.  The behaviour of RCMP officers to women in their own force, and to indigenous women in general would fill many more paragraphs. I am not at all surprised that one group now does not want to see the police take part in the Vancouver Pride Parade.

Actually the answer to my question is as always the same: we have seen the enemy and he is us.