James Moore and the Beanstalk (now with hungry kids!)
If by some miracle you’ve managed to escape my weeks-long deluge of social media self-promotion — for which I apologize, but we’re a week away from the due date & if this girl’s going to university, daddy needs royalties — a play that I wrote is running at the newly renovated and refurbished York Theatre, on Commercial Drive. The show is Jack & the Beanstalk: An East Van Panto and, as you may expect, politically speaking it’s something like what you might have seen put on by kids at Soviet summer camp. Poverty-stricken Jack, raised by a single mom, condemned by lack of funds to a diet of dust-bunny sashimi and sunlight (if he eats by the window), swindled out of his cow by a shady realtor with magic Vancouver beans that can never go down in value, steals a golden-egg-laying chicken from the gentrifying Giant in his condo in the sky. It’s very subtle stuff.
If I had any embarrassment about the show’s caricatural politics, it was assuaged today as news broke that federal cabinet minister James Moore had made a Victorian utterance worthy of a villain in any good agitprop: “Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” In answering a question about BC’s obscene levels of child poverty (highest in the country, helping make the case for that gruel pipeline everyone’s been talking about), Moore insisted that “We’ve never been wealthier as a country than we are right now. Never been wealthier.”
Children go hungry as the country is richer than it’s ever been; in other times and places, that’s the kind of revelation that’s turned people into communists, or, at the very least, really sweet, give-y nuns and priests. But for Moore the free marketeer, the ideological rot is set in so deeply that he presented the information, as someone on Twitter pointed out, “As if that were a defense of his position,” rather than an indictment.
I don’t know what Moore thinks is happening — are dumb kids forgetting to eat? Are their indolent parents refusing the riches of our new petro-state despite the rumblings from their little ones’ bellies? Or is all the money coming into the house being spent on drugs and patchouli, leaving nothing for food?
It’s a real riddle: the country has never been richer, and yet some kids aren’t eating. It’s almost — ALMOST — like a problem of wealth distribution. Like, as a society, we’ve fucked up somewhere along the line. Almost.
In researching Jack & the Beanstalk, I discovered that there are dozens of different versions of the story, some completely bowdlerized to make Jack into an innocent; in these tellings, the Giant killed Jack’s father, and stole his castle, his golden-egg-laying goose, etc., thereby justifying Jack’s reappropriation. It was important to me that our version stick to the original — that Jack steal from the villain upstairs, to the cheers of the audience. Because if a kid and his mom are starving downstairs while a goose is dropping gold in the clouds, the real obscenity isn’t a pilfered bird.
We’ve never been richer, and kids are going to school hungry. I say it’s our responsibility to make sure they get something to eat. Otherwise, all you giants are going to get your geese cooked.