"No? Just me? This guy knows what I'm talking about."

Confessions of a recently stoned man nearing 40.

I feel envious of the kids growing up in this era where everybody knows what strain of pot they’re buying & what it does. I stopped smoking because I became terrified of weed, because growing up you just bought a gram of something called “marijuana,” & maybe it would make you relax a bit & make a movie seem a little funnier, or maybe you would have trouble feeling your legs & start worrying that if time became a food then you might starve. It would have been like learning to drink in a world where beer, tequila, absinthe, & Mike’s Hard Lemonade were all just sold as “Booze” in bottles that were all the same size & colour.

Anyhow, for those of us on the radical left, and maybe even for others, it can seem like the campaign for decriminalization or legalization is relatively frivolous stuff. Its cultural norms are pretty easy to make fun of. But besides its strong potential for decreasing the discretionary powers of police, decreasing criminal violence, raising tax revenue, etc., the movement to civilize our approach to marijuana is also just a quality of life issue. It’s been an incredibly successful movement, & smokers & non-smokers alike owe it a debt of gratitude.

Ya did good, burnouts!


Lotusland Dispatches #3


Lotusland Dispatches

I have teamed back up with my former editorial cartoon collaborator from university, David McLeish, to start a new comic called Lotusland Dispatches. Here’s our first effort out of the gate in about 15 years.seagulls2

Dam social democrats

In Québec, social democratic politics were poisoned for generations by the decision(s) to pursue hydro power over the objections of the Indigenous people whose lands the dam projects destroyed. Hydro Québec was a sacred cornerstone of the Quiet Revolution, that brought Québecois out of rural, priest-ridden colonial poverty & into the modern world — at the expense of the Innu & the James Bay Cree. Pierre Vallières wrote that it wasn’t worth selling the soul of Québec socialism “pour un peu d’électricité.”

The well of West Coast socialism has likewise been poisoned today. That a mere 20 years after Gustafsen Lake the BC NDP could still have managed to earn the support of a moral giant like Grand Chief Stewart Phillip should have been a miracle we’d defend with everything we had. Instead, he’s been pissed away along with who knows how many generations of Indigenous leaders & activists who have no reason to trust the NDP when it says it has changed on sovereignty, on respecting treaty rights, on UNDRIP.

I feel for John Horgan, who is a friend, because the Liberals left him holding a timed dirty bomb — this decision is one of those that could very well cost him the next election, & could just as easily have cost it if he’d gone the other way. The difference is, making the other decision may have lost him out in the short run, but would have established real respect for Indigenous sovereignty, the right to veto projects on their own lands, as an NDP principle. Indigenous peoples might finally have seen a parliamentary party that, if you squinted just so, could almost look like an ally.

Socialism can’t be built on colonialism. Today, the movement for Québec independence — once second only to the black Civil Rights struggle in terms of a movement of an oppressed people in North America that managed, by its energy, to pull the labour movement & politics as a whole to the left — is a withered ethno-nationalist husk; it stands for nothing. The root of that failure was in its inability to build real solidarity with Indigenous peoples. The ramifications of today’s announcement will be tragically with us for decades to come.

A clarification & apology, & continued call for institutional accountability

I have been away — from the country, from my phone, and from my computer — for the past 10 days, on a vacation that has been planned for months; if you have reached out to me, messaged me in that time, I wasn’t ignoring you or being callous or stoical. Immediately before leaving, I signed an open letter that has caused many people a lot of pain. Open letters, of course, are never worded or framed as we would put them ourselves, and even as I signed I felt uncomfortable about the asymmetrical framing of the letter; I believe that UBC has wronged all parties, including not only complainants and the accused, but also relative bystanders on staff and among students, and the letter could and should have presented that picture more clearly and more fairly. I don’t believe that anyone — student or instructor — feels safer now after the way in which this unfolding nightmare has been handled by the university. That should have been the starting point. I am so sorry that it wasn’t.

The call to action in the open letter — the demand for a third party assessment of how the school has handled all of this from day one — is one that I stand behind. People whom I deeply respect have reached out to me, or have posted elsewhere, what some of the very serious problems are with the way in which that demand was framed. I agree with a great number of those criticisms. I apologize for the hurt that I have caused.

For the past year, I have assiduously avoided any sort of public declaration on what has been going on at UBC. It has been eating away at me for the entire time. I don’t think that the general public understood, or was able to believe, that we non-tenured instructors knew roughly as much as they did about what was happening at any given point in the process, such as it was. I avoided voicing any denunciations or exculpations; I had nothing at all to add, my longstanding friendship with Steven Galloway having no bearing upon guilt or innocence. Like everyone else, I waited for the outcome of the investigation.

Instead, UBC has offered only enough information with which to be terrified and confused, or to speculate, and so anxiety, confusion, and speculation have abounded. The right of complainants to the highest level of safety and anonymity is of course paramount; the university has at its disposal far greater minds than mine to help sort out a way to navigate the needs of transparency on the one hand and privacy on the other.

I vacillate between wishing I had said something earlier, and wishing I hadn’t said anything at all. I support the right of students and instructors to a safe learning environment, in which especially the former can always be secure in coming forward with their concerns and complaints. I apologize unreservedly to the people I have hurt with my signature for not voicing my concerns with the emphases in the letter before it went up. I stand by its central demand for institutional accountability.

The Return of Tragicomix?

When I was an emotionally broken undergraduate, I did a comic for the SFU newspaper, The Peak, called “Tragicomix.” It followed the adventures of a thing I could draw, a cartoon face (things occasionally got as baroque as a stuffed teddy bear missing limbs as he had no right to bear arms). I have not drawn much besides pictures of batman for my daughter in the 15 intervening years, but I decided to do one this afternoon. Please enjoy?