“For us to maintain our way of living, we must tell lies to each other and especially to ourselves. The lies are necessary because, without them, many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.”
― Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
This culture we live in is based on aggression and destruction. Unfortunately, now that I have two young girls to raise, I have discovered, or perhaps rediscovered, that fact. That might be my cynical side speaking, of course, but there have been a couple of reminders recently that drew this realization back into light: the Mount Polley mine tailings spill was the first, and the recent CBC firing of Jian Ghomeshi was the second. These might seem like separate and unrelated stories, and they are, but there are some ugly parallels, and I am not the first to notice the relationship between them. Many others have discussed the relationship between patriarchal forms of oppression and environmental destruction.
Jian Ghomeshi has been a celebrity among the CBC-listening liberals here in Canada. In the context of what has been a mostly old and stately CBC, Jian has been one of the hip and cool icons of Canadian multiculturalism and seemed to know all the politically correct ways of doing and saying things. His show, Q, has been growing more and more popular. He is a suave city boy with (I heard, can this be true?) some women’s studies classes in his background.
It has shocked Q listeners across the country to hear that Jian Ghomeshi is accused of assaulting women, perhaps to satisfy his own narcissistic fantasies, or perhaps to channel his rage. These crimes were hidden and he was cushioned by the inequality in his relationships with these women. The women he victimized are afraid of identifying themselves or going to authorities for obvious reasons. After this story broke I heard many statements questioning the motives of the women accusing him. In addition, defense lawyer Chris Murphy said in the Toronto Star that he has advised women not to report sexual assault because most often the accused will be acquitted of the crime. Victims know this. The Ghomeshi story would have gone largely unreported if he had not broken it himself. According to recent reports, he had heard that the Toronto Star was going to run a feature article on the accusations and he feared that its release was looming. He went to the CBC with his side of the story, including videos, to beat The Star to the punch and to potentially vindicate himself. He failed.
It’s like that with Mount Polley. Imperial Metals is reported to have known that the dam holding the tailings back was weak and failing. The company was exceeding the capacity of the tailings facility and yet it continued with operations as usual until there was a major environmental disaster. This shut down operations completely. The long-term effects of this tragedy remain to be seen.
The capitalist system functions by placing profits and personal greed above the health of wildlife and ecosystems. Money trumps Indigenous people’s rights and the rights of everyone to clean water, air, and land. It functions very well. It really is an aggressive, oppressive system of domination. Like patriarchy, there is no give and take; it is an unequal power relationship. There was very little in the way of penalty for Imperial Metals after the contents of its tailings pond spilled into the creek and watersheds below. There has been no multi-million dollar cleanup of Hazeltine Creek, which critics say should have happened before snow started to accumulate. There has been no major punishment, no crippling fine, no warning to other mines or mining companies from the government to state that the planet we live on, our home, is of greater value to the rest of us and other species than the ore in that rock. Nothing.
We all need mines. We need mining. Even if we don’t work at a mine or have a direct economic connection to it, we need it because we need those resources to continue on with the lifestyles we are living. We all own bits of technology that contain copper wire and rare earth metals. We all use the infrastructure of this new post-modern civilization.
The culture of capitalism creates a system where narcissism and lust for consumer goods or money become the foundation for our lifestyles. We see ourselves as individuals, rather than as a collective. We compete. We consume. We buy many, many things that we don’t actually need. We are totally compelled to eat up resources that are non-renewable and, as a result, we as a species are raping and pillaging our homeland, Planet Earth. It’s crazy. And I am not the first to say it. It is another representation of the same narcissism that afflicted Jian Ghomeshi and the parallels in how it manifests are eerily similar.
It remains to be seen what will happen to Ghomeshi. Will there be some consequences, other than the obvious loss of his status as cultural deity at the CBC? There was a call from the City of Williams Lake to re-open Mount Polley issued loud and clear this past week. How long can we turn a blind eye to acts of aggression on our environment? Especially when the victim of abuse, in this case, literally has no voice?
Nothing might have happened with the Jian Ghomeshi story if he himself had not broken it. That story had no voice behind it that wished to go on record. It seems that Jian Ghomeshi was the architect of his own demise. And that is how it is with the capitalist system. We all excitedly and willingly participate in the overuse and abuse of natural resources. The results are manifold; maybe not just the loss of one of the deepest, most beautiful, and most pristine freshwater fishing spots in the world. It might be the death of us. But we are so lost in our own cultural norms, our own day-to-day lives, that we just don’t see it.
Stephanie Bird is a vegetable farmer and mother, and is passionate about social justice, wide-open spaces, fresh air, and clean water.