I’ve never felt disillusioned by the role or the intent of the Canadian government. That’s because I’ve never believed it works in my best interests, or in the best interests of most people I know. Still, from the time I turned 18, I did my best to make it work: I voted. I worked for a major political party. And I even came a breath away from running for one myself (note: never share empanadas and dissent with a party organizer).
But those were acts of desperation. I’ve known for a very long time now that I live and work on stolen land. I know that our country exists because of the genocide of Indigenous Peoples, that Canada continues to exist because of ongoing colonization. I know the ways in which government fails Indigenous Peoples and continues to create huge disparities among settler populations along lines of race, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, status and class. My acts of political engagement within the system come from a belief that I can be empowered to make a change, and that any change has got to be an improvement on what we’ve got.
For those of us who engage with party politics, this past year has been particularly exhausting. Shameless HQ is in Toronto, and 2010–11 brought us three disappointing elections. Now, in the name of austerity, we face threats to social services, the arts and economic and food security — things that make up the social fabric of a society. It hurts.
When things get this bad, I am especially grateful for other kinds of political engagement. I came into my current life via community organizing, crisis counselling and by exploring the intersection between art and radical politics. I am grateful for community: for groups like the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multi-cultural Women Against Rape, who have organized 31 years of Take Back the Night, for those who took to the streets during the G20 in Toronto last year, and for those who identify with the 99% and continue to resist as I write this. I am also grateful for Shameless.
Shameless has become a community to me: a community within itself, and a community that extends beyond the amorphous walls of “Shameless HQ.” When Jack Layton passed away and I needed someone to talk to, there was a Shameless editor equipped with sushi and insight there for me. When the experience of reading Feminism for Real totally rocked my understanding of what it means to identify as a feminist, there was a group of editors, writers and bloggers around to take that journey with me (stay tuned for our very first Shameless Book Club podcast). And, when we as an editorial staff struggled with the enormity of putting out a “politics” issue, there was Erin Konsmo (Métis/Cree Indigenous feminist artist and change maker), who provided invaluable support and guidance that saw this process through. I am grateful for Shameless because this community provides us with ways of moving beyond desperate acts of political engagement and empowers ourselves to produce the kind of media that we want in an effort to create the kind of world that we want.
As a reader, you are a part of this community, too. The most basic building block of dissent is dialogue, and we hope to promote that with every issue. As you flip through the pages, read about Indigenous Sovereignty (p. 18), question the system that we’ve got (p. 23) and challenge what Canada is doing abroad (p. 29, and check out the feature online here). When you’re done, I invite you to join the community that’s become so important to me: write to us, continue the conversation and empower us to produce the kind of media you want, to create the kind of world that you want.