Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Stephen Quinn
Stephen Quinn

CITY LIMITS

Not even Buddha can advise anarchists Add to ...

Keeping up with the news while on holiday has been a challenge. Keeping up with the Anarchist News, well, you can imagine how difficult that’s been, what with the wave of petty thievery and not-so-petty vandalism that has taken place in Vancouver over the past few weeks.

True, the story of the brazen theft of the Save On Meats sandwich board is no longer at the top of the Anarchist News website, bumped by a reminder that the first Feral Awakening “rewilding green anarchist gathering in Idaho” will take place from July 24 to 31. Also, now high up on the site: a spirited defence of nihilists accused of “penetrating the sanctuary of anarchism.” It was only a matter of time really. They believe in nothing.

More Related to this Story

As well, occupying more not-at-all valuable front-page space, a poll posing the not-very anarchist question: “What inspires you?”

The options are as follows: (please check one) “Society!, Friends, Total Anarchist Triumph, Occupying Stuff, Accountability.”

As I write this, Total Anarchist Triumph has just edged out Friends 38 per cent to 33 per cent. Society! remains in last place, with just 5 per cent of the vote.

I am not making this up. I’m guessing the inclusion of Society! among the options is what you might call anarchist humour – the exclamation point being a hint.

I’m just glad to know anarchists have a sense of humour.

This week, Mark Brand, the community-minded Downtown Eastside social entrepreneur or evil agent of gentrification/poverty pimp, replaced his aforementioned allegedly stolen sandwich board with a new one. With it he mocks the face-masked dolts who posed with the missing sign by turning the new sandwich board into a sort of carnival display, where passers-by can stick their faces into a cut-out in the board and be photographed pretending to be anarchists themselves. Just like the Mountie thing at the PNE, but with arguably more anarchy. And … wait for it, for every photo that’s tweeted or posted on his Facebook page, the diabolical Mr. Brand has pledged to buy breakfast for a low-income resident of the Rainier Hotel around the corner.

I bet that even under the masks, those anarchists are looking kind of sad right now. And sweaty.

There is, of course, a wacky conspiracy theory out there that goes along with this: that Mr. Brand manufactured the entire incident and turned a couple of dollars worth of plywood into earned-media gold. This seems pretty far-fetched – although he does tend to make the news rather a lot.

But in my own neighbourhood, the anarchists have been busy as well, taking credit for smashing pizzeria windows, busting up security cameras, and spray-painting anti-pipeline graffiti just about everywhere. The telltale circled letter A that was popular when I was a teenager is back with a vengeance. It’s on walls and phone boxes, and many of the SkyTrain guideway pillars from Commercial Drive to Rupert Street.

I have carefully considered the efficacy of using oil-based paint applied with an aerosol propellant to make a point about saving the planet, but I have no hard scientific data to back up my hunch that it’s stupid and counterproductive.

Without a doubt, though, my favourite anarchist (or nihilist, or hobbyist) action of late has to be the defacing of a mural on the wall of a mom-and-pop Indian restaurant on the Drive.

Below the midnight-blue scene of tranquillity and serenity, two famous quotes from Buddha are written in delicate calligraphy that are part of the original mural. The first: “It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.” The second: “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it from without.”

Below, someone has crudely spray-painted: “Don’t tell me what to do!” And below that, perhaps predictably, the circled letter A.

A Total Anarchist Triumph? Hardly. But I’m thinking that right now, the bar is pretty low.

Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One. 690 AM and 88.1 FM in Vancouver. @cbcstephenquinn

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular