Thursday, January 22, 2009

Something to think about. . .

I just stumbled upon this NPR segment about Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land - Before you dismiss the 'private property' verse as an artifact of a different time, just think about it for a moment. We live in an era where our public spaces are under assault by commercial interests like never before.

I think of Yonge-Dundas square, a 'public' space that is a) walled by billboards and b) policed by security staff that will tell you what you can and can't do in public. Across the street, Ryerson students have morning classes in the AMC movie theatre. Up on Bloor St., you can walk by the Royal Conservatory of Music which just happens to be housed in the 'Telus Centre for Performance and Learning'.

Luckily, we big city dwellers still have some mostly non-commercial public gathering spots, like Nathan Phillips Square. For most smaller cities, public space has been co-opted by commercial spaces like shopping malls. If you think you have any sort of freedom in a mall, think again.

The problem with this corporatization is that, for all their supposed benevolence, corporations aren't fond of dissent. In fact, they will actively move to stifle any opinions that run contrary to their commercial interests. If we are entrusting corporations with our public spaces, we are also entrusting corporations with our democratic rights to gather or to protest. Scary thought, eh?

Now some might ask why we need space to protest? I mean everything's ok, right? Uh, no. We're tiptoeing on the edge of a depression. We have an elected government that will do anything possible to subvert democracy if it will keep them in power. We have a society where wealth and power is concentrated in an increasingly small number of hands at the top of society while middle slides downward and the bottom swells. Eventually, people are going to get frustrated. When they do, where will they be able to go to voice their frustrations?

1 comment:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You make some really good points. I have always been really bothered by the corporationization of sports halls, schools, public places, but never thought before of the suppression of dissent aspect that this might eventually entail.