Friday, February 12, 2010

Our Children - Political Footballs to Sell a Corporate Olympics

yesterday my son's school went to see the torch relay. 

in the morning when i dropped my son off at his classroom the teacher asked if we (my wife and i) would be joining the school with our kids at the outing. i told her that my wife would be and that she would be bringing a placard.

apparently, this caused a great deal of consternation. so much so that when my wife returned to escort our son to the torch relay, the principal felt compelled to seek her out and let her know that the vancouver school board has a policy not to be political and that it wasn't right to use children to convey a political message about the olympic games.

well, aside from the fact that my wife is a private citizen entitled to bring whatever placard she should so choose to a public gathering, my wife was mystified by the principal's missive. 

was she suggesting that the rampant promotion of the olympics in the school was not political? that in the context of an enormous public outcry against the games, inviting television crews into her school to film the student's naive glee at receiving olympic paraphernalia is not indeed a political action? has vanoc (the vancouver olympic committee) not deliberately targeted students in their feel-good campaign to try and sell a very unpopular and expensive sporting event to a skeptical public?

and here, we have the principal of an elementary school, interceding to try and quell even the possibility of critical thought, trying to dissuade my wife from offering a small token of balance to the pervasive pro-olympic hype that has characterized her school?

so my wife took our children and the placard to see the torch. and low-and-behold, what is it? a nice little corporate parade sponsored by coca-cola and the royal bank of canada. 

of course, the implied message is that corporations are not political. they are an inherent joyous participant of our society. however, questioning the role, ethics or effects of the corporatization of our society is political and forbidden by the small minds that administer our public schools.


  1. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, and while I don't agree with all the Olympic protesters, I support their right to express their opinions.

    Even so, who's to say the guy banging the drums on the Coca-cola truck, or the dancers on the RBC truck weren't truly joyous participants of our society? Even if they were just doing their jobs, they still brought a lot of joy to a lot of other people. Should happiness and celebration be forbidden unless it's paid for by the government? Or should we refuse to celebrate anything, ever, until all of our social ills are solved?

    If I can get a free parade at Coca-cola's expense, I don't mind sticking them with the bill.

  2. Too bad we can't get Coca Cola to pick up the bill for all the health care expenses incurred in treating the victims of their poison.

    And don't get me started on the Royal Bank.

    Zev, at this point I think you should ask the principal how much she would pay to have you transfer the kids to another school. Could be a good way to raise money.

  3. irv:

    great suggestion about the transfer fee. better yet, ask the school board what they're willing to pay to keep my kids out of the school system altogether.

  4. plans to prosper:

    1) i don't think that that coco-cola is being stuck with the bill. indeed, public monies are being used to subsidize the corporate festivities at the expense of our public housing, public education and public health care.

    2) corporations themselves are not joyous, they are profit driven. in the example of coca-cola they need to manufacture a joyous association with their product in order to sustain the market for their toxic chemistry. they're marketing strategies are especially effective at targeting children and convincing them that their products have some redeeming, intrinsic social value. they don't and, reflecting on my first point, we should be ashamed to affirm and subsidize their foundational presence in our society.

  5. 1) i don't think that that coco-cola is being stuck with the bill. indeed, public monies are being used to subsidize the corporate festivities at the expense of our public housing, public education and public health care.


  6. in a most rudimentary kind of arithmetic, i offer the following.

    total corporate sponsorship of vancouver olympics games: $756 million


    total public debt associated vancouver olympic games: $7 billion


    meanwhile, anticipated teacher layoffs for upcoming year by the Vancouver School Board as a result of a budget shortfall: 800


    the arithmetic tells me that after the corporations have put in their share to brand the olympics, the public will still be on the hook to pay an ADDITIONAL $7 Billion (about 10 times the entire corporate contribution) at the same time, our public services are unable to adequately fund themselves.

  7. Zev,
    I won't claim the infrastructure improvements over the last seven years would have happened anyway, but the benefit we as residents of the Lower Mainland get from those infrastructure improvements will continue far into the future. The Canada Line unambiguously improves transit access in our city, and if it took the Olympics to make it happen, so much the better. The population of the Lower Mainland is expected to increase by 50% over the next few decades, and investment we make in infrastructure today for the Olympics is investment that doesn't have to be made later.

    But more importantly, you seem to contradict yourself. You decry any kind of corporate involvement, and then complain that they're not paying enough of the tab. Your evidence that the Olympics are over-corporatized is that the government is paying ten times as much as the corporations, which strikes me as odd, to say the least.

    The fact is, we just don't know what government spending on housing, education and health care would have been without the Olympics. The global financial crisis and accompanying recession would've happened no matter what city the Olympics were going to. I'm sure I don't have to explain why tax revenues fall and non-discretionary spending increases in a recession. For a little rudimentary arithmetic of my own, taking account of those two unavoidable facts means discretionary government spending would have fallen even without the Olympics.

    And finally, corporations can be as joyous or as cutthroat as the human beings who run them. They are as much a source of good in the world (and much more!) as they are a source of evil, unless you believe that Canadians should be as poor as the average Haitian or Zimbabwean. The profit motive that you so despise is the reason we're wealthy enough to be able to help Haiti when the earthquake struck. It's the reason we can afford to care about the environment and other social causes. Unless you live in public housing, the profit motive is what gives you a place to live. The profit motive is what made the computer that you blog from, the desks, chairs, books, and all other supplies used by schoolchildren, and almost all of the medical procedures and medications that your health care plan makes available to you. Sure, some corporations are corrupt. But as a whole, we are far better off with the institution than we would be without it. It's appropriate to resist specific instances of corruption, but not to write off the inherent social benefits from all corporations.

  8. plans to prosper:

    thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts on my blog. while i obviously don't agree with your point-of-view, it is welcome here and creates a great forum for discourse.

    infrastructure - clearly the lower mainland does/did require a capital infusion. and certainly, an investment in public transit is not a bad thing. however, the canada line, while a nice addition to the city, was a low priority for the regional transit authority who had identified other projects that would serve a greater population as higher priorities. so in the end, you have effectively the ioc shaping civic policy and that's not a good thing for the long-term sustainable development of the region. as far as a $1 billion highway to a bankrupt ski resort, i don't see how that's to the benefit of the general population.

    here is a link to an article that really articulately addresses these issues:

    discretionary spending: clearly the recession had an impact on the public purse. however, i'd say public education is essential funding and the $7 billion on an olympics is discretionary. i can't understand prioritizing discretionary funding over essential funding. doesn't make sense. furthermore, in a city like vancouver where there is a literal crisis of homelessness it doesn't make sense for the state to invest in private condo projects over public housing or affordable rental units.

    canadian wealth - is based on a continued exploitation. our standard of living is high and we have wealth in our society because we live on stolen land and sustain our lifestyle on slave labour, the exploitation of the environment (here and abroad) and other historical injustices.

    the corporate profit motive - nope, corporations are not like people. they are not charged with murder when they kill as canadian mining companies have done and do by poisoning water systems etc. they are not held accountable for destroying labour movements as they do. they are able to avoid regions with progressive laws and policies in order to maximize their profits. there are different rules for people than there are for corporations. corporations make their decisions exclusively based on the profit motive and any semblance of joy they project in the world is manufactured and part of a marketing ploy to address their underlining profitability.

    the contradiction - yes, it is corporate celebration paid for by the public purse. how would i feel if it were a corporate celebration paid for entirely by the corporations themselves? i think i'd be okay with it but .. . it would be expensive. what does it cost to rent our roads? use all of our facilities, inconvenience our entire population? shut down most of our schools? yup, i think i would be okay if this event put some cash into the public purse as well as into the hands of the citizens who are inconvenienced. unfortunately, the opposite is true and, we have to recognize that the corporations would not stand for that. they never like to pay the real costs of their interaction with the world, always looking for an opportunity to have the public subsidize their operations. the ioc, scam artists themselves at dictating public policy would always ensure that the corporations are well looked after by any host city. they are indeed the priority. the olympic movement is a corrupt movement and it's silly to aspire to be in their favour. it's a power game and it's sad to see a large portion of our population pandering to the glow that they have manufactured for themselves.