Stevie Harper has left the building; Chris Carlsson shows up

Word has it Canada is to elect a new government. The writ, as they say, was dropped a couple days ago when the Prime Minister, Stephen “Steve” Harper, formally requested Governor General Michaëlle Jean to dissolve Parliament.

To do this, he left his own house early last Sunday morning in a four-car motorcade and drove to Parliament, where Jean had been told to expect him.

At 20 minutes after 8 a.m., Harper drove in a four-car prime ministerial motorcade across the street from his 24 Sussex Drive residence to Rideau Hall and told Governor-General Michaelle Jean he needed a new mandate.

Four cars. To drive literally across the street.

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And Steve wants us to believe he cares about the environment?

Thanks to Vic for the tip.

Our colleague Chris Carlsson, meanwhile, stopped by Toronto during the weekend past to promote his new book Nowtopia and get to know the city.

Chris, the man, is not the same person as Chris, the legend. The legend invented Critical Mass bike rides, a global phenomenon celebrated each month in some 300 cities. The man acknowledges he contributed to the discussion, and coined the name (the movement started out in San Francisco, Carlsson’s home town, under the name “Commuter Clot,” but Carlsson, who had visited China and seen the way cyclists there could literally stop the movement of motorized traffic when they built up in sufficient numbers or resolve, conceived of the name critical mass to describe the phenomenon). For “inventing” Critical Mass in 1992, Carlsson was awarded the Golden Wheel Award by the San Francisco Bike Coalition. His book Critical Mass: Bicycling’s Defiant Celebration would be on any cycling advocate’s wish list.

Chris Carlsson, the legend, founded Processed World in 1981, a magazine (now a website) devoted to chronicling the emerging class of workers whose skills as typists eclipsed any creative abilities or gifts they might have had, when it came to finding employment.

The magazine’s creators found themselves using their only marketable skill after years of university education: “handling information.” In spite of being employed in offices as “temps,” few really thought of themselves as “office workers.” More common was the hopeful assertion that they were photographers, writers, artists, dancers, historians or philosophers.

Chris’s new book, Nowtopia, is a starchly written analysis of labour relations in the post-modern era, and as such ties in nicely with the Prime Minister of Canada deciding to quit his day job during Carlsson’s Canadian visit.

As Carlsson describes it,

Nowtopia is a book about a new politics of work. It profiles tinkerers, inventors, and improvisational spirits who bring an artistic approach to important tasks that are ignored or undervalued by market society. Rooted in practices that have been emerging over the past few decades, Nowtopia’s exploration of work locates an important thread of self-emancipatory class politics beyond the traditional arena of wage-labor.

When we have the Prime Minister of Canada acknowledging he is at best a “temp,” in other words, we are close to living the “Nowtopia” Carlsson describes. In this emerging world, we are not defined by our jobs but by what we do in our spare time. Is Prime Minister Stephen Harper the boss? Or is he just a hopeless drone, pushing paper in a windowless cubical while he itches to make some xerox art while the real boss goes to lunch?

For Carlsson, “Steve” Harper would be only a tool in the spectacle of power, no more or less than some of the tools he’s had to fire in the past week as his reelection campaign veered into weird territory.

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