Friday 23 December 2022

Full transcript of "A Desperate cry for Help".

People watching this in Europe, people watching this in Asia are going to have a very difficult time relating to what it is I'm trying to explain. In the United States and Canada, we live with a kind of hatred and self-hatred you can never imagine. 

I have a friend in Pittsburgh. When I tell her about how terrible my life is here, how I want to leave, how I want to escape from Canada, do you think she has ever once said to me, "Oh, your life would be so much better here in Pittsburgh"? 

I have several friends living in Los Angeles. Do you think any of them even once have said to me, "Oh, look back at the last five years of your life and think about how much better the last five years would have been if you'd have been living here in L.A. Look ahead to the next five years of your life. Think about what a wonderful, great, positive life you could have living in Los Angeles, California!" 

One of the guys I know living in Los Angeles today, in the past he lived in Hawaii. He's never once said to me I'd be happier living in Hawaii, and, you guys know, Hawaii has a reputation for being an Earthly Paradise. Never.

What we live with in this context, you know, is an awareness of the history of genocide, an awareness of the history of slavery, an awareness of the thinness of the culture that has been painted over that graveyard--the graveyard of extinguished cultures that were once here before, and I can honestly say even if you live in Auschwitz today, even if you live in Treblinka today you cannot relate to this strange sort of of self-hatred.

If you're having a wonderful meal, you have so much food, and it's food such extraordinary quality, and you get a phone call from a friend of yours who happens to be in the neighborhood you might say, "Hey, look, why don't you come over, why don't you pop in and enjoy some of this food, this food I have, there's so much of it, and it's so exquisite, it's so wonderful, I have something to share."

If you live in Pittsburgh, you don't think you have a wonderful life to share. You don't think you live in a wonderful place or a wonderful culture that you can share with someone else, and if you live in Los Angeles you don't think you live in a wonderful place, that you have something to share, right? 

Anywhere here: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Alberta... where you live is just something you have to learn to put up with, to cope with, to tolerate. And if anyone says to you, "Oh, hey, I'm thinking about moving to LA," or "I'm thinking about moving to Toronto," any of these places, you respond by thinking about and talking about how hard that's going to be to cope with, what it's going to be like to put up with it.

People born and raised in Bangkok don't think that way, they don't feel that way, even though Bangkok is in some ways a kind of terrifying city. They think they're in the most wonderful place in the world! Bangkok, Thailand. And they will boast to you, "Oh, people from all over the world come here, and it's so wonderful, and it's so exciting, it's so great," you know?

People from Hong Kong, when I was living in Hong Kong I mean, maybe it's changed a little bit now because of political conditions, but people from Hong Kong absolutely believed they were living in the most wonderful city in the world. They thought everybody on Earth envied them. 

You can be from a small town in Italy, you don't have to be from a huge city like Hong Kong or Bangkok, you can be from a small town in the countryside in Italy and feel that you're from this uniquely wonderful place. You feel that when you sit down to eat, you have something to share that's wonderful. Your culture, your home, your place. It's not even that it's something you take pride in. Pride is a different matter, nationalism is a different matter. Empire and imperialism, there's something there you want to share with others, there's something wonderful, whether you think of that qualitatively or quantitatively, that you have so much great food or just the quality of it that you want to invite other people to sit down and and dine at your table. You're living in Trieste, you say, "Life is so wonderful here, why don't you pack up and move here?"

Above and beyond that kind of shame, that kind of hatred and self-hatred we live with in the United States and Canada, you know, um, every day that I am in Canada, I am living in a place where everyone hates me. I don't mean this on a shallow, surface level of people judging you based on your appearance, people hating you without knowing you or people hating you because they misunderstand you or because they don't understand you. No.

Inasmuch as people know me, they hate me. Inasmuch as they understand me.

The more they understand me, the more they hate me. It's a very different thing.

Beautiful women still try to flirt with me, still try to start up, initiate. I don't go to nightclubs, I don't go to coffee shops, I don't go anywhere to meet women. Just a couple days ago I had this beard, but it was a bit shorter, a couple days ago, a woman, a gorgeous, gorgeous woman, tall, slender, looked like she used to be a professional model, I would guess 25-26, completely strikingly gorgeous woman tried to hit on me. She tried to initiate with me just when I was walking on the sidewalk, and I was utterly dismissive toward her. Without getting into telling that story, let me just point out that woman, if I had carried on the farce of flirting with her, you know, if I had advanced the conversation, the flirtation... What do you think she would have invited me to do? Perhaps to go to a bar and drink alcohol and eat meat and watch ice hockey on the television set at the bar. Just think culturally what her assumptions are about me, about who I am, about the life we could have together. Whether you think of that as, like, the far-flung future, like if this woman actually gets married to me and raises kids with me, or. like, if she just gets to know me over a period of two weeks. There are a lot of assumptions she's carrying into this, right? And on every single one of those assumptions she's going to be disappointed, she's going to be shocked, she's going to be horrified because that's not who I am. 

Who I am, if she gets to know me, dealing with white English-speaking Canadians, the primary fact is that I make other people in this culture feel bad about themselves. I make university professors feel bad about themselves no matter how kind and helpful I am towards the professors, the other students... It's not envy, like it causes real self-loathing for them to be around me, you know. They hate me for what I represent, they hate me for the challenge to their own values and assumptions, you know, that I represent. They hate me for how I make them feel about themselves, and then, apart from that, more deeply, and I kind of respect their judgment in this sense, I don't think they're wrong, these people hate me for who I really am. 

The anti-intellectualism that exists in this culture, combined with the post-genocidal, post-slavery, post-british Empire racism, cultural poverty.

Canada is a country with opera houses, but no opera. I was in Nanaimo years ago now. Nanaimo, British Columbia. There's an opera house. Here in Victoria, we have several opera houses. Downtown Toronto there's a huge opera house. Several. Oh yeah, you know, once in a while they might have some opera performers visit from Italy so you can hear Italian opera performed in Canada. There is no Canadian opera, there is no Canadian architecture, there is no Canadian cuisine, alright?

And, hey, the most pathetic of all is there is no Canadian language, right? Our indigenous languages have been driven to extinction. What we can call a Canadian language, right, what English? French? These aren't Canadian languages.

You know, I think there is a bit of a cause and effect relationship. The shame we have about our own history, right? Well how can you be an intellectual in this climate, in this cultural context, without questioning, without investigating, without looking into precisely those things we are the most ashamed of? You can't really build yourself up as an intellectual without negating the compromises and the mythos that your fellow Canadians live with.

What's the minimum commitment Canadians have to have to Canada? Canadians need to believe that the life they have in Canada is better than the life they could have in Los Angeles, California, or in Florida, or even in Pittsburgh, right? Because for any Canadian there's always the temptation and there's always the option of moving to the United States of America. If you think you could have a better life there, there's the temptation of moving back to Europe! If you don't like it, why are you in Canada at all? There's the temptation--I saw this when I was in Toronto, at that time, in huge numbers, young white English-speaking Canadians were signing up to teach English as a second language in Japan, in Taiwan, in South Korea. 

If you don't like it, why don't you get out? Well, each and every Canadian here has to live with some set of excuses, some rationale, and, of course, the truth is very likely to be that they just lack the ambition, right? They never wanted to take on the challenge of surviving in New York City, of surviving in Los Angeles. It was more comfortable, it was more convenient to just remain in a relative backwater, a second rate or third rate city in Canada and to try to convince yourself that you're not a second rate or third rate person living in a second rate or third rate country. 

It's hard living with the awareness that everyone here hates you, and that the exceptions are only out of a kind of ignorance, you know, and wishful thinking from people who like your appearance. But, like, even if this woman flirts with me, and she hits on me, as soon as she gets to know me, she gets to learn the first thing about me, she's gonna hate me, and, guys, within Canada, there's no way out. There are no exceptions, alright? It's not the case you can say to me, "Oh, but if you were amongst intellectuals at a great university campus it'd be better!" No, there are no intellectuals on our university campuses. It's not that you can say to me, "Oh, but, if you were involved in the arts, in the theater, in museums and galleries, in stand-up comedy, and music, that there's some artistic community where you'd be appreciated, you'd be among intellectuals." 

No, there's no intellectual alternative. It's not that you can say to me, "If only you committed yourself to a political cause like veganism, if only you committed yourself to a political cause like indigenous peoples politics, First Nations politics, First Nations languages then you'd be around highly motivated, politically engaged people, perhaps slightly intellectual..." No, no. There is no way out but out.

I have been trying to escape from Canada for my entire adult life. I was trapped here and became a prisoner of my passport only because of the coronavirus. I was living in Taiwan when coronavirus made it impossible for me to stay in Taiwan, and, guys, I've gotten to a point in my life where--where am I supposed to run away to?

Like, should we do a poll? Do you guys want me to move to Japan? I was looking at airplane tickets to Tokyo today. You want me to move to Japan?

You know, what's the justification?

If I move to Japan, it's not Canada. 

I mean, I can say that for it. Is there a better life I'm going to live in the next five years if I go to Japan? Is there a better person I can be five years from now if I go to Japan? And can I know people of real substance colleagues even if those are colleagues who work on comedy videos with me or record comedy songs with me? Colleagues I can work with in any capacity as a creative artist, as a filmmaker, politically or otherwise? Is that life in Japan? Because I've got to tell you something guys, I can't rationalize, I can't justify moving to Los Angeles anymore. It's not about a lack of courage on my part, you know, I had enough courage to move to Cambodia, okay? I had enough courage to move to Saskatchewan too. I've relocated again and again and again, and when you get to be in your mid-40s, you know, you have to start asking yourself: when is it my last roll of the dice? That was what made me willing to pack up and move to Israel, that was what made me willing to apply for Israeli citizenship. The possibility that in Israel just one person in a thousand would be a real intellectual of substance because here in Canada it's way fewer than one person in a million. We have no intellectuals at all. Moving to Israel, I mean, in case you haven't been following Israeli politics where Benjamin Netanyahu just took over  government again whereabouts in Israel where about 65 of people will hate me because I'm an atheist, you know, just for that alone, like the percentage of Israelis who are really serious, right-wing, religious nutcases, you know?

Choosing to move to a country where the majority of people hate you, in that sense, on that surface level, right? Just for the possibility of one person in a thousand being a dissident intellectual and a dissident intellectual who can speak English because obviously I would never achieve fluency in Hebrew, I'd get to only some basic level. That was reason enough for me to commit to leaving Canada and moving to Israel, but, guys, this video, in some ways, it's been a long way coming, but in some ways it couldn't have been made any earlier than today, um, it's not just the coronavirus restrictions, it's the fact that I myself have been so sick I'm still not breathing normally, I'm still really disabled by the long-term effects of the coronavirus strain I caught way back when I went to Thailand and came back, when I went for the court case. I've been very, very seriously ill, and, guys, I can't stay here anymore.

I'm making this video just to say: I have to leave, but I have nowhere to go. 

[This video above is more-or-less the sequel to the original "Desperate cry for help", replying to specific comments and emails I'd received, and discussing recurring patterns in the help I had and had not been offered.  Its title is, half jokingly: You are too stupid to watch this video (you're too stupid to help me).]