I'd wanted to come up with something to "celebrate" 15 years of performance art/activism/openly expressing pain and connecting it to our brutal and destructive culture (or my new word for it, patriarkkkapitalism).
I've come to find it useful for my fragile sanity to see my work as ritual. The ritual of a white woman, with no ancestral/cultural ties to anything non-oppressive.
On March 25, 2006, I started using my vulnerable naked body and emotional self, to share and create space for vulnerability and to mirror humanity's vulnerability in the extinction crisis. The first Human Body Project performance took place in the conservative town of Lethbridge, Alberta, when Greta Thunberg was three years old, long before social media or Brené Brown were talking about vulnerability, or Elizabeth Kolbert wrote The Sixth Extinction, or an anonymous artist known as ESP created the extinction symbol.
|1st Human Body Project performance|
March 25, 2006, when I was 44
Since starting, my closest friend of my younger years and my cousin, both white women who grew up in the same era and place as me (Calgary, Alberta, born in the 1960s), committed suicide and I live with a Stage 4 ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Unlike my two peers, I believe I am only alive because I have been able to some degree to express my pain and how it connects to the larger culture (and some intense medical intervention... I also have a CT scan this anniversary week. Please feel free to send good vibes for tumor-free results.)
I've actually been feeling the pain of the world since I was a child. Here's a poem that I wrote in Grade 5 that recently surfaced.
|Grade 5 poem|
As many of you know, I have been doing performance art in fringe theatre festivals for more than 10 years (I'll be in the upcoming 2021 Victoria and Vancouver fringes) and once had a career as a post-secondary instructor. I also held monthly, naked Vulnerability Vigils on the street for more than five years but I am no longer robust enough to commit to these actions.
If anything, I am even more outraged and grief-stricken than when I started. The scale of destruction has dialled up so high but, as a culture, we HAVE ALMOST NO LANGUAGE OR STRUCTURE to discuss, understand, or change what we are experiencing. Also, total collapse in Western countries hasn't happened yet. So, even though poverty, housing precariousness and homelessness, debt, addiction and overdoses, refugees, incarceration, scapegoating (BIPOC, queer, women, etc), and, oh yeah, a global pandemic... as a culture, we still favour la-la-la-la-la.
My 15th anniversary week will be spent focusing on trees or forest ecosystems to be more precise.
Why? Old growth forest ecosystems are almost extinct while BC forestry practices are and have been grossly destructive for decades.
NOTHING, however, is more egregious than the current CLEARCUTTING of the forests holding THE VERY LAST STAND (less than 2%) of old growth trees left on Vancouver Island by legal corporate entities acting under legal circumstances, enabled by the 'Nother Disappointing Party NDP, or New Deforestation Party, who won't even implement their own old growth report that calls for a moratorium on old growth logging.
For the last 7 months, a courageous group of grassroots forest defenders, known as the Fairy Creek Blockade, have been camping at several locations to protect these last stands. Now there is an injunction to be heard in BC Provincial Court on March 25th and 26 to use the weight of the state to stop the blockade.
|New Deforestation Party|
March 19, 2021
March 22-26, 2021
Fairy Creek Blockade Vigil
Mar 22-24 at BC Legislature
Mar 25-26 at BC Provincial Courthouse, Victoria
The Last Stand for Old Growth
ANOTHER RITUAL: IN WHICH I RECENTLY ENGAGED IN A FUTILE DISCUSSION WITH A LEGAL ENTITY
My anger cup runnethed over and I wrote a futile letter to a "legal entity" that has already shed it like a microscopic flake of skin.
I share the exchange here because it's a pretty useful illustration of "customer service" in the corporate age and how legal corporate entities and their shareholders are NEVER HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING because of legal financial and tax structures while wages for normal people are a joke and any community protections beyond the bare legally mandated minimum are pretend.
I was just in your Broadmead store and I'm here to tell you why I am going to take a long break from shopping at Thriftys, where I spend thousands of my family's hard-earned dollars every year. It was my go-to chain grocery store. But today your company tapped into a deep vein of anger.
As a family, one of our values is doing what we are able to mitigate the impact we have on the environment. One of the ways we do this is to recycle. Our municipal recycling does not take plastic bags. We used to take them to Thriftys at Saanich Centre where we usually shop but since Covid, that store has not been taking plastic bags. Here's my first point, using Covid as an excuse to not do this TINY service is complete BS. At this point, every schoolchild knows that Covid is rarely if ever passed through touch or being near something that has been touched.
I did not know that your Broadmead store was also not accepting plastic bags because I don't usually go there and different stores do different things. I had some clean plastic bags in my car so I took them in when I went in there to buy groceries today. I went to the area where there would have been collection and since this store also no longer collects them I threw them in your garbage.
Two shopping-bag-size bags full of plastic bags. Not a huge amount. I was annoyed that I couldn't leave them there for collection but I would have left it at that. I haven't easily found places to leave plastic bags anymore so, yes, I decided to throw them away in surrender.
Not one, but two, of your employees spoke to me in a condescending way about not putting those two small bags of garbage in your garbage. One suggested I go to Country Grocer to recycle my bags. Here's my second point, I'm pretty sure if I was younger or a man, those employees wouldn't have spoken to me like that.
Larger point: I have little choice about whether or not I shop at chain stores owned by shareholders. Your company pretends to care about what you call customer service. What you actually do is make profits for your shareholders by selling items that mostly come in plastic. We know you feel no responsibility to your employees on the frontlines: paying them wages that they can barely live on; not or hardly increasing sick days during a pandemic; making them do illusory tasks like spraying the conveyor belt at cashiers' desks after each customer; etc. No wonder they are resentful about having extra garbage bags to empty or maybe they just feel like taking their bitterness out on an easy-target older woman.
We know that any "caring" you do, like the FORMER TINY service of recycling plastic bags (I wonder, did they actually go to any recycling depot?) is minuscule compared to the MOUNTAINS of plastic your industry creates; the human illnesses and animal suffering caused by industrially-produced food; the unfair and, often, harmful labour systems needed to keep the food chains going, etc. Your company takes ZERO RESPONSIBILITY.
I know whoever is reading this is also an employee but I'm writing anyway to say it's grotesque the way you operate without any actual ethical standards but within what a beleaguered population will tolerate and within "legal" guidelines. ZERO RESPONSIBILITY.
As I said, I'm under no illusions that I can avoid corporate grocery shopping but, because of today's "customer service" experience and my anger cup running over, Thriftys will not be my store of choice for a while.
Here's the thing: you could actually do better.
Sincerely, Tasha Diamant.
Thank you for contacting Thrifty Foods Customer Care. Customer feedback is an integral part of our business and we welcome all comments from our customers. We’re sorry your experience didn’t match your expectations.
Thrifty Foods recognizes that single-use plastics have a negative impact on the environment and are committed to working on solutions. It is a very complex issue that all retailers and manufactures are facing, and definitely a priority for Thrifty Foods. We agree that there is more we can do, and our company is committed to reducing single-use plastic packaging and items. We will source more reusable options and we encourage our customers to use reusable shopping bags, like our Bag for Life.
For further information as we continue this journey, please visit our Sustainability link on our Corporate website at www.sobeyscorporate.com
I will send your concerns about the store level customer service to the Broadmead Management Team and your concerns about single use plastics to our Sustainability Team.
Again, thank you for taking the time to share your comments.
Holly | Thrifty Foods Customer Care
I appreciate it is your job to send me this response, which is not a response.
A real, non-gaslighting response would be to acknowledge that Sobeys exists to make money for Sobeys' shareholders.
A real, non-gaslighting response would not encourage me to look at corporate propaganda like your sustainability link on the corporate website, which is only there as a cost of doing business so that Sobeys can make money for its shareholders.
A real, non-gaslighting response would not tell me that the issue of single-use plastics is "complicated." Lol. Complicated" is another word for "we are a profit maximization business that doesn't operate ethically because we are not legally bound to and every other corporation does the same thing so if we started actually making a difference in packaging (or the other issues I mentioned: employee pay and benefits; unfair labour practices in the food supply chain; animal suffering in industrial food production) but that chipped away at shareholders' riches... well, that's not how we operate... but, hey, we're a customer service business because we say so."
A real, non-gaslighting response would address what I said about Covid not being a valid excuse to no longer accept soft plastic recycling.
A real, non-gaslighting response would actually say, hey, we're going to reinstitute soft plastic recycling.
After I left Thriftys today, I heard on CBC radio that Sobeys just bought Longo's in Ontario for more than $350 million.
Is that for "customer service," "sustainability," "reducing single use plastics," reasonably priced groceries, or to pay people like you and the thousands of frontline workers who breathe scary air every work day for low wages and crappy benefits? What do you think, Holly?
Please cc this to your manager, not that it will make a difference.
All the best, Tasha
Thank you for your recent email. It is always appreciated when a customer takes a moment out of their busy day to share an experience with us, good or bad.
First and foremost I apologize for how you were made to feel. We are in the customer service business and must deliver excellent service at all times, clearly we did not deliver. Please know we will be following up accordingly with the employees involved.
Again, I apologize for your very frustrating experience.
Thrifty Foods at Broadmead Village
And that's the last I heard from them.
Dear Mr. Simons:
The last thing I want is for your employees to be reprimanded. Maybe instead you could remind your whole staff that older women are people too. It’s one of those things that everyone could be reminded of now and then.
I’m not sure if you read my original letter but my main complaint is with the rich shareholders of Sobeys, who, I learned from CBC after being in your store, just bought Longo’s in Ontario for upwards of $350 million.
Neither you nor I nor any Sobeys’ employee will benefit from this merger, e.g., when they bought Thriftys. As you and I and your employees and especially the shareholders of Sobeys know, Thriftys is not actually a “customer service” business, it exists to make its shareholders money.
I am offended that your managers expect you to send me this gaslighting letter and reprimand barely-above-minimum-wage employees. It’s truly offensive.
If there was one thing you as a manager might be able to do that would make a tiny bit of sense to me: reinstitute plastic bag recycling as an ACTUAL customer service.
Please cc this letter to your managers.
Thank you for your time, Tasha
Thanks for reading and for being on whatever "journey" you are on at this challenging time for humanity.
All the best, Tasha
PS If you haven't seen it yet, here's a beautiful documentary that film producer Muniré Armstrong made about my work Radical Vulnerability
Also my social media linky thingers