The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pigs R Us

by Tricia Dower

'Tis I, wearing a plastic snout – your roving reporter at the Corporate Golden Piggy Awards in Victoria last Sunday. The 11th annual, but my first. An afternoon of skits and songs dedicated to award-winning examples of “Let them eat cake” behaviour by big business. The show had the feel of what I imagine the common folk would have enjoyed in “merry old” in the 1500s. It opened with the performers marching down one aisle and up another in an incongruous setting: the stained-glassed auditorium of St. Anne’s Academy. As they marched, the cast sang, “Assholes on Parade.” During the five skits that followed, the audience snorted like pigs and called out “sooey” and “shame.”

The first skit roasted Private Public Pork Partnerships nominees Coca-Cola, Apple Computers, Sprott-Shaw, Kodak, and Halliburton for “expanding market share at the expense of public education.”

The second took us to a Taserware Party and a demonstration of “personal protectors” like a leopard skin taser with an MP3 player as it presented the nominees for the Paranoid Pig Award: Taser International, Texas Instruments, and Sony Entertainment.

The third had law officials entering a house after a family’s Christmas dinner and impounding everything that had been recalled by manufacturers: the kids’ toys, grandma’s pacemaker, the turkey, the tree, the dog’s food, and even the adopted twins. Nominees for the Total Recall Award were Mattel, Menu Foods, and Merck-Frosst.

The Great Panther Silver Company, a Canadian company that operates in Mexico, was the only genuine nominee for the Hu-Mine-itarian Award and was taken to task for a number of things, including allegedly violating Mexican law by not paying pensions to their workers and polluting the land with mercury-laden tailings.

My favourite skit was the Green with Envy Award in which a man and woman visited a travel agency to book a trip to Bora Bora, hoping there wouldn't be a carbon tax on the trip. The travel agent had horns and a tail and, at some point, God’s voice told this metaphorical Adam and Eve they were banished from the good earth to dwell in environmental jeopardy the rest of their days. Exxon was nominated “for destroying Alberta,” but the winner was Air Canada for its carbon offset program that seeks to ease your guilt about taking a flight by letting you buy trees.

The Piggy Awards aren’t run by any particular organization. The performers are the same folks you see advocating on behalf of the homeless, sitting in trees to protest deforestation, protesting Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan, and speaking out about any number of other social issues. It’s work that never ends and sees little positive result. The “Piggies” are a rare opportunity for them to have fun by skewering the big business interests they see at the bottom of those issues. As a part of our collective conscience, they’re skewering us, as well. Schools rely on corporate dollars because we’re not funding public education sufficiently. Other corporate “crimes” are committed because we allow them to happen. We’re the Assholes on Parade.


Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I love when social action shakes off the self-righteous and deeply unattractive veneer of ineffectual tsk-tsking and gets fun and gutsy! This sounds like a great event- the kind of thing they SHOULD make a cbc tv special of.... but who would advertize? Of course that shouldn't stop our public broadcaster. Running stuff like this would make CBC must-watch. We need to build a national consensus around shaming corporate shameful action. We all hop on the shaming bandwagon when an individual slips up. It'll be on the cover of every tabloid. But famous organizations seem to be able to get away with SO much!

Thanks for sharing this, Tricia!

Thu Apr 17, 11:54:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks for reading, Andrew. Air Farce and This Hour has 22 Minutes does (or used to do) that, but they don't often go for the jugular.

Fri Apr 18, 12:44:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Ron said...

Thanks for your review of the event!

I'm surprised that the songs that were performed —after being picked to match each skit-and-award — left no impression on you, The Writer.

Perhaps you're unaware that songs can contain social comment in well-crafted phrases.

Suggested Writer Exercise: write a song lyric, any style, which addresses any global problem; Avoid the "Fair and Balanced" nonsense and say something important.

For extra points: perform the song at the Victoria Folk Music Society's Sunday Night(s) at Norway House. ( )

Best Wishes,
Ron Gillmore

Tue Apr 22, 02:54:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Ron. It's not that the songs didn't make an impression on me. It's more that they were so familiar to me, I didn't take note of them as something "new" to report on. I'm a card-carrying member of the Victoria Folk Society and a regular at the Norway House on Sunday nights. A fan of the Rabbleberries, David and Mary Lowther, Kelly Green, Nancy Taylor and many others. So thanks for pointing out that the songs were an important part of the overall message.

And, trust me, you wouldn't want to hear me perform.

Tue Apr 22, 11:15:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Yes, thanks for sharing this, and for helping to spread the message, Tricia.

Wed Apr 23, 07:18:00 am GMT-4  

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