The Disenfranchised of Revelstoke

John Devitt

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad.  Let’s get real.  It’s a depression.  Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job.  The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are no better than gangsters, and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.  We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three people die in a suicide bombing as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

The prevailing attitude appears to be ‘who cares?’  Recently while researching about transparency and accountability, I interviewed a City official who did not seem at all concerned about possible negative feedback from the community about the story.  Off the record it was explained that people in Revelstoke get upset over things for a few days and then forget about it.  Why should anyone at the City Hall be concerned about repercussions from the community when it knows no one will raise a fuss and if they do, it’ll blow over within a few days?  Then again, if it doesn’t blow over an “Oops, did I do that?  Sorry.” will fix everything right up.

As reported last week, City of Revelstoke Council held its third annual town hall meeting in front of a sparse crowd (  With only about 30 people in attendance, half of which were City Staff, sparse would actually be an understatement.  Should we really be surprised that the disenfranchised of Revelstoke did not attend?  Given the recent ‘do-first-ask-for-forgiveness-later’ track record of City Hall, why would anyone bother making his or her voice heard?

Comments around town about the Town Hall meeting seem to maintain the disenfranchised feeling.  One person who has been instrumental in past get-out-to-vote campaigns expressed his belief that City Council is going to do whatever it wants with or without feedback and input, so what’s the point?  Another commenter explained even the plethora of committees set up to provide feedback seem to be useless.  Not even City Councilors when asked directly to do so were able to pinpoint a specific piece of feedback from committee that they have integrated in the past year apart from the 2011 pay increase for Council members.

It can be tough to stand up and speak out.  You have to worry about what everyone else thinks, whether your customer will continue shopping at your business, or if your friend will still meet you for your weekly coffee.  We know things are bad.  Worse than bad.  They’re crazy.  It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore.  We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms.  Let me have my Internet and my TV and my 50 Shades of Gray and I won’t say anything.  Just leave us alone.’  Well, I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad!  I don’t want you to protest.  I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your MP because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write.  I don’t know what to do about the depression and the terrorists and the environment.  All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad.  You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING!  My life has VALUE!’

One ray of light is the recent community survey the City initiated.  According to Councillor Chris Johnston, approximately 750 completed surveys were received suggesting a response of 10% based on the size of the community.  Analytical research jargon aside, this means wherever survey results end up, based on the sample size, the City can be extremely confident they have an accurate response from the community of Revelstoke.  Basically whatever the survey results indicate should be treated as gospel.

Things have got to change. But first, you’ve got to get mad!  You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and climate change.  But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say: “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”  At least then you’ll be heard.

Many thanks to Peter Finch for his inspired performance as Howard Beale in the 1977 motion picture ‘Network” and his brilliant monologue written by Paddy Chayefsky, elements of which remain relevant 35 years later and were used in the writing of this column.