Gaia weeps for Tooker: her rain is our tears, her hurricanes, our wrath.
For we have lost our hero.
I weep for him now. These words are for those who did not know him, and will not know him, who are now too many, and will be too many more.
My tears enter the same sea he did, a few leagues south of Halifax as the currents run. His last tears and mine may well be mixing in that ocean, they may find the Gulf Stream, they may yet melt some icebergs. For now, they simply run to the sea, like all tears and all rain. We are mostly water. There is only one ocean. And only one path to it, if we are honest and seek the truest way. Tooker sought such a way.
For me, Tooker Gomberg is a set of active, vibrant experiences that shall never die in my memory, and always live in my stories: Burning a globe to graphically demonstrate the fate of the Earth as we boil her as we boil many other frogs; Tooker dressed as Robin Hood and I, quietly touring Tent City to find the poorest but sweetest people in Toronto; tracking Mel Lastman down at the Royal Winter Fair; sleeping in a tent in Allan Gardens as the temperature drops, in solidarity with those freezing to death nearby, then getting up early to exercise with the Falun Gong and do an interview with the Chinese language daily (the only daily that cared enough). Sleeping outside City Hall to greet the politicians in the morning – dare I suggest, we need a statue of Tooker lying there? Leading hundreds of activists to occupy City Hall and kill the Adams Mine Dump. Nailing a proclamation of independence for Province of Toronto, right to Queen’s Park’s door. Yeah, there’s a lot of stories there. A lot of good people doing good things. And Tooker at the centre.
There’s a lot of Tookers too: the showman, the publicist, the feisty activist, the policy encyclopedia (he knew the positions of each group on each issue), the City Councillor, the Mayor of Toronto Island – yes, the good people of Wards and Algonquin Island voted for him over Mel. And these, just the facets he showed in Toronto. Just a few Tookers.
There were ten thousand tookers. And every one of them worth knowing.
What can I tell you who didn’t know him? Who can I compare him to? Once they are gone, what counts about people is their moral example, their ability to inspire copycats. We don’t want anyone to copy his sad end. So we must, we MUST, inspire them to copy him in other ways: his courage, his consistency, his fairness, his… ah the only thing I can do, is compare him to people that you are already familiar with.
Tooker was a bit like Moses. He had the truth, it was given to him in a way that no one cared to examine, because it WAS the truth, and there was no point arguing. He led his people to do things that they would not have done without him. And, sadly, before they could take destiny fully in their hands, he was gone. He never entered the promised land of happy villages, clean energy, sustainable trades, and world peace… but we will.
Tooker was a bit like Jesus. A lot of people wanted him crucified, and some of them were powerful. But their sputtering and stupidity made it hard to ignore Tooker, and their vicious and ridiculous statements will stand against them, not him, at the end. Tooker may well be pounding on the Pearly Gates now with a protest sign, demanding they let in… ah well. If Tooker wants in, well, he’ll get in. But there may be more work to do elsewhere: maybe he’s organizing the fish to protest draggers killing their babies, or the orangutans to resist destruction of their forest homes. He’s somewhere. I’m sure of that. I feel him here, now.
Tooker was a bit like Muhammad. But instead of Five Pillars of Islam he had the Four Pillars of the Green Party: ecological wisdom, nonviolence, social justice, and participatory democracy. Tooker lived those four:
* Ecological wisdom? He and Angela travelled the Earth in search of it, on bicycles. “Seek knowledge, even as far as China”, the Prophet said. But also at home. Here’s a story Tooker told me about where to find that wisdom: Frank, a homeless man camping at Toronto City Hall, carefully saving a plastic spoon to re-use it – not because he couldn’t get more. Because he “didn’t want it going into a dump” and hurting someone else years later.
* Nonviolence? Tooker never hurt a soul, and was kind to animals and kids too. They liked him: he was small, like them, and more vulnerable to bullying, like him. Tooker put his body between helpless things and harm: between loggers and ancient trees, between nuclear weapons and children, between cops and homeless people. And those who understood, put theirs also between those things, and him. Tooker was worth protecting, because Tooker protected what was worth protecting.
* Social justice? Empathy for the poor. Facing the same risks as the poor. Feeling the same pain as the poor. Listening to the poor. Encouraging a homeless man to run for office. Knowing their names. Holding doors open for them to help, not just be helped. Giving them their self-esteem back. Protecting city commons, which are the only place the truly poor can go. Protecting the real natural world, which is the only place humans can live.
* Participatory democracy? Angela and Tooker ran their Toronto Mayoralty campaign as a Free University of Toronto open seminar; anyone could come and propose a stunt or media play; We’d discuss it, then, go out and do it literally the next day. Tooker *believed* in democracy, and in people becoming educated in the issues that affect their own lives most deeply.
Muslims say there is a Greater Jihad to master the self, and a Lesser Jihad to change the world. Tooker’s Jihads were both: they changed him, as he changed the world. Tooker was true to reality, never fantasized any better world than the one he lived in: he took what was given, and worked from that. And that’s most admirable of all.
Noah? No, Angela was more like Noah. She kept all us critters herded in to one big ark and took care of us all. And she still is. We love her. But big building projects were never Tooker’s style. He wasn’t that patient with projects, only with people.
Who else was Tooker like? Well, look at who liked him: Jane Jacobs, who endorsed him for Mayor of Toronto. David Miller, whom Jane also endorsed, and who was the only Toronto City Councillor to shake Tooker’s hand and wish him luck when he registered to run for Mayor. Was that a coincidence? Yes. But a lot of those councillors would have run away! Without Tooker and Angela, there’d be a much worse Mayor of Toronto at this moment: the 2000 campaign, make no mistake, made Miller’s possible. It was built on the same platform: living up to Canada’s obligations to the homeless as spelled out in treaties, reducing re-using and recycling, restoring democracy to cities, and, Province powers for City of Toronto.
Don’t let anyone, ever, tell you that Tooker failed. He and Angela and a few hundred others moved several billion dollars from evil to good, and it continues to move in that direction today. There is no failure, no shame.
But yet, it’s easy to see how someone could think they were a failure, if the press treated them like they treated Tooker. He was lied about. He was ridiculed. He had a thick skin, yes, but, not infinitely so…
I can’t be at Tooker Gomberg’s memorial today. It’s just too hard. Too early to feel about this. But I can think about it. And I do.
Glenn Gould said that in an ideal world, there would be no art, because “the audience would be the artist, and their life would be art.” I agree.
Tooker has left. But you are still here. And you are the audience.
Using the guide he left behind, his list of collaborators, you can make great art, and have a great life.
You need only pick up the sword: Go looking for windmills! When you find one, you’ll probably find Tooker. Or maybe Tooker helped put up that windmill.
That makes us Ten Thousand Tookers.
That’s what we need.
That’s what Earth needs.
That’s what Tooker has left for, to see us take up his mantle, and work for the better world he showed us, but did not stay to see. I think we owe it to him.
Even if you never met him, you met someone who did. And you can see the difference, can’t you?
“…their life would be art.”
Leave something, when you leave. Tooker did. I’ll never forget.
If there’s more than one of you reading or hearing this, hug each other, as long as either of you can stand. Remember that hug.
I love you all, just for reading this far. Just for asking “who was Tooker Gomberg”. I’ve shared a few of my Ten Thousand Tookers. I hope you share yours. We’ve lost our hero. Let’s not lose his stories.