In Praise of Pie-ing

By Tooker Gomberg, Edmonton, Alberta.

The pie-ing of Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is a political statement in good taste.

Congratulations, you who pie-ed Ralph Klein. It was a direct hit and well-executed. King Ralph surely had it coming.

But why did you choose Banana Cream? Is it a clever reference to Alberta becoming a banana republic over the past twenty years since Ralph Klein began giving away the province’s fossil fuel and forest wealth to his cronies like it was a third-rate country?

I would have chosen a Black Forest cake. The Black Forest in Germany has been dying off from acid rain from German industrial pollution. Alberta’s boreal forest isn’t doing much better after being clearcut by feller-bunchers thanks to Ralph as Environment Minister in the ’90s. While the world mourns the loss of the Amazon rainforest, Ralph and his multinational deforestation companies pulp the last great forest on earth into short-term profits and long-term devastation.

Banana Cream or Black Forest, the pie in the face is a political statement with an honourable history of activity in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, the USA, and elsewhere. In Canada, pie-ing hit a high point in 1999 when Federal Human Resources Minister Pierre Pettigrew was pied “on behalf of the unemployed”. That message was written on the pie plate. It was a perfect front-page moment – the Minister’s face lathered while the pie plate with its message soared through the air.

San Francisco’s Biotic Baking Brigade (BBB) justifies their urge to pie this way: “As multinational corporations accelerate the plunder of our world, a militant resistance has formed in response. Diverse in philosophy and targets, diffuse in geography and structure, the movement comprises freedom-loving folks with a sense of aplomb and gastronomics. Fighting a guerrilla media and ground war with the titans of industry, these revolutionary bakers and pie-slingers have achieved in short order what can truly be called a Global Pastry Uprising (GPU).”

The pie is so bold it can’t be ignored. It breaks through the thick veneer of public relations that surrounds the powerful, and it upsets the tables of the moneychangers.

The puff story of Klein flipping pancakes at the Calgary Stampede got flipped into something else. Not that we have any idea why the three young people did it. They have no voice, thanks to the corporate-owned media.

But a quick scan of the ‘net takes me to Canada’s pie-ing site, Les Entartistes, (tarte is French for pie) where a press release explains the Calgary action: “Is it surprising to see Ralph Klein opposing the Kyoto Accord for the right of big corporations to pollute, the same corporations that finance his campaigns? Talk about democracy in action! He even threatened to separate from Canada for his friends’ right to pollute.”

Albertans have been long-suffering under Ralph’s rule. Remember the farmers who got whiffs of toxic flare gas, not pie, in their face? “When an animal is backed into a corner it fights back”, was the way Wiebo Ludwig put it.

A pie is a bit more playful than that, don’t you think? As the Biotic Baking Brigade puts it: “Pie-slinging is just one tool in a large toolbox of resistance to the dominant paradigm. We have tried everything within the spectrum of nonviolent protest to effect positive change and will continue to do so.”

Political theatre is a vibrant part of a politically-active culture. Sometimes it takes a black woman like Rosa Parks who refuses to move to the back of the bus to spark a movement for civil rights.

It’s a citizen’s duty to stand up for what’s right, and to push for change when it’s needed. In desperate political times, anything can happen. People find ways to break through the armor of the state and the sheen of democracy.

It’s an ongoing and ancient scenario: power concentrates and becomes arbitrary and ruthless. People rise up and fight for change.

The pie is a political statement, not a criminal act. Should the three stooges have been jailed for their antics? Lighten up, Alberta. Political protest is guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 2b, if I’m not mistaken. Two bee, or not two bee.

2b says that we have the right to freedom of expression. It is enshrined in the Charter following a lengthy history of protest, dissent, and political activism. Even the United States became independent of Britain thanks to protests against British tea taxes. Blacks escaped slavery, and women became citizens as a result of people pushing in politics and in the streets.

You’re not expected to feel comfortable when people protest, or throw pies. The action shakes the status quo, and in a democracy it may make you think. And if it can be done with humour, and tastes good, has any harm really been done?