Edmonton, Alberta — At a recent conference opposed to the undermining of the Province’s universal health care by a combination of companies and politicians, the stage was cleared for an astounding instrument of social protect — The Edmonton Raging Grannies.
Out came seven “Grannies” who sing serious, sharply satiric songs, to known tunes, relating to environment, social justice and global nuclear arms control. This time they raked over provincial politicians and corporations bent on bringing pricey corporate managed care — the kind Americans endure — to Canada.
The Grannies are the Edmonton branch of the first Raging Grannies group formed in British Columbia in 1986 to protest nuclear submarines at a local base. The Grannies use humor for serious purposes — ones that they often worked on years ago as citizen activists. They like to get their enthusiastic audiences “trying to save the world with a little good-natured rage” using motivating proverbs such as the one from Zimbabwe — “If you can walk, you can dance, if you can talk, you can sing.”
Another venerable fighter for justice through song is Peter Seeger, the bard of the Hudson. In a Foreword he wrote to the “Raging Grannies Songbook,” the great folk-singer described these women this way:
“As older women, they use the “Granny” stereotype to gain access to prohibited places: government offices, national leaders, scandalous sites. Then they sing out their no-holds barred messages…They have great visual impact dressed in their outrageous hats and costumes. And often they convey a message that others are unable to. They are unstoppable,
precisely because they encourage others to change their lyrics to fit local situations. . .”
It is a sign of a closing media pattern when jokes, humor and laughter have to be the principal means of conveying concerns over injustices and abuses that affect many innocent people. In the U.S. as serious public discourse over television and radio dwindles to a trickle, Politically Incorrect, Saturday Night Live and Larry King become occasional sound bite outlets for a serious point or two. As the mass media expands the entertainment and advertising worlds, the serious world begs for some little attention in between.
The raging Grannies have found a way to break through, without ever losing their dignity. They make good, visual media and their lyrics are clear and understandable. “Oh, we’re just a gaggle of Grannies, urging you off of your fannies,” they sing and when they focus on harm to children, who could be more credible?
“This is the most effective method of political action I’ve ever tried,” says Betty Mardiros who is the Grannies’ chief doggeralist. The Grannies go where they are not wanted, as well, occupying places from which they are evicted. “These ladies live for eviction,” said one reporter, while singing their biting songs sung to familiar old tunes. “The songs are often half over before security guards and others in charge realize what is really happening,” the Grannies note.
They have the key historical memory, as reflected in this ditty sung to the tune of Schooldays:
“Cutbacks, cutbacks, good old Tory Cutbacks.
But we can remember those days of old.
When so many people were hungry and cold.
And no one could get any medical aid;
‘Till doctors were sure that the bills could be paid.
And children left school at an early age.
When we grannies were just little kids.”
The Grannies attract citizens to organize — send cards to legislators or petitions to the corporatist, Premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein.
Whether going after the Prime Minister of Canada for sending teams to sell nuclear reactors abroad, condemning the pollution-caused decline of ocean fisheries, castigating “rich corporate bums” demanding government handouts, (sung to the tune “Three Blind Mice”), or pilloring Premier Klein, who has declined to meet with them, to the tune of “You’re in the Army, Mr. Jones,” as in these words, sung all over the Province:
“We live in Alberta, Mr. Klein,
We don’t think that everything is fine,
We have sent you post-cards and letters galore,
Don’t you get to see your mail anymore??
If you do, why don’t you pay us any heed, Could it be that you have never learned to read If that is the case, we’ll suspend belief And present our protest now in this BIG BRIEF!!
KEEP MEDICARE PUBLIC — NO PRIVATE PARTS!!!!
In case your wondering, the Raging Grannies are looking South, having encouraged new chapters in Seattle and Plainfield, Vermont. They’re searching for more locations. You can write them at 8902–120 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G1X5.