Monday, 25 April 2011

Lonesome No More!

I watched an indepth piece on The National (CBC news flagship) yesterday called, Canada's political reality, by Keith Boag (http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/TV_Shows/The_National/1233408557/ID=1896429351) that reminded me a lot about America starting with the Nixon era, which Harper has infected us with here in Canada.

In a Playboy interview with David Standish, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in 1973 said that he didn't think Nixon was evil but that the problem was that he didn't like the American people. Vonnegut wasn't sure how much executive responsibility the US President has or how much the government runs itself but that he (Vonnegut) knew the influence the US Presidency has on the behaviour of Americans whether good or ill:

"But the lessons Nixon has taught us have been so mean. He's taught us to resent the poor for not solving their own problems. He's taught us to like the prosperous people better than the unprosperous people. He could make us so humane and optimistic with a single television appearance. He could teach us Confucianism."

when asked what he meant by "Confucianism, he replied,

"How to be polite to one another - no matter how angry or disappointed we may be - how to respect the old".

-I would say, how to respect one another, period.

No doubt. we all intuit the imperative to prepackage and spin facts by partisan politics which right-wing ideologues have perfected, but, as Vonnegut said,  "we've changed from a society to an audience".

When asked how he would have campaigned against Nixon, he replied,

"I would have set the poor against the rich. I would have made the poor admit that they're poor. Archie Bunker has no sense of being poor, but he obviously is a frightened, poor man. I would convince Archie Bunker that he was poor and getting poorer, that the ruling class was robbing him and lying to him... Nothing was done with my suggestions... Something is wrong. I'll tell you what's wrong: We're lonesome! We're being kept apart from our neighbors. Why..? (the rich) wants us lonesome; they want us huddled in our houses with just our wives and kids, watching television, because they can manipulate us then... Here's a war cry for the American people: 'Lonesome no more!' That's the kind of demagoguery I approve of."

To fight this existential alienation of a people by fear-mongering of right-wing politics (the evil and dangerous coalition of Harper's) Vonnegut suggested tongue-in-cheek that the American people should not only swear allegiance to the country but that they also adopt a new middle name from a computer, for eg Daffodil. "His name becomes Laszlo Daffodil Blintz. He has 20,000 relatives all over the country with the same Government Issue middle name. He gets a Daffodil family directory, a subscription to the Daffodil family's monthly magazine. There would be lots of ads in there for jobs, things to buy, things to sell... The joy would be that nobody would feel alone and anybody who needed seven dollars until next Tuesday or a babysitter for an hour or a trip to the hospital could get it."

There is a similar concept in China of the smallest political unit that serves a same purpose as Vonnegut's middle name idea. If we could all just remember our idealistic junior civics' curriculum, which Vonnegut says he never unlearned and still believed in, I think that we could again dare to dream. And given that

"We're in a constant electionitus, a fit of toxic partisan attacks, and that's our politics and that stinks" Peter Russell, one of Canada's leading authority on Parliament,

I'd say that we're ripe for a cure.

Jay

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