Sunday, 29 January 2012

Co-opting "Canadian" values

In a column piece by Umberto Eco called, The Phenomenology of Mike Bongiorno, Eco writes:

According to the famous mot, statistics is the science according to which if one man eats two chickens daily and another man eats none, then each has eaten one chicken. In reality, for the man who hasn't eaten the goal of one chicken a day, it is something to which he can aspire. But in the realm of quantitative phenomena, reducing to the median means reducing to zero. A man who possesses all the moral and intellectual virtues to an average degree immediately finds himself at a minimal level of development. The Aristotelian "mean" signifies equilibrium in the exercise of one's own passions, the passions balanced by the discriminating virtue of prudence. But one who harbors passions to an average degree and posseses an average prudence is a poor sample of humanity. (misreadings, 1994)

Harper, when confronted by the tragic realities of Attawapiskat, tried to deflect "blame" by invoking accountibility issues and lack of "results" for umpteen millions already spent on the sorry community (every man, woman and child), insinuating that, all things being equal, some equals are greater than some equals. Attawapiskat, like a great majority of aboriginal communities in third-world conditions, is much like the man who eats no chicken (above) but who is now called upon to account for something he, in reality, didn't consume, had no means besides. The economies of scale, whether cost of living or sheer numbers of people or overhead and bureaucratic costs, just do not translate properly.

Harper believes, with no reason to believe otherwise, that his party's base comprises of Mike Bongiorno, whose "name stands not for the real man but for the public figure." Harper can count on the fact that:

Mike Bongiorno is not ashamed of being ignorant and feels no need to educate himself. He comes into contact with the most dazzling areas of knowledge and remains virgin, intact, a consolation to others in their natural tendencies to apathy and mental sloth... Mike Bongiorno hasn't the slightlest inkling that culture has a critical and creative function. For him, its only criterion is quantitative... [therefore, he] professes a boundless faith in the expert. A [political pundit of the right hue] is a man of learning, a representative of official culture; he is the technician in the field. The question goes to him, to his authority... Mike Bongiorno rejects the idea that a question has more than one answer. He regards all variants with suspicion. (ibid)

Harper's previous job was as an economist for an oil company (Imperial Oil) before engaging himself in politics. A unit like Mike Bongiorno is and has always been his bread-and-butter. His whole narrative is that "Canadian" values are neo-conservative values, and any voice of dissent to his agenda (both formal and informal) are fair game for demonization. He is a built-in lobby for the oil and resource extraction companies: ethical oil and ethical asbestos; civil society be damned and labelled "radical" and "unCanadian".

Except for Quebec voters, there his majority goes. I'd like to believe that Canadians and our society really are Canuckistanis, whose staunch individualism is balanced by social responsibility and civil sanity. Middle-of-the road Canada owes a huge debt of gratitude to Quebec - we may not always get along but it is our differences which are our source of strength and identity, not aspects of us to deaden and deny in favour of lowest common denominator of ourselves that is Mike Bongiorno.


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