In the last week or so I have spent many hours --- I am not exaggerating --- slaving over an idea for a piece that simply has refused to jell. The idea was to illustrate the efficacy of my customary scattergun approach to information, reading and news, that I drew attention to in My Log 685, on January 19.
The piece was to be based on the morning I spent literally watching two things at the same time. One w s a symposium held at McMaster University about the federal government’s so-called reconciliation project with the indigenous people; the second was the latest tumultuous event in the struggle of the British Prime Minister Theresa May to persuade her House of Commons and her government members particularly to support the deal she had agreed with the other 27 members of the European Union for Britain to leave after 46 years of membership.
Each of these had extraordinary features, which gave me the idea of comparing them. When I had written 1800 words and was only halfway through explaining the reasoning of the two major participants in the indigenous symposium, I realized it was never going to work, and abandoned it. I started these Chronicles on December 22, 2017, three months before I was due to turn 90 (if I ever made it that far), and this is only the second time I have not been able to bring an idea to fruition, and as you can se I have written 123 of them. I am not accustomed to this kind of failure. Usually, as always happened when I was a working reporter, I have the idea, and the column follows.
Thinking about it, I realized I had learned a lesson, which is, not to try to do too much in a single piece.
It was only when I awoke at 5.30 this morning that the idea occurred to me to turn this failure into a success, by writing about the failure itself. I have run across this at various times when persistent creators have refused to be beaten. A notable example was a charming film made at the National Film Board in the 1970s by the Australian film director Mike Rubbo, who accompanied Newfoundland’s former Premier Joey Smallwood, an idiotic little man lost in his visions of self-aggrandisement, on a trip he made to Cuba with the intention of meeting Fidel. Joey said he had met Fidel for a few moments in Gander and told him he would love to go to Cuba with a film team, and Fidel had told him he would always be welcome. So he set off, dreaming that he might be able to shake Cuba free from the American blockade, and become an international hero. The Cubans apparently were expecting him, set him up in a comfortable house, and Joey began to fill in his time visiting various achievements of the regime, and preparing the questions he was ready to ask Fidel, and reading them aloud for Rubbo’s camera.
So, waiting for Fidel to walk through the door, they waited…and waited…and waited, until they could wait no longer. And the only thing that came out of the trip was Rubbo’s clever film, Waiting for Fidel, in which he demonstrated that for the man of action there is no such thing as a failure. Rubbo himself is a born hustler, who, after directing 40 films at the NFB returned to Australia where he has followed a career of notable success as an artist, filmmaker and community activist. He is now 80, a relative youngster.
So here am I, a guy who in 25 years as a daily reporter missed only one deadline, trying to emulate Mike Rubbo’s example by turning my failure into a column --- and, ipso facto, a success.
I have to end it by just mentioning the extraordinary features of the indigenous symposium and the Brexit imbroglio. Two very mild-mannered native people, Janice Makokis, a Cree lawyer from Alberta’s Saddle Lake reserve (one of many native reserves across the country that I visited as a reporter in my effort to ventilate the issue of the rights, titles, and poverty of the indigenous people); and Russell Diabo a Mohawk from Kahnawake reserve across the river from Montreal, were responsible for some blood-curdling statements. Ms. Makokis said Canadians should think of genocide when considering the Trudeau government’s reconciliation démarche; and Diabo called the whole programme “the federal government’s war of extermination” against the native people of Canada. He did admit that funding for his people has been increased in 2016-17-18 by $16.5 billion on top of the $10 billion normally spent every year, so it seems the extermination is by being suffocated by money. I can’t dismiss that idea either, because I long ago observed that the deathknell of Cree life in northern Quebec would be the monetarization of their subsistence-driven society as hunters and trappers. And from what I hear --- although I do not base this statement on personal observation --- a people who used to be models of hardened fitness from their lives in the bush, nowadays seldom walk even to the corner store, but ride around everywhere in their newly- acquired four-wheelers, with a resultant surge of diabetes to near-epidemic proportions. (I know this is as more complex issue than as above-stated. Diabetes is the inevitable result of our long-running, centuries old determination --- this brings me back to Diabo’s description of “the war of extermination” --- to rob the indigenous people of everything that means anything to them, first, their economy; then their beliefs and customs; then their livelihood; and over everything, their land.)
On the British side, Theresa May has returned after a two-year secretive negotiation with Europe with as deal than no one in the British House of Commons likes, and as a result when she finally did allow a vote to be taken --- after many weeks of shilly-shallying, postponements and the like --- her deal received the biggest margin of defeat ever suffered by a government at least in living memory, and even longer.
She seems to be a woman who, once she has an idea in her head, is completely inflexible. So she has said that the deal she has signed up to is the only deal available, and there is only one way to prevent Britain from lurching out of Europe without a deal --- which everyone seems to agree would be equivalent to a car spinning to destruction over the edge of a cliff --- is to vote for her already rejected deal.
Given an opportunity to return with a Plan B, she did so on a recent Monday, and observers were unanimous that her Plan B was for the Parliament to accept Plan A.
Come to think of it, I have learned a second lesson from this failure: that you are never too old to be learning. I can almost hear my son Thom remarking sardonically to me, “There you go again, Dad; you are really playing the old-age card a lot these days.”)
Well, wot the hell, wot the hell. Toujours gai, toujours gai.