Here am I sitting here for the last few months desperately trying to think of subjects to write about that are light in tone, peripheral to the world’s great issues, and while I have been pondering, the gilded stage of global politics has been exploding in my face, with nary a single response from me of any kind.
Well, the reason for that is that I don’t fancy myself as a high-powered commentator, but after all, after 166 goes at it, surely I must be able to come up with something to say, no matter how trivial.
So here goes with some snappy answers
1. I had better start with a generic issue, one that affects all others: the presidency of Donald Trump has moved in my politically moribund three or four months, from bizarre to lunatic. One keeps asking oneself how did he ever get elected, and the answer is, he never did, except by a quaint historical anachronism called the Electoral College, which was never designed to supercede the vote of the people. What a way to change governments! Nobody knows how the Electoral College works, but if it is anything like other colleges in American society, it is riven with privilege and surely bears the whiff of corruption. The only defence against it is, ah, well, Wot the hell, wot the hell!
2. Venezuela: although the leader down there, Maduro, seems rather incompetent, it is a bit of a mystery how he has attracted the full wrath of the imperial United States on to his head, with daily snarling ejeculations from back-up agitator John Bolton, even the placement of a phony pretender, self-appointed, to the throne, with a brazen cheek never seen outside television sit-coms. This would be enough to arouse me in normal circumstances to frothing indignation, except that at the moment I have been too heavily engaged in trying to think up something to write about.
3. Brexit: With such rare material for political farce lying around unused, it is hard to believe I haven’t mentioned the meltdown of British politics since March 21 (that was my birthday, although I can’t think of any evident connection, except that both events were world-shattering.)
4. The Doug Ford, Jason Kenny ascendancy, accompanying the meltdown of Justin Trudeau. Canadian politicians have, from time to time, worked some impressive wonders. Think of how they have slowly removed naked prejudice, which once was rampant in Canada, from the realm of political permissiveness; or think of their introduction of universal health care, which, given our proximity to the socially backward elephant across the border, was a notable achievement. But every now and again our politics is plagued by the upwelling of spectacularly reactionary conservatism, and in these last few months we have had plenty of that, with Doug Ford already slashing and burning just about everything of any merit that has been done in Ontario in the last 20 years, and Jason Kenny promising to do the same thing in Alberta, where it might be more easily accepted as a likelihood, given the extraordinary political history of that province. Their days of glory began in 1935 with the election of Bible Bill Aberhart as premier, a self-made fanatical Christian, who learned it all, not at his father’s knee, (the usual route) but in college. He became a follower of dispensationalism, a religious theory that divided history into seven dispensations, during each of which God made a covenant with man, and during each of which man broke the covenant., whatever that means. He created the Social Credit movement that ruled for the next 36 years, an unbroken string seldom equalled anywhere in the world. Bible Bill may have tried some far-out policies, but at least he did create the only government-owned banking system in North America, which exists to this day. He was followed by Ernest Manning, in his youth a devoted listener to Bible Bill’s evangelical broadcasts, and later a member of Aberhart’s Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute. He was, if anything, even more religious than Aberhart, but he sure as hell had a grip over his followers, and won huge majorities for year after year that kept him as almost a one-man band leader for 25 years. It was under his leadership that the doctrines of Social Credit spread to Quebec and British Columbia. With a background like this perhaps the election of the unpleasant Kenny in Alberta is not to be greatly wondered at. Personally, the only Social Crediter I ran across was W.A.C. (Wacky) Bennett, premier of B.C. for twenty years (1952-72), a leader who never made any pretence of applying Social Credit theories to government. I covered his election in 1969, and remember chasing him through a school gym in Salmon Arm, because we wanted to ask him about one of his candidates who had just been convicted of beating his wife, something he didn't want to discuss. Wacky was the only person in British Columbia to whom I spoke in my three weeks of coverage who believed he would win and with a bigger majority. The NDP candidate was almost certain he was going to sweep to a sensational victory, but that belonged to Wacky by 38 seats to 12. It was a result that, to my mind, justified Wacky’s having banned opinion polls before the election, for it seemed to indicate that, left to themselves, electors are not all that easily influenced one way or the other, a much better result than their being told what to think by a succession of pre-vote polls. Wot the hell, one might say.
5. I have, from time to time, in these Chronicles, grumbled about technology and education, but not too much since the beginning of March. I have to admit my scepticism about higher education rests on my own experience of having gone from four years of high school into the work force as a reporter, and having in a fashion, and only up to a point, educated myself somewhat thereafter. Paradoxically, I have not allowed this to restrict my denunciations of politicians who seem not to be paying obeisance to the need for everybody to have an equal education. Although one part of me knows that life is perhaps a better educator than school, still, in the modern world with its increasing specialization and technology invading every job, at least an education that gives a person a nodding acquaintance with these things has become more or less a necessity. I have a grandson who so far more or less defies the norm and I worry about what is likely to become of him, without those precious papers to validate his ingenuity. I got into journalism before journalism schools were common, and I have never felt that this was a disadvantage. But still, I did have an experience once that demonstrated my complete lack of a structured body of knowledge such as is the essential equipment of a university teacher. I had a job as a sort of lecturer in Waterloo University for one term. I disliked the job, and the atmosphere of the university very much, but I had to admit I was out of my depth. The permanent professors seemed to be doing trojan work with students especially as they began to get toward the end of their courses and were confronted with producing studies of great complexity, the sort of work I could never have imagined directing anyone in. In comparison I felt only half educated, and I cannot feel I did anything useful for anyone, except that I needed a job, having just returned from New Zealand with my tail between my knees after an unsuccessful attempt to re-establish myself and my family there. I have to confess the university offered me further employment and so did one other in the neighbouring town of Guelph, but I preferred to return to what I had been doing eighteen months before. I returned to doing research for films at the National Film Board and occasionally making films myself as a director. I never confused myself with notions of being a film-maker, but I did find that my journalistic background was useful for film-maskers who in many cases were great artists, but did not know how to tell a story clearly enough for a general audience. And so, with one thing and another, I struggled through until they stopped paying me, at which point I could answer the question, "Are you retired?” with a resounding, “yes, they’ve stopped paying me, I must be retired.” That return to Canada seems almost like it happened yesterday, but it was actually 45 years ago. Unbelievable!
But, wot the hell, wot the hell, toujours gai, toujours gai.