Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Harper and Tooey: experts in BOREDOM?

By Tom Ashbrook, NPR's On Point Host, from their website, June 14, 2011
Life can be very exciting. It can also be boring.

Ancient Greeks knew it. Romans knew it. Monks in the desert knew it.
And on long summer days or Sunday afternoons, in lines waiting, or lecture halls wilting, anyone can know boredom.
We avoid it. But sometimes we may just need it. To escape the clamor and rush of modern life.
Ashbrooks' guest was Peter Toohey, professor of classics in the Department of Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Calgary. His new book is “Boredom: A Lively History.”
Put this piece of information, and its historical perspective articulated by a professor of Classics from the University of Calgary with this following observation by Richard Gwyn, and ask yourself if this is a coincidence:
Gwyn: Tories learn that boring works, for now at least (by Richard Gwyn, Toronto Star, June 13, 2011)

While the Ottawa-based political reporters covering the weekend conference of the Conservative party did their best to make the affair seem interesting, its defining quality could not be disguised.
This was that it was terminally boring.
Which is what made it extremely interesting. No baying triumphalism by right-wingers now that they’ve won a majority, and may have made themselves into our new, quasi-permanent government party by driving a silver stake through the heart of the Liberal party.
And no sign, not even a fleeting sight of, the once well-known fact that Stephen Harper has a “hidden agenda” to eliminate all government spending on the halt and lame and blind, as well as everything from the environment to the arts.
Rather, the principal characteristic of the Harper Conservative government is that it will be . . . well, there’s no other way to say this — very conservative.
Not ideological, that’s to say. Nor in any way ambitious. “No surprises” as its war cry, which may be very sensible but that certainly isn’t in the least inspirational.
What city does Mr. Harper represent in the House of Commons? Calgary.
Does Mr. Harper know Professor Tooey? Who knows? Does he subscribe to the Tooey theory that we need boredom, especially in a world overrun with information, opinion and conflict? Perhaps.
There is neither vision, in the traditional sense of that word, nor the desire for vision in the Canadian culture at this time, according to Mr. Gwyn. He says that Canadians see vision as "surprise"....and we certainly don't want any of them.
Pointing to a history of Canadian governments of Mackenzie King, St.Laurent and Chretien as also boring, Gwyn omits the long-running government of William Davis in Ontario, that was considered "board-room boring" also, with the possible exception of community colleges and funding for separate schools.
And yet, we are prompted to inquire: How does one tell the difference between cynicism and bordeom or indifference. They are the background spaces in any oil painting. They are not the flowers or the faces in the foreground. In fact, there is little or no foreground when the empty spaces dominate the painting. And when there is little or no demand for foreground definition, artists can, like politicians hide in the weeds of the painting.
Are Canadians prepared to hang paintings of principally empty spaces, with little or no foreground features, knowing that, in those empty spaces may and most likely do lurk hidden tricks that we will only learn from the archives, when the histories of the paintings/governments have been written, when it will be too late to turn the tragic tricks around.
Since we are dealing with empty spaces, on the Ottawa canvas, it might be wise to survey another Conservative government, less attracted to boredom and empty spaces, whose "tricks" were front and centre and whose actions and policies left the province infinitely poorer, economically, culturally and socially.
That is the government of Michael Harris, many of whose cabinet members now inhabit the front benches in the House of Commons, sadly. And they will now, and for the next year, trumpet their "fiscal restraint" and cost cutting measures as their painting of the boring, empty spaces in their canvas, while behind the scene, they will purchase billions of dollars of Fighter Jets and prisons, neither of which we either need or want.
We all need to take a comprehensive course in art appreciation, including the skill of detecting deception, to be able to discern real art from its "faux" version...because this faux version is going to be very costly.

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