Friday, September 5, 2008

Noah Richler Is Right; Leave It To "They," And We'll All Be Lab Techs

I've had a running feud with the Richlers ever since, at a bar mitzvah luncheon, Jacob Richler stole my seat, saying something like, "Scoot, Patty. Scoot." My name, as you can see, is not Patty; the word "scoot" just screws that thorn deeper into my paw.

But I'll admit that Noah Richler, in his latest piece in The Globe and Mail is absolutely right: "they" are getting more stupid.

Richler's argument peaks in the following "fuck you" coda, directed at the un-beating heart of each and every socially conservative Canadian:

"Of course, not for a moment do I believe that Stephen Harper and his ignominious crew are about to reverse the cuts to the arts that they have made - realizing, in a sudden epiphany, that beyond the extraordinary returns on their investment these subsidies constitute, that actually reading novels such as Yann Martel persists in sending the Prime Minister every two weeks, or even thinking about bestselling films with the sort of critical faculty that an education in the arts and social sciences promote, might improve Canada."

Kevin O'Leary, a very rich, very strident Warren Buffett of the north would very likely spit in Richler's pocket square. Investments need tangible returns, not educated, aware people. Educated and aware they'd all realize the kind of bullshit in which they wade. You can't be philosophical and an accountant. Or anything else, really. You have a job; you go to the job; you do the job; you come home; you go to sleep; you go to the job again. No time for discourse or Socratic monologues. My cousin, the accountant, a man with a graduate degree in mathematics, still doesn't know the difference between to and too, their and there. I asked him to name three people, dead or alive, with whom he'd like to share a bathroom. He said, "Joey, Chandler, and Ross." But that's the world that the Harpers want us to live in. Everyone's packaged and canned in high school; they burn out, thin out in university; then become the computer engineers of the next generation.

There's no premium on critical thinking, because critical thinkers are critical. What scared, scheming, stiff-as-a-board, semi-literate Canadian politician wants more readers in his riding? Why? So someone can say, "You know what, you sound just like Elmer Gantry"?

The real question is something like Why are the arts so offensive to some--see "most"--Canadians? Forget "the arts"; let's focus on the artists. No one looks at a dentist and says, "Forget this teeth shit; go to OCAD." But people are so angry at artists and writers. "Write something that normal people would like!" "Like what?" "Something with treasure! And a nuclear submarine!"

Harper's edict proves two things: 1) anyone who talks about Canadian ideals probably parts his hair on the left; 2) this generation can't rebel.

Remember hippies, beatniks? People who left society? Well, now they're locked in. Where's this arts money going? Out of one pocket, into another? Damn right. As if artists and writers who live on subsidies don't buy food, don't put that money right back into a cash register. They're sure as hell not saving it.

But, you know what? If they were certified financial planners, this never would've happened.

Asked to name his strongest attribute, our Harper once spouted, "Prudence!" Flavourless intelligence. Nature is sombre and has a soul of passion; the Conservative government puts water in its Cheerios 365 days a year.

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