… And The Livin’ Is Easy

Due to computer technology updating and speaking engagements — and by ‘speaking engagements’ I mean cottage invites where I simply hijack the cocktail hour/dinner party conversation and run with it, paying little heed to arcane rules like listening to others and letting anyone else speak. My cottage season, unsurprisingly, is very, very abbreviated – I’ve been suffering from Blissfully Oblivious About Politics Syndrome (BOAPS), and therefore short on stuff to write about. Such an affliction used to bother me, causing great agitation and severe jitteriness. But here I sit now, serene as serenity can be without a care in the world.

A terabyte of memory, you say? My, that is big, isn’t it. What’s next? A petabyte? Come on. You’re just making words up now.

I am beginning to see the appeal of non-engagement with the wider world around me. Blood pressure has dropped. The psoriasis clearing up. Those screaming fits of outrage have dwindled to just a couple times a day, and they burst forth only after the liquor kicks in and I find myself in front of the TV watching reality shows. Storage Wars?! Really?? Colour me skeptical but I find the notion that ‘storage unit auctions are the newest and biggest untapped source for hidden treasures’ somewhat fanciful and not the least bit watchable.

Still, the anger rarely lingers. My mind turns to more pleasant thoughts. I relax. There are books to be read. Puzzles to… build? construct? piece together? Long walks to take while contemplating non-political matters. And there is a lot to contemplate outside of the political arena, as I have discovered. Most of it not nearly so taxing or contentious. What should we have for dinner tonight, chicken or fish? Is 10 a.m. really too early to have a drink? Does the lawn need mowing again?

No wonder people ignore politics. It harshes the mellow. Takes years off your life, I’m sure. More bother than it’s worth.

They’re all crooks and liars anyway. Nothing you say or do will change anything anyway. What’s the use? Just keep your head down and blindly lash out every 4 years or so in the voting booth. Throw the bums out! Keep my taxes low. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Democracy in a nutshell.

Ahhh, the apolitical life. Free of aggravation and disappointment. I mean, how can you be aggravated when you’re not involved? And when disappointment is the constant, the baseline against which you measure all else, the expectation, then it’s not really disappointment. It just is.

It’s appealing in its simplicity, bringing out the inner libertarian in all of us. If government is viewed as the source of problems, then the less government there is, the less we think about it, the fewer our problems will be. Basic math, really.

I’m sure one might find some fault with the logic in that. I probably could if I thought much about it. But that’s the point. I’m choosing not to think about it. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t, half snapped as I am already, pondering the possibilities of the day ahead of me. Chicken or fish for lunch. Will that guy cutting grass in the place across the highway, let me take his sit down mower for a spin? Why wouldn’t he? He’s got acres and acres of it. He’s been at it for hours. Surely he’d appreciate the break.

leisurely submitted by Cityslikr

Stop Laughing

Very few times do I read something that leaves me both exhilarated and disillusioned at the same time. That’s exactly how I felt though after reading Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone article, ‘Michele Bachmann’s Holy War’. Holy shit, I thought. This person appears to be certifiably nuts, up from the depths of crazy swamp. She could be the next president of the United States.

Don’t laugh at the notion, Taibbi warns us. Not only is the prospect possible but our cruel laughter of ridicule only makes her stronger, makes her supporters more determined. Today’s conservatives seem to court our derision, lust for it even, as in the twisted little reality they’ve created, our dismissiveness proves the rightness of their cause.

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a hermetically sealed bubble like that.

This is not a phenomenon unique to the U.S. We up here in Canada are suffering under the yolk of caustically laughing and mocking those politicians who, a little more than a generation ago would’ve justifiably been relegated to the wasteland fringes of ‘conservative’ thought. Toronto finds itself in the grip of an especially virulent radical, irrational right wing ideology.

What’s even more problematic and depressing about it, aside from the very fact such a state actually exists, is that it’s hard to know what to do about it. How do you fight such a slippery opponent? Reasoned debate or discussion is met with nothing more than sound bites and sloganeering. The last word is a claim that we’re all entitled to our opinions even when said opinions aren’t at all valid, based as they are on misinformation, half-truths or outright lies. If not mockery and derision to such anti-social practices, what’s left?

No, really. I’m asking because I have no idea.

All through last year’s municipal campaign candidate for mayor Rob Ford rode a wave of voter anger and discontent, stoked and encouraged by his own narrow-minded view of the role of government in our lives and painfully obvious bad math in construction of the mythical Gravy Train. His candidacy was initially written off as delusional based on his outrageous antics as a 10 year councillor and the fundamental illogic that formed the foundation of his campaign. Jokes were made at his expense. He and his ‘Nation’ were mocked, ridiculed, reviled and a whole lot of other words, all negative.

Like Michele Bachmann, he seemed energized by the attacks, actually believing that they only proved (somehow) that he was right, his views made that much more legitimate by simply being questioned. His growing number of supporters ran with that sensibility, taking up the martyr’s cross and using it to prove the justness of their cause. Downtown elites, fearful of losing their privileged status, were simply lashing out, realizing that their good times were coming to an end. We don’t have to defend ourselves or our ideas to you. We know what we know.

Who, aside from a child, acts like that? Imagine where we’d be if any and all criticism was invalidated simply by a shrug of the shoulders and a well, let’s-just-agree-to-disagree sentiment. You think the world is round and I think it’s flat. You think it revolves around the sun and I think we are the centre of the universe. We’d still be leaving in fucking caves.

Even then, under attack, some will revive the ghost of Galileo, claiming he too was pilloried by the elite of his time because he told the truth. The difference is, his truth was arrived at through logic, reason and a scientific approach. That’s how truth is usually found. The neo-conservative truth is the complete opposite of all that. It is the anti-truth.

It seems that such anti-truth can not only float effortlessly above the air, just out of reach in theory, it can survive a severe manhandling by reality in the minds of those ascribing to it. All those promises and pledges that candidate Ford made out on the hustings last year are already looking a little ratty. Remember this groaner? Toronto does not have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. As mayor, he now admits the city has a revenue problem. Or how about this one? We can cut taxes without cutting services. Guaranteed. We’ve already experienced ‘minor’ service cuts and are being told to expect bigger ones next year. Guaranteed.

Rob Ford came to power on a platform built of anti-truth and now that we’re witnessing it, up close and personal, how does his flock react? We’re just a bunch of whiners, complainers, sore losers. Get used to it. Our guy’s in charge now.

Let’s call that what it is. The Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah method of discourse that most of us grow out of by the time we’re 10 and that now passes for deep political thought in conservative circles. It cannot be refuted since only eggheads refute things. I may not be a downtown/east/west coast/educated elitist but I know what I know. It cannot be challenged because if you challenge it that means you don’t agree with it, and if you don’t agree with it you’re just a downtown/east/west coast/educated elitist etc., etc., etc.

It’s beautiful in its circular insularity, free of any sort of doubt or curiosity. A veritable cloak of intellectual invincibility. That which makes you dumber makes you stronger. In some circles it would be considered a negative psychological affliction (a circle filled with whining sore loser elitists). But for the conservative movement, it’s a winning strategy.

Leaving the question still unanswered. How do we engage with that sort of alternate reality that sees any attempts at engagement as nothing short of a personal attack? There’s no room for reason or logic. Laughing and belittling in the hopes of shaming them from their stupor only leads to a digging in of heels and further steeling of determination to be unmoved. Ignoring them seems to get them elected. We’re running out of options.

Anyone got any other bright ideas?

cluelessly submitted by Urban Sophisticat

Truly A Ford Nation

As a non-car guy, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking, talking and writing about cars. I’m bored to death with it, frankly. Perhaps you too are bored with my constant car chatter.

And here I go again writing about cars.

The most recent cause for my car thoughts comes from an article written earlier this week by David Akin. In it he cited a paper given by Zach Taylor, a Ph.D. candidate, at the Canadian Political Science Association Conference last month that suggested car ownership and use may have been a key factor for those who cast their ballots for Rob Ford in last October’s municipal election. “The propensity to commute by automobile is a strong predictor of Ford support,” writes Mr. Taylor, “while property-oriented variables (the home ownership rate and percentage of housing in detached form) are shown to have a negligible influence on candidate support.”

Ah yes, the War on Cars. Great bumper sticker sloganeering that, not coincidentally, fits perfectly on the back of cars that Ford voters drive. Simple, very effective three word politics.

I will stop myself on theorizing about what I believe to be sociopathy in people’s attachment to their automobiles since it would be a gross generalization. Many folks, having either bought into the lure of a nice house in the suburbs or simply living where they can afford to live, depend on their cars. To get to work and home again, shop, take the kids to school or extracurricular activities, to simply get to where they need to go.

Even if they wanted to rid themselves of their auto reliance, many people couldn’t at this point. There’s no other reliable way to move around their parts of the city in a timely fashion. Ironically, by voting for their auto-centric way of life, they helped elect a mayor who seems determined to make it even less likely they could live car-free if they wanted with his orchestrated attack on Transit City.

No, I think the problem is much more fundamental than that. A continued attachment to cars as our primary mode of transport is a refusal to accept that the world has changed. Automobiles are the kings of the 20th-century. We designed our cities around them. They represented freedom and status. Dodge. Grab Life by the Horns. Buick: Dream Up. SAAB:Welcome to the State of Independence. Jaguar: Don’t dream it. Drive it! Honda: The Power of Dreams. Subaru. Think. Feel. Drive. Ford: Built for life in Canada.

Inundated like that, how could you not want a car? How could you not need a car?

Problem is, it’s 2011, a decade plus into the the 21st-century. The true cost of our car culture has fully manifested itself in our blighted streetscapes, loss of productive time stuck in traffic, environmental degradation and a dependence on dwindling energy resources. For many, driving is the worst way to get from point A to point B anymore.

So we split into two camps: those wanting to make driving easier and those wanting to reduce the primacy of cars in our transport system. Although there would be significant overlap between these seemingly opposing views, this is where the battle lines are drawn. Don’t touch my car versus Get out of your car. Status quo versus embracing the future.

The War on Cars should actually be referred to as the War on Modernity. Having held sway for, let’s call it 60 or 70 years, car ownership is the entrenched interest, a fact of life that was simply a given, the norm, but is now under siege. A perceived assault on the ability to drive anywhere anytime is seen as an assault on a way of life. First, they came for my car, and I said nothing. Then they came for my parking pad. You will have to pry my cold, dead hands from the steering wheel.So it’s not really about cars. It’s about change. Change will always be resisted until it becomes inevitable but the transition seldom is smooth or without – ahem, ahem – the occasional bump in the road. History, though, can only be delayed not indefinitely deferred. We, us car unenthusiasts and embracers of the future, are in a temporary holding pattern, waiting for the last dying gasp of an era.

autodidactically submitted by Urban Sophisticat