The Age of Ralph Kramden

A wise person (with a tendency for using somewhat salty language) once said to me: If you want people to stop calling you a dick, stop being a dick and stop saying dickish things. Ahhh, granny. Never one to pull her punches.

Seems straightforward enough but I guess some people can’t help themselves. Being a dick is just part of who they are, it’s in their DNA. Dickish by nature.

On a completely unrelated note, what a past few days for Mayor Ford and Brother Doug, eh? The mayor driving around, talking on his cell phone, and may or may not have given another driver the finger when confronted about his illegal activity. Not to be outdone Councillor Ford continued his War on Books, slagging Margaret Atwood (who he may or may not know of), making up any old shit about the usefulness and numbers of libraries in his neck of the woods and just generally running neck-and-neck with his brother in a race to earn the biggest WTF?! headline.

Most people might be a bit, I don’t know, embarrassed by such glowing for the wrong reasons behaviour. But embarrassment doesn’t seem to be a particular Ford family trait unless it’s foisted upon them and then reluctantly mouthed because there is no other way to worm out of it. Enforced contrition, let’s call it, rarely worth the paper it’s printed out on.

Back in my day, such willful disregard of the truth, criticism and civility was greeted with a large degree of disdain and righteous mockery. I’ll even use a big word here. Opprobrium. In fact, such displays on my part might mean me, granny and a switch meeting behind the woodshed. People were not celebrated or esteemed for ignorance. Well thought out, well articulated ideas weren’t scorned as being elitist or out-of-touch egghead-y.

Or is that just me, looking back foggily through misty nostalgic eyes?

I don’t remember anyone arrogantly touting their know-nothingness. Except, of course, for the actual Know-Nothings, and they were a little before my time. We didn’t shy away from leaders who were smarter than we were. We didn’t resent them for their knowledge, education or erudition. Even the inveterate liar and all-round snake, Richard Nixon, knew stuff although it should be noted that he was a trailblazer in stirring up and appealing to the resentment that fueled his Silent Majority. Nixon was many things but a dummy was not one of them.

Not so, our current crop of politicians. They stumble over themselves to prove that they are as ill-informed, myopic and just-one-of-youse as the part of the electorate they successfully woo. We’re no politicians, they assure us, as they seek public office. Elect me and I’ll see to it that nothing smart, innovative or progressive is ever enacted while I’m in charge.

Let me confess at this point that I am not a Margaret Atwood reader, having never recovered from the imposition of Surfacing upon me against my will as a schoolboy. In fact, my fiction reading over the last few years has been in shockingly short supply. Neither do I attend the theatre much anymore. Atom Egoyan be leaning on my last nerve, yo. I’ve never been a fan of dance, modern or classic. And don’t get me started about opera.

I tell you this with no sense of pride or in boast. In fact, I consider it a serious character flaw on my part. Something I should try and rectify if only I could stop watching so much baseball on these sultry summer nights.

But I am not suspicious of those who are fiction fans or opera enthusiasts. On matters that I am interested in, I seek out those who know more about subject than I do. I want to learn from them to increase my own knowledge. To better myself as a thinker and citizen. Sure, it can be intimidating and you have to let go a little of the ego that keeps telling you you’re the smartest guy in the room. I’d like to think it’s worth it, though, in the long run. How can striving to be more intelligent or, at least, informed be a bad thing?

Or wanting that inclination in our elected officials? Where exactly does dumbing down get us? Into a litany of quagmire wars and occupations throughout the world. An economy teetering on the brink of insolvency. Anti-innovation. Antiquated urban development. Regression, regression, regression at every level of public policy.

This jonesing for anti-intellectualism is seemingly impenetrable too. Any questioning of it is seen as an attack from snobby elites. It’s not a debate or discussion. It’s denigration. You think you’re smarter than me? Yeah well, go fuck yourself. I knows what I knows and nobody’s going to convince me otherwise.

So being bull-headed and mentally intransigent is not a vice but a virtue. Honest deliberation and compromise is a weakness to be exploited. Gut beats brains, hands down. Dickish behaviour is now a proven winning formula. Girls swoon. Boys emulate. A Nation forms behind it.

Where once we succeeded in sending a man to the moon, we now endeavour only to send Alice to the moon. One of these days, Alice. One of these days.

gleasonly submitted by Cityslikr

5 thoughts on “The Age of Ralph Kramden

  1. If someone were to interview the 6 year old girl; they would know the answer! Margaret Atwood is more famous than Doug Ford(Jr.) I am amused that he calls it a “Libary”
    P.S. I’m cool like dat…

  2. Not a Margret Atwood fan?! Harumph…and you call yourself Canadian…(Have you tried Year of the Flood?)
    The dumbing down is all part of the plan. Raise a nation of idiots and they are yours to command. “Our kids is learning” so who needs “libaries”?

  3. I guess you’re busy since there are 300 something people on the list to speak. All day and all of the night?!

  4. Think everyone forgets that there are libraries in schools. You know, that building you send your kids to each morning.

  5. (sigh) right, he’s a dull witted thug. I feel your pain. In fact, I have felt your pain… when too many members of the so-called “left” in this city roundly cheered another dull-witted fascist thug for doing something they wanted done: namely, Richard Daley’s brutal and illegal vandalism of Meigs Field on the Chicago waterfront. As the Chicago Tribute reported, the Globe’s then urban columnist John Barber wrote a particularly repellent tribute to thuggery in a “good” cause. And he made it clear he longed for a mayor who would do the same to Toronto City Centre Airport. So now the people who supported the airport have the power and the literary and cultural figures who wanted the runways torn up have to worry about cost cutting leaving their libraries shuttered, dull-witted thugs don’t look so good.

    Right. They don’t. They never did. They never do. Not when Doug Ford snarled that Margaret Atwood’s literary and cultural achievements meant nothing to him, not when John Barber and far too many of the downtown “enlightened” crowd cheered on Daley’s vandalism from a safe distance. I say this not to justify the Fords, because two wrongs most certainly do not make a right, but to ask the Toronto Left to acknowledge our responsibility and break the cycles of incivility. Too often, we look at politics as hockey; when one of “our” enforcers carries of a good hard hit, we cheer, and when one of theirs hits one of us, we bemoan the decline of the game and call for the league to ban the thug from the ice for life. But politics has more import than hockey, and the hits destroy the hopes and dreams of real people. Those who don’t have the empathy to consider that might remember that no party stays in power forever, and what “our” side does today’ “they” can do later.

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