Mr. Fantino Goes To Ottawa

November 30, 2010

On the plus side, Toronto, at least we won’t have to worry about incoming mayor Rob Ford bringing back Julian Fantino as police chief.

Besides, by-elections are meaningless, right? We shouldn’t use them to take an accurate political pulse of the nation especially with less than 1 in 3 eligible voters bothering to cast a ballot. Let’s just view this as an entertaining, engaging and diversionary blip on the radar until the real deal comes around.

Otherwise, Julian Fantino’s election victory as Conservative M.P. for the federal riding of Vaughan is grim, grim electoral news. Like we need anymore of that in these parts right now.

Because if we were to read too much into it, it would suggest that the scaly, life-draining tentacles of the Stephen Harper led Conservative government are slowly gaining traction in areas of this country that’ve been, up to now, unyielding to their oily clutches. By running a successful peek-a-boo campaign that has largely kept their candidate from a wider public view shielding both him and the party itself from any significant scrutiny, they’ve set the stage for a policy-free, personality first general election. Issues? What issues? “Give me an issue, I’ll give you a tissue, you can wipe my ass with it.”  (h/t Lou Reed, Take No Prisoners.)

How could the voters of Vaughan, or at least the 16% or so of them that voted for Julian Fantino… and boy, if that number doesn’t send shivers down your spine, 16% of voters sending an M.P. to Ottawa, even in a by-election, then the notion of democracy is truly dead to you… not have been offended by the treatment they received during in this campaign? Fantino sat out almost every candidates’ debate. His campaign videos were shockingly hackneyed, devoid of substance and lifelessly delivered as if the man had never been in front of a camera before. He was a “star” candidate who seemed almost put out that he actually had to publicly campaign for the position. Shouldn’t I just be appointed? That’s how things are usually done in the circles I run.

The fact that someone like Julian Fantino could actually be considered a “star” candidate is the other bitter morning after pill to swallow. Being a “star” should involve something other than name recognition. Possessing political views and opinions that rise above bumper sticker sloganeering is too much to ask? ‘Law And Order’ and ‘Tough On Crime’ make great TV series titles but spouted mindlessly by a “star” candidate suggests a thin veneer painted over a warm body that masks a total lack of understanding about what’s going on out there in the wider world. But, I guess, in this day and reality age that may be expecting a bit much from our politicians and says more about my complete and utter incomprehension of how the world actually works.

A quick look at Fantino’s resumé shows a man who has gracelessly bulldozed his way up the food chain and into being a “star” political candidate. For almost 20 years now, the man has been dogged by controversy as he trampled over civil rights and fuzzy lines of legality at almost every post he served throughout his career. There was the illegal wiretapping of Susan Eng, then chair of the TPSB in 1991. As police chief in London in the mid-90s, he arrested and charged a couple dozen gay men as part of a child pornography ring that turned out to be non-existent. His tenure as Toronto’s chief of police was pockmarked by more ill-advised confrontations with the gay community and corruption scandals within the force itself that Fantino was accused of not rooting out vigorously enough. Then, as OPP commissioner there came further accusations of unauthorized wiretapping, more dubious child pornography rings busted, along with a charge of ‘attempting to influence an elected official’ thrown in that was subsequently dismissed by the Crown due to the always reassuring ‘no reasonable prospect of conviction’ grounds. His involvement in this past summer’s G20 fiasco, both on the ground and the money spent has yet to be fully disclosed but early signs suggest another less than stellar performance review.

All it takes, it seems, to be a “star” candidate is a high profile regardless of how that came to be. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” Brendan Behan said, “except your own obituary.”

Essentially Julian Fantino is an admirable, “star” candidate only to those who pine for the days of hard-nosed cops in B-movies (take a bow, Don Cherry), many of whom apparently occupy senior positions in our political establishment. Rumour has it, Fantino was hotly pursued by both federal and provincial Liberals before he anointed the Conservatives in Ottawa as his party of choice, revealing the paucity of ideas and absence of democratic ideals in our two leading parties. What was promised him in exchange for his fidelity – Fantino does know that’s there’s no King position in a parliamentary system, I hope — time will tell but in the cold, dark morning reality, just a few hours after his win, I do feel a certain bit of relief mixed in with the disbelief, bewilderment and dollop of despair. At least, off in Ottawa and as an M.P. in the 905 region, he will be that much more removed from us here, ever so slightly out of our hair, buried deep in the smothering anonymity of the Conservative caucus, never to be heard from again. (Fingers crossed!) I mean, the man couldn’t possibly bluster and blunder his way into any further, more influential positions of power, could he?

curiously submitted by Cityslikr


Word Of The Day

February 21, 2010

Some words are elusive. Regardless of how many times you encounter them and look their definition up in a dictionary, the meaning slips your grasp. Retention is temporary; gone as soon as you try summoning them again.

Solipsism.

A philosophical theory that the self is the only thing that can be known or verified. A view that the self is the only reality. From the latin, solus, alone and ipse, self. One who practices solipsism is said to be a solipsist. If one tends toward solipsism, one can be labeled solipsistic.

I can read the word over and over in an attempt to commit it to memory yet invariably the definition fails to stick. It’s not as if I have a beef with the word and am subconsciously trying to keep it at bay in order not to deal with it. Like say, subcutaneous. A perfectly good word that gives me the creeps. It’s too medical-y, clinical. Brings to mind a corpse or something that is said during an autopsy. Subcutaneous reminds me of my own mortality. Subcutaneous freaks me out a little. It gets under my skin. So I don’t go out of my way to remember what it means.

Part of the problem with the word solipsism is that from a philosophical perspective a debate rages as to whether there exists a rigorous enough definition of the word for it to have any concrete meaning. If philosophers can’t agree on a definition, how can I be expected to keep on top of it? On the other hand, to a true solipsist wouldn’t the ultimate meaning of the word be theirs and theirs alone? How many solipsists does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, because who else is there to do it?

What am I talking about and why does it matter, you’re probably asking at this point. So what if there’s a word you don’t remember? There are plenty others to choose from, hundreds maybe even thousands. If only philosophers understand the word solipsism, what use is it in the real world anyway?

True enough and not to toot my own horn here and insinuate that I am the bookish type immersed in highfalutin texts but I do come across the word fairly regularly. Why just the other day I saw it used 3 times by Lewis Lapham in a Harper’s editorial from last May. (You may ask why I was reading a Harper’s magazine from last year just the other day. As a magazine subscriber, I always keep a distance of a year or so from the most current issue in order to see if what’s being written has been proven to be bullshit. If so, I then stop reading anything further that the writer has written.)

To hear Lewis Lapham use solipsism is to get the sense that it is a derogatory word. Being solipsistic in Lewis Lapham’s view is a bad thing. Militant anti-smokers represent the height of solipsism to a long time smoker like Lewis Lapham because they only see the world through their eyes, opinions and sensibilities.

The word itself drips derision. Solipsistic. Sloppy. Slurry. A staggering, incomprehensible drunk. You.. stupid, fucking solipsist, you. Onomatopoeic almost.

Yet I think the word might’ve come from a more positive place. In a pre-Socratic world of oracles, seers and divination through animal entrails, to believe that only your existence was real because everything else around you was ultimately suspect due to your perception of it through fallible human senses was to reject given orthodoxy. You were questioning societal hierarchy, authority and even the gods. It paved the way to René Descartes and his ‘I Think Therefore I Am’; one of the cornerstones of modern philosophy and scientific methodology. Solipsism once did battle with the darkness of superstition.

That modern science has proven one aspect of solipsistic theory correct – our 5 senses are undoubtedly fallible – is only a minor irony of the word’s usage today. As Lou Reed sang (channeling Benjamin Franklin), don`t believe half of what you see/And none of what you hear. Trusting our instincts, ‘gut’ or screaming front page headlines may be the surest way to get things wrong. But to believe nothing is real aside from our own existence is, well, a little shortsighted and self-absorbed. It displays an inhuman lack of empathy.

The major irony of solipsism’s fate is that its ranks have been filled with those who believe in all sorts of extraordinary things outside of their own being. The inerrant word of an all-seeing, all knowing, ineffable God. Adam Smith’s perfectly tuned invisible hand of the free market and its corresponding faith in a laissez-faire, trickle down, government bad, business good economic system. (See? We got to politics eventually.) Those with an unshakeable conviction that Avatar is the greatest movie ever.

Solipsism is now the exclusive realm of the worst kind of solipsists and the only good news about it is that I may finally have a firm grasp of what the word really means.

In our next installment of Word of the Day: epistemological.

pretentiously submitted by Urban Sophisticat