Imitate The Sun

June 16, 2011

Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.

 — Henry VI, Act 1, scene 2

Yes, I used to know my Shakespeare, back when I believed such ‘fancy’ stuff like that made a lick of difference in this world. I was younger then. Bright eyed and bushy tailed. Hopelessly naïve. The real world had not yet set me on the more adult path of bitterness, despair and pitiful, pitiful acceptance of the ho-hum humdrum.

But I do remember this particular passage. Not so much the words themselves as the sentiment, the conceit. I am reminded of it often these days, watching in disbelief the antics of the low grade politicians that call themselves ‘conservatives’.

When the realization of their victory begins to sink in, whether in its inevitability running up to an election or in the hazy daze of their improbable win, we like to take comfort and soothe ourselves in the belief that, well, it won’t be so bad. They were just saying all that to get elected. Once in office, reality will set in. They’ll have to compromise. After all, we didn’t elect a king! This isn’t Russia. Is this Russia? This isn’t Russia.

It is the lowered bar of expectations. Not a question of how good they will be but how bad they won’t be. By anticipating the worst, we are, if not pleasantly surprised when that doesn’t come to pass, relieved at least that the world didn’t blow up or the institutions of governance remain functioning even at a diminished capacity. The sun still rises and the birds continue to sing.

The one big difference, however, between our modern day conservatives and the Bard’s heroic man who would be king, Hal, is that the fictional prince actually cleared the bar, spectacularly so, much to the woe of Hotspur and, ultimately, the French at Agincourt. This story shall the good man teach his son/And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by/From this day to the ending of the world/But we in it shall be remembered/We few, we happy few, we band of brothersAnd gentlemen in England now-a-bed/Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here/And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks/That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

By the time Prince Harry became King Henry, his sordid youth, his delinquent past, those low expectations served only as a counterweight, a compare and contrast to the glorious achievements he would attain once he stepped out from behind “…the base contagious clouds…” that did “…smother up his beauty from the world…” and broke “…through the foul and ugly mists/Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.” Hoo-rah! Long live the King!

Conservatives these days never intend to clear that bar. They simply bull through, knocking it off its posts and insist on lowering it ever so slightly, incrementally so, to make another anemic attempt to hoist themselves awkwardly over it. We can survive the occasional misadventure but a steady stream of deliberate failures weakens us little by little, bit by bit.

In this rigged set-up, only the politicians and leaders who aim higher and exhort us to believe in the possibility of positive, inclusive change are the ones that flame out spectacularly. We expected so much. They promised us the moon but failed to deliver. Sure, we might be better off than when we started. But you promised us the moon.

Our conservatives suffer under no such illusions of grandeur. We expect the worst and appreciate it when that doesn’t actually come to pass. Oh well, we shrug. It’s bad, sure. But it could’ve been a whole lot worse. We sink back into a funk and seem content when we’re informed that we no longer want politicians who offer up grand visions or designs.

From Hal to Homer we’ve traveled. Homer Simpson that is, not the Odyssey Homer. “Trying is the first step to failure.” It is the mantra of the conservative movement. Hey. We can’t do anything for you. Stop thinking we can. Elect me. So we do and the sad fact is, we are never disappointed.

epically submitted by Cityslikr


Exeunt To The Cave

April 13, 2010

It is done. The wheel turned full circle. Case closed. The End.

Adam Giambrone announced last night that he is not running for re-election as councillor in Ward 18. His meteoric rise followed the course that most meteors take, finishing up with a crash and burn, leaving behind little evidence of their final impact. Certainly at 33 years of age, he is still a mere babe in the political sense with a long road ahead of him to start over again after enduring a period of time, wandering about the wilderness purgatory as many a great figure has done before him. (Wasn’t Jesus Christ of similar vintage when he battled the demon in the desert?)

Young Giambrone sounded resilient during his interview with CBC this morning. He ruled nothing out including another go at municipal politics once he’d done his time. (My words not his.) So perhaps there is little to mourn or to note in his passing. Rather than the final act of a great modern tragedy, it may only signify the curtain coming down for intermission, the ending of a first movie in a franchise of sequels.

Scoff as you might at my invocation of a tragic story but it does have all the makings of such. A brash young hero quickly rises through the ranks, impervious to the established limitations expected of one so green and inexperienced. He is arrogant, the old folk say, haughty. Just who exactly does he think he is?

Taken under wing by the king, he is given immense power which only increases resentment toward him. Clearly ambitious, a trait which normally elicits admiration, on young Adam it comes across as unseemly. The boy’s too ambitious, to the point of hubris.

Hubris. Pride. That which goes before the Fall. A fall that comes just as he nears the peak of powers, shortly after announcing his intention to become mayor of the city.

What trips our tragic hero up? That singular flaw which his pride blinds him to?

Errrrr…. he likes the ladies? Unseemly, maybe. Sordid even but tragic?

How about being a terrible judge of character? It wasn’t so much who he chose to practice his infidelity with but rather who he chose to text all about it with that ultimately undid him. Didn’t he see that an aspiring model with a need for publicity was not the best kind of character with whom to commit his unfaithfulness in bytes that could be easily broadcast far and wide? In that way, Giambrone was the author of his own demise. He was just plain stupid.

Hardly Shakespearean or Sophoclean. Barely movie of the week.

In reading an article by the National Post’s Jonathan Goldsbie earlier this week about another matter, I came across this little tidbit: … the dirty (non-sex-related) secret was that very few people actually liked him [Giambrone], as a person or as a councillor.

In other words, Adam Giambrone, once a rising start in the progressive political skies, was felled by the fact that nobody liked him.

Where’s the catharsis in that? All great tragedies provide catharsis. There’s no catharsis here. So this is no great tragedy. Sad and tawdry with a healthy dose of titillation, maybe, but certainly not a tragedy.

Or maybe it is. Only it isn’t a tragedy about Adam Giambrone. It is a tragedy about us. So obsessed have we become with the trivial, mundane and all that is monumentally inconsequential that we have lost our ability to focus on the essential. We reject complexity in favour of simplicity and can no longer collectively conduct our lives and society in any sort of rational, vigorous, mature manner. Those who think and act in such childish terms can only ultimately be treated as children.

sadly (but not tragically) submitted by Acaphlegmic