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

Ooops!…We Did It Again

How quickly we forget.

Just a little over a month ago we misunderestimated him as a candidate and now, a day+ officially into office, we’re misunderestimating him as our mayor. How long’s it going to take us to learn, people?

Mayor Ford (**Simpson’s Shudder**) is not an idiot. Or he is but has surrounded himself with at least one person (but very likely more) who is not an idiot. He (they) got (him) elected mayor of this city with nothing more than tribal chants. We laughed, mocked, huffed and puffed until we were blue in the face. Nothing we did, however, could stop him from winning.

Now, just a day into actually being mayor, he’s got us doing it all over again with his imperial pronouncement (with a dollop of faux-populism) that “Transit City is over, ladies and gentlemen.” We laughed. We mocked. We huffed. We puffed. We demanded to understand matters of procedure. Can a mayor actually nix something like that single-handedly? Who died and made him complete and total boss?

More to the point, is our new mayor really that big of a feckin ejit?!

And we were off, misunderestimating him again.

Over the course of the day, it slowly dribbled out that the real crux of Mayor Ford’s… sorry, just threw up in my mouth a little… early a.m. meeting with the TTC’s GM, Gary Webster, was to get some sort of report on what it would cost to cancel Transit City’s existing contracts, work, etc., and replace some of it with subways. Get back to me about 6 weeks will ya, Gare?

Just enough time to really get all us downtown elites in a lather, foaming at the mouth, yelling at the top of our lungs about the idiocy of the man and his supporters, how the Clampetts have arrived and ruined everything, oh my god, the PTA has DISBANDED!!

Also time to deliver up a little council strategy intel for Team Ford. Which councillors immediately stood firm against them (and who would be subsequently ignored regarding everything) and those that kept their heads low and traps shut (who could be badgered and bullied into falling into line.) Not in terms of deep-sixing Transit City, you understand, because that’s not going to go to council for a vote because it’s not going to happen.

What’s that you say? The mayor (if I don’t attach the proper name to it, I feel less queasy) couldn’t shut up about killing Transit City. Of course, he’s going to do it. He’s a man of his word. Guaranteed. Remember?

Nope. TTC report’s going to come back and tell the mayor (yeah, still holding) what everyone else in the city except for the willfully ignorant streetcar haters already know. The costs will be through the roof exorbitant to halt Transit City and build subways instead. It makes no economic sense. None.

And the mayor was swept to power not on a promise to kill Transit City and build subways. Yes, he said he hated streetcars and everybody he talked to wanted subways during the campaign but that was nothing more than a seat of the pants, fill in the gaping hole that kept opening whenever anyone asked about his transit plan. It was conveniently divisive and provided red meat to his supporters. It just wasn’t a real priority. Stopping the Gravy Train was.

Even the malevolently brilliant minds directing traffic at the mayor’s office will not be able to spin the millions and millions of dollars it will cost the city to change courses on Transit City into popularity gold. Instead, they will look at the numbers, throw up their hands and say that it just isn’t feasible. The Silly Socialists®™©* of the former regime handcuffed them with this white elephant. There’s nothing they can do about it now without incurring heavy costs on you, the taxpayers. So… Blame Miller for all the new streetcars. And let’s keep Stopping the Gravy Train!

The downtown elites will then be fully blamed for foisting a major transit expansion onto the inner suburbs against their will, providing them with their first ever workable form of public transit. The dividing line between Ford Country and the core will be further entrenched and the ground salted for good measure. Yet another veritable virtuoso strategic sleight of hand by Team Ford, reminding us once again that we misunderestimate them at our (and the city’s) peril.

Otherwise, if I’m wrong, it means that our new mayor and the brains behind him actually believe that they can bend reality to their will. That with Ford’s election, the Mayor of Toronto has elevated itself to an all-powerful, superhuman entity capable of bringing city council and senior levels of government to heel with a mere declaration of intent. It would mean our new mayor is, well, insane, and just two days into his reign, I am unprepared to go there that soon.

So, for the time being, I will stick to my guns and think of the Ford Administration as evil genii not bat-shit crazy. It will allow me to sleep better for a little longer.

* while the etymology of this phrase is unknown to us, we ascribe its origins to the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy, now official Mayor Ford stenographer/courtier/jester

— deconstructingly submitted by Cityslikr