Revanchist Review

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Belinda's Blues

I blame my dog for this blog. He wakened me at 5:30 this morning and I had to take him for a walk. It was glorious pre-dawn morning and I should have confined my stroll to Whiskey Pt. Road (I chose my retirement home very carefully) where I could have enjoyed the splendours of the star-filled sky away from any ambient light.

Instead I let Laddie's nose lead me the other way. Once I saw the lights of the Petro-Canada station a kilometer away I was seduced into thinking it would be good to spend an hour or two reading a Saturday morning paper. I may not like its editorial slant, but the Globe & Mail must be admired for its efficiency in getting its paper out onto the street. Faced with no choice other than the Auto Trader, I succumbed to the temptation and was towed home by Laddie to read the Globe.

There was much of interest including a feature on the Cowichan Valley's fine wines and cuisine, some of which I was able to enjoy later in the day, and the book review section offered some good suggestions for winter reading fare. Alas I read Michael Valpy's article on Belinda Stronach, back in the news as the alleged "other woman" in the Tie Domi marriage breakup. So here I sit, unable to go to sleep until I get these thoughts off my mind.

The newspaper has been put to better use since this morning (keeping the smell of crab carapace under control) so I can't go back and re-read the piece, but I was disheartened by a distinct hint of encomium in Valpy's piece. Perhaps it was too early in the morning for me to detect the irony which I have come to expect to underpin essays by Mr. Valpy. Surely he wasn't really entranced by the buffness of Belinda's sculpted frame, nor was he was genuinely unconcerned about the fact no one with whom he spoke could list any subject upon which they could recollect Belinda having ever expressed a thoughtful remark.

Is there some important sociolgical point to be scrutinized by G&M readers emerging from the fact women like Belinda apparently find men who skate sexually attractive? Belinda's second husband was Johann Koss, triple gold medalist in speed skating in the 1994 Olympics, and now she appears to be involved with Mr. Domi - he of the extra large head, bushy eyebrows and who knows what other seductive physical attributes to spin the head of former cabinet minister and $9 million per year auto executive. Poor Peter McKay, if only he had been a hockey player and not a rugby player, Belinda might yet be by his side and on the opposite side of the floor in the House of Commons. On second thought, lucky Peter Mckay and lucky Canada.

Ms. Stronach's attitude toward this entire incident - "what do you expect me to do on a Friday night, stay home and knit?" - reminds me of that of the rapist who broke off to reproach his victim: "you don't think of anybody's feelings but your own!"

Meanwhile I await a Focus piece in the Globe & Mail singing the praises of a faithful husband or wife.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Free Ride to Anywhere

The hitchhiker’s sign was iconic. Alone on the shoulder of the Trans-Canada highway north of Duncan, BC, a man held up his thumb while clutching a sign that read “Anywhere”.

One could take the positive view that this was a fellow eager to meet a new challenge, certain that whatever his next destination it would bring benefits. A less sanguine interpretation might be that Duncan had been so unkind to him that anywhere would be an improvement. Or the more nihilistic view might be that it really didn’t matter one way or the other where he ended up, he just wanted to be on the move. One thing was certain he had no cause to complain no matter where his next ride deposited him. Whatever his intent, his sign brought a sardonic smile to my face and provided inspiration to break the long silence since my last essay.

More and more it has become apparent to me that Canada’s is an “anywhere” society and we live in an “anywhere” world. Anywhere, anyway, anyhow form the trilogy to describe the complacency of our times. French philosopher Chantal Delsol captures the spirit of our times in her book Icarus Fallen – The Search for Meaning in an Uncertain World. She writes of the modern phenomenon of the “sacralization of rights”. “Eclipsing all other values, they (rights) have come to represent a kind of absolute. No one would dare contest an existing right or a newly acquired right, for against which standard could this materialized holiness possibly be measured?”

The concept of a man or woman’s honour has been replaced by the concept of dignity. In the past honour was earned. An individual strove to achieve an image of himself that he believed to be enviable. There were objective, externally defined measures for this image such as honesty, being true to oneself, or honouring one’s commitments. These were based on a belief in the inherent dignity of man as a spiritual being. As our society abandons the spiritual and ontological in favour of the secular, the modern individual now finds both dignity and respect by claiming his rights.

As Delsol puts it “ the concrete way in which human dignity is to be expressed has gravitated from living an ethical life in conformity with an external standard, to being provided with all the rights that can be expected from a society”.

The modern phenomenon of crafting an ever-expanding list of “rights” seems endless as rights have themselves become the ultimate criteria. Marching in lock-step with the rights advocates are the promoters of the modernized version of tolerance. No longer is tolerance founded on the belief in the equal dignity of each human being, but rather on the idea that all lifestyles are of equal value. Anywhere will do as a destination for the planners of this parade so long as accomodations are made for all along the way.

The proliferation of rights is built on the chimerical belief that progress will ensure that every generation is capable of making life better for its cohort, than it was for its predecessors. One is reminded of the trenchant wisdom of Philip Larkin when asked by an interviewer, "Do you feel you could have had a much happier life?" And Larkin answered, "Not without being someone else."