Revanchist Review

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Much Ado About Nothing

Onetime Liberal MP Sarkis Assadourian says he never did a day's work after being appointed a special adviser to former Prime Minister Paul Martin. Asked if he regrets accepting Martin's job offer and giving up his seat, Assadourian said: "I regret knowing him as a person." That seems a bit harsh.

Mr. Assadourian makes no mention of the fact Mr. Martin did subsequently appoint him first to the Immigration and Refugee Board and later as a Citizenship judge. Presumably these are paid positions, and it is highly probable that he could safely do nothing in either job but still be paid. It is unclear what Mr. Assadourian’s qualifications for either job might be, save for the fact that he was born in Aleppo, Syria.

Mr. Assadourian might safely have remained in comfortable anonymity doing nothing, but for the fact that his name has been bandied about as a result of the floor crossing of former Liberal Mr. Khan. The Liberals are upset because they suggest Mr. Khan isn’t doing anything for the Conservatives as the special adviser to Mr. Harper on affairs in the Middle East. Doing nothing while a Liberal MP is all right, but doing nothing for the Conservatives puts Mr. Khan beyond the pale. The Conservatives have countered with Mr. Assadourian’s claim that he didn’t do anything for the Liberals either, suggesting a pattern when it comes to Liberals.

Mr. Khan’s credentials for being a special adviser to the Prime Minister are somewhat of a mystery. He is a former pilot in the Pakistan air force. I suppose that infers he has had many occasions to observe the Middle East from 30,000 ft. He might still have some friends in the Pakistani military, no doubt he has told Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay that he has. I confess to being less than sanguine about the value taxpayers are getting from Mr. Khan role as special adviser, to say nothing of my assessment of Mr. Assourian’s contribution to Canada past or present.

All of this is rather confusing to a simple fellow like myself who doesn’t expect to get paid for doing nothing. I don’t even expect to take on a volunteer job where I don’t have to do anything – what’s the point of volunteering seems like the obvious question to ask.

It just goes to prove that the whole world of politics has proven to be more confusing than I could ever have imagined. More and more I see validated the proposition that my vote for the Rhinoceros candidate John Eh McDonald in 1980 in Vancouver was my most informed and gratifying act as a voter.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Dreams, they say, tell stories
To explain away our woes
And so we go on living.

D.J. Enright – Injury Time

It is intriguing to consider that as Enright suggests, our sleeping dreams may tell stories the purpose of which is to explain away our woes. Who amongst us has not experienced the surprise of waking from a particularly vivid and complex dream, amazed at the detail and sophistication of the plot line, only to have the entire story crumble and vanish before we can capture it in writing, like a pattern in the sand washed away by the tide? How many times have we been reunited in our dreams with deceased parents or grandparents as we vividly relive moments in our past?

In W.G. Sebald’s luminous novel, Austerlitz, he examines the phenomenon of memory through the eyes of his principal character, Jacques Austerlitz. Raised from the age of 5 by Welsh preacher and his wife, Austerlitz discovers in his teens that he was in fact born in Prague to Jewish parents. He spends the rest of his adult life trying to find out what happened to his parents and in so doing to discover the truth of his own reality and identity. Having found the woman who had once been his nursemaid, she shows him a photo of himself as a 5 year old just prior to his parents arranging his escape to Britain.

The photo unsettles him and that night he dreams of returning to the flat in Prague where he lived as a child. “All the furniture is in its proper place. I know that my parents will soon be back from their holiday, and there is something important I should give them. I am not aware that they have been dead for years. I simply think they must be very old, around ninety or a hundred, as indeed they would be if they were still alive. But when at last they come through the door they are in their mid-thirties at the most. They enter the flat…. they take no notice of me.”

This dream leads Austerlitz to conclude – “it does not seem to me that we understand the laws governing the return of the past, but I feel more and more as if time did not exist at all, only various spaces interlocking according to the rules of a higher form of stereometry, between which the living and the dead can move back and forth as they like.”

Perhaps our dreams take us into those spaces. There's a thought to sleep on.