Canadians are always so surprised when someone doesn’t like them. “Kandahar blast kills decorated soldier,” says the Star headline truculently. Like, because his handbag matches his Uggs, he should have been okay.
Well, we live in interesting times, as the old Walmart adage has it. I live in interesting times and Canada, which sounds like an oxymoron. But I am American. People here in Toronto are driving down to Washington to hear some politician, who can’t be trusted to simply say what he means, swear. Driving’s of course an appropriate instinct to celebrate the utterances of any politician in the western parliamentary democracies. But if it’s swearing you need, skip the drive and stop by our house for a beer. My eight-year-old’s potty-mouthed enough, and we can hang out and listen to him. And if some guy in Washington wants to bind himself to me with an oath, someone should let him know that I free him right now. Unbind the guy. I mean, call me an abolitionist, but really. I usually finish my projects by swearing. I wouldn’t want to trust a guy who starts that way. Sounds like he might be protesting too much.
Well, it’s not just swearing we could do without. When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad. Sure, we all have our own list, but I thought I’d offer a few of my favorite things to abolish, with a brief explanation for each.
An informed populace
Americans should learn less about the world, not more. The notion of monolingual Americans getting “current” and “informed” about the affairs of others causes the hairs of a wise man’s neck to rise, his skin to crawl, his jaw to slacken in horror. Have we not enough deserts of our own that we need to roam the world in search of more sand in which to bury our heads? Shall we send abroad more nineteenth-century British-style orientalists in pith helmets to render judgment on the world, to dispatch it with dispatches back to a sagely nodding populace, members of whom sit before their screens like so many apes who have learned to mimic the face of wisdom? What the world requires from us now is the swift abandonment of our seven hundred foreign military bases so that the children we have killed and starved may be honored at least with mausoleums.
If our businesswomen (and, not to be sexist, our busybodies) wish to have busyness abroad, no one’s stopping them. Laissez faire has been lazy fare for fatties, subsidized by the rest of us. Basta, yeah? If they wish to be safe abroad and to make money from the locals, let them protect themselves by learning the language and using it to speak truth. Perhaps having come for the money they will stay for the love. More foreign affairs, if you know what I mean, and less capital. The world needs a mobile priestly class of busyness people like we need trickle-down economics or rusty barrels of nuclear waste. What is required, instead, is that we get back to business inessentials. Those of us in nowtopia are already changing the world. Plus there’s always Michael Dickinson’s plan to get rid of money permanently all over the globe at the lighting of the flame for the 2012 international “three weeks of calisthenics,” as Iain Boal calls the UK Olympics. If I do say so, I’m something of a dab hand at getting rid of the stuff myself.
As foolish as democracy, its brutal parent, equality is a sop for unkind souls who cannot be brought to gentleness towards another creature unless they can first be persuaded of the other’s interchangeability with themselves. Equality fits democracy and capitalism, which are based on equivalences between distant entities, like a double-glazed with extra cream in the free hand that a policeman’s not using to taser an unruly cyclist. You should be ashamed of yourself if you need equality to be coaxed into kindness. Animal rights activists are often scorned as sentimental, but in fact it is the mirage of equality that is sentimental, insisting on valuing only a few cherished bits of the forms of sentience that look most like oneself. Self-adoration rather than self-reflection. A notable champion of equality was a certain Dr. Guillotine, who was dismayed to discover that in a country with more capital offenses than Carter has pills, some people weren’t getting executed the same as others. I mean, sacre blue. Some people were getting ripped apart and some burned and so on, and then here’s this slacker, for example, who’s getting hung. Clearly not carrying his share of the weight! So Dr. Guillotine developed a machine for making one death equal to the next, according to the same principle by which you can walk into any MacDonald’s anywhere in the world and get the same sac of French fries. Vive le revolution!
Ditto equality. Ditto everything, for that matter. Each person reduced to an integer called a vote, which is much easier to manipulate than such a complicated thing as a person. Democracy is a form of oligarchy, run with the oligarchs’ careful attention to corporate interests. Decisions made by lobbyists and assorted unelected officials, information disseminated by pro-democracy state apparatus. In practice, oligarchies and democracies bleed into each other like Walmart magic markers, but in theory at least oligarchies can be distinguished by the presence of a population that understands how bad the government is.
A weird belief, difficult for those from consensualist cosmologies to understand, but appears to be some sort of hope that you can be free even though someone else is telling you what to do. Sort of kinky. It’s like a puppet play in which everyone is trying to get their hands under the skirts of everyone else’s puppet and manipulate things. The people with the most to lose venerate the ones who are helping them to lose it. Slight anomalies, like skin pigment variations, are fetishized. Apparently a version of slavery.
David Kεr (pronounced “Care”) Thomson is a historian. His latest publication on early American history is in this month’s South Atlantic Quarterly. He can be reached at email@example.com