Tuesday, May 31, 2005

If You Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em

Week before last, the Liberal government almost fell. All parties were in election mode. We were on the edge of our seats. As a political aficionado, I found it fascinating to watch the Liberal party during this time. Paul Martin was a sight to behold as he effortlessly glided across our nation giving handfuls of our money to anyone who asked. He reminded me of a drunken sailor in the red light district at Mardi Gras. But with a little more class. Just a little more.

And, as much as it really irks me to see my hard earned tax dollars being used by the Liberal party to grease the palms of voters, I can’t help but feel a certain measure of grudging admiration. Lets face it, they’ve got it down pat. Nobody plays payoff poker better than them. That’s why they are the natural governing party of Canada.

So, I’ve been thinking: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. There will be an election someday, sooner better than later I think. And if the Conservatives are to win that election, they have to just suck it up and get with the game. In other words, they must promise to pay Canadians a shed-load of moola, just like the Liberals do. After all, it must be clear to everyone by now that Canadians expect to be bought off with their own money. We are accustomed to selling our vote to the highest bidder. With that in mind, I would like to offer Mr. Harper a sure fire way to win the election.

Here’s the TV commercial that will seal the Liberal’s fate:

Sixty seconds

Stephen Harper is sitting on the edge of his desk, a Canadian flag hangs behind him on a pole. The walls are lined with books. His hands are clasped in his lap. He looks straight into the camera and says:

“I’m Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

"It’s time to move ahead. Away from the corruption, and arrogance of the Liberal party and into a new era of honesty, integrity and good government.

"Your Liberal Prime Minister, Paul Martin has been traveling across Canada buying your votes. So far he has made promises amounting to more than - Fill in an obscene amount here. And we all know where most of the money will end up, if he pays that is, in the pockets of Liberal party members and supporters.

"Well, we have a better idea. We'll give the money directly to you.

"If, my party, the Conservative Party of Canada wins a majority government, we will send every tax paying Canadian a personal cheque for one thousand dollars. We can do this and still be giving away less in total than the Liberals are promising.

"One thousand dollars in cash. It's doable and it's my promise to you.

Fade to Conservative Logo. Voiceover: “This message brought to you by the Conservative party of Canada"

Well, that’s it. A gilded stake thrust through the black heart of the Liberal vampire. I offer it to the Conservatives for free. Of course, it would cost around $22 billion to give every tax filer $1000. Hey, wait a minute, isn't that the total amount that Martin already promised during the recent faux election campaign? Gee, that works out pretty well, doesn’t it?

Laugh if you want. (I'm sort of smiling myself) But, before you dismiss this idea out of hand, I ask you to consider this:

First and foremost, there's the issue of integrity. That is to say, the absence of integrity in today's political environment. Let's face it, people don't want integrity, they want goodies. They love getting money from the government. In fact, they expect it. So, while many Canadians may at first feel offended at the idea of a government offering $1000 for their vote, we should never doubt one thing: greed will always triumph over self-righteousness. Expecting goodies from government is almost a constitutional right here in Canada.

Sure, the Toronto Star and CBC will bemoan the depths of cynicism to which the Conservatives have sunk. And many people will tell their friends that their vote is not for sale. They will hold their heads high and proud as they march into the voting booth. Then, in private, they will quietly mark an X beside the Conservative candidate’s name and spend the rest of the night secretly thinking about what they will do with the $1000. And when the conservative in their riding wins, they will throw up their hands in faux disbelief and claim that they didn’t vote for her/him.

And then there's the little matter of honesty. Buying people off at election time is nothing new in Canada. We already live in a society where government pays for votes. We all know it, we're just too self-deluding to call it what it is. In weeks leading up to the recent Stronach-scuttled election, Paul Martin made approximately $22 billion in promises in the hopes that those who benefit from the promises will vote for his party. If that’s not buying votes, I don’t know what is.

It seems to me that paying people directly would be a much more honest way of doing things. Instead of sneaking around like a Liberal weasel, slipping money in people's back pockets, why not just give them the money right out in the open, above board. If anything, this approach simply takes the corrupt, old school “wink, wink – nudge, nudge” vote buying process and opens it up completely to public scrutiny. It gives Canadians something they never had before in an election campaign - transparency, honesty and forthrightness. Most notably, it is a completely non partisan initiative. Everyone gets the money whether they vote for the Conservatives or not. That way, all Canadians benefit from the program, not just friends of the Liberal party.

Finally, this really IS doable. The cheques could be sent out by the Canadian tax authorities when they process each Canadian's tax return. And it IS affordable. It can be offered as an alternative to tax cuts, with the promise of cuts put off until later, maybe the next election. And we mustn't forget, the Liberals waste untold billions of dollars a year on ill-founded, selfishly motivated, programs and initiatives. Billions sent to arms-length foundations that cannot be audited by our Auditor General. Billions lost on the Gun Registry, HRDC and Sponsorship fiascos. $Billions upon $billions upon $billions given in grants and handouts to thousands of Liberal supporters, community groups, special interests, unions, companies and other grasping, groping Canadians all across Canada. The list is endless. I was turned on to this 'Public Accounts of Canada' report on Andrew Coyne’s blog. The extent of this vast nationwide network of Liberal beneficiaries is positively obscene. I'm not kidding. Here’s the link:


If Mr. Harper has the guts to take this on, we could stop funding this vast, nation-wide, web of liberal dependants and just give the money directly to Canadians. A thousand dollars for each of us would be a good start. When you think about it, it's really just a down payment. God knows, the Liberals have stolen a lot more than that from us.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Lawyers, Politicians & Conflict of Interest

Have you noticed how many of our politicians are lawyers? Isn’t it odd that so many lawyers are drawn to public life? Imagine, all through the Western world we have lawyers, dressed as politicians, writing our laws. First they work as lawyers and administer the laws. Then they switch to a political role and write our laws. Then they retire from politics and switch back to a lawyers role and start administering the very laws they created. Think about it - we have the same identifiable group of people both writing and administering our laws. Is this not a classic conflict of interest?

Just to be clear, lets take a moment to define “conflict of interest”: As I understand it, a conflict of interest” occurs when someone plays both sides of the fence. You know, when someone has a responsibility to act in the interest of one party while having a reason – perceived or real – for not acting in the parties interest. Like, for example, if a hockey coach played goal for the team his team was opposing. That would be a conflict of interest.

Politicians and lawyers clearly have separate, distinct and, some would argue, conflicting roles in society. Politicians supposedly represent us all and accordingly are supposed to create laws that are in everyone’s interest. Lawyers, on the other hand, have very narrow interests. They represent only those who pay them and seek to use the law in a manner that is advantageous to only themselves and their clients. That's where the conflict comes in: Lawyers are able – either in reality or perceivably – to use the laws they created while serving as politicians to benefit themselves and their colleagues as lawyers.

In my view, anyone practicing law should be disqualified from holding public office. Rather, lawyers should be retained as advisors and permitted only to draft our laws in accordance with the wishes of our duly elected representatives. They should not be allowed to write the very laws that they and their entire industry have a vested professional interest in.

In my perfect world, our Charter and or Constitution would clearly state that lawyers, because of the conflict of interest inherent in the participation of their profession in the administration of our laws, are not permitted to serve as politicians and write our laws. A clear and unbreachable dichotomy would be enshrined in law and we would all live happily ever after.

And then I woke up.

Oh well, it was a nifty dream. Of course, it will never come to be. After all, most of our politicians are lawyers. And they probably really like having the power to both create and administer our laws. I have never read of any lawyers questioning their rights or abilities in this respect and I bet I never will. Anyway, even if enough politicians managed to launch an initiative to exclude lawyers from holding public office, I'm sure that every lawyer's society and association in the nation would be launching legal challenges. And we all know who would be ruling on those challenges: Judges. And we all know what judges are: Lawyers. Round and round and round we go.

I could end this here but, bear with me, I have one more point to make.

In their profession, lawyers - particularly trial lawyers - demonstrate a remarkable moral and ethical detachment from the reality of their personal lives. In fact, their personal values can be the very opposite of those they defend professionally. A trial lawyer can swat her child on the bum for being disobedient and then promptly drive to court and ask a judge to make spanking illegal. A trial lawyer can be pro-choice and yet represent a group that is pro-life. The very nature of their profession requires that their personal values be irrelevant when representing the interests of their clients. While the rest of us struggle to adhere to our personal morals, values and ethics in all aspects of our lives, trial lawyers have created a little world of their own where their personal values are somehow separate and unconnected to who they are professionally.

Is it any wonder that lawyers appear to have difficulty grasping why it is a conflict of interest for them to be politicians? After all, their essence as professionals, their very bread and butter, is based on being able to justify and reconcile the conflict of their personal interests and values with those of their clients. It must not be a huge stretch, then, for them to reconcile and justify the conflict of their role as lawyers with that of their role as politicians.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Declining Currency of Respect

I respect you so much. Really I do. It doesn’t matter whether I know you or not. I respect you anyway. Immensely. More than you’ll ever know. Maybe you verbally abuse your goldfish. Maybe you’re sexually attracted to orange Jell-O. Maybe you’re a hard core communist with a poster of Castro above your bed. Maybe you’ve got a foot fetish for George W. Bush. Whether you’re a heartless capitalist, a hopeless socialist, a brilliant scientist or an illiterate crack addict, it doesn’t matter. I’m a Canadian and I respect you. In fact, I respect everyone equally and unconditionally. It’s what being a Canadian is all about.

As you can probably tell, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘respect’. And I’ve noticed one peculiar thing – everyone seems to believe that they are entitled to it. And more interestingly - everyone seems to believe that everyone else is entitled to it. You’ll notice I’m using the word ‘entitled’. That’s because ‘respect’ has almost become a Constitutional right here in politically correct Canada.

We used to have the right to be free from oppression, persecution and prejudice; free to pursue our dreams and aspirations. That’s more than what most people in the world have. But it wasn’t enough for us. We wanted more. We wanted the right to be respected. But not the kind of respect that we had to work for. Oh no. After all, that would require too much effort. What we really wanted was instant respect, the kind that required no sacrifice at all. The kind of respect that was given automatically, regardless of the character or quality of the person involved.

So, here we are today. Many Canadians believe that respect is a right. Everyone is entitled to be respected by everyone else. That is why I respect you so much, dear reader. It is your right to require me to do so. And who am I to deny you your rights?

OK, I’m being facetious. Sorry, but I’m not buying into this culture of instant respect entitlement. I think it’s a crock. A serious crock.

Now, let me be clear, I’m not talking about civility here, or courtesy. These are not the same as respect. Certainly we should always treat others with courtesy, or at least civility. What I’m talking about is something totally different. I’m taking about respect. Webster defines respect as ‘to consider worthy of high regard’. I can’t help but wonder: if being respected means being considered worthy of high regard, why do we feel it necessary to respect everyone regardless of whether they’ve done anything to be considered worthy of our high regard? After all, if everyone is held in high regard, then no one is. And if we claim to respect everyone, what is it we feel for the people we truly hold in high regard? It can’t be respect. In fact, it is almost insulting to say we respect them. After all, we’ve already given our ‘respect’ to everyone else.

These days, you don’t have to accomplish anything worthwhile to demand respect. And you don’t need to have any particularly redeeming personal qualities. It isn’t necessary to be a principled person, or a wise person, or a person who works hard. You can be an unprincipled, stupid, lazy bum and still have the right to demand respect here in Canada. All you need is a pulse, really.

Tell me, what is respect worth in a society where everyone with a pulse is entitled to it regardless of whether they’ve done anything to earn it? Nothing, that’s what. These days, respect is about as valuable and genuine as the warm, welcoming smile and friendly handshake of a used car salesman. Or, a hug from one hollywood star to another.

This culture of empty, meaningless, rhetorical respect is no more clearly demonstrated than in the words of Wendy Babcock, a representative of a group called ‘Sex Professionals of Canada’. Recently, Ms Babcock wrote a scathing letter to a Toronto newspaper, taking them to task over suggesting that her profession is not respectable. According to her, sex trade workers deserve to be respected the same as anyone else.

When I read this I didn’t know whether to laugh or sigh. Leaving aside the fact that a group called “Sex Professionals of Canada” deserves about as much respect as, say, a group called “Crack Retailers of Canada”, let’s look at the truth of the matter. First, they are not sex trade workers, they are hookers, or, more accurately, whores. Lets call a spade a spade, shall we? Second, respect should be something that is earned through one’s actions; something that is given to someone we hold in high regard. It is a privilege, not a right. However, Ms Babcock seems to believe that hookers should be respected simply because they are, in her words, someone's “daughters, friends, mothers, sisters, or girlfriends”.

Well, this works both ways. Hookers have sex with men, many of whom are married, for money. These men are someone’s, son, brother, father and husband. Do hookers really believe that they deserve respect from their client’s wives, children, families and communities? What planet are these people living on? I think we can all agree that hookers harm the community. Why should we respect people who harm the community? Personally, I have about as much respect for hookers as I do for the married men who use them. That is to say, very little.

And this is just a small example of the culture of meaningless, instant respect entitlement that we have created here in Canada. Even the whores demand to be respected. And they seem to have no clue whatsoever of how utterly ludicrous their demands are. Why should they? After all, we encourage them to feel entitled to respect by allowing them to demand it. No one ever publicly challenges them. No one has the guts. After all, anyone who would dare call a ‘Sex Trade Worker’ a whore would be denounced and shamed as sexist, intolerant, insensitive and mean-spirited by today's politically correct liberal media.

Anyway, if you want to advocate respect for hookers, you might want to make sure your husband or father hasn’t visited one. Otherwise, you might be a bit embarrassed.

In reality, what we should be doing is dismissing the ridiculous claims of hookers who feel that they are entitled to our respect. Because if we respect them, what do we call our feelings for our mate, our mentors or our parents? Do we call that ‘respect’ too? To what level of meaninglessness will we stoop when it comes to using the term ‘respect’?

It seems to me that if ‘respect’ is really about honoring people who we hold in high regard, we should stop using the word as a general descriptive term to express our feelings for everyone. Because, when we do, we lessen the meaning of the word. In fact, we diminish it to the point where it means nothing at all. And, unfortunately, that is where we are today in Canada. A word like ‘respect’, that once meant something very important, now means virtually nothing at all.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

At Least I Understand Rover

My wife and I don’t argue a whole lot. But when we do, she usually gets the last word. The way I figure it, that makes our relationship just about normal. Over the years, I’ve talked with some of my male friends and relatives and it’s the same with them, more or less. We all believe the same thing – women are some sort of alien life form from another dimension sent to drive us men loopy. And when they get their backs up, it’s best to just avoid eye contact and back away slowly. Either that, or play dead.

It is truly eerie how different men and women are. Sometimes it seems like they are two completely different species rather than merely different genders. Surely you’ve noticed. Most men seem to have more in common with their dogs than they do their wives. Hmm, that didn’t come out quite right. After all, there are lots of differences between men and dogs. Question: Why do dogs lick themselves? Answer: Because they can. That’s a big difference right there.

In any event, one thing’s for sure - dogs are lucky. They don’t have to try and understand women. They just mark their territory, sniff other dog’s butts and run around a lot. Hmmm, maybe they are kind of the same as men after all. Maybe the species gap between men and dogs really is smaller than the gender gap between men and women. At least a man can understand his dog. They are both simple creatures. They spend less of their time overthinking things and making vocal noises and more of their time taking action or at least wanting to take action. Women, on the other hand, seem to be the total opposite. (By the way, when I use the term “men” I am not talking about chatty metrosexual men. Or men with half a Y chromosome instead of a whole one. I’m talking about real men.)

As proof of my assertion, I draw your attention to two stage productions that have been making the rounds over the past few years. 'The Vagina Monologues' and 'Puppetry of the Penis'. 'The Vagina Monologues' are a series of, you guessed it, monologues, performed by women for women. They involve deep introspection and emotional analysis about females, their vaginas and the reason for their existence. 'Puppetry of the Penis', on the other hand, involves two guys on stage playing with themselves while saying little. If ever there was a truer demonstration of the gender gap, this has to be it. Women talking and thinking endlessly about their private parts and men playing with theirs'.

But, nowhere is the gender gap more apparent than in the way men and women argue. Men, being genetically programmed to seek quick, direct and final solutions to problems, usually cut to the chase and stay, more or less, on target. That’s why boys are more prone to engage in physical fights than girls. A fight is a quick, direct way to solve a problem. A few punches and it’s over. There’s a winner and a loser. The next day they are playing ball together. At least that’s the way it was when I was growing up. Girls, on the other hand, tend to avoid direct confrontations, choosing instead to launch verbal daggers at their adversary’s backs over long, drawn out periods of time. It seems to be as much genetic as it is social. Like the way we look at our fingernails (men: closed fist, nails up / women: open hand, palm down) or dry ourselves off. (men rub / women pat.)

Anyway, I believe that this predisposition that men have, to actually keep their eye on the ball so to speak, is a big part of the reason why more men become engineers than women. Most men just want to solve the damn problem. Many women, on the other hand, want to talk and think stuff to death. Not all women, maybe, but certainly a lot. To them, it’s the process that counts, not the results. The exchange of words, the expression of feelings, the sharing of emotion, the empathic interaction is what really matters. It’s really all about making a connection and building a relationship through discussion. Not necessarily about finding a solution.

Think about it. In my experience, when a woman argues with her man, she will seldom stick to the issue at hand until it is solved. Rather, she’ll bob and weave like a seagull in a hurricane, jumping from topic to topic, dredging up stuff that her man thought was buried long ago. (Hey guys, if you thought your lovely wife forgot that unfortunate exchange of unpleasantries that happened between you a few years ago, you better think again. It’s there, bubbling beneath the surface of her pretty face like Mount St. Helens. And you never know when it’s going to blow.)

Maybe it was several years ago and she hasn’t mentioned it since. Maybe you think the issue was dead and buried. Don’t kid yourself. It’s not dead, It’s merely hibernating - waiting to be summoned during some future argument to ravage you like a raging grizzly roused in the middle of winter. Because, when women argue, they don’t really argue about something that just happened. They only pretend to. The recent issue is just a trigger, really. A spark that sets them off. In reality, when they argue, they are really arguing about every single thing that ever went wrong between you throughout your entire life together. They store it like a squirrel stores nuts. And you can bet on it, if the argument’s long enough she will get around to mentioning all of it. Every last transgression. Every verbal misstep and emotional miscalculation.

That’s why I usually let my wife have the last word. I don’t have the stamina anymore to hear about every last thing I ever did wrong. Granted, sometimes it’s not just a last word. Sometimes it’s several dozen last words, strung together in a series of paragraphs that are separated by periods of breathless silence. But in the end, if I say nothing, the paragraphs eventually peter out. And she gets the last word. I’ve come to realize that there’ll be time later for the problem to be resolved when we are both in a more receptive mood. In the meantime, I just appreciate the silence and, maybe for few seconds, think about how much I love her. But just for a few seconds. After all, I never dwell on my emotional feelings. That kind of stuff is for girls.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The CBC and Teenage Sex

Sometimes the CBC really creeps me out. To be fair, it isn’t just the CBC, it’s pretty well any public mouthpiece these days. You see, I’m the father of two young girls – ages 4 and 9. And I have a real fear of how the media portrays teenage sex in today’s society. I worry about the negative influence that these powerful, influential, largely irresponsible public voices will have on my kids.

A few days ago I heard some comments on CBC radio in Toronto that really irked me. Apparently Statistics Canada has released a study it did on teenage sexuality. According to the study, 12% of boys and 13% of girls have had sex by the age of 15. There were also some findings about how a lot of these kids don’t use condoms and have multiple partners. Basically, the stuff that fathers have nightmares about.

And can you guess the angle the CBC took on this story? Do you think it suggested that we, as parents, should be communicating clearly to our children the emotional and physical toll of engaging in sex before they are mature enough to handle it - or, heaven forbid, to abstain until they find someone who has made a lifelong commitment to them? Lord no. Not our beloved public broadcaster. For some reason, it felt compelled to put a markedly pro-teenage sex spin on the story, implicitly suggesting in its coverage that sexual activity among our children is perfectly normal and that every teenager is doing it. It aired the voice of a teenage female who said that 75% of her friends were having sex. Further, it aired the views of a public nurse who apparently spends a lot of her time handing out condoms to our kids. Most tellingly, the CBC closed its piece with a commentator suggesting that it is “outdated” to teach our kids that sex is not OK. That’s the word they used. “Outdated.”

Apparently our public broadcaster somehow feels that its mandate includes letting us know what is outdated and what is not with respect to our children having sex. I guess such decisions are not best left up to ignorant, unwashed, Canadian parents. Better to have the CBC suggest what we should and should not be doing. And we, as parents, better just smarten up and accept the fact that our young daughters will be getting it on in increasing numbers. So says the CBC, bless its heart. Thank God for it. Otherwise, we might just be foolish enough to decide for ourselves what we will and will not accept with respect to the behaviour of our children. Imagine a society without the progressive CBC to guide us poor ignorant, unenlightened Canadian parents down the road to open-minded teenage sexuality.

Well, sorry, but the CBC can just stuff it. As a Dad, the very idea that I should somehow be accepting or somehow complicit in my young daughter’s sexual rompings makes me feel dirty inside. And I don’t like feeling dirty. Why doesn’t our public broadcaster support me? I want to protect my daughters from venereal diseases, pregnancy and the inevitable emotional turmoil that comes with early sexual activeness by teaching them that the only acceptable approach is to practice sexual restraint until they are mature and have a life mate. Is this so unreasonable? Apparently the CBC thinks so.

My taxes pay for the CBC. And yet it refuses to speak for me. And I don’t think I’m alone. Surely, most parents would prefer that their young daughters abstain from sexual activity until they mature. Am I so totally removed from reality to believe such a thing? Am I the only parent who feels violated at the presumptuousness of a public, tax funded institution that makes insinuations about the appropriateness of teenage sex that conflict so profoundly with my sensibilities?

Surely the CBC cannot claim that it is merely presenting the truth; that it has a journalistic obligation to be unbiased and reflect the reality of the environment we live in. After all, it tries to mold public opinion all the time when it wants to invoke change. For instance, its coverage of the gay marriage issue certainly leans towards advocating a shift in public attitude and a change in the status quo. I guess when it comes to either supporting change or reporting on the realities around us, the CBC can swing either way depending on how they want to represent an issue.

Who do these people at the CBC think they are? Apparently they are no longer trying to reflect the feelings of real Canadian parents. Rather, they are trying to make us into the parents they feel we should be. Clearly, this is bureaucracy gone mad. And lets not debate semantics - the CBC is a bureaucracy of sorts. Its president is appointed by the Prime Minister and it receives the vast majority of its funding from public coffers. And I, for one, am positively creeped out at its utter disregard for the views of average Canadians and its reckless, amoral stance on the issue of teenage sex.

Certainly our kids are susceptible to the pressures brought to bear by the media. Certainly they are influenced by what they hear on the radio and on TV. Is it the job of a tax funded media source like the CBC to implicitly encourage our kids to have sex? Because, don’t doubt it, that’s exactly what it is doing. By not dissuading kids from sex, by suggesting that everyone is doing it and that it’s understandable, it is implicitly encouraging them.

Can it be that so many parents are willing to just give up on trying to protect their daughters from the emotional and physical harm of early sex? Are we really so weak, so easily mouldable, that we would put aside our deep maternal instincts simply to conform with what the CBC tells us we should do and feel?

In the end, these are children we are talking about here. They react to the environment around them. They are not fully formed emotional beings. They hear the message from the CBC and other media sources that sex is good and that they are silly to deprive themselves of it and they believe it. It is no mistake that years ago this wasn’t an issue. When I was growing up a teenage boy could date a girl for years without getting any. It was the way it was. And the boys didn’t seem to mind. In fact, they expected it. There was a certain natural, elegant balance to things. There was also a lot less sexual angst, emotional turmoil and suicide among our teenagers and virtually no sexually transmitted diseases or teenage pregnancies. Funny how that works eh?

Of course that was years ago, before the CBC and other public voices started justifying and endorsing teenage sex. I wonder, did rampant teenage sex occur before these public voices started excusing and glorifying it or did it occur as a result? Probably a bit of both. Whatever the case, the damage has been done. Sadly the CBC seems more inclined to promote and build on the damage than speak out against it. Therefore, we have to conclude that the CBC wants things to be this way.

Well, I’m not giving up. I will be teaching my young daughters that sex is not a mechanism for showing that they are boy’s equals. After all, they don’t need to prove anything. And it is not OK to share something as precious as their bodies with someone until they are emotionally mature and they find someone who makes a lifelong commitment to them. They are better than that. And maybe they’ll listen. They know that I love them more than life itself. Maybe they’ll listen. God I hope so. It’s awful hard to compete against the CBC, Cosmo and MuchMusic.

I cannot understand how any parent who loves their children would buy into this superficial, CBC promoted, world of teenage sexual promiscuity. Well, I will not allow some misguided, or worse, insidiously motivated, public voice to lead my children down the path to potential self destruction without a fight.

Clearly, I’ve got my work cut out for me. Wish me luck. After all I don’t get almost a billion dollars a year in government funding to push my social values like the CBC does. Regardless, I love my kids and want only the best for them. And, most of all, I’m not teaching them stuff to further my own selfish social and political agenda. I’m teaching them stuff because I honestly believe it will make them safer, happier and more fulfilled. And that’s more than the CBC and all its assorted new-age, left-wing hangers-on can say.

Perhaps the next time CBC coverage touches upon teenage sex it could do a TV interview with a teen with visible herpes or maybe a young mother on welfare whose life has been destroyed by irresponsible teenage promiscuity. Maybe it could find someone who speaks in defense of abstinence rather than someone who dismisses it as “Outdated”. Maybe it could start positioning its coverage in a manner that benefits Canadian society for a change, rather than a manner that reflects the misguided feminist sensibilities of its reporters, editors and producers.

The CBC has a very powerful, influential voice and it could be doing so much good with respect to dissuading our children from engaging in early sexual behavior. Parents should be looking to the CBC as an ally when it comes to teaching their children right from wrong. As it is, the CBC is more like an adversary. And it should be ashamed.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Reality and the Widescreen God

There sure are a lot of real people on TV these days. Real people showing us their dirty, shameful secrets. Real people being humiliated and degraded. Real people competing for love and putting their hearts and souls on display like ugly sideshow freaks for us to gawk at. And gawk we do. Apparently, we like it. The ratings for these TV shows are huge. The more lies, deceit, tears, agony, humiliation, fear, and heartbreak, the better. Give us more.

TV used to help us escape to fictional worlds where fictional people lived fictional lives. We watched and then went back to our normal day-to-day lives - our private lives. Personal stuff was, well, personal. We really didn’t know, or want to know, what was going on inside the minds and homes of total strangers. It was enough for us to live our own lives. It made us feel dirty inside to see other people shamed and suffering. We averted our eyes and felt bad. Now it’s different. Now we love it.

These days we crave the real thing on TV. We want to see real people at their most fragile and vulnerable. Where once we would have turned away in embarrassment, we now sit and stare, transfixed, drooling in our TV dinners. It’s almost like we once had more respect for our fellow man. Like we had a little switch in our brains that clicked on when we saw other people humiliate themselves - a reflex that made us feel uncomfortable to see others in emotional distress. We used to resemble creatures with a soul and a sense of humanity. These days we resemble some sort of parasitic empathic leech, prostrating ourselves in front of our Widescreen God, feeding off the emotional misery and humiliation of others.

And what about the people who are being humiliated? They don’t seem to be too concerned that their public displays of stupidity and ignorance might cause their families or loved ones shame. No. Now they line up to go on TV to expose their innermost feelings and personal failings for the word to see - their emotions laid bare for us to inhale like second hand cigarette smoke. It gets us high. We’re addicted.

Assorted celebrities like Jessica & Ashlee Simpson, Anna Nicole Smith, the Osbournes, and the Gotti’s, strut across our TV screens sharing their personal lives with us in turn for millions of dollars. We have nothing in common with them. We can’t identify with them in any way whatsoever. But we are captivated. Like pathetic, empty-souled voyeurs peeping through the curtains of our rich neighbour’s homes. It satisfies some inner need in us. It must. Otherwise we wouldn’t watch.

And then there’s the talk shows where people bare their souls for the world to see. People who humiliate themselves by going onstage with their spouses and their spouse’s lovers. Potty mouthed trailer trash fools, crawling out from under some rock, exposing their putrid underbellies to the world. My husband is having an affair with my mother's pet chihuahua. Gee, maybe Gerry Springer would be interested. Lets call him. After all, there’s lots of people who will watch. And watch we do.

And we mustn’t forget the competitive shows, where people engage in physically challenging or emotionally draining situations that expose themselves and all their weaknesses to the world. Hey girls, lets compete for the love of some handsome man on international TV. Who cares if we’ve never met him before. We get to be on TV. What else matters? If there was a definition of empty brained superficiality, how could these people not be included.

Are you unsatisfied about your physical appearance? Don’t worry - just go on ‘Extreme makeover’ and your troubles will be over. And people will watch. Are your kids unmanageable? That’s OK – Supernanny will come to your rescue. And people will watch. Do you have perversion problems or odd personal difficulties that ordinary people would laugh at? No problem. Your troubles will be over if you just call Jerry Springer, Sally Jessie, Maurie Povich, Rickie Lake, Jenny Jones, Dr. Phil or any of the other parasitical, idiot loving talk show hosts. And, you can bet your butt, people will watch.

And there are innumerable other reality shows where so-called real people lay it all on the line for us. Top Model, Fantasy Island, Joe Millionaire, The Amazing Race, Married By America, The Contender, Survivor, The Apprentice, Wife Swap, Big Brother, The Surreal Life, Manhunt, Love Cruise, and so much more. I’ve searched the web and there are more than 300 different reality TV shows.

Check this out: http://www.realitytvlinks.com/

I’m not kidding. That’s more than 300. Am I nuts, or is that just plain crazy?

At any time during the week, we can turn on the TV and tune in to see vacuous, attention starved miscreants bare their souls and their bodies for our consumption. And consume we do. What the hell is wrong with us?

OK, let me be clear here. There are two kinds of people who support the existence of these shows. There are the people who go on them. And there are the people who watch them. It is debatable who is more responsible for this travesty of humanity. One thing is for sure though. It is a travesty.