The Birdcage Archives

Monday 30 December 2019

The End of The Decade

Hello Gentle Reader

December has been increasingly busy as it comes to its inevitable closure. The past weeks have been spent preparing and executing Christmas plans and get togethers with family; which apparently means enduring a marathon of hallmark Christmas movies; the continual assault of Christmas music now in an intimate home setting; and the polite suffrage of other holiday guests. With the New Year, and the New Decade right around the corner, everything else is coming to a unceremonious and routine ending.

At the end of the December, the Swedish Academy was quite busy. December 20th in particular was their Annual Grand meeting, whereby they’ve formally inducted their new elected members to the following chairs:

Chair No. 7 – Åsa Wikforss
Chair No. 9 – Ellen Mattson
Chair No. 13 – Anne Swärd
Chair No. 18 – Tua Forsström

Chair No. 5 – formally occupied by the late Göran Malmqvist currently sits vacant. If I were to offer a name to consider for election to this seat, it would be the writer, poet, librarian, academic, and translator Göran Sonnevi, who was kindly introduced to me by Bror Axel Dehn, a young up and coming journalist (and I am sure writer), whose current work can be found on Vagant. Göran Sonnevi is one of Swedens most esteemed poets, his range from political and topical discussions (the Vietnam War, the Cold War, globalization, immigration, and cultural conflicts), despite the social commentary they provide, Göran Sonnevi retains objective optics, never indoctrinating, supporting, or bolstering any ideological concept; instead his work seeks out greater universal human meaning in these events. His work has been awarded both the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize and the Nordic Council Literature Prize for: “The Ocean [Oceanen].” Göran Sonnevi would be a valuable member to the Swedish Academy. This being said, the Swedish Academy has made no formal statement or informal inclination as to who will succeed the late Göran Malmqvist.

For the time being congratulations are in order to the four formally inducted members. I make no reservations in stating that when it was announced Tua Forsström had been chosen to become an appointed member to the academy, I was ecstatic; though it wasn’t without a bittersweet aftertaste. I often speculated that Tua Forsström would be a worthy Nobel Laureate, her poetry probes with simplicity and grace the existential conundrums of human complexity; the conflicts and fragile nature of relationships; and the beauty and unforgiving natural landscape. It is an easy caveat to swallow, when one is able to be a part of the Nobel Laureate deliberations and discussions, even if it excludes them from winning the prize themselves. Of course my hope is that Tua Forsström will be able to lobby and bring Finnish speaking writers into the discussion. Needless to say I look forward to the coming years.

The other newly elected member to the Swedish Academy, Åsa Wikforss will also become a valuable asset to the Swedish Academy. As a professor of theoretical philosophy Åsa Wikforss’s recent work tackles the recent trend of ‘alternative facts,’ and the damaging potential they have on society, knowledge, and how information is consumed; with such an impressive portfolio and resume Åsa Wikforss will most certainly bring sobering perspective to the academy’s deliberations.

This year saw the return of the Nobel Prize for Literature, after it was postponed last year due to an unprecedented scandal and ensuring controversy, which saw numerous members resign, the Nobel Foundation take a adjudicating role, and numerous calls for the Swedish Academy to reform itself. Two-thousand and eighteen was not the best year for the Swedish Academy, though no stranger to controversy for some of their decisions; but when it came to scrutinizing their own affairs, such as their lack of proper governance, mismanagement of funds, allegations of conflict of interests, as well as the lack of ethics and moral obligations, the Swedish Academy’s austere grandeur fell aside, as the internal rot seeped forth, resulting in otherwise public disputes, disgraces, and battles between factions within the academy. It is hard to say whether or not the situation within the Swedish Academy has been completely resolved or not. Though the academy has renewed its statutes, taken greater precautions to strengthen its internal governance, and so far has been able to sate the ire from the Nobel Foundation, all the while seeking to carry on the with the routine operations of the academy’s work. Throughout it all, the Swedish Academy has elected and inducted new members into its ranks, has instilled yet another new Permanent Secretary, and is only one member short from being at full roster.

This year’s Nobel Prize for Literature was unique as it would see two laureates announced one for two-thousand and nineteen, and the other retroactively for the previous year. The two laureates for the years: 2018 and 2019 were as follows:

2018 – Olga Tokarczuk: “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”

2019 – Peter Handke: “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”

Despite crawling away from the still smoldering remains of the previous scandal, the Swedish Academy found itself embroiled in a new one with the decision to award Peter Handke the prize. The controversy over Peter Handke’s documented support for the Serbian leader and war criminal Slobodan Milošević, became the major talking point during the Nobel season, which sadly overshadowed Peter Handke’s services and contribution to literature, while also overshadowing Olga Tokarczuk’s Nobel recognition. The controversy surrounding Peter Handke, saw one of the external members of the Nobel Committee resign, and former Permanent Secretary Peter Englund did not attend the Nobel proceedings on moral grounds. It should be noted Peter Englund served with the Swedish military in Bosnia during the Yugoslav Wars, and on good conscious and unimpeachable integrity, Peter Englund boycotted the events. Meanwhile, wherever Peter Handke went, protests were sure to follow, and they did. Images, signs, slogans—were advertised quickly throughout the Stockholm and the internet, condemning Handke as a supporter of war crimes and genocide. Overtime the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Website and other social media outlets, attempted to curb or diminish the spotlight Peter Handke was given on these mediums, in order to curb the pushback further. Despite the protests, Peter handke still delivered his Nobel Lecture and received his Nobel medal and diploma by the hands of the King of Sweden.

Olga Tokarczuk, has sadly been overlooked during the proceedings, her achievements ignored, her merits unacknowledged. In comparing the two ins of Peter Handke and Olga Tokarczuk, some state that Peter Handke is the superior writer. Handke is noted for his formal experimentation, his work in multiple of mediums, the first and foremost being theatre. His novels have been noted for their powerful panoramic survey of the human condition, and its constant existential crisis. His influential pen has influenced many writers across the world. Handke has always been deemed one of the living classics, whose work will continue to be read, studied, consumed and enjoyed for years to come. His contributions to German literature, and soon international literature cannot be denied or overlooked. To compare Peter Handke and Olga Tokarczuk is not entirely a fair measurement of eithers literary merit, or their contributions or services to world literature. Peter Handke may have made explosive lasting impacts decades prior, Olga Tokarczuk in comparison has been a quiet giant on the global stage, whose long overdue recognition has now been reached. Where Peter Handke explores in the world in postmodern peripheral fashion, seeking to redefine or rediscover the world anew, while exemplifying the failure of language as a medium in order to properly transcribe the world, while hinting at the continued existential crisis of those inhabiting the world. Olga Tokarczuk can be found on the strange entangled postmodern family tree as Peter Handke. Where Peter Handke is most likely described as an early postmodernist with admiration in stylistic ventures towards modernism, Olga Tokarczuk delights in her narratives being a mosaic reflecting: “fragmented consciousness,” or reflecting a constellation like format, whereby multiple independent functions, coordinate to create a cohesive and unique unified whole, while maintaining their own unique qualities independent of the whole. Tokarczuk is not quite as impersonable as Handke is in his descriptions of the world around and beyond. In contrast, Olga Tokarczuk takes an introspective perspective, which slowly accumulates in its independence a singular reflection of the greater whole. As a student of Carl Jung and a psychologist by training, Tokarczuk maintains a fresh and vigorous curiosity to the human psyche. In a similar fashion to Jung, Olga Tokarczuk maintains an analytical and critical eye to the macro patterns of the human psyche via anthropological observation. Fairytales, folktales, and mythological elements weave and twine themselves through the cultures of the human experience, each one an independent reflection and understanding of the human experience as a whole. In turn, Olga Tokarczuk maintains a mythical approach to writing, producing tender narratives and modern fairytales, which reflect the primeval nature of the human imagination and its influence on the human condition.

In the award ceremony speech, the Swedish Academy praised Olga Tokarczuk’s work for its engagement in the ‘excoriating strangeness,’ of the world. The same strangeness which is found in her encyclopedic knowledge of the arcane, preoccupation with astrology, enjoyment of the forlorn and forgotten myths, superstitions, interpretation of dreams, and lost esoteric patron saints. These minute details and abstruse facts are but a few treasures which can be found in the mercurial work of Tokarczuk. Thankfully the auhor is also capable of turning these details, philosophical contemplations, digressions into psychology, history anatomy, and the otherwise unknown, into gripping and potent narratives that can engage the reader on both an intellectual level but also an enjoyable level. Beyond her engagement with the ‘excoriating strangeness,’ of the world, the Swedish Academy gives immediate praise to the author for her engagement with humanistic ideals. In this they reference her most recent work: “The Book of Jacob,” (translation forthcoming in English in the New Year) the Swedish Academy makes poignant and potent observations about the writer’s depiction of Jakob Frank the charismatic mystic, who also is nothing but a fraudulent manipulator, and theological rebel. His questionings and positionings as himself as a new Messiah, are no different, but rather simply on par with others through the later centuries, such as Hitler or Stalin. Despite their differences in work, or their cruel nature of their actions in accordance with their messages, they are able to rally their rabbles under a common guise, on common ground, with a common scheme, which ultimately leads to a new and better world. In this perhaps, despite her humanistic vision, Olga Tokarczuk also sees the inherent flaw to the ideologies of seeking to create or achieve a new or better world, it is destined to its own failure, because what is new or what is better is not equally shared by all. Despite this, Olga Tokarczuk had announced she will use part of the prize money associated with the Nobel Prize win to establish a foundation to promote cross-cultural exchanges, human rights activism for civil freedoms, and support for environmental causes.

As Nobel week came to its ceremonious conclusion for the year, neither literature laureate appeared during the Nobel Minds forum for the year. Instead the round table held at the old Stockholm Exchange (where the Swedish Academy resides) along with the noble museum and library, was filled with physicists, scientists, doctors and economist, who discussed their work, the state of the world, and their goals and hopes for the future. Why the literature laureates were dismissed or not included is not known; or perhaps they may have chosen to abstain from those proceedings.

In the end, both writers and now Nobel Laureates, handled the procession and proceedings with exceptional grace. They delivered their lectures unencumbered. Peter Handke did not acknowledge the protests leveraged against him. In turn, it appears to the public relations arm of the Nobel media and the Swedish Academy attempted to control Handke’s social media presence. In comparison, the public relations arm of the media turned its focus to Olga Tokarczuk, announcing she left a personal journal from the year two-thousand and eighteen in the hands of the Nobel Museum. Her banquet speech was quickly watched and delighted with. Photos of the author visiting students in Stockholm to talk was also pushed to the forefront, including captions about the student’s inquiry about the authors hair, and articles about LEGO enthusiasts crafting their own models of the newly inducted Nobel Laureate.

In receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, Olga Tokarczuk joins the pantheon alongside: Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz.

In receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, Peter Handke joins the pantheon alongside fellow writer: Elfriede Jelinek, and much like Jelinek he has proven to have been just as controversial, divisive, and cantankerous, while being completely apathetic towards it all.

The end of this decade has not been entirely kind to the literary scene either. Many great writers have been lost over the course of the year. Tributes as New Years rapidly approaches continue to pour in for the late Nobel Laureate American writer Toni Morrison, whose work helped to engage and revolutionize the American novel to include the African-American experience, to come not from the perspective of the sympathetic who have never experienced the alienation, segregation, racism, degradation, and haunting shadow of slavery; but from the nit and grit narrative of an African-American. Numerous tributes touched on Toni Morrison’s warmth, kindness, and generosity, as well as her personal quirks, which have been openly discussed by her friend and cohort Fran Lebowitz who lovingly remembers Toni Morrison’s sweet tooth (she preferred dessert first over the meal) and her love of giving and of course receiving gifts. Beyond her personal qualities which have won over her friends, and cemented them throughout her life, Morrisons literary work will continue to survive beyond her death. Her is a testament to the history of the United States of America, but not from the same old conventional narrative of the country rising from glorious revolution into its current superpower status throughout the previous centuries; rather the narrative turns towards the complicated and divisive history the country has had with the idea of superiority, racism, and discrimination which continue to fester to this day. Rather then being a torch of resentment, bitterness, and biting rebellion, Toni Morrison produced novels of grace, kindness, poignancy through personal tragedy which ultimately leads one to forgiveness. In this Toni Morrison always took the high road, the right road, the moral road—the one that not only salvaged the soul, but saved the spirit.

Two-thousand and nineteen also saw the death of former member and Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Sara Danius who succumbed to cancer at the young age of fifty-seven; it also saw the death of the mammoth monolith of American literary theory and criticism, Harold Bloom.

Despite the deaths, personal upheavals, and the general dirty business of life, two-thousand and nineteen has been an alright year for reading. Though I did not get a lot of reading done—a recent stock has only five books listed (!)—but I’ve enjoyed the books for the most part. Reading Han Kang remains a highlight of the reading year. The breakout Korean writer rivals Bae Suah, with eschewing the others cerebral musings and surreal juxtapositions, for understated ethereal elegance. Where Bae Suah eschews literary forms from essay to fiction, blending time with liberal ease, and probing the philosophical and the psychological with minimal concern; Han Kang traces (or attempts to) the ghost, the shadow, the spirit, and the soul of the human experience, as it is shaped by tragedy, violence and other events beyond the immediate control of the individual. Han Kang dissuaded any concern one may hold against her work. She proved herself to being a remarkable writer, of the most enviable talents. Of course, there was also Patrick Modiano to read, and Olga Tokarczuk; neither writer one can go wrong with, reading them is like visiting with an old friend. I am currently still working my way through Annie Ernaux’s “The Years,” but will have it completed in the New Year. The pace in which I am reading “The Years,” is set by circumstances beyond my control at the moment, time lays down its immediate demands first, and unfortunately reading must come secondary to ensuring the fridge is stocked and food is on the table. This being said, “The Years,” has been a wonderful book to drop and return to on such as sporadic basis. It’s quite a unique read. Its disappointing to think that Annie Ernaux, until now has never been on my radar.

For now, though Gentle Reader the year and decade come to a close, and a new one just a few days away. I each of you have a relaxing and rejuvenating Christmas, be it quiet or populated. With everything coming to its end, regular life is set to resume shortly, and we best prepare ourselves to reacquaint ourselves to it as well.

I look forward to writing, talking, and hearing from you in the coming year. Happy New Year Gentle Reader—here’s hoping I can get more reading done in the coming year as well.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

Sunday 8 December 2019

Literary News that was Missed

Hello Gentle Reader

As two-thousand and nineteen comes closer to its conclusion, before heading into a new decade of the ‘twenty-twenties,’ there was news overlooked or missed, during the previous two months, because life always gets in away. Yet I’d like to comment on two noticeable events that happened near the end of October.


First up, is the Future Library Project named its chosen writer for the year two-thousand and nineteen: the Norwegian mammoth autobiographical chronicler, Karl Ove Knausgård. The induction of Knausgård marks a return to the Western Hemisphere for the Future Library Project, and a return to Europe. Karl Ove Knausgård becomes the sixth writer to being included in the project, where he shares company with:

[2014] Margaret Atwood – “Scribbler Moon,”
[2015] David Mitchell – “From Me Flows What You Call Time,”

[2016] Sjon – “As My Brow Brushes On The Tunics Of Angels or The Drop Tower, the Roller Coaster, the Whirling Cups and other Instruments of Worship from the Post-Industrial Age,”

[2017] Elif Shafak – “The Last Taboo,”
[2018] Han Kang – “Dear Son, My Beloved,”

In inducting Karl Ove Knausgård, the project founder Katie Paterson called Karl Ove Knausgård an exceptional author of the contemporary era, as his epic multi-volume autobiographical work, has been called an outstanding and albeit controversial work of literature.

Karl Ove Knausgård has already begun to work on his manuscript for the project, but as is customary can say little to nothing with regards to the work. After all the entire projects writers are expected to write a manuscript which will stay sealed for a hundred years before being published. At which point the authors, the project founder (Katie Paterson), and everyone else of the now will have already died. The project has been praised for its time capsule quality which calls forth a future that waits, despite the threat it will come to an end in the coming decades. All of the writers who have contributed to the project have called it liberating and surreal. Margaret Atwood, ironically commented on how she will most certainly now survive the test of time, of whether or not she’ll be read in a hundred years, while also commenting on the surreal prospect that her voice will be awakened a century down the line, after she herself has long since been absent, and her own voice silenced.

Karl Ove Knausgård is expected to hand over his manuscript on May 23 2020.


Speaking of Margaret Atwood, two-thousand and nineteen has been quite a year for the recently turned octogenarian author. The release of her much anticipated sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” called: “The Testaments,” saw readers head out in droves for what had become the publishing event of the year. New readers and old readers, alike eagerly awaited the novel, reviews popped up immediately after, and Margaret Atwood head on to a book tour, answering questions, and signing books. She jointly won the Man Booker International Prize with Bernardine Evaristo (though not without slight controversy). Despite the praise, the great reviews, and the warm media attention (she was featured on the cover of Time Magazine); Margaret Atwood lost her partner Graeme Gibson. Suddenly of course, the attention turned from the book to the prying interest of the recent loss of her partner. Margaret Atwood, ever graceful and charismatic diffused and moved around the subject, returning the questions to the focal point of her appearance.

In late October, Margaret Atwood received a royal honour from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II: the Order of the Companions of Honour. This royal honour is a rare one. Under Queen Elizabeth the II’s reign, this honour has only been received by three Canadians. Margaret Atwood received this honour at Windsor Castle, during an investiture ceremony. Atwood described the experience as emotional, but an honour of a lifetime.

Congratulations are certainly in order for Margaret Atwood; it’s been quite a year. Throughout it all, Margaret Atwood has been a pinnacle of grace and charm, putting up with the same conversations from journalists, and while being thoroughly engaged with her readers who do stop to see her.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Two Members Leave the Extended Nobel Committee

Hello Gentle Reader

As part of the Swedish Academy regaining legitimacy as a Nobel Awarding institution; after its previous scandalous ordeal, and its lost faith from the public; the Nobel Foundation facilitated certain caveats that the Swedish Academy was forced to give into, in order to restore its reputation and begin the process of reclaiming its legitimacy. One of those caveats, was allowing for a period of two years, for five external members to be brought into the Nobel Committee to assist the Swedish Academy prize selection, and assist in creating a more transparent process and image with the public and the media. These five external members are:

Rebecka Kärde
Mikaela Blomqvist
Henrik Petersen
Kristoffer Leandoer
Gun-Britt Sundstrom

When the Laureates for two-thousand and eighteen and two-thousand and nineteen, were announced in October, three of the above listed committee members:

Rebecka Kärde
Mikaela Blomqvist
Henrik Petersen

Stood alongside Swedish Academy members: Anders Olsson and Per Wästberg; to discuss this year’s laureates in Literature.

Now, however, Kristoffer Leandoer and Gun-Britt Sundstrom have formally announced that they have recused themselves from their two year term as external members of the Swedish Academy, much to the chagrin of many.

Kristoffer Leandoer has cited he has chosen to leave the blended framework of the Nobel Committee, due to the Swedish Academy’s slothful state of adapting to change, and he does not have the patience to encourage it. Further discrepancies between the perceptions of time were also contributing factors in his departure.

Gun-Britt Sundstrom has resigned due to the decision to award Peter Handke the Nobel Prize for Literature in two-thousand and nineteen. The decision to ward Handke the Nobel Prize for Literature has been one of consistent controversy since it was announced on October 10th. Reactions have been divisive, critical, and uncompromising in their denouncement. The Swedish Academy in return, was forced to perform damage control, and sought to clarify their position that they do not condone Peter Handke’s political statements, views, perceptions, or defenses; but they chose to award him on purely literary terms. They further argued that despite his political discourse, his statements did not amount to facilitating violence, or condoning the atrocities of the Yugoslav Wars.

Gun-Britt Sundstrom disagreed with the notion of literature above politics. It is safe to presume that Gun-Britt Sundstrom believes the political statements made by Peter Handke are equally as relevant to his literary output as his literary work, and should be considered in weighing his merit in. For these reasons, Gun-Britt Sundstrom has chosen to recuse herself from the blended Nobel Committee.

The Swedish Academy in turn thanked them both for their support and service during their short tenure.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

For Further Reading

The Guardian: "Nobel prize for literature hit by fresh round of resignations,"

BBC: "Two Nobel literature prize committee members quit,"

The Pantomime of Politics & The Gorgeousness of Governance

Hello Gentle Reader

Politics is a topic rarely discussed openly. It’s a poor subject. Though usually brought up during family celebrations, where one can watch the battle lines being drawn, the garrison assembled, and the first shot waiting to be fired. Armistice rarely happens, while alcohol fuels the fevered frenzy. It does lighten up an otherwise dreadful enduring family get-together. Who doesn’t enjoy the thrilling prospect of witnessing fisticuffs on the dinner table—even if it doesn’t happen? Despite its divisive degradation of otherwise civil affairs; politics is an otherwise ubiquitous atmosphere hanging over everyone’s heads. It’s just too disruptive to actually discuss with decorum. The moment the subject is even lightly broached there’s puffed out chests, eyes rolling, and admonishing arrogance to be found. Suddenly we’re back in the sandbox.

People often describe politics as a dirty business. Perhaps comparing or equating it to the same level as pornography. A lot like pornography, politics suffers from poor actors. Even worst, the actors in political theatre are not as endowed or beautiful as those found in pornographic materials. Rather politicians are often bloated, egotistical, and lackluster individuals. Men are always found in the same uniform: suit and tie—so don’t expect leather harnesses, or any other exotic sensual role playing—and for the record no one wants it. Women equally uniform with their blouses, skirts, or dress pants; a bit of flair perhaps with a pin or a simple pearl necklace. They smile for the cameras and answer—sorry deflect—questions posed to them with regards to policy initiatives, goals, and objectives. The stock of politician is equally as unappetizing as their dress, or any pre-ordained family get-together. They are uninspired, drab, and monotonous. At best they are bland. At worst they are nauseating. Career politicians in particular are a special breed of stock. The higher they slither up their ladder of ideological impurity, the more they resemble a pig fit for the county fair. A real blue ribbon, blue blood, mudslinger; whose days have been spent at the public trough gorging away, while telling the electorate that austerity measures are necessary, and they need to tighten their belts. Meanwhile they loosen theirs for yet another helping. At question period during debate in either a Legislature or the House of Commons, these county fair winning pigs, only squeal at one another, and they call that singing for their supper. I suppose in that regard, I’d take a leather harnessed hunk or a whip wielding dominatrix, over the democratically elected blue blooded mudslinger, who has the impunity and impropriety to squeal at me, about how I need to buck up, and weather the storm. Meanwhile I’m left to wonder why that piggy hasn’t been sent squealing to market. Bacon, pork chops, pork loin, may not solve anything, but it’s certainly better then what’s currently on offer.

Reviewing the current Canadian political landscape leaves a lot to be desired. Federally if you didn’t know, it’s a minority government, led by a young globally popular politician, perhaps due to his appearance. Not quite my cup of tea, but else where they fawn over him for a picture or selfie or two. The sunshine sensibilities of his previous campaign now left overcast and dour. His government greets a country of grumbling resentment. At least partially, but the ‘west,’ has always been known for its flatulent chinooks. Its’ bellowing trumpets of the hardworking blue collar who bring home the bread with no thanks or appreciation in exchange. Of course since oil and gas bottomed out, they’ve been hurt the worst. Their provincial economies tanked. Their rainy day fund spent. With their pockets turned out, this same province now seeks understanding and sympathy from the other provinces. Yet for years they had grumbled and complained how they were the backbone of the entire country, and lectured every other province on their own economic mismanagement, lack of fiscal responsibility, and of course their lack of gratitude. Now with the tables turned, the other provinces who were forced to endure their otherwise peacock posturing, have all but run out of sympathy for their downtrodden brethren. Now they sit back and snicker at the emperor’s new clothes. No one had the heart to tell them the truth: if the emperor looks naked, he is naked. Now this same province has once again voted in the political party which saw to its demise earlier.

The memory of the public is fickle, and often very short. Four years prior, this province of oil baptisms, and endless honey and money; found its money burned and its honey dry, and no one wanting its oil. The people on the winds of change ousted its decaying political dynasty, and voted in something fresh, new, and invigorating. But public memory is capricious. With change in government came the immediate cries it was their fault the economy tanked. It was their fault oil prices were at the bottom of the barrel. It was their fault the province entered into debt. It was their fault people were unemployed. Despite the fact these problems were inherited. The problem with public opinion is it cares little for facts. It swept up in rhetoric, slogans, populism, which is all dispersed for their convenient consumption. Four years later out with new and in with the old. This time they elected a very prominent career politician. The kind which blathers on about how the buck stops there; how diversifying the economy is a luxury; how the provinces problems come from the federal government. The usual squealing and deflecting campaign only the most seasoned of pigs at the trough would know. Fitting to his career, he is in possession of a character resembling that of a stale outdated ham sandwich; intolerant, noxious, and outdated. Still they voted him in, and now they see the repercussions of their decisions. Their healthcare is being dismantled. Education is under assault. Tax breaks for corporations who still abandoned the province.  The economy no longer just in ruin, but on fire, with a rising unemployment rate. Of course this blowhard windbag can’t take the credit or the responsibility. Rather he reassesses and attempts to deflect his already early stage mismanagement to others. When and where that fails, he shifts the conversation to separating from Canada as a whole, citing alienation and irreconcilable differences, as if it’s a simple divorce; where in reality it is nothing more than pouty child threatening to take its ball and go home. Those who support this otherwise derogatory dribble are first class hypocrites. Prior, these same individuals called such separatist sentiments harbored by another province as treasonous; but now will stomp around with banners in hand, shouting how they should be emancipated. Is that not treason all the same? As the public is occupied with their dreams of separation, our snub-nosed blue ribbon pig is free to gorge some more at the trough, at the cost of the future, with his cuts to education, his disregard for healthcare, and his slow erosion of elections agencies. After all he came from a federal party, whose leader at the time was three quarters totalitarian and another quarter dead fish personality. When he faces criticism from academics, economists, and journalists he’ll side step and swipe back. Part of public office is taking criticism, enduring disapproval, and weathering dissatisfaction. Taking aim at an academic’s integrity, because their professional expertise is in contrast to your political parade, is a prime example of a this career politician who has no respect for education, and who obviously lacks any formal education beyond their early political indoctrination, as if this is an excuse for their impropriety. Yet there is hope. The other day protests were held to rally against the cuts, the dismantlement, the erosion, and the calls that everyone needs to tighten their belts and get used to these austerity measures; while his belt only gets looser. There’s hope that these young students, enraged nurses, and exhausted civil servants, along with the everyday person, will set the pig to the flames and get some real change into their province, which sits precariously doomed to being left behind if it doesn’t adapt to a changing world. To that I would say: diversifying ones economy is not a luxury, but a requirement to secure your survival at least.

A survey of the rest of the country would say it’s in no better shape. Down east there’s a premier who not only looks like a blowfish but shares its flare for puffing out like one as well. I’d warrant caution in classifying this one as a career politician, but certainly an outrageous actor all the same. Though politics has been a central part of this one’s life as well. He’s been a municipal councilor, picked fights with Margaret Atwood, and his brother is the notorious crack smoking mayor. Much like politics, illicit drugs have been a part of this politicians adult life as well, going so far as to operating an alleged hashish dealing operation in his early adulthood, his other brother reportedly involved in drug trafficking, and had been investigated in relation to drug-related abduction; while his sister was a victim of drug related gun violence. This ones pedigree is certainly undeniably high class; and he is perhaps more lively then the other career politician down west, who has no formal education to his name, but still speaks with a nasally heavy handed, second-rate erudition. Still they are much the same. Blow hard blathering windbags, who in tormenting torrential gusts, repeat with the same gusto, how austerity measures need to be in place, in order to facilitate fiscal responsibility. In other words: cuts. Cuts to social programming. Cuts to education. Cuts to healthcare. Cuts to public service. Cuts to infrastructure. Cuts to transportation. As these snorting and rooting boars of ignorance keep carving up the cow, insisting all the same that the buck stops with them, one must wonder where are the savings? Jobs are lost, roads are in tatters, hospitals have no beds, and the elderly are suffering inadequate care. Yet inflation rises, the cost of living skyrockets alongside it, and the economy barely moves a centimeter forward.  Yet the expectation is you are to tighten your belt; despite the fact at this point it’s already cutting circulation. This doesn’t even begin to cover the inter-provincial clashes of interest. The lack of common ground any of them can find with each other. The federal government meanwhile in its minority state is left to play referee on an as needed basis. The further east one goes there is an increase of separatist talk, complete with its usual nationalistic fanaticism. In the Far East of Canada one could hear crickets chirp, with how removed they are from the discussion, completely ignored and forgotten, an afterthought as always.

If one loves reality television, then certainly Canadian politics would be right up their alley. The pantomime political theatre of Canadian politics is akin to a dysfunctional family at the most intolerable Christmas dinner imaginable. There is not an iota of a semblance of common ground. No compromise. Not an ounce of unity to be held. Of course the political parties themselves have quite the house cleaning initiative to undertake. One party needs to find a more durable, stalwart, stoic and strong leader then its current offering of a dimpled potato, whose inability to behave with honesty and integrity shows the shortcomings of their character. Not to mention this same party needs to move past its insistent outdated perspective on otherwise settled social issues regarding abortion, euthanasia, and same sex marriage. Recently this same party had a member compare Gay Pride Parade Celebrations to that of a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Having never been to a Pride Parade myself, I presume there is a lot more colour in a Pride Parade then just green. This same leader of this party openly alienates the community (LGBTQ) by never clarifying their stances on the subject, which has only given both the media and the opponent’s ample ammunition to attack, discredit, and disregard as a dinosaur. Perhaps once this party rebrands itself, reforms itself away from its previous totalitarian dead fish personality predecessor, it can position itself in a more favorable light. It should take a note from another almost antiquated party which saw a resurgence during the previous federal election. Its new leader appears to be dynamic, stoically aggressive; who doesn’t mince their words, and too boot wears a bow tie, which is just darling! If one were to offer advice to the current minority government it would be to stop stepping into scandal with fevered glee. If it appears to be a bad idea, it most likely is a bad idea. While the other three remaining parties teeter precariously on the tip of irrelevance, due to a lack of media attention, a lack of financial aid, and a lack of reaching the general populace with their message, their brand. Do better next time.

Throughout the second rate dilapidated theatre of Canadian political pantomiming, complete with long winded speeches filled with empty words falling on deaf and disinterested ears, by political players who are neither memorable nor interesting, with personalities of limp noodles; there is the hardworking unsung hero of governance: the dutiful civil servant, who is inappropriately caricatured, misrepresented, and first flogged and flayed by the clowns that are called their political masters. They are the first to feel the ire of their otherwise demented creatures that come into office, who view them as entitled blood sucking leeches of bureaucracy. It comes to no surprise then that our blue ribbon winning blue blooded pedigree pig of a politician comes roaring into office with a box of salt in hand, which it intends to exorcise the civil service with. If the salt should fail, then they’ll cast open the blinds and burn the lampreys with the sun’s rays. If they don’t burn at the sun then they’ll soak them with holy water. In the end though, all they are left with is soaked, tanned, and salt covered civil servants, and a disastrous photo op that reads: “Cutting Red Tape in Favour of Efficiencies.”

What our fat stock doesn’t understand is that the civil service is the brick, the mortar, and the pillar of good governance. While our political pigs squeal in the public light, oink for votes, and parade on promises, while flinging mud wherever it’ll stick. The civil servants continue the real business of governance, by ensuring the trains run on time; health care is operational, police are on patrol, the rights of the citizens protected, and that courts provide their trials. Of course there’s is paper work involved, sometimes even mountains, but all the paper work creates a record, a chain of evidence, a detailed account of how the entire workings of governance. It’s ultimately meaningless, however, to those who run on such empty rhetoric as our politicians, who have neither interest nor care to the stewardship of proper governance, or the fine filigree of its penmanship, its convention, and its bread and butter for a proper civil society. Instead, they seek to dismantle the establishment in their own image, and often at the expense of the electorate. The difference between public administration and business admiration or commerce, is that commerce is to make a profit at whatever expense, while government and public administration seeks to provide services to its populace, with no interest in profit margins, cost analysis, or ulterior motive. The beauty of governance and government perhaps is its ability to endure, and weather all brands and pedigrees of fat stock which parade through its doors. Sadly it seems there are less and less protections to ensure they are able to withstand the continued assault issued by these same ignorant boars. Perhaps more power should be removed from our less then esteemed pantomiming gluttonous politicians, and attributed to the competent civil servants, who work behind the lines to uphold the basic pillars of civility we call our society. Sadly such legislation would never be introduced, let alone passed. The last thing our blue ribbon pork chop wants is to have their free flowing trough, interrupted by proper governance. 

The Canadian political scene is in a sad state of affairs, much like everywhere else. It leaves a lot to being desired. Yet what is perhaps most frightening about the entire political scene, is the fanaticism in which supporters have undertaken. They’ve picked their horse—even if it’s dead— and continue to ride it, support it, and boaster it up. It’s a common saying that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and sadly in today’s social media saturated world that’s proven to be quite case. What is frightening is how many opinions lack any notion of fact. All statements carry no factual integrity. Instead in their bowels, in the scant amount of syllables utilized, lies the reeking tar of propaganda, and disturbing unadulterated fanatical loyalty. Canadian politics has always prided itself on refuting the demagogue devotion found in its neighbor. The infection has since spread north. Canadians of a certain blue brand are now driven with almost cult like radical indignation, as they take issue and aim with anyone who has any inclination of integrity or fact. They won’t listen to reason, rationale, or logic; and when they are presented it, they squeal into their battle cries, to which their brethren mobilize and join them in their united honky-tonk movement(s). I’d never thought I’d see the pungent scene of xenophobia and racism ever is so openly tolerated and promoted in Canada. I had never thought a politician of any Canadian party or pedigree would ever be so lacking in character or dignity to promote the conflagration of such disgusting rhetoric. Canada is supposed to be the moderate, the enlightened, and the humanistic. Now in its ashes lies nothing but a tattered fragmented country of resentment, fueled by ridiculous and incredulous politicians who have loosened their belts, had their fill and want more; all the while Canadians are left scraping what little livelihood they can afford, and eat what little food they have; and are being told that they need to tighten their belts for further austerity, while the future is burned and denied to many by cuts to education and health care. This isn’t the Canada I grew up in, nor love, nor live in now. Thankfully there is hope on the horizon. Protests by an engaged youth, who refuse to have their futures diminished or overpriced. To civil servants who like starved and abused dogs, are tired of being treated like pariah, and demand that they need to compensated not cut out of the workings of government, in order to meet the austere measures proposed and imposed on them; and of course the daily citizens and electorate who do not feed into the rampant campaign rhetoric, slogans, and polluting propaganda issued en masse. There is hope that Canada will return to its humanistic and enlightened self; and if there isn’t an ounce of hope, there will be a demand for it. These austerity measures have proven time and time again, to only be worthless, but severely impairing in the long term. It’s time the pig looks into the mirror as it’s sent squealing to market, rather than the unfortunate people who suffer long after their voted out of office.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary