TILT

The News is bad.

I know our neighbours to the south are dealing with an inexplicable situation at their highest levels of government and I honestly don’t get how it can even be happening.  I don’t know enough about how the system works- certainly not enough to understand how federal employees can be thrown out of work when a minority of extremists shut down the business of government based on even more inexplicable attitudes about points of policy that the electorate seems to favour- and, to be honest, I have neither the time nor the heart to research the situation in any depth right now.

I have read various takes on the insanity by some of my fellow bloggers- who, as Americans, know way more about it all than I would ever claim.  The most I can take personal issue with is SNL’s (hilarious as always) Weekend Update examination of the sitch- which blamed us here in the Great White North for the whole thing.  While you all were distracted by Iran and North Korea, a Canadian shut down the US government.

Please.  We don’t lay any claim to that Senator Cruz guy.  Even if we wanted to, you’d have to convince me that the majority political/ideological ideals out of Calgary are representative of Canadian political sensibilities in the rest of the country as a whole.  They certainly aren’t representative of mine.  That Harper guy spent his adult years there (I don’t count his early childhood in Toronto.  Would rather forget we hail from the same neighbourhood, actually) and represents the city in Parliament.  Their current mayor (who is AWESOME) notwithstanding, Albertan politics are faaaaaar more right-leaning than I am remotely comfortable with.

Cruz seems fairly intent on playing down any Canadian-ness anyway.  He wants to be President, so the ‘natural born citizen’ thing necessitates distancing himself from us.  Which, given his 21+hour performance in the Senate a few weeks back, is okay with me (and most of the people I know here at home).

We have enough insane politicians of our own.

More than enough.

The local 6 o’clock news started off by telling us the actual dollar figure that the taxpayers of Ontario are paying as a result of the Liberal government’s decision to cancel the contracts for a couple of gas plants in advance of the last provincial election- in a bid to guarantee two (yes TWO) seats.  1.1 billion (yes BILLION) dollars.  And if they’d just held off and let the proposal expire, it would have cost NOthing.

All in the name of political expediency.

Story number two?  City council back to the fighting board regarding the idiocy about the Scarborough subway– and how to pay for it.  I especially love how the Brothers Ford attacked Paul Ainslie- who actually represents Scarborough- for suggesting that a subway isn’t the most cost-effective solution to the need for public transit in the city’s east end.  He’s FROM Scarborough.  What could he possibly know about his constituency?  The Bros from the ‘Coke (on the opposite suburban side of town), as usual, know best.

Number three?  One of those same Senators who have been all over the news lately for wrongly claimed expenses?  He apparently paid a friend $65,000 (of taxpayers’ money) to do, well, nothing.

I guess I am either completely naive and clueless- or maybe just not quite cynical enough- but I honestly was of the opinion that people went into public service- as bureaucrats, policy makers and, most certainly, elected officials- in order to benefit society with the skills and perspectives they have to offer the general population.

Needs of the many over the greed and expediency of the few, as it were.

Not feeling like there is anything like truth in that particular belief these days.

Those who are drawn to public service lately seem to be attracted solely by the benefits and stability of government jobs- and those who run for office cannot possibly be considered altruistic in their motivations or actions anymore.  Maybe they never could.  I’d like to think that we have had public leaders who actually care about the public.  But whether or not history can back me up on that, the currently reality says it is now otherwise.

Big time.

Don Quixote, that pivotal, incredible staple of the Western Canon, tells the story of the idealistic and noble-of-spirit Man of La Mancha, who set out to perform acts of chivalry- those tenets of knighthood that focused on gallantry and service to others- in the face of constant deception and humiliating criticism.

Under the influence of Medieval tales about chivalry- and its lost values- Alonso Quijano remakes himself as Don Quixote and sets out to return the ideals he admires to a world that has ceased to value such things.

Miguel de Cervantes’ novel is so rich with characters and wonder and meaning that interpretations of his masterpiece are diverse and often disparate.

To me, the character of Don Quixote demonstrates- repeatedly- that individuals can be right while the larger society is wrong.  Unfortunately, like Don Quixote, such individuals are all too often viewed as ineffectual- if not completely crazy.  Ultimately his idealism is defeated by mundane realities- and by the grasping greed of those around him.  Even his patient squire, Sancho, tricks Don Quixote and earns himself a governorship (albeit a false one), in Part 2.

Don Quixote serves as social commentary and a satirical view of orthodoxy, nationalism and the pitfalls of slavish conformity to ideas of ‘truth’.  The putative knight sees his idealism dashed and finally- upon his deathbed and return to ‘sanity’- he renounces his attempts to restore the moral system of chivalry and apologizes for the trouble he caused.

This recanting is the real tragedy of Don Quixote.

Among other things, the chivalric code stated that its followers must protect those who cannot protect themselves- including children, widows and the elderly.  Chivalrous knights were all about honour- and respecting and protecting the honour of women.  They persevered and saw all tasks through to their conclusion.  And they despised pecuniary rewards.

Neither Don Quixote nor the knights he emulated were in it for the power or the money.  They did these things because they believed that they were the right things to do.  Yet such examples became ideals to be mocked in the face of the common reality.

To be quixotic is to be ‘overly’ ideal- that is, to subscribe to lofty or romantic ideas without regard to practicality.  To be quixotic is to be naive or impulsive.  I think that Don Quixote has gotten an historical bad rap.

In the context of the novel, those who tilt at windmills are perceived to be vainly fighting against an imagined enemy based on misinterpreted idealistic justifications.  But it can also be used to describe engagement in a fight in which the imbalance is pronounced- a lone man on a horse with a jousting lance against the power of the wind that causes the blades to continue turning.  Even if he is the underdog, the idealist sees the battle as one that must be met.

The Wikipedia notes that while playing pinball, ‘skillful players can influence the movement of the ball by nudging or bumping the pinball machine, a technique known as “nudging.” There are tilt mechanisms which guard against excessive manipulation of this sort… When one of these sensors is activated, the game registers a “tilt” and locks out, disabling solenoids for the flippers and other playfield systems so that the ball can do nothing other than roll down the playfield to the drain. A tilt will usually result in the loss of bonus points earned by the player during that ball. Older games would immediately end the ball in play on a tilt. Modern games give tilt warnings before sacrificing the ball in play.’

I don’t think that the adversaries are imagined.  I think our elected leaders have lost all sense of the honour that must, of necessity and design, come with public service.  I might be an idealist, but I think that my expectations of those who we choose to be put in charge are justified and in no way unreasonable.

I also think that those sensors that alert us to excessive manipulation are firing in a big way.  We have hit the tilt warning and it’s past time to stabilize the pinball machine of governance.  Our leaders must be held accountable and lose all those bonus points that were not earned through real skill or the honourable playing of the game.

Forty winks in the lobby, make mine a G&T
Then to our favorite hobby, searching for an enemy
Here in our paper houses, stretching for miles and miles
Old men in stripy trousers, rule the world with plastic smiles

Good or bad, like it or not
It’s the only one we’ve got

I won’t let the sun go down on me
I won’t let the sun go down
I won’t let the sun go down on me
I won’t let the sun go down

Mother nature, isn’t in it, three hundred million years
Goodbye in just a minute, gone forever, no more tears
Pinball man, power glutton, vacuum inside his head
Forefinger on the button, is he blue or is he red?


Nik Kershaw’s 1983 song was written in the context of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and politicians and politics in the US and USSR.  More than a little depressing that the themes are still applicable, 30 years later.

Break your silence if you would
Before the sun goes down for good

Think I’ll go fight me some windmills…

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18 comments on “TILT

  1. ChgoJohn says:

    I thought misery was supposed to love company but reading of your problems on the other side of The Border is certainly no mood brightener. Our situation was frustrating but now it’s infuriating. Once again, the Haves are using the Have Nots as pawns. If this doesn’t send people to the polls in our next elections, nothing will.

    • colemining says:

      Oh John- what a horrible way to return from your holiday.

      I agree that our situations might send more people to the polls- I’m just a little concerned about which way those people may vote. When things get stressful- politically/economically/whatever- people tend to vote for the loudest voice telling them what they want to hear- regardless of whether there is any message of substance behind the noise. That’s how we got out current train wreck of a mayor.

      It’s much easier to jump on the bandwagon of those claiming to be ‘grass roots’ and ‘non-elite’ than it is to actually examine the situations at hand and learn something about the candidate(s) and party one is voting for. Until we stop being so lazy that we are willing to let career politicians run roughshod all over us, there isn’t going to be change for the better.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. bethbyrnes says:

    You and I were thinking about the same topic, as you will see in my post this morning. I think what is happening here in the US is grave. There is nothing we as individuals here can do but to tell our Representatives and Senators what we want and to vote these extremists out of office. But they are in gerrymandered solid districts and those districts have been fed such a barrage of lies that I don’t know how we can ever correct all of them. This is a watershed moment and I am not optimistic. It was good to see you talking about this.

    • colemining says:

      Oh Beth- I am really at a loss as to what to do here. It isn’t even really a case of partisan politics either. As much as I’d love to say it’s solely the conservatives who are looking out for themselves and messing everything up (which is the case at the municipal and federal levels) it was a Liberal provincial government that wasted $1.1 billion to save 2 seats in the legislature.

      I voted for that government. And I’m at a loss as to how I would vote should an election pop up tomorrow.

      The corruption and criminal propensity to heed only those voices with money or simpatico agendas is rampant, and I don’t know how to fight it. Running for public office myself isn’t an option- since I hardly have the unlimited funds to bankroll it myself and I’m not likely to get the backing of any of the people with that kind of money since we are on different ideological pages (to say the least).

      I can’t tell you how distressing it is- and you’re absolutely correct in what you wrote this morning. We will all feel the repercussions of your current American political idiocy- as much as our federal government attempts to play down the effect the shut down is having on us- your closest trading partner.

      Need to put the thinking cap back on and see what I can come up with…

      Thanks for reading.

      • bethbyrnes says:

        Well, here we really do have one side hijacking the government because they just cannot allow the left (I hate that term, I am no leftist) to have any quarter at all. But, our entire 500+ people are acceding to all this, so in some ways, a pox on all their houses. This must be a worldwide problem. I sympathize. I am at a loss myself, but, I do think at least here in California, Jerry Brown is making long needed improvements. I don’t know what the use of them will be though if the whole world collapses financially. We will find out on Oct 16.

      • colemining says:

        Our three party system here isn’t any better. All it seems to be doing lately is dividing the votes on the left (I’m not a fan of that term either) which allows the far right to tromp all over many of the freedoms and privileges that we take for granted- while lining their own pockets and furthering the agendas of a minority of businesses/industries. I am really afraid that the disclosure of the amount of money that the provincial government squandered on the gas plant fiasco is going to force an election leaving us, here in Ontario, with three levels of conservative governments to contend with.

        The new leader of the provincial Liberal party (and our current Premier) is doing her damndest to control the damage of her predecessor but I’m thinking that re-election isn’t likely at this stage. Which is unfortunate, since I think that, given the chance, Kathleen Wynne would be able to right some of the wrongs that have been done in the name of expediency over the past years. Not that I have any interest in voting for the current Liberal incumbent in my area- he has repeatedly demonstrated that he has no interest in the concerns of his constituents- which leaves me at a loss of where my vote should best be going.

        I hope that things in California, at least, do improve. Perhaps that will encourage the rest of the country to get it together.

  3. bethbyrnes says:

    You are ahead of me again. I plan to post about California for tomorrow. Things are very much improved here. If only our national “leaders” would take their cue from Governor Brown, America would be in much better shape. I am sorry to hear your three party system is not substantially better, because I have been decrying our arrangement in favor of a parliamentary government. I guess this is just a world wide trend now, as if I should be surprised.

    • colemining says:

      I do think that it is a world wide and systemic issue. Our governments don’t want an informed populace- and are finding ways to keep us from figuring out what is really going on in the halls of power while encouraging us in pursuit of ‘leisure’ to the detriment of everything else (assuming that the populace has time for any leisure when so many people are having to work multiple jobs to keep heads above water). I realize I’m sounding like a borderline conspiracy theorist here, but the active denunciation of education and intellectual insight as ‘elitist’ makes me crazy.

      I look forward to your post about the situation in California. I have friends who just came back from a wonderful trip out there and they’ve had nothing but amazing things to say about southern Cali. I will have to try to get out there and see for myself some day.

  4. ” I’d like to think that we have had public leaders who actually care about the public. But whether or not history can back me up on that, the currently reality says it is now otherwise.” I think that says it all. I agree that any public leader who goes into government as an idealist is beaten down and beaten out due to the hypocrisy of everyone else in the system. Both governments, unfortunately, have become rampant with pharisees, which is why ordinary people have become so absolutely disillusioned.

    • colemining says:

      Susan- I think that for some time now the people who decide to go into politics are nothing but ‘career politicians’ with little background in anything other than political ideology and their own agendas to pursue. We’ve lost the ability- or desire- to work on behalf of the general ‘other’- that is, people in our communities whose needs and wants differ from our own. We are all about the self-serving, and the politicians we elect are reflective of this reality. As above, so below. A little adherence to the chivalric code would not go amiss right about now.
      Thanks for reading.

  5. May I tilt with you?
    The problem does seem to be systemic. I know only what I have read about ‘foreign’ politics, mainly from the good people here whose truths I count greater than the media’s.
    But the similarities in personality and character types who gravitate towards politics suggests an overhaul of how all systems should operate.
    It seems that Rome may have to burn again while the populace enjoy the circus and the clowns.
    Bring back Don Quixote. A foolish knight with heart of gold would win my vote before all others. Nothing wrong with ‘naive’ ideology. More of it might be a much, much better thing. Naivete is underrated and often points to truth.
    Great post.

    • colemining says:

      All tilters welcome on this particular jousting field, Scottishmomus. I fear that we will have to burn before we smarten up- the circus is way too much a part of the fabric of society and the way we conduct our lives.

      Those of us who lean toward quixotic views of the world are all too often afraid to speak up in the face of cynicism and self-serving ideologies. Perhaps we all need to band together to protect our hearts of gold while overhauling the faulty system.

      I vacillate between determination to make those changes and feelings of total helplessness. Have to keep the hope on the upswing. Somehow.

      Thanks for reading.

  6. […] I was, all exhausted with the tilting and complaining and angst and concerns about the direction of this here world and us humans who are […]

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