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…