By another name…

Banal.

If there is a current personification of that particular concept, I’d argue that it could well be the putative ‘mayor’ of my fair town.

The origin of the word lies in the system of feudalism- and pertains to those things associated with the ‘common people’- specifically the services they were compelled to carry out under the direction of an overlord from the ‘superior’ classes.  Its original meaning stems from the Latin word bannum– meaning ‘command’ or ‘proclamation’ and the later Middle French derivation, ban– and the associated connection with being pressed into compulsory feudal servitude.

In contemporary usage it is defined (according to Wiktionary) as ‘common in a boring way, to the point of being predictable containing nothing new or fresh.’   It is synonymous with hackneyed, vapid and trite.

I admit that this is frequently how I dismiss that Ford guy- as vapid, tedious and tiresome in his cliched attempts to win the support of the ‘common’ people.  He maintains that’s who he’s looking out for- the ‘little guy’, the ‘regular folk’, the ‘Joe Six-Pack’, if you will (and if the evocation of that term and its associations with that woman who tried to be VPOTUS don’t make you shiver in remembered horror).

Despite his own privileged upbringing and the fact that his CV doesn’t seem to contain much that suggests any actual and/or realized individual accomplishments.

He continues to exclaim his defence of those who fall outside the ‘urban elite’ that is, according to Ford and his cronies, determined to destroy this City.  He does so in such a predictable and repetitive fashion that, I admit, I have become somewhat dismissive of the guy- and of his chances of actually being re-elected to head up our Municipal government.

This week the head of Toronto Community Housing- hand-picked by Ford to ascend to the role- stepped down from the position following a scathing report delivered by the City Ombudsman.  Ford continues to support Gene Jones- and the job he has done since his appointment two years ago- claiming, instead, that it is the ombudsman who should be removed since she had the audacity to misuse her role by engaging in a ‘witch hunt’ while playing politics.

Business as usual with this guy.  That was my first, admittedly-jaded, thought.  Then this morning I read an editorial that made me reflect a little more deeply on the situation.

In the Toronto Star, Royson James argued that Ford is more than ‘an innocuous, pseudo-celebrity whose outrageous behaviour will live in infamy.’  James asserts that he is dangerous.  The article set some bigtime alarm bells a’ringing.

Some of us hereabouts have become complacent in our belief that there is no way that this guy will be re-elected.  Last night, while out celebrating my baby sister’s birthday, the dinner conversation turned to the sitch in our Municipal politics.

Although there was some dissent as to how the current realities might be changed for the better, consensus suggested that we do have one thing for which we should be grateful in the debacle that has been the last four years since his election.

Before October 2010, most of us were sort of oblivious to Municipal politics- giving them short shrift in the spectrum of importance in the overall political scheme of things.  We tend to pay attention to what is happening on the Provincial, Federal and Global political stages, but the City level was viewed as something that ticks along without much engagement or concern.

And then came Ford.

His tenure has opened our eyes to the truism that the bad crap in the upper sectors of the political heap has its origins in the foundational level.

A friend posted something on her fb timeline the other day about taking real, concrete action to ensure that he is not re-elected.  The conversational strand filled with comments from others who are similarly committed- including their personal plans of attack for involvement at the Municipal level that will forestall the continuance of the division and regression that the City has seen these past four years.

I know-  it seems as if I’m, yet again, completely straying from my best laid plans to discuss the Devil Dude and the externalization of evil.

But.

Banality and evil are closely linked.

Hannah Arendt was a political theorist (she rejected the label ‘philosopher’) who wrote pivotal works about the nature of power and politics.  In Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, she questioned the nature of evil, ascribing it to thoughtlessness and mindless acceptance of ‘general opinion’ without anything resembling critical evaluation of the consequences of action/inaction.

The Wikipedia sums it up nicely:

“Arendt’s book introduced the expression and concept “the banality of evil”.  Her thesis is that Eichmann was not a fanatic or sociopath, but an extremely stupid person who relied on cliche rather than thinking for himself and was motivated by professional promotion rather than ideology. Banality, in this sense, is not that Eichmann’s actions were ordinary, or that there is a potential Eichmann in all of us, but that his actions were motivated by a sort of stupidity which was wholly unexceptional.  She never denied that Eichmann was an anti-semite, nor that he was fully responsible for his actions, but argued that these characteristics were secondary to his stupidity.”

Before anyone leaps to suggest that I am equating Ford with the perpetrators of the greatest crime against humanity in recent history, let me state unequivocally that this is not my intention.  To do so would demonstrate an extremity of rhetoric that is both irresponsible and approaching the level that Ford and his puppet-masters regularly employ as a means to encourage divisiveness as he attempts to maintain his personal power.

There have been many challenges to Arendt’s perspective (again, from the Wikipedia)…

“This concept has been frequently misunderstood. In his 2010 history of the Second World War, ‘Moral Combat’, British historian Michael Burleigh calls the expression a “cliche” and gives many documented examples of gratuitous acts of cruelty by those involved in the Holocaust, including Eichmann.  Arendt certainly did not disagree about the fact of gratuitous cruelty, but “banality of evil” is unrelated to this question. Similarly, the first attempted rebuttal of Arendt’s thesis relied on a misreading of this phrase, claiming Arendt meant that there was nothing exceptional about the Holocaust.”

Arendt’s main thesis is applicable in this case- and is an important observation that requires further examination.   As concerned voices advocating change develop and continue dialogues that attempt to change this propensity to set ourselves in constant opposition to ‘the other’ as a means of moving through the world, we have to define our terms and acknowledge that which we are fighting.

The predilection for polarization is the ultimate target focus of my discussions of evil and its externalization.  Contrived division and the vilification of ‘ the enemy’ serves no other purpose than to continue to support those who benefit from the perpetuation of a status quo that serves the few rather than the many.

Ford likes his power and position.  He- and those who receive direct pay-off from his ‘patronage’- would love to maintain that power and position.

It’s up to us to make sure that he doesn’t get to do so.

This afternoon, while doing some chores, I had the tv on in the background.  Black Sheep, starring the late Chris Farley, was on.  I’ve never really been one for the Farley flicks- although I certainly enjoyed some of his sketches during his SNL tenure- but I have noticed, along with the rest of the Western world, the disturbing similarities between a number of his characters and the mayor-in-question.

In one scene, while stoned out of his tree, Farley’s character ends up onstage- in his brother’s time slot- during a ‘Rock the Vote’ performance.  He shouted slogans- pithy lines drawn from the speeches of great leaders that came before him- much to the delight and encouragement of the crowd.  That the sayings were misquoted or offered outside of their original context didn’t matter much to the audience.

Ford, too, is a sloganeer.  He is routinely provided with forums in which he continues shouting his taglines- loudly- to those who might listen.  It’s what Ford does.  It’s pretty much the only thing he does.

The comparison is amusing.  I admit that I’ve laughed at the various memes and montages that highlight the similarities.  Many of them are clever and silly in a funny-’cause-it’s true sort of way.

And then I remember that this guy is in charge of running my City.  And he wants to keep running it into the ground to promote his own agenda and ego.

It’s only funny until it isn’t.

Banality is dangerous.

And Rob Ford is its most recent poster-child.

Enough said?

I am feeling a bit like a neglectful parent right now.  Not only have I not had time to contribute anything of substance to this here blog of late, I totally spaced on the fact that I passed 5000 (!) views over the weekend.  While I realize that for some veteran bloggers out there my little 5000 hits may be nothing to write home about, I have to admit that I remain fairly staggered that so many kind peeps out there are willing to take the time to have a look at what I have to say.

This is a very nice thing.  And a very good feeling.

So I feel a fair bit of guilt for having left this here blog-baby to its own devices and for not acknowledging my appreciation to those of you who stop by for visits.  Please accept my belated gratitude and my apology for not addressing you sooner.

Time.  There doesn’t seem to be enough of it lately.  And we just lost an hour of it (sunlit evening time, at least) over the weekend.

It’s November.  The move is over (mostly- still some of things to get to storage and there are still a couple- okay, three– boxes that need unpacking at the new digs) and I’m settling into the new routine of the commute and all that jazz, so I should have a little free time, right?

Um.  Not so much.

The ongoing job search was on extended hiatus as I dealt with the imperatives of packing, lifting and unpacking boxes, so I’m trying to pick that back up in earnest (like the friend I wrote about here, I am finding myself increasingly demoralized by a toxic workplace and the ever-present feeling that I am spending most of my waking life contributing nothing of any value to the larger community- not good feelings to have) and get something happening that will allow me to better use my skills and depth of knowledge and interest in an appreciative setting.

A paycheque- however necessary and truly valued in these economic times- is just not enough for me.

And has anyone else been paying attention to what’s been going on here in Toronto?  Holy cats.  The Ford nonsense is out of freakin’ control.  I mean completely out of control.  I can’t even begin to explain how the recent events have messed with my psyche and increased the existential anxiety that has been building and building and building…

There IS, in fact, a video that is ‘consistent’ with the reports we all heard about (and that the late night talk show hosts had such fun with).  Yes.  That video that the mayor said didn’t exist.  Seems his good bud has been arrested for extortion for attempting to ‘recover’ the video from someone.  The Chief of Police of our fair town went so far as to call the situation ‘disappointing’ for the City and its citizens.

The hubris of this guy (the mayor, not Chief Blair) is incredible.  And the fact that he has a controlled media forum (in the form of his little radio show) every week in which to continue to spout sound bites and empty words makes me more than a little physically ill.  But what remains worse than all that is the fact that there are still SO MANY people out there that are leaping to his defence and maintaining that they will re-elect him because they believe the sound bites and the snappy one-liners one of his advisors has come up with him to repeat ad nauseum.  The lack of critical comprehension skills among the general population is dangerously out of control here in TO.

His ‘apology’ on said radio programme yesterday?  Even one of his ‘allies’ says it’s not enough.

I say, enough is enough.

 ‘Enough is enough I just can’t take it no more
Don’t take no time to explain,  I heard it all before’

(Toronto- cheesy-but-classic blast from our local past.  Gotta love a band that loves its hometown so much they take it as their name.  Wonder what Holly and the lads are thinking about our current sitch…)

And then there’s the Senate thing.  And the Prime Minister.  And his Office.  Dismissing the Senators in question would provide the Harper government with something of an easy out- since, given the complete lack of collective attention span this nation seems to have, dismissal might well mean that the systemic issues might not end up being fully addressed when the fall-guys are taken out and figuratively shot for their misconduct (don’t get me wrong- any misuse of public funds is a badbadbad thing in my view- I’m just sick of the tendency of this government to expedite dismissals and attempt to sweep everything under the national rug- it must be VERY dusty under there- by using backhanded deals and prorogation of Parliament and stuff like that).

It does seem as though the PM has forgotten that two of the Senators in question also happen to be journalists (and not of the type that just stand and shout the same question over and over and over again thinking that repetition and volume will eventually garner a response.  Honestly, what ARE they teaching in J-Schools these days?) and likely already have their respective responses and the actual circumstances of the entirety of the alleged malfeasance recorded for posterity and sold to the highest bidder, simply awaiting the best opportunity to present the public with their side of things.  And the third guy doesn’t strike me as all that inclined to go down as someone’s scapegoat, either.

I’m thinking that the PM and the PMO are unlikely to come out of such offerings looking all that shiny.  Especially since Harper seems to be getting pretty damn good at the under-the-bus-toss.

Wrongdoing should absolutely be punished.  But that punishment must include all those who may have some level of complicity- in the wrong itself or in the attempt to cover-up the wrong.  Political manoeuvering in an attempt to remove any residual scent of connection?  Not enough.

‘There’s nothing you can say, 
Nothing you can do, 
Nothing in between, 
You know the truth, 

It’s not enough…’

(Our Lady Peace- a good, solid Toronto band.  Hooray for CanCon!)

It’s also NaNoWriMo, and, wisely or not, I signed up for the first time.  As of last night I had 5375 words on the go.  Not sure how it will all come together- and whether any end result will be worth much of anything- but I’m thinking that the journey will be enough in itself- and it may provide the external discipline I seem to require to get back into the habit of writing some fiction.  The issue will be finding time to actually get some organization into the scattered regions of my brain that are set aside for creativity.  Of that, there is never enough.

I’m still debating whether or not to combine these two outlets of mine and publish excerpts from the fiction on this here non-fiction blog.  The melding of two worlds and all.  It’s all I can do to keep things properly sorted lately as it is.  So I’ll just play that by ear and take things as slowly and as calmly as I can, and try not to go too crazy (crazier?) with the dearth of time or with all the corruption and categorical deceit that seems to have become matter-of-course in all our various halls of power.

None of you would help me when I baked my bread
now all of you would help me eat it
 I can see that you are very well fed
this indicates that you don’t need it

 Enough said
Enough said
Stop and let me tell you what tomorrow holds for you
Stop and let me tell you ’bout a plan I have for you

 Take all the leaders from around the world
put them together in a great big ring
televise it as the lowest show on earth
and let them fight like hell to see who’s king

 Gather up the pieces when the fight is done
then you’ll find out living really can be fun

 The next thing I say to you will be true
the last thing I said was false
Remember to do nothing when you don’t know what to do

 You wanted a world you could figure out
but something happened while you were asleep
you wanted a good life you could brag about
too bad they took the parts you wanted to keep

 Enough said
Enough said
Stop and let me tell you what tomorrow holds for you
Stop and let me tell you ’bout a plan I have for you

 Take all the leaders from around the world
put them together in a great big ring
televise it as the lowest show on earth
and let them fight like hell to see who’s king

 Gather up the pieces when the fight is done
then you’ll find out living really can be fun

Thank you Devo.  Good, timeless and timely ideas.

For today, that’s all I’ve got.

Enough Said.