Monthly Archives: June 2009

Too much information

It’s difficult to know what to make of events in Iran because I don’t know what has happened in the last seven seconds. Quick, someone tweet me.

Oh, didn’t you hear? Coverage of this semi-revolution was another triumph for the new media. In the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, Andrew Keen described a conference of big-time tweeters in New York, unpronouncably called “@140conf,” where a CNN anchor was berated because “While Twitter automatically exploded with tweet after tweet of rumor, falsity and fact” and “the streets of Tehran were jammed with furious Mousavi supporters, CNN’s major news story on Saturday June 14 focused on American consumers’ confusion about the domestic switch from analog to digital tv signals.”

OK, so I don’t care about the latter. But I didn’t learn a lot from various twits sending out 48 billion news reports a minute from Iran full of events, rumours, plans and various other electrons either. What did it all mean? Continue reading

The world needs more smugness

In a classic “Dreamland” piece (see Roy Rempel’s book of the same name from Breakout Educational Network) in today’s Ottawa Citizen, former PM Joe Clark says as the world becomes more changely in its changingness, Canada should use its diversity to bring diversity out of diversity or something.

Perhaps I am unfair. But here are his own words: “As the world’s religious, cultural and economic divides grow deeper, our diversity and our diplomatic abilities have become more relevant. The critical international skills needed to shorten these divides include prominently the ability to draw differences together, to manage diversity, to generate trust — the traditional and genuine signature qualities of Canada.” He praises the Harper government for spending more on the military but reproaches it because “our diplomatic and development resources are being run down now as steadily and certainly as our defence resources were run down in earlier decades.”

As for why we are just what this diversely diversified world of the diverse 21st century needs, he says “Let’s list just five of our assets as Canadians that can be most relevant in this changing world: 1. Our diversity at home…. 2. Our ability to bridge differences…. 3. The different North America…. 4. Our multilateral instinct…. 5. Our ability to work with non-state actors….”

At the risk of a chilly reality check, here’s a plan. Given how fortunate Canada has been geopolitically and historically, how minor our governance problems are compared to those in many parts of the world, let’s use these five splendid qualities to overcome Quebec’s alienation within Canada before we strut onto the world stage in a cloud of self-congratulation.

Or is that too much like hard work?

When art was by and for the people

Modern art has clearly gone badly wrong. But how did it take socialism with it?

Consider this passage from William Morris. “I do not believe in the possibility of keeping art vigorously alive by the action, however energetic, of a few groups of specially gifted men and their small circle of admirers amidst a general public incapable of understanding and enjoying their work. I hold firmly to the opinion that all worthy schools of art must be in the future, as they have been in the past, the outcome of the aspirations of the people towards the beauty and true pleasure of life.”

A horribly reactionary sentiment, you may say. Or splendidly so. But Morris was not just a famous craftsman, designer and leading light in the Arts and Crafts Movement who tried to bring back quality, taste and genuine human fulfilment in a world of mass-produced cheap junk, offering sandalwood, ivory and topaz to a world of pig iron and cheap tin trays. He was also a passionate and famous socialist. Continue reading

Wards of the state

In light of the Ontario government’s a brave new plan to nationalize children, might I submit a modest proposal of my own? Forget kindergarten and after-school programs. The state should pick up your kids from the maternity ward and return them with an MA and a social conscience 22 years later.

No, really. The Toronto Star characteristically gushed about Dr. Charles Pascal’s new report, “Ontario parents of 4- and 5-year-olds should be able to leave their children at school from 7:30 in the morning to 6 p.m.” creating “the so-called ‘seamless day’… Research has shown that, especially for younger children, the fewer transitions, the better.” A day later the Globe and Mail chirped about making “the neighbourhood public school the hub of every community, where parents will get everything from prenatal advice and nutrition counselling to childcare for those under four, full-day kindergarten, and before and after school programming” so “parents can minimize the difficult transitions that disrupt their own lives and the lives of their children …”

So let’s get serious and dispense with a bunch of other disruptive transitions like rushing the kids home at night and back to the bureaucrats in the morning. Who could object? Continue reading