The post title are not my words, but from the film Network (1976). This unforgettable quote by Howard Beale (the late Peter Finch), is one of a treasury of lines from that movie that remain scarily relevant today.
But this has nothing to do with the Diefenbunker, archives research, and the meaning of life.
No, what this is about is the dreary return we’re facing to Parliament’s Question Period and associated public appearances by far too many politicians, all uttering what have become far too many and far too predictable partisan inanities.
Yes, I get it – we have a parliamentary democratic system which is based on national political parties, and if a Canadian wishes a chance at grabbing the political golden ring, he/she best get in line with the party he/she chooses or who chooses him/her. You dance with the one what brung you.
But once an individual is firmly in the clutches of a given party, what is required? What sensibilities and earlier intellectual conduct must be foregone, to be seen to be a loyal and productive party member? Is there nothing the a politician won’t do to be in the party’s good books?
Sadly, it seems, no.
There is nothing too petty, too laughable, too embarrassingly jejune, that will not be seized on.
Witness question period in the House of Commons.
The many faces behind the principal speakers – no matter what party – move around to present a comforting complete backdrop of party faithful for the cameras.
Every theatrical word, gesture and question is greeted by heads nodding in sage agreement, small smiles to indicate the shared insider knowledge, and applause at scripted intervals.
When a party leader emotes and utters yet another juvenile riposte or bon mot, the supporting cast erupts into applause and laughter.
Oh my, how we laugh! How we clap our hands! How we jeer the other side!
One of our fearless leaders has scored another one!
And observing Canadians wonder – is this what we’re paying taxes for?
We see the same at any press conference, regardless of the issue or who is speaking.
First, line up some living wallpaper behind the speaker (see above: sage agreement, small smiles of insider knowledge).
Statements are read, questions are posed and everything leads to the same depressing result.
It’s not actually what the party speaking intends to do – it’s what the other parties haven’t done, won’t do, or have no policy for. And by the way, here’s a complete non-sequitur about party X and by God wasn’t that clever!
I don’t pretend to assume I speak for Canadians, so this is just me here – but don’t you political people get it yet?
I’m not interested in hearing you recite what your clever speechwriters have crafted for you about the other parties – there’s actually not much light between all your policies where you have expressed them, and ultimately, it doesn’t much matter which party directs the government’s hand that is deep in my wallet.
What I expect from our political leaders, what I think I have a right to expect, is pretty simple – a clear expression of the issue, and a clear expression of how to address it.
And now here’s some heresy for you folks up on the Hill – often the other guys may have a pretty good idea in a given area, and it would make you all look like better if not more intelligent persons if you were to acknowledge that and use it.
But no, we’re doomed to a predictable and endless litany of faults laid at the feet of the other parties, regressing into exchanges which would not be out of place in an elementary school playground. – apologies to elementary school students.
My questions to all you folks, then – and not really expecting an answer, but I just have to ask:
As you posture in Question Period, laugh uproariously, applaud any comment, don’t you ever ask yourselves:
Is this really where I thought I’d be, at this time in my life, acting like a mindless cheerleader? (and apologies now to cheerleaders)
Is this what my undoubtedly significant professional and intellectual achievements have brought me to: behaving like a puppet on a string, head nodding like one of the bobble-heads in the back window of a car, smiling endlessly like a painted clown? (and of course, apologies to puppets, bobble-heads, and painted clowns.)
Will I continue to sacrifice my intellect, scruples and professional attributes to be part of this?
If the answer is “Yes” to any of these, congratulations, open Door 1 and carry on as you are now.
But maybe there’s a few among you who have visions of a different type of government?
Lines are open, operators standing by…….