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RFP: From Shatner to Gandhi—People Worth Fighting

In David Fincher’s 1999 film, Fight Club, the two main characters discuss whom they’d most like to fight if they could fight anyone in the world.  William Shatner is one of their choices, as is Mahatma Gandhi.  If memory serves, the late Mother Teresa also made the bill.

And it got me thinking: if I were afforded the same opportunity, whom would I choose to fight?  Realistically, it’s an absurd question, what with me having never thrown a single punch in my life.  But, metaphorically speaking, the question is worth exploring.  Call it an exercise in cultural awareness, if you will—a karate chop for each cultural infraction.

So, to rephrase the question, who of our many cultural icons most deserves a (metaphorical) slap in the face, or punch in the kisser, or a walloping roundhouse kick to the old noggin?

The answers, I’m sure, are many.

But I’m going to limit myself to three (let’s not overdo it here, folks—I’m only one man).  And I think you’ll find that my candidates are worthy.  For the sake of brevity, however, this post will be the first of a three-part series.

SLAPPED: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Sometimes, the cultural infraction isn’t so terrible that it warrants excessive force; sometimes, a mere slap will do.  But let’s not underestimate the power of the open hand slap—while it usually doesn’t injure, it does humiliate.  As such, I think Prime Minister Stephen Harper is more than deserving of one.

It’s not that he’s Conservative, and it’s not the decisions he’s made or the policies he’s put into motion.  As a supporter of the arts community, you’d think I’d have a lot to dislike about Mr. Harper, and, to an extent, I suppose I do.  But what irritates me the most isn’t the fact that a lot of arts funding is often cut.  No, what irritates me more than anything else is that Mr. Harper doesn’t even try to pretend that he cares about the arts.  He doesn’t even fake it.

Remember Canadian novelist Yann Martel’s book club, titled (of all things) What Is Stephen Harper Reading?  Though now finished, Martel sent Mr. Harper a new book and a personal explanatory letter every two weeks, and pledged to continue doing so for as long as Stephen Harper remained Prime Minister.  Sounds a little pretentious, I know.  But the point wasn’t to “educate” Mr. Harper—as Martel points out, that would be rather arrogant.  Instead, the point was to make suggestions for how Mr. Harper might fill his “moments of stillness.”

Granted, the Prime Minister is a busy man and probably doesn’t have time to read the hundred or so books that were mailed to him over the past four years.  But that didn’t exempt him from responding.  Yann Martel is one of Canada’s most popular novelists, and his WISHR project was covered by most of Canada’s major news outlets, including the CBC.  There’s no way Mr. Harper couldn’t have known about the project.

And yet, over those four years, Mr. Harper never took the time to respond.  To be honest, a simple half-page letter thanking Martel for the many letters and books would have been enough for me.

The point isn’t that Stephen Harper should have a personal interest in the arts community, but that he should acknowledge that the arts is important to many Canadians.  Ignoring Martel, whose books are read and loved by millions of Canadians, is akin to ignoring the interests of those Canadians.

And for that, Prime Minister Stephen Harper should be ashamed, and, more importantly, should be slapped.

Check back next week for candidate #2 (Hint: he’s gonna get a-hurt real bad).

Rowing For Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe.  Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated.  If you like what you read here, please subscribe.


4 thoughts on “RFP: From Shatner to Gandhi—People Worth Fighting

  1. So just a question…did Yann Martel ever check to make sure the books were being delivered to the correct address? It could be as simple as that. Okay…maybe not. But to the PMs defence, he no doubt is a busy man and I’m sure he gets a ton of mail and gifts and whatever. He can’t answer all of it, and maybe he thinks Martel is one of those crackpots. Who knows! Aside from that, surely you can tell by his haircut that the PM is not into the arts! What I would like to see is Yann and Stephen switch jobs for a year…now that would be interesting – both for the arts world and for Canada.

    Posted by Rev Scott | April 19, 2011, 5:07 pm


  1. Pingback: RFP: People Worth Fighting, part 2 « zs roe - April 26, 2011

  2. Pingback: RFP: People Worth Fighting, part 3 « zs roe - May 3, 2011

  3. Pingback: RFP: Overlooked—The Best A&E You Likely Missed « zs roe - June 21, 2011

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