July 5, 2009

Drawings XVII

The conversation under 'Canada vs. Canada' can continue in the comments below.


Matthew A. Wilkinson said...


You wrote, "you're constructing lines and dichotomies which may only exist because of, well, posts like this."

I've been spending the last couple days thinking hard about whatever it is that is being discussed here. The fact is, I think you're right. I'm talking in generalities -"Canadian," "PC leftist professor types," "racists," etc- and that's dangerous. I have ended up oversimplifying to make a point.

I stand behind my devotion to looking into dark corners and learning what is valuable in people who I feel are too often written off. And I do feel disconnected from the Canadian mainstream. But I shouldn't be making sweeping statements about a nation-state which is far too complex to be reduced in the way I reduced it.

My original post was born, to tell the truth, out of flipping on the TV on Canada Day to see Sarah McLachlan singing some ridiculous song with all these smiling backup singers on Parliament Hill; I watched for 30 seconds and thought, "Jesus, I want as much distance between me and that as I can possibly get," and so I linked that moment with a load of other frustrations in my mind and -voila, I made an entry on my blog

jon said...

fascinating. heard lots i liked and lots i learned from.

i'm not sure what canada is, but it does have a heavy strain of PC mediocrity, bound by the pseudo-values of a vague tolerance, where every opinion is of the same value, where it really doesn't matter what you think at all. I don't have a problem with people who read Nora Roberts or listen to top 40, but if it is to escape real engagement, then that is a problem.

the canada i have a problem with right now is the Strombolopolous sort which pretends to be accepting and tolerant and all that but is dogmatic as hell against the right wing, labelling them under one can of soup, and then pretending to be so accepting and fair.

you've got the same extremes in canada as you've got in Western Christianity. I, like you, am looking for (how did you say it?) a way to keep the bold thought without having the arrogance. isn't there something between the fundamentalist nut and the passive mediocrity?

i'd be interested to see if you find real grounds for it outside of an admitted faith position. outside of Christianity. for my part, whether you take it or not, i find resources in Paul's "speaking the truth in love" and Jesus concept of "gentleness", the word for which literally meant "strength under control", which put passion and zeal under the rubric of love and mutual concern a la Corinthians 10 & 13. We could go on about this, but there's lots there i'm chewing on and wishing to live up to. there's lots there to live up to. but i digress.

i will be curious to see where your journey takes you. for what its worth i think the way you've conducted yourself in this discussion and in past ones is a pretty good case study in the very thing you seem to be after and are thinking you don't have. in fact i think you've always had that, at least in my interactions with you.

One thing I love about the Canadian mainstream is real discussion forums which actually debate and discuss things in a spirit of mutual respect. Even the afformentioned Strombo does this in his better interviews. And you get it on CBC radio more too.

I'm not sure how long it can last, because disagreements are bound to divide and flare up in such a multicultural, mulit-perspectived environment. in that case i wonder if we'll wonder if the false peace was better after all. in the end i think we need a grounds for peace which transcends us .... and mediocre, passive tolerance ain't it.

fantastic drawings, by the way, yet again.

Boyda said...

...damn, I commented below.

I agree with Jon that you seem to have achieved what you're striving for. It's admirable.

And I really, really love that 'every' piece.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Jon. Someone said the other day that, "Matt Wilkinson is a self-esteem booster".

This made me think about the integrity and thought that it takes to be that way - sincerely. I really appreciate your energy put into responses, thoughts, and commentary in general. I am impressed with the way your discussion skills are how you learn and build yourself - with your friends and "colleagues". And any media you may find.

jon said...

This sentence deserves to be carried over:

"the human beings that are the face of that mediocrity do have quality, often times in things that we can never be aware of."

I can't tell you how many times that has proven true where I least expected it, and didn't even want to find it.

which to me might be the issue. instead of discovering others we settle for bland agreement on the lowest common denominator. i think that's a good way to start, but a horribly empty place to end.

but it is harder the more intense the disagreement, isn't it?

without taking back my praise of you in the last comment one iota, i think we have to ask ourselves how we'd fare if we were talking about, say, abortion, and were, say, on the steps of an abortion clinic with a mutual friend considering going in. i'm not trying to start that debate, but just saying: that would be a big test of our mutual respectfulness wouldn't it? i imagine the strength of the relationship would have a lot to do with how that turned out.

all that to say, i can understand people avoiding issues at times, or putting aside some issues in order to focus on ones perhaps deemed to be "first things first" and a little "safer" to have it out over. better to talk about what you can talk about than not talk at all? and in a society trying to be so multi-everything, i wonder if that mediocre hodge podge is the best we can hope for? to me it is sad if that is the end result of what i heard a TV personality call last night "our great national experiment". then again, i wonder if its all we can expect? i mean, for there to be a multi-cultural society, doesn't there have to be some unifying factor? and is there one better than "to each his own and don't bother me"? that's why to me for there to be some hope there has to be some belief of some kind in some potential for a "higher common denominator". a picture of humanity and a hope for human discourse that we feel we can shoot for. one that is not colonialist but truly global.
pie in the sky, maybe, but at least better to hope for than mere pluralism, in my view.

o sheesh, look what you've started. stop me if i'm too far afield here....

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

Well, thanks for all the love everybody. Truly. I won't dwell on it for too long, 'cos it's embarrassing, but I am/was/have been really touched by what you wrote.

I'm gonna wrap this discussion up now, and maybe come back to it sometime in the future.

You wrote,
"distaste for certain trends is very productive for articulating who you are and what you want to do with art/life."

Exactly. We talked about this a little when driving out to the wedding, if you remember. That was an enlightening, encouraging conversation for me.

So Ingmar Bergman hated Welles and Antonioni films; F. Scott Fitzgerald hated GK Chesterton; Kiarostami's not interested in Tarantino, etc. Sometimes the negativity is essential.

I don't know how else to say what I want to say. You said it already.

You talked about,
"the pseudo-values of a vague tolerance, where every opinion is of the same value, where it really doesn't matter what you think at all."

For me, this vague tolerance fits with the Churchill statement about democracy, with it being the worst form of government except for all the others. I un-apologetically embrace this idea of tolerance, because there is no better option. But I refuse to let it become dogma. Like you said, it's a good place to start, but a horrible place to end.

(As an aside, this is one reason why Houellebecq matters: he's pushing the West forward. In the most audacious imaginable way.)

And yes, there is within Canadian politics a dogmatism on the left that is as offensive as anything on the right. Well, not quite as offensive, but pretty close.

As far as what you're saying about extremely contentious issues, I'd say that sometimes retreating to a lowest common denominator is a lofty goal. But once we can move beyond that we should. I think we're in agreement on this.

Your posts were veering towards the political, and I'm a little reluctant to go there, because I'm a lot more interested in the personal than the political -at least on this site and at this point in my life.

There's something inherently (and necessarily) troublesome about the language surrounding the political. Politicians are forced to make laws that apply broadly to individuals and their particular situations. To do so they have to think of people in groups, and look for commonalities. Which means they're always dealing with a simplified version of reality, and that is not good to do. It's not good to do what I did and talk about "Canada," because Canada doesn't exist except in the minds of individuals, and thus it is too complex to ever be understood.

When people take joy in using the broad language of politics, I think that is a sign of narrow-mindedness.

I'm not bashing people who are interested in politics. Lord knows I am sometimes. But I hate the language. Which is why I admire the politicians who understand that their job is necessary but inherently flawed. OBAMA! And yes, Ignatieff.

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

Just to be clear, I am not at all trying to imply that you are guilty of the narrow-mindedness of politics. I'm just trying to explain why I'm reluctant to let this blog get political.

I'm really glad you enjoyed that 'Every' piece. I tried something new and I'm glad it resonated.

jon said...

i didn't feel implicated but thanks. i wasn't interested in getting political either (is abortion political?), just trying to illustrate that the ideal we're talking about is harder depending on the issue, and therein may lie the real test sometimes. and i don't know if the political are always the narrow minded. aren't the political the ones actually trying to talk about the issues? anyway, i'm happy to close it off at that. it was an interesting discussion, as always. so til next time!