I know you’ve all been wondering what the reason has been for my long absence from this blog lately. Yes? Fine, I’ll take that sound of crickets chirping in the distance as a yes. The real reason for my absence is a dramatic loss of appetite for sitting in front of a computer monitor for hours on end, but why don’t we say instead that I’ve recently become very engrossed in current events. The world around us has been churning and boiling with change and possibility, with political upheaval and economic tumult, and let’s not forget the social, geological, atmospheric, and subatomic upheavals and tumult. (I’m not just making this stuff up – it’s all there in the news.) And while things here in Canada are slightly more stable than in Syria or the Congo, for example, change is still the order of the day. We are just days away from a federal election, one where the results will affect the daily lives of Canadians for years to come. The popular media are caught up in the whirlwind of excitement, devoting almost as much coverage to the key issues and developments of the electoral campaign as they devote to what promises to be a most lovely wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The priorities of the media are a clear indication of the prevalence of puerility in our society, the ubiquity of vacuity and the way-too-freaking-muchness of dumb-assedness. At a crucial moment for our democracy, when citizens need to be engaging in the political discourses that will shape our country, attention instead turns to a trashy tabloid obsession over the wedding of a man who was born into obscene privilege and a woman who is interested in partaking of obscene privilege. It is at moments like this that the fickle and superficial nature of the media becomes glaringly obvious. Isn’t it obvious that the furor over the royal wedding is just a frothy distraction from the things that really matter? As evidence: as the wedding draws nearer, it’s becoming harder and harder to find any in-depth articles discussing Charlie Sheen, Snooki, Justin Bieber, or Lady Gaga. While we stare, addled and hypnotized, at the gleaming royal faces, we miss the crucial updates on Obama’s birth certificate and Paris Hilton’s stalker. And these misplaced priorities are nothing new – I swear it’s been years since I’ve seen any decent analysis pieces on Amy Winehouse.
Some people place the blame on the popular media for perversely privileging bubble-headed stories on celebrities and their fascinating lifestyles, but this simplistic perspective ignores the reality that the media are answering a demand that’s already there. People are hungry for detailed, comprehensive, hard-hitting coverage of Kate’s purse and William’s choice of attire. In fairness, though, many people are not so one-dimensional in their interests. They keep abreast of the issues they’re passionate about, staying informed and engaged in discussions with their neighbours and the larger community. And if there are any profound developments with regard to these issues – for example, if their favourite hockey team loses an important game in the playoffs – then many of these passionate citizens are prepared to take to the streets and riot to show their commitment to bringing about positive social change, even if that change is restricted to the composition of the starting lineup of a particular hockey team.
One of the things that distinguishes countries like Canada from countries like Yemen is that our greatest displays of public discontent are triggered by dissatisfaction over results of sporting events rather than dissatisfaction over how the country is governed. At political demonstrations in Canada, if there weren’t a few staunch practitioners of Black Bloc tactics, or at least a few agents provocateurs (not to be confused with these kinds of agents provocateurs), there would be hardly anything interesting for the media to report. Not so with our sport-related riots – in that department, we can hold our own with the best.
One observation from all of this is that in addition to caring about random celebrities and royalty, people in this country care deeply about sports. But we don’t necessarily need to take a party-pooper perspective like Noam Chomsky does that a fascination with events in the sporting arena is simply a distraction from events of real import, the events of the political arena. Instead, we should be looking for a way to unite these two arenas. How can we bring the ready-to-rampage-through-the streets dedication of sports fans to the world of Canadian politics? I have some thoughts on this, but I leave this question for another time.
For now, we must focus all of our energies on surviving the next few days of monarchic matrimoniality. You see, the trouble with this whole royal wedding circus is that it’s not just a harmless diversion, as some would have us believe, a light, fluffy bit of trifling fun and entertainment for the tired masses. It’s far from harmless – even if we ignore the huge costs of hosting the wedding, let alone sustaining the monarchy, there is the troubling fact that with every new piece of fawning, gushing media coverage, dozens of innocent non-fans of the monarchy are forced to saw their own skulls open and cut out their brains in a desperate attempt to escape the onslaught of remarkably vomit-inducing news stories about the royal couple. Sadly, though, the global chundering rate has nevertheless spiked alarmingly and will not subside for some days yet. Still, I’ve got nothing personal against William and Kate – I wish them all the best. All I ask is that they have a long and happy marriage, bear no children, and execute anyone else who has any trace whatsoever of a royal bloodline. I don’t want our country to ever have to go through this royal wedding business ever again.