As much as I regard the likes of Glen Beck and Sarah Palin with the haughty condescension of an anthropologist studying the most bloodthirsty of cannibals, I cannot help but feel that the Palins and Becks of the world dwell in a region where there are political treasures to be won. They, in short, seem to have something that I that we, as Canadians could use: the talent to harness fantasy to political ends.
Earlier this summer I was reading a Gazette article about Micheal Ignatieff’s hapless LiberalExpress bus tour stopping in Justin Trudeau’s riding of Papineau in Montreal. The most astute observation in the article was that the cameras at the event seemed to show little interest in Ignatieff and seemed magnetically drawn to the young Mr. Trudeau. A few weeks later, in a conversation over beers, my friend Manish lamented the tenure of Stephen Harper and noted his cleverness in quietly and implacably making the small changes in policy that were gradually stripping away everything that was progressive and egalitarian in Canadian culture. “What has to happen?” he asked. And I offered the only answer that seemed true to me: “Justin Trudeau,” I said, “has to happen.” We are waiting for an event, and, in this case, the event has a proper name.
I want to believe that in politics the best argument wins, that sooner or later the truth will triumph over lies (yes, I’m the one who still holds on to this notion), as much as I want to follow Aristotle in the assertion that things that are right and true are easier to argue for than things that are not, this belief strikes me more and more as a kind of droopy, sad-sack philosophy that belongs to another era, to, in fact, an era that never really existed. Politics today is the politics of fantasy. Period. People are moved by images of truth, not by the ugly, poor and grinding truth itself. We are moved to great acts by great emotions, not great thoughts. We vibrate to the music of stirring narrative, and, as with all music, the issue of whether it is true or not is simply irrelevant. Our reason is, and always has been, ancillary to our dreams.