Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The appeal to "ordinary"

Yesterday's pronouncement on the arts by Stephen "Look at me I'm average too!" Harper has been rightly derided by many.

What I find most offensive about his statement is the following: "I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people"

As we all know by know, Mr. Harper is the defender of the ordinary. Apparently its the key to his success. Ordinary has seemed to replace average in the election vernacular to describe the Canadian voter. Ordinary seems to be innocuous enough, but it is an interesting word.

According to this definition, ordinary (when used as an adjective) is not exceptional in any way especially in quality or ability or size or degree. What is most illuminating is the antonym: extraordinary [Opposed to: ordinary] (beyond what is ordinary or usual; highly unusual or exceptional or remarkable) (And for those of you, like me, who are experiencing deja vu, read this. Dave's covered this before.)

Using that definition in the context of Harper's attack on the arts, he is essentially deriding public funding of the extraordinary. This, at root, is why Harper's statement offended me personally. That as an ordinary Canadian, I do not desire extraordinary experiences for myself or for others. Ordinary arts do not inspire. Extraordinary visions, actions, and achievements inspire.

Another word for ordinary, especially in this context is "mediocre". That is the Canada that Stephen Harper is building. By denying funding for special purposes, (whether arts, women's interest groups, first nation programs, museums), the Conservatives are denying us access to that which is special, beautiful, and uplifting.

You know what? I'm an ordinary, mediocre, average Canadian. I'm boring. But that does not mean I want all of Canada to be boring. Uplift me, inspire me, excite me! Do not mistake my "ordinariness" as a template I wish to apply to all fellow Canadians. That is not a Canada I would want to live in.


Ken Breadner said...

Harper's playing to the rural, dare I say redneck, voter with respect to arts funding. (Actually to the suburban voter as well.) And it plays well. Outside urban enclaves, most people don't understand why artists need government funding, when you have to pay to see a concert or an exhibition or what have you.
Fact is Harper's going to struggle to get ANY Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver seats, and yet could still end up with a majority. He has no problem alienating urban voters.

Catelli said...

True enough. But pandering to ignorance in order to win votes leads to a type of class war that divides the country further.

Harper may win votes out of this, but the country loses in artistic output and reinforces entrenched uninformed attitudes.

Win for him, lose-lose for us.