Bread And Circuses


Apparently there was a hockey game tonight, something to do with the Olympics. Judging from the noise on the street outside, I gather the favoured team won.

I don’t really care. Seriously, I don’t care.

I don’t begrudge any of you your joy; that is your right. This post is not about me being a curmudgeon and wanting the noisy people outside to quiet down so I that can finish writing the grant that’s due tomorrow. People need to celebrate occasionally; I get that. Rather, this is about something a bit more disturbing.

Last week, back when the Canadian men’s hockey team lost to the Americans (or so I’m told; I didn’t watch it), the great national soul-searching that resulted was rather sickening. One particular Toronto newspaper had on its cover, in 4 centimetre high red letters, “OUR NATIONAL PRIDE IS AT RISK,” or something like that. What followed were 6-10 pages of sports coverage and endless analysis about whether Canada would be able to rise above the shame of having a group of its favoured millionaire adolescents lose at a game.

All right. Fair enough. Whatever. I watch cartoons, German porn and reality TV. I’m in no position to pretend to be more sophisticated or enlightened.

But we are a lucky society indeed if our “national shame” is defined by a game. You know what else happened over the same time period that this “national shame” was getting ’round-the-clock coverage? The public supplement to the Iacobucci Report was released.

The Iaocobucci Inquiry’s report is an official study of the complicity of the Canadian government in the illegal detainment and torture of Canadian citizens Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin. You can read it at www.iacobucciinquiry.ca.

Not surprising to any of us familiar with the present government’s xenophobic tendencies, the Iacobucci Inquiry found that “Canadian officials likely contributed” to the “mistreatment and torture” of the named individuals. I won’t go into the details of how they contributed; you can read that bit yourself.

But here’s the thing: In the thorough, brow-wiping analysis of our gripping “national shame” (i.e., hockey game) that the aforementioned newspaper examined with such gravitas, was there a single mention of the Iacobucci report or its findings? None that I could see. In fact, I barely heard tell of it any of the mainstream media outlets that I follow, whereas discussion of the hockey game has been fairly overwhelming.

In this same period, a UN report on the status of women found that Canada had dropped from 10th place to 73rd place worldwide, among nations striving for the equality of women.

In this same period, Canada still has a prorogued Parliament, quite contrary to the overwhelming desire of the populace. Yet, our “hard working” Prime Minister can be seen nightly in the stands of the Olympics in his ridiculous red-and-white sweater, mouthing the national anthem. Get back to work, ya bum!

So you’ll forgive me if I’m not filled with “national pride” right now. You’ll forgive me if I’m not inspired to wave the Canadian flag and hoot and holler down the street with the rest of the revellers. I have a hard time swallowing the pablum of manufactured patriotism while no one seems to care that the same society that produces millionaire medal-winning hockey players also formally engages in the criminal torture of its own citizens, the degradation of the status of its women, the cynical stymying of its Parliament, and yet suffers no repercussions for this transgression.

Bread and circuses indeed.