Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Lunch Pail Revolution

Don Cherry's appeal as a public persona is his brashness and his frank opinions. I understand that. That is why I enjoy his hockey commentary on Coach's Corner, where he has found an interesting niche role to occupy for the past thirty or so years, and tune in whenever I happen to be near it on Saturday night. Despite being a lousy-to-average player, coach, and owner during his lifetime, Don is an unmistakeable authority on the goings-on of the NHL and very few people with an interest in professional hockey in Canada will say otherwise.

However, in the last few years I have noticed that he has been more and more keen to wade in to the political arena with the same loudmouth stuff he does on HNIC. Whether his high profile will result in the widespread acceptance of the nonsense he's been talking or not is out of my control, but it is so outrageous that I have taken to the blog here to respond to it. Don, I can forgive you for deliberately mispronouncing Russian players names and for the occasional disparaging insinuation that European and Quebec players are "soft". But when I read your comments in yesterday's Star when it was revealed you would be Rob Ford's special guest at his first council meeting, I had to personally take issue with what you said, because it is complete bullshit, and politics is a way more serious matter than hockey.

It's all in the link, so I won't bother transcribing. The quote that got me, if you haven't already guessed by my title, is this one:

“I’m happy — it seems things are shifting around a bit to the right, with Julian Fantino getting elected, and Rob,” Cherry said.

“People are sick of the elites and artsy people running the show. It’s time for some lunch pail, blue-collar people.”

Lunch pail people. Blue collar. That's real tough, Don. Real profond. What does it take to join your national association of "lunch pail people"? Do I not qualify because I bring my lunch to work in tupperwares, in a plastic bag, in my backpack? I guess in your world, the real man brings his lunch pail in the morning when he goes off to the factory. When his dutiful housewife gives it to him and gives him a pat on the shoulder, before it swings in his hand on his way to his pickup or SUV or mustang. Of course he didn't make the lunch himself, that would be too girly. He was just doing what he was supposed to be doing the night before, watching sports on the couch. Cause he's just your regular, average, hard-working joe. Not like those "elites" who eat foie gras and sip red wine down at the bistro at lunch every day, before they stop for some grey poupon and sprouts at the organic health food store on the way home. Thank god we've woken up and thrown these scum out of power!

I'm not shocked by your politics, Don. I knew exactly what they were. And I've stayed quiet while you called our country a "disgrace" for not going to Iraq in 2003, while you expressed your admiration for Stephen Harper by calling him the names for your two most dear types of hockey players, a "grinder and a mucker" and even while you've turned your segment into an almost full time shill for the Canadian Forces. But your use of this lunch pail term is way off for two reasons.

First, there's a lot more to the term "Lunch Pail" than it would initially appear. I see it as a code word you're using to talk to a core constituency you've embraced: The lower to middle class people who think they're oppressed. Those who are manipulated into being angry by talk radio, the Sun, and all the exaggerated and vitriolic statements laden with ridiculous terms that shameless politicians use to speak for the collective. I don't understand how politicians can with straight faces use broad and vague terms like "Canadians", "Ontarians", "Residents", "Taxpayers", or my personal favourite, which Ontario PC Tim Hudak uses with tourette-level frequency, "Hard-working families" to speak for millions of people they have never seen, talked to, or met in their lives. The use of those terms tends to be ignored for two reasons: noone is listening and they are bland, overused, and meaningless. Don, however, has never been one for dullness or not making a splash, whether its with his language or his suits, and the lunch pail reference is where we finally have to call bullshit. If for no other reason than we do not need a demographic now identifying themselves as "lunch pail".

Especially when the lunch pail people's spokeperson/advocate is a guy who makes $650,000 a year, 100% Canadian taxpayer funded, to rant about Hockey for five minutes on Saturday for 8 months of the year! Do you not see Don, how your flippant comments make you look like the biggest fool/hypocrite in recent memory? Where is your lunch pail, Don? Where do you eat lunch? It sounds like you're at home most days at lunchtime, no, wait, make that every day! If you're not an "elite", I don't know who is.

And that is my second beef, Don. The company you place yourself in with your political support is hardly any more in the "lunch pail" league than you. I've noted in a previous column how Fantino, who now will be making 155K a year as an MP + lifetime pension and benefits, is the furthest thing from lunch pail that exists having earned multiple six figures for decades as a police chief. Rob Ford is maybe a little better, his father being a career politican, his family having built a successful printing business before he came along, and he's been making 85K at council for 10 years and now is bumped up to 155K as mayor. Is this the "blue collar" crowd you're referring to, Don? Your "grinder and mucker" prime minister is a lifetime public servant and has a master's degree in economics. Do you think the uneducated, laid off manufacturing worker or auto worker on reduced hours can relate to you and your friends' iron-clad protected lifelong incomes on the public dollar?

Enough questions. All the above inconvenient facts aside, you say in the article that the lunchpailers understand you and Ford because "you speak the people's language". Again, you cast your net way too wide and what you meant, I believe, is that you speak the language of the white, middle-aged, dis-affected, faux-oppressed, rural dweller or suburbanite. And it is a shame that they let you get away with desecrating the intellectual fortitude and relevant discourse that exists within the conservative movement with your wannabe populist pandering. The North-American right on both sides of the border that blasts the "elites", "liberals" and "ivory tower" are nothing more than oppurtunists debasing and doing disservice to the credible, very smart conservative people who are advancing the public discourse. People who could even be considered - horror! - elites

Conrad Black has continued to publish in the National Post throughout his whole court process and prison term. An unabashed right-leaning public figure, he has presented compelling arguments for decriminializing weed and overhauling the tax system that go directly against the "tough on crime, status quo" agenda we have in the Canadian federal government. He has been a Lord in Britain, and his use of hundred dollar words is dizzying and rampant. He is...gasp...an elite.

David Frum, the son of the famous Canadian broadcaster Barbara, studied at Yale and wrote speeches for President Bush, who is now a republican strategist, is about as convinced of a conservative true believer as I can think of. He is ivy league educated, has lived outside the country for many years, and has written several books. Sound like a certain "out of touch, elite, un-Canadian, snob" opposition leader the conservatives have been attacking on the taxpayer funded propoganda they've been filling your mailbox with for the last couple years.

William F. Buckley Jr., Samuel P. Huntington, Tom Flanagan and Barry Cooper, profs at U of Calgary and members of the "Calgary school" that formed Stephen Harper and Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith, William Watson at McGill, and I could go on all night, are or were all scholars. They all have or have had above average vocabularies, graduate degrees, published bodies of work, and incomes well above average and at least partly taxpayer funded. And there is one thing to be noted here, which is that they are all part of the conservative movement, and they are all "elites" according to the anti-intellectual witch-hunting that is going on in that movement right now. These are the people in the movement whose opinions I may not always agree with, but whom I respect for their intellectual rigour and articulate arguments, especially on subjects like getting rid of wasteful spending, efficient bureaucracy, and holding public officials accountable. They are the people whose work and credentials conservatives in Canada are happy to base their credibility on and get into power with. Then to maintain power they turn their backs on these ideas with stuff like this and engage in the worst kind of pandering to ignorance and stupidity. Which is precisely what they are doing when they talk about "lunch pail people" or the "tim hortons crowd" or "regular hardworking families", and why I cringe so much to hear it from Don Cherry or anybody else.

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