THUNDER BAY, ON ---- November 7, 2010 ------ Although I've been saying if for years, someone actually decided to test my declaration that Paddy Chayefsky's Network was the most prescient picture ever made. We are living only a slightly less intense version of the world of rant over reason that the late screenwriter predicted all the way back in 1976.
I'm sure that you remember Network. But just in case you don't, that was the movie where Peter Finch played a news anchor gone mad, finally exhorting the viewers to shout out, “I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.” Thousands did, their echoes sounding out of windows and through the apartment block canyons of New York.
End of lesson in cinema history. Well, according to a poll conducted by Abacus Research in Ottawa, when 1001 Canadians were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement (you guessed it): I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more. 26% agreed. 31% disagreed. I suspect 43% had trouble tying their shoelaces that morning. Really now, either you're mad as hell or you're not.
Regardless of the indecisive, who usually don't vote anyway, this means that close to half the people willing to venture their opinion are mad as hell etc. Canadians were also in lock-step with their American cousins. Asked by Abacus if the next generation of Canadians will be better off than the present, 52% said no. When the New York Times/CBS Poll asked Americans the same question, 51% had the same negative opinion.
The smoking wreckage of the Democrats in the United States shows you what half the electorate sharing a dim view of the future can lead to.
The wonder is that Canadians are as negative as Americans. By any reasonable standard, the Canadian economy is as sunny and gold-filled as Scrooge McDuck's vault, relative to the U.S. According to slate.com, the true structural unemployment rate in the U.S. is not 9.6% as reported, but instead closer to 20%. Canada's official rate is at 8%, as of October 9,. 2010.
For those curious about it, the principal difference in American and Canadian reporting is that Canada counts anyone who made 'any' attempt at finding a job as part of the job market, whereas the U.S. only counts those who made 'active' job searches. Those who just look at Job Wanted ads are passive – those who lie on a resume and send it in are active. This of course means that those who are so under-educated or otherwise unqualified for any job offering are therefore passive and are therefore not included in U.S. employment figures. It makes for a very big lump when swept under a rug.
Regardless of technical niceties, voters on both sides of the border feel a spirit of – yes – true fear and loathing and in politics feelings trump science. Regardless of whether the Wall Street bailout was a good idea or not, or whether the massive stimulative speeding was a good idea or not, Americans looked at trillions of dollars being spent in deficit and felt uneasy, unhappy, and afraid. There was/is a sense that the classic hard-earned tax dollars were going to the bums who made this mess in the first place.
America can be explained, but Canada? Why exactly are Canadians mad as hell and ready to take it out on the next person who hands them a political pamphlet? The party or parties that unlock that puzzle and show the way out of the maze will be the victors. Right now – although I usually disregard American precedents in Canadian elections – I would not be wagering heavily on any incumbents.
To borrow one more classic movie line, as Bette Davis said in All About Eve, 'Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night.'
Be seeing you.
Lake Superior News