Democracy in action …
A recent Anu Garg Word-a-Day was contumelious (kon-too-MEE-lee-uhs), an adjective meaning rudely contemptuous, from Latin contumelia, perhaps from contumax (insolent).
What’s interesting is the quotation used as an example. “No one person knows everything, even the conceited and contumelious, neither any group nor individual is greater than the country.” Oba Pius is credited with those words at the National Political Reform Conference; The Post (Cameroon); March 31, 2005.
Have you noticed that meaningful quotations, such as Oba Pius’, seldom originate in our own democracies. Surely that doesn’t mean people living in new democracies appreciate and understand its value more than we do? Surely we, who send men and women to fight for democracy, don’t take it for granted?
And the fighting isn’t just in far off lands, is it? It seems it’s only been a dog’s age since our democracy entered our current obstreperous political era in Canada. Our current media, and political, approach to matters of state is so well described by the Irish gentleman who observed that spending an evening with that one would be like being nibbled to death by ducks. Our television media especially have turned nibbling subjects (especially celebrities) to death into an art form.
Looking abroad I think the answer came when I learned that when Tony Blair became prime minister of Great Britian there were 320 “communications” officers, perhaps even ladies and gentlemen, or spin doctors as we call them. When he left office there were 3,200; three thousand two hundred word weavers at work for his government. TV networks appear to have them built in.
We can hope it’ll be donkeys’ years before we emulate our counterparts in the Old Country, although the propensity of “democratic” habits crisscrossing the globe is even faster than the H1N1 virus, so perhaps it’s time to check our own governments with their cadre of communications experts, weaving government edicts into palatable pieces for the edification of and fulfilling the public’s need to know!
Interestingly it was the BBC that provided an example of word weaving hocus-pocus at work. In a typical big media flimflam in 2003 they began a celebrity minutiae blitz for Lively Laddie, a Guernsey donkey. It was finding out how long donkeys’ years were that took me there. Their donkey celebrity pitch was to get Lively Laddie posted into the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest donkey at 60. (Apparently the average age of a donkey is between 37 and 41 years.) Anyway, their first shot was the tale of his donkey mom’s miraculous, fairy-tale escape from slaughter. Yep, the train taking her to the slaughter-house crashed. She was rescued.
It seemed to be the beginning of an example of big media storytellers at work keeping us up-to-date on the minutiae of the chosen celebrity of the week. If you want the “rest of the story” of Lucky Laddie, Google’s got it.
It was at this point I realized the donkey is the icon of President Obama’s political party. So I sought out donkey aficionados on the net to see if I was treading on sensitive ground. It was a relief to find I was on safe ground. Donkeys are highly intelligent; their fans argue they’re smarter than horses, and they are quick learners. They will not be intimidated into anything. “A donkey looks at a whip and asks, ‘Are you kidding?’” says trainer Jan Rowe, of Albian, Maine. Thinking for yourself is a plus for anyone!
All of which leads me to conclude our contumacious politics have been around longer than two of Lucky Laddie’s donkeys’ years, are an example of democracy in action, and their antics tend to produce some people like Edith Bunker, whose husband Archie told her, “You never believe nuttin’, Edith, you’re one of them septics.”
Every parade needs a little rain once in awhile; a tip of the hat to “septics!”