the rules they are a changin

Dear Uma: This is the time of year officially designated as spring, but you would never know it from looking out the window here in Watson Lake.

Dear Uma:

This is the time of year officially designated as spring, but you would never know it from looking out the window here in Watson Lake.

The sky is a uniform impenetrable grey, a wind is blowing fine granules of snow and the snowbanks are four metres high along the roads.

While maintaining an appropriate level of gratitude for my warm and cozy trailer and a truck that starts when I need it, I must say the seeming endlessness of Yukon winter is wearing on me just a little.

I find I get lazy, lazy about such things as getting out of my pajamas every few days, and I find myself spending more time watching TV than reading books. Food that is not labour intensive gets my vote more and more—don’t like to take too much time away from the TV. Knowing I only get CBC-TV gives you some idea of how inert I have become in this, the last month of winter.

It is hard to believe that a two-hour flight out of Whitehorse would take me to a place of daffodils and greening grass ….

The news last night started to give my amygdala and my right prefrontal cortex a workout, but in the interests of being consciously positive, I decided not to go to the dark and angry place but to exercise compassion.

The news noise was all about the scandal of the millions in bonuses paid to the CEOs and managers of AIG.

Even in the midst of ever increasing scenes of worldwide unbelievable stupidity, it is difficult to get my compassionate head around the growing swell of outrage on the part of American taxpayers.

I mean, come on folks, these fellows have earned those bonuses. Imagine the years of toil involved in creating such a spectacular scene as the one we are witnessing as the global economy melts down.

This did not happen overnight and it was not easily achieved; it took an ultimate expression of what Daniel Golman calls “corporate narcissism” and corporate narcissism is the natural result of a narcissistic culture, the culture we all happily swim in, the one that is centered on how to get more stuff.

Here is Goleman’s elegant description:

“Narcissists crave to be admired more than to be loved. Often innovators in business, they are driven to achieve—not because they have a high standard of excellence, but because they want the perks and glory that achievement brings. Caring little about how their actions affect others, they feel free to pursue their goals aggressively, regardless of the human costs.”

When such people run businesses, or governments, he goes on to say, they can create entire systems of narcissism; everyone connected to them buys into their style and their vision of how things need to be done, isolating these leaders behind a wall of sycophants who will be supportive, no matter what.

When a critical mass of employees share a narcissistic outlook, the organization itself takes on these traits, which become standard operating procedures.

Healthy dissent dies out; constructive criticism follows, lost in the rosy flush of group self-adulation. Suppression and paranoia thrive while the work devolves to a charade.

I would venture to say this is a fairly accurate description of how our society is run and considering we are all fat, and most of us have our own TV sets and a vehicle to take us to the nearest fast food outlet, what is the beef? Someone has to assume leadership and these guys were willing to do it, all for a few perks.

After all, most of us wouldn’t want the responsibility of owning several homes in several countries—the staffing problems, with all those different languages to deal with, must be horrific. And we are all aware of how miserable these men actually are, with multiple marriages and expensive divorces and kids needing rehab and a new Porsche every year.

So they get to wear nice clothes, go to fancy events, and get their photos in newspapers and magazines; the cost is too high for the average person who is content to shop from L.L. Bean and go to a movie once in a while without being pestered by the paparazzi.

Clearly, they deserve their bonuses, not the death threats and moves by the US government to tax their millions back to the public coffers.

There has to be some reward for being super, for undergoing the daily stress of doing what only they can do.

Which of us would be willing to carry the burden these gents carry?

It must be bewildering for these hard working guys. On the one hand we applauded those who struggled and fought to ‘get to the top’; we made them our heroes, celebrating their triumphs by listening to them on radio and television, or reading about them in the magazines specializing in stories that allowed us glimpses into their privileged lives of glitz and glamour.

Now we appear to be changing the rules, and all because their unrelenting efforts have sort of gone awry. Is there no leeway? No readiness to forgive a few errors in judgment?

It seems not, according to recent newscasts. The American taxpayers are howling for blood, literally.

If this fundamental building block in our culture is going to go the way of the dodo, what will be next?

I suspect movie stars will be the next icons to be toppled, with musicians to follow. They, too, are people who lead lives of extraordinary luxury and privilege. They, too, have worked hard and made enormous personal sacrifices to make our ordinary lives shinier and more fun.

In recent years there has been great success in making movies with no people in them at all, through the wonders of computer animation.

As for musicians, the cost of a ticket to a live concert is most often too high for anyone other than CEOs’ and managers’ offspring, thanks to the nefarious behaviour of Ticketmaster, another organization finding itself being vilified for simply doing business in the (formerly) accepted manner.

After that, no one successful or superbly accomplished will be safe.

Doctors who have become rich practising medication rather than medicine; lawyers who create winners and losers rather than justice; sports heroes who make millions for their willingness to assault and batter—where will it end?

If all the perks of being successful are to disappear, what are our young people to aspire to? What’s going to get Johnny out of bed in the morning and into his school, getting an education, if there is no promise of the wonderful stuff he can acquire?

Speaking of acquisition, I have a great new kitchen tool; it is a special tray for cooking takoyaki. My next dinner guests will be astonished at my culinary daring and expertise. I am going to do a practice run with Pete before going public. I have learned my lesson after the won ton soup debacle. Cee confessed later that she was certain she was eating salty porridge…

Last week, Twilight was shown in the centre that in the summer hosts shows about the North for the tourists and in the winter plays DVDs on the large domed screen for locals.

I went reluctantly, expecting a sort of Barbie-with-fangs tweeny movie, but it was actually quite mesmerizing.

I am now fascinated by all sanguivores and fully expect to find there is some of the human variety living in Watson Lake.

Why not? It’s dark enough for most of the year.



Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

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