Okay, lie. Sort of. Jian Ghomeshi didn’t do that.
But in March 2016, getting ready to plot my next post, I discovered that my previously “fave new radio host” – the guy whom I, as a devoted listener, hoped might be taking CBC radio back from decades of redneck government budget-hackers and CBC-haters – seemed suddenly to be tanking at interviews. He actually cut off a really interesting woman actor and filmmaker (Lena Dunham) who was answering his questions. Twice. Cut her off. She was not randomly musing. She was answering his question and it was a great answer to a good question. Whereas he was randomly cutting her off.
Sheesh, I thought, Jian, what is up with you? You’re ruining this interview.
In a week or so Ghomeshi was off the air. My sense deepened of some swelling mystery. Eventual explanations cited the death of his father. Not long after, news broke that Jian Ghomeshi was accused of sexual assault. And the story was gruesome. Oh crap, here we go. Asshole. Within a month, what I’d fully expected – that more women with allegations would come forward – had happened, and legal charges hit full bore.
Two years later NOBODY would have to wonder why a media host went off the air abruptly. Men of his ilk continue falling like ninepins, and their falls are accelerating.
Ghomeshi’s victims were female for the most part, but of course males too know this sort of abuse. Unfortunately, given the nature of sexual assault law in Canada, Ghomeshi – whom we all have no doubt is guilty – got off in a court of law. He did not get off in the court of informed feminine opinion, that court which is the reason we all have no doubt he’s guilty. In this court we know from experience that similar stuff is everyday caca, as pervasive in the arts as anywhere else, and in this court, standard wisdom says that all you have to do is stand back once the first accusation hits: proof of guilt will always lie in a multiplicity of stories. Cause for every bad guy, there will be LOTS of women. The first accusation generally is the brave emerging trickle; the trickle will become a stream, and in some cases, the stream will become a raging river, and in others, a tsunami.
As we know, bad boys do not transgress only once. Awareness of this is why women are beginning to speak up. They realize they can’t possibly be alone…. and that sisters not yet abused may need them to speak up. And hey, look! We now have a wasteland of fallen demigods (at least in their own minds) to prove it! Even Soulpepper Theatre’s Albert Schultz, for pity’s sake!
Oh ALBERT! GROW UP AND GET THERAPY!
So Jian, you were just the tip o’ the ol’ iceberg. The Titanic fat cat who fell overboard when the floe connected. Now look at all these equally important Culture Ship-Running dudes flailing in the water around you, and know that you all get to be assholes drowning together. There’s poetic justice in my resumption blog coming while you’re all in the water. Thanks, Albert. …Not really.
Of course, everybody’s an asshole and monster at some point or other. [Or most of us, anyway. I have done life readings for a handful of people whose holiness in lifetime after lifetime knocked my socks off and made me spontaneously Namaste them, like I was meeting the Dalai Lama. But they’re uncommon.] In some of my own previous incarnations, while admittedly those lives were way back – like, caveman way back – I was as nasty a male as they come. So we don’t get to hold onto superiority as a sure thing.
But we do get to know that presently, in THIS life, the abusing assholes are that bad, and this is your life to work on it, guys. Get busy.
Back to how Ghomeshi imprisoned my blog.
Oh, you evil jerk, how dare you?! went my inner rant when news of his transgressions broke. Devastated, furious, and in shock, my inner blogger sat down hard and refused to get up.
Other aspects of myself got up again in short order, but not my inner blogger. Sometimes, right when you want to love some vessel of culture, you learn that the vessel you’ve chosen is decorated by the thinnest tissue, much of it layered over lies. Then the tissue tears and you’re left to ponder where your faith in that vessel went wrong. Lately a host of media consumers have been going through this same process over figures they once trusted. And now we’re all asking: is it faith in a male vessel of culture that’s the problem?
Another case in point: Joseph Boyden, Indigenous Writer Award -winning fake Indigenous Person.
Partly it’s unconscious awe of males. But not always. So I think it’s misplaced faith that’s the problem. And as harsh as it may sound, I’ve learned this: nothing and no-one is deserving of your faith except a benign, merciful, God. (And under pure conditions, Nature.) (Also the Dalai Lama. I forgot him. )
Period. The rest of us are going to prove flawed. If we’re garden-variety flawed, you can celebrate our very human flawed-ness and shake your head ruefully. Maybe laugh. If we’re really ghastly and bad, then after the big discussion, the big court battle, the settlement, the payback, the jail time, the firing, whatever Sane Ethics demand, we are going to need you to let go of just how bad we’ve been. Not for our sakes – for yours. Cause angry hurters are not happy. [Lest this sound trite: letting go can take YEARS.]
Note that also, as in my case with Ghomeshi, we mistake collective talent for the public man. I just forgot (cause I know better) that a media host has an entire team who book interviews, do the main research, and write the interview questions. They also produce, edit, and package the show. Same with any media heavyweight. In fact, I pondered, did Ghomeshi himself have actual talent?
Like any modern person, I looked to Facebook memes to help me decide.
“Yep,” said a (male) friend of mine who used to counsel abusive men. “Another charismatic psychopath.” (My friend was not surprised it had come to this. But then, my friend also is not a lifelong CBC radio listener, nor a sometime contributor.) So Ghomeshi had charisma. And at his best, on air delivering interview arcs constructed by hard-working production people, I think Ghomeshi had a flair for performance and for talk. It was great while it lasted. Now it’s history.
I have often wondered if those of us who hold out for noble media culture are just terminal fools, or if even our errors of naivete express the Holy Fool: that stubborn rebounding Quester After the Best in human behaviour. Probably both. Because to believe in and note the best when you find it, is good; while to turn those ineffable moments into an entire projected personality on whom you then endow higher-than-normal-people status, is a no-no.
Especially when we’re speaking of the public arena. Where I certainly ought to know by now (and I do, I do!) that careful crafting and fabrication of a public persona for a show host are not only the norm, they’re required. They’re how radio or TV or the movies or just plain Internet Personal Branding operates.
For instance, and speaking of no’s [I regret to bring this up lest it seem a personal attack, which it isn’t: it is a critical query of possible corporate policy] – is it just me, or do extant CBC Ghomeshi photos Photoshop his nose?
I say this as one with an unenviable nose but with a fully functioning pair of eyes. Google a few images yourself. There’s quite a few similar examples worth comparing. Someone has told me this is now standard PR practice, but it still stinks of narcissism – Ghomeshi’s, and the CBC’s.
But okay. I’m over my crash, over the disappointment, and though still angry as heck because crap like this is pervasive and sickening and sad and wearying, I’m over being surprised that, as a well-connected academic repeated the story to me at a dinner party months later, CBC brass had been warned by York U (where Ghomeshi also cut a swathe) that York U couldn’t & wouldn’t give Ghomeshi a recommendation… but CBC brass hired him anyway. Oh, you assholes, how dare you? Did the safety and grace of women and your work environment, or even of the CBC as a public service entity, mean nothing to you?!
I stand in solidarity with the legion of women who’ve had to learn that when it comes to how Justice serves sexual assault, we’re going to have to bombard the world with stories so it’ll change. Forever in human society, as my counselor friend says, “females are trained from babyhood” to put up and shut up if someone calls them pretty or offers them the right carrot. To disavow their own right to a self-referential point of view – including the view that knows their own pleasure is as important as, AND distinct from, a man’s.
Given this conditioning, no surprise that in adulthood survivors of sexual assault like Ghomeshi’s accusers might enter the witness box and proceed to “muddy” the legal waters. No surprise, because not all assaulted women are lawyers; while the number of assaulted women given a manual of Legally Correct Post-Sexual-Assault Behaviour is… oh, let me see… ZERO. Cite Ghomeshi’s victims as “bad courtroom witnesses” all you want. ‘Cause it happened. But they still didn’t have a manual. They were still raised from babyhood to pander. This means that when they did decide to resist or speak up, the decision might’ve come surprisingly late, with conflicted thinking around it, and even conflicted expression.
In the anointing of public personalities many people are also conditioned to assume that men fill the role better. So the able and admirable Shad took over from Ghomeshi on Q, and though Shad was fine and has now left for his own good reasons and Tom Power is Q’s capable new voice, the arguably equally qualified, experienced, and more interesting Sook-Yin Lee apparently did not even get a shot. The CBC surely knew that her show, DNTO, was ending; why did they not scoop her sideways?! Because she’s female? Both she and Shad, like Ghomeshi, play or played in bands and therefore qualify as Hipsters to the brass who obviously wanted a Hipster for Q’s host. Is there a sigh loud enough for this habitual sexism?
There is not.
So R., Blogger, is back. Cause hey, the world needs yet one more internet voice added to the cacophony, and not only that but my friends need yet one more obligation to read longwinded stuff issuing from the tower of Babel. – Just kidding. I promise I’ll try to stay relevant, and failing that, entertaining.
You who follow these posts, happy readin’. God is not dead. Uplifting metaphysics endure. And there’s lots of shared culture that actually can nourish our inner Holy Fools.
P.S. Have decided to alternate blogs on Edgar Cayce topics or my spiritual stuff, with blogs on culture or my literary writing stuff. So those of you who prefer one topic over the other get to choose.
PPS. If you see an ad of some kind below this or any post, that sucks. WordPress did it. WordPress has decided to launch ads in hopes of extorting money out of me to make the ads go away. But hey, this is a blog without a budget. On the up side, it’s also a blog that’s not voiceless on the subject of WordPress & ads.