Culture & media

Ideas with Consequences
Most of us probably regard the word “narrative” either as an creaky cliché thrown around mostly by posers or, if we unwittingly fall into the latter group, as a handy instant signal that we’re culturally au courant (to use another aging cliché). There’s far more to the concept of narrative – unfortunately. Would that it were harmless trivia. Instead it has shown not only indestructible staying power but a viral cunning, mutating and replicating and insinuating itself into every cultural nook and cranny. And that’s profoundly dangerous, writes David Solway, who provides the intellectual heavy lifting in this thorough analysis of the concept’s nature, seductive allure, political misuse and potentially civilization-wrecking power.
Content vs. Clickbait
Judging by the sheer volume of information coming our way, the Canadian news media are the very picture of health. But quantity isn’t indicative of quality, and the age of clickbait could put the final nail in the coffin of the nation’s legacy media. So who cares? Well, as online upstarts fill only a tiny proportion of the resulting void, the size, influence and market share of the taxpayer-subsidized CBC continue to grow – and some want it to grow further still. Could that possibly be good for diversity of news and views? Lydia Miljan lays out what ails the Canadian media business model, charts the deterioration of journalistic quality, points to the bright spots and makes the case for two practical and achievable federal policies that could allow our media sector to save itself.
Our Built Environment
Architecture and its cumulative result – our built environment – affects every aspect of our daily lives. Yet most of us rarely talk about it. And despite ultimately paying for it all, the ordinary person has almost no input into the process or the outcome. Some believe the discipline veered horribly off-track in the last century. Informed by over 50 years of professional experience, Vancouver-based architect Oberto Oberti weaves professional insights, aesthetic judgment, philosophy and memory into an impassioned plea for the restoration of timeless aesthetic values and the individual’s needs to the centre of 21st century architecture.
The Individual and Technology
Is it possible the modern world so readily accepted government-decreed physical isolation because most of its inhabitants were already living essentially disconnected lives? For people existing mainly in a virtual world, does it even matter that they can’t go out into the real world? Author, poet and songwriter David Solway observes how, once they do venture back out, many people hardly even look up or recognize others. While accepting the usefulness of the mobile device, Solway ruminates on the increasingly obvious psychological, social and, yes, civilizational effects of this ubiquitous technology.
COVID-19
Canada has so far ducked the extreme growth in the Covid-19 hospitalization and mortality rates afflicting some other countries. The worst is certainly still to come, however – and when it does, the shortfall in Canada’s health care capacity will be laid bare. The vulnerability was largely avoidable, points out Gwyn Morgan, if Canada like nearly all other countries had only allowed private health care delivery alongside its public system. When the nation comes out the other side of the pandemic, Morgan writes, a health care policy reckoning will be long overdue.
Behind the headlines
Few Canadians have any connection to our depleted military, fewer still enlist, and the number who consider joining a special branch of a foreign country’s forces that began as a way to soak up society’s dregs must be vanishingly small. Yet that was the path chosen by Joel Struthers, and his five years spent in the French Foreign Legion don’t seem to have done him any lasting harm. Peter Shawn Taylor shows that the historical aura of the kepi-clad brawlers still exerts a romantic tug on certain modern-day hearts in this fond portrayal of one Canadian’s life in the Legion and his remarkable work since getting out intact.
Just Boomer Things
The view that social media are a wasteland of trivia and irrationality that’s making everyone dumber has become so common as to form an example of the very genre it condemns. In truth, decidedly non-trivial things are being communicated, just not in ways that older generations – or not-yet-clued-in members of current ones – quite understand. The current meme-war over the political and economic legacy of the Baby Boomers, for example, may well define how this generation is remembered as it fades into dotage and beyond. Millennial Aaron Nava shoulders the almost superhuman burden of working with a boomer editor to illustrate one skirmish in the eternal inter-generational tug-of-war.
Censorship
With nearly 190 million downloads per month, Joe Rogan is arguably the world’s most popular podcaster. Yet employees of the streaming platform Spotify want to exert editorial control over his show. Josh Dehaas looks at the rise of censorship of social media and Big Tech’s banishment of people who hold certain views.
Book Review
Conservatives, centrists – heck, just about anyone not on the far “progressive” end of the spectrum – probably think too many people are claiming victim status. Many of us do seem nauseated by the never-ending official apologies and constant picking on the country. Yet self-professions of victimhood by ever-more atomized groups and dubious claimants seemingly march ever-onward. What to actually do about it? How to even confront it? Veteran journalist Paul Stanway peers into a new book and discovers what might be an answer.
Education & Research
Putting numbers to nearly everything is the postmodern world’s way of separating facts and knowledge from mere opinion or superstition. This not merely reflects a cramped view of knowledge, it is false and immensely damaging to rational inquiry, discussion and the dissemination of knowledge. David Solway mounts a counter-argument for quality over mere quantity. Although nominally about the social sciences and aimed at its practitioners, Solway’s essay serves up food for thought for any consumer, customer or target of the social sciences: students, their parents, business people, employers, government officials, voters. In short, all of us.

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