“Do as we say, not as we do.”
“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
For some, the grass is always greener on the other side of fence.
I know whereof I speak.
I was barely a teenager before I started casting about in earnest for a career, one that would not only keep me interested but would supply me with ample dough to travel, play, and support a family. (I was arrogant enough, even then, to believe that someone would marry me and bear my children.)
I settled on veterinary medicine as conduit to fulfillment; by the age of twenty-four I was a practicing animal doctor.
It was a pretty good gig. It ticked all the boxes. (Except for the family bit: beautiful damsels didn’t queue up to snag me, shockingly.)
For a while I was content. But I gazed over the fence with increasing envy, admiring the well-groomed lots of physician acquaintances. Their lives, I decided, were even better than my own.
So off I went to medical school. After eight more years of study and training I was a licensed pediatric emergency physician.
This, too, has been an awesome gig: challenging, colourful, rewarding. (I gotta be a bit careful not to apply puppy remedies to little children, but even if I slip up here and there, it’s not as if kids and animals are all that far apart: the occasional dose of de-wormer doesn’t hurt the average toddler.)
But the grass? Well, apart from the fact that I finally managed to tie the marriage knot, it’s just different grass. Just as green. Needs to be tended and mowed and trimmed just as often.
But there’s one pasture in the vast realm of human endeavour, I’ve come to realize, where the grass is indeed superior; a place where the grass is so wondrously lush, and holds such a brilliant hue, that it is scarcely to be believed.
I speak of the verdant meadows of politics.
How, you ask, does that political grass come to be so green? It’s the manure, undoubtedly: no other field is so regularly soaked in bullshit. When it comes to fertilizer, manure has no equal. Again, I should know: I grew up the son of a dairyman.
Our herd of cows produced manure at a furious rate; we collected the odorous effluent in a storage pit and spread it at regular intervals on our pastures, whereupon the grass grew just as furiously. We harvested the grass and fed it back to the cows, who turned it once again into manure. ‘Round and round it went.
As in farming, so in the political realm: the cycle of bullshit never ends. Hence the greenery. (I know, I know… bullshit, not cowshit — but whatever: ’tis the same fertile principle.)
There’s no other gig like politics. Only in politics do you get to make all the rules, but not have to abide by those rules yourself. Hypocrisy, in the fertile fields of politics, is not a sin. Au contraire: it’s the defining virtue. And “do as we say, not as we do” is the governing creed.
To wit: Over the holidays, while I was toiling away with my colleagues on the front lines of health care, cheek-by-jowl with the lethal coronavirus, Canadian politicians from coast to coast took wing like gaggles of plump Canadian geese, jetting off to Mexico, to the Caribbean, to Hawaii… even to St. Bart’s, the ultimate sun-drenched luxury island enclave of the uber-rich. Pandemic shmandemic.
The largest group of winter-fleeing pols hailed from my home province of Alberta; the number of politicians digging their privileged toes into the sands of far-away beaches threatened to dwarf the list of those who stayed put in the freezing cold along with plebs like me.
Even better, our elected elite exploring caves in Mexico and swilling piña coladas in Maui have had no cause to fret about money. The pandemic threatens not one penny of their pay. It matters not to which cozy corner of the globe they’ve retired for rest and relaxation. It matters not how much — or how little — work is accomplished. Platinum-grade protection is the order of the day: full pay packets with all the perks, no matter how grievously the rest of pandemic-afflicted society suffers.
Footloose, fancy-free, and fully-funded: can there be a better foundation for a happy life?
And then there’s this: to be a politician is to drink deeply from the elixir of youth itself. How else to explain the astonishing agility of luminaries like Alberta Premier Jason Kenney? The man is but a year my junior; yet as I approach my mid-fifties beset by stiffening back and aching knees, Mr. Kenney displays the wondrous flexibility of a twelve-year-old gymnast. I watched in slack-jawed amazement as he addressed the vacation escapades of his MLAs during a press conference: he formed himself into a perfect pretzel, so many positions did he take simultaneously. The fact that those positions completely contradicted each other mattered not a whit. Almost in the same breath: “Quarantine good, travel bad (for you). Quarantine good, travel better (for us — Westjet, y’know)”.
The spectacle surfaced, in my mind, echoes of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Not long after Orwell’s allegorical piggies got a taste of power, they began wobbling about on their hind legs; the original mantra of “four legs good, two legs bad” morphed seamlessly into “four legs good, two legs better”; and the original seven governing commandments were replaced by a single, salutary slogan: “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL; BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.”
I’ve decided that I want a piece of that action. I, too, would like to be more equal than others.
Enough of this medicine gig: I’m going to run for office.
My timing is excellent: our manure-spreader-in-chief, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is almost certain to drop the writ this spring, taking full advantage of the boost in popularity afforded him by the pandemic. (Buried under the usual layers of political bullshit is the truth: that Trudeau mishandled the pandemic from the very beginning, that he has supplied leadership akin to that of a beheaded chicken operating an ATM; that his entire administration from the beginning has been a giant Keilburger of hypocrisy and phoniness, with a generous side of blackface.)
No party will have me as a candidate, obviously. Hence I’ve formed my own party: The Fertilizer Party of Canada. FERT, for short. (That’s uncomfortably close to flatulence, perhaps, but explosive gusts of hot air is politicking in a nutshell, after all.)
I shall stand for office where I live, in the federal riding of Calgary West. It’s doubtful that Conservative Member of Parliament Ron Leipert, who currently holds the riding, will even notice, consumed as he is with the “essential” business of maintaining his vacation digs in Palm Desert (the poor man has twice been forced, during the pandemic, to travel personally to California to resuscitate his second home in that sun-splashed slum.)
I’ve selected my new party’s anthem, ripped (stolen) from Battle Hymn of the Republic. Belt out the opening lines with me:
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of Ed-WARD!
He’s trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored!”
And — in expectation of inevitable victory — I’ve also drafted my election-day speech, adapted (well, also stolen) from a dude named Martin Luther King. (Hint: I have a dream.)
I won’t mean any of it, of course. Hot air on steroids. But trust me — it’ll be inspirational.
So join me, my friends. Buy a membership. Give me your vote.
And bring a lawnmower: the grass grows wickedly fast on the political side of the fence.
Onward, Canadian FERTs. Glory, glory, hallelujah!