I have always wondered about that term – the ploy used by ancient Romans to keep their citizens fat, happy and mindless with gladiator games and other sensual entertainment while the coffers were raided and the youth sent off to die in wars of greed and plunder. In Canada, things are different. Our circus has become our political system: a tepid, boring but stable entertainment, something akin to Days of Our Lives, the soap few serious people watch, but many are comforted by, because it is always on air and provides a feeling that the world is unchanging. The bread, on the other hand, comes from the hard work and toil of average Canadians, and the engines of industry, commerce and trade that run this country, no matter what happens in Ottawa.
I have seen political parties of different stripes come and go. I have seen SARS, Listeria, floods, wars, neverendum referendums, recessions and stock market collapses come and go, and yet this country trudges on, spurred by its bountiful resources, its skilled labour and its genuinely resolute citizens, who at one time or other, in this generation or in one previous, knew what it was to give up everything and start again in a cold but welcoming land and not rely on governments to prop them up. The bread has always been separate from the circus. With the recent parliamentary brouhaha however, and the opinion polls casting stern judgement on the embroiled political parties, I am beginning to wonder if the two are finally coming together, in acrimony rather than in congruity.
Let’s look at the latest episode of the circus. Our elected minority government leader has assumed the position of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly combined, a sort of self•proclaimed Holy Trinity, and is determined to shoot up the town and take no prisoners, at a time when the town is impoverished due to global financial turmoil. And then there is The Coalition – an alter•ego Good, Bad and Ugly (you can figure out who is who) – armed with home•made videos of their “here•today, gone•tomorrow” leader propped up against back•drops of Hot Air, promising that this sudden collaboration will work magically. As if you can take Pepsi, 7•Up and Coke and make something better than Puke!
I think the people are speaking now, angry at the circus for moving from a mild entertainment to a divisive and intrusive drama that can only further hurt a fragile national economic fabric that everyone is trying to repair and get back to normalcy. In these times, circuses are supposed to sooth, divert, inspire and refresh. If our gladiators do not show more foresight and collaboration, and are determined to draw blood, I can see the audience giving the final “thumbs down” to anyone who falls in the ring.
And many may not tune in to the next episode of the Circus…

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