Sunday, June 08, 2008


Even those of us who have a clear direction in life or a fully formed ultimate goal kind of bounce around in getting there. We procrastinate, party, take that year off to backpack Europe, buy a dog or fall in with friends who take us on other unknown tangents.

That's why I've never really understood control freaks, despots and tyrants. I can't imagine how hard it must be to stay that focussed on that kind of goal while keeping your hidden agenda a secret and also getting so many of the bouncing around types to do your bidding.

From "Dr. No" to "Doctor Evil", I simply have never been able to comprehend the concept of laser perfect megalomania. Never mind that all those guys have real life counterparts who have gotten entire nations in lock-step with their twisted visions.

Which brings up another thing I've never been able to get my head around -- those who go along with the control freaks, despots and tyrants.

It's a process of initial enabling, then cow-towing and eventual bondage these people can't be so dumb as to not see coming, but somehow seem powerless to resist.

Look, I know that having to live in Burma or North Korea must be a numbing experience, even if you know the madman in charge has a fear of ladies underwear or a burning desire to remake "Godzilla".

But there was a point in their rise to domination when the bad guys didn't have enough power to shoot anybody with a different take on things. So I don't get how the balance was allowed to tip in their favor, let alone completely slide that way.

But I may be about to find out first hand...

When I got into showbiz 30+ years ago, there were a bunch of Canadian shows on TV, there were guys who raised money to make independent Canadian movies and there were new theatre companies popping up all over the country.

Many, many people were able to make comfortable livings as novelists and playwrights and local bands were opening for "The Who" at Buddakhan and Wembley.

We were coming into our own. And then the government got involved.

Sure, we always had some government support, but it was in the form of subsidies that helped, not funding that was "absolutely essential". And we didn't have bureaucrats deciding and regulating what would get made.

But then this gradual choke-hold was applied, slowly squeezing the life from a once vibrant industry. Today, we make fewer TV dramas than ever before in our history. You can usually tabulate our annual feature film output without taking off both shoes and our theatres, live music venues and book publishers are closing.

Gee, beneficent overlords, thanks for all that help...

I'd venture that more people now work in the cultural bureaucracies than in creating the culture. Certainly, they're the ones driving the bus -- over a cliff if you ask me -- but that's a discussion for another day.

In the meantime, I thought you'd like a glimpse of where state controlled art always seems to lead. Examples have been around since the Roman Colosseum and Nuremberg. And they'll be featured at the Opening and Closing ceremonies of this summer's Olympics in China.

Somehow politicians and bureaucrats like this kind of stuff. It's a control freak's wet dream. And I'm thinking it's coming to Canada.

Enjoy your Sunday -- while you still can.

For an amazing series of videos on North Korea, including background on the Arirang spectacle featured above, check out those subversive Canadian filmmakers over at VBS.TV

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