Letters

Letters

General Malaise; Why Does the Sun Keep on Shining?; Interference; Laying Pipe; Mixed Signals

From the April 2012 magazine
Illustration by Jake Pauls

GENERAL MALAISE

Governor General David Johnston says that “a Canadian is one who believes in both equality of opportunity and excellence” (“Reign Maker,” January/February). If so, Johnston cannot be a true Canadian. Otherwise, how could he believe in a monarchy based on total disregard for both equality of opportunity and excellence? I was rather disappointed that the GG, who I thought was an intellectual, could sound like a typical hypocrite.

Chatura Ranaweera
Toronto, ON

Charlotte Gray’s mean-spirited, corpulent article about David Johnston was the lowlight of the January/February issue.

We get the drift in paragraph four that she was angry at only having thirty minutes for the interview. This helps to explain why she needed to pad the story with such inane observations as “a fat black squirrel scrambles through the branches of a maple tree.”

But when you read phrases like “fidgeted nervously,” you have to wonder whether she was paid by the adverb (since fidgeting has nervousness built in). As for the “spindly” gold and blue chairs in Rideau Hall, my mother assures me they are comfortable. She had the pleasure of sitting on one three times.

A linguistic ThighMaster and a bit of respect would have elevated the piece to the level of the rest of the issue.

Steve Williams
Calgary, AB

Monarchy love is very much an Ottawa predilection that runs deep in all parties, not just the Conservatives. Articles like this always conveniently ignore the passionate monarchism of Sheila Copps’ Department of Canadian Heritage, for instance; or the lavish Golden Jubilee ceremonies of 2002, when the Queen dropped the puck at a Canucks game. I get a bit tired of journalists who write with the narrative first and then fit the facts inside.

J. J. McCullough (online)

Piece on the GG in the @walrusmagazine is fab, but I flinched at the reference to Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean as “exotic.” Really?

@metromorning (Twitter)

@MichaelleJeanF We need you back as Governor General. You were feisty. We have enough boring old dudes in gov.

@thewrittenworld (Twitter)

Interesting article on the GG. Too bad it blurs distinction btwn Crown (institution) and monarch (office holder).

@pmlagasse (Twitter)

WHY DOES THE SUNKEEP ON SHINING?

I found Daniel Baird’s analysis of contemporary apocalyptic scenarios (“Apocalypse Soon,” January/February) interesting on two levels. First, as he astutely observes, these scenarios reveal that the desire for retribution is deeply ingrained in the human psyche: “We need to believe that we are part of a story with a larger meaning, that vice is rewarded with punishment… that a higher power… exacts the final judgment.” This fact of psychology unites humanity across centuries and cultures, and underlies many facets of human thinking and action.

Second, Baird identifies the common fallacy in apocalyptic scenarios: the attempt to cast the patterns of the past as the fate of the future. Such predictions fall prey to what philosophers call the problem of induction. Here’s where insight turns to irony, however, for Baird falls into the same fallacy. He notes that “the difficulty with prophecies… is that they are almost invariably wrong.” And based on that track record of prophetic failure, he concludes that we are “unable to reliably prophesy the future.” But if, as David Hume argued, the past is not necessarily prologue, it might thus be that one of our contemporary prophets has predicted correctly after all.

Darrin W. Snyder Belousek
Lecturer in Philosophy and Religion
Ohio Northern University
Ada, OH

As enjoyable a read as Daniel Baird’s essay was, I seriously object to his opinion that “human beings are remarkably bad at predicting even relatively short-term, simple occurrences, such as the weather on Monday or the price of gold on Friday.” With this callous observation, he helps perpetuate an all-too-common fallacy regarding meteorology. Modern weather forecasting is amazingly accurate, thanks to radar and satellite technology. The forecasting of large storms is up to 90 percent accurate. We tend to exaggerate our experience with erroneous forecasts (a rained-out picnic, for instance) and fail to acknowledge the success-ful ones.

If we could apply the accuracy rate of Monday’s weather forecast to apprehending the price of gold on Friday, there would be a notable increase in millionaires. More importantly, if the acumen of meteorologists were shared by apocalypse predictors, we’d pretty much have a date with oblivion.

Eric Forbes
Regina, SK

INTERFERENCE

Jeff Nield (“Tough Lessons,” January/February) insightfully suggests that the reason he was not sexually abused by his junior high teacher was probably an accident of geography. But he misses one important point. The “special treatment” was just part of the man’s modus operandi: get the kids to trust and like you, and you can do whatever you want. The teacher did not see the boys as distinct individuals worthy of respect. If he had, he would not have sexually exploited them.

R. Dzus
Warren, MB

LAYING PIPE

I thought “Pipeline Offence” (January/February) offered an authentic portrayal of Nebraskan tendencies, from love of football to reticence about one’s political views. Ten years ago, when I moved to Canada, I would call my friends in Nebraska to express shock over how Canada was bullied by the US (the softwood lumber issue, the American media’s insistence that 9/11 terrorists arrived from Canada, and so on). Today when we talk, it is my Nebraskan friends who feel bullied by Canada. My discomfort with being on the morally wrong side made me take a stand, and as a hydrogeologist I definitely had one. The result was my essay on the Sandhills, recently published in Eighteen Bridges magazine.

E. Kilinska
Edmonton, AB

Mixed Signals

I hope I’m not the first to point out that the Union Jack in the illustration of Fort York (“That Time We Beat the Americans,” March) is flying upside down—the symbol of distress.

B. R. Cook
North Vancouver, BC
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