Rohinton Mistry's fairy-tale about Canadian neocons

Much-loved Canadian novelist Rohinton Mistry delivered the convocation speech to graduates at Ryerson University in Toronto, in the form of a fairy-tale based on A Christmas Carol, by way of a critique of the Canadian swing to a neoconservative right, where social spending exists only to promote "moochers" and society is a fight between bad guys (who need to be surveilled all the time in every medium) and good guys (who don't mind being surveilled in such a way), and where no amount of "security" is ever enough.

The Globe and Mail has a transcript and an (unembeddable) video, which is rather good.

The pair flew on. The professor spotted a Ferris wheel by the water’s edge. “Aha, an amusement park. This enlightened Acadan provides well.”

“I’m afraid things are not what they seem. Navigating the warp and weft of time, we’ve now arrived in a different version of Acadan. This place is the result of greed, vanity, sycophancy and ideology.”

“All because of a Ferris wheel?”

“That’s what it used to be, before it was converted into a Snipers’ Wheel. Part of the security apparatus of this world-class city. It not only revolves, it rotates, giving it a 360-degree view, horizon to horizon, clear sight-lines for marksmen. Comes in handy when world leaders hold summits to make the world a safer place. Every street can be targeted accurately, curfews enforced to perfection – pepper spray is so yesterday in this town.”

The professor felt a shiver run down his spine. “How did things come to such a pass?”

“It’s always a function of microscopic increments in citizen apathy. But you ain’t seen nothing yet. B-b-baby, you ain’t seen n-n-nothing yet.”

The comments on the Globe's website are like a parody of Canadian right wing anti-intellectualism: "We do not live a a poetic world anymore ... if we ever did ... we need straight talk and logic. Leave this pansy prose to the less-motivated, self-important mooches, the rest of us need to get on with purging those who chose the 'trough' and getting our a$$es out of debt;" "What a load of left wing garbage! No better than the babble of some Hollywood actor with outlandish pretensions!"

Gravy trains for the masses and Rohinton Mistry’s other visions for the Class of 2012 (via MeFi)

(A couple of caveats: The video linked above auto-plays and starts with a short ad, though it's quite good once you get past that. Also you'll likely get a bunch of errors from the Globe and Mail's website, which uses an improper TLS certificate)


  1. So, that was what passes as intellectualism that they were responding to, this hackneyed neocon futuristic dystopianism? Who were Canada’s PC civility squads trying to shut up, anyway? Liberals or conservatives?

    This is a convocation speech? This sharpshooter on the Ferris wheel, was he looking for Ezra Levant or Kathy Shaidle?

    Seriously, WTF?

    1. It doesn’t matter who the civility squads were trying to shut up or who the sharpshooters were targeting.  The main point of the speech was not to demonize liberals or conservatives.  The main point was that that citizen apathy, not a particularly political party, is the real problem.

      I don’t completely agree with that since  (Godwin alert) German citizens were anything but apathetic in the years leading up to WWII, but it’s an interesting point none the less.

      1. Dunno, i would say most were. The rest divided between the shell shocked militas and communists, with the former “winning”.

      2.  Somethings just can’t be compared to Nazis. I would like to submit that there is more to history than WWII.

        1. History is fractal.  WWII contains all other history, and all other history contains WWII.  So you are very wrong, but at the same time you are very right.

          I would like to submit that Nazi Germany is the best exemplar in history of a few particular properties, and then this crapscreaming every time that example is used is just another form of censorship. Even Mike Godwin says that when the comparison or reference is apt it’s not really a Godwin.

          1. It would be nice if people were educated enough that you could talk about Rwanda or the Balkans.  But there are television networks that seem to show nothing but programs about the Third Reich, so you have to go with the example that people understand.

  2. A small correction., The convocation was delivered at Ryerson University not Ryerson Polytechnic. It has been almost 20 years since Ryerson changed from a polytechnic to a university.

    1. Completely OT, but it sounds like Canada must have made that shift about the same time as the UK.  Coincidence?

  3.  It s no coincidence.  The canadian prime minister is a complete anglo-phile,  we ve (Canadians) been punished with literally hours and hours of news coverage of one royal (and it seems even the royal horse is going to get a free visit as well)or another ever since the majority win.  Of course it s not really surprising to see a connection between Canada and England.

    1. If that was a reply to me, the shift from polytechnic to university happened long before the current Canadian PM.

  4. The neocons remind me of Maoists in their instantly-identifiable, extreme, and stereotyped conversational approach – every word (particularly every pronoun and adverb) is chosen according to a pattern that’s intended to bludgeon your neurons into thinking along one very specific line and adhering to one very particular set of conclusions.

    That, and their apparently boundless hostility. 

    1. As the saying goes, Stalin was so left wing he was a right winger. In essence, extremism loops back on itself independent of the “side” it started on.

  5. Video of Mistry’s speech here:

    Rohinton  Mistry is one of the finest writers of the English language, a Proust for our time. Try “A Fine Balance” for starters. You can cheat by watching the movie version of “Such a Long Journey”. And yes, he has had personal experience of being hounded by a fundamentalist party – the Hindu Shiv Sena!

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