The title is play on the surrealist Rene Magritte’s famous painting. The title shows us that politics has for the most part been concerned with images and presentation rather than the pursuit of justice and equality. This stance goes back to Plato’s Republic where he shows how society is set up according to a “noble lie.” The lie is necessary, Plato argues, in order to keep a stable social structure. For Plato, the noble lie is told to the masses to keep them under control and happy with their situation in life much like playing Candy Land, Farm-Ville or watching Ice-Road Truckers.
I have been trying to makes sense of Ford’s behavior and have resorted to using the insights of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan to help. We see Mayor Ford pursuing the pleasure principle which is the law of feeling good. This law of feeling good clashes with the duty of the actual Law and the police who uphold it. Ford’s non-opaque pleasure overwhelms the conservative who in Lacan’s words “strive for tidier appearances.”
It is ironic that the Latin word for Mayor means “great”. It derives from the word “magnum” or great in size. A magnum is also a bottle containing two quarts of wine or spirits. One can see these spirits being consumed during the festivals on the Danforth and during St. Patrick’s Day; the two times Ford admitted to being publicly intoxicated. Following Nietzsche, from the perspective of the Dionysian festival, it is a sin not to be intoxicated during times of carnival excess. Being a sober Apollonian logician has no place within the festival celebration. The Old English word “great” means “big, tall, thick, stout and coarse.” Since etymology rarely lies, there is much to learn here about what actually constitutes greatness within the political sphere.
Ford follows Lacan’s dictum not to give up ground on one’s desire. He is intense even while caught on video and pretending to take on Hulk Hogan in a wrestling ring. While being faithful to his desire and to those who elected him into office, Ford clashes with those who seek a more serious demeanour. These same critics as they are fixated by Ford’s desire, show their displeasure as they cast down the Law that tones public desire down into a faint private echo.
Coun. Jaye Robinson praised by the Toronto Star for being “[A]n independent mind [and] a strong social conscience stated that “Our city’s reputation has been damaged,” The best way, she thinks for Toronto’s “reputation” to be restored to its former pristine state is for Ford to leave. How Ford’s leaving will solve Toronto’s gun problem, gang problem, poverty problem, transportation problem, housing problem, over-priced problem, pollution problem has not been openly discussed.
Following Lacan, Ford’s behavior does not represent the hidden underside of Toronto, causing unnecessary embarrassment to its straight laced conservative values, rather it is a reflection of its true face.
Under its well dressed and highly made up façade lurks a culture bloated with violence, inequality, addiction, entitlement, greed, incivility, bad taste and erratic driving.
Ford’s behavior exposes us to how ideology functions in terms of its adherence to images. A mayor for some reason is supposed to be a public moral exemplar who can hold audience with the Pope and not a sometimes extremely inebriated, meat loving, crack smoking cowboy who tells it like it is.
Notice how the mayor’s behavior is taken to task by journalists who surround his office daily waiting for the latest sound bite to emerge.
While the mayor is shown to have engaged in questionable behavior, for which he has apologized; journalists covering the story presents themselves as watchdogs of the public good; as honest to goodness living saints who do not traffic in any kind of desire themselves. No, these special journalists, like the Pope, stand on the right side of god, writing good copy with full and certain objectivity that would make the practitioners of the scientific method blush with algebraic inadequacy.
Is not the mayor like Coke, namely the real thing and not a public relations fake? His behavior reveals that enjoyment is a kind of perverted duty. We are witnessing Ford’s Ode of Joy. He does not wish to leave his post because he is at home in the mayor’s office. He can have lots of cake and eat it too under full international scrutiny. Like Carpenter’s movie They Live, Ford’s behavior allow us to put on glasses that show us the true face of ideology.
As the Mayor of the people, Ford has brought in burgers, beer, bowling and bingo, instead of caviar, Perrier, opera and yachting. He is in touch with the suburbs; the street festivals and back-yard barbeques. This cultural shift might be the reason why the highly mortgaged high-rise dwellers and over-priced Penthouse settlers want him out of office. Ford represents the streets that Bay Street does not wish to see even as it gains extreme wealth from charging fees to the very people it shuns as it does no real work and engages in little more than speculation.
Ford’s behavior shows us that it does not matter who the Mayor actually is since it is bureaucracy that holds true power rather than any electoral process. Weber long ago analyzed this phenomena. The Protestant work ethic realized in modern bureaucracy constrains not only desire but the implementation of justice as well.
Bureaucratic specialists hold the true power in any society. Politicians, with very few exceptions (here Pierre Trudeau comes to mind) are merely window dressing for a public that thinks it can produce actual change through a vote. That a mayor can smoke crack while being “probably” intoxicated and can still balance the books shows us where the true power of any political institution is situated. It lies with the bureaucratic structure and not with any actual person in a suit and tie.
It is not that Ford does not fit the dominant ideology. His behavior has allowed us to see ideology for what it is. The emperor has no clothes but he has found the ring of Gyges. He can do what he wishes. There is no need for him to be invisible, to pursue his pleasure like the rest of his critics who hide behind their private doors and throw stones.
While Ford was being publicly flogged, journalists failed to raise the critical question of how a former Blackberry CEO who lost the company close to a billion dollars in revenue was nonetheless paid $50 million in severance. Now that’s cracked.Tags: Bay Street, Candy Land, Following Lacan, Following Nietzsche, home, Hulk Hogan, Jacques Lacan, Jaye Robinson, living, Mayor Ford, Pierre Trudeau, Rene Magritte, Toronto Star, work