Christmas with Kurt

Brian
Brian Jones
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If anyone is keeping track of the sleazy, underhanded, self-serving, manipulative, crass and cowardly actions of the Dunderdale administration, add to your list that the government chose the Friday night of the last weekend before Christmas, i.e., Dec. 21, to announce it will allow Ocean Choice International to ship 75 per cent of its yellowtail flounder catch out of the province for processing.

When there is supposedly good news to be delivered, the government and its cheerleaders choose 6 p.m. to go before the cameras and microphones, to make the evening news and let the peasants know how well the fiefdom is being run.

But if a new policy will inevitably lead to further servitude, giveaways or sendaways, the governors attempt to sneak it past when many people’s minds are on last-minute shopping or decorating, rather than on the duplicitous doings of their current overlords.

We’re closing in on New Year’s. The calendar will soon read 2013.

Technically, this is the 21st

century. Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) are still ruled as if it’s the 19th.

Let’s make a collective New Year’s resolution.

Let’s raise our expectations, and demand to be treated like freethinking adults and responsible citizens. And then let’s party like it’s 1899.

• • •

Things were looking pretty

good Christmas morning when I unwrapped a reciprocating saw and a gift card for a load of lumber. Thank goodness for birthdays, Father’s Day and Christmas. I now have enough power tools to help build Muskrat Falls.

But first I have to renovate the basement and put new siding on the shed.

Things got even better when I unwrapped “Kurt Vonnegut: Letters,” a volume of the famous author’s correspondence over the years.

Strangely enough, most of my favourite writers got their start in journalism and had a healthy, lifelong contempt for pissants in power (Vonnegut, Charles Dickens, George Orwell, Tom Robbins and so on).

Vonnegut, you’ll recall, became famous in 1969 upon publication of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” a wild, weird and unclassifiable tale that arose out of his experience of being a 22-year-old prisoner of war in Dresden when it was firebombed by the Allies.

He survived because he and other prisoners were kept in a former slaughterhouse, which shielded them from the heat and flames.

I still have a few hundred pages to go, happily, but it is apparent Vonnegut’s talent for humour and description were evident long before his books became mandatory reading among university students in the 1970s.

Here’s a quote from his first letter to his father and family back home in Indianapolis upon his release from the prison camp, in May 1945: “On about February 14th the Americans came over, followed by the R.A.F. Their combined labors killed 250,000 people in twenty-four hours and destroyed all of Dresden — possibly the world’s most beautiful city. But not me.”

No wonder millions of people adored the guy.

Vonnegut’s talent was not just black humour, or bleak humour, but the ability to combine it with skilful observation of the world. Here’s the next paragraph in his letter home: “After that we were put to work carrying corpses from Air-Raid shelters; women, children, old men; dead from concussion, fire or suffocation. Civilians cursed us and threw rocks as we carried bodies to huge funeral pyres in the city.”

No wonder Vonnegut later conceived of a character who becomes “unstuck in time.”

What might he think of our government’s propensity for propaganda?

In a letter to an old Cornell University friend in April 1952, Vonnegut, who had worked in public relations for General Electric, wrote, “This country is being managed to death, being public related to death. … It is terribly alarming and depressing.”

Brian Jones is a desk editor at

The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Allies, Cornell University, General Electric The Telegram

Geographic location: Dresden, Indianapolis

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Recent comments

  • ginn
    January 02, 2013 - 08:09

    I believe there was an election a year ago and a large majority of the province's voters opted for thee PCs. Your adjectives, language of the "never in" NDP, are not only untrue but is an attempt to replace opposition policy with anarchistic crap. Get out of St. John's and talk to real people.

  • I thought with the arrival of the Williams administrtion serfdom and the give-away of our Natural Resources would come to an end., but it has only gotten worse.
    December 28, 2012 - 17:00

    Mr. Jones wrote: "When there is supposedly good news to be delivered, the government and its cheerleaders choose 6 p.m. to go before the cameras and microphones, to make the evening news and let the peasants know how well the fiefdom is being run. But if a new policy will inevitably lead to further servitude, giveaways or sendaways, the governors attempt to sneak it past when many people’s minds are on last-minute shopping or decorating, rather than on the duplicitous doings of their current overlords. We’re closing in on New Year’s. The calendar will soon read 2013. Technically, this is the 21st century. Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) are still ruled as if it’s the 19th." I thought when ex Premier Danny Williams and his Merry Men and Women came to power, "serfdom and the give-away" of our Natural Resources would come to an end, but it has only escalated at a rapid rate with the push through of the Muskrat Falls.

  • Brandt Hardin
    December 28, 2012 - 16:26

    Vonnegut’s zany and surreal world reflects the absurdity of our own and really bent my mind to different modes of thinking. His work has inspired my own visual arts for quite some time and I created a tribute illustration of the author with the help of an old typewriter. You can see it at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/11/happy-birthday-mr-vonnegut.html and tell me how his work and words also affected you.

  • Corporate Psycho
    December 28, 2012 - 12:02

    Mr. Jones calls it like he sees it. Once this government is gone all the skullduggery/corruption of Danny and Company will be exposed. It ain't going to be pretty. More digging is needed.

  • P F Murphy
    December 28, 2012 - 11:37

    I think the most accurate portrayal of Ms Dunderdale and her government is that they are "beggars on horseback".

  • Scott Strong
    December 28, 2012 - 11:08

    Mr. Jones: I see that the comments regarding your article "Christmas with Kurt" are the usual mixture of the politically partisan and the 'ad hominem' attack, which must become wearying to digest on a daily basis. It's unlikely that any of your correspondents have heard of, much less read, Vonnegut. But I have, and he was a gentle champion, goring the oxen of political pomposity and guile in the world, and the world needs more of it. Tilting at windmills, perhaps, but necessary all the same. I look forward to reading (and often, disagreeing with) your work in 1899. Or whatever.

    • wavy
      December 28, 2012 - 18:00

      Unlikely ANY have heard of, much less read, Vonnegut? Well, aren't you the pompous, pretentious, self-righteous snob. That's what a B.A. in English is worth these days, is it? You remind me of "that guy" from the bar scene in Good Will Hunting. Funny stuff, Scott. And way to demand better of your elected officials.

  • Jeremiah
    December 28, 2012 - 10:21

    What a narrow minded, small and negative piece of garbage! There is no question that Ms. Dunderdale and her adminstration has lots of room for improvement but your hateful comments are a little bit over the top. Get that huge chip off your shoulder and stop trying to get ahead at any cost.

  • Scott Free
    December 28, 2012 - 10:00

    Does anyone really expect that Secret Society, known as the Con Party of NL, to share information, come clean, or be truthful, transparent and forthcoming? Forget it; democracy died in NL under the direction of Little Man Dan during the Danny Damage Era and the deciding blow was delivered in a decree by the Dunderdale Dimwits.

  • John Smith
    December 28, 2012 - 09:41

    Mr. Jones...if you think the government is as you say it is...then why don't you run for public office and set it all right? You might even get 5 or 10 people to vote for you...if your lucky...

    • wavy
      December 28, 2012 - 17:48

      Ahh, yes, the old "if you think it sucks, why don't you try to do better" arguement. Very astute of you. Used against critics of the arts for years. "Your movie/ album/ play sucks". The defense: "oh yeah? And how was your last movie/ album/ play, Mr. Critic?" As weak a counterarguement as it is lame. Just because I want a better loaf of bread, doesn't mean I should have to quit my job and become a baker. I just want my baker to do a better than piss-poor job at his chosen profession.