Brian Jones: Of mice and memes


Published on May 19, 2017

The daily news brings a barrage of evidence of the decline and decrepitude of democratic society as we once knew it.

Brian Jones

It can be found even in small, seemingly inconsequential headlines such as “Volunteer saves pet mouse that overdosed on heroin,” which did not appear in the tabloids or online on fake news sites, but in veritable journals of record such as The Telegram.

Just because someone is offended by certain comments doesn’t mean the commenter must be punished.

As reported by The Canadian Press, the pet rodent nibbled on some heroin, and was comatose and at the gates of pest paradise by the time its owner rushed it to an overdose prevention centre in downtown Vancouver. Volunteers there put a smidgeon of naloxone on its nose, and the mouse licked it and lived.

Granted, it’s a great little story, and some animal lovers will croon at its cuteness.

On the other hand, it is a good example of how so much of society’s ills are due to a loss of perspective.

It is a rodent. We have poisons for those things, and with good reason. But, since the provincial government has seen fit to restrict the use of the best rat and mouse poisons to licensed exterminators, perhaps I’ll spread a bit of heroin around the chicken coop, although it might have the negative side-effect of making the hens lazy and lethargic.

Imagine the scandal if the volunteers had refused to supply naloxone to save the mouse, saying, “We treat people, not pests.” The resultant headline, “Mouse dies of heroin overdose, volunteers refuse to help,” would have prompted Pamela Anderson to put on her clothes and head for Canada.

Loss of perspective goes far beyond pests, of course. In politics, apparently the whole world has lost it, never mind the U.S. and its new president Mr. T.

Over in Nova Scotia, the herring chokers are having a provincial election on May 30, and each of the three major parties has kicked out a candidate for making online comments that were offensive, inappropriate, unacceptable, derogatory or downright not very nice.

In the online world, anything you say can and will be used against you.

The NDP removed a candidate because he used to write a blog supposedly directed toward men’s interests, such as beer, fast food and “boobs” — the latter word being enough to brand him as a sexist misogynist unfit to run for office.

Over in the Conservative camp, a candidate was crossed off because in 2013 — four years ago — he engaged in a Twitter argument and, we must infer, used the term “retard.” We can only infer, because neither the party nor the former candidate would provide the full offending quote, and say only that the guy apologized to two groups who support people with Down syndrome.

If this sounds as if the Nova Scotia Conservatives have a delayed development of perspective — i.e., their sense of perspective has been “retarded,” as per the dictionary definition — for goodness sake, don’t say so online. Four years from now, you might get jilted at the altar when your fiancé/fiancée finds out about it.

Meanwhile, the Liberals aren’t looking lightly on lust. A candidate who just happens to be a smokin’ hot blond got booted for a Twitter comment about date rape. The Liberal boy brass — not recognizing the irony of their own sexism — declared anyone who jokes about date rape can’t be their candidate. Details are lacking in the news stories about it. But the woman’s full quote — obtainable via Google — can just as reasonably be read as black humour and/or social commentary.

How have we lost perspective? Just because someone is offended by certain comments doesn’t mean the commenter must be punished.

A society that has become so dainty endangers its own democracy.

 

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.