Celebrity mania

Not a day goes by without the press featuring some celebrity.

There is nothing wrong with that except that the enthusiasm so often is misplaced.

For example, the oft-repeated list of the most outstanding Canadians frequently reflects ignorance of history as well as obsession with entertainers and sports heroes. Those who truly are worthy of note are neglected shamefully.

Perhaps contemporary list of Canadian luminaries should take the title of the 1995 Jane Austen-based film Clueless. It is about time that we reconsider the entire issue of selecting idols.

What is the missing nowadays, of course, is a knowledge of history and some kind of moral perspective. One-day wonders can be inspiring, such as Terry Fox and his planned trip across Canada despite his cancer-afflicted leg. Our school system should be reproached for what is missing in its curriculum.

Take politicians, for instance. The media does not present a balanced picture. Historians correctly pay tribute to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, who steered Canada through the turmoil of the early part of the 20th century, but Prime Minister Richard Bennett has been totally ignored.

He was a person of unique personal integrity, who was selfless in supporting the Conservative Party and a great reformer with Canadian versions of the United States’ 1930s reforms, such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He was defeated by the Great Depression and the clearly unscrupulous Mackenzie King; morality should be an important part of any roll of Canadian heroes.

Contemporary lists of favoured Canadians always cite Pierre Trudeau. His personal integrity was a shamble. What did he actually accomplish? Most lawyers will argue that, despite its popularity, the Charter of Rights has entailed a tremendous amount of unnecessary litigation.

Furthermore, he exacerbated Quebec’s sense of “humiliation” and isolation by repatriation of the constitution without the assent of Quebec. Jack Layton is on many lists, but his victory in the last federal election very well could prove to be nothing more than a one-time event with no longer-term implications for Canada.

Instead, how about Tommy Douglas, originator of Medicare?

The two doctors who were pioneers in the treatment of diabetes, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, are never mentioned in any list, yet they are among the greatest benefactors of mankind.

Why is there no acknowledgement of Jean Vanier and his L’Arche institution for those who are mentally incapacitated, or Paul Brand who worked tirelessly with lepers?

Any list should encompass those ordinary individuals who are essential to the function of society: the train engineers, the letter carrier, and then too the police and firefighters who risk their lives for all of us.

A survey of our heroes needs revision to incorporate those who, with morality, so benefitted mankind.


Bruce Whitestone