Sunday, April 1, 2012

Down goes Brazeau!

Okay, not really. Tonight's charity boxing match between Justin Trudeau and Patrick Brazeau ended with both men still standing, Trudeau winning via TKO in the third round. But it was a decisive victory and one that that I can't help but find very satisfying.

The runup to this fight really brought out what I find so distasteful about today's right wing. Senator Brazeau, a heavily-muscled ex-military type with a black belt in karate, was heavily favoured to win the match. And the Sun Media empire, doing its best to bring a Fox News level of civility and reason to the Canadian media landscape, devoted an awful lot of airtime to pre-gloating.

Bear in mind that this was a charity event to raise money for cancer research. But from the get-go it was clear that this was about much more. The Canadian right wing has a crazed General Zod-like hatred of Justin Trudeau. And the angry-working-class demographic that eats Sun Media for breakfast thrives on the kind of crass, bullying, sneering contempt for anyone not like them. These are the people who don their troll masks and fill online comment sections with bitter, personal, venomous attacks against all things non-meathead.

Watch Ezra Levant on Youtube, all Salacious Crumb-ing over the prospect of the "Shiny Pony" Trudeau getting his ass kicked in the upcoming fight.

This was not good-natured trash-talking. This was a visceral hatred and contempt, a need to see a despised enemy humiliated, coupled with the smug certainty that he would get his wish.

Normal people can tell the difference.

If Ezra Levant was in high school, he would be the kid who chortles and rubs his hands together in anticipation of the upcoming fight at 3:00 behind the portables, when the school bully will beat the crap out of the skinny chess-club nerd who dared talk back to him. And rest assured, had his guy won, Levant would not have been gracious about it.

That is what modern conservatism threatens to become, and arguably already has in some places. It's not about having a certain set of ideas and wanting them to prevail. That's not enough. Your opponent is not a rival, he is an enemy who must be crushed and humiliated. Grace in victory is a sign of weakness. Why settle for winning when you can both win and make people who aren't like you feel bad?

This is why the political climate in the United States has grown so toxic. One side has no interest in any long-term accommodation with its opponents. It rules out a priori that its opponents have anything worthwhile to offer other than abject surrender (and even then, as Democrats have learned again and again, they will be despised for it.) It is a slash-and-burn, winner-take-all-forever approach to society. It is not one that is sustainable in the long term.

World War II and Nazi Germany are overused metaphors. But in the runup to tonight's fight, I couldn't help but think of the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fight in 1938.

In those days, Hitler seemed unstoppable. It seemed that this vicious regime, that respected only raw power and the unfettered exercise thereof, was going to get its geopolitical way over and over again. When Schmeling went against Joe Louis, the great black clouds of the impending conflict seemed to boil down and condense into this one pair of fights.

In the first fight, Schmeling knocked out Louis. And a few days later, the Aryan superman was going to do it again--cement once and for all his race's superiority over the non-German, and particularly the off-white, peoples of the world.

So when, with the eyes of the world on him, Joe Louis knocked out Schmeling in the first round...

Well, it was important.

Sometimes these things really matter. Or they reflect something that matters. The world is big and complicated and messy, and sometimes you need to boil it down to a couple of symbols and put them in a venue we can understand, with simple rules and a simple way of knowing who won.

Throughout the runup, Justin Trudeau carried himself with class. Some obligatory pre-fight bravado aside, he never suggested a lack of respect, or any personal animus towards his opponent. As the fight approached there was some discussion about how he might be able to win "on points, if he dances around the ring enough." This seemed to carry the connotation that such a win wouldn't be a "real" win, i.e. the kind where you smash your opponent, bloody and broken and unconscious, to the mat.

And in the event, he went in there and was the better fighter. He kept up his stamina long after Brazeau tired himself out with mighty swings. He kept up a steady rain of quick, precise jabs. It was clear to anyone watching that if this had been allowed to go on, Brazeau would indeed have gone down. Trudeau kept his wits about him and, in the end, showed that there's more to winning than raw power; that grace, and skill, and intelligence still count for something.

Here's a link to the fight. Tellingly, Sun Media isn't showing it on their website.

No comments:

Post a Comment