The Dryden Observer, editor asked if I would like to fill some of the space left open when Gerrie Noble retires from regular columns. Being a history nut, as well as having strongly held opinions on all subjects, I am happy to do so. I do not have the patience or the research skills that Gerrie brought to the job, and what I write might not have the ‘take it to the bank’ solid factual base Gerrie has provided, more like stories from my memory and that people have told me over the years. To those who know me and point out I don’t always remember what happened last week, I would answer that I can remember 60 years ago pretty good. Anyway I would welcome readers writing in and pointing out where I have made a mistake, at least it will show that somebody is actually reading this stuff.
This column is named the Contrarian, because I have been told that I am a “Contrarian Thinker” and I have a stock of ‘contrarian commentary’ I would like to share along with historical anecdotes. Also, Willie Brant, my friend from childhood days, gave me a stack of diaries he has written over the years, and I will share stories from him as well. He is a pretty contrary fellow.
If you wonder what contrarian means, it has to do with dividing us up by how we think. The largest group of people are the Conformists. They want to fit in, want to be on the winning team, want to be insiders and liked and admired. They will uncritically go along with the majority view to be accepted. The next group are the Independents. They like to think things out for themselves, and will analyze whatever information or opinion comes to them in the light of their own experience and prejudices, and come to their own conclusions. The last group is the Contrarians, those who always look for an opposing point of view, whatever is conventional wisdom is suspect to them, they always look for another opinion; they often like to argue.
Of course I would rather think I am an independent, contrarian doesn’t sound like a very likable person. However, if I honestly appraise how I approach things, I have to admit to some degree of contrariness, even cussedness, if the shoe fits, I have to wear it.
Us contrarian’s think there is a lot of fractured logic in conventional Canadian opinion. Some would call it the thinking of the mathematically impaired. Here are some examples of fractured logic. Every morning the rooster crows, then the sun comes up, therefore a cult could arise around the notion we had better take good care of that rooster, or the sun won’t come up and we will all freeze in the dark. Or 40% of car accidents involve drinking and driving. That means 60% involved sober drivers, so the safer thing to do is to get snockered before you drive. Or most people die in hospitals, so the safe thing to do is avoid hospitals (actually maybe that one isn’t so far off). Or cholesterol in your blood is bad for you, so cholesterol in your food must be bad for you. (Or maybe not, or maybe some kinds of cholesterol are good for you). Watch for it, and you will see this kind of fuzzy thinking everywhere. Willie and I have talked a lot about this, and agreed a good shorthand for it would be to call it “sacred rooster” thinking..
Willie has a big problem with what he calls ‘do-gooders’ He is not talking about people who give all they can to churches and charities and who try to help others when they can, in fact he has nothing but admiration for those people. No, what he calls do-gooders are people who have too much education, too much time, too good a life, and feel vaguely guilty about it, but not guilty enough to help out directly, not guilty enough to get their hands dirty. They are university-educated, and mostly city-bred – country people live close enough to nature to have some common sense.
They want the government to tax us all and send it away as foreign aid, but never get around to making a personal donation. They sent the missionaries to convert the heathen, but would have been horrified to have one of those primitive people in their house. Now they praise paganism of all kinds, and put down Christianity at every opportunity. They sent the missionaries to run the residential schools, and now they blame the residential schools for all the Native’s problems. They want to tell us how to live in great detail, they support things like the Kyoto agreement which would have us live at a greatly reduced standard, perhaps going back to riding a donkey to work, while they of course have no compunction about burning up tons of fuel jetting all over the world. They would have us never cut another tree, while they use more than their share of the worlds paper just for toilet paper. So when Willie talks about do-gooders in his diary, you will know what he means. Dryden Observer, 2012