The CBC Bleeds: Life inside the Zeitgeist

As I type this, Canadian’s national broadcaster CBC is bleeding heavily after being gutted by budgeting cuts imposed by a national government that sees no value in Canadians having a free and informed press, and loathes a national culture that often indulges in mockery and satire at our government’s expense.

The CBC will survive today, but at what strength, I don’t know.

Without a real breakdown for me to compare existing jobs versus those that will be cut, and so forth, I’m mostly blowing smoke out of my ass if I speak to numbers or measurable consequence, so I’ll stick to peripherals and ideologies rather than facts. Proof I’m smarter than I look.

This gutting today, the “surgical” cutting of budgets, speaks to Stephen Harper’s government, who’ve shown a disdain for anything based in science, culture, or public interest.

I don’t even want to go there, right now, though.

This moment, here, now, what has me sad is the change to our culture. Whether it’s small theatre or the CBC, Canada has its own bent when it comes to what flies, culturally.

It’s why some American show like Arrested Development might barely get a following in the US but is a runaway hit in Canada — we see things differently from our American friends. We like bleakness. We’re big on books and words, have a great ability to comprehend complicated plots. We’re completely oddball when in comes to humour, proven by ex-pats like SNL’s creator Lorne Michaels, or Jim Carrey, Mike Meyers, and pretty much anyone else who’s made $10 million or more for acting in comedies.

Some question if that weird worldview is borne of our “bi-polar weather” — amazing short summers with endless winters. Maybe it’s the great beer, or the wide open spaces where you get to really be alone with the voices in your head, or the way we’ve always needed community for surviving in the wilds of this Great Northern Land.

There’s something about Canadians that’s just different from Americans, and every effort to encapsulate it falls short.

Nation-wise, we’re often depicted as being the little guy who needs his big strong friend to pick him out of trouble spots.

But like most people with self-esteem issues, the reality is very different from what the perception might be.

We’re not really the ineffective little friend that needs Big Dude’s help.

Instead, we’ve got a crack military force. Our education consistently ranks with considerably higher results than USA’s. We’ve got more natural resources than most countries could ever dream of. We’re the fourth largest oil provider in the world, and one of the best beer providers. We’re funny as fuck and have long been the backbone of the American comedy industry. We once had more writers per capita than anyone in the world, probably still do. We’re polite. We’re a massive country with a little population, and somehow we not only have infrastructure everywhere, but we also have universal healthcare.

Sorry, eh?

Granted, a lot of those places where we rock are places our budgets have been cut, funding slashed, and the glimmers of hope dimmed, but hey. It’s what we are.

So, today, I’m of two minds.

One, I understand why the slashing is happening. I know that, like most public organizations, there are a lot of deadbeat managers and redundant positions, but I also understand that when these cuts happen, it’s not the deadbeat managers who are gutted, and when more and more of the supposedly “redundant” positions are hacked, it starts bleeding into the quality of the overall product.

Take a look at the shitty barely-researched articles offered by so-called “online reporters” for newspapers like The Vancouver Sun these days as an example of what happens when you keep lowering the bar on employees due to this perceived need to have “new news” every moment of the day. I worry that this will be what happens to a once-great CBC. And then Harper will be as happy as a pig in shit.

Two, I know we’re on the cusp of a new time. When printed music first appeared, it changed everything in the world of musicians and concerts. We’re at that point now with digital media. Suddenly, we don’t need newspapers, or record companies, or book publishers. We’re turning into a world much like that of 400 years ago, where artists are back to distributing their own content, and it comes truly down to who’s got the best way with the world instead of who’s standing with the biggest corporation marketing machine behind them.

The CBC, like every other entertainment giant in the world, has got to feel the pinch from the fact that it’s now by ourselves or fancy third-party apps that we aggregate our news, culture, information, and images from a variety of sources. We don’t need reporters or people who were cultivated by a corporation to try and figure out what the hot-new-thing-now is, because we’re better judges than most industry hacks ever could be — we have no advertisers to appease, talking heads to curtail us, or shareholders to satisfy. We just have to find cool shit to watch, read, hear, or circulate, and it doesn’t matter who’s behind it.

How the CBC could escape that changing reality in this modern age, well, that’s entirely beyond my imagination.

It doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t break a little today. It doesn’t mean I wish we could resolve this in a way that doesn’t mean hundreds of jobs vanish, shows go unproduced, and content-creation begins treading even softer so as to avoid becoming a part of the gutting.

The CBC was a huge part of my upbringing back when we got five channels and most of what we watched was on CBC. The CBC was the voice in the night when I moved to the Yukon and had only radio to keep me company before I met any locals. The CBC is, in many ways, synonymous for me in thinking of what “My Canada” means.

So. Yes. We’re at a difficult point, to be sure.

It’s like anything. Some things need to die before others can be born. We’re alive during a drastically changing zeitgeist.

Culturally, the upheaval is incredibly hard to handle.

But, underneath it all, deep down, waiting for its moment, it is truly the time of the Individual. Or: The Viral Age.

It means we’ll have fewer corporations to do us the favour of weeding out the crap. We’ll be subject to more and more mediocrity. But once in a rare while, someone who’s truly unique and has great talent will break free and get noticed in the wide world of the web, and we’ll all share the link.

Or maybe not.

And that’s life in the zeitgeist for you: Everything you love changes; there are no guarantees.

And sometimes it’s really fucking sad to watch that becoming the case.

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