Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Ford Becomes an Edsel


"Men at some time are masters of their fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 139-141)

This quotation from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar comes during a discussion between Cassius and his friend Brutus. He is trying to convince Brutus that it is in the best interests of the public that Caesar must be stopped in his quest to become ruler of Rome. The line is often interpreted as Shakespeare's commentary on what drives people to do what they do. Cassius is dispelling the notion that fate has any hand in our decisions and actions, but rather we must look inward at our own failings and shortcomings.

The problem with the now possible "former" Mayor of Toronto, is that he never has been able to recognize his own weaknesses and foibles, let alone take responsibility for any impulses that might control his entire public persona. And while hubris and ignorance may not be indictable offences under the law, those characteristics certainly didn't help Mr. Ford in his defence against, and eventual conviction of, conflict of interest charges brought against him by one of the very "taxpayers" that Mayor Rob has always purported to serve. The penalty for this crime as imposed by the judge (and make no mistake friends, it was a crime whether you like it or not!) is removal from office pending a stay and an appeal. We can debate whether or not the punishment fits the crime, but the facts of the case are not in dispute. The crazy part of all of this nonsense is that The Mayor could have avoided the entire episode  had he simply recognized that the "fault is not in our stars but in ourselves". If he had recused himself from the initial vote at council when advised by the chair at the time that he was indeed in conflict, he'd be clean. If he had responded to the countless letters from the integrity commissioner informing him of his failing and just repaid what most seem to agree is an inconsequential sum, he'd be clean. If he had listened to Toronto Council and repaid the sum, he'd be clean. If he hadn't viciously and publicly attacked the integrity commissioner for simply doing the job to which she was appointed, and demanded the elimination of her position all together, he'd be clean. If he had merely apologized for a lack of judgement, he'd be clean. If he had pleaded ignorance of the law and demonstrated anything but utter contempt for the process, he might be clean. But this man is incapable of humility, incapable of apology, incapable of following even the most basic rules and laws of communal governance.

The Mayor rode a wave of populism that propelled him into his office. But, populism should never ever be confused with competence. Think Sarah Palin. This is a man who has continually displayed his inadequacy for the office. And while he has had some political successes, he has displayed a chronic unfitness for the very office that he has sworn to uphold. From Jonathan Goldsbie in the National Post:
If you neither understand nor care to understand the specific law that you have sworn to uphold, then you don’t belong in that position. When you carelessly break a job contract and refuse to apologize for having done so, you deserve to be fired.
It is far too easy to lampoon this guy. Honestly....he has laid so much of the groundwork for us already.  His public embarrassments and gaffes are well documented and should be grossly humiliating to any ordinary person and the citizenry that elected him. But, Rob Ford is certainly not ordinary and neither are his tunnel-visioned supporters. But, the administration of the city of Toronto is far too important and far too complicated to entrust it any longer to a man who clearly holds neither the intellectual capability nor the political acumen to adequately serve the people.

Judaism has a great deal to say about the behaviour of our elected officials. Babylonian Talmud Hagigah 5b states that "God weeps over a community leader who is domineering."

That same text notes in Pesahim 113b that "There are four kinds of people whom people dislike:
One of them is a communal leader who is arrogant toward his constituents for no good reason."

On the other hand, it is written in Tosafot Sanhedrin 7:1 that "One who is wise, humble, clear-headed, and fearful of sin... may be made a judge/leader in his/her city."

Tell me? Which of these is descriptive of Rob Ford?

It may be convenient for the mayor, (and unquestioned red meat for the base) to call out the judge, "the left-wing loonies", his political foes, the mainstream media, or any other imagined enemies in order to assign liability for his present condition. It may also serve the mayor and his supporters to engage in false equivalencies of others caught up in conflict of interest scandals. But the truth is that the blame for Rob Ford's predicament lays directly at the feet of Rob Ford. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

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