Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Catherine the Great: Journalist, Author, Blogger

I enjoyed a talk by Catherine Ford this past weekend at a conference in Banff. The title she used was, "If I Knew Then What I Know Now", and it was great fun. She is acerbic, opinionated and hilarious. While some of her opinions made my table companions wince, I found her to be a refreshing break from the ordinary. She asked the audience to write down a piece of advice they would give their younger selves -- mine was, "Invest in Apple Computer or Real Estate" (ever the pragmatic Scandinavian). She had quite a few words to say about the impending Federal Election, many that I agreed with, starting with "it is up to us to tell our Government who is worthy, to speak out for our least bretheren" and "we all have the power of one". She railed against apathetic citizenship and opined that "we were not given our giftedness to do nothing, to fritter it away". Catherine also talked about the true measure of a woman - the difference she makes in her community.

What I found most memorable from Catherine Ford's talk was a quote about laughter. The idea resonated so much with me that I hunted down the full quote:

from: Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, by Doris May Lessing, 1992

"Choosing to laugh.... The researchers of brain-washing and indoctrination discovered that people who knew how to laugh resisted best. The Turks, for instance ... the soldiers who faced their torturers with laughter sometimes survived with others did not. Fanatics don't laugh at themselves; laughter is by definition heretical, unless used cruelly, turned outwards against an opponent or enemy. Bigots can't laugh. True believers don't laugh. Their idea of laughter is a satirical cartoon pillorying an opposition person or idea. Tyrants and oppressors don't laugh at themselves, and don't tolerate laughter at themselves.

Laughter is a very powerful thing, and only the civilized, the liberated, the free person can laugh at herself, himself (p. 46)."

Perhaps a little less philosophical, but just as memorable and resonant, was Catherine's view on magazines: "Do any of you still buy women's magazines? Why do we DO this to ourselves? Women's magazines are full of 'you are fat, you are ugly, you need a makeover, your clothes suck, you are getting old'. On the other hand, men's magazines are full of 'you are still fabulous, how to get laid even though you are balding, you look great with that extra 20 pounds'. Again, I ask you, Why do we do this to ourselves?"

Catherine has recently started a blog that makes me chuckle. I look forward to reading Catherine's book, Against the Grain: An Irreverent View of Alberta, published by McClelland & Stewart, 2006.

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