June 25, 2012

Rohinton Mistry’s neocon fairytale


For the last few years, America has been in the grips of a veritable storm of celebrity-author graduation speeches.  To start with, there was David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon commencement speech and Dave Eggers’ at Brown.

Now Cory Doctorow reports on Boing Boing that Rohinton Mistry, author of A Fine Balance, delivered a rather more left-of-field convocation speech at Ryerson Polytechnic in Toronto.  Mistry took the opportunity to tell a fairy-tale where,

“based on A Christmas Carol, by way of a critique of the Canadian swing to a neoconservative right, where social spending exists only to promote “moochers” and society is a fight between bad guys (who need to be surveilled all the time in every medium) and good guys (who don’t mind being surveilled in such a way), and where no amount of “security” is ever enough.”

The full text can be viewed here, but it begins,

“Once was a time, in the country of Acadan, the oldest and wisest professor at the University of Acadan was feeling quite miserable.

 The season of convocation was upon the land; excitement and optimism wafted like fragrance in the Acadanian air. For students and faculty alike, it was a time of hope, of great expectations. But for the oldest and wisest professor, loved and admired by all, it brought only unhappiness.

 Every year at this time, when words like “gowns,” “mortar-boards,” “limousines,” and “parties” were trending on Twitter, while others such as “student loans,” “unemployment,” and “recession” were in temporary abeyance, doubt and dejection would descend upon the good professor. Did I do all I could for my students, was the question tormenting him. Was I Socratic enough, did I encourage dialogue and debate? Or did I just keep droning on? Did I demonstrate that it was not so much a matter of learning to think, as it was of learning not to think rubbish?”

Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.