The long-standing, pioneering, popular reality TV show, Survivor, still sends tongues wagging. In a télé-vérité genre where 20 contestants vie for a one million dollar prize while surviving in the elements, and above all, each other, the show garners thousands of American (and Canadian) candidates to volunteer for the unique experience. Survivor is known as the "classy" reality show. It does not dive in the smut that reigns on MTV's trashy 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom where some cast members end up in jail, the tactless Real Housewives series nor the Jersey Shore eye sore portrayals of Italian-American stereotypes.
While some say it takes courage to lay bare one's personal struggles, insecurities and painful life experiences on television, legions of viewers tune in to witness the weekly pseudo-mutiny on Survivor.
Questions were raised last week when Survivor contestant Brandon Hantz, who showed obvious signs of mental instability, had a very public and very uncomfortable-to-watch breakdown. Like a mad dog, his violent tendencies and short fuse lead to an epic confrontation. Should mental illness be leveraged or exploited for TV ratings? Is there no responsibility of TV producers to shield the weak from becoming for-profit public spectacle? Does human decency have a home in the country of vulture capitalism and unlimited pseudo-freedom?
These questions were also raised in the 1990s when home videos of homeless Americans baited to fight one another for a mere $50 were put on the market. TV commercials allowed any one to buy their own copy of "UFC for homeless people." America had reached a new low. While these questions linger once more, post-Survivor memorable meltdown, I took solace in trusting Canada was so much better than that. We have more class than that; we would never stoop that low.
I was wrong.
Our own federal government put its stamp of approval on a Hunger Games-like "misery for reality-TV" show (according to documents obtained by a Vancouver woman named Helesia Luke, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews approved the filming, and someone from the Prime Minister's office saw a demo reel of the show). And it's our bureaucrats' time and expertise that will serve as pawns in the scheme. (The CBSA vets every segment of the show before it airs.)
Luke put it this way to the CBC: "I think CBSA is putting in in-kind contributions in the way of staff time. Clearly, they have a huge burden in terms of vetting the footage."
Lowly undocumented workers, desperate to leave their horrible homelands to start a new life in the 11th best country in the world, are now fodder for the cable television subscribers' amusement. The state is volunteering in-kind contributions (government workers' time) for a corporate venture to garner ratings and valuable advertising dollars under the cloak of "promotion of Canada's commitment to border security."
Reports point to the TV consent forms being offered up to the alleged undocumented personnel before they were given access to a legal representative. How exactly is that prioritization conducive to "Canada's commitment to border security"?
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Vikileaks and Vicky Lives
The Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews has arguably made his share of blunders: his 2005 conviction for violating the Manitoba Election Finances Act, his infamous ultimatum equating anyone against an Orwellian Internet snooping law to endorsement of child pornographers, and his affair with his children's babysitter. How many lives does that Vicky-cat have?
This titillating television tragedy is the latest link of sausage the Harper government passes off as "a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government." Riddled with short-sightedness, poor judgement, and selective myopia, the heartless Harper clan has no qualms about putting its Conservative Reform Alliance Party roots before the common good and respect of all persons, no matter what the race, origin or creed.
Do not adjust your set. The Harper government's upside-down prioritization scheme has cast:
- Cheap temporary foreign labour before Canadian jobs
- Profits of meat-processing plants before food safety
- Crime invention before crime prevention
- Foreign War celebrations before the anniversary of the Canadian constitution and the Charter of Rights
- Dated dogma before science and statistics
- Chinese interests before national resource ownership
- American foreign affairs programme before Canadian consensus
- British embassies agenda before our own.
- Ideology before common sense in refugee heath
- Religious rhetoric before women's rights
With the PMO's documented complicity, Minister Vic Toews has tuned out human decency.The Harper government continues to broadcast its condescension of commoners. Canadian voters won't be able to change the channel until 2015.