By PAT WATSON
Perhaps what keeps so many of us engrossed in the unfolding train wreck that is Rob Ford’s tenure as mayor of Toronto is how much we identify with Ford’s glaring weaknesses. Enough of us identify with a personality that doesn’t easily fit in, a person who is a social misfit, yet who, by dint of ego, would redefine himself as a maverick.
We are tired of seeing prepackaged politicians who always say the correct thing or have become so well tutored in obfuscation, are so evasive, that we haven’t a clue where concrete truth would reside in any statement they make.
Ford is the self we keep in the closet for fear of rejection. He, on the other hand, is nearing icon status. Just as the ‘nerd’ has found his way to the front of the line, glasses taped up after being broken by a bully and pocket protector neatly place, the social outcast embodied in Ford has taken centre stage.
Those who reject him most are those who are queasy about that very aspect of themselves they would rather hide in shame. After all, hasn’t it been said of Ford that he is shameless? Ford is us with all our shortcomings on display. He is us with all our naughty bits exposed.
Why, for instance, despite the reports of his racist comments in the as yet unrevealed, now infamous video that started this whole exposé, do so many ‘minorities’ support Ford? Are we not the very types so commonly rejected by the mainstream? We don’t have the ‘right’ whatever it is that meets the arbitrary standards of society. So regardless of what inaccuracies Ford may utter about the numbers of votes he received relative to other mayoral candidates in this city, and regardless of his inaccuracies about that “billion dollars” he has saved the city and “taxpayers”, regardless of whether he has or hasn’t “had a drink in the last three weeks”, he is still the embodiment of those outsiders who through him are finally at the centre.
We hear it in the constant chants of the Ford brothers – Rob and his biggest cheerleader, elder brother, Doug – as they ask ‘Who hasn’t had one drink too many and then gone into work?’ The fact is very many of us have. And, doesn’t it strike those who have been fired because of it as a little bit of a victory, a fantasy made real, that Ford can do all of that and still not lose his job? It may gall the up-tight, upright gentile set, but the ordinary joe sees a moment of victory.
Ford strikes a chord with the little guy for the very reason he has been mocked so thoroughly: his substance abuse. On the job substance abuse registers highest among people who Ford says he’s fighting for. The ‘little guy’ is the assembly line worker, the construction worker and the service industry worker, who statistics show register highest for drinking while on the job.
Those people who live in low rent neighbourhoods on the outer edges of the city that are poorly served by public transit also see Ford as their hero/anti-hero.
This is not about the politics of the dollar anymore; if all politics is personal then this Ford saga is most certainly about that in spades.
That is why there is fear that he could win again. If the ethos of the one-percenters has been holding sway over the suffering of the underclass, then the symbol that Ford has become will have some potential for staying the distance. As long as he keeps telling the public that he is there fighting for the little guy, regardless of the depth or lack of depth of such statements coming from him, and as long as he speaks in the same vernacular as those outsiders, that disempowered demographic, he will have a presence.
Ford’s biggest personal problem is that he lost his way when he gave himself over to substance dependency. For his posse, everything else about him is just gravy.
A note on Wi-Fi…
Public transit users now have Wi-Fi access for their tablets and other androids at the Yonge/Bloor and St. George subway stations. Nice. But, the dreaded day is coming when mobile phones users will have access in those places as well. Expect a future of more exposure to loud, inane phone chatter.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.