This post concerns a March 7, 2014 metronews.ca article entitled: “Toronto city hall aide faces federal lawsuit seeking $330,000.”
That’s an engaging story. It helps a person to understand, at least to some extent, some things that might otherwise not be understood.
The person in question appeared to me to have a good grasp of local issues when she worked as executive assistant to the local councillor in Ward 6 where I live.
She was very helpful in sharing information – for example, names of people to contact, as well as key points of information – when I had an interest in finding out such information. I much appreciate the help that I have received, in that regard, in recent years.
My interest has mainly been with regard to local heritage issues. Until I developed such an interest, local community matters were of minor concern for me.
The executive assistant’s emails to me were direct, by which I mean to the point, and cordial.
Cordiality is, at times, a feature of civil society
Some emails that I’ve read that were sent to other people in the community, however, such as to individuals connected to the LAMP Community Health Centre, were direct – but they were decidedly lacking in cordiality.
Sometimes the emails were responses to questions that had been raised regarding past planning decisions affecting development in Ward 6.
I found it hard to understand why some of the emails that were sent – and copied to community members – appeared to be driven by a particular level of vehemence. I had seldom encountered such a tone in the writing of emails.
I thought: “Have I been missing something? Is this a tone for email communications that has some level of utility, in particular circumstances, for particular reasons?”
City of Toronto and Toronto District School Board
I didn’t understand the lack of cordiality. One of the effects, in typical circumstances, was that the discussion, on whatever topic the discussion was proceeding, came to an end.
As time passed, I just put this feature of communications in the back of my mind, as one of the features of life in local communities that were beyond my current level of understanding.
I’ve always had the feeling, that is, that if time permits, I may develop some measure of understanding about things, in the local community, that currently escape me.
Anyway, I would say that, knowing a little bit about the back story that has emerged in the course of a news report about a federal government lawsuit involving $330,000, I have a slightly enhanced understanding of things.
I much appreciate the opportunity to gain a better understanding.
Rhetoric and reality
Some further thoughts occur to me.
Rhetoric sometimes matches reality and sometimes it doesn’t.
The distinction between rhetoric and reality, it may be noted, is a central feature of door to door energy scams, a topic of much interest to visitors to this website according to Google Analytics, which I consult from time to time as part of my ongoing interaction with site visitors.
The distinction between rhetoric and reality is also a central theme of the form of entertainment known as gangster literature. Movie-goers are also familiar with explorations of the theme in the context of political scams such as addressed in American Hustle (2013).
Among other things, a politician’s political fortunes revolve around the power of that person’s rhetoric.
In that regard, whether a person believes in one’s rhetoric is always a matter of interest, but usually a person’s inner beliefs are unknown.
Whether or not rhetoric coincides with the reality of a situation is of interest to media reporters, and to some followers of media reports and analyses.
For some people, the idea of a distinction between the rhetoric (what is said about a topic) and the reality (the underlying evidence related to the topic) appears to be beside the point.
Or else it’s seen, by some observers of the political scene, from what I can gather, as too complicated and abstract a matter to warrant consideration.
The power of a story
Some people, from what I can gather, just get wrapped up in a story – in a narrative, in a story line – and channel strongly felt and expressed emotions within the frame of reference established by the story. The story envelopes a person’s mind and being. Further analysis, reflection, insight, or thought regarding the matter may not occur, or may occur at an absolutely minimal, rudimentary level.
Speaking as a person who is, indeed, concerned about these distinctions – between rhetoric and factual information – I note that the city hall aide who is being sued has been a policy analyst for a City of Toronto mayor whose rhetoric includes “respect for taxpayers.”
We can say, as a general rule, that kickbacks involving federal contracts, as described in recent media reports, do not demonstrate a respect for taxpayers.
What follows from this observation?
What follows is that whether a person shows respect for taxpayers does not, in reality, have a direct bearing on that person’s skills or capacity as a policy analyst.
The capacity to engage in policy analysis is a particular application of instrumental reason. It’s nothing more and nothing less, I would say.
By instrumental reason, I’m referring to what the philosopher Charles Taylor (see link in previous paragraph) refers to as “the kind of rationality we draw on when we calculate the most economical application of means to a given end.”
Part of policy analysis involves the fashioning of rhetoric in the pursuit of political ends.
Whether the rhetoric has any relationship with a given policy analyst’s own track record, with regard to respect for taxpayers, or with regard to any other topic, is generally immaterial.
The reason is that instrumental reason – which can be used for the benefit or detriment of a given community, as defined by a given person or group, in a given circumstance, and at a particular time – tends to be a key consideration, in many aspects of our lives.
That’s not what stays in mind, however, from the recent news report. What stays in mind is that I understand some things better now than when I did before I read the article about the federal lawsuit.
A March 19, 2014 Metro News article provides an update related to the federal government lawsuit.