Register Tuesday | February 20 | 2024
Portraits in Powerlessness

Portraits in Powerlessness

Letter from the editor

People these days care deeply about where their money is going, whether it’s to taxes or subscriptions or donations. There have been so many unflattering stories about supposedly upstanding organizations—the Red Cross, for example, which has suffered numerous scandals because of contaminated blood and local chapters’ murky accounting—that the simple act of giving has become fraught with hesitation and mistrust. No one used to question where funds ended up; we just assumed they were being used virtuously. Now we know better, ask tougher questions and demand more of our cultural and charitable organizations.

As a magazine, Maisonneuve has come to realize that it’s no longer enough to just exist in a delightful and ineffective way. Money and its pursuit have been the bane of many a good soul. Here in Canada, Peter C. Newman has made a career out of speaking with the rich and powerful: they fascinate him—and us. So many publications thrive on this fact, selling the same Roman bread and circuses, the same English pomp and ceremony, that have transfixed humans ever since wealthy individuals first looked in the mirror and saw a god staring back. (Success is only guaranteed in horoscopes, though. To catch a glimpse of your financial future, flip to our new back page.)

To my mind, the powerless are more interesting. Because they are in touch with daily and long-term realities. Because they are us. How ironic that people who exist on the margins of society today live mostly in the centres of our cities—those formerly shining metropolises, with their grand department stores, white-gloved shoppers, streetcars and teeming social activity. Nowadays, as author Clive Doucet relates from personal experience, it’s the suburbs—the geographic margins—that control city politics.

Part of the purpose of magazines is to speak empoweringly about such realities, to depict these worlds in ways that sensitize readers to the conditions that exist all around them, to provide the facts, haunting images and clear ideas that will compel action. In this issue, such realities include a small-town mayor with dreams of cleaning up his community; a boxer who took beating after beating in pursuit of an elusive success; a student who joined the army solely to pay for college; a patron who gave over his life and savings to help create great art; a male model and his ambivalent perspective on the commercial world; and a writer reviewing get-rich guides for, well, not much money.

Of course we have to make ends meet. But ultimately, culture is not created by people who are looking to get rewarded for their contribution. What’s the point of an ersatz culture of tepid, toned-down experience whose only virtue is its price tag, especially when something of much higher quality and authenticity exists right beside it? Better thinking, better writing, better witnessing of life and its wonderful vagaries. You deserve a break today—from the Cheese. You know what I mean.