Jack and I were just about finished with our lunch when three teenagers slouched over to a nearby table and flopped down. All three wore hoodies. Since we were in the foodcourt at the Bayshore shopping centre, it was clear that hoodies were a statement of fashion rather than an environmental necessity against the cold of winter.
“Look at them,” I said.
Jack did. He said, “You don’t like hoodies?”
I said, “I have nothing against hoodies, but I have something against men wearing headgear inside. It’s one of the household commandments my mother laid on me in my youth. I’ve never been able to shake it. It still annoys me, even though I’m more or less grown up now and by-and-large at peace with the world.”
“Good to know,” said Jack.
I said “Actually, what bothers me more is that I’m certain that these same teenagers last year were standing at street corners waiting for their schoolbus, without those hoodies, without adequate clothing, no gloves, no tuques, freezing their ears off, because that wouldn’t have looked cool. At least now they’re probably not freezing their ears off.
“A silver lining.” said Jack.
I said “Yes, but I bet next year they’ll be back without hoodies, and without winter clothes, winter gloves and winter boots. Teenage lemmings, blindly following a fad, whether it makes sense or not. Same as body piercings and tattoos. All those people running around with Chinese characters on their body. Who knows what those symbols mean? Could be ‘kick me’ or something. Why do people do that to themselves? It’s barbaric.”
Jack said “There’s something to be said for the tongue-studs though.”
I said “Huh?”
Jack said, “Never mind.”
“And it’s not only teenagers,” I continued. “Take that bottled-water thing. Another fad. Maybe it’s part of fashion – like an accessory – but then fashion itself is a gigantic, everlasting fad.”
“Some fashions are good, though,” said Jack. “Like the invention of the mini-skirt, the bikini, not to forget the see-through dress... “ I could see Jacks’s eyes blank out as he recalled happier times. “Ah,” he concluded, “but that was a long time ago.”
I said, “and if you think fads are resticted to individuals, have another think! The supposedly down-to-earth business community is not immune either. Think of the dress-standards – whatever the fashion of the day – of all the upwardly mobile. Or even at the highest levels. Remember when the pursuit of “excellence” was all the rage? Who gives a damn now? And what about the season when every company had to have its mission statement. Funny, but most of them read pretty much the same ..”To make the best product or provide the best service to the public, with the least environmental damage, and with the greatest financially responsible returns for our shareholders. Blah, blah, Blah.” If I’m not quoting exactly, it sure is a good paraphrase. I mean, what else can you say about the aims of any commercial venture? Any added words are flim-flam.”
“Flim-flam”, asked Jack. Not “Flap-doodle?”
I wasn’t going to let Jack stick a leg in my stride.
I said “And if you think government is any different… wrong! I’m sure quite a few government departments have come up with their own mission statements.”
“So what’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing, except that it’s a bit of an insult to Parliament, which has spelled out their missions very clearly and succintly at the start of the various Acts that govern them. ‘Sorry, you Parliamentarians who’ve worked on this Act for years, we’ll help you boil it all down, in a few days , to a short and rather meaningless phrase’. Hell, any high school kid could abstract those few pages in an hour and done as well.ï¿½ Fads!”
Jack said “You don’t approve”
I said “No, but there’s not much I can do about it.”
“It’s good that you know,” said Jack.
I said “I’m playing to my strengths.”
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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