I live in a government town. A lot of the time it seems like people expect the government to pay for everything, including public art. But it isn’t the same everywhere.
There are a number of statues in central London that were erected not at government cost but by the donations of people like me and you. People were willing to part with some of their hard-earned wages to pay tribute to someone they regarded as a national hero. We don’t seem to do that anymore.
Who are today’s heroes? How much do we care about them?
Is it cinema stars we look up to? Or television? Do Brad Pitt or Kim Kardashian claim our allegiance? Or are sports stars a bigger influence. Tom Brady and Sydney Crosby certainly have their followings.
Politicians? Give me a break!
Yet we are influenced by others. The Internet has magnified pop culture. But are we willing to put our money where our mouths are?
I’m a big fan of government not doing things outside of its core competencies. Different people have different opinions on what those roles are of course, and it can vary from time to time. Should governments be in the statue-making business? Good question.
In recent years there has been a proliferation of statues on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. Mostly dead Prime Ministers. But do all Prime Ministers deserve to be so immortalized? Several of them had very short terms (for example there were a string of deaths in the 1890s and we had five Prime Ministers in five years. Most Canadians couldn’t name any of the four between MacDonald in 1891 and Laurier in 1896). Do they deserve statues? At public expense?
Which leads me to ask myself: Who do I think is worthy of such commemoration? And am I willing to donate to the cost? Offhand I can’t think of anyone that I would be willing to pay for. I have better uses for my money.
If you want to erect a statue of Pierre Trudeau or Kim Kardashian I won’t object – as long as my taxes aren’t paying for it. Well, maybe you can justify a Trudeau statue – but why not let his foundation pay? Oops, there’s a problem with that these days. There’s already a scandal over that statue.
All kidding aside, I actually would be curious to see what people would be honoured if Canada had a public subscription policy for memorials. Or even tributes for living people.
Who would people choose? Would we come together behind the few Canadian heroes, or would we be splintered with each community or interest group championing its own heroes? Would such campaigns unite us or divide us?
The only thing I can say with certainty is: No-one is clamoring to put up a statue of me. At least not that I am aware of.