Friday, 3 June 2011

Editorial: Political Anthropology 101: Observations from the Wilds of the New Brunswick House

British anthropologist Desmond Morris wrote a book in 1994 entitled The Human Animal, which later became a popular BBC documentary. It explained human behaviour from a bluntly anthropological point of view. Before you assume this editorial is going to compare MLA's to apes, let it be said The Purple Violet Press has nothing but the utmost respect for elected representatives. But after recently observing the New Brunswick species of Homo Politicus in its natural habitat, this editorial imagines how Morris would describe the House. It's the only way we could find of explaining such bizarre behaviour not usually seen by the public, who likely wonder at what goes on as the province's business is carried out.

Cue imaginary Morris complete with British accent, comb over and safari jacket, talking in hushed tones to a camera as MLA's toil away in the background on the floor of the House:

"...While the environment of New Brunswick's Homo Politicus is luxurious, with plush carpeting, intricate wood inlay and gilded chandeliers, the first thing noticed upon observing the wilds of the House was its hierarchical nature. Like many tribal groups found in the jungle, the more important members are given prominence of place. The dominant members of the species for both the Liberal and Conservative tribes were sitting front and center on their designated sides of the House, ready to take the verbal onslaught from opposite, yet protected by the more junior members attempting to draw blood in the skirmishes to prove themselves to their leader.

Curious as well are the noises emitted from Homo Politicus of both groups as a form of communication. One member, known in tribalspeak as a 'backbencher', or one who has yet to move up in the tribe, was seen on the Conservative side as literally making sounds similar to a bleating sheep in mockery of the strangled protestations of an opposing Liberal backbencher. When a particular verbal cut was made by one side or the other during heated debate, the tribes became quite roused, signified by a cacophony of indecipherable voices. A seemingly clever retort in answer to a jibe at the ruling Conservatives was met with a deep and thunderous "Oooohhhhhh" by Liberals, the tone of which appeared both equally impressed and disgusted with the intelligence of the retortee. How these forms of communication engender respect for each other and good tribal relations remains a mystery. Anthropologists continue to study this characteristic of Homo Politicus around the globe.

The mating habits of Homo Politicus aren't something usually on display in the House environment. Although that doesn't mean this species doesn't have distinct ways of screwing each other. Often a  tribe member will stand in the House to question legislation brought forth by the opposing side, sometimes even successfully killing it. Bagging a particularly aggressive bill is a cause for great rejoicing and celebration in a tribe, with wild gesticulating in all directions and facial expressions of satisfaction at having defeated the other.

The female of the Homo Politicus species is more docile in nature than her male counterparts; seen as less prone to partake of the farcical ruckus stirred up by the males, but able to send a decisive rebuke across the floor while in battle nevertheless. A matriarch of the Conservative tribe is particularly adept at this skill when pressed by junior Liberals, displaying annoyed behaviour to fend off their attacks which could endanger her tribe in future elections..."

End of imaginary Morris excerpt.

Although the work of the House is serious, we can't take some of the behaviour seriously. Just as MLA's surely have a sense of humor about this editorial. But the people of New Brunswick may not find the shenanigans going on in their House that funny as they struggle in these tough economic times.



Post script: Federal Opposition leader Jack Layton said yesterday his party vowed not to heckle the Harper government during Question Period. 

Post Post Script: The Desserud-Waite Report on NB Legislative reform released Friday mentioned the style of the daily Question Period ought to be reviewed to find ways of improvement.  

1 comment:

  1. Betty O'Donnell3 June 2011 at 15:55

    That's so funny!!! It's like that here too.

    ReplyDelete