Ed­i­tor’s Let­ter

The Walrus - - CONTENTS - —Jes­sica John­son

Toront o’s first post of­fice is a block away from The Wal­rus head­quar­ters. Still open for busi­ness, the 1834 build­ing of­fers a read­ing room where you can pe­ruse your mail and jot off a hasty re­ply, should you hap­pen to have rid­den in only for the day by horse (they also of­fer a sup­ply of quill pens). In the back, there is a topo­graph­i­cal map show­ing the evo­lu­tion of the area, once the town of York; to­day, black­smiths and tav­erns have given way to latte art and show­rooms for Ital­ian de­signer faucets. The cur­rent of­fices of this mag­a­zine are housed in what was a fac­tory that made bi­cy­cles and car­riages be­fore evolv­ing into the three-storey brick struc­ture it is now, host to busi­nesses that in­clude a clus­ter of ad agen­cies and star­tups. I men­tion all this be­cause it’s as easy a way as any to ex­plore the flu­id­ity of place. We are wit­ness­ing a rapid and some­what rev­o­lu­tion­ary shift in the con­cept of ge­og­ra­phy — lo­cal, na­tional, in­ter­na­tional — much of it led by tech­nol­ogy. Over the past few years, the world has seen that ter­ror­ism doesn’t have bor­ders. Cli­mate change doesn’t have bor­ders. Threats to the demo­cratic process and the free press don’t, ap­par­ently, have bor­ders. In this month’s is­sue of The Wal­rus, writ­ers ex­plore the ef­fects of some of the changes be­fore us. In his cover story, “Hack­ing Your Vote,” po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist Justin Ling de­scribes at­tempts by Russian bots and trolls to in­flu­ence Cana­dian pol­i­tics and­pub­lic dis­course. The pos­si­bil­ity of these threats is, of course, some­thing most of us have con­sid­ered in this era of fake news and pri­vacy breaches. The im­me­di­ate chal­lenge, as Ling demon­strates, is to un­der­stand the scope of the prob­lem as much as it is to know what to do with it. In her es­say “Af­ter NAFTA,” Lau­ren Mck­eon, dig­i­tal ed­i­tor at The Wal­rus, ex­plores the new United States-mex­ico-canada Agree­ment through the lens of how the tense dis­cus­sions lead­ing up to the deal will af­fect Canada’s rep­u­ta­tion in fu­ture ne­go­ti­a­tions. In “Pou­tine in Qatar,” mean­while, Corey Mintz re­ports on the ex­pan­sion of Cana­dian food com­pa­nies such as Smoke’s Pou­tinerie. Que­bec’s sig­na­ture dish of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy has come to sym­bol­ize a taste of Canada for food­ies ev­ery­where—but what does it mean to ex­port it to places where so­cial norms con­tra­dict Cana­dian val­ues? It might seem log­i­cal to con­clude at the end of 2018 that lo­ca­tion is be­com­ing ir­rel­e­vant. But there are ways in which it has never been more im­por­tant. Artist John Hart­man’s new ex­hi­bi­tion, Peo­ple and Place, fea­tures Cana­dian writ­ers in some of their favourite set­tings. Hart­man, who grew up around On­tario’s rugged Cana­dian Shield in the 1950s and 1960s, first earned his rep­u­ta­tion as a land­scape painter. “Ial­ways thought peo­ple and place were in­ter­con­nected,” he told me. Hart­man’s por­trait of well-known jour­nal­ist and author Ian Brown, which ap­pears in this is­sue, is some­how both fa­mil­iar and re­veal­ing: ahu­man fig­ure ren­dered with the com­plex­ity of a land­scape. Is it place that makes us who we are, I asked Hart­man, or place that lets us be our true selves? “Both,” he an­swered. Brown’s es­say “A Place to Call Home,” writ­ten in response to his por­trait, ap­pears on our back page. It has long been an im­por­tant ex­er­cise of Cana­di­an­ness to de­fine what Cana­dian re­ally means. Is it based on ge­og­ra­phy? Cul­ture? Lan­guage? The range of per­spec­tives of­fered by an­glo­phones, fran­co­phones, im­mi­grants, and In­dige­nous peo­ples has long demon­strated that dif­fer­ence, not ho­mo­gene­ity, is our nor­mal. The dis­cov­ery that a coun­try is not ge­o­graph­i­cally or po­lit­i­cally im­mutable shouldn’t come as a sur­prise, but some­how, it still does at times. That we are talk­ing about it so openly now is, I would ar­gue, a strength. Scott Be­n­e­si­inaa­ban­dan (“New Land­marks”) is an artist whose work in­cludes dig­i­tal prints and light and sound in­stal­la­tions which re­frame mon­u­ments and, thus, the recorded nar­ra­tives of Cana­dian his­tory. In the con­text of a global dis­cus­sion about what to do with con­tro­ver­sial trib­utes to the past, Be­n­e­si­inaa­ban­dan, who is Anishi­naabe, re­minds us that some­times the most ef­fec­tive change comes from re­veal­ing the world in front of you in a new light.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.