What color is the Maltese falcon?
This was the question at the place I get my latte when I go shopping. I like the
people who work there. All young, some very, and almost all girls--teenage girls.
Of course the answer is black. The one who put up the question, probably from
Trivial Pursuit, or some such game, thought it would be a hard one. By the time I got
there at about 2 pm, all 10 free coffees had been won.
Of the two other girls there, the one I like, and the cynical one, only the one I liked
had even heard of Humphrey Bogart or Lauren Bacall. But none had heard of this movie, or any other Bogart movie. (Yes, Bacall is not in this Bogie movie, but the icon is Bogart and Bacall.) I didn’t even ask about Sydney Greenstreet, or Peter Lorre.
These movies, of course, are of my parents’ generation. But I think they stand, and
will stand, the test of time. But the catch-22 is, will we be allowed to see them if they
don’t make as much money as the latest blockbuster?
I suppose I am gratified so many people knew what the color
was--though how many know that the artifact that passed for the Maltese falcon
was actually not what it was supposed to be? How many of you who’re
reading this now?
This is the “twilight of common dreams”--to use the phrase of Todd Gitlin again. I
have attempted this issue before, here, and here. This may not be my
As a teacher of children, I am very concerned with the transmission of culture,
tradition, the good things from the past to them.
Even as a Canadian nationalist, who realizes that Bogart and Bacall are American
icons, I still like them. Nationality is no bar to touching the human soul. Or
But I see the things that have meant so much to me gradually slip from the minds of
the children I see every day. I am, of course, not the first one to have noticed this; I won’t
be the last. Yes, many are from other cultures. I try to be open to these as well. But so
many seem to have adopted the American universal culture and lost their own--and
have no glimmer of what Canadian culture might be.
I think this is not a trivial question; it’s the things we share that make us one. What
do we share? What the media serve us, like some fast food smorgasbord, is so
evanescent, so ephemeral.
This is why I am appalled by the serious proposals to turn all this over to the private
sector. There is no control over that! There is no perfect marketplace now,
if ever there was one. No marketplace is a substitute for true democracy.
I know the public sector is not perfect, and in many ways, it’s just as distorted as
the private sector, by the same entities, processes, and of course, by money. But there is
some hope of controlling the public sector; there is none of controlling the private.
I suppose I shouldn’t be too dispirited, of the three girls at the coffee bar, one had
some idea of the past, and one seemed eager to find out. The cynical one was just, well,
I suppose these proportions are to be expected. But who will we entrust this task to? And how will they do it?