My favorite café recently tried an innovative promotion: Name Your Own Price Night. Patrons were invited to pay whatever they wanted for their drinks. If they chose, they could have treated themselves to some special concoction that might have normally run four or five dollars, and paid only a dollar for it. Or, if they were of a charitable mind, they could have paid a little more for their usual, and helped the proprietor out.
Of all the possibilities such a night held, what actually occurred was rather surprising to all involved: patrons were irked, rankled, put-out, bothered, cheesed-off, displeased and otherwise unwilling to name their own price. They just wanted to pay what they'd always paid.
I didn't happen to be there that evening, so I didn't witness this firsthand. But hearing, later, from reliable sources, I was mystified. As described to me, patrons were utterly baffled and bewildered by the prospect of naming their own price for their drinks. It rattled them. The response to the evening's promotion was overwhelmingly negative.
Which made me wonder: Did the proprietor unwittingly tap into the rancid gene within our fellow citizens that makes us all such easy prey for our wanton, irresponsible, tax-addicted politicians? Have people been bent over the barrel for so long that it's too painful to straighten up? Must be.
In the 1980s, there was a popular television show called Real People, which featured strange and quirky -- usually funny -- people from around the United States. I recall one segment they did on a restaurant that allowed patrons to pay whatever they wanted for their meals. On its face, it sounded like a business plan drawn up by the Mel Brooks character, Max Bialystock, fully aimed at sinking the restaurant. But, strangely, patrons were not only honest -- no one ever ordered a full meal and then paid only a dollar for it -- they tended to overcharge themselves. It was a great story about common decency and honesty.
The concept can and has worked. So, what's wrong with the people where I live?
I believe this case is the first tangible evidence I've come across of not only the existence of the flaccid tyranny under which Canadians live, but also its effect. Canada has no PATRIOT Act, no Guantanamo Bay, no Blackwater, no extraordinary rendition.
What we have may be worse: A decades-long bureaucratic coup d'etat. Domination by pencil-pushing, paper-shuffling career civil servants. Beancounters as potentates. All of whom have bent The People, not with brutality, but with bland fish-eyed blankness, officiousness, and a lust for the fine print. They have broken The People with the death-of-a-thousand cuts insult to the brain, to the spirit, to the soul with fine upon fee upon surcharge upon tax. Taking and taking and taking, whittling away every corner and edge of a citizen's income and sustenance and pleasure. And always devising new attacks, such as the so-called Harmonized Tax.
My overwrought imagination sees the people who wouldn't name their own price for their drinks as abused children who go stand in the corner on their own the moment they sense they may have done something wrong.
Where is civilization at when civilians have been so woefully mistreated for so long, that they cannot partake in a fun night where the foot of the Crown is not firmly on the back of their neck? It's as though people don't recognize freedom or fairness when they're faced with it. Or, at the very least, don't know how to enjoy or avail of it.
Being allowed to stop banging their heads against the Wall-of-Taxed-to-Death-life, my friends and neighbors didn't enjoy the cessation of pain, they worried that they might have broken the wall. And might have to pay for it. And pay tax on that payment. Or be fined, or written up, or marked down in the "red" column of some desk jockey's ledger.