The Siren Song of Dictatorship

In the lands of the Magna Carta, we have similar signs in our public kitchens: how to wash, how to dry, to what temperature to cook our meats, etc. I was washing my lunch dishes in a public kitchen in the Niagara Region of Ontario, being instructed very kindly by the signs in the mysteries of the Three Sink method of washing dishes, and I was struck by the tender motherliness of the signs which were placed there by the Niagara Region Department of Public Health.

In New York, such signs are squared and harsh, with a concentration of primary colors, mostly reds for do not and green for do, and as much black for high contrast military instruction as is warranted. Residents of New York are brow-beaten into compliance. Niagara Region Health officials have taken a far softer approach, rounding the corners of their signs, dipping amply into the pails of paint holding pastels, using lifelike drawings of human hands and human beings instead of stick figures and representational symbols. In the Niagara Region, there is happiness in compliance. There is no mention of a fine anywhere to be seen.

“Yes,” I said to myself, while I moved my dish from sink to sink to sink. “I am happy here. I want to come into compliance.”

As an aside, I was looking at my bank account, you know, debits and credits, and I noticed that there is a need for better writing in certain quarters of the internet. If anyone is interested in a lazy intellectual with some decent writing chops who might need some dough to make a more gentle case for, I dunno, a ruler who ascends organically from a given culture to make better subjects, instructing them as a mother instructs a child, well, make an offer.

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