Michaels: City of Kelowna shouldn’t pander to the weakest link

Should a city that writes "more words on the minutia of its daily activities than a teenage tweeter on Red Bull" take to cartooning

Here’s my shameful secret: I love comic books.  Love them.

Pithy one-liners, bizarre plot lines, and an exuberant use of punctuation (zoiks!!) are some of the reasons I have a soft spot for the glorious words and illustrations found on the flimsy, inky paper of comic books.

Not the high-falootin’ kind either, if you were about to give me the benefit of the doubt. Marvel is my cup of tea, although I’ve recently bought a couple Dr. Who comic books that have yet to be delved into.

Before I get too carried away, the gist of this confession is that I don’t have high brow tastes when I’m looking to be entertained.

But comics and cartoons aren’t where I go to source information that matters. For that, there are books, academic papers, newspapers, interviews with people who have read and studied more on particular subjects than I would ever have the time to do.  And last, but not least, there’s Google.

There are so many ways to glean life’s important information.

Cartoons, regardless of how beloved they are, aren’t among my top sources.

Perhaps that’s why Kelowna jumping on the trend to explain complex matters with cartoons has me feeling a little disheartened.

One wouldn’t think that an organization that pumps out more words on the minutia of its daily activities than a teenage tweeter ramped up on Red Bull would take to cartooning. You might think they value the power of the pen, or keystroke.

But, no. They’ve veered into the land of doodles, like so many others.

There’s now a little ditty about Ron and Christine Cameron on the City of Kelowna’s website.

Through the Camerons’ lens, visitors are given a little cartoon adventure in budgeting set against the soothing sounds of a ukelele. Maybe it’s a banjo. Who knows.

Christine is a shop owner (consignment, so you know she’s earthy) and Ron is a tradesperson (honest/hard-working). They have more kids than the average Okanagan family, but they keep all their balls in the air just like… you guessed it, the City of Kelowna.

Did you know why we pay taxes? We learn, through this video, that the city is just like us but their shopping “cart is filled with asphalt, road de-icer” and so on.

Did your shoulders slump a little bit reading that?

Mind did when I heard it. Although it could have been the ukelele that did me in.

It’s all a bit simplistic, which is unfortunate because the work the city does isn’t simplistic.

City staffers have their fingers in everything from the ecological to economic health of this region. It’s impressive stuff. Stuff we should know about. Stuff that deserves a proper explanation.

The question is, does anyone care?

This cartoon tells me that they don’t. It tells me that there’s a disconnect that the city is desperately and wrong-headedly trying to bridge through the dummification  of information.

They’re not alone, of course. There’s a growing body of academic evidence suggesting that the forms of communication that used to work are failing. The criticism built into the studies on the subject is that the attention span of society is slimming down and we are collectively becoming dimmer.

In an article in the Washington Post, author of the Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby,  argues our collective intelligence has been felled by the triumph of video culture over print culture.

The dumbing down pandemic is also explored in a book called the Dumbest Generation, by English professor Mark Emory. He argues that the technological advances that should have allowed a new generation to learn in leaps and bounds has actually stunted them.

Young people, he argues, have developed “a brazen disregard of books and reading.”

With the focus so heavily on building social relationships, there’s less engagement with groups outside one’s personal understanding and young people are becoming insulated in their own cocoon of bad spelling, civic illiteracy and triviality.

Both authors offer harsh judgments that my experience has taught me  may be a bit too broad sweeping. This community alone is chock o block with intelligent young people reaching outside their comfort zones and engaging the world—oftentimes with the derided social media—in an attempt to make improvements.

Whether they’re winning, remains to be seen.

What’s clear to me, however, is that pandering to those who aren’t making the effort isn’t going to help anyone.

Especially if there’s a ukelele playing while it happens.

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