Looks like we have a spell of Indian Summer after two weeks of November like weather. Our new rain barrels are overflowing and gone are the drought worries, relegated to next year. I could see Campbell, Camp for all who knew him, was already in his customary seat, facing the water and Keats Island in the near distance. Must have been a slow day at Coast Books, his ‘non-profit’ bookstore. Vicky, our clairvoyant waitress, who had been elevated to bar tender, already had two pints of lager at the ready and Rosie brought them to the table.
“You look like you got something on your mind,” Camp said after we both toasted the sunny weather. He was right. I wondered what his take would be to my query. “We’re always hearing about ‘the base’, as in ‘Trump appealing once again to his base with his latest tweet’, blah, blah, blah or ‘Doug Ford counting on his ‘base’ to push through his conservative agenda. Who is that ‘base’? that’s what I want to know,” I said.
Camp leaned back in his chair, took a sip and commenced his soliloquy: “The base is that core group that supports their man or woman through thick and thin; in Trump’s case even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue. It makes up about a quarter of the people who actually voted for him. They are not swayed by any of his lies, false claims or insults and oppose all and everything that does not agree with them. Also they are predominantly white and male. I personally think they are ‘a basket of deplorables’ to quote Hillary in one of her more unfortunate assertions.”
“Well yes, the so called ‘base’ is made up of mostly rural folks, without higher education, most likely religious and predominantly male, older and white. Not the kind of people that frequent book stores either,” Camp said dryly, emptying his first pint of the evening.
“And driven by cheap, unsubstantiated misinformation, masquerading as news,” I added.
“The key word there is cheap, because fake news are easily made up, therefore cheap, while reliable news are researched, back checked and well written, therefore more expensive to produce. I don’t understand why people buy expensive clothes, cars and accessories, demand quality in food and services but then gobble up cheap, fake news like candy. Quality is more expensive then trash, the same goes for news.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” I said, “but ‘the base’ isn’t going to change its allegiance by being dazzled and showered with facts.”
“No they aren’t,” Camp agreed, “you need to convince them with a better story; a narrative they can understand and identify with. You have to show them that the environment, nuclear war and migration are global problems that cannot be solved by retreating into nationalistic fortresses and prayer and you have to make them understand through education and examples that empathy, compassion, understanding and altruism are human traits more beneficial to the community then hate, revenge and blame. It will take years and is a never ending job”
Camp was punctuating his arguments with palm down slaps of the table, making the empty glasses jump. He was on a roll, preaching to the choir.
“You boys solving the world’s problems once again? Ready for another one,” Rosie asked and quickly added: “sorry that was a dumb question like: is the pope Catholic?”
“Do you know who invented beer Rosie?” Camp asked.
“The Irish?” she answered with a wink in my direction.
“Not exactly,” Camp said with a chuckle, “it was the Sumerians about 7000 years ago in Mesopotamia in what today is Iraq. A 6000 year old tablet shows people drinking beer with reed straws from a communal bowl and a 3900 year old poem contains the oldest beer recipe.”
“How do you know all this stuff?” Rosie asked, shaking her head.
“Well, last Sunday I attended a play reading at the Heritage Playhouse, written by a friend of mine, called: Relax Gilgamesh, a modern interpretation of the ancient poem. Gilgamesh, a Sumerian king abdicated his throne in order to become a god and was helped by Siduri, the goddess of wisdom and beer. Very funny and enlightening,” Camp said.
“Drinking beer with straws from a bowl ought to do the trick,” she said. “Relax indeed.”
“Here is to the Sumerians, who if not invented the wheel were at least the first to record it, like the chariot, writing, the plough, the sailboat, the division of time into sixty units, math, maps, astrology and to top it all off: beer,” Camp said.
“That is surely the empirical evidence that civilisation could not exist without beer,” I said.
“And you two are the living proof of that theory,” Rosie said, plunking down two ice cold fresh draughts.
But you two go through those beers very fast. Relax Gilgamesh!