News » Whistler

Heavy thoughts under leaden skies



Two of Canada’s premier cultural commentators visit town and chat about all that is Whistler

I sense something strange – something out of the ordinary – as I take a quick glance around Whistler village on this particular Sunday morning.

Although it’s nearly 10:30, the village is pretty much empty except for a few stragglers, who look as pale as the overcast sky, on their way to bed after a night of debauchery in one of the resort’s umpteen bars.

Something tells me that there’s not a lot of philosophical debate or serious thinking that goes on around here – Whistler is not known around the world as the home of Einstein-type thinkers.

Considering the circumstances, it is a bit ironic to be sitting outside of Tapley’s pub engaged in a Socratic conversation with the person who has been called Canada’s most important social and cultural theorist since Marshall "the medium is the message" McLuhan.

I’ve managed to corral Mark Kingwell for a few minutes after he has finished speaking to a conference room full of 300 public relations professionals.

Kingwell is a serious thinker. He teaches philosophy at the University of Toronto and is the author of four much-heralded books (his latest is The World We Want: Vice, Virtue and the Good Citizen ).

His essays have appeared in more than 25 high-brow magazines, including Harper’s , the Utne Reader , Saturday Night , Adbusters and Shift , while his commentaries are a staple in the National Post and his book reviews frequent in the Globe and Mail .

Kingwell has been nominated three times for a National Magazine Award and, as one of the Globe and Mail ’s "five most-quoted Canadians," he can usually be found speaking somewhere on TV or radio about current issues.

But despite the heady praise and impressive resume, he has been accused of being a talking head and worse, a – gasp – media whore.

A couple of years ago, the CBC show Undercurrents named Kingwell as their "pundit of the year." Last year, the Montreal-based online Good Magazine ran a "Kingwell Week" that featured five days of satirical stories. (He dismisses both as "mean-spirited" and "irrelevant.")

As a light drizzle starts to fall on us, Kingwell muses on why Whistler is such a good case study for what is happening around the world.

"It’s like Disneyland," he tells me between sips on a bottle of water. "All the public spaces have been taken over by retail."

Add a comment