Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Time of the signs



By G.D. Maxwell

"Turning anarchy into chaos."

What do you think? Kind of catchy, isn’t it?

I think if I was running for political office – and don’t panic, I’m not – I might adopt something like that as my trademark... my soundbite... the slogan I’d plaster all over my signs if I sold out to the hypocrisy of conventional wisdom that says you have to pollute the roadside with signs bearing no more critical information than your name, "vote for me" and some vacuous tag line if you want to get elected.

The signs are sprouting like skunk cabbage in the spring and the politikin’ is afoot now that the candidates can actually file their commitment papers. As expected, Krispi has joined the race for mayor, making me rethink my complaint about not enough women running. And at least one more colourful if Quixotic hopeful has reached for his featherduster and pinned his hopes on representing a constituency that is both a majority of potential voters and, woefully, doesn’t vote.

While politics is very serious business, I think it’s important all of us – candidates particularly – not lose sight of the inherent humour in our triennial exercise in hope over reason. It is, in fact, to this end politicians erect signs. Political signs, and especially political slogans, are the comic relief of political campaigns. I know, or at least I think, they’re not supposed to be. But it generally works out that way. How can it not?

Using a genre that, at its best, is no more than an annoying reminder of how our collective good intentions can go so far astray in only three years, campaign signs serve the useful function of reminding us just how effective Whistler’s sign bylaw is at keeping visual pollution along Highway 99 limited to the amazingly diverse stuff that gets tossed out of car windows and blown out of pickup beds.

Other than that? Ponder for a moment the purpose behind political signs. Can’t think of one? Okay then, consider the proposition that without clusters of signs fighting for eyespace at every intersection in town maybe only half the eligible voters would know an election’s imminent and vote on voting day. The fact only about half do vote either suggests signs don’t do this job particularly well or explains some of the truly weird manoeuvres you regularly see selectively blind drivers perform with frightening regularity.

Alright then, maybe signs sway you to vote – assuming you were so inclined to begin with – for a particular candidate. If it were as simple an equation as Signs = Votes it would go a long way to explaining why we’re exposed to so many for the same person. But I’m pretty certain the Max Principle, I’ll spare you the details, disproved that theorem a few elections back.