David Bouchier

As the great Holiday gift machine jumps into high gear, the same question is heard all around the land, in various tones of exasperation and despair: What on earth do you buy for a man? Men have always been a problem, of course, and in many different ways. But this particular problem is one of the most frustrating. Sigmund Freud famously asked: What does a woman want? But at this time of year the really difficult question is: What does a man want?

The Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde once defined a cynic as “A man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.” We all know people like this, the most boring of all boring conversationalists, who talk obsessively about prices, values and bargains as if salvation lay in making the best deal.

Now that the election is over, we can return to more traditional and less frightening forms of entertainment. When the evenings draw in and the temperature falls with the leaves, there’s nothing as comforting as a nice murder. Tonight, millions of respectable, non-violent Americans will double lock their doors and settle down to an evening of mayhem and homicide on the small screen. The murder rate in America has been going down for a long time but on television it has gone the opposite way. By the age of eighteen, according to Mr. Google, the average citizen has watched 40,000 murders.

Thanksgiving is quintessentially a family festival. Never mind that improbable tale about Indians and turkeys, this week is all about families getting together. Everybody agrees that the family is a good thing. "Family values" has become an all-purpose term of moral approval, even though, if you look at it globally, "family values" around the world embrace everything from the blood feud and honor killing to ritual mutilation. It’s all a matter of taste.

Democracy is a glorious idea. The notion of free citizens governing themselves by electing the best and brightest people among them as representatives is one of the best notions that the human race has ever produced. It’s a pity that the results are so often disappointing – especially that the chosen representatives so seldom appear to be the best and the brightest, let alone the most noble and honest citizens.

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