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Maxed Out: What’s that smell?

'Unfortunately, the war on stink is waged only on our bodies'

An apology to begin.

After multiple emails from the loosely affiliated Orangutan Anti-Defamation Chapter of the Primate Protection Society, arising from the photo accompanying last week’s Maxed Out, I unreservedly apologize to orangutans around the world. No slander against any of you was intended. But once again, humour is a very subjective endeavour.

While I did not provide the AI-generated photo accompanying last week’s column, I found it both amusing and aspirational. Having said that, I can understand why some folks thought it unnecessarily defamed orangutans, suggesting a closer affiliation with the former U.S. president than the fact some 97 per cent of human genes are shared with orangutans.

I’m assuming the association that sparked the photo was my preference of referring to the former president as the Orange Monster.

I would like to state categorically I do not consider orangutans monsters. I do, however, consider the former president a monster.

Orangutans are threatened. The former president is threatening. Orangutans are peaceful, caring creatures. The former president is neither, unless caring only about himself counts. Orangutans spend most of their day feeding, fruit making up the largest part of their diet. The former president spends much of his day feeding, Big Macs making up a large part of his diet. Orangutans can act, as witnessed by the character Clyde in Clint Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose. The former president can only act badly.

Most of the photos taken during the recent criminal trial of the former president show him sitting at the defendant’s table glowering. I recall reading that is a practised look he believes makes him look Baaaaad. And simultaneously presidential.

By contrast, the openly curious look of the orangutan in the photo looks far more, well, human, than the mug shots of the former president.

Earlier I referred to the photo as aspirational. I believe if the former president was capable of higher-level thought, he’d aspire to be reincarnated as an orangutan. That said, I’m more inclined to believe if there’s any true measure of karma, he’d be more likely to follow the path of Gregor Samsa. Gregor who?

In Franz Kafka’s novella, Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa awakens one morning to find he has been transformed over night into a ungeheueres Ungeziefer, German for monstrous vermin, generally thought of in literary criticism as a cockroach.

Having stated that, I would ask forbearance from cockroach lovers to cut me some slack for suggesting an equivalency between those monstrous vermin and the former president. Thank you.

So, I hear you ask, where exactly is this headed? I’m glad to say nowhere you imagined.

Whether it’s Canadian, U.S. or global politics, it would not be unfair to say things stink. In last week’s elections, the European Union saw a strengthening of far-right parties. As one European commentator noted a short time ago, Europe seems to be trending toward its natural political state: fascism. Dissatisfaction with everything is fuelling a desire for populist leaders pandering to the fears, real or not, felt by people around the world.

The war between Israel and Hamas is tearing the social fabric of countries with no real dog in that fight. The war between Russia and Ukraine threatens to expand to wider confrontations with Putin puffing about nukes playing an inevitable role.

Things stink.

And the only stink anyone is doing anything about is body stink?

In another one of those “news” stories that make people think about supporting the move to de-fund the CBC, the wide coverage of D-Day last week eclipsed the other big story our national news organization covered—the aromatic trend toward whole-body deodorant.

I’m not making this up.

Apparently, not only do politics stink, we stink. At least some of us do. Or might. Sometimes. Not always.

But where there’s a stink—or an insecurity to be taken advantage of—there’s a product a marketing department has to figure out how to flog. I guess we should have seen it coming. Once we were convinced we couldn’t or shouldn’t present ourselves to the world without spraying, swiping or somehow applying something to our under arms, whether there was or was not actually some offensive smell emanating from there, it was a short walk to masking the unbearable odour of what one company refers to as swamp ass.

Enter butt-crack deodorant.

Swamp ass is a term I was unfamiliar with prior to reading this important news item. While I rarely get through a month without a reader—readers—suggesting I have my head up my arse, I have never enjoyed sufficient flexibility to actually get my nose close enough to my posterior to confirm or deny the existence of swamp ass.

And having never passed up a career-limiting move, I’ve never been one to kiss arse in a professional setting, either. So I can’t vouch for the existence of this phenomena in others.

While I have admittedly been in close contact with, shall we say, the nether regions of people with whom I was sharing intimate moments, the upwelling of emotion and desire most likely masked any chance of considering whether or not we would have been wise to shower first.

Which, I’d like to point out, is something I and most people I know do pretty frequently. Even on camping trips, I’ve plunged into icy water long before doing so was an activity promoted by influencers—whatever they are—and followers of trends. As uncomfortable as it often was, it seemed preferable to becoming offensively malodorous to myself, let alone those around me. But then, we all smelled like campfires.

Apparently the marketing machines that spent untold billions convincing people, women especially, that any scent they give off, even pheromones, should be masked by something flowery and unnatural needed new frontiers to conquer. So we have specific products to apply beyond armpits to such potentially offensive places as under-boobs—both female and male—the aforementioned butt cracks, places referred to as simply privates, feet, and pretty much every other square inch of our bodies.

By needling our fears and insecurities, personal-care companies are developing so many products for so many areas of our bodies we’ll all need to pack toiletry bags the size of steamer trunks to hold them. I guess the upside to all this is, perhaps, an opportunity, as is happening with water shortages in Calgary, to bathe less frequently... if at all.

Unfortunately, the war on stink is waged only on our bodies. There are no salves, lotions, potions or sprays to counteract the stench of bad politics and bad public policy. The only hope is demanding better from those we elect. And the only hope of that is getting better people to run. And that seems, at the moment, hopeless.

It stinks.