Canada's boyfriend talks about helping others
I listened carefully to what he had to say. I watched as he seemed to sink into a deeper part of himself, pulling out layers I never expected. I walked out of the room after the interview with a wonderful feeling of having spent time with someone who is having a uniquely positive impact on the world.
This guy is powerful, driven, extremely talented, and best of all, he has a heartfelt understanding of the human condition.
tV: What does it mean to you personally to be involved in an event like this?
GS: I love the collective. I love the “we.” It's not uniquely Canadian, but it is uniquely ours in North American to be like this. We're not a country of solo artists, we're a band and I like that about the way we approach other people here.
This country's really going through an odd time and there's a complicated debate about what it is this country's going to be in the next ten, fifteen, twenty, fifty years from now and one of the core values, and we'll see if it stays, that has made this country so interesting to me is that we are about other people.
When you get out here you just see it. You see the whites of the eyes of the people who are already doing this. You can see those who have made their life about something more than just them and their own experiences so you can't not be inspired being around them.
But moreover, you just feel like you... its not even about being inspired to take it away for your own self, it's just about being a part of something: to work with others, and help others, and help yourself, and help with anything you can. I just like being around that.
tV: Is that the biggest kick you get about doing this?
GS: The biggest kick... yah, that and meeting people. It's that old line: everybody has got a story that'll break your heart, right? And everybody's got a story that'll make your day, so why not just be around others.
We're only really valuable when we're working with somebody as opposed to being by ourselves. I think we can all contribute to a community that way, so I just love being around that.
tV: What would you like to see people do in their everyday lives to continue this sort of thing (awareness) going, after the events are over?
GS: That's a tough question to answer because you've got to make sure that people can eat. So if there's a drive, participate, but the larger issue is you've got to get your politicians to start acting responsibly.
Vancouver's actually really good at this but there are other parts of this country that aren't. If you don't properly deal with mental illness in this country, you're going to deal with homelessness on a level that is almost catastrophic. That deals with one angle of hunger.
The Food Bank isn't just for people who are homeless, obviously.
The government has to develop the compassion that they don't have. In Toronto, the new mayor and his group of people campaigned on “taxes, taxes. We're going to basically throw the bums out of city council.”
It was fascinating to me because considering the amount of people in our city who are in really economically compromised situations, the lack of compassion was alarming. They may have it, but what they didn't do is make it a priority: didn't make it an election issue. Because they don't really care.
Most politicians have a part of them that cares deeply about people: a lot of politicians anyway. And then there's another group who don't. For some reason, as they get further and further up the chain, empathy and compassion leaves them, as something to campaign on and act on.
That's really what it is to me. On an individual level we need to... if someone falls down, pick them up: whichever way that is. That's all it is: be it with food, jobs, Medicare, whatever. If somebody falls down, help them up.
We've got to start getting way angrier at the way this country has been developing. The lack of compassion, the core values of what Canada was... we need politicians to come back to this. That's what I want. I want a sweeping change. Deal with mental illness, deal with people who are in compromised situations. If you treat your vulnerable well, then they're not vulnerable. The you have a country that rolls along.
This is my perspective. I don't see it enough. I interview lots of politicians and I don't even hear it anymore. You used to hear about it, but you don't even hear it the same way.
tV: What are the stories you most like to cover?
GS: It's not subject matter, it's passion. I love talking to somebody who's really into the craft of what they do: the art of what they do, because if somebody respects something and they can articulate it to people, I think that's a really beautiful thing.
It's talking to somebody who is passionate about their art in a way that somebody at home can watch it and say, “Hey maybe I can do that too. Maybe I can see the value in that.” That is what I really like.
I like talking about politics, but I love talking about sports, and music, and film. I like all of these things equally. It's who I'm talking to about that particular subject that makes the difference. If they're really in to what they're doing and are willing to tell people why what they do matters, that's where I get the most excited to have a conversation.
tV: If there's one element you could add to your program (George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight) what would it be?
GS:To be honest with you, I think that we're doing the show we want to do.
You always want to make sure that you're doing the right things, the right way, for the right length of time.
tV: and you're part of the decision making process?
GS: Oh, absolutely. There's no way that I wouldn't. I'm at that stage in my career that I only want to do things that I really believe in. Maybe there have been days in the past where I haven't, in previous jobs, and maybe in the future that'll happen, but I hope not. I hope I can just do things because I love them.
I work with really amazing people and I get to meet really cool, interesting people from different age groups, different parts of the world, at different stages in their own life and development, and I kind of feel that you discover a land and on that land are so many riches. That's what an experience like this is for me: I get out there and I meet people and there are so many different stories and lives and I just love being around that.
tV: Does that inspire you?
GS: I'm not an inspirer, inspirational, inspired kind of... you know what I mean? I've got a flame that burns in me anyway but I think I'm just fueled by... I think people recharge me.
That's what it is: people charge me up. And there's an energy you can get, a real palpable energy from the idea that someone who's really passionate about women's issues, passionate about sports, really passionate about whatever, you can kind of dive into somebody's eyes and spend a half an hour talking to them and really gain a little bit of perspective on the world through their experiences.
I want my show to reflect that at every turn, and the moment I feel like the disconnect is bigger than it needs to be, like where my experience is, if they're not as real on the show as they are with people that I meet, then I'm going to leave that show. But I'm not at that place. In fact I think we're getting closer and closer. I'm getting to a point now where this show is what I want it to be, and the way I want it to be.
There'll always be tweaks. If you ask me this in six months I'll change my answer and say, “well, I think I'm going to change this.” I'm already looking at some things I'm going to tweak, but they're just teenie things, because I kind of like the craft of it so I'm interested in that.
I couldn't let Stroumboulopoulos go without putting him in the hot seat like he does his guests on his show, to which he graciously complied. it went like this:
tV: Moto Guzzi or Norton?
GS: To answer your question I need to ask you questions. What's the venue? What am I doing with these bikes? Are we talking road trip or race tracks? Are we talking bombing on a Sunday afternoon or are we talking a Friday night, no helmet on, let's go get the cops to chase us?
tV: A summer cruise to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway.
GS: Then I would want to take the Norton because of how it will feel, and I know that a Norton feels great to ride if you are lucky enough to catch your reflection in the car beside you. Being on a Norton is pretty bad-ass.
But the Norton's probably going to break down in Squamish so that's where you've got to take the Moto Guzzi because it's going to get you there. Although it's probably easier to get parts for the Norton.
For that kind of ride... I just rode from Toronto to Los Angeles and I rode on an F800GS BMW and that was a fun ride. I think that's not the bike I would want to take up to Whistler. If I want to ride on the Sea to Sky, I'm riding on my GS6R 750 or my Ninja 600.
The ZX6R has become the most bad-ass bike because it doesn't have as much torque as the “gixer” does but it's so nimble. I've taken that on race tracks at 259 km/hr and there's a feeling you get. I can just imagine on one stretch of the Sea to Sky, it'll become Sea to Die for me because it'll be so fast.
Norton if I'm going slow. Moto Guzzi if I want to go a little quicker.
tV: Who would win a fight, you or (Peter) Mansbridge?
GS: A physical fight? Like an altercation in a bar?
tV: I suppose it could be a war of wits.
GS: A war of wits, Mansbridge wins. A fearless war, I win. In a bar fight, he's got the reach. That's the problem. I'm probably a little quicker than he is but he's stronger than I am, so I think that what would happen in a bar fight is Mansbridge and I would very quickly join sides and we would probably whip everyone else's ass (laughs).