Friday, September 16, 2005

A Tale of Two Pities

It was the worst of times, it was ... the worst of times. (Not so much an epoch of belief or of incredulity, as one of unbelief and credulity—a subtle but, I think you'll agree, rather fitting distinction.) ... On the one hand we argue for the segregation of black students in proposed black-only schools, on the other, we argue for the termination of government funded religious education. The latter, of course, receiving particular scrutiny now in light of Dalton McGuinty's most recent act of demagoguery; as Father Raymond De Souza put it in yesterday's Post "because we can't officially declare culture X to be deficient in any way, then all cultures [have been] penalized equally."

In today’s Post Adam Radwanski weighs in on the matter(s), suggesting that the Ontario government should do away with funding religious education altogether—rather than the alternative suggested reform of funding all religious education. He feels that, were the Ontario government to pursue the latter scenario, then “rather than growing up in the pluralistic society that exists around them, kids would be exposed to a narrow range of cultural backgrounds and perspectives.”

Alas, would that the exact same risk, indeed an even greater one, did not present itself as the necessary outcome of the solution he proposes. Indeed, it seems to me that Mr. Radwanski has failed utterly in his argument to take into account the glaring inevitability foreshadowed by Mr. McGuinty’s recent actions in re. religious arbitration. After all, we now know only too well—not just from the oft-invoked example offered us by France and its absurd injunctions prohibiting the wearing of hijabs and large crosses in schools, but from the very brazenness with which McGuinty made his (I believe it’s called) unilateral decision affecting all religious arbitration in the province—that the greatest threat to “cultural backgrounds and perspectives” in this province is the provincial government itself! And therefore, by extension, public education itself ... Unless, that is, I’m grossly mistaken in my interpretation of Radwanski’s use of the term “pluralistic society.”

Which, the more I think of it, I must be.

To be sure, the provincial government—ideologically aligned and, as it were, “moving forward” with its federal counterpart—has, with the upshot of this whole Sharia Law thing, just taken its proverbial shot across the bow of religious freedom in the province of Ontario. Hijabs and crosses may survive the ensuing cull but little of genuine substance will. (Little of what remains that is—which point I’ll get to in a second.) Here begins a test-tube culture, calling itself “pluralistic” for the (mind-bogglingly banal and soulless) reason that its constituent parts have different coloured skins, perhaps speak different languages. (Mr. Radwanski, apparently, has been keeping the tube warm for us.) We will no longer be our religions, we will no longer be our choices; we will be, as I say, our skin colours, and we will be, of course, (witness: the intrusion of the new secular sacrament) our genitals.

The irony of all this is that it actually creates a climate conducive to a reasoned acceptance of the sort of divisive (and, dare I say it, deeply racist) sophistry currently being entertained by the Toronto District School Board (see first link).[1] As ever, in the attempt to get beyond superficialities we fly back to them with a vengeance. Throw away the intellectual and spiritual labour of millennia for the crude blatancy of the one thing over which we have no control: the conditions of our birth.

But, reading Radwanski, you’d never know that Ontario was the province almost single-handedly responsible for the repeated election of a federal government that has done more to harm traditional organized religion in this country in the last twelve years than any other government before it. I wouldn’t be too worried about what a couple more government funded religious schools are going to do to a population wrapped so tightly in its secular blanket it couldn’t even see if the bed was on fire.

[1] For a comprehensive discussion of the particulars of this ignoble exercise in social engineering—so-called “Afrocentric learning”—see Angry in the Great White North here, here, and here.