Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Empowered Woman Swears by Nonsense; Masses Expected to Nod Uncomprehendingly, Vehemently

Robert Fulford argued in last weekend's Post that the most recent provincially sponsored idiot project, the scrotum-twistingly lame website, is not only, well, idiotic, it verges on the sinister. "Officious, intrusive and presumptuous," he says, "the campaign carries more than a whiff of totalitarianism."

Indeed it does ... Though--if I might be permitted to digress for a second--I can't help thinking that 1) Fulford understimates terribly the power of noddingly complacent Canadians (or Ontarians anyway) who are only too willing to go on allowing the government to treat them "as clay to be moulded" ( ... we are, after all, talking about the tenacious sausage fingers of liberal ideology (as distinct from mere Liberal government) squelching our collective brain-sludge; which (ideology) is not partisan in this country, nor has it faltered significantly even once since it first took its seat at the potter's wheel circa 1967), 2) to the extent that he does not bother to make the point himself, I think he overestimates the power of the provincial government's attempt to "improve the private conversation of children and adolescents." Suffice it to say that it couldn't be any more obvious to anyone that's given the site a quick once over that kids between the ages of 8 and 11 simply won't get it, and that those between 12 and 14 will (quite understandably) just laugh at it; use it as yet another little stick with which to beat moron adults who are endlessly, and hopelessly, trying to "identify" with them.

But Fulford is right. He is, after all, talking about the whiff of totalitarianism (rather than the thing itself), by which he means to underscore the fact that however blundering and ineffectual the campaign might be, there is a very real, if only fledgling, threat to liberty posed here. The fact that will be of no constructive use to its apparent target audience doesn't, it needs to be emphasized, really matter. This, for the simple reason that isn't really meant for the 8 to 14 year old set. Rather, it is meant to be a tentative but clear signal to citizens that someone (and you're supposed to be under the impression that that someone is you) has decided that formal education, in addition to its other demands, must now consist of state-mandated (and, presumably then, state-enforced? Like this, you mean?) prescriptions for behaviour modification, wherein young people can fit into one of only two categories: compliant or deviant.

Children who follow the rules are healthy. Children who don't follow the rules aren't just misbehaving, aren't in need of a quick word and a menacing glance or two; they are, instead, ill. They require treatment.

You think that is to put it too strongly? That I am being a trifle reactionary? Peruse then, if you will, the letter-to-the-editor appearing in today's Post, re. the aforementioned piece ... It is, as you'll notice, the handiwork of a Ms. Sandra Pupatello--one of the overseers, the main one apparently, of the project, and whom Mr. Fulford mentioned specifically in his article--the Minister Responsible for Women's Issues for the Government of Ontario. Notice too, how her letter begins:
Mr. Fulford's column regarding the Ontario government's Equality campaign was inflammatory, offensive and completely inaccurate.
And ends:
Though Mr. Fulford seems to think otherwise, violence is not a private matter. It is everyone's business, and our government has been taking concrete steps to help children develop positive attitudes towards relationships early, so that we have a society that is free from violence. Now, how could Mr. Fulford have a problem with this?
Suggestions both that, worse than simply having taken issue with the enterprise, Fulford has committed something rather like a crime by writing his column, and should, moreover, apparently be held under suspicion that he is a violent man himself.

And there's that whiff again. Eau de Thought Gendarmerie.

I mean, inaccurate?! Can you be serious, Comrade Pupatello? This was an opinion piece, for the love of God! ... And, to be sure, the Minister does not even try to correct Fulford's facts! The inaccuracy--what makes the piece inflammatory, offensive (terms usually reserved to describe ad hominem, or more broadly discriminatory (say, racial) attacks ... so-called hate speech)--lies apparently in the simple fact that the man has dared to supply a reasonable doubt of Ms. Pupatello's ambition to ... free society of violence!

Now I don't want to go overboard with this. I have no doubt that the Minister actually and genuinely believes in the righteousness of her cause--despite the bullying techniques she uses to insure them--but there is, I'm afraid, something too obviously and fundamentally backward about initiatives like, and the (consequently) flawed reasoning that she uses to defend it ...

Consider this, from a certain sage:
What modern people want to be made to understand is simply that all argument begins with an assumption; that is, with something that you do not doubt ... Every argument begins with an infallible dogma, and that infallible dogma can only be disputed by falling back on some other infallible dogma; you can never prove your first statement or it would not be your first. All this is the alphabet of thinking.
Which is to say: it seems to me to be that what Ms. Pupatello doesn't have any sort of a grasp of is precisely this alphabet of thinking. She is, as are so many of her kind (i.e. the liberal ideologues mentioned), under the impression that because she rejects the idea of "dogma"--in that very narrow, sophomoric sense (that is almost invariably couched in terms of Galileo, or the Spanish Inquisition)--that she is then absolved of the possibility of being dogmatic herself. A rational impossibility, as Chesterton points out: ultimately, the motivation of any one side of an argument has its origin in a belief that is (in the mind of its adherent) infallible.

Thus, if she knew her alphabet, Ms. Pupatello would be able to recognize that, among other things perhaps, her argument hinges on an absolute faith in the absolute truth of the following:
1. That violence is something that can be done away with altogether.

2. That we have nothing whatsoever to learn from history on that score. (That is: we have nothing to learn from history about insanely lofty ambitions that ignore the reality, and the inevitability, of human nature.)
That, of themselves, these propositions are completely absurd, is beside the point. They are an essential part of her dogma, and her reasoning follows from them and is completely dependent on them.

However, that the Minister is incapable of recognizing that her reasoning depends on these, as it were, (quintessential) indefensibles--indeed, that she is under the impression that her reasoning is, quite contrarily, based in prime moving and absolute defensibles--does create a bit of a problem. In the first place, it renders any debate between her and her critics futile. For, as you've seen, her argument against Fulford's reasonable doubt is almost completely self-contained and circular. She says, in effect, you're wrong because I'm right.

To wit: the second, third and fourth paragraphs of her five paragraph response simply reiterate--without qualification--the received wisdom that inspired the creation of the website. She does not say how or why Fulford is wrong to (a) suggest that the idea of formally mandating a highly specific prescription of informal behaviour for children is, in itself, fundamentally flawed, or (b) that such an action can only lead to abuse. No. She just repeats what is already known, and what Fulford himself has already acknowledged as beside the point. I'm right times a thousand, says she, no touchbacks!

In her fifth paragraph she veers towards a rebuttal but pulls away before she's even managed a proper opening remark, i.e. "...violence is not a private matter. It is everyone's business ..." ... Ooookaaayyyy, Sandra. But why?

I mean, Fulford's point is clear enough: nobody's suggesting we turn a blind eye to violence. But ... dealing with it in the pork-fisted manner exemplified by something like can only lead to more, and more convoluted, problems than it ever manages to solve. He then gives the example of Soviet Russian attempts to refashion man in its image. We all know how that turned out, right? etc.

And, no, for the purposes of Fulford's argument, it doesn't have to follow that he is comparing the provincial Liberals to the Soviets (though the similarities really are becoming uncanny). The comparison, rather, is between two ideologies that seek to ignore the facts of human nature (like, say, that children, not knowing any better have a tendency to tease, bully, brawl) in order to remedy the ills of human existence. Which is, of course, ridiculous. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Minister Pupatello can go on and on all she wants thumping her chest to the effect that, apparently, domestic violence finds its root cause in boys teasing girls about their freckles or their knee socks (though, I guess these days it's more likely to be about their baby T's and their patent, black leather bitch boots). Indeed, that may even be the case. But it does nothing to address the fact that the consequence to those children, and to society, of enforcing tolerance via goopy pieces of social engineering--rather than by the tried and true and, yes, flawed means given us by centuries, nay, millennia of experience--can have, and has had, dire consequences.

... Here's an idea: why not give teachers back a little of the authority they once had in the classroom. Or allow parents to give their brats the odd judicious spank now and again? That'll learn 'em!