Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Well-Meaning White (and White-Bred) People

Here's a phrase that I've been hearing a lot of lately: well-meaning white people.

The funny thing about this phrase in its currently fashionable usage is that while it is meant, literally, to indicate the positive correlate to the negative ill-meaning white people, it is nonetheless still employed as a kind of soft epithet. When we talk about well-meaning white people we do not mean the good guys with the white skins as distinct from the bad guys with the white skins. We mean, instead, lame-o's.

Which is to say, apparently white people come in one of two types: bad guys (racists, one assumes, given the preponderant focus on skin colour here) and a kind of loser/fool hybrid.

Charming! You'll be sure to tell me which category I belong to, as I'm either too racist or too much of a grinning dope to be able to say for myself. (We won't get into the stickier business of which of these the average white person would prefer to be thought of as in the absence of a category that pays even a lip-service to human dignity.)

Jian Ghomeshi--who is of Iranian descent, and therefore not white, and who hosts CBC radio's Q--recently used this phrase in a piece he wrote for the National Post's (ongoingly deplorable) arts and letters section. The article undertakes to examine the etymology of another phrase--one that I, personally, have never noticed being notably used--"back in the day."

Transgress those cultural boundaries, Jian!

Now, I should say that it was not the use of the locution "well-meaning white people" that bothered me here. To be quite honest, I'll admit that if I haven't used precisely those words to describe the sort of weed who (to draw on a relevant example) listens to Q, then it is by pure accident. These people do exist. And they are, unquestionably, idiots ... That they are also Jian's target audience is, for the purposes of this argument, but an irony en passant.

And it is not the fact that Jian continues on this theme throughout his column in such a relentlessly and shamelessly insulting way: talking about "hip-hop culture being appropriated and bleached by the dominant mainstream class" (my emphasis) and quoting a man so culturally and spiritually barren that he actually
... refuses to say 'back in the day' ... and laments that it's lost all of its original meaning. He argues it's been overused into transparency. "It's the equivalent of the 45-year old white guy who uses the term 'my bad' without a trace of irony. I just want to slap the guy."
That even this sort of trite, lame ass sentiment--if it were directed at anyone other than white people, that is--could earn Jian a short, sharply-worded complaint from one (or all) of our Human Rights Commissions, is, I repeat, not the thing that troubles me here.

No, rather, what really gets up my pinched Scot's nose about this piece is its naked shittiness (from the point of view of journalistic craft, you understand); its complete lack of relevance, its complete lack of interest, intelligence, discernment ... What really bugs me about it is that the only apparent reason that I can make out that it was paid for and printed by the National Post's arts editors, is that they are themselves a bunch of well-meaning white people, and thus decided to let substance hang where they could get a little trendy self-admiring self-deprecation in by way of (double plus!) a token non-white person.

That is: the problem is not that the piece is belittling of white people; the problem is that--in spite of its pop-intellectual newsytainment aspirations--that's all that it is. That's the only thing the piece succeeds at!

I'm sorry, but if I'm to be roasted for the colour of my skin, then I should prefer that it be done by someone with a brain, an education, and the bare minimum of competence.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Mid-Mid-Life Crisis

This week's episode: EMG toys with the idea of going back to school but, as EMG points out, the average Arts curriculum isn't what it used to be. With bonus one less minute than normal! (Click image, press play)

(Run time is just under six minutes. No swearing in this one.)

A smaller format for the Luddite can be found here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ceasing from Mental Fight

This is a thing to marvel at.
... [T]he imagined com- munity of England after Britain is in the process of construc- tion. If those of us who are English fail to engage with this process, we risk seeing it dominated by the nationalist right.
That first sentence is just fantastic, don't you think? Can the mind-boggling notion of a post-British England really be any better expressed than as "imagined"? Than as a labour of pure, pig-shit-ignorant fancy? Touché, me old mucker! And, it's true: to those whose historical consciousness ends with last week's piss-up, a process of destruction can very easily have the appearance of a "process of construction". Likewise, the imminent threat of the "nationalist right" is sure to capture the imagination of the sort of person who has forgotten that he voted the Labour party to victory three consecutive times.

Throw in some totally counterintuitive evocations of England's (tenuously) patron saint and William Blake's hymn Jerusalem, lightly salted with a deferral to the authority of Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, and top it all off with this:
My imagined nation I found in a real place: a Saturday at Wembley last autumn for an England game with my friends Nahid and Hajra in hijabs beside me in my bobble hat.
Et voilà! The Dragon--with the aid of a fool, even kitted-out in a coxcomb--slays St. George!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sticks, Stones, N-words

I find this a little ironic. Only a little, mind. But still.

We read that two idiots were visiting Montreal last weekend and, apparently, they hurled a couple of racial epithets at a group of black men.

At this point the nationalized Canadian conscience (that seeks to replace my own) screams emphatically in my ear that there's a grave risk--when men such as these are allowed to use words such as that--that an epidemic of racism shall break out. That the mere mention of such as the n-word will move the masses to fits of likely violent discrimination against persons of colour; indeed, against all those of minority status in this country.

What the nationalized Canadian conscience fails to do is explain to me how Curly and Mo there proceeded to get their heads beaten in by a righteously enraged mob.

Behold the court of public opinion!--its remorseless fists!--and tell me that Canadians are not zealous enough in their hatred of, erm, hatred.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Ministry of Love

Among the more disturbing revelations to be found in this piece about Barbara Hall, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, are these:
"I would say that for a province as large and as diverse as Ontario, to have 2,500 formal complaints a year, that that's a very low level," the activist lawyer and former mayor of Toronto said. In the long term she would like to see human rights complaints decrease, but in the interim they "may have to spike."


"We're not strangers to controversy," Ms. Hall said. "I think I have a thick skin. My life has been about working with a range of social justice issues and I've from time to time done that in a fairly public way, and I've been subject to criticism. I'd love it if everybody was positive about the work we're doing. That's not always the case, but I believe in the code, and I believe in the progress that's been made in the 40-plus years it's been in Ontario," she said.

"Ultimately, I believe that none of us are free unless all of us are free, and this is part of pursuing that."

Now, Barbara Hall is a notoriously stupid woman, but that doesn't make the explicit import of her words any less disturbing: that she intends for the OHRC to manufacture, in-house, human rights complaints in order to prevent the abuse which she admits, in the same breath, doesn't exist; that it is, apparently, the extraordinary thinness of her skin that makes it so "thick"; that (most disturbingly of all) until a patently impossible goal is reached, Barbara Hall does not believe that you or I have any freedoms. Consider it: if there is no freedom until "all of us are free" then Barbara Hall risks committing no injustice by taking ours away. It wasn't there in the first place, see?

Of all the revelations to have come out of the MacLean's/Steyn/ Levant business, I find this to be the most horrifying by far.

UPDATE (8:35 PM): Greetings Steynians! Glad to have you back. You'll have noticed that this is the second time in the last 48 hours that I have been plugged by our friend, and I hope that you're very impressed ... I certainly am.

If you're looking for more discussion of HRC madness, there's the last thing, and also this. And the libel suit is definitely worth your attention.

UPDATE (April 20th AM): ... And Furious Five Footers!

UPDATE (April 21st AM): ... And SDAers and Pennies! If you have not already done so, please read my pofaced proposal that Mark Steyn file a Human Rights complaint against ... Mark Steyn! The man himself thought it "ingenious"!

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Pofaced Proposal

Jay Currie has decided to fight fire with fire (I won't yet say that he is trying to make two wrongs produce a right) and has filed a complaint with the CHRC regarding a cartoon that was published in Le Devoir some months ago. His reasoning, if I can be allowed to take a slight liberty with his phrasing, is: "the greater good of having s. 13 deleted from the Human Rights Act ... demand[s] the filing of just such hard cases."

With respect to my friend, I think this is a very risky business. His motivation, I see, is to give that paper and various other media (for their own sakes) a much needed incentive to push the repeal of section 13(1) of the Human Rights Act. But--I can't help wondering--isn't there a very real risk that the given paper will simply acquiesce, apologize, pay the fine, and go on with a policy of rigourous self-censorship?

Jay is far wiser about such things than I am, of course. But it seems to me that there is still a more appropriate course of action to be taken--to the extent that it rivals for sheer ludicrousness the terms of section 13(1) itself.

What we need is for some high-profile type, say Mark Steyn, to file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission ... against himself.

That is: Mark Steyn should file against Mark Steyn for ... well, take your pick! Under the provision of section 13(1) I doubt that there's a column that he's written that isn't likely to fall under someone's interpretation of hateful discrimination on the grounds of "race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for which a pardon has been granted." (Warren Kinsella, anyway, provides us with a banana peel or eight to start us down the slope.) After all, as Richard Warman has repeatedly demonstrated, one doesn't need to be one of the offended party to be able to register the offence.

Ridiculous, I hear you saying? Well quite. But that's the point.

To be clear: what's most appalling (or, if you like, offensive--but in an objective sense for once) about section 13(1) of the Human Rights Act is that it presumes that the averagely intelligent Canadian citizen is so susceptible to the published views of such as Stormfront or the Canadian Nazi Party (notwithstanding the latter's non-existence), that he cannot be trusted to tell good argument from bad. Unregulated by state diktat (itself the product of Canadian 'intelligence'), unfettered by state intervention (itself enacted by (certain) Canadian citizens), the averagely intelligent Canadian apparently lumbers about in a fog of sometimes hateful ignorance, safe only in the knowlege that the likes of Barbara Hall or Dick Warman will yank him by the arm (or pick his pocket) whenever he steps awry.

So, I say, it must follow that to the extent that Canadian citizens continue to accept the necessity of section 13(1) of the Human Rights Act--which they do--then they also accept that their own, personal, independent, and free wills pose them some fairly serious risk. In the absence of the discretion of the CHRC, who are they to say whether or not they have committed a hate crime?

This being so, it cannot be said to be unreasonable for even the offending parties to ask that the state deal with them, as it were, in spite of themselves. Otherwise, doesn't the state become complicit in (what has to be) the offending parties' equal and opposite status as victims?

So let Mark Steyn file against Mark Steyn. Let Mark Steyn outline his offences for the prosecution, and let Mark Steyn provide the defence. Mark Steyn will of course lose--as must anybody under the conditions of 'likelihood' ... But he shall have done so, at least, by winning.

A most Canadian solution to a most Canadian problem.

... And we shall all have had the very good fortune to have watched.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Allan Bloom On True Political and Social Order

The feminist response that justice requires equal sharing of all domestic responsibility by men and women is not a solution, but only a compromise, an attenuation of men's dedication to their careers and of women's to family, with arguably an enrichment in diversity of both parties but just as arguably a fragmentation of their lives ... Under such arrangements the family is not a unity, and marriage is an unattractive struggle that is easy to get out of, especially for men.

And here is where the whole business turns nasty. The souls of men--their ambitious, warlike, protective, possessive character--must be dismantled in order to liberate women from their domination. Machismo--the polemical description of maleness or spiritedness, which was the central natural passion in men's souls in the psychology of the ancients, the passion of attachment and loyalty--was the villain, the source of the difference between the sexes ... And it is indeed possible to soften men. But to make them "care" is another thing, and the project must inevitably fail.

It must fail because in an age of individualism, persons of either sex cannot be forced to be public-spirited, particularly by those who are becoming less so ... The old moral order, however imperfect it may have been, at least moved toward the virtues by way of the passions. If men were self-concerned, that order tried to expand the scope of self-concern to include others, rather than commanding men to cease being concerned with themselves. To attempt the latter is both tyrannical and ineffective. A true political or social order requires the soul to be like a Gothic cathedral, with selfish stresses and strains helping to hold it up. Abstract moralism condemns certain keystones, removes them, and then blames both the nature of the stones and the structure when it collapses.

Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spinning in Place

A study in quadruple-dealing:
The new Pope - he still seems that way to me, new - just doesn't have the extraordinary charisma and telegenic appeal of his predecessor. Is that sort of thing necessary? In America, it is. They dig that sort of thing. (They also need hope, these days.)
You read this and you ask yourself: is he taking a shot at the Pope?

No, no, of course not. Benedict just seems "new" is all ... If anything, this is more a bit of praise for the last Pope. How charismatic and telegenic he was.

But neither charisma (in the completely areligious sense given the word here) nor, erm, telegenesis are Christian virtues.

Of course not. But Americans can't be expected to understand that. So it's important that a Pope be able to appeal to them on their level.

Oh, I see. So you're taking a shot at Americans!

No, no! Far from it. Rather, such is my concern for Americans that I want the Pope to give them hope. They need it so desperately, don't you know.

What: as in faith, hope, and charity? The three theological virtues? But that's exactly what he's giving them.

No. I mean, HOPE.

Oh, sorry. The audacious kind. Gotcha. You getting this, your Holiness? Jesus?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

From: Snook (The Elder) at Home

Of Fashion Statements

Lenore and I were out late last night buying books at one of those remainders shops that can be found here and there about the city. (Yes, I admit that I occasionally stomp the throat of the honest bookseller thus. But let's not dwell on that, eh?)

Satisfied--after an hour's worth of plundering--that we could fit no more books between our chins and loosely cradled hands, we made our way to the till. And the woman there (the cashier, I mean) had a most extraordinary appearance! She wore a black beret and turtle neck--which was entertaining by itself--but what really caught my attention was her eyebrows. Either she didn't have any or considered it necessary that she should shave them off (Lenore insists that waxing was the more likely procedure), and in their place she had drawn a pair of straight lines, like shallow-pitched ramps, each running from the bridge of her nose out to the perimeter of her forehead.

Her sweetness precluded my suggesting that all she needed now was a couple of stick figures pushing wheelbarrows up and down them.

As we were leaving it became clear that the fellow who had been waiting in line behind us, with a pony-tail and wearing a black trench coat, was her beau. She greeted him as her "partner", you see (code, apparently--employed both to spite capitalist fat cats, and to remind the Proletariat of the non-existence of genitals). He too was oddly adorned: his nose, ears, and mouth displaying the tackle of an apparatus which I took to be a pulley system sans the rope. It is my guess that he was in the process of developing a method for hands-free dining.

It seems to me that this generation has managed to twin the most unlikely things: an almost gruesomely functional appearance with a total lack of pragmatism.

Still, viva la revolución/différence!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Comrade Princess

Sarah Polley makes known her distress at the prospect of the passing of Bill C-10:
"I wouldn't have a career if it wasn't for public money," said Polley.
Erm ... can't quite figure out how this is supposed to work for your case, Sarah, but you were saying--

"Any whiff of censorship is chilling for us," she told a news conference before the Senate hearing.

"It's the job of artists to provoke and to challenge. Part of the responsibility of being an artist is to create work that will inspire dialogue, suggest that people examine their long-held positions and, yes, occasionally offend in order to do so."
Ms. Polley declined to comment on the proposed repeal of Section 13 of the Human Rights Act.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Passion of the Left

Much as it galls me to have to read gunk like this, it is, as they say, always useful to know what tune the devil's playing. Useful because, if you're paying any attention at all, its discordancies become quite obvious and easily identified.

Consider the following:
Is a 19th-century English philosopher (even John Stuart Mill, whom I admire greatly as a defender of individual rights against an overbearing state) really the best arbiter of Canadian human rights standards in the 21st century? At the time Mill wrote, England was openly racist, sexist and anti-Semitic. After two disastrous world wars and the horrors of the holocaust, we are surely obliged to judge rather differently the anything-goes theory of free speech.
Now, never mind the princessy tone here--the convenient oblivion to the fact that without the England of the 19th century there should be no Canada of the 21st as we know it now ... What's really funny about this paragraph, and the entire argument which follows from it, is the assumption on the part of the author (one Maxwell Yalden) that his readers don't have the intelligence to know a logical fallacy when they see one.

Mr. Yalden either takes it as rote himself, or hopes (beyond hope--I hope) that we shall take it as rote, that because free speech was defended in the 19th century, and because racism, sexism and anti-Semitism existed in the 19th century too, that there exists a causal relationship between the two. He does not bother to explain what he considers the connection between them to be; it is treated, simply, as obvious. As is the the full expression of their consequences in the horrors of the First and Second World Wars, and the Holocaust (the American Civil War, the Boer War, Korea, the Six-Day War, Vietnam, and Iraqs I and II--among other conflicts--are not mentioned).

The problem here is obvious (something that I've touched on before): what was wrong with the 19th century--if we are to acquiesce to Mr. Yalden's broad historical strokes--was not free speech, it was racism, sexism and anti-Semitism! Indeed, it's pretty rich to assume that if the 19th century which this man is imagining was so racist/sexist/anti-Semitic, it was by stifling free speech that we managed to arrive, in the 20th and 21st centuries, at the point where it is condemned almost universally.

(The other problem, of course, is that Mr. Yalden is under the impression that anybody in this debate is advocating "anything-goes free speech" ... Not to mention his hysterical acknowledgment of the virtues of McCarthyism. Swear to God.)

Again: the use in familiarizing oneself with this stuff cannot be overestimated. Between the likes of Mr. Yalden, Richard Warman and, say, Warren Kinsella, you get a fairly keen sense of the cynicism-come-credulity which underlies their beliefs and, thus, their actions. These men, as with so much of the Left, do not believe that the principle of equality is a product of human enlightenment, but of their personal, unique and passionately held values. They do not consider the concept of human rights to be an intellectual achievement--something that, rather boringly for the egoist, just makes sense--but a mystical bequest, a righteous burden and passion, a logos.

Defer to such a lunatic attitude and all the safeguards of intellectual labour are lost. Abuse follows. (As we are seeing.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

This is War(man)!

Kate McMillan, Kathy Shaidle, Free Dominion, and Ezra Levant all need your help. Theirs is a very worthy cause, and they are up against a supremely unscrupulous and despicable opponent. Please go to their sites and offload a bit of that wealth I know you're hoarding.

... Still, the defence seems fairly straightforward to me:

The above-named posted the allegedly libelous material, not because they intended themselves to defame Mr. Warman, but so that they could tease-out and expose that Conspiracy of Defamers whom we all know lurk malignantly in digitally darkened corners, just waiting for an opportunity to discredit the only man in Canada who can tell us what right and wrong are.

Warman could even testify for the defence as to whether or not he believes that such means justify the ends.

Democracy of Sentiment

Now as we all know, the reason why the Bloc, the NDP and the Liberals believe it necessary that the Peace Tower flag should be lowered to half-staff every time a Canadian soldier dies in combat has nothing to do with their position on the war in Afghanistan (or, anyway, their position re. the current government). Rather, it is because they consider it a moral obligation and, more importantly, one that reflects the opinion of a majority of Canadians.

Well, there might be something to this, actually, as a recent Ipsos Reid poll reveals:

A strong majority of Canadians -- two out of three -- say they want the Canadian flag atop the Peace Tower to fly at half-staff every time a soldier dies overseas, according to a new Ipsos Reid poll that shows the Conservative government's policy of refusing to lower the flag is unpopular, and particularly so with women.

The survey, conducted for Canwest News Service and Global National, said 66 per cent of Canadians wanted the flag lowered to mark individual deaths, as well as on Nov. 11, the day set aside to collectively honour all fallen soldiers.

Go figure. Still, I find this detail rather telling:
The poll says women are significantly more likely than men to think the flag should be lowered each time a soldier is killed. The split was 72 per cent to 60 per cent.


Mr. Bricker speculated it reflected a greater tendency of women to sympathize with the mother of a fallen soldier and put themselves in her shoes.

There's something jarring about that last line, don't you think?

And no, I don't mean that it indicates the increasing feminization of policy decisions in this country. I fully acknowledge that Mr. Bricker was merely speculating. And, anyway, it doesn't change the fact that an average of 2 out of 3 Canadian women and men disagree with the government's current position on half-masting the Peace Tower flag.

No. Rather, the line--with its simpering evocation of "sympathy" and the need for us to put ourselves in the shoes of those who mourn--throws into stark relief the dubiousness of this whole issue. I.E. That Canadians are up in arms, not because the government refuses to honour its dead, but because it doesn't do it enough, or the right way. The issue, we see, is not just personal, it is self-conscious. Apparently, our feelings should be a matter of very specific rules. That it is not enough that we regret, but that we should empathize. And that we should be seen, often, to do so.

Well, I'm sorry, but if the debate is to be couched in such adolescent terms then it would be far more to the point if the average Canadian's desire to empathize correctly were informed by the opinions of those with whom they think they're empathizing. Ipsos Reid would be doing us all a tremendous favour if they were to poll a cross-section of Canadian military personnel, and their families, to see what they have to say about half-masting. The results, I suspect, would have a very sobering effect on two-thirds of the Canadian public.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Not that there's anything wrong with it ...

Far be it from me to say that homosexuality isn't natural, that it isn't in the "blood." But I don't know how comfortable anyone should get arguing the other way around either; that is to say, that it is "natural," that it is as a consequence of genetic predisposition. It's a topic that I prefer to stay away from as a rule, not because of its controversy, but for the reason that it's not something (if we are to be honest) that can be argued decisively either way. The problem isn't that the science tells us things we don't want to hear so much as it is that the science, on this particular subject, is non-existent.

Jonathan Kay supplies us with a good example of the risks we run when we undertake to do so anyway. In a column he wrote for today's Post, entitled Gay or straight, sexual orientation is in your blood, he concludes:
I do find [the] line of free-will argumentation slightly embarrassing. It furthers the unfortunate stereotype of conservatives as being out-of-touch with anyone outside society's mainstream (narrowly defined). It also bespeaks a mindset that privileges dogma above empirical observation, an accusation usually reserved for the left.
Which would all be fine and well except for what Mr. Kay has given us as the empirical trump cards to the social conservative's blind adherence to "dogma."

The first:
Secular conservatives, who have no spiritually felt need to read free will into sexual orientation, can rely on direct human observation -- or as many of us call it, gaydar.
Gaydar, eh Jon? Is that what the eggheads are calling it these days? A God vs. Gaydar debate, is it? Hmm.

The second (quoted from the American Psychological Association):
"Most scientists today agree that sexual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors."
What, you mean like eating disorders? Various psychoses? Well, then why do we try to cure those?

... I should say that my inclination is to agree with Mr. Kay's sentiment here. What troubles me about the piece is that it is trying to dress that sentiment up in demonstrable fact. The result, I can't help thinking, is that we're presented with the uncomfortable spectacle of dull old, mundane and establishment "empiricism" kitted-out in drag.

Neither "gaydar" nor a formal admission of ignorance constitute facts, Jon. And any adherence to them as authoritative is no less dogmatic than a Christian's or a Jew's adherence to the revealed Word.

By all means, let science demonstrate absolutely that homosexuality is not a matter of choice but of genetic makeup. Until it does, of course, we are obliged to cease from politicizing the matter any further with our feelings of how things ought to be. (Obliged, I say, because far from merely offending religious convictions, doing so destroys the single claim that science has over religion: objective detachment.)

That, or just admit that this is a matter of belief. Of dogmatic belief, that is ... And don't be so distressed by that word dogma. Without it, poor old science should be lost for all time in the chaos that has to follow from a society that refuses to commit itself to certain standards without any absolute proof of their value.

Just one caution though: it's tremendously convenient for us that mankind should have been made in God's image, and not the other way around; because he (I should say He), then, has to take the heat when things go wrong. Are you quite sure that you'll be up to the task when it's remade in yours?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Night Out

This week's episode: EMG's lack of couth when in the company of the gentler sex is surpassed only by EMG's lack of tact. A strong testament to the negative social impact of Climate Change absolutism. (Click image, press play)

(Run time is seven minutes, and there is no swearing in this one.)

A smaller format for the technologically challenged can be found here.

Think More. Alice Digs It.

Alice the Camel re. "knuckledraggers":
Let's talk about Jane Taber (on Duffy) & now Robert Fife's argument that Tom Lukiwski was 40 years old at the time he made his comments about gays. Let's talk about the idea that because he was 40 years old "his views were set".

17 years ago THE ENTIRE NATION'S views weren't set about homosexuality.
17 years ago gay marriage wouldn't have passed in parliament.
17 years ago you wouldn't have lost your business or been hauled to the Human Rights Commission for not renting your Catholic hall to a gay couple for their wedding or a room in your bed and breakfast home, for that matter.

The entire nation was different 17 years ago.

17 years ago we were ALL beginning the process of societal molding that we see evident now and it's a little rich to expect one Tom Lukiwski to be farther than any of the rest on his journey of enlightenment.
It seems to me that Lukiwski's greatest offence was to comedy, not homosexuals.

But I preferred it when bigotry was the provenance of people who used words like faggot and thought it was funny. At least they weren't under any illusions that they were urbane.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Judas Complains: Hell "Worse than Hell"

So upset was James Guglielmin that his fellow TTC employees were sneaking smokes indoors rather than trekking out to the property boundary, that he smuggled a video camera into his place of work and secretly filmed them doing so.

No doubt Mr. Guglielmin was well within his rights so to do (I mean, God forbid any tobacco smoke befoul the pristine and only exhaust-filled air of the Harvey Shops). But what really soaks my cigarette about this guy is that he has the gonads to then complain, publicly, that he is being "ostracized and treated with disdain by some employees." You snitch on these guys (there's no other word for it, Jim) and then, what?, you expect to be thanked for it? You expect a prize, is it?

Well, given what passes for courage these days, no doubt Mr. Guglielmin will be awarded the Governor General's Medal of Bravery in next year's list ... But one wonders: if the man considers a bit of richly deserved ostracism "worse than hell," how is he gonna handle real Hell?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Contextual Bait and Switch

Neil MacDonald is concerned--very concerned--that Barack Obama's former spiritual advisor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's numerous incendiary observations should not be taken out of context. He contends that Rev. Wright's sermons are "worth reading." That is, that they have some value above and beyond what others have identified as their hatefulness (that is to say: their overt racism), and their patent lunacy.

Mr. MacDonald proceeds to give us a number of examples supporting his contention. The first of which is the, apparently largely ignored preamble to the good Reverend's "God DAMN America" line. He quotes:

"The United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating her citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains, the government put them in slave quarters, put them on auction blocks … put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments … and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness. The government … then wants us to sing God bless America."

... Sorry, but ... That's supposed to change everything?! Set aside the hopeless ambiguity of the third point there, the total absence (ironically) of a context given to the second, and the utter intractability of the first; you do understand, Neil, that blaming "America" (by which, needless to say, the good Reverend means white America) for the crimes of some Americans, mostly long long dead, is itself the very definition of hatemongering, right? God damn American children for the crimes of their fathers and grandfathers? God damn America for its inheritance?

Intelligent people don't say such things, Neil. Bigots do.

He continues:
Now, you can fault Wright's lack of diplomacy, but it's hard to take issue with his precis of how this country has treated minorities.

The bit about subjecting black Americans to scientific experimentation does sounds [sic] far-fetched, at least until you read Wright's other sermons and learn he was referring to the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.

In that particular episode of American medical scholarship, 399 mostly-illiterate Alabama blacks were denied treatment for syphilis back in the mid-20th century.

It's true. Tuskegee was a deplorable event that, unbelievably, did not end until 1972. Here Reverend Wright has his feet planted firmly in the real world--even if it's the real world of nearly 40 years ago. But the thing is, Neil, nobody is taking issue with him on this. What they take issue with is his lunatic belief that AIDS was developed by the United States government to exterminate the black race. You, in spite of all your bleating on about context, make no mention of this.

He continues:

Wright has said many other things from the pulpit, too. He's attacked the U.S. for supporting what he calls "state terrorism" against black South Africans, presumably a reference to Washington's reluctance to punish that country's old apartheid regime.

What's more, he's used the same language to describe Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Both references are controversial, but hardly unusual among the political left.

Wright is particulary corrosive about white American racism, which, he argues, was a principle upon which the United States was founded and infects the power structure here to this day.

As with the AIDS thing, I don't think anybody should care quite so much about Rev. Wright's views on South Africa and the Palestinians if they weren't cast in the light of the man's conviction that there is a White Conspiracy to subjugate/exterminate Blacks! Wake up, man! I mean, corrosive?! Surely you meant controversial! Deeply, deeply controversial. And, if false--which of course they are--hateful in the extreme.

He then proceeds to equivocate on a grand scale by citing the examples of various Republican candidates whose spiritual advisors are known to have said a nasty thing or two. He names Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham. He says:
Now, it is true that most of [their] remarks received pretty extensive coverage. But the public figures who stood with their authors, courted them and even described them as spiritual guides, are probably politically stronger as a result of having done so.
Perhaps. But these were all post-election allegiances. So he cites the more recent example of the Revs. John Hagee and Rod Parsley lending their support to John McCain:

Hagee, who is white, is noted for his view of the pope who he has suggested is "the Antichrist." The Catholic Church, he has said, is "the great whore" and "a false cult system." Hurricane Katrina, he once declared, was God punishing New Orleans for allowing gay pride parades.

McCain later said he does not agree with all Hagee's views, but that he nonetheless remains proud of the endorsement.

In February, McCain described another white endorser, Rev. Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, as a "spiritual guide."

Among other things, Rev. Parsley has declared that part of America's founding purpose is to destroy Islam, which he characterizes as a "false religion."

Three things here:

1) It has yet to be seen if John McCain's evangelical associations don't have a negative impact on his campaign.

2) I can guarantee that if either of the Revs. Hagee or Parsley were to say about blacks what Jeremiah Wright has said about whites, not only would John McCain drop them like a pair of hot, burning crosses, and not only would he would lose the nomination, the Republican party would never find itself in power ever again.

3) In spite of his association with Rev. Wright, Barack Obama remains poised to take the Democratic nomination!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ontario's Mediocre-est Lecturer

Anyone interested in first-hand evidence of the depths to which post-secondary education has sunk in this country is keenly encouraged to take a look at this.

As is to be expected of any such competition--where the participants and finalists are determined by an open vote--the selection of finalists for TV Ontario's Best Lecturer Competition comprises, almost exclusively, teachers so agonizingly average as to be, well, just so far below average.

There's no way around this, I'm afraid, and TVO can't really be blamed. They are, one, trying to generate an active interest in their programming, and two, even if they were to select a panel of judges to actually adjudicate--rather than merely spout-off as do these three--who would they pick? And how? Uncontroversially, that is. No, rather, such is the whimpering way of the world that it is considered better, in all contests, to give power of judgement to the nameless and faceless masses who, by virtue of their anonymity cannot then be accused of bias (and therefore have none), than to give it to one or three or five qualified men and women whose nominations, alas, are only too likely to produce 10, 30, 50 accusations of prejudiced appointment and a significant little contention of its own.

Fair, after all, is Fair™ and, actually, it is some indicator of the extent to which TVO has doggedly stuck to its own mandate in this that, gasp!, no woman appears in its list of finalists. (Isn't it funny how traditional signs of bias have come to indicate their opposite? ... That being said, I can think of at least two women professors at U of T who are far superior to just about any of the TVO selection.)

The process, in its entirety, presents a fascinating study of the principle which has guided the dumbing-down of higher education in Canada over the last 40 years.

Of particular interest is the criteria TVO has come up with by which you are expected to participate in their little democracy of learning. Each lecturer is to be graded according to his strengths in the following catagories: "Clarity and Coherence," "Energy and Performance," "Confidence and Authority." You'll notice that there's no mention of Substance here. What, in your average high school rubric, would be called "Knowledge/Understanding." No doubt, if we were to ask why, we'd be told that this is implicit in the category "Authority." But even ignoring the question of whether this is so,* one has to wonder how "Authority" in this sense could ever be considered of only equal value to "Energy" or "Performance" or "Confidence"; how a person whose utter mistakenness happens to be clear and coherent, his demeanor energetic, entertaining and confident could apparently win (by a landslide even) over someone who merely knows what he's talking about.

The results, in three cases at least, are depressing in the extreme:

Finney Cherian's bumbling inarticulacy is surpassed only for wince-value by his metaphorical enactment of the wrong way to teach (i.e. look incredibly self-righteous as you use a rubber mallet to smash a gift-wrapped parcel that's covered in band-aids! Seriously!).

Robert Jan van Pelt presents us with the very definition of obtuseness (not to mention almost obscene tastelessness, even by the day's dubious standards) by spending the full hour of his address--to students of architecture!--opining on the Holocaust.

And my personal favourite, John Mitterer. A man who opens by comparing the denial of a liver transplant to a young woman in Los Angeles (who consequently died), with the denial of sex-reassignment surgery to the transgendered in Ontario. (Mike Harris is blamed, 'natch.) A man who repeatedly stresses that all scientific conclusions are "provisional," but who fails utterly to consider that this might apply to his own, highly politicized "scientific" conclusions. A man who, in a singular feat of absurdity, tells us that the Kpelle people of Liberia consider it "foolish" that Westerners should be in the habit of organizing according to a principle of taxonomy rather than by function. He tells us this to humble us. Because, you know, it's the Kpelle people's social and technological superiority in such matters that has made them such a dominant world power.

... Ontario's "cutting-edge thinkers," ladies and gentleman.


*I get the distinct impression it is not. How, after all, would I be able to say if a given lecturer hasn't mastered his subject? He's one of "the best"! Who the hell am I?