Reconciliation RIP?

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Colten.jpgAs a Canadian, an immigrant, and just as a human being, I don’t merely feel sadness and outrage at the acquittal of Colten Boushie’s killer by an all-white jury in Saskatchewan. I feel soiled.

The bullet that put an end to Boushie’s young life, if the defence is to be believed, sat in Gerald Stanley’s gun “hanging fire” until the weapon was properly positioned behind his head. At that point, the bullet left the gun, untriggered.

Only in a profoundly racist society could such a ludicrous defence succeed. Only in a profoundly racist society would the police (RCMP) put out a news release right after the killing indirectly accusing Boushie of attempted robbery—then go to his mother’s house, surround it, search it without a warrant, and in the course of this violation, tell her that her son was dead. When she collapsed at this news, she says (and there is no reason in this world not to believe her), one of the cops asked if she’d been drinking. Needless to say, the RCMP soon cleared themselves, while admitting they might have been a little insensitive, so that’s all right, then.

They bungled the investigation too. Unfunny Keystone Kops, deepening and widening the tragedy.

Meanwhile the local yokels were cheering. Premier Brad Wall found himself having to condemn the gushing sewer of hatred that so quickly erupted, fouling the Saskatchewan air.

My sympathy and my feelings of grief, anger and helplessness are with Boushie’s bereaved family and his friends today. But, like “thoughts and prayers,” those aren’t worth a damn. The only thing that matters now is change, real change, delivered at speed. Genuine nation-to-nation and person-to-person reconciliation in this tortured, racist land in which we co-exist, but not as equals.

Last night, that hope was set back by decades. It was Mississippi North, except that you can’t deliberately pick all-white juries in Mississippi any more. The verdict was a body blow to decency and right, and to any remaining self-delusions about the sort of Canada we live in.

Once again, justice for the indigenous population is not only blind, but deaf. It’s 2018. What the hell do we do now?

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Canada's Dreyfus cleared

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Diab 2017.jpg

It was a travesty of justice from the very start. A mild-mannered university lecturer in Ottawa was falsely accused of a heinous crime, the bombing of a Paris synagogue in 1980. There was little credible evidence and no charges, but a Canadian citizen was made to suffer nearly a decade of judicial abuse before, finally, being cleared and freed.

Hassan Diab spent years of his life in the grip of two justice systems. In Canada, he was arrested by the RCMP, forced to pay for his own electronic monitoring, then put through an extradition hearing that relied upon a French Record of Case from which exculpatory evidence had been deliberately excluded. He was finally bundled off to a French prison in 2014 without even being allowed to say goodbye to his family. There he was confined in a maximum security prison for more than three years.

Diab was never charged with anything. Eight French lower-court orders to have him released on bail were overturned by a highly-political French court of appeal.

As an Other with a funny name, Diab became a target after his initial arrest. The mob quickly gathered: B’nai Brith had him fired in mid-class by then Carleton University President Roseann Runte, and its CEO at the time said: “It’s appalling university professors would lobby for the reinstatement of a professor who is alleged to have bombed a synagogue. And one asks this question: is it because a synagogue was bombed?”

“The stalled extradition of Hassan Diab continues to afflict his victims,” shrieked a spokesperson for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

The then Managing Editor of the Ottawa Citizen belched out a spittle-flecked rant, denouncing Carleton’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology for having hired him in the first place. “[I]t is hard to interpret the slur against Jews as anything but entirely deliberate….[P]erhaps [Peter] Gose [Chair of the Department] believes that Muslim students might actually find it congenial to be taught by an accused terrorist and mass murder [sic].”

The Ottawa Citizen editorially opined: “Students shouldn’t have to wonder whether they’ll be safe when they walk through the classroom door.”

Triple-distilled Islamophobia. Guilty before proven innocent.

The evidence that led to Diab’s decade-long ordeal?

Witness testimony: He had long blond hair. He had medium length black hair. He was 45. No, 26. He had a stocky build. A slim build.

Documentary evidence: He entered France by train and plane simultaneously. The report of a handwriting “expert” with 21 hours of training since 1993, whose conclusions were demolished by three professional handwriting analysts with international reputations. (Earlier handwriting “evidence” had been removed by the French authorities when challenged. The extradition judge, Robert Maranger, gave them time to root around for more.)

The exculpatory evidence—fingerprints and a palm print—was left out of the Record of Case The extradition judge refused to permit the defence to produce it.

Diab was the classic pharmakos, an outsider by virtue of his name and ethnicity whose sacrifice was necessary to purge society. He was, in more familiar terms, a scapegoat: “[T]he goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.” A great evil had been committed, and a sacrificial victim had to be found and expelled. The Canadian justice system did just that through extradition; the French system did so by removing him from society: confining him to prison without charge, despite flimsy evidence and repeated judicial demands that he be released on bail.

His guilt or innocence simply stopped mattering.

To his credit, one of the French examining magistrates who succeeded the crusading Marc Trévidic—who had engineered the original case—did his job, although it took long enough. He traveled to Lebanon, where he discovered “consistent evidence” that Diab was writing university exams when the Paris bombing took place.

Now, at long last, the case has been tossed out. An innocent man, a fellow-citizen, lost nearly ten years of freedom, for no defensible reason. We’ve been watching a textbook study unfold, one demonstrating the crushing effects of prejudice and fear. Collectively, we should all be ashamed.

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North Pole.jpgOne of the depressing rituals associated with this time of year is the ceremonial tallying up the tragic losses we’ve experienced. While that usually involves a tedious roster of luminaries we all pretend to care about more than we actually did (although I’m sure Gord Downie was a very nice person), one shocking loss has so far passed unremarked (as far as I’ve seen). In 2017, Canada said farewell to one of it oldest, dearest, and best-known celebrities. The North Magnetic Pole, which is moving toward Russia at a rate of roughly 57 km/yr, drifted this year beyond Canadian territory, and is now estimated to reside at 86.5N, 172.6W. Goodbye, li’l buddy: I never actually met you, but I did once spend a terrible week stuck in Resolute Bay, just a couple of hundred kilometers away. Bon Voyage, and Счастливого пути.

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The sine qua non of real existing Zionism is that the Jewish people have a right to a properly sovereign state, that is, one with borders, military power, and a primary purpose of being the expression in state form of the concept of Jewishness, howsoever its Jewish inhabitants may construe it. That right is instead construed from a particularly bad history upon whose tragedy most reasonable people agree. That bad history and the manner in which it can be taken to make the creation and maintenance of a Jewish state a moral imperative is the reason why many supporters of Israel deeply resent the comparison of Israel to South Africa under apartheid, in that there is no comparison in historic suffering between the descendants of white settlers in Africa and the Jewish people, no well-aged, widespread extant ideology loose in the world demanding the violent extermination of whites as such, etc.

I have largely supported the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine dispute—-even if many supporters of Palestine may view it as a moral capitulation on the rights of Palestinians in the face of their dispossession through the colonial machinations that eventually afforded Jewish refugees a state and Zionism its physical-world conjugate. A negotiated solution must take into account how each party sees its raison d’être, even if the bulk of the hypothetical losses from a solution may fall upon the very much weaker party that are the Palestinians. Even the most well-intentioned of Israel’s supporters see Israel’s raison d’être in the terms I put above: the non-negotiable point is that there ultimately be a state with a Jewish majority that is a normal sovereign state with military and economic power identified, first and foremost, as Jewish.

The only viable way to accomplish this is via a two-state solution. And as many pro-Palestinian critics of the two-state solution point out, it is precisely the prospect of a two-state solution that has allowed Israel in particular to keep the Palestinians in an ambiguous condition, despite effective total Israeli state control over anything that matters. Without the prospect of a two-state solution, the Palestinians become in effect third-class Israeli citizens, subject to discriminatory control in a state that will governs them indefinitely but has no intention of giving them a vote or access to its benefits. The accusations of apartheid become even harder to deflect.

Naturally, I wrote this post in relation to the official Presidential recognition by the USA of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It was motivated by domestic considerations. I don’t think it changes much in material terms. In practice, most Israeli governmental activity was already happening in Jerusalem.

However, I find it hard to understand how it is that very many pro-Israeli commentators think that the decision is good for Israel. The constantly receding horizon of an actual two-state solution required that the USA, despite its enormously pro-Israeli politics, visibly partake in the appearance of ambiguity on most issues that touched on final status. With the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the USA loses this appearance on a key final status issue, likely driving a final nail in the two-state solution’s quantum coffin.

The result ultimately brings the day closer that Israel will have to choose the outcome that only it will now have the primary power to influence. This is of course exactly that Israel’s supporters celebrate. Except, there does not appear to be any outcome in which the Palestinian populations do not formally enter Israeli custody. This is not a process that in the long term can maintain the goal of a Jewish-majority state for the Jewish people. The feeling I get from reading the openly anti-Palestinian part of the pro-Israeli press is that they think that the day is coming where the Palestinians will “capitulate” to Israel’s existence in some sense. What that capitulation is supposed to lead to is not stated and apparently not thought through.

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Lindsay Shepherd.jpg

As I predicted, the subject of a recent Wilfrid Laurier University inquisition, a 22-year-old teaching assistant named Lindsay Shepherd, had been quickly adopted as a mascot by the Right, and has been—as we “cultural Marxists” might put it—interpellated into their discourses. In plain English, she’s had her head turned. She might have gone into her interview with no particular ideological fix on things, certainly not as a dogmatic ideologue, but she emerged ripe for the plucking by Postmedia columnists and the usual “free speech” suspects.

I recall being 22, and the memories are cringeworthy. I strongly doubt that I’m alone in this. My brain was mush. I was giddy with ideas. I had neither the wisdom nor the analytical ability to make them cohere. I knew a lot more then than I do now.

I have also been a TA, in 1970 and then again in 2008-9. My job was to get the students thinking about the course material. It was not to impose a point of view, although I was clear what my own was. I gave deserved top marks in my more recent Anthropology sections to a) a niqabi, and b) a young woman who was fiercely opposed to feminism. So far as I know, I never “triggered” anyone. We had class discussions, and nobody was looking over their shoulders.

None of us know to this day what went on in Lindsay Shepherd’s classroom. We know only that on one occasion she showed a short video clip of alt-right cult hero Jordan Peterson being quizzed by host Steve Paikin on the issue of new pronouns for “non-binary” people. This resulted in her being called on the carpet.

Shepherd’s recorded audio of her inquisition-by-committee became, as we know, public property: she slipped it to Postmedia’s Christie Blatchford, first off, knowing an opportunity for maximum publicity when she saw one. She had been badly treated, and like most folks who have been wronged and arguably bullied by people in authority, she wanted to hit back.

Some fellow progressives proceeded to take her far too seriously, representing her as a fully-fledged, cunning right-wing spokeskook who possessed a developed agenda from the very start. She was held to have “denied the humanity” of transpeople, of having tossed the Peterson cat amongst naive student pigeons with malign intent, of poor and/or tendentious pedagogy, of “weaponizing tears,” even of wilfully inciting hatred and violence. To repeat, none of us has a clue what her classes were like, what the post-clip discussions were, or what role she played in them. But to go on like this about an unfledged graduate student was outrageous.

Her superiors didn’t argue against whatever discussion took place, in any case: they objected to the very mention of the person whose video-presence sparked one or more complaints. Another unknown: we have no idea whether the complaint(s) came from transpeople, or (as is statistically far more likely) from politically outraged white knights. Whatever, the ad hoc committee’s comments were embarrassing and painful to listen to.

Things went haywire very quickly after that. The released audio chummed the waters for legions of trolls eager to push the narrative of universities as left-wing indoctrination camps. The Right extended a pseudopod, in the person of Postmedia’s Jonathan Kay (who messaged her as soon as she got herself a Twitter account), and she was quickly engulfed. He was one of the first two people she followed: the second was Jordan Peterson.

Shepherd found herself a celebrity, and she began to revel in it, as any 22-year-old would be likely to do. She Tweeted, addressed rallies, appeared on TV, and generally assumed the mantle of a “free speech rockstar,” a latter-day libertarian Pasionaria, champion of the politically-incorrect. She became an increasingly polarized and polarizing figure. There are, for instance, obvious parallels between her case and that of Masuma Khan, a Dalhousie University student who made social media comments about “white tears” and soon faced, not a mere meeting, but the full weight of a university disciplinary process. But Shepherd casually dismissed Khan as “insolent,” an airily offensive choice of word. She gratuitously attacked her university’s Rainbow Centre. She claimed that she was being “racially harassed.”

Over-the-top responses to over-the-top attacks; exaggeration; borrowed ideas used as weapons; those of us with a few miles on us should really try to think back. The best thing for Shepherd right now might be a year in a Zen monastery, to catch her breath and reflect. Right now, without denying her own agency, it is obvious that she has become a prisoner. To take Oswald Spengler completely out of context, “All that wells up from the depths of the young soul is cast in the old moulds, [and] young feelings stiffen in senile works.”

It’s going on before our eyes. And perhaps I’m the only one left who presently feels a bit sorry for her.

NB: If you try to get to the comments by using the sidebar, you’ll get a “404” (thanks, Disqus). Change “11” to “12” in the URL.

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Spanish Inquisition1.jpg

This is excruciating to hear: the ill-treatment of Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University, by a panel of commissars. But, if it weren’t for the seriousness of bullying a young woman to tears in a so-called “safe” institution, this nasty episode would be the stuff of dark comedy.

When Christie Blatchford of Postmedia first broke this story, I thought it was too fantastic to be believed, and I said so on social media. I was wrong, and mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Even if we were provided only excerpts of a longer conversation, this absurd, miserable performance deserves contempt, right across the political spectrum.

Three not-so-grand inquisitors confronted Shepherd over her use of a short clip of the infamous Professor Jordan Peterson at one of her tutorials, one which, as it happens, was taken from TV Ontario’s The Agenda. Her sin—and I use the word advisedly—was not that she took his side, which, given his expressed desire to suppress academic freedom himself, and his penchant for doxxing those who dare to protest against him, would have been questionable in a university setting. It was to take no side. It was to engender debate, which no doubt it did.

It certainly did after the fact. Shepherd’s class generated a complaint, or several. The young woman was not permitted to face her accuser(s), nor to be given the actual substance of the complaint(s), nor was she even allowed to know how many complaint(s) there were. In this, the process departs from Maoism, at least, where facing accusers, usually a mob of them, was part of a ritual social cleansing. The inquisition at SWU was like an alt-right sketch of what the benighted imagine a university to be. A joint performance by Josef K. and the Three Stooges. Sounds like a grunge band, and so, in essence, it was.

And boy oh boy, did this ever play into the fashionable right-wing narrative about our universities which, judging from public commentary, is the dominant one. Havens of leftist cultism, motivated by that bizarre conflation of “cultural Marxism/postmodernism” that the unread go on about incessantly, not excluding Dr. Peterson. Indoctrination camps. The triumph of the Long March through the institutions.

Never mind that universities have, all over North America, been actively suppressing progressive thought—just ask anyone interested in Palestinian human rights. At Carleton University not so long ago, during Israeli Apartheid Week, students were sent warning emails from then-President Roseann Runte, and a poster advertising the week was banned. Scattered incidents like this have happened across Canada, but they fall outside the narrative and are usually all but ignored. Academic freedom at Canadian universities is, in fact, a bit of a myth, particularly when corporate interests are involved.

The maddening thing about this story so far is the amount of speculation that it has called forth—perforce including my own. We now have the full content of the interview with Shepherd, but we know very little about the classroom context in which the offending video—that excerpt from the TVO panel discussion—was shown. On the Right, there is the usual gnashing of teeth, but this time, unfortunately, with something to chew on. (They’ll see this eventual apology for what it’s worth, like everybody else.) On the Left, there has been some intelligent commentary, not defending the university’s incredibly heavy-handedness, but critiquing the TA’s pedagogy, as well as pointing out the gigantic deficiencies in Jordan Peterson’s knowledge. But none of us except Ms. Shepherd was in the classroom. We have little idea of the context that was set, or the ensuing discussion.

Progressive critiques have suggested that the TA was insensitive to trans students, considering their lived lives to be mere trifles to be made the object of a debate. But we don’t know that the debate was framed that way. We don’t know if trans people would object, in fact, to participating in a suitably framed discussion. We don’t even know if there were any trans students attending the class, nor should we assume that one or more of them, if present, made the complaint against Shepherd. Statistically it seems far more likely that it was someone politically, not personally, motivated, who thought they had witnessed yet another instance of transphobia and wanted to call the TA out.

(A discussion of pronouns, just incidentally, should not necessarily be taken to be transphobic on its face, despite Peterson’s general unpleasantness. There has been a certain pronominal proliferation that could prove challenging, not only to a teacher, but in common social interaction. My own ageing memory simply cannot cope.)

Peterson’s raw, angry right-wing energy is now plainly present for all to see. His fame has led him to believe that he’s some kind of polymath. But he’s really a stupid person’s idea of a smart person, speaking on a wide variety of subjects that he knows next to nothing about. One hopes that Shepherd, who stated that she was not a supporter of Peterson, will not succumb to similar political adulation and follow his route, but it may already be too late.

The witch-hunt against academe, in any case, will now be pursued with redoubled fury. And the Inquisition, while presented in only one anecdote, will once again be presented as the norm. Post-modernism? My eye. We’re living in mediaeval times.

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poppy.jpgSomething must really be done about tall poppies, uppity women and scientists who speak their mind. Especially when they’re all rolled into one.

So the White Male Tribe of “pundits” have been having another go at Governor General Julie Payette, after retreating in abashed confusion after an earlier failed pitchfork and torches episode. They’ve been yammering for days now, here and here and here and here and here and here, etc., etc., ad nauseam. A couple of women weighed in too, one well past her best-before date, another trying maybe a little too hard to make it in the man’s world of legacy media commentary.

As of this writing, Conrad Black has not graced us with his recondite lexicon, but that shoe may still drop. There’s no statute of limitations for these periodic episodes of biliousness—in this case, equal parts concern-trolling, head-patting sexism, and faux-outrage. Black, however, should he deign to stoop, would seal this orgy of self-gratulation idoneously.

Mobbing, according to prominent journalist Jon Kay, is unacceptable on social media—but not, it seems, by the legacy media. And his strictures do not appear to apply to himself.

A large part of this waste of space, ink and pixels may be inevitable, what might be expected when scribblers confront a person who sits atop a veritable mountain of achievement. Could there be just a soupçon of envy in the mix? Payette is, as I noted in my earlier piece, an electrical engineer, an astronaut, a qualified commercial pilot, a musician who sang with the Montreal Symphonic Orchestra Chamber Choir, fluent in six languages, possessor of 27 honorary doctorates, and an Officer of the Order of Canada. Not one member of the pundit class is a patch on that.

The latest shouty little tantrum was over a scientist talking science to other scientists. There was nothing remotely partisan about her remarks, nor did she utter a word about government policy. Her neutrality on such matters remains intact, even if Justin Trudeau undermined her to some extent with his unhelpful white-knightery. Payette did take a poke at quack medicine, astrology, climate warming deniers, and Guy in the Sky folktales. None of that is the stuff of Parliamentary debates. None of it is “political” in the GG-must-be-neutral sense. But taking the wider view, I can think of few comments, however anodyne, that could escape censure from some aggrieved soul somewhere.

So, in the end,one of the mobbers may have been right after all when he Tweeted that “Gord Downie would have made a damn good Governor General.” I agree, even if he didn’t mean it that way. Downie would be ideal, and bound to offend no one: quintessentially Canadian, popular—and dead.

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The reconciliation hoax

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Item: RCMP clears itself for breaking the news to a mother that her child has been shot, by surrounding the mother’s house and raiding it. The distraught mother collapsed after hearing her son had been killed—and was asked if she’d been drinking.

Item: The Supreme Court of Canada rules—by way of analogy—that Christians should have the right to worship freely, but it’s OK to bulldoze heritage basilicas to make way for condos. In fact, it’s even OK to kill the God who resides in them.

In this case, the Ktunaxa sincerely believe that Grizzly Bear Spirit inhabits Qat’muk, a body of sacred land in their religion, and that the Minister’s decision to approve the ski resort would sever their connection to Qat’muk and to Grizzly Bear Spirit. As a result, the Ktunaxa would no longer receive spiritual guidance and assistance from Grizzly Bear Spirit. Their religious beliefs in Grizzly Bear Spirit would become entirely devoid of religious significance, and accordingly, their prayers, ceremonies, and rituals associated with Grizzly Bear Spirit would become nothing more than empty words and hollow gestures. Moreover, without their spiritual connection to Qat’muk and to Grizzly Bear Spirit, the Ktunaxa would be unable to pass on their beliefs and practices to future generations. Therefore, the Minister’s decision approving the proposed development interferes with the Ktunaxa’s ability to act in accordance with their religious beliefs or practices in a manner that is more than trivial or insubstantial. The Minister’s decision is reasonable, however… [italics added]

No, I’m not ashamed to be a Canadian. But I’m ashamed of my country and my government, and the institutions of governance in which white supremacy lies coiled, like a snake, ready to strike at any time without warning.

Reconciliation is a hoax, and it’s time to name it as such.

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Political synechdoche in Quebec

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Niqabi Quebec.jpg

With the looming passage of Bill 62, Quebec is poised, in the name of “secularism,” to ban Muslim niqabi (women wearing face veils) from boarding city transit.

In its first incarnation, as Bill 94, then federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff expressed strong support for it: a crass bit of political pandering to hérouxvilliste yokels, but in fairness hardly the only one. The Bill died when an election was called and the ruling Quebec Liberals lost. The Parti Québécois, a social-democratic party under René Lévesque but now one that oozes xenophobia, had opposed that Bill because it did not go far enough. They had their own go at it in 2013 with the infamous Quebec Charter of Values, but that legislation died as well when the Liberals regained power in 2014.

Now it’s the Liberals’ turn once more, and the band plays on. Yet again the “religious neutrality of the state” is trundled out of its musty vault, no longer the laïcité that protected citizens from a once-powerful Roman Catholic Church, but now a blunt-force instrument to be used by vielle souche Quebeckers against the Others.

The total number of women wearing niqab in Quebec may be as high as 90. Yes, you read right.

So clearly we aren’t dealing with a serious practical matter. What we have instead is a synechdoche: the part, in this case, standing for the whole. That’s why the public and political furor seems so exaggerated.

As an earlier example, consider the angry opposition to long hair on men in the ‘sixties. It wasn’t really about long hair at all, but stood for one side of a broader politico-cultural war being waged simultaneously on a number of fronts. The fight was fuelled by the powerful who had a fear of losing control: parents over children (the “generation gap”), the state over its citizens (Vietnam draft evasion), or an embedded white supremacism (segregation). Button-down minds and the assorted brutes eager to do their bidding were ranged against creativity, experimentation, freedom and revolt. Summer of Love, if you will, versus “law and order.” Or so, at least, it seemed, if one read the headlines—although decent folks were swept up into the wrong side of the conflict as well.

Like all political synechdoche, however, the part developed a life in some ways independent of the whole. Long hair was held to be “unkempt,” “dirty,” “girly” and/or “faggoty.” Every one of those adjectives, of course, could potentially open up into wide discursive avenues, but usually didn’t. Long hair also became associated with drugs: that one imperfect but immediate way out of the Matrix, and hence heavily punished by a veritable army of Agent Smiths.

So too it is with the partial but significant ban on the niqab in La Belle Province. “The veil oppresses women,” we are told, although the women often say otherwise, when people allegedly fighting on their behalf deign to talk to them. “We don’t want religion and the state mixed together,” say Quebec legislators, enacting “religious neutrality” under the crucifix that adorns the wall behind the Speaker of the Quebec National Assembly.

“Nothing really to do with religion at all,” humphs Stéphanie Vallée, Quebec’s justice minister. It could apply just as well to masked protesters, she insists. To this barefaced lie, one can only reply, “Mon oeil.” Here is the title of the Bill: “An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for religious accommodation requests in certain bodies.” The Bill itself is all about the providers and recipients of public services: it says nothing whatsoever about masking in public. In fact, the mayor of Quebec City recently bemoaned that very fact.

In practical terms, just to remind everyone, the Bill will apply only to niqabis. That’s it and that’s all.

What is the whole, then, of which this niqabi-ban is a part? Quite simply, an ugly, exclusionary nationalism, that has even led, at its extreme fringe, to mass murder. Whether Liberal or Parti Québécois, it appears politically expedient for the party in power to pander to the unsavoury Lionel Groux/Marcel Chaput current of Quebec nationalism, which, along with its progressive counterpart, has been present in the province for many decades. This strategy has proven to be the path of least resistance to obtain the support of a substantial block of swing voters, although it’s a narrow path, to be sure: the PQ overplayed its hand with its Charter of Values, while the Liberals cannot afford to stray too far in the direction of, well, liberalism. Pandering to bigotry has its own intricate political calculus.

In any case, to conform to the law, the minuscule number of niqabis in Quebec will now be less able to leave their houses, more dependent than ever, one might suppose, upon the swarthy male brutes of popular imagination who allegedly force the “Islamic” dress code upon them in the first place. Outside the house, the state lies waiting to enforce a different dress code—even on public transport. O lucky women! You’re about to become, like earthlings in the old science fiction story, as thoroughly liberated as it’s possible to be.

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In a recent post, I took up the serious and imminent issue of the movements of young men who seem to be a key provider of energy if not votes for the current expansion of far-right political phenomena. In that post, I rather tendentiously took up the apparent core complaint of these young men at their word: they do not have access to female attention in the form they think generations of men before them were afforded, they recognize that the world has been rearranged to give women choices that heighten the chance of their involuntary exclusion from such interaction, and they believe that left-wing and socially progressive movements subvert common moral discourses to deny them advocacy for what they see as a real source of suffering for themselves. They then reject analysis of their dissatisfaction in terms of their own patriarchal malprogramming — they know what they feel and what, and honestly, you can’t really ask someone to pretend to themselves to not want what they really want. If one takes them — and many of the attempts at analyzing them as a phenomenon — at their word, what they are really arguing is that they as men cannot help but make a demand upon women that the state must satisfy, or that they will work as a group to cause the state to satisfy, of course necessarily by restricting women’s choices once again. It would therefore be either the case that reproductive maleness qua maleness contains an inherent and irremediable moral defect, or that they’re wrong about their subjective psychological state, something by its very nature impossible to verify.

Some of the comments to that post raised the objection that I was setting forth a peculiar sort of biological determinism by doing so. Which, by taking these young men at their word, I was.

But of course biological determinism, at least as most usually conceived, is a crock. Biological determinism is typically used in the following manner: observed differences and inequalities are not the rest of discrimination or mutable social processes, but rather, the outcome of genetic difference (genetics being misconceived as a program that writes out all biology, when the reality is more complex). The implication is that dealing with inequality is impossible.

There’s lots of reason why this is problematic, including on the matter of biological sex. When as many social variables are controlled for as possible, most biological behavioural differences in both intelligence and inclination turn out to be relatively small — at least not of the sizes required to account for economic inequality, underrepresentation, and so on. And there is a deeper problem: it turns out that even at a genetic level, how genotypes are transformed into phenotypes turns out to be extremely complex and not at all amenable to straightforward explanation, particularly in the matter of “abstract” cognitive characteristics at a far developmental remove from Mendelian inheritance. What differences appear still to be explainable as “genetic biology” weaken as more difficult confounds are obtained.

So let me lay my cards on the table on the biology front: yes, it is very unlikely that biological determinism of this kind explains anything of patriarchy, and indeed, these young men are not playing out some kind of genetic programme to demand that the modern state “encourage” women to sleep with them. However, it is also unlikely that human reproductive biology has no social consequences. The problem is that we do have, for lack of a better word, reproductive “estates” inside the human race that come from the social interactions of sexually-reproducing species. There are at least three such “reproductive estates”: the estate of those assumed capable of pregnancy and birth (call this the CPB estate), the estate of those assumed capable of instigating pregancy (call this the CIP estate), and a third estate of those who for various reasons are assumed neither to have the pregnancy power nor the impregnation power in a way that has social relevance (the “neither” estate), that may actually be composed of an archipelago of smaller estates.

Biological reproduction is a part of social reproduction, and social reproduction necessarily has implications for class interest and class conflict. Separated from claims about genetics, what Kekistani young men are perceiving is an inability to participate in their estate and to obtain the power of the patriarch to influence the terms of social reproduction. And while it may not be the case that the pressure for patriarchy is inherently a result of the physical mechanics of membership in the “CIP estate”, the potential for certain kinds of conflicts among these estates remains, and the ultimate dismantlement of the virtual fascist nation of Kekistan depends, I think, in part on identifying the class dynamics among these estates. And that is why I titled the previous post, “The essential patriarch”, and not “The essential male”.

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