Dr. Dawg

Of Khanny Conservatives, blogroll slander, multiculturalism, Nunavut and abortion nuances

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2007 is shaping up to be the usual heap of fragments out of which we construct or shore up our respective ideologies. Is there glitter amidst the dross? Issues that could spark debate but, more important, actually make those of us on the "progressive" side reflect? Well, just maybe.

  • The saga of turncoat/convert Wajid Khan continues to unwind, as it were (h/t Zac). But, bluntly speaking, who gives a rat's ass about Wajid Khan? He's just a venal politician, grabbing the brass ring. He merely highlights the glaringly obvious fact that, if you look at the entire length of the political spectrum--in fact, if you do away with that metaphor altogether and talk instead of political possibilities--there's really not all that much difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives. No, seriously. Who is David Emerson? A former CEO of Canfor Corp. Who is Belinda Stronach? The pampered daughter of a multi-billionaire. Cross the floor one way, cross it the other way...is there really an ideological difference? Only on the surface, if even there.

    Cynical? Not at all. The world is simply bursting with possibilities. But why, then, do we narrow our political focus to include so little? Are wage and price controls Conservative or Liberal? Free trade? Public-sector bashing? Involvement in Afghanistan? Post-9/11 civil liberties? What position on what issue can be said to be fundamentally Liberal or Conservative? Answer: none. What's in a name? It's really one party with two faces.

    There is a fatal fluidity in their respective positions--even with Harper in the driver's seat, a man who actually has an ideology--that's based upon mere tactical considerations, not upon anything remotely connected to principle or vision. Some MPs change parties and make headlines, but many more, with their parties, change their minds
    180 after being elected, and it's business as usual. Or had they all along intended the opposite of what they campaigned for? (Trudeau's wage and price controls leap immediately to mind.) In any case, no issue is safe with either of these corporate entities. Expediency rules.

  • A prominent member of the small-c conservative community has finally spat out her poison: the Blogging Dippers, she avers, are "Canada's leading on-line anti-semitic community."

    Wow. Is Jack Layton's bedtime reading the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion? Have Dippers joined the ranks of the Holocaust-deniers?

    Well, uh, no. The International Jewish Conspiracy guys tend to be, er, conservative. Read David Duke's website, if you can stomach it, and see where that crowd stands on affirmative action or immigration. Check out the political positions of leading Holocaust-deniers and fascists like the British National Party's Nick Griffin. The vocabulary is a little more direct--these folks don't hide behind codes so much--but it's all rather familiar, isn't it?

    What Kate means by "anti-semitic," of course, is "critical of Israel." In other words, it's the usual cheap, drive-by smear that the new McCarthyites use routinely to try to silence opposition to Israel's policies. But better they should look within their own ranks if it's genuine anti-Semites they're interested in.

  • According to a recent survey, the Globe & Mail tells us, "[v]isible-minority immigrants are slower to integrate into Canadian society than their white, European counterparts, and feel less Canadian, suggesting multiculturalism doesn't work as well for non-whites."

    Wrong. It's working only too well.

    The premise behind multiculturalism is simply wrong. It's an essentialist premise, based upon the notion that cultures can be caught, packaged and kept pure. Then the people placed lovingly within those boxes are urged to get along with the people in other boxes, and to "integrate" into the bargain. The whole thing is so flawed, so artificial, so contrived, so contradictory, that it is no wonder that the results are precisely what the survey reveals.

    How do progressives who harbour these misgivings find the discursive space to argue them without sounding like conservatives? A good start is to unpack the idea of "integration." One hopes, of course, that people in a community, even an "imagined community," will to some significant degree be integrated--that's rather what "community" means. But integrated doesn't mean homogenized. And it doesn't mean, "you have to learn to be like us." Rather, it means that the unique and shifting perspectives, world-views and narratives of all of those in the community are permitted to combine naturally to make something new. There is no timeless, unchangeable "us," after all.

    We won't get there, though, so long as we maintain our well-intentioned but paternalistic policies of cultural salvage and preservation. We build walls that way, and we're beginning to see the consequences.

  • And speaking of culture, Nunavut has been in the news recently, with a multiple shooting in Cambridge Bay, a community that I have recently visited and hope to visit again. "It's just too late in Nunavut," screams the Globe & Mail headline. "Few take advantage," the sub-hed says, "of available help for chronic alcohol and drug abuse."

    Nothing could sum up the underlying problem of Nunavut better than that. The territory is a magnificent example of the contradictory Canadian policy towards aboriginal populations--supposed autonomy within a context of cheerless, hopeless dependency and continued colonization. Kids go to English-only classes starting from Grade Three. The Nunavut Public Service Act is cobbled together from other jurisdictions, and an Inuktitut/Innuinaqtun translation doesn't even appear to exist. Lip service is paid to traditional cultural values, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, but governance is built upon the same model as in the South: hierarchy, power imbalances, fragmentation of the workforce, confrontation. The communities are simply put on welfare, and the symptoms of the resulting disease are then treated--not always very well. Nunavut is presently suffering from all of the consequences of our Canadian version of indirect rule.

    I wish that we could take a look at Kalaallit Nunaat, better known as Greenland, as a case-study of what is possible. Greenland's fifty-six thousand people got home rule back in 1979. More than 80% of the population is Greenlandic Inuit. Greenlandic and Danish are official languages, and the schools operate in Greenlandic. Greenlanders have a university in the capital city, Nuuk. Per capita income is the equivalent of nearly $21K US, and the unemployment rate of 10% is half that of Nunavut.

    Greenland is not economically self-sufficient--half of government revenues consist of grants from the Danish government--but compared to Nunavut (90%), its economy is robust, if heavily dependent, as one might expect, on the fishery and the public sector. Tourism is limited by the climate and season, and current mining possibilities will require some years to materialize. (Source: CIA World Factbook.)

    Suicide among young people is a major problem in both Greenland and Nunavut, although Greenland's statistics are marginally better, as they are for life expectancy. Given the Internet and television, it seems to me that young people in remote areas are presented with excruciating extremes: their probable future toiling in primary industries, or unemployed, and the lavish lifestyle showcased behind glass screens, forever out of their reach. I have often wondered why remote Northern areas do not participate in the "knowledge economy," where one's immediate geography is not a limiting factor. Investment in informatics infrastructure would, at least on the surface, offer tremendous potential and hope.

    While Greenland is not Utopia, then, it still offers a startling contrast to Nunavut. I suspect that its relative success is due to a self-government untrammeled by paternalism and chronic dependency, and to a people whose own values, language and traditions have pride of place in their own land.

  • Chris Selley had an interesting column recently on the abortion issue. Designer children? Deliberate selection for disabilities? The comments at his blogsite raise some other questions. For those who coldly reject "nuance" as a threat to women's civil liberties, the article and commentary are worth a read.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on January 16, 2007 11:40 AM.

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