Saturday, June 17, 2006

How Does a Nation Die?

Mark Steyn, reviewing Melanie Phillips' Londonistan, raises this question in some reflections on Canadian reactions to the recent arrest of the 17 Jihadists in Toronto:
The other day, listening to an interview on America's National Public Radio with the mayor of Toronto, I was laughing so much I drove off the road. David Miller warmed up with a bit of boilerplate Islamoschmoozing: "You know, in Islam, if you kill one person, you kill everybody. It's a very peaceful religion. And they're as shocked as Torontonians are. And . . ."

Renee Montagne, the anchorette, instantly spotted the ghastly breach of PC etiquette and leapt in: "Well, they sort of are Torontonians," she pointed out.

"Sorry," gulped the mayor, hastily re-smothering Muslims within the great diversity quilt. "They're shocked as every Torontonian is . . ."

Thereafter, Ms. Montagne expressed bafflement that these allegedly alleged fellows would have wanted to commit a terrorist atrocity in what was, compared to the Great Satan next door, "a very open society, very liberal immigration policy, very good social services."

Mayor Miller agreed: "More than half of the people who live in Toronto, including myself, were not born in Canada. And I think that's why Canada works."

"Although it didn't work in this case," Ms. Montagne pointed out, somewhat maliciously.

"Well, we don't expect these kinds of occurrences, exactly because of our public services, because of diversity," blah, blah. Insofar as there's any relation between jihadists and "good social services," the latter seem to attract the former -- at least in the sense that Ahmed Ressam, Zac Moussaoui, the shoe-bomber, the tube bombers, etc., were all products of the Euro-Canadian welfare system. But go ahead, pretend that these guys were upset about insufficient "social services," that they wanted to behead Stephen Harper to highlight the fact that wait times for the beheaded at the Toronto General are now up to 18 months, and they don't always reattach the right head. It's easy to scoff that a chap who can be bothered blowing up the Canadian Parliament must be insane, but, if you were a jihadist sitting in the cave back in the Hindu Kush listening to Renee Montagne and David Miller, wouldn't you conclude that they're the ones who are nuts?
Melanie Phillips makes a point that applies to Britain, Canada and beyond: "With few exceptions, politicians, Whitehall officials, senior police and intelligence officers and academic experts have failed to grasp that the problem to be confronted is not just the assembly of bombs and poison factories but what is going on inside people's heads that drives them to such acts." These are not Pushtun yak herders straight off the boat blowing up trains and buses. They're young men, most of whom were born and all of whom were bred in London, Toronto and other Western cities. And offered the nullity of a contemporary multicultural identity they looked elsewhere -- and found the jihad.
One final thought: Miss Phillips is one of Britain's best-known newspaper columnists. She appears constantly on national TV and radio. No publisher has lost money on her. Yet Londonistan wound up being published first in New York, and its subsequent appearance in Britain is thanks not to Little, Brown (who published her last big book) but to a small independent imprint called Gibson Square. I don't know Miss Phillips's agent, but it's hard not to suspect that glamorous literary London decided it would prefer to keep a safe distance from this incendiary subject.

That's how nations die -- not by war or conquest, but by a thousand trivial concessions, until one day you wake up and you don't need to sign a formal instrument of surrender because you did it piecemeal. How many Muslims in Toronto sympathize with the aims of those arrested last week? Maybe we could use a book on the subject. But which Canadian house would publish it? And would the faint-hearts at Indigo-Chapters carry it?
So Toronto is blessed with a mayor who mimics former Prime Minister Paul Martin in declaring Canada a country of immigrants that has no particular or normative culture and that only works because the elites are happy to deny the existence of the common national culture, with deep roots in this country, in their self-serving and anti-democratic war to pit immigrant voters against the ostensibly reactionary (i.e. too white) normative culture of Canada. This is the same mayor who talks tough every time some young gang "of colour" fire off their guns, but who has no ideas about how to address the cultural morass that makes it impossible to seriously discuss such violence and identify the cultural and social failures in certain communities that engender it. Our politicians all think the road to respect for universal human rights and knowledge of universal values is through some nihilist, self-denying, embrace of "multiculturalism". They are simply too poorly educated to know the paradox that one can only approach or know the universal through first having a solid grounding in a particular historical tradition. To deny Canadians such a tradition of their own is to sentence them to a decadence into some kind of pre-universal, polytheistic world view, where hysterical sacrificial rituals will prevail.

But the mayor is indeed a fair representative of many like minds in Toronto. Not talking about certain things (like the basis for true(r) knowledge of human realities) is the civic pasttime. Today, we hear news of some PC hysteria at Ryerson University. The school, after having decided to award the noted biomedical ethicist, Margaret Somerville, with an honourary degree, went into crisis mode when they later discovered that Prof. Somerville is not a supporter of same-sex "marriage" (her position on this question was known to me and I am only a moderate reader of newspapers). Cries came from all over to rescind the award. Homophobia they charged. (I always thought the charge of homophobia imputed an irrational denial of one's own homosexual desires, and would not apply to a reasoned opinion on the proper nature of marriage, but this is evidently not so in Toronto the good.) The university awards comittee met again and declared that if they had known about Somerville's questionable position, they probably would not have given the award, but now they are stuck... since they have to grudgingly admit Somerville a right to her opinion.

And this from an institution that calls itself a university and that wanted to award a learned woman for her work which has little to do with the same-sex "marriage" debate, an award that is now tarnished, and thus may not be accepted. It seems that if you hold one un-pc position, you are persona non grata, your right, nay responsibility, to freely speak your mind be damned.

It is such denial of free speech in the face of various pc denials of reality, such as the incompatibility of traditional Canadian freedoms with much of the historically-documented realities of Islam and Jihad, that could end up killing a lot of people, not to mention our national culture. Once again (and a little less jokingly each time) I raise the question, if Canada is to survive must it first separate from Toronto?


Jane said...

The Mark Steyn article in MacLeans was interesting. He’s such a good writer. So colourful: “wait times for the beheaded at Toronto General are now up to 18 months and they don’t always attach the right head.” “Boiler-plate Islamoschmoozing” was a good phrase too.

Steyn’s point that the Jihadists blew up the French frigate even though the French government were functioning to some extent as their ally by opposing U.S. policy towards the middle east, is something I have to remember. If I had a quarter for everytime I’ve heard the argument that the Americans brought 9/11 on themselves because of their policies in the middle east . . . . Next time I hear it, I’ll use the French example of how Jihadists are rather indiscriminate about which nationality of infidels they blow up.

“Not talking about certain things”, as you pointed out, is a civic pastime by pc people in position of authority in Toronto. But reading the coverage in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun of the upcoming Global Urban Forum, reminded me of how much of a pastime it is here as well. Leonie Sandercock, a professor at the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, stated that Toronto, Vancouver, and Miami are “post-multicultural” cities. She says that the fusing of values and customs which is a result of advanced multiculturalism is a “magical process” when it works. When mutli-culturalism doesn’t work though, she admits it can be frightening. She uses the example of the elderly woman worried that if she falls in her backyard the neighbours won’t be able to call 9-1-1 because they can’t speak English. And she mentions the example of the Pakistani physician who can’t work in Canada and therefore can’t support his family. No mention of Muslims stockpiling fertilizer in Toronto or scouting the Skytrain for bomb sites (according to Raseem) in Vancouver.
At the end of the interview, the reporter piled on the guilt by paraphrasing Sandercock’s position as being that “we’re all racists in some way” and that every generation needs a good Neighbourhood House in their community to help them “to learn to get over it.”

Anyone who wants to hear Sandercock ‘not talking’ about certain things can go to her Laurier Lecture on Multiculturalism on Monday night.

The solution I prefer is the one suggested in the article by Licia Corbella to which you provided a link in your earlier post on a ‘Moderate Public Muslim’. Corbella suggests that we screen immigrants for "incompatible ideologies".

truepeers said...

Hi Jane, your words have encouraged a rather lengthy comment in turn! First, yes, you are right about Vancouver's liberal elites, but if I can justify my sentiment, I'd say it is because Toronto is a much bigger centre of Canadian media and culture, not to mention finance, and so we look to it to act with more regard for its central role/responsibility. Instead, many professionals there play a game: quietly assuming their centrality by denying that they have it - i.e. by standing up at the centre on behalf of various putative victims of the centre; read the Toronto Star for the best examples. This is corrosive of the national centre around which we all need to find ourselves; and if we one day we can't find ourselves in the guilt role the centre presently represents for us, then we will have to leave and construct a new centre, somewhere.

Multiculturalism may "work" in the sense that I, a fairly fit man, am not often frightened walking the streets - though I have had a run in or two with Asian gangsters and angry aboriginals - but I think the elite game of championing multiculturalism (or, post-multiculturalism, whatever that is - I guess we have to ask the academic what it is) is another strategy to speak from positions of authority while limiting one's own responsibility to be in some sense critically engaged in what is going on. Multiculturalism says you can't criticize the other “simply for being other”, which means even if there is some real problem with the other, and so if you can become a top dog among the champions of multiculturalism, all you have to do to stay on top is justify your status by criticizing those who criticize the other; in other words, you don't have to be a first responder to hard realities. Or to the degree you must respond, you just promise to address the problem with a range of state-subsidized therapies, and never the tough love that might work best.

As for the "we're all racists after all" - we really need to build up a distinction between racism and race consciousness. I think we do all have the latter to some degree, and to some extent most people do tend, if not exclusively, to identify with people like themselves, which need not entail hate or denial of what is universally human. It's striking, isn't it, that such a distinction is not widely made in the current environment? it's another example of authorities refusing to acknowledge what will be for most people a natural human sympathy, part of reality. And if that reality makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you should be doing more to build up our sense of a common if complex Canadian culture, and not supporitng a nowhere, nihilist, multiculturalism.

I am amused by people like Irshad Manji who told us last Monday that if we stand up, as we should, to criticize Islam, we will be labeled racists, especially if we are white, so get used to it. Not even she questioned the assumption that Muslims are a race (is she unconsciously buying into Arab supremacism?). In other words, while I assume that racial identity is part of human reality, part of the creation, and it is something at least in part sociobiological, perhaps I don't make as much of it as the "anti-racists". I think race is entwined with, but different from, the communal identity that is forged around a common relationship to the sacred (though this is tricky ground: we distinguish, say, Arab Christians from Arab Muslims, but maybe what makes them both Arab is not any shared loyalty to their racial kind, understood sociobiologically, but simply the residue of a shared, pre-monotheistic tribal religion). Yet because in today's climate we are so sensitive about "racism", anti-Islamic thoughts get labelled racism which only shows, I think, the “anti-racist’s” core assumption that racial belonging is actually more fundamental than religious belonging.

Hence we have this organization - the Muslim Canadian Congress - composed of rather secular leftists who are, in my view, anti-Islamic in many respects, yet they insist on maintaining their Islamic identity and affirming that anyone identifying as Muslim is a Muslim, whatever they may believe about religion. It is not enough for them to just be Pakistani-Canadian, or whatever. Why? Is it because they maintain some loyalty to the faith of their ancestors? Or because religion is now becoming more important than race in public debates and they want to be in the debates? Or because, to the leftists, the ideal strategy is to combine racial and religious identities in some larger victim identity? - the MCC spends a lot of its time hating America and Israel.

About your last point, on screening immigrants... I remember watching the tv news a day after the arrest of the 17 Jihadists in Toronto and a reporter was interviewing people on Commercial Drive. A woman offered the opinion that we should be doing more to screen immigrants. BUT! the PC reporter blurted out, these are mostly Canadian-born terrorists. And herein lies the difficulty because I think it is indeed the case that an immigrant-receiving country will, whatever the group, tend to get more trouble from the children of immigrants, than from, especially, the first wave or generation of an immigrant group, which is often fleeing something tough and is happy just to be able to work hard and start up a new home/economy in humble recognition of hard worldly realities. It is the more pampered second generation, with raised expectations and yet that feel they are not somehow fully an equal part of society, that looks at their parents (or co-religionists) who work very hard for modest money and status, and gets angry. Enter an ideology that justifies anger at such putative oppression - whether Marxism as in the old days, or jihadism today - and you have trouble. Which is not to forget that even the most privileged Saudis can be jihadists – there is obviously something fundamental, in terms of human relationships to the sacred, involved in jihadists’ motivations…

So, if we were to seriously screen out immigrants I think it would have to be with the frank acknowledgment that while the prospective immigrants before us often pose little immediate threat, their future Islamic children might. And that is something we are still not able to do, since it offends too much our received sense of fairness. Only a greater state of emergency in our relations with the Islamic world will change our approach. Anyway, this is not to say that when we know a prospective immigrant is a Jihadist that we shouldn't keep him out. There are always some violent immigrants. The fact that the violent types seem to get control of many Mosques and organizations - because Islamic scriptures readily lend themselves to "radical" positions, and the "moderate" voices are often marginalized - may be a good reason for us to strictly license and inspect Mosques. For starters, there should be a ban on Saudi money and Saudi-educated clerics.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response. I read it quickly the first time but printed it out today and read it again.

Jane said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to be anonymous.

truepeers said...

Congratulations Jane! I think you now qualify as our first regular commenter/reader. You may be on to something...

-canuck- said...

...believe me vancouver is nearly as stupid...and over in london 'red ken' (the mayor) continues to make moonbat mythology the direction of public policy.....