Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Will the MSM protect Canadian students from Professors of Resentment?

[UPDATED, below, with Shiraz Dossa's defense]

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself in a car listening to the CBC Radio news. They had a report on the Iranian Holocaust deniers conference. The CBC's man in Tehran took it all too seriously, basically apologizing for the whole affair as Iran's way of somewhat justifiably responding to Israeli threats to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. I don't recall him mentioning why Iran is such a threat to the very existence of the state of Israel.... Anyway, this reporter in Tehran then went on to mention that a Canadian professor from the University of Toronto was attending the conference, but he didn't know yet what the guy was going to say, or who he was.

When I returned home I checked out the CBC online story to find no mention of the Canadian professor, only a rather disturbing photo - the only one chosen for the story - of two of that small group of ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist Jews who go around shaking the hands of Jew haters, in this case the foreign minister of Iran, as a way of pursuing their dogmatic rejection of the state of Israel. The CBC is full of people who love to distract attention from the real issues at stake in Holocaust denial and hatred of Israel.

While this conference is now front page news worldwide, as of 1.20 pm PST today, a search of Google News turns up only one report on the Canadian professor, Shiraz Dossa, in the Western Standard's blog even though Dossa was scheduled to speak yesterday afternoon, Tehran time, more than a full day ago. It seems the Canadian media have no interest in the fact that a guy who teaches in one of our universities is hanging out with a bunch of history-denying hate mongers bent on the destruction of the Jews. [UPDATE - Dec. 13 - the Canadian media is today picking up this story - see the bottom of this post]

Who is Shiraz Dossa? Well, first of all it appears he may be misrepresenting himself to the Iranians. The University of Toronto web site has no mention of him. According to his home page, while he earned his graduate degrees from the U of T, he is actually for some time now a professor of political science at (the embarrasingly Christian-in-name?) St. Francis Xavier University of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Dossa's home page suggests that this man enjoys postmodern irony where one takes nothing seriously, including those who come to your home page, but little class or grace (and I suspect he would concur):
Later he succeeded, accidentally, in earning both an MA and Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. But his miseducation, regrettably, continued under the guidance of scholars like C. B. Macpherson, Christian Bay and Peter H. Russell at the U of T....In 1996, he was invited, inexplicably, to deliver the Josiah Wood Lecture at Mount Allison University in Sackville (NB) on Liberalism and Cultural Difference. In 1998 he was invited, again inexplicably, to deliver a lecture on Human Rights and Global Politics at Middlebury College in Vermont (US). His only significant contribution to making this world a better place is his daughter Shirin.
One wonders if he actually sees himself as a fraud and while not openly admitting it will joke about "inexplicable" invitations to give prestigious lectures in the institutions of a society he, as we will see, resents. He exploits his nine-year-old daughter by putting a photo of her and a "quote" at the top of his home page: "My dad is not a bad professor…But he.… he does talk a lot about politics and Chomsky and natives and fisheries…my dad's cool…not totally….but he is sortta cool.…"

So we learn he is a Chomsky nut. Not only does that give us a sense of this guy's intellectual limitations, but it may explain why he is giving a paper to Holocaust deniers titled "Liberalism, Holocaust and war against Muslims". Chomsky goes out of his way to deny the Jews a unique role as the victims of a modern racism whose extreme possibilities the Holocaust revealed: the possibility of an absolute "Nazi-Jew" model of victimization, a model that is now (mis)applied to all kinds of relationships to assert the undeniability of someone's putative victimization. Chomsky cannot say "holocaust" without asking why some other victim group (it is almost always supposed victims of America) don't get more attention. And to this end, he has supported serious Holocaust deniers in discrediting the victim status of Jews. As Pierre Vidal-Naquet writes in "On Faurisson and Chomsky", in Assassins of Memory (NY: Columbia University Press, 1992):
To be sure, it is not the case that Chomsky's theses in any way approximate those of the neo-Nazis. But why does he find so much energy and even tenderness in defending those who have become the publishers and defenders of the neo-Nazis, and so much rage against those who allow themselves to fight them? That is the simple question I shall raise. When logic has no other end than self-defence, it goes mad.
Crazy or just funny? is apparently the question on the minds of some of Shiraz Dossa's students, as we see from the most recent page of comments at ratemyprofessors.com:
interesting, funny, we watched a lot of daily show with John Stewart. He's a hard marker though.

Dossa is very smart but he really is worthless as a prof and I think he would admit that; we were supposed to study Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and the like but instead we watched the Daily Show and listened to him rail against all his various hatreds. Funny how he lives and collects a generous salary in the part of the world he ridicules for a living.

Good prof overall. First year class didn't really suit him though as most people in there didn't seem to care about the topics. Interesting books. On tests always refer back to Chomsky in your answers.

I dislike Dossa as a teacher and possibly as a person. He is based, unorganized, not clear, and damn annoying. He makes his students unconfortable, and it is near impossible to achieve a high grade in that class unless the students nose is lodged way up Dossa's ass. STAY AWAY

DO NOT take this class. "Dr" Dossa (he's very proud of his Ph.D) rants all day about George Bush. He does not teach you ANYTHING. I still do not know anything about political science. The exams and paper topics are ridiculous. There is no text book, etc. He marks SUPER hard. This was just an absoulutely awful experience. DON'T DO IT!
Well, it's refreshing to see some of the students know what a sorry joke it is for professors to spend their whole day in resentment of the society that rewards them with comfortable lives and status. But why should the students have to put up with this crap where, when the professor isn't ranting, he is showing Jon Stewart videos? Not only does it waste their tuition money and time, it will be increasingly held against them in the real world as employers learn about the nonsense that pervades our universities. Graduates will be considered idiots until proven otherwise.

Now, if you think I am being too harsh about a guy I don't know much about, have a look at one of his book reviews (pdf) from 2002:
On Rushdie, though, [Parekh's] handling of the complex issues is fatuous: [according to Parekh] his novel is "brilliantly written", it is a "serious literary work" but Rushdie shows "poor literary judgement" and a "remarkable lack of political judgement" but "brilliant" nevertheless. In their reaction, "the Muslims" however, were moved by a "sense of power" and "a mean desire for revenge" abetted by leaders who were "unwise", who were ill-informed about the history and culture of Britain, and who "were not well-versed in the liberal discourse of free speech" and so on.

With precision and expertly, Parekh deflates Rawls's and Raz's pretensions to ecumenical fairness: both in fact privilege liberal justice, both patronise non-liberals. For Kymlicka's version Parekh has little sympathy, bluntly dressing down Kymlicka's liberal credentials. He finds it lacking in liberal equity and justice. Kymlicka's liberal theory is disdainful of non-liberal cultures; as an argument it is "not ... coherent and convincing". But having staked his terrain, Parekh commits harakiri: he throws in the towel (ch. 9); he surrenders to the superior claims of liberalism advanced by the troika of liberal theorists. In conflicts pitting the liberal orthodoxy against the non-liberal challengers, he solicitously avers, liberal society's "operative public values ... should prevail" because they are shared and deeply held by the liberal majority (i.e. white Christians). In effect, Parekh endorses the liberally mandated boundaries and exclusions of Rawls, Raz and Kymlicka, as essentially right. His saying that dialogue, sensitivity, understanding are still crucial in no way obscures his abject concession: that liberal public values and liberal rationality should trump rival ideals and values in the final analysis. This volte face, at the very least, suggests a deep ambivalence and incoherence in Parekh's attitude to multicuturalism
In his critical foray, Carens refutes the Orientalist canards about Muslims, and he does so intelligently. His strategy, nevertheless, is too defensive and unwittingly lends some credence to the extant anti-Muslim repertoire. For example, his ambivalent syntax about the Muslim (Quranic) position on female circumcision, and on the democratic legitimacy of 1997 elections in Iran even though the reformist candidate, Ayatullah Khatami, won by a huge margin (plus 83 % voter turnout). Like many Western liberals, Carens is not sufficiently well-informed about the culture and politics of Iran, and thus implicitly bolsters the hostile liberal discourse on Muslims. For instance, it is not very reassuring to encounter sub-headings like "Genital Mutilation" and "Wife-Beating". In a chapter in which Carens attempts to challenge the ruling prejudices against Muslims. No doubt unintentionally, Carens's tacitly reinforces the very prejudices he wants to extinguish.

In the end, Parekh aligns himself with English liberal individualism and liberal nationalism, against the cultural and religious claims of non-liberals. By contrast, Carens is the post-colonial liberal with considerable theoretical and practical sympathy for non-liberal forms of life, for the integrity of their cultures. In his own way, Carens honourably inclines towards a kind of liberal communitariansim that is disposed to respect non-liberals and their choices.
So, when he is not writing apologetics for women-hating regimes, including one that brutally beat, raped, and killed a fellow Canadian, what does Dossa himself believe in? That is the question that naive students always ask with a prof. like this. They shouldn't expect an answer beyond some fantastic gibberish because this is the kind of writer who takes pride in not being fooled by any normative "western" ideal - which are always deemed oppressive - and in being against oppression. That's not saying much; but try as you might, you will find this kind of writing doesn't add up to much, never does, never can, except that it allows some to fall into a fantasy world of heroic freedom fighters spouting bitter words against a fallen creation that only an elect few can understand and remedy.

Dossa makes a living criticizing liberalism, but only pushes the gnostic tendencies of liberalism into deeper fantasies that deny the need for shared cultural norms as a basis for human freedoms. This kind of resentment - like all resentment - is inherently delusional to some degree, just as the "multiculturalism" he vaguely lauds is an incoherent fantasy ideology, as I have often noted at this blog.

But Dossa has found his demon - "liberalism" - and he is going to flail it to kingdom come, berating the liberals for asserting some western, white male, bourgeois norm as universal at the cost of oppressing all those for whom it is not, says Dossa, normal. But Dossa is of course playing the same game of those he reviles - i.e. dissimulating his own institutional power and the reigning norms of the academy - just read this paper and try to figure out what possible reality, what transcendent truths, he stands for other than the putative victimization/empowerment of those who are his academic allies.

This paper appears in a journal, Political Theory. But can someone as resentful as Dossa have a political theory? As Eric Gans, the world's leading thinker on resentment, notes of Dossa's hero, Chomsky:
His political writings, from what I have seen of them, are litanies of accusations of immorality and greed directed against those in power, particularly in the United States. At best, such criticism can bring scandals to light; it is incompatible with any kind of political theory. "Anarchism" is just another word for a personal nihilism protected--and in cases like Chomsky's, richly rewarded--by the very order one affects to despise. Were I an anarchist, I would feel myself obliged to reject the benefits of such an order. Diogenes lived in a barrel; I doubt if Chomsky does.
Any real political theory must begin with some understanding of, and respect for, whatever cultural norms and values are for. To argue that our ethical values are tools of oppression in a world where mainstream culture only serves the powerful, as if our very culture were a conspiracy against the weak, the many, or the few, is nonsense. It is ignorance of the basic anthropological purpose of culture, which is our collective and univerally-shared means of engaging in exchange, and thus building an order in which we all contribute to keeping ourselves from meaningless violence through our common deference to the transcendent world of signs. If you want better to understand what I mean, check out the Gans link immediately above.

If you ask the universities why they allow themselves to be corrupted by angry nihilists, they will tell you about the importance of academic freedom. But what the universities really mean is that they have lost any basis for distinguishing serious intellectual endeavor from resentful nothingness, as long as the latter is of the leftist nihilist variety and is teaching that standards and common sense are tools of an oppressive "liberal" hegemony. In other words, the angry leftist (preferably not white or male) professors can use moral blackmail to gain institutional power and dominate the education sytem. Thus we have, for example, the ridiculous conspiracy theorists of "Scholars for 9-11 truth" teaching in North American universities. Such nutters are apparently tolerated in the name of intellectual and academic freedom. But universities are much less tolerant of conservative loons and a way is found to push them out the door (they can even get rid of the President of Harvard for a minor indiscretion against political correctness), which is where all loony teachers should be pushed.

Let's see how long the system protects chaps like Dossa. Let's see if the Canadian Main Stream Media gets on this guy's case. Will they ask whether he was given money by the Iranians? But don't bet on the MSM bringing attention to what nonsense is really in power.


UPDATE: 11 AM PST, Dec. 13: the Canadian media are now picking up this story. The Globe and Mail interviewed Dossa so I am now happy to present his explanation for his attendance at what was widely reported, in advance, to be a conference at which Iran would advance its agenda of questioning the established facts about the Holocaust and their connnection to the legitimacy of the founding of the modern state of Israel. Doug Saunders of the Globe writes from London:
Gathered in a Tehran auditorium yesterday were some of the world's most notorious figures: Holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis, leaders of the Ku Klux Klan. And among them, somewhat incongruously, was a soft-spoken political science professor from Nova Scotia.

The presence of Shiraz Dossa of St. Francis Xavier University at a Holocaust conference organized by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has raised eyebrows in Canada. Mr. Ahmadinejad has called for an end to Israel's existence, and the conference is widely seen as a provocative exercise in anti-Semitism.

In an exclusive interview from his hotel in Tehran yesterday, Dr. Dossa said that he had gladly accepted the invitation from Iran's Islamist government to attend the conference, and that he had welcomed the opportunity to criticize the Western world and its policies. But, although he is no supporter of Israel, he said he was horrified to discover that he was sharing the stage with overt anti-Semites and supporters of Adolf Hitler.

"I have nothing to do with Holocaust denial, not at all," he said, defending the paper he read. "It's a paper about the war on terrorism, and how the Holocaust plays into it. Other people have their own points of view, but that [Holocaust denial] is not my point of view."
Dr. Dossa, the lone Canadian at the event, describes himself as an anti-imperialist and an admirer of left-wing U.S. scholar Noam Chomsky. He said he was surprised that Canadians were alarmed by his presence at the conference.

"I was invited because of my expertise as a scholar in the German-Jewish area, as well as my studies in the Holocaust," he said, noting he had published an academic book on the ideas of German Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, whose best-known works dealt with the Holocaust. "There was no pressure at all to say anything, and people there had different views."

While a copy of his paper could not be obtained last night, Dr. Dossa described it as an essay on the abuse of the imagery of the Holocaust.

"My essential point is that the Jewish loss -- which is, of course, a reality, and anyone who denies it is a lunatic -- the focus here is on how the Holocaust is a political construct, distinct from the Jewish loss at the hands of the Nazis. And that political construct has been used to justify certain policies by people, some of whom are Zionists. And now that whole issue plays into the war on terrorism, which is essentially a war on Islam."
Dr. Dossa said he was alarmed to find that Holocaust deniers played such a visible role in the event.

"I did not know exactly who was coming to the conference, and frankly, I think these people are hacks and lunatics," he said. "I frankly wouldn't even shake hands with most of them."

But he said he supported Iran's motives for holding the conference.

"I understand where the Iranian government is coming from. Because I am well aware that for at least the last four or five years, there has been a steady stream of invective directed at Iran by Israel. People like [Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert have threatened Iran repeatedly with a nuclear holocaust if they did not fall into line. And there has been a steady stream of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment -- so I can see why Iran is nervous.

"My stand is that Iran is trying to embarrass the West and say, 'Look, we are practising what you preach. We are allowing freedom of discussion of just about any issue, including the Holocaust.' And I agree with that."
Dr. Dossa, a Canadian citizen who was born in Uganda and came to Canada in the 1970s, has Iranian roots on one side of his family. He said he accepted the invitation from Iran, which paid his expenses, as an opportunity to visit his ancestral land, and that he will travel the next week with his young daughter.

He also said he had expressed alarm at the extremists in an interview with Iranian TV, which broadcast the entire two-day event live.
Well, I find it unbelievable that any modestly-educated, newspaper-reading person with an interest in this subject would not have known in advance what kind of conference this was going to be, and not have had some idea of the type of people who were going to attend. Maybe Dossa is massively naive, but I doubt it. While I reject his claim that Olmert has threatened Iran with nuclear annihilation (Israel only claims that it will defend against the explicit threats of Iran's leaders to annhilate Israel) I will not speculate on his specific (to this event) motives further. But take a look at the comments to the Globe and Mail article if you want to be depressed by how many readers of that once august journal will jump to the defense of Dossa - many fail to distinguish academic freedom from academic nonsense with a vicious agenda; other readers however think he is full of it and don't buy his "excuse" for attending.

What is missed in all of this is the question of whose political stance is really the most dependent on both the memory of the Holocaust and on a need to memorialize that event incorrectly. People of Dossa's persuasion argue that the guilt flowing from the Holocaust is misapplied and used to outlaw or shun criticism of Israeli, and by extension, American policies in the Middle East. Quite aside from the fact that Western universities are filled with criticism of Israel and America, from professors and students, and that the media take a largely anti-Israel view as evidenced in the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah, the postmodern, postcolonial left have to obscure the fact that it is precisely their intellectual position that most depends on memory of the Holocaust. The "white guilt" and the idea of "racism" that are essential to the revelation of the postcolonial left stem, historically, from the realization, via the Holocaust, of what racism, when practiced by a modern industrial state can look like in its most extreme form. The fact that this realization came most fully to light through, and at the historical moment of, the Holocaust, and via the butchering of a Western or white people, is part of the unease the Holocaust creates in the postcolonial left and the reason why many deny that the event is somehow unique, somehow specifically Jewish, in nature.

What the left refuses fully to engage is the reason for why it was specifically the Jews who were the Nazis' victims. The Jews were hated and scapegoated by the Nazis as supposed agents and manipulators of the modern marketplace that was seen to be an alienating and de-masculinizing force. Jews were also hated, as they had always been, as the discoverers of monotheism and members of the first nation whose special covenant with God, along with the refusal of many to convert to Christianity, made members of the later nations and monotheist faiths susceptible to resentment of Jews for allegedly thinking "they're better than us". Thus the Nazis alleged that the Jews were not simply a backwards tribe but, along with the Anglo-American-led Freemasons, were out to control the world. They were the secret hand behind the Treaty of Versailles, they controlled the Bank of England, etc. etc. In other words, the Jews were hated for the signs of their "firstness" in matters of nations and markets, for being an allegedly destabilizing force, for putting their freedom before others' equality.

Little has changed. The present state of Israel, and the United States, are hated for the same reasons. The postmodern left, of which Dossa is clearly a part, is all about denying the universal human need for the kind of firstness, innovation, and freedom, that Israel and the United States represent in this world. The left would rather live under some tyranny (though they will never admit it must be tyrannical) trying to enforce "multicultural" equality on the world, forgetting what all the murderous and inequitous attempts to impose "equality" on the world resulted in in the last century.

Hatred of Israel is essentially a lack of faith in the possibilities for maximizing human innovation and progress via the vehicles of self-ruling nations competing in a global economy. The Mullah-led state of Iran is today the leading global force contesting this idea. It does it in the name of the Ummah but attracts many non-Muslim sympathizers. In taking Iran's side, notwithstanding its frequent claims to be about ready to destroy Israel, Dossa is demonstrating Judeophobia, even if he is not aware of it. The postmodern left makes a distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, but they naively miss the point that the way they criticize Israel is pretty much the same "logic" with which the Nazis criticized the Jews. This is why the Jewishness of the Holocaust and the uniqueness that attends any and every memorable historical event must be downplayed. The event-based nature of human anthroplogy, the scenic nature of human self-understanding, is thus obscured. Chomsky and his legions assert that the Holocaust is just one of many similar crimes, the most recent being conducted by Israel and America (those "dirty Jews"). And the scary thing is how many at the Globe and Mail comments page have fallen for this postmodern hate mongering.

The Brussels Journal has more on "Canada's shame".

A CBC online story on Dossa has now appeared, here. It reports, sadly, on how Dossa's university has been shamed by his attendance at the conference; and it quotes most uncritically from the Globe and Mail interview, portraying Dossa as a sincere leftist - interested in defending Islam agains the "Zionists" - who was duped by the Iranians and their bankrolling of his trip to his ancestral homeland. On Israel, the CBC has no honour, and hence no shame.


Charles Henry said...

Somehow I don't think the CBC will be quick to judge the traveling professor. From
their site today

The speakers included Robert Faurisson, who was a literature professor at a French university until being stripped of his tenure for repeated public denials that the Holocaust took place.

He was the subject of great controversy in France, especially after renowned American scholar Noam Chomsky defended his right to free speech.

Chomsky, a "renowned" scholar... reknowned by whom? By the likes of Dossa. And the CBC, evidently.

Anonymous said...

Dossa seems like a half-assed academic consciously courting ‘martyrdom.’ What better way for a totally ignorable chump to gain recognition and persecuation than by joining in a Holocaust-doubting hate-fest? Perhaps he’s planning his escape from Antigonish.

dag said...

That is the finest piece of journalism I have read all year. Why don't MSM journalists come close to the standard you set above? They get paid for their work, and they have nearly endless support in their efforts. Unlike the failed jihadis in Toronto, you just blew up the CBC. Wow!

truepeers said...

The MSM - but not yet the CBC - is today picking up this story; I will update the post shortly. Dossa is saying, as I suspected, that he has nothing to do with Holocaust denier, he is presently shocked, shocked, to find himself in the company of such lunatics, but he takes the side of Iran against Israel.

Anonymous said...

Doug Saunders, who is one of the best columnists writing for The Globe and Mail, has done Canadians a real service with his piece on Prof. Dossa of St. Francis Xavier University in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

The most revealing part of Saunders' article is this quote: " He [Prof. Dossa] said he accepted the invitation from Iran, which paid his expenses, as an opportunity to visit his ancestral land, and that he will travel the next week with his young daughter."

Prof. Dossa is obviously a force to be reckoned with when it comes to feeding at the trough. Who knows, maybe this is what it takes to get tenure at St. Francis Xavier University?

Anonymous said...

As a student of Mr. Dossa I feel it is my duty to at least put my two cents worth on the topic. Although I’m surely going to be ostracized and criticized by such a large majority of conservative-minded individuals that inhabit this country, the least I can do for Mr. Dossa is defend his name as valid academia. Mr. Dossa should be one of the most respected individuals for finally breaking the barrier between the East and the West, he went out on a limb by traveling to Iran as a valid “Western” academic and he is being heavily criticized for it. Yes, even though many people’s minds have been warped to accustom the brilliance of CNN and its groundbreaking Pro-Western stance, Mr. Dossa has continually tried to be a voice for the Third-World in an otherwise Pro-Western and much too conservative North America. Though you use some interesting sources to back your stance, (including ratemyprofessor.com I might add) your overall depiction of Mr. Dossa could not be more typical of a heavily Westernized, media-orientated opinion. Never have I once heard in any of his lectures mention that the Holocaust never occurred, its simply historical fact. Even Ahmadinjad himself never once used the language that denied the fact the Holocaust occurred, calling the Holocaust a “myth” does not constitute the belief it never happened. To group Mr. Dossa in with former KKK members is a nice little ploy by Western media to further encourage the defamation of his character, seeing as the Klu-Klux Klan seeks White Supremacy and not the denial of the Holocaust. As for calling the Holocaust a “myth”, I see no wrong doing. The ancestors of European Jews that now inhabit Israel have been playing the Holocaust card for decades. They have used the Holocaust as a scapegoat to further justify their foreign policy in respects to their Islamic neighbours, most predominantly Palestine. It’s funny how a professor can point out that thousands of Palestinians die each year, uneducated and living below the poverty line, while European Jews continue to live in the lap of luxury disconcerted, and be so heavily ostracized for it in the West. What right do EUROPEAN Jews have to be living in Palestine? If it is because it is their homeland, then why isn’t there a homeland for Christians and Muslims since they both claim Jerusalem to be a holy city? Palestine belongs to the Palestinians and they should not have to be forced to live with the burden of a misdoing by a European Fascist state. Yes the Holocaust was a terrible event in the history of modern civilization, why is it not grouped in with the millions that starved under British Colonial rule in India, China etc…? Why is it not grouped with the millions killed under African colonization, killed under American dominance in Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia I can go on. The West tends to forget the fact that it too has played a significant role in Imperial genocide, millions forgotten in the face of 6 million killed by the Nazis. The Holocaust is a simple way to take the burden off the wholesome nations of the West that have done so much good by “civilizing” these savages of Africa and the Middle-East, dare I say you’ve been misinformed. While the “Axis of Evil”, quoted by the biggest laughing stock of a President in US history, is such a cesspool of hate and authoritarianism, the alliance of good (US, Britain, Canada etc…) hopes to spread Democracy to these ungrateful regions of the globe. Unfortunately to spread democracy, the United States has so graciously invaded a sovereign nation, disposed of its ruler and tried to impose its own blend of democracy and capitalism with a touch of military brutality. The United States with its Western Allies condemning Iran and South Korea for having Nuclear Weapons is a farce, especially when the only nations with Nuclear Weapons are the United States and its Western Allies. The most threatening political leader on the globe is not Ahmadinajad, he’s the president of the United States. Considering the fact that the U.S. have invaded or aided in the invasion of 17 neutral countries in the past century alone should provide sufficient evidence to back my claim, given that Iran has not invaded any. The US did a great deal of good the last time it was in Iran in 1953, approving of Operation Ajax to overthrow Iran’s democracy. The US authorized the CIA to take the lead in the operation of overthrowing the Prime Minister and reinstalling a US-friendly monarch, the beloved autocratic Shah Reza Pahlavi. As you can see the US hasn’t really changed in terms of its foreign policy towards other nations, it continues to be our gracious World Police. Well done Mr. Dossa and people such as Micheal Moore and Noam Chomsky for breaking the barriers between the South and the West. It’s about time people in North America and Europe start to realize that the United States, Israel and Great Britian do not run the world and as long as they continue such an Imperialist Foreign policy they can expect to be targets of “terrorism”.

the edible rebecca said...

Wow, I can't believe the "know-it-all-ism" expressed by the writer of this blog. Especially, about somebody who doesn't even know the guy. I've taken a class from Dossa, in fact it was on liberalism. It was one of the best undergrad classes I ever took. period. Just because he is at this conference does not make him an Anti-Semite. I've never heard him utter words that are prejudice against any ethnic/religious group. In fact he is a staunch Anti-Racist; I don't think that man ever had anything handed to him, he worked hard to get where he is. Wait until he has a chance to speak for himself, and make the point he wants to make.

As for your accusations of "exploiting his daughter" -- there is nothing wrong with him being proud of his daughter and expressing it.

Anonymous said...

well said... the last comment that is, not the piece itself

truepeers said...

To the anonymous student of Dr. Dossa:

Wiser people than myself counsel me not to attempt rational argument with people like you. Religion comes before reason, they say, and until someone is able to open up their religion to a shared, secular, anthropological inquiry, you really can't have much of a conversation with them. I see no evidence that you are yet ready. My wise friends thus tell me that the only thing to do with people who have a deeply resentful and delusional religion that attacks all you hold dear is to belittle them, to make fun of their religion - a category in which I include leftist western ideologies like your own - to attempt to deny them of the sense of sacrality and righteousnss that impels them to be in a state of war with you. And let's cut to the chase: Dossa is at least right that there is some kind of war underway in the world, between at least part of Islam and part of the West. However, if we are better to define the sides in this war, we need to have some room for open and honest conversation.

Those wiser than me, would tell me there is no hope. But, you come across as a youngster who deserves a chance to show he is capable of conversation across religious lines....

Do you want a conversation? What you have sent in so far is a diatribe; it pays next to no attention to what I said in my post. My post is polemical, critical, to be sure. But at least it attempts to engage with some of what Dossa has said.

Your criticism of my post, specfically, amounts to the claim that ratemyprofessors.com is an "interesting", i.e. questionable source and that I am a conservative, under the influence of the conservative-dominated media, as if that alone were enough to write me off.

Now, I must ask, as someone whose years in the academy are behind him, what is the argument against this website? In some sense, I can see how what you have written here might be taken my many people as a far more damning indictment of your education than anything I quoted from ratemyprofessors. Still, i am curious. Naturally, as a reader, I understand what young students are about: they are full of sensitive feelings that can be hurt by a professor's criticism or grade (though unfortunately I hear that serious criticism of students is no longer considered pc and just isn't done in the universities today, at least not my people who look like me, lest they be accused of having some kind of prejudice or unpermitted thought) and so one expects a certain amount of resentment to come out if students are empowered to criticize their profs anonymously over the internet. Still, resentment is a fundamental part of the human condition and it seems to me one gets a pretty good idea what a prof is like if one can take all this into account and read a fair number of student comments. I quoted the good and the bad, quoted a whole page with no editing for what I preferred.

I have to say, on the conservative point, that I exist in a completely different mental universe than you do. To say that CNN is a predominantly conservative network is to subscribe to an entirely different reality than mine. But then I would say this about pretty much every thing you have said, so far. You can take a look around at this blog and I hope you will see that there are ideas here that you just won't find in any of the mainstream media. I am a conservative because of long and lonely study with the written word.
I consider the media overwhelmingly liberal.

But I don't think you have the foggiest idea of what a conservative is. I don't think you have been exposed to it in your schooling. I don't think you know why I defend Israel - though you can Google on "truepeers" and find out. I don't think you have any idea what a reasonable conservative has to say about the kind of hatred of Israel that you articulate. I don't even think you have a grasp of basic historical facts, let alone an understanding that today it is Israel that has its back against the wall, that it is the target of the imperialism that is really on the move.

Part of the problem is that it is undoubtedly true that the life of "the Palestinians" (a title that is only about 40 years old and that supposes a nation that, if it were possible for the people, so called, to act like a responsible nation I would like to see one day exist...) is a horrible one. Gaza is probably one of the last places on earth anyone would want to live.

To a youngster like you, I imagine that in coming to see this it serves as proof in itself that Israel must be the devil. How can anyone with a heart blame the Palestinians for the mess they are in? Can we at least blame their leaders who have year after year refused to acknowledge Israel's right to exist in peace? I don't so much blame the Palestinians as see the problem rooted in the absolute unwillingness, in the mainstream of Islamic thought, to tolerate the existence of Israel or even a shared Palestinian-Jewish state in which Jews would have some role in ruling Muslims. Israel, a tiny sliver of land, has been under attack by a much larger Arab and Islamic world since its very beginnings. The attack is relentless and the fact that Israel has defended itself in the restrained way it has - considering that its science-friendly culture makes it capable of seriously destroying its enemy - is to my mind something to respect. Yes there is evil and violence in Israel, as in every land, in your mind and in mine. But all things considered - but are you willing to engage in a conversation where all things are considered - I find Israel to be exemplary in a number of ways.

Pretty much every "fact" you claim in your post is wrong. I don't have the time or energy to go through them. If you want to engage me in a serious conversation, pick one or two specific points from my argument and proceed as if to engage me and not preach past me to the world; if you can't do that, go back to school.

Otherwise, I will just remind you that almost half of Israelis are not the descendants of European Jews. They are refugees from the Arab and Muslim world which has a much greater antagonism towards Jews and Christians than Israelis have towards Muslims, the latter being surely part of the reason why the Muslims who enjoy rights in Israel they cannot enjoy in the Arab world do not leave Israel (not the neighboring Arab countries have been hospitable to the "Palestinians").

I will remind you that Jews have always had a historical presence in the land of Israel, uninterrrupted since the founding of the Jewish nation, that Islam is the newcomer in this part of the world, and that it has colonized what was once the centre of the Christian world - the Middle East and North Africa. Are you concerned about the oppression of the last remaining Christians in say Egypt, Turkey, or Pakistan as you are with the Palestinians?

Finally, I take it you are a Canadian, i.e. a member of a real settler society whose establishment was not without war and violence. What right do you have to live here? no doubt you can tell me of our own share in western guilt, but are you an advocate of denying that today's descendants of past immigrants have any right to live here?

Charles Henry said...

Anonymous, thanks for posting. While I can’t agree with virtually anything you’ve written, I will nevertheless start my comment by stating: I admire you for writing it.
You have the courage of your convictions, in that you seek truth, and come here to reclaim it. We seek truth as well. We won’t agree on much else, but let’s at least agree that we have that in common.
Starting from that common ground: as a student of mr Dossa, are you surprised that he was so surprised at the depths of Ahmadinjad’s evil, that Iran’s holocaust conference attracted the likes of sewage like David Duke? Maybe it is your professor who is getting his news from CNN, not us, if he had no idea of what he was walking into when he signed aboard. If he knew so little of this one incident, does that open the door a crack to make you doubt the perception and insights shared with you about the other subjects he had been teaching you?
I am unsure what you mean by the following point: “calling the Holocaust a “myth” does not constitute the belief it never happened.” If it is mythical doesn’t that mean it is not true?
If the west is so bad, can Iranian teachers in Iranian universities deliver anti-persian lectures with the same regularity that mr Dossa has evidently been delivering from the scenic land of Nova Scotia? Can an Iranian student, however you might disagree with his opinion, proclaim president Ahmadinijad his nation’s laughing stock president, with the same calm assurance you may use to freely slur George Bush? Be honest to yourself if not to me as you answer, and ask yourself if a worse system allows criticism of itself or is that the mark of a better system.

truepeers said...

To the edible Rebecca:

Well, I never said that Dossa was a Holocaust denier. I don't even think his attitude towards the Jews is much different from countless other "anti-racist" professors. What I said was that he, like the Chomsky he so admires, takes a postion that, whether he is aware of it or not, is inherently Judeophobic, because of its attitude towards the "firstness" that Israel and Jewish success in the marketplace represents. I said that the postmodern leftism that is widely taught at universities is inherently Judeophobic and anti-American. I said he is an enemy of Israel because a friend of Iran's

Now if you would like to debate these points, you are more than welcome to do so here. I don't see how there is much to debate in his use of his daughter on the website. Ultimately, it's a question of taste, and there is no accounting for that.

Anonymous said...

To Dossa’s students: I’ll take your word on the good teacher bit. Unlike the folks that run this site, I don’t particularly think the teaching quality point is that important.

The good professor’s political posturing is in very poor choice though. He’s not ignorant. He knew what the conference was about. This is a real tactless way of trying to boost an academic profile. It appears devoid of any sense of responsibility to his department, university, and broader community. For a StFX prof to attend Ahmadinejad’s little Two-Day-Hate lends the conference legitimacy it doesn’t deserve and unnecessarily spits in the face of Canadian Holocaust survivors. For a guy whose work is supposed to be sensitive to the politics of the Holocaust, Dossa ends up coming across as a real fucking asshole. This may or may not be true, but he more than anyone else should be able to appreciate the important symbolism that accompanies the subject at hand.

dag said...

On second thought, I'll just remain out of this. No. No. No, I'm not going to respond to the person who writes that just because a thing is a myth doesn't mean it didn't happen. No, I won't comment.

the edible rebecca said...


What's the difference here? Please explain it to me.

I must admit my ignorance towards Middle Eastern politics, the class I took with Dossa was an elective. So basically you are critizing for his stance against Israel as a political/military power?

the edible rebecca said...

Ok never mind, I get it now. Basically, the authors of this blog subscribe to the bible of liberalism that Dossa pointed out to be such a farce... so the world will become a better place when people like Dossa, who have opinions and challenge the right are shut up. Post Modernism does not deny why the Jews were murdered in the Holocaustp; much of Post Modern thought was founded and influenced by Jewish thinkers: Berlin, Husserl, Wittgenstein, etc and Chomsky! Dossa is just arguing that the Holocaust should not be used as an excuse for Israeli's military decisions.

truepeers said...


"Antisemitism" is a term I sometimes use out of deference to common language, but I don't like it. It was basically invented by nineteenth-century German racists (not that the term "racist" was then in use). According to Wikipedia:

"German political agitator Wilhelm Marr coined the related German word Antisemitismus in his book "The Way to Victory of Germanicism over Judaism" in 1879. Marr used the phrase to mean hatred of jews or Judenhass, and he used the new word antisemitism to make hatred of the Jews seem rational and sanctioned by scientific knowledge. Marr's book became very popular, and in the same year he founded the "League of Antisemites" ("Antisemiten-Liga"), the first German organization committed specifically to combatting the alleged threat to Germany posed by the Jews, and advocating their forced removal from the country."

So, "antisemitism" began as a racial theory, coined by people who liked being "antisemitic" and who treated a linguistic (i.e. semitic) group as a racial one. To my mind, our continued use of the term reflects a willingness to continue in the assumptions of a semitic race and to give people's Judeophobic thoughts the patina of some scientific category - as if it really came down to DNA - as if people really knew why they have a problem with the Jews.

But, in fact, most people, including I dare say many Jews, don't really understand why the Jews are so often and unendingly throughout history a target of fears and resentments. "Judeophobia" is a much better catch-all term for this long and variegated history of anti-Jewish feelings.

My basic starting point in understanding all this is that Judeophobia is rooted in the fact that the Jews were the first to discover or be given monotheism and the idea of a nation defined by its partnership or covenant with the one, universal, God of everyone. This mixing of the particular and universal has proven a historically very significant discovery (which means it points to some important ethical or historical truth): the Jews have survived thousands of years, while the neighboring tribes of the ancient Hebrews are now long forgotten. And countless other people have joined the monotheism and/or nation bandwagon. But what exactly is it that they are joining? This is a question we all ask but none of us has a complete or certain answer. There is, among other things, always the question of whether we have got it right, or well enough, whether our religion or sense of nationhood maximizes our possibilities for human self-understanding or for ethical (which includes technical and, yes, military) progress. The survival of the Jews as a compact ethical community that does not fully integrate into either the larger monotheisms or nations has always caused a certain resentment from those unsure if their historically later identities are an improvement on the Jewish model. And, the modern success of Jews in the free market - a market created by Christians but which the Jews have generally proven well capable of adapting to (and this is no small matter: most people on the planet are having an awfully hard time adapting to the Christian or free market, as tensions in Islam, China, India, Africa, all show) - gives a new spin to Judeophobic fears and the "antisemitic" claims that the Jews have a conspiracy to control the world through the control of finance, or whatever.

Judeophobia is not something to which Jews are themselves immune. Furthermore, Judeophobia need not take an obviously Jewish object as its target. It can reflect a more general unease with the system of nations and with certain or all forms of monotheism that draw their basic form, if not always their content, from the original Israelite model. For example, one might encounter someone who says he is against "capitalism". If upon study of his thoughts, we conclude that the way he condemns "capitalism" is, in logical shape or form, but not in content, just like how people condemn "the Jew", what are we to make of it? What are we to make of the many scholars who follow in the footsteps of Karl Marx for whom "the Jew" was the very sign of fungible money in market exchange?

Simply because someone like Chomsky is a Jew does not make him immune from charges of Judeophobia, if you can show he has a conceptual problem with the role of his own poeple in world history, just as did Karl Marx.

I think this can be shown with CHomsky.

bible of liberalism that Dossa pointed out to be such a farce.

-well I have my own ideas about liberalism and I don't consider myself a liberal, which I would go on to define through reference to a history of secularized forms of Christianity and the kinds of Gnostic responses to Christianity that are common. I have only a vague idea what you might mean by the "bible of liberalism" and wonder if you have really been taught a coherent idea that you can explain to us here, or whether you have just been given an excuse or tool for across-the-board demonization of the liberal bad guys. Demonization, by the way, is not the same thing as fair criticism.

To criticize someone for attending a Holocaust deniers' conference staged as an obvious propaganda coup by a tyrannical state that is not just a threat to other nations but oppressses in innumerable ways its own people strikes me as fair ethical game. (What's more I am not trying to shut this guy up. No doubt some people are pointing to Canada's hate speech laws when they hear about Dossa, but I oppose that law and wish it on no one, even the most foul of the Judeophobes...)

Demonization is when you criticize without making an attempt at fair ethical criticism of your target, when you simply don't have any realistic ethical claim to make against the position of your rival. To criticize Israel as a military power falls into this category, in my opinion. Why? Because I see Israel as using a policy of deterrence and necesary retribution, all the while restraining itself from using anywhere near its full military capabilities, in a way that accords to a realistic, if primitive, understanding of justice and of competitive, resentful human realities. If there is any hope for some kind of peace, some kind of reciprocity between Israel and its enemies it will not come through the fantasy ideology that is "international law" in the hands of someone like Louise Arbour. It will come, in the first steps, through insisting that terrorism and outright refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist give way to the most primitive form of reciprocity, a kind of violent tit for tat, until the opponents of Israel, especially their leaders (and Israel has been in a never-ending war since its founding) come to realize it is wrong and not in their interests to threaten the existence of Israel. For example, those who target Israel with rocket attacks should be targeted in turn. The leaders of the factions doing this should be targeted for assassination, and yes this kind of war has its innocent victims. The human condition is unavoidaby tragic and teachers who pretend otherwise, because young people want to believe otherwise, are fools or liars.

I know this sounds brutal to a young person whose professors are inclined to suggest that there is some alternative solution, that there is some more perfect model of justice. Show me if there is. But I have been following these debates for some time and I don't think it exists despite all the pretense among those who would rather appear righteous than come honestly to terms with certain frightening realities of human existence, of a human condition rooted in mimetic rivalry and conflict.

Israel has every right and responsibility to be a military power, as much it can. That is what responsible nations are. They make it clear to their neighbors that there will be a price to be paid for violent aggression - including losing land when you start wars - and they do it in a way that can lead to hope that one day people will learn the lesson that it is ethical to maximize reciprocity and sign on to a global system of democratic nation-states and global free markets where leaders can be made transparent and accountable to conducting themselves in a manner that encourages trust in and reciprocity with neighboring nations. We are a very long way from that in the Middle East. But Israel is furthest along the road. And in this context, those who criticize the ideas of democratic nations and free market ideas are in fact criticizing the ideas whose origins (and to some extent continuing relevance) are specifically Jewish and Christian.

If the critics had an alternative, and realistic account of how ethical progress can be achieved among humanity, I would not say they are demonizing Israel. But all I see is fantasy ideology of the Jihadi and leftist varieties. Put it on the line: does your professor offer a realistic alternative to his condemnation of "liberalism", or is he just scoring easy points with those who want to believe war need not be part of the human condition?

By the way, talking about the Holcaust being used as an "excuse" for the Israeli military is deeply offensive and just stupid. Jews have to be aware that there are lots of people out there who continue to practice a genocidal intent towards them and towards Israel. Nasrallah, Iran's Hezbollah proxy, went on last summer about how he was glad for the existence of Israel: congregating all the Jews in one spot made it that much easier for him to wipe them all out. That man, and the Iranian regime, is real, not a fantasy...

the edible rebecca said...

Sorry, excuse was not the correct word.

I realize that you are a conservative; I think the point I am trying to make as the following. I don't think common sense or a common human bond really does exist, at least on a political or philosophical level. when you try to establish a "common sense" or "ethical argument" in the name of peace or justice, or whatever ideal you have, you are denying someone else of their personal beliefs, somewhere in the world. Maybe you may think this is nihilistic, but I don't believe that we'll ever come to a common ethical system. The belief that we can come to a common ethical understanding is rooted in liberalism. And ironically enough, this notion of post modernism nihilism is rooted in the many Jewish thinkers who sat on the outside, looking, and observed that the liberal, imperial way of thinking was dominating current political thought in policy. In the search for truth, liberalism quashes those who do not follow the normal path. Academia is in the grey area as it is (or should be) a forum for furthering human understanding through question and debate. If Socrates did not go around questioning, and essentially, pissing people off where would we be now? The structures of Academia have been created by a bunch of dead white christian guys. Believe it or not, these fundamental structures still remain in Universities throughout the Western world. and these liberal views are implanted in Academia as well.

"Religion comes before reason, they say, and until someone is able to open up their religion to a shared, secular, anthropological inquiry, you really can't have much of a conversation with them." <------- COMPLETE BALONES

Anyone whose studied Anthropology knows it is rank with western, modern, white tradition; that's the people that created Anth, and it is the post modernists that realized this (with lots of influence from Jewish thinkers!)

Basically, I am against your stance for truth and reason, and make you realize that Post Modernism is a very powerful dialetic tool that can pull back the layers of BS in academia and politics. < /end rant >

truepeers said...


First, if you read my "religion before reason" comment carefully you would have noted that it tends towards your argument: I'm saying I think it would probably be very difficult for me to have a serious conversation with someone from another intellectual paradigm or religion.

However, it is a fact of history that these conversations can go on, on some level. When people from different cultures and worlds have come into contact historically, they recognize each other as the same species and they recognize that there is something common to both their languages that allows them to meaningfully gesture in various ways - e.g. to point to things and give them words - that make some basic form of communication possible. And they do it in a way that is quite different from the kinds of signals that are used in animal communication. In other words, they all "get" the symbolic nature of the other's language.

The only likely explanation for this is that all languages today stem from an original language, that all humans share the same origin, as DNA and archeologial studies also suggest. And it is precisely that shared origin, and its opening to a species that experiences a specifically cultural form of evolution, whose exploration can serve as a basis for a shared anthropological conversation across cultures, if people want it - if they are not stuffed so full of delusional resentments against the other and a romantic sense of their uniqueness.

This conversation need have nothing to do with aspiring to a "common ethical system" - the last thing I want is one world government. But the fact that peoples take ethical lessons from each other in the quest to compete and resist in the struggles between systems or cultures is historically undoubtable. In other words, we are all in conversation, one way or another, be it a resentful one or a friendly one that seeks out a shared humanity. We have a choice to make.

I would also note that there is a differentiation that has evolved, at least in Western culture, between morality and ethics. Ethics we assume to be relative to historical time and place. Morality points to something universal, something that stems from our common human origin. While our sense of morality will evolve with our evolving understanding of our origins, the fact that there is some universal basis for morality is also beyond question: all human societies witness similar kinds of struggles between moral imperatives to respect both freedom and equality. Reciprocity or exchange - the golden rule - is also somehow fundamental to our morality: when people from completely separate cultures first meet, they often recognize this in the exchange of gifts. And they often recognize, in the other's attitudes towards things like murder or marriage, a common moral bond.

Anthropology, as I use the term, doesn't refer to what goes on in university anthropology departments. It refers to a kind of human conversation which I believe to be universal. Human self-understanding through conversation within and between cultures is not optional if you want to survive. Even when people like you deny the basis for a shared human conversation, you are engaging in one with people like me. WHy should you take seriously the "truth" of professors who say there is no common "truth", just greyness? Upon what certain basis can the "truth" of greyness seriously rest? As you grow older, you will no doubt see the limits of your present schooling

Potmodern nihilism is a dead end. I say this from hard experience in it, and from overcoming it, and from the testimony of many others like me. So far you have done nothing to show me otherwise. And you might look at what I imagine will prove to be the self-destructive behaviour of your professor as evidence of this dead end.

Finally, you still haven't explained either what is the monster "liberalism" that serves as your whipping boy. If you dwell on what we all share - it is not much, but it is something - you may begin to see there is some hope for human conversation and progress in building forms of reciprocity among people.

hughgilmour67 said...

"Religion comes before reason...?" Truepeers accuses anonymous for being a dogmatic 'religious' ideologue in his/her support for lefty thinkers like Chomsky and Dossa. Yet, it seems inherent in Truepeers original piece and his following rebuttals and in fact, in the very nature of The Covenant Zone that it is unfair to criticize the Jews because they;"were the first to discover or be given monotheism and the idea of a nation defined by its partnership or covenant with the one universal God of everyone" and they are busily trying to make the world a better place for noisy 'leftys' like Chomsky, and everyone else for that matter. Fortunately, reason has 'given' a growing number of 'leftys' atheism and the idea that for one group to use their relationship with a nonexistent God to justify their means is perhaps unreasonable. I neither support nor condemn Dossa's decision to attend this so-called 'deniers' conference, but I do object to Truepeers claiming that he has the 'monopoly' on rational argument.I find it hard to accept, as Truepeers would like us to believe, that because of the Jews 'firstness' this some how gives America the right to behave in such a unilateral fashion. An impassioned call to reason I applaud, as I believe that science and reason are the keys to understanding the human condition;"rooted in mimetic rivalry and conflict." The alternative to how ethical progress can be achieved is the(admittedly,very unlikely)rejection of any theistic or dogmatic justification or interpretation of human global events. The fantasy is religion: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Thanks for your open discussion.

truepeers said...


I don't claim a monopoly on reason. Some have more, some have less, but none of us have none or enough. Yet it is true that there is a limit to reason and that we cannot operate effectively in this world without some kind of faith that there is a purpose to what we do, and the possibility of a "return on investment", if you want to put it in secular terms. This faith need not be religious in nature, but I believe a purely secular person who wants a strong faith will be well served by respecting what it is about religion that works on a pragmatic level, if not on the level of fundamental truth which ultimately is not fully knowable to any of us.

And certain kinds of religion do work in making people productive and disciplined in the modern marketplace, in encouraging people to reproduce and invest in the future. Some kinds of religion work less well. The laboratory of history is not indifferent in these matters.

"God" is at least an essential anthropological fact if it is nothing more. To write off "God" without at least asking seriously and respectfully what is the purpose of the idea or name of God in human society seems to me unwise. Even if one day we are all atheists, we will not be able to forget the concept of "God". We will still have to deny our belief in it. I suggest it can't ever go away because it is original to our language. This is because the invocation of a being that subsists in some transcendent or eternal world and that seems to guarantee the meaningfulness of our shared symbols and symbolic actions in the here and now is somehow inherent to how language and culture operates.

There is no excuse for an atheist not to be interested in this human phenomenon for it will teach him much and he can also learn to minimize what must be left to faith and mystery, that ultimately rather small matter which distinguishes him from the believer.

If you think along these lines, as I do as a student of Generative Anthropology, you will see that the claims I am making about Judaism, monotheism, and nationhood need not be understood as particularly religious claims. I think there is some small theological element to the way I think; but on the whole my claims depend on the assumption that what the religions and nations teach us is largely anthropological in nature, not theological.

I have no problem with anyone criticizing Jews or Judaism in an intelligent, honest, manner. No one does it more than Jews themselves. When I say that Judeophobia is rooted in a response to something the Jews discovered, it's not to say that the Jews have had the final word on the matter - far from it. It's only to say that if you want to take these questions further you first must get over any resentment to those who already have a stake in the game. You can't seriously try to beat them by killing them all (kill all the Jews and you will still need "Jews" to beat, if you haven't gotten over your need for someone to beat.) Rather you have to find a way to legitimately transcend them. In fact, as a simple truism, like a student who one days surpasses the teacher, you only surpass those who went first in the very act of somehow transcending your resentment of their prior status as discoverers or inventors or God's chosen people. You get over them by getting beyond them in an ethically or esthetically substantial and meaningful way, and thus into your own discovery or covenant with "God".

In fact, the whole point of Covenant Zone is to renew a specifically Canadian covenant, not an Israelite one. But to do this we should respectfully learn from those who showed the way in matters of covenanting. That original covenant was between a particular nation and God - which the Jews did not attempt to name or figure, but more simply, and scientifically, to define ("I am what I am"). That is really what monotheism is about - a new way of talking about "God". It's a kind of reason and faith together, as the Pope recently and rightly noted about Christianity.

I have no objection if you think of your present national covenant in terms of a strictly anthropolgical understanding of "God". But if you doubt that we need to pay attention to what is transcendent, you will not get very far; because for starters you will fail to recognize basic human facts: e.g., every word we speak or write is transcendent. My keyboard is right here in front of me in the material world. I touch it. But the word "keyboard" does not subsist anywhere in the material world; it transcends it. It is not imprinted on my neurons and it only comes into being when someone invokes it by associating sounds or letters in what was originally an arbitrary association that was then institutionalized in our language community. The word only exists among us, not in our physical and mortal bodies. In other words, the meaningfulness of "keyboard" is something we take on a shared faith. And in any successful nation much else besides needs to be taken on shared faith.

Thanks for your interest

Anonymous said...

wow. interesting discussion. all i know is that I am ashamed of this university right now.

my advice to people is: don't make your decision to attend here on the basis of MacLean's magazine or because your parents went here. If you are looking for a variety of academic voices..chances are, you'll be disappointed.

FransGroenendijk said...

Great post. I will use it to write a post on my dutch site.

hughgilmour67 said...

Truepeers, I must confess that I am some what puzzled by your arguments and somewhat intrigued; although you claim to be a believer in some form of faith and a conservative, you often resort to secular, scientific arguments to support your faith and conservatism that seem cloaked in the 'liberal' philosophies of Locke and Kant, and their idea of a universal regime. Locke being far from skeptical about truth in religion and morality. You say that "faith need not be religious in nature but a secular person who wants a strong faith will be well served by respecting what it is about religion that works on a pragmatic level if not on the fundamental truth which is ultimately not fully knowable to any of us" First off, I'm not convinced that a truly secular person would want a strong faith,and although I agree it is very important for us to understand the nature of religion, I am uncomfortable using 'faith' in a rational argument. Additionally, I suppose I have 'faith' that what is unknowable now is ultimately 'not' forever unknowable. Thinkers like Dawkins, Dennet and Harris are certainly getting us closer to the truth about faith. That being said, I gather from the nature of your arguments that you do presuppose that the truth has been found and you seem keen to impose a duty on 'nations' to promote it; toleration as a means to a universal rational consensus or 'covenant.'Yet from the beginnings of liberal thought there was another understanding of toleration. Nothing in Hume or Hobbes, for example, suggested they favored toleration as a pathway to the true faith, for them toleration was a strategy for peace, indifferent to faith. As much as I would like to see every one shed their religious faith, I don't think that liberalism should be seen as a means to an end but rather something that is practiced. The 'end' of toleration is not consensus but co-existence.

I admit my knowledge of Generative Anthropology is limited but it seems to be masquerading as social contract theory. I am also uncomfortable with a theory that claims to be scientific but seems to be used primarily to support political thought. It also seems to me that a theory that basis itself on the behavior of genes is missing a very crucial concept; genes have no greater 'purpose' other than to replicate themselves and through that process they replicate with 'variation'. To use a Darwinian metaphor or story (which I gather is the 'language' of Generative Anthropologists)we begin with water and mud, and through the 'good' offices of these elements we move by degrees and gradual adjustments from a formless, featureless world to a world that is rich in its diversity a world that is complex and complete. In a Judeo-Christian story, the story we have largely inherited in the west, we have a world at war - God vs The Devil, humans vs the elements, humans vs humans or to put things in a more corporate parlance, 'competitive.'
Agreed, there is what could be called 'competition' in the Darwinian perspective but this is a matter of semantics, and I would be curious to hear what a student of Generative Anthropology has to say about this. It seems to me that we have a choice: a world marked by the 'meme' of competition or a world that is determined by the 'meme' of co-operation. What about our covenant with the environment? We clear cut the forests not to enrich the lives of animals but to make a profit, we damn the rivers not to improve water quality but to create and sell electricity. What do Conservative Covenantors think? cheers.

truepeers said...


First of all, Generative Anthropology does not claim to be political, in the sense that it claims it can and should be used to both liberal or conservative ends. In other words, it studies and values something - the anthropological means by which human order is sustained and advanced - that at times will best be served by conservative politics and at times by more liberal positions. And it does not claim to be prescriptive in any complete way in these matters. It respects pragmatic discovery.

It is a way of thinking about how we are eventful or scenic beings; it provides an understanding of our origins and history in terms of how scenes come into being, centred on emergent symbols and the things or places these represent.

At present, I consider myself conservative because this seems to me to be called for given the circumstances - we will best renew the scenes that are necessary to our survival by promoting rather orthodox - but, paradoxically, in a somewhat new and creative way - ethical understandings. IN the past I have been more liberal and may well be again before my time is up.

As for "the truth" being found, I suppose no such thing. I only believe we can come to know somewhat more truth than those who came before us, not that we can ever know "the whole truth and nothing but the truth". One of the fundamental claims of Generative Anthropology is that there is always something irreducibly mysterious about how each new form of knowledge comes into being. The process by which our signs transcend our lived experience can never be entirely explained, which is why we can endlessly study someone like Shakespeare and no one can ever reduce him to some formula or ratioanl explanation.

First off, I'm not convinced that a truly secular person would want a strong faith

-don't think of faith too narrowly. Everyone needs some kind of faith if they are to commit to careers, children, investments, political or civic life. The more you can put faith in the open-ended "systems" of which you are a part, the more you and others are likely to achieve. That some choose to understand their faith in religious terms, while some do not is, understandable in any case. But then there is the pragmatic question of what kind of faith works best for the most in certain circumstances. Who will reproduce themselves more readily and make a bigger impact on the future? We must respect both pragmatic truths and more ultimate truths and often the two are in contradiction.

I am uncomfortable using 'faith' in a rational argument. Additionally, I suppose I have 'faith' that what is unknowable now is ultimately 'not' forever unknowable.

-Well, we use faith where rational argument can't go; nothing I am suggesting is meant to limit what can be rationally discussed. Faith is not dogma. It is a leap into the unknowable.

I think some things will remain forever unknowable to some degree - e.g. what, exactly, makes Shakespeare great. WE have to be able to put our faith in things unknowable and unseen because, as I suggested previously with the discussion of "keyboard", there is something fundamental to the workings of our language that is unknowable and unseen.

you seem keen to impose a duty on 'nations' to promote it; toleration as a means to a universal rational consensus or 'covenant.... The 'end' of toleration is not consensus but co-existence.

-I have no generally applicable method or means. To have such would be to think in utopian terms - to assume a key that opens all doors - and methodical and utopian thought is what we are struggling to overcome. Sometimes I am tolerant, sometimes not; it all depends on what is before me and where I am.

In politics and human conflict more generally, often we have to choose the lesser of two evils, i.e. show some degree of violent intolerance instead of a greater degree. A covenant, ideally, provides us a way of deferring the need to make tough choices by getting people to agree to some shared understanding that will work to keep the peace for a time; but any covenant will erode over time and when we again have to make political choices between two evils, we should do so with an eye to some new form of covenant that we want to emerge as a transcendent representation that will best defer future violence.

To say that the end of toleration is co-existence is fine; but it doesn't address the fact that conflict is inevitable among people and that we have no solution that is totally violence free. This is why we have to forego the utopian temptations because these are delusional and blind us from the duty of finding the least violent path. The death tolls run up by the utopians - the officially utopian at least - in the last century should be proof enough. However, the problem runs deeper than respect for experience; the temptation to utopian thought seems to be stronger than our learning from negative experience, as if the negative experience only prompts us to return to utopian thinking. Ultimately the history of political and religious thought has to be brought into account if we are going to understand our utopian temptations. Liberalism, whatever this may include, will not get a clean bill of health.

I admit my knowledge of Generative Anthropology is limited but it seems to be masquerading as social contract theory.

-it's not masquerading; GA is quite open about what it thinks of social contract theory. Social contract theory doesn't add up because it assumes that those who first sign the contract are predisposed to have the rational contractual reason that, in fact, can only be brought into being by the experience of living a contract or, as I prefer, covenant. In other words, we can have no social covenants without first an act of faith being involved.

And what makes the act of faith possible? The alternative must be horrific violence - our forebears, the first humans, must have acted from a pressing necessity to defer a conflict that could no longer be controlled by any kind of animal pecking order. When all are in brutal conflict over some commonly desired object, they must solve the conflict by all signing on to someone's initial gesture of renunciation. All make an act of faith that peace will emerge by all saying that we renounce our desire to consume the object. In the act of making this gesture in common we create a linguistic sign that all can share, precisely because it is not a material thing, but something both transcendent and infinitely reproducible.

And once we have the model of a sacred linguistic sign - i.e. the name of God - that we all share, we can develop a new way to divide up and share the material thing that started the conflict. We can have a sacrificial feast, once we learn how to make the beast sacred. In other words, reason, i.e. the rational division of the beast, depends on a prior act of faith.

I am also uncomfortable with a theory that claims to be scientific but seems to be used primarily to support political thought. It also seems to me that a theory that basis itself on the behavior of genes is missing a very crucial concept

-GA does not claim to be scientific in the sense of empirical sciences; it only claims to a certain rigour in thought, to apply Occam's razor, and to believe that truth is obtainable, that we can know more than those who came before. In other words, GA claims to constitute a new paradigm for human self-understanding that has a wider explanatory power than previous paradigms. But it does not claim to determine what we need politically in future; as I said before it admits the need for both conservatives and liberals.

However, GA has nothing to do with the study of genes; you seem to be under some misconception here.

It seems to me that we have a choice: a world marked by the 'meme' of competition or a world that is determined by the 'meme' of co-operation. What about our covenant with the environment? We clear cut the forests not to enrich the lives of animals but to make a profit, we damn the rivers not to improve water quality but to create and sell electricity.

How could we ever have co-operation (that wasn't hard-wired, but rather an act of human freedom) if we did not first have competition or conflict? The latter is inevitable to the human condition because we are mimetic beings - we learn our desires from each other and thus come into conflict over singular or scarce objects, lovers, etc. That is why we have continually to evolve new ways of deferring our conflict, new forms of co-operation. But we will never understand this well if we make the utopian gesture of denying that conflict and resentment is first necessary; however well meaning, the utopian brings us greater violence, not less.

As for the environmental question, I am planning to post something on this shortly. Suffice to say for now, that I don't think we can sign a "natural contract" with the environment, or accord animals "rights". We can only sign among ourselves, which is not a reason not to pay attention to what we are doing to the world that sustains us. In any case, I like electricity - how could we be in communication without it, how could anywhere near six billions humans survive without it? I like fish too. We must find the honesty and courage to admit that the only thing to desire in politics is the lesser of two evils. Generally speaking, those who choose fish over human needs choose a greater evil, which is not to say we should never choose fish.