This one is a very difficult article for me. So many opposing emotions amid so much anger and disappointment regarding the ‘Left’. I am afraid this missive may ramble and be, at times, incoherent. Such are my thought processes at the moment.
I write this several days after the Paris terrorist spree.
In the past 18 months there have been several terrorist attacks on the Jewish community in Belgium and France at schools, museums and synagogues resulting in as many deaths as at Charlie Hebdo. In response there have been no massive demonstrations, no ‘je suis juif’ signs in the streets.
These were not considered an attack of French culture. Not until Charlie Hebdo was attacked was there a perceived attack on ‘France’.
I have watched a lot of mainstream media coverage in the past few days. The attack on the Jewish store has invariably been called an attack on a ‘kosher supermarket’. Why is it so hard to say ‘Jewish’? Why has the store not been referred to as Jewish? I find that very interesting.
More disturbing has been CBC Newsworld coverage that, at first, almost ignored the attack at the Jewish store relegating it to a ‘hostage taking’ at a ‘kosher store’. When, over two days after the attack CNN first paid seperate attention to the issue of anti-semitism it was very strained. Under a banner across the TV screen that read ‘anti-semitism in France’ there was a discussion of the topic. But the discussion paid very little attention to anti-semitism, instead choosing to keep a ‘balance’ in their reporting the discussion centred mainly on the need not to succumb to Islamophobia. What need is there for balance in this situation? Why cannot Muslim instigated anti-semitism be discussed as a topic without trying so hard to be ‘balanced’.
After 9/11 there was a lot of media attention given to the concern of avoiding Islamophobia. I have no argument with that. Only by finding unity can we move forward. However post 9/11 there were more documented cases of anti-semitic outbreaks than of Islamophobic ones. In France as well, while there have been incidents of vandalism at Mosques, as repugnant as those are, Muslims are not being gunned down in the streets, in their schools or on the way home from Mosques.
Anti-semitism is on the rise in France. But polls have shown that among the Christian French anti-semitism has remained at relatively stable levels. Most anti-semitism in France originates among the North African derived Muslim community. But everyone is afraid to talk about it.
And when it is discussed, Israel is usually brought into the equation. I, as do many Jews, disapprove of much of what the Israeli right is doing. But the fact that I have to state that speaks to the collective punishment that the Jewish community is subject to. If Russia is being obnoxious to Ukraine is it acceptable to hate people of Russian decent living in Toronto? Why do Jews, most of whom support Israel strongly but feel uncomfortable with much of its current policies, have to bear collective punishment?
Why do we have to ‘balance’ the criticism of Muslim generated anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel?
Now on to John A MacDonald. Yup, I do see a connection
This is the 200th anniversary of his birth. TVO had a programme about the anniversary and, of course, to balance out the programme there was discussion of John A’s warts…of which there are some.
There has been a recent attempt to paint him as a genocidal leader intent on destroying Aboriginal culture in Canada. I’m no historian but Richard Gwynn, whose two volume biography of John A I very much enjoyed, is a progressive man and, I think, a pretty honest one. He says the attempt to smear John A is historically untrue. He also said, and this is my point here. that today there are no academic historians with enough guts and integrity to stand up to the current theme considering Aboriginal treatment by John A. Why should it take guts to speak truthfully about history? And why are academics so ‘group think’?
Which leads me to my last theme, the outrageous behaviour of some dental students at Dalhousie University. We all know about the misogynist Facebook comments. We all condemn that. That’s not the point.
I was listening to a CBC radio program on this issue which had three panelists. One was a defence lawyer (not personally involved in the case) and two academics…one a diversity person at McGill ,I should have know from her title, as a diversity advocate, that she would have been an idiot (sorry but these people congregate under that banner). She referred to the female students at Dalhousie Dental Faculty as ‘survivors’. Yes…survivors. If you don’t see the absurdity of using that term in this context then you might as well stop reading now.
I know nothing about Richard Florizone, President of Dalhousie, but I think that a restorative justice approach to what happened is a thoughtful and courageous response to what happened. With the religious Left on a rampage for ‘justice’ by which they truly mean a public lynching, it is very courageous for him to say ‘wait a minute, we need to take the time to deal with this properly, equitably and honestly’ before proceeding to summary execution. We know from books like Richard Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow, Joseph Heath’s Enlightenment 2.0 and the work of Steven Pinker that a rushed decision is often a flawed decision.
Who more than an academic should know that thoughtful dialogue and discussion is what is needed in these matters. We have to enact cultural changes not just punish misbehaviour. Yet the witch hunt is being led by academics. There was a time when I thought academics were leaders in progressive thinking. By progressive here I mean thoughtfulness and inclusiveness. But then I remember that there were large pro Nazi academic movements on the campuses of Germany in the 1930s. And similarly the concept of freedom of speech seems only to be offered to like minded people here in Canada by so many on the Left but particularly in academia.
I wonder if Charlie Hebdo attacked progressive values the way it attacked religious values whether the Left would be so upset by the recent terrorist events.
As my friend just expressed to me, what I am saying is that the ‘handwringing about a possible backlash against Muslims, the rush to judge the Dalhousie students and the condemnation of John A’ are all part of a suffocating and revisionist view of history that promises to subvert evidence based analysis of the facts. George Orwell had a lot to say about all this.
And no, I will not accept criticism that my article today stems from a growing conservatism on my part as I age. I have always held these values. But I am afraid many I know only hold these values when they support their world view. Groucho Marx once said ‘those are my principle and if you don’t like them, well I have others’.
I used to identify myself as a Marxist. I still tend to look at the world this way but I’m thinking I’m more of a Groucho-Marxist.