Friday, March 26, 2010

Quebec Liberals Importing 'La Grande Noirceur' from an Intolerant Europe

After some articles are 'put to bed' at FilterBlogs they get a Posthumous Long-tail Aperitif - links to related media that I was unaware of at the time of my original post.

Posthumous Long-tail Aperitif: Update: Feburary 28, 2011 (link to update below, with-in the text of the essay: Pascal Bruckner presents us only with "a bag of snakes")


Posthumous Long-tail Aperitif: July 18, 2010:

One thing that is sorely lacking - in this post, and in the general discussion of the Hijab issue - is the opinion of Muslim Feminists!

The great divide between the West and the Muslim world culturally, not to mention the language barrier, isolates us from each other generally - add to that the absence of the discussion of the issues of woman's equality in popular media - and it's no wonder no one has asked Muslim Feminists what they think of the Hijab issue.

At 2:30 of this interview from BigThink, Naomi Wolf talks about it:

"Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality"
by Naomi Wolf
Sydney Morning Herald - August 30, 2008

(Original article begins...)

"The Grande Noirceur (literally, Great Darkness) is the name that critics of Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis's regime have given to the conservative policies undertaken by the provincial government in the 1936-1939 and 1944-1959 period of Quebec history."

- Wikipedia

Headline from, Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - "Quebec health board not obliged to accommodate minorities".

Quebec's publicly funded health insurance program, the Régie de l'assurance-maladie du Québec (RAMQ), no longer has " obligation to satisfy religious or cultural preferences..." in the opinion of the provinces human rights commission. The government is not planning to tweak the law to ensure accommodation continues. From the CBC piece again,

"Up until Tuesday, RAMQ did accommodate such requests on a case-by-case basis, handling about a dozen a year."

A Dozen Accommodations a Year? Look out everybody, the sky is falling, the sky is falling.

Betraying an ignorance of the institution she is charged to protect, Quebec Immigration Minister Yolande James keeps shouting down arguments against this new prescription, 'This is Democratic you know, people agree with this' she says. Yes, we know Yolande James, we know. And the Germans voted for Hilter. Besides that, I'm detecting the government 'doth protest too much'; like they're not entirely comfortable with the road they're embarking down and find themselves needing to retort, 'well, she said it too'.

I'm wondering what the end game is here? Divide-and-Cut-Services perhaps? The neo-liberal agenda revealed?

I've been watching this logic-fault filled debate, unfolding now in Canada, begin to unfold in Europe three years ago. I think it's important for all Canadians to read the following series of arguments. It starts with a polemic by the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner: "Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism of the anti-racists?"

Update: Feburary 28, 2011

Pascal Bruckner presents us only with "a bag of snakes". Untangled they aren't scary any more.

In re-reading this essay almost a year after I published it, and seeing that this post is getting by far the largest number of hits in this blog, I'm driven to add some content that I hope will clarify what is a complex issue - and to add my take as a impetus that may help to start a conversation.

In my opinion this is the centre of Pascal Bruckner's argument:

"Today we combine two concepts of liberty: one has its origins in the 18th century, founded on emancipation from tradition and authority. The other, originating in anti-imperialist anthropology, is based on the equal dignity of cultures which could not be evaluated merely on the basis of our criteria. Relativism demands that we see our values simply as the beliefs of the particular tribe we call the West. Multiculturalism is the result of this process. Born in Canada in 1971, it's principle aim is to assure the peaceful cohabitation of populations of different ethnic or racial origins on the same territory. In multiculturalism, every human group has a singularity and legitimacy that form the basis of its right to exist, conditioning its interaction with others. The criteria of just and unjust, criminal and barbarian, disappear before the absolute criterion of respect for difference. There is no longer any eternal truth: the belief in this stems from naïve ethnocentrism."

Having lived the experiment, there are two points I take issue with. When Bruckner says, "Relativism demands that we see our values simply as the beliefs of the particular tribe we call the West." - he uses the term "values" but what he means is a much larger set of values, beliefs and mores with-in a medium of ever changing technological realities - for example the idea that a hot bath every day is civilized is ridiculous - our ancestors only 100 years ago may have had one hot bath a month. By racing past this idea one might allow one's self to think that the values of another culture are completely alien to yours - but my experience in this multicultural land is that in so many more ways we are alike then we are different. An our ability to communicate past the differences to an understanding that even the elements of the foreign culture have parallels in our own culture is the usual way these thing go in my experience.

The fear of the other, the ignorance of the other is what gives Bruckner's sentence above so much power - and what makes it so completely wrong. Later in the paragraph Bruckner carries on with this radical interpretation of the modern anthropological view: "The criteria of just and unjust, criminal and barbarian, disappear before the absolute criterion of respect for difference." The "absolute criterion". But there is no absolute criterion, it is rather a continuing functioning of  practical accommodations. The cultural adaptation of one culture to the other happens slowly, over one generation, maybe two. And the individuals who are new here see themselves as accepted - but outside - and this acceptance, this accommodation makes them want to understand the culture that is all around, to become apart of it. Their children are the most Canadian of all, in fact they're so hip it's sickening. :)

Now here's the quick of it. Bruckner's own argument - that we are "heirs to both movements" (the age of reason and it's counter point romanticism), and that thus we have shown an ability to critique ourselves as we go along - is what makes this Multiculturalism work with-in a democratic society. We make mistakes - like allowing the Sharia courts in Ontario for some months - but we correct the mistake. As well, and this is really important, we don't have slums in Canadian cities because of an enlightened social policy - and thus economic want rarely leads to radical interpretations of the kind Bruckner presents as a norm. His own construct viewed with out ignorance and Us vs Them radicalism, defeats his argument!

Pascal Bruckner presents us only with "a bag of snakes". Untangled they aren't scary any more.

(end of udate)


Several leading thinkers joined in the debate, they are linked below in the order they submitted:

Bruckner's essay is a criticism of multiculturalism and the liberal democratic vision in general. It asserts that the western and Islamic worlds cannot be integrated. That liberalism will be slaughtered in it's comfortable social-safety-net sleep by extremist Islam that is everywhere and is bent on it's destruction.

These essays came in a political environment that, besides 9/11 included:

From my perspective, we had experienced none of the above craziness in the wake of 9/11 here in Canada. One of the foundations of the western enlightenment is the separation of church and state - but Ontario has had public funding of Catholic schools - and if Canada is supposed to be the icon of multiculturalism in the world - then everything seemed to be going just swimmingly circa 2007. Multiculturalism was working here, went my thinking, because we we're more enlightened that those lunatic, nationalist Europeans and their world wars that we saved them from. So I thought then... But being a romantic but not naive, I knew this would be coming sooner or later.

The psychosis following 9/11, and propelled later by the beating of the drums leading to the Irag Invasion, made thinking clearly on these topics particularly difficult. Further, at that time, the way Buckner kicks legs out from under the cannons of liberal democratic thought was very effective in creating confusion. Rather the than the usual purpose of philosophical debate, that of lighting a path forward towards a better world, Bruckner polemic served to create chaos in thinking. Perhaps a reflection of his own thinking.

In my humble opinion it's essentially Straussian. It presents Socratic paradoxes in current frameworks that are then used by neo-cons and neo-liberals to contort the national politic with-in a generational agenda to dismantle the liberal Democratic framework that evolved as a result of the Cold War.

It's Rush Limbaugh. It's the 'ends justify the means', and it's a metaphor that hides three un-speakable themes; nationalism and racism and sexism. A backwards mindset that hasn't evolved past master/slave economic and sexual relations.
(Hey buck up buckeroo, it's only been 170 years since the British Empire calculated it was in their interest to abolish slavery- we're gettin' there.)
My take on this: accommodate, accommodate and accommodate this generation of new Canadians - their daughters will most likely not wish to isolate themselves thusly - so this too shall pass.

The Government of Quebec though, seems to think creating an 'other' inside the province would be good for the ruling party. Are Jean Charest's Liberal Party looking to stabilize the parties base via the women's vote combined with a Quebec nationalism as they pursue their unpopular neo-liberal 'cut and cut' policies in the wake of the financial melt-down? (As opposed to the right wing dart, 'tax and spend liberals'.)

An 'Un' Proud Canadian, Today

Just like we pretend we did for the Native North American cultures, and towards wave after wave of super-exploited immigrants - this is Canada the New, the apologetic, the enlightened, Can-a-da.

Now, where did I put that Internment Camp?

As I heard on CBC Radio One's talk back feature this morning, I'm very 'un' proud to be a Canadian today.

Aislin Cartoon, Montreal Gazette Friday, March 12, 2010.

Image of woman wearing niqab, from CBC Montreal.

Image of Quebec Immigration Minister Yolande James, from CBC Montreal.


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