Thursday, January 17

Pundita answers the critics

Dymphna at Gates of Vienna linked to my post Don't rile the natives ... and titled her commentary An Ancient Struggle: The BCM vs the AGM.

The post brought forth arguments and questions from GOV readers, which caused me to realize I should provide further explanation on some points I raised.

When I wrote the essay I didn't consider that the points that attracted strongest criticism were central to my discussion. But the arguments caused me to acknowledge that by bringing up the subject of British colonial rule and connecting that with Canada's official multiculturalism policy, I should be prepared to argue for a line of reasoning that's not addressed in current political debates.

I posted my replies at Gates of Vienna, but also provide them here. I don't provide the full text of the comments, which of course you can access at GOV.

I want to begin, however, not with an argument but with a reply I made to a comment that came into GOV just as I was posting my explanations:

I think it's vital for those outside Canada to realize that quietly, under the radar, Canada's version of multiculturalism is having an impact globally. This impact will only increase. As I noted in my essay, the Aga Khan is pushing the Canadian Way. And many world leaders are doing the same.

But as I pointed in my earlier essays on the Maclean's affair, Canada's government is making a deceptive sales pitch to the world. They're saying in essence, 'We have this beautiful liberal democracy and multiculturalism is big part of our success as a liberal democracy. If we can do it, you can do it.'

My earlier essays, starting with the Jan 8 one, turned up that Canada is not a liberal democracy. The Canadian government is studiously ignoring that to make their multicultural policy 'work,' they're having to make the fundamental rights of Canadians very conditional. And they are having to take draconian measures, including the blatant intimidation represented by Section 13, to repress speech.

That is not a liberal democracy. But the Canadian Way is manna for repressive governments that want to put on the appearance of democracy.

* * * * *

By multiculturalism I am referring to Canada's official policy by that name. In the essay under discussion I provide a link to a Canadian Parliament research service paper on the official policy. I strongly recommend that everyone interested in the topic read the paper. No matter how multiculturalism has been defined, Canada's version is the one that is being promulgated worldwide.

* * * * *

The argument that multiculturalism is a socialist invention is uninformed. However, the term has come to mean so many things, and been bended to so many modern political causes, that the best I could do in my essay was to warn that the term had many meanings.

But study Canadian history to become aware of the profound distinction between the genesis of multicultural policy in Canada and Europe. From the beginning, Canada's multicultural enterprise was used as a tool of expansion in 'native' tribal regions and for nation-building. In Europe, multiculturalism was used as a means to manage immigrant populations.

Turning to more modern times, and just to set the record straight, the first full articulation of Canada's multiculturalism policy came not from a Liberal or socialist but from a Progressive Conservative, Senator Paul Yuzyk, in his initial Senate speech in 1964.

The Liberal government that brought Yuzyk's ideas into legislation was acting on the problem of Canada's 'third force' more than on socialist politics. Canada's third force -- after the first and second forces of the British-French compact and the aboriginal inhabitants -- was the huge and rapid influx of a wide variety of culturally diverse immigrants during the post World War Two period.

The size and speed of the influx had overrun assimilation policy. This situation was leading to 'ghettoizing' of large numbers of immigrants, thus raising the specter of race riots and worse.

So, without launching a discourse, I'll just note that given the crisis situation that had built up, it's likely that even the most hard-core Conservative Canadian government would have clutched at the straw that Yuzyk offered.

The bending of a nation-building strategy to managing immigrant populations had mixed results, and was viewed with deep distrust by the Québécois. They feared that multiculturalism would rob them of their historic place of importance in Canada's power structure.

To whatever extent West European socialists found multiculturalism policy attractive, it is inarguable that West European governments that began to adopt multicultural policy in 1973 were influenced more by Canada's success than by socialism.

The more you know about the distinction, the more readily evident that the current arguments in West Europe about multiculturalism are too narrow. If those Europeans contesting multiculturalism want to get on better ground, they should study Canadian history and the history of the British colonial enterprise. But make sure to dig deep, when it comes to studying the Canadian enterprise.

As I politely indicated in my essay, Canada's official version of how multiculturalism came about in Canada is not the only one. If you want a far more critical version, read historical anthropologist Eva Mackey's book, The House of Difference: Cultural politics and national identity in Canada.

Mackey's view of the building of the Canadian nation is also open to some dispute. But if you put Mackey's and the official views together, you'll be in the ballpark. From that vantage point you can feel your way to an understanding of how the BCM was very effective at nation building and managing natives -- and even the French, who themselves were no slouches at colonial enterprise.

With regard to a critics's sweeping claim that the British empire "imposed British values" on those ruled under the British enterprise, the claim is so vastly misinformed that I have to restrain myself from mockery.

Would that the British had imposed their values on the 30% of Africa that they ruled! And if only they had imposed their values on Ceylon, and India including the region known today as Pakistan! If only -- then oceans of blood would not have been spilled in the sectarian and tribal convulsions that arose to replace British rule.

The British imposed order on myriad tribes and clans. As part of that effort, they created a veneer, a stage show of British justice and governments. Once the veneer wore off, prebendalism arose like a monster from the deep, only made even more vicious and grasping by the long decades of British 'management.'

Prebendalism is an undescriptive term for the age-old tribal and clan practice of expropriating the lion's share of state revenues for the personal use of the most powerful chief, his immediate family, and their protectors.

The graft is vast that arises from prebendalism in governments that only pay lip service to the kind of values the British espouse. It is so vast that nobody in the modern development or aid community wants to attempt to tot up the trillions of US dollars and British pounds that ended up in the pockets of a relative handful of scoundrels who bled their nations.

If British values had been absorbed in their 30% of Africa, by the 1980s, post-colonial British Africa would have been a trading and industrial giant that eclipsed the European and American ones.

So let us not talk about the imposition of British values on regions that only knew the clan system or tribalism before the British came along. The British were intent on managing those populations, not transforming them into genuine democracies.

Toward the end of Empire, yes, the British made sincere attempts to encourage 'home rule' and a transition to independent democratic government in many places they ruled. But within less than a decade of British pullout, it was evident that in many former holdings, the effort was too little, too late.

There are exceptions to the rule but without examining the list, I think it's fair to observe that in places where the British system managed to hang on well past the British exit, there was a government infrastructure in place prior to British arrival that represented an elevation on tribal government. India's maharaja system is one such structure.

None of the above is an attempt to demonize the British or their empire. One must look at things in the context of history, and not neglect the many positive contributions of Empire. It is very likely that many of the tribes the British oversaw would have otherwise died out from wars, cycles of revenge, and starvation. Why, even the Saudi tribe owes their existence to British intervention against the Turks' attempt to wipe them out.

Yet all the above explains why the British became so very critical of the US nation-building effort in Iraq. They knew from long experience that the US had walked into a maze of tribes and clans that the US could not expect to transform into a genuinely democratic nation -- not without more years and patience than the US was probably willing to invest.

The British also knew the consequences of the US hastily setting up a "stage show" democratic government, then pulling out of Iraq, leaving to their own devices the tribes and clans that had been released from the Baath party's iron grip.

Now I turn a critic's mention of PC. The critic asks if what I call the BCM is indeed "a historical left over in former colonies, then how, pray tell, does multiculturalism and political correctness rule the roost in countries that were neither colonies nor under British influence? To wit, all of Western Europe."

The above answers much of the question but with regard to PC, that was not a British invention, or British modification of strategies used by the Roman Empire. Political correctness comes from an entirely different stream; namely, the ancient Chinese one.

The strategy arises from tactics for managing tribes that came under Chinese rule. The strategy is almost the inverse of multiculturalism. PC arose from the idea that no matter what tribe you belong to, when you are under the rule of the Emperor, you are going to think and act like a right proper member of the Middle Kingdom. This means it's not correct if your choice of words reflects anything but the Middle Kingdom way

This strategy was updated by Mao Zedong and used to repress dissent in China against his brand of Communism. This led to the Orwellian tactic of not naming unpleasant situations for what they are. Thus, the death camps in Mao's China had names roughly equating to "The Happy Inn of Reeducation."

So. As to how PC and multiculturalism got married in West Europe (and in America and Canada) frankly, I think I would need to ingest a powerful hallucinogen before I could wrap my mind around how the situation came to pass.

But I'll bet that when you dig to the bottom, you will find mass education systems that don't put much emphasis on teaching world history except maybe revisionist history, which was never much good at describing the details of Mao's reign of terror.

I hope all the above helps underscore why I brought up British colonialism in the context of a discussion about Canadian multiculturalism policy, and Section 13 of Canada's Human Rights Act. The angry debates about Canada's human rights commissions and the discrimination complaint against Maclean's magazine are hyper-focused on Canada's Conservative-Liberal political divide.

I interject that the debates have been egged on by American Conservatives jumping into the fray. But to hear these debaters tell it, the entire problem could be solved by getting rid of the 'Liberal invention' of the rights commissions. And from the other side, Liberals howling that the Conservatives are hell bent on destroying Canada's rich multicultural 'liberal' democracy.

So, with the facts of history in mind, my essay was in the nature of rifle shots aimed above the head of an unruly mob that was turning violent. If everyone would calm down and think, they would realize that the situation they find themselves in -- facing the death of free speech in Canada -- was not an invention of socialist or Liberal policies.

It arose from highly pragmatic nation-building strategy, which by many twists and turns had led Canada to where it is today: a nation that is a 'liberal' democracy in name only.

Canada is not yet a police state, but it has long been drifting somewhere between the authoritarian democracy of a nation like Singapore and the liberal democracy of the United States. That Canadian's don't seem to see this -- they better open their eyes.

My essay was to warn that unless Canadians ditch the narrow Left-Right context of their debates, they stand to lose more than free speech. They stand to lose their democracy.

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