Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

In Search of a Thumb0

Posted by JJ in Strategic Planning (Thursday August 31, 2006 at 2:28 pm)

The Green Party of Canada has a lot of things going for it. At least one brother organization has been able to play a significant role in government with a lasting impact on national policy. Founded on the same global charter, and having set themselves apart from other parties without electoral representation, the Greens would seem poised to enjoy similar success.

Which leaves one big question: where do they go from here?

Their starting point is interesting. There’s a fair bit of diversity within their electoral base:

Environmentalists
It’s not just about the colour, but green is a solid choice. The party has an excellent compilation of sound environmental policy and a track record of putting those issues at the forefront. Those who identify foremost with environmental issues are a natural constituency for the Greens, unless they’re either committed to working through the more popular (and broader mandate of the) NDP, or opposed to the party because of its other policies. Of course, given the party’s overall reputation, people seldom pay attention to those, and environmentalists aren’t any likelier, en masse, to be an exception.
Democratic Rebels
The party’s outsider status and its former leader’s crusade against the current electoral process endear it to voters either tired of the same-old, same-old or eager for systemic reform (especially proportional representation). The party’s slim chance of achieving real power means that it’s a safe choice for protest along these lines. It’s a group with potential, but there probably aren’t enough people who make democratic reform a priority to ground future growth. Besides which, it’s a group likely to suffer from fatigue. It’s an exciting propsect at first; but if the Greens continuously fail to deliver, some of this group might just get sick of voting for them and find something else to do.
Platform Readers
Believe it or not, some people pay close attention to parties’ platforms; and those who read the Greens’ might be in for pleasant surprises. It’s not just an environmental party, as its former leader’s avowed “ecological conservatism” illustrated. The party has one foot in sustainable environmentalism and the other in fairly conservative fiscal policy. That’s a combination likely to resnate with a large and growing portion of the electorate; but due to the Greens’ low profile and past focus on democratic reform, the only representatives of that potential constituency come from the slender overlap with thorough investigators.
Greens
There are always partisans. There are people who believe in the Green movement, period. These aren’t just voters who happen to have read campaign materials — they’re committed to the party and its global charter. This group is hard to target for growth, but will grow through mere exposure if the Greens can increase the size of their other constituencies.
Friends and Family
Seem silly? Not as silly as you might think. If you run 308 candidates, and each one can draw a mere 100 supporters from friends, family, co–workers and acquaintances, you’ve got 31,108 votes. That’s roughly 5% of the party’s total draw in 2006. Considering that their vote total grew by a bit over 81,000 votes from 2004 to 2006, consider the possibility that strong candidates, either popular people or people actually from the communities in question, could have significantly increased their support. And remember, strong candidates, with proven track records and strong local recognition can sometimes carry a riding.

So what’s the best way to go?

For the Environmentalists, there’s not much to be added to the Greens’ draw. Establishing working relationships with environmental groups might provide a small increase, but many of those groups may be hostile to overt political alliances. This is likely already the biggest group of supporters; but isn’t likely to grow by very much.

The Democratic Rebels are a tough group to court. If the Greens succeed in satisfying them, the cause disappears; and there’s no guarantee that they’ll keep dancing with the lady that brung them. More importantly, those of them whose protesting support is secured by the party’s political weakness will disappear as the party grows in strength. Combine that with the fact that other parties support this same reforms, and you can see why this isn’t the best group to target, either.

There’s not much you can do to increase the number of people who research campaigns thoroughly; but the Greens’ success with this group conceals the party’s real strength for the future: its platform. The Chilly Wonk’s not the first to notice, but the party’s combination of fiscal and ecological conservation is probably going to appeal to the largest constituency of Canadian voters for the next half-century or so.

The problem is in taking advantage of that. The party needs to find ways to get people interested in their ideas — to draw them in to what it’s doing and make them pay attention to the broad strokes of its platform. The whole “candidate in every riding” may have worked in 2004, when the party increased its support dramatically; but that growth stalled in 2006, and in both elections was limited by the tightness of the race and the strategic voting which resulted. Had there been less at stake, the public would have paid more attention.

The party’s new leader, Elizabeth May, has a few ideas. She plans to take up a post in the Commons gallery, just as Jack Layton did before he won a seat. That will put her in a position to provide timely commentary (if the media pays attention), and draw attention to the party’s platform.

The difficult part may be Ms May’s approach to the platform. The Greens have the global charter to rely on and an attractive platform from the 2006 election (which was grossly overshadowed by the Mr. Harris’s focus on electoral unfairness). Ms May’s first substantive announcement (renegotiation of NAFTA) doesn’t do much to draw attention to either of their policy strengths — it comes off more strongly as an appeal to vague anti-Americanism, which is a crowded standpoint in Canadian politics.

Moreover, despite a campaign platform less than a year old, Ms May is concerned with the need for a new one:

Ms. May promised during her campaign to hold policy sessions across the country and to call on experts to put together a comprehensive platform with new ideas.

“The traditional parties look at polls and do focus groups and establish their priorities that way, so they are missing out on innovative new ideas,” she said in an interview Friday.

“We’ll put a cost our proposals. We’ll have solid numbers, as opposed to just saying we are committed to being revenue neutral, like we did in the last election.”

Ms. May, 52, former director of the Sierra Club, called for party unity and said it must build a strong platform well before the next election. She said some voters have chosen the Greens only as a protest vote.

“What we need to do is clearly build a method and a platform so that they are not voting for ‘none of the above’ but so that they are voting for ‘all my dreams,’ ” May said.

She’s right about the protest vote, but dead wrong if she thinks the Greens are deficient in policy. A more cynical writer might suggest that, given her background as an activist and environmentalist, she’s keen on rebranding the platform to draw focus away from its fiscal roots. Drawing environmental activists into the party (a likely possibility, given her own ascendance) would make this task easier.

But it would run the risk of making the Greens a one-issue party. Jim Harris did that, but did so with an issue (democratic reform) that doesn’t really alienate those who disagree. A party that puts the environment first without giving equal weight to other aspects of issues is a party with some upward potential, but a fairly low ceiling when it comes to support. The majority of people may be concerned about the environment, but that doesn’t mean they want an environmental party — it means that they want a party that shares their concerns.

If this is May’s intention, then she may provide the Greens with a long-term niche. But it will be a small niche, drawing some support away from the NDP and very little from other parties. Given the potential of the party’s broader and more complete policy spectrum, such an outcome would be a real shame, and could secure the party’s long-term irrelevance in exchange for scant short-term benefits (modest increases in popular vote count).

And it doesn’t have to be this way. However misleading Jim Harris’s claims of nationwide support might have been (a practice of misrepresentation which, the Globe and Mail points out, Ms May seems likely to continue), the party can’t afford not to run candidates in every riding now. To do otherwise would look like a defeat. What it can try to do, though, and should, is garner a real electoral victory in the present system — a seat.

Its focus on nationwide representation drew its attention away from the process of candidate selection in the past. A victory for the Greens will require just that kind of attention to detail. The party should focus its attention on the search for a popular, high-profile candidate from a riding where it has enjoyed strong support and is faced with no comparable candidates. The party’s performances in BC make it the most likely place for such a breakthrough. The artlessly-named British Columbia Souther Interior might be a likely candidate if a suitable candidate can be found.

The advantages of such an approach are straightforward. The Greens are unlikely to enjoy a higher level of support than 10% without changing public perception of the party from an “environmental” group. Besides which, modest growth in popular support won’t be anywhere near as impressive as taking a seat in Parliament. It’s a qualitatively different achievement, and one the party hasn’t previously been able to point to. “Greens win a seat” is a better headline than “Green support grows again”.

Which is important because a strong news story generates additional publicity, giving the party an opportunity to show off both their strategic organization (hallmark of a serious contender) and their substantive policies. But the real benefit would be having a voice in Parliament, and in days of minority government, a single MP’s position on issues can become a matter for significant scrutiny. What better way to show off the party’s platform than by (potentially) affecting the balance of power?

Of course, the Green Party could hold out for proportional representation and focus on increasing its popular vote total. So far, voters in Canada haven’t clearly supported proportional representation, so it could be some time before the party’s polling numbers are converted into Commons representation. If the party feels its continued martyrdom at the altar of democratic reform is crucial to the cause, so be it. Just remember — martyrs usually have to die; and Green is the colour of growth.

Opportunistic Words1

Posted by JJ in Doubletake/Doubletalk, Strategic Planning (Wednesday August 30, 2006 at 8:45 am)

Potential Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff was finally asked the hard question: are you only in this for the chance to be Prime Minister? Of course, that’s translated from the original mediaspeak: will you run for the Liberals again if you lose the leadership race?

It’s an interesting question because it would seem to ignore both Mr. Ignatieff’s prior involvement with the party (as a volunteer with the Pearson and Trudeau campaigns in the 60’s) and the fact that he probably wasn’t expecting this situation when he was drafted by Paul Martin’s government to displace a perfectly suitable MP. He couldn’t have accepted Etobicoke-Lakeshore believing that he’d be running for the leadership today, could he?

Still, it’s his answer that’s really striking:

I’d like to serve my constituents well, but you’re asking me an anticipatory hypothetical about the situation that prevails on the 3rd or 4th of December.

Because stringing long words together to duck a question makes you look like a courageous intellectual. Funny, the Frosty Wonk thought he didn’t like to equivocate.

But he’s right. How dare the media (much less the party he wants to run) question his committment! After all, there was nothing opportunistic in his moving back to Canada only two months before being parachuted into a riding by a sitting Prime Minister. And besides which, as Ignatieff himself points out, there are ways other than sitting as an MP to help the party:

When I go into rooms people are glad I’m in the room because they’ve read stuff I wrote which contributed to their sense of what it is to be a Liberal and what Liberal philosophy is. There are all kinds of ways I can serve the party.

It seems the man just can’t express himself without being inspiring. Certainly, the term “Liberal philosophy” doesn’t figure prominently in reviews of his work (at least not compared to words like “dense” and “legalistic”). But it’s good to know that his mere presence can raise the spirits of the minds he helps to create. Now, can he lead them effectively?

Is that drivel? It’s hard to tell in this context.

But translated from its dense, legalistic form, Mr. Ignatieff’s answer seems clear enough: “If I don’t get elected leader, I’ll go back to writing books in a tenured academic post.”

If so, why wait?

Simply Useless0

Posted by JJ in Strategic Planning, Golden Tacks (Sunday August 27, 2006 at 7:43 pm)

It’s been a tough ride, of late, for the scientific community. A resurgent backlash surrounding evolution, alleged hush campaigns against climatologists, and now, a stirring conflict over the celestial status of Pluto, a thousand-kilometre-wide ball several billions of kilometres away.

It’s enough to make some think that science (which, if you remember your pop culture right involves lots of big words, scanning things, and illuminated glassware) is losing some kind of battle. And they’re right. The problem is that they don’t seem to understand why they’re losing; and the reason is: they’re not very good at translation.

The key phrase in the rise and apparent weakening of science in society is a Latin extract from a 14th-century discussion of God:

Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate

Also put as:

Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora

Which most people know as the logical principle of Occam’s razor. But what does it actually mean?

One site aimed at scientists offers the following:

Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily

Which is pretty close. The principle harkens to simplicity, and does little more than point out the fact that where you can explain something equally well using fewer concepts, arguments, or variables, you should stick with the smallest possible number. Or, as the site puts it:

The most useful statement of the principle for scientists is,

“when you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, the one that is simpler is the better.”

Which gets at the heart of the principle: its utility. Simpler explanations are better. How? Because they’re more useful. They’re easier to work with, easier to deploy, and easier to explain.

And it’s because empirical nominalist science was useful that it overcame objections, time and time again. It didn’t much matter what kind of fuss other interested parties might kick up — if you can deliver the goods in the form of better weapons, better health, and better living, you’ve got the job.

At its post-war peak (where science didn’t seem to have to have any particular purpose), books like Can Science Save Us? proposed putting the scientific method in charge of deciding everything (though it wasn’t really a new idea). There’s an echo of that blue-sky optimism in every voice that asserts researchers will find us a way out of our self-induced and other social problems.

That ironic blind faith in science continues to this day is revealed by what is glibly considered a “stronger” version of Occam’s Razor:

The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct

This “translation” is often cited. But of course, it’s not a version of Occam’s razor at all. It adds the quality of truthfulness to the explanation — something the original doesn’t claim or even consider. That’s a serious mistake.

Steinberg, in common with many anti-anti-evolutionists, points out the evidence in support of evolutionary theory as a surefire weapon against creationist forces. But evidence of that kind constitutes a claim of truthfulness; and science didn’t get to where it is by pontificating about truth — that’s what its opponents did. Science succeeded by making things work. The real problem, therefore, is that evolution doesn’t seem sufficiently useful as a scientific theory. As fascinating as it may be to piece together the heritage of lifeforms, that alone won’t beat a path to the laboratory door.

The defenders of science appear to be waking up to the fact that they need to become more politically active if they’re going to ensure a strong role for the sciences in modern Western society; but to do that effectively, they also need to confront those segments of the community who identify abstract science with big-T Truth. Arguments about whether Pluto is a planet, dwarf planet, or wonkworld* reveal what’s really going on: scientists seem to be introducing social interests to decisions that should be made on grounds of utility. The members of the International Astronomical Union actually seem to be concerned with public sentiment towards Pluto’s status, which only bolsters the argument that science should be partly based on public opinion. Small wonder, then, that the general population thinks it can micromanage biology and that private opinion is part of scientific truth.

Truth is a great thing; but it has a tendency to be passed over in favor of other things, among which utility reins supreme. An effective strategy is one that recognizes the nature of the conflict. Truth tends to be on God’s side when you’re talking with believers; and chances are it’s best left there. Do you really need truth to operate a computer? Where science needs to focus attention is on its successes. It hasn’t brought us any closer to truth, but it has brought us a lot of things we don’t sound quite so pretentious in admiring: good health, more leisure, and new opportunities. That’s not just an argument that might win out in the end — it’s an argument that would make William of Occam happy. After all, it’s a simpler explanation than why truth is important.

*Why not?

Doomed if You Do, Doomed if You Don’t0

Posted by JJ in By other means. . ., Crossroads of Culture (Saturday August 26, 2006 at 12:59 am)

Syria’s latest foray into Lebanese politics ought to send shivers up the spine of history buffs. Why? The striking parallels with the first and only opponent the United Nations has ever unequivocally sought to “finally destroy”: Nazi Germany.

No, this isn’t some over-the-top claim that Syria is as bad as Nazi Germany, whatever that means; and it shouldn’t encourage presposterous comparisons with Hitler. It’s not even a call to draw attention to the relationship between the Ba’athist regime in Syria and Nazi Germany (though that should be required research for regional commentators).

What it is about is the connection between the present situation and one of Nazi Germany’s earliest aggressive acts: the Rhineland Crisis.

The Rhineland, a German region bordering France, had been set aside as a demilitarized zone under the Treaty of Versailles and confirmed as such by Germany in the more voluntary Locarno Pact. In 1936, small numbers of German troops were moved into the Rhineland. Despite French protests and calls for military force to drive out the as-yet-smaller German army, the League of Nations preferred negotiation, leading ultimately to a promise of peace, and the reality of World War II.

But wait, cry the eager historians! Syria claims that the UN presence would be hostile! Isn’t he France here, and the UN Germany, moving potentially agressive forces into what should be a demilitarized zone?

Ah, but things go back farther still. It was, after all, the Irano-Syrian supported Hezbollah that moved troops and armaments into the area, rather than allowing the Lebanese government to take control of itself or its own territory (and continue to support that state of affairs). Those countries’ interest in fighting a war by proxy (see privateer) meant the movement and use of weapons through Lebanon, a country Syria had been dominating since its devastating Civil War.

So it was largely Syria’s support of Hezbollah both as a proxy for its war with Israel (officially in ceasefire) and as a suitable surrogate for their decreasingly-valid ADF presence in Syria (ended only recently, and that after Hezbollah had achieved domestic political authority, obviating the main rationale for a Syrian presence). Which means that Hezbollah, carrying Syrian hopes, is the occupier of the Rhineland.

There is no precedent for what UN resolution 1701 proposes in the Rhineland Crisis. It is, simply, what France demanded and failed to get in 1936 (which makes France’s present reaction all the more perverse, except, perhaps, as jilted spite). And what Syria vaguely threatens may well be worth remembering: a deployment actually trying to disarm Hezbollah could bring war, not peace to the region. But it’s worth wondering: how much of a fuss could Hitler have righteously kicked up had the League of Nations called him on things? Does Syria really have the right to complain here?

The question may prove to be whether the region is doomed to repeat history or doomed to more conflict; but the past consequences of the failure to act fuel the hope, at least, that action offers an unprecedented and sorely longed-for peace.

Misdiagnosis: Health Care0

Posted by JJ in Golden Tacks (Friday August 25, 2006 at 3:27 pm)

Sometimes people make mistakes because of wishful thinking. Sometimes, it’s because they just don’t know what’s going on. Sometimes, though, it’s an out-and-out lie.

In the face of continuing lengthy wait times, a shortage of practitioners, and soaring costs, it’s hard to deny that the Canadian health care system is in serious need of healing. Which is why the Canadian Medical Association’s policy conference was of interest.

The delegates, deeply divided over both the question of privatization and the public impression endorsement of it might give, produced three “motions”, more noteworthy for their inertness than their movement:

Today, delegates to the Canadian Medical Association policy conference in Charlottetown, said creating a parallel private system should remain an option but, minutes later, they voted down the idea of opening the door to private insurance that would allow a parallel system to exist.

They also adopted a motion calling on the CMA to “acknowledge the strengths of Canada’s publicly-funded healthcare system” and identify reforms to improve it.

Further, delegates said governments should lift the long-standing prohibition on doctors practicing in both the private and public system and said all doctors should have the right to opt-out of the public system, though not en masse.

Which the outgoing CMA President interpreted as meaning:

But what delegates did say is that they don’t want to close the door on any potential solution to improve access to our patients.

Not exactly, Dr. Collins-Nakai. What the delegates did say is twofold:

  • They won’t take an actual stand on systemic change for fear of being painted as “greedy” by patients.
  • They’d rather someone else comes up with ideas.

Which is really more passing the buck than passing a motion; but what did you expect from a policy conference? Policy? It’s plainly an attempt to maintain their position as heroes of the health care system at the potential cost of worse care for patients (unless, of course, they really don’t have any idea of what to do). Besides which, putting the profession’s public image above public concerns must be part of the hippocratic oath:

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

Or maybe not. Still, if you’re keen on physicians who won’t stand behind their convictions and prefer not to take hard decisions, it seems Canada has enough, at least, to fill a convention hall.

A Little Means a Lot0

Posted by JJ in Vague Check, Strategic Planning, Golden Tacks (Thursday August 24, 2006 at 11:38 am)

A recent spate of anti-Ignatieff messages targeted at members has the Liberal Leadership candidate’s team somewhat upset. Sure, it’s nothing new, Ignatieff’s opposition has been attacking him since the Winnepeg debate in June. But there’s something new in that response, particularly given Ignatieff’s attempts to avoid fighting with the other candidates, and it’s in a senior strategist’s response:

“. . . there are people in the Liberal Party and, make no mistake this is coming from inside the Liberal Party, who are not interested in renewal of the party,” Mr. Davey said. “. . . the fact that this kind of stuff goes on, that we have people who haven’t got the courage to put their name on something and hide behind anonymity and yet have access to memberships lists, and new memberships lists, these are the membership lists that have come out in the last 30 days, so this is coming from inside the Liberal Party.

The courage issue sure is interesting, but it’s that part at the beginning that’s curious. Is an Ignatieff strategist really suggesting that those campaigning against him are against the renewal of the party? It’s a throwaway remark, you say? Strange. . .those are usually the most telling. What it shows is a remarkable kind of arrogance in Ignatieff’s team — and one that fits in with other aspects of their campaign.

Let’s not be mistaken, Michael Ignatieff has a number of good qualities, chief among which, as one blogger pointed out long ago, is the fact that his positions seem grounded in something other than political expedience.

But, of course, one might demand at least a little bit of expedience from a would-be leader.

Instead, there seems to be an arrogant detachment. Consider:

Early remarks about esoteric management principles in response to a request for comments on a convention
Proper Response: Anything about the people, rather than about how you go about controlling them. Oh, and literary references should be limited either to current bestsellers (Bible excluded) or classics available in comic-book form
Avoiding taking shots at competing candidates while they attack him
Proper Response: If you’re really that confident as a frontrunner, you don’t go negative, true. But you do go clever. Trudeau was supremely confident on many occasions, which never stopped him from getting in a good jab when things got rough. Getting in there and brawling doesn’t just make you look less like the condescending Dean from a frathouse comedy, it shows that you can attack your real political opponents without looking like a whining baby; and that’s important, too.
Fundamentally stupid remarks on the conflict in Lebanon
Proper Response: If the Chilly Wonk knew that, he’d be over there right now working on it. But this much is for sure: it’s not an off-the-cuff demonstration of professional appreciation of military necessity coupled with personal indifference to human life.

In the light of which, it’s conceivable that the man and his team consider themselves the renewal of the party. But surely that’s nonsense. Besides which, why the renewal of the party would be stopped by negative internal attacks is hard to gauge — there’s unlikely ever to be a leadership race without such things; and if their complaint is with the use of membership lists, they’d do well to remember that more restrictive control of membership lists is not the best strategy for strengthening parties.

But above all, why respond to the same kind of negative campaigning you’ve faced all along with a farcically broad, silly, and arrogant smear of your opponents?

Naughty, Naughty0

Posted by JJ in Bad Press (Wednesday August 16, 2006 at 7:30 pm)

Some folks just never learn:

Clinton Demands Action

You’d think that the trouble from his previous attempts to get some might have cooled his passion somewhat, but no.

Either that or the Globe needs to be just a bit more careful with its headline-writing.

Before the Fall0

Posted by JJ in The Other America, Golden Tacks (Sunday August 13, 2006 at 8:19 am)

An elegant tribute, released in today’s Star, draws the eye to a confounding problem: the leadership of great men.

Alexandre Trudeau points, quite rightly, to Fidel Castro’s genius, energy, and drive — those things, which, with his lengthy grip on power, mark him as a leader in the “great man” cast.

The leadership of great men is often admired. We think in awe on the giants of the past — our Alexanders, Napoleons, and our Kennedys. Trudeau prefers the term “patriarch”, which comes as no surprise to those whose memories of his father make the term more resonant. But there is a haunting danger behind that term, as there is behind the leadership of great men. It is a danger of confusion.

True, one can hardly act as a society without, at times, resorting to entrust the helm to a single man. Republican Rome had its dictators, the Iroquoi their war chiefs, and the Long Parlliament John Pym. But in the elevation of a single person to act for all the rest lies a terrible danger: that someone will confuse the one with the other.

When is the mission that of the great man and when is it that of society? When refugees flee Castro’s Cuba, do we turn them back and point to the genius of their leader? Is the educated cigar-roller Trudeau points to too bound up by Castro’s vision of society to use his knowledge to forge his own life? Whatever the moral outrage we feel at the United States for its treatment of Cuba, at what point is the pride of a nation worth its poverty and dissatisfaction? Isn’t “we can’t let them win” an equally foolish and prideful statement of self-destruction regardless of moral overtones? Is there something to be learned from Michael Jackson?

But before those questions can be answered, a more important one must lead: is it the pride of the nation that creates such stubbornness, or is it the pride of its leader? Was it the difference between Quebec and the Federal government which so strained relations between Rene Levesque and Pierre Trudeau, or was it the difference between the men? Is it Cuba and the United States that cannot bear to reconcile, or is it Castro and Congress?

Genius does not make it more difficult to work for another’s interest — not of itself. But focusing on that genius and the men and women who exemplify it to us blinds us to the fact that however alluring it is, genius is no more a gift than beauty of any other kind. Put to good use, it becomes worthy of our gratitude in addition to our praise; put to bad use, our praise can be drowned in howls of agony.

And the tragedy is that the good purposes of such genius are no different from those of any other human serving her society — the careful quest for the public good instead of the insistent imposition of personal bias. Basking in the glory of genius, we far too easily assume its agenda for ourselves. The charismatic leader, wittingly or not, makes his cause tempting by association; and it is hard to leave the side of a woman you admire. We are too often blinded by the sparkle of brilliance to properly question its use. And the genius is no less needful of such questioning than any other man. Neither, tragically, is he any less immune to the dangers of flattery.

It is hard to imagine how history could be rewritten — how our lives would change and whether we might be better off had things been otherwise. But there is good cause to wonder whether we should end by praising leaders who leave society so badly off for having the very qualities that might have made it better.

A cult of genius is the seed of tyranny; and we should remember how little help it was when, amid the thunderous applause of society’s strength, only a single voice was heard to whisper: “Remember you are nothing but a man.”

Foreign Dependencies1

Posted by JJ in Doubletake/Doubletalk, Crossroads of Culture (Friday August 11, 2006 at 2:05 pm)

It’s not every day that Canadian politicians fall over themselves to speak of bi- (or even multi-) partisanship. That’s why it’s nice to hear Liberal MP Wajid Khan explain his new post advising his political rivals in the expected terms:

Khan has said he sees no problem with working for the prime minister because the crisis in the Middle East transcends political affiliations.

But there’s just one problem:

“It is not Liberal or Conservative, it is a Canadian issue,” he said. “It is, going forward, what Canada can do? How can we go forward, medium and long term? That is what we are going for.”

No, it isn’t. Canada isn’t any country’s father, mother, or legal guardian; and the idea that it’s somehow the responsibility of Canada when Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and Iran can’t play nicely is a load just wide enough to stay out of the UN’s doors. If there are people who left those countries to live in Canada who think that they have a right to fight old enemies by proxy in or through the country, it’s about time they were disabused of the notion.

It’s not a Canadian issue that these countries are incapable of negotiating peacefully rather than striking, retreating, and playing the victim like a child at his worse. And much as Canada needs more children, it prefers the kind that eventually grow up. The United Nations isn’t supposed to be a club where little kids ask bigger kids to protect them from one another — it’s supposed to be a meeting of equals.

You can’t make peace for other people any more than you can grow up for them; and Canada must be careful not to further succour the hurt dependency theory of third world countries. Victimizing people isn’t productive, and at some point, that crying kid has to learn to suck it up, play properly, and take responsibility for his role in the matter.

Now wouldn’t it be nice if Canadian politicians took a non-partisan stand on things that actually were Canadian issues?