Dissecting the last disaster, denying the next one

May 21st, 2007
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Two side-by-side articles in the National Post a few days ago illustrated the paralyzing and often deadly hold political correctness has on elites in western countries – with Canada not only not exempt from this trend, but a leading example.

On one page was the continuation of the latest in a long line of articles on the Air India disaster. The inquiry by Mr. Justice John Major has provided numerous and widely differentiated examples of officials shrinking from taking decisive action over what were repeated and increasingly acute indicators that something bad was in continually advancing states of planning.

While some, like former Liberal minister and NDP premier of B.C. Ujjal Dosanjh, have accused Canadian officials of failing to act due to racism, the preponderance of evidence suggests that a powerful driver was the near-opposite impulse: a reluctance to act openly against members of a racial minority for fear of appearing racist. Hence the virtually free hand Sikh radicals had in “their” “community” – to the detriment of many law-abiding Sikhs who sought to foil the radicals’ designs.

On the same page as this Air India story was a news account of a recent forum on security for McMaster University’s nuclear research reactor.

At this forum several people raised explicit concerns about the risks being taken by allowing apparent immigrants from terrorism-sponsoring countries to work as technicians/scientists on the reactor. Those raising concerns included a person of Syrian background, who issued an impassioned warning: “I could be a jihadist, who would know?” Security officials, he said, “need to think like a terrorist not a Canadian.”

While some of the concerns may have been expressed in a somewhat coarse or over-generalized way, the reaction to them was pathetic.

The best that Alan Graham, acting director of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, could seemingly muster was: “Racial and religious stereotyping are objectionable.” His bromide was echoed by in even more sanctimonious terms by McMaster’s president.

Let’s see. Graham heads an organization with the words “Nuclear” and “Safety” in the name, a title that’s at least somewhat suggestive of the organization’s mandate, and the topic that should occupy the bulk of the man’s thoughts during his paid working time. But he seems to see his main task as clucking moralistically over politically incorrect statements and ensuring that his “safety” related tasks are not polluted by even the merest whiff of racism or profiling – let alone decisive action against identifiable individuals. Maybe that’s the “Canadian” part of his mandate.

Surely this is a working definition of political correctness run amuck: when even the safety of a nuclear device – the kind of thing that obsessed the minds of the western world’s Left for much of the Cold War – is as nothing against the highest demands of the tolerant post-modern society: ensuring that no one, not even those who pilot airliners into the sides of buildings, is at risk of feeling offended.

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