Vulcan first contact

February 21st, 2009
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What better day than President Obama’s visit to write about Michael Ignatieff? Dr.J. forced himself to read last week’s lengthy MacLean’s interview with the federal Liberal leader, first because he knew the questions would be good, but also to try to (not “try and”) learn something. Remarkable, hey?

Interestingly, Mr.I. referred to himself in his book Blood and Belonging as “an alien” within Canada, and in the interview as a spectator through all the years he lived overseas. This is quite evident in the odd, detached way he refers to Britain and the U.S. in MacLean’s. It’s as if he were an intercivilizational archeologist, perhaps beamed down from a Vulcan space craft, dispassionately examining specimens of self-evidently inferior species – purely out of intellectual curiosity and with absolutely no stake in the outcome.

He declares himself mystified at the political debates in England and the U.S. Of the former, he says, “Where are these people coming from? Why don’t they understand what we in Canada understand about multicultural societies?” Of the latter, “Why are they banning stem cell research? How is this great republic engaged in policies which just wouldn’t get to first base in Canada?” Why indeed. Clearly no reason to “celebrate diversity” of ideas, viewpoints or approaches.

Unfortunately, this attitude is consistent with our garden-variety intellectuals. Some are so limited in the scope of their domestic intellectual intercourse that, when abroad, they merely stay within the clan without grasping issues beyond their ken. Convinced they embody wordly sophistication, instead they carry their intellectual consensus with them, much as the stereotypical American tourists whom they loathe seek out McDonald’s wherever they travel.

Thus could a Globe and Mail columnist recently “discover” that there were three critics of President Obama’s – all much farther to the left than he! Apparently the 50 million or so who voted for John McCain don’t exist, or aren’t critics, just supporters a bit slow in coming around. Imagine the shock of these Canadian thinkers should they find out that there are educated people in their own country who don’t subscribe to their “consensus”.

Not surprisingly, Mr. I.’s detachement from the broader world continues in a discussion of his prospective relations with Quebec. When asked about things on which the federal government could work with the province he mentions that, “We’ve been talking about this darn Quebec City to Windsor train for 30 years, why don’t we do it? So there’s an opportunity.” Yeah, there’s a realistic opportunity all right.

The reason it’s never been done is it’s a multi-billion dollar fiscal and political boondoggle that would make Mirabel airport look like a picnic. With thousands of miles of roads and as many bridges and overpasses – including the nation’s densest collection of freeways, much of it funded courtesy of the federal(ist) taxpayer – crumbling to dust, I guess Quebeckers could just take the train. That would be easier than the mundane work of fixing existing infrastructure.

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By John Weissenberger and George Koch
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