Turning self-hatred into a state creed (National Post April 9, 2008)
Barbara Kay, National Post
Published: Wednesday, April 09, 2008
This week, the National Post comment pages present Canada's Biggest Mistake, a series of articles in which our columnists identify the most disastrous blunders imposed on this country by its policy-makers. In today's instalment, Barbara Kay writes about the sour, divisive legacy of multiculturalism.
In a speech delivered during the 2006 Liberal leadership campaign, Michael Ignatieff cheerfully remarked: "The great achievement of Canada, and I think we're already there, is that in Canada you're free to choose your belonging."
Mr. Ignatieff continues to astonish me in so many ways. In this instance, I ask myself: How can a man live in a foreign country for -- how many was it? Thirty years? -- then cast a gimlet eye over the political lay of the land, and in just three little words cut to the very marrow of Canada's greatest mistake: "Choose your belonging!"
Mr. Ignatieff is not like you and me. Mr. Ignatieff is an intellectual. He believes that the narrow confines of a single national loyalty would cramp his own beautiful mind and, philosophical Lord Bountiful that he is, he shares his hermeneutical largesse with all Canadians.
I must reluctantly concede that he has hit upon a fitting revisionist motto, though, for nowadays "From sea to shining sea" isn't a patch for succinctness and veracity on "Choose Your Belonging."
Mr. Ignatieff naughtily pulled his punches in his elaboration, however, hedging with: "You can be a Quebecer first and Canadian second, or Canadian first and Quebecer second -- in the order that suits you."
Do admit, Mr. Ignatieff, you were a tad disingenuous there. For if you had been more candid and less focused on harvesting votes in Quebec at the time, that speech would have run on a bit.
For the full multicultural Monty in the rest of Canada, you would have added such inconvenient "belongings" as (yes, of course, I mean the Khadr family): "You can be a Pakistani al-Qaeda supporter first and a Canadian second, a Hindu-hostile Sikh first and a Canadian second, an aboriginal, a woman, a black or a gay first and a Canadian second-- really, the personal being the political, as moral relativists are so fond of repeating -- Canada: it's all about you, you, you.
"In the order that suits you." Indeed. No one-size-fits-all patriotism here at the Postmodern Canada Hotel and Grill. No sir. No madame. Patriotism? That's -- how do zee French say eet -- oh yes, so much le simplisme. It's so -- patronizing, so 19th-century, so white-heterosexual-European, yes?
We're here to serve you, and ensure you have a pleasant, worry-free stay. Your family is our family. Our family is not your problem.
Visit our "belonging" boutiques, where even the most discerning shopper will find a set of values or customs -- or laws! -- to accommodate his or her old-country habits. Too long? Too short? Free repairs and alterations!
Don't like our marriage and divorce laws? Use yours! Don't like our languages? Don't learn them! Don't like our foreign policy? Instead of joining the Armed Forces where you have no choice where you fight, join the Reserves, where you get to match up your deployment with your "belonging"!
Do our money-lending rules offend your religious sensibilities? We're sorry. Perhaps we'll try the Islamic system, as The Globe's Sheema Khan suggested this past weekend.
Multiculturalism is Canada's greatest mistake, but if it is any consolation, it is every Western country's greatest mistake. And now some of them are paying a terrible price. If I have to elaborate on the names Pim Fortuyn, Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, then you just haven't been paying attention.
The official idea behind multiculturalism was that cultural diversity would make us all better people. It would enrich our drably homogeneous social fabric, encourage tolerance and combat hatred. The happy surface of multiculturalism is a street-enlivening diversity of skin hues, native fabrics, with a panoply of foreign cuisines on every corner-- shawarma, pad thai, falafel, tandoori goat -- not to mention the feel-good, meticulously painted-by-number rainbow of visible minorities one sees working in government agencies, non-profit organizations and university equity offices.
The underside of multiculturalism is its ideological root in West-bashing. Sometime around 1960, it was determined by a few French intellectuals (whose unintelligible gibberish other intellectuals pretended to understand) that the greatest criminals against humanity in the history of the world weren't the Nazi and Communist murderers of 100 million people. Rather, it was European colonialists, who imposed their cultural values on their captive audience.
Even though Canada was a colony itself, and had never indulged in imperialism of any kind, Canadians were informed they must share in the blame because of their religious, racial and cultural association with former colonialists.
Multiculturalism is idealistic in theory, but its real effect has been the entrenchment in our intellectual and cultural elites of an unhealthy obsession with a largely phantom racism amongst heritage Canadians that no amount of penance or cultural self-effacement can ever transcend.
In its ideological insistence on the equal value of all cultures other than ours (ours being the sole inferior one), multiculturalism's main "accomplishment" has been to instill self-loathing in heritage Canadians, a sense of responsibility-free entitlement in identity groups and the suffocation of critical diversity in the public form.
Let Mr. Ignatieff visit Quebec City, and he'll be surrounded by Canadian citizens who consider themselves Quebecers first and Canadians second (if at all). Let him visit any urban centre and he'll find plenty of Canadian citizens who consider themselves something-else first and Canadians second.
Indeed, thanks to multiculturalism, there's only one little piece of Canada where Mr. Ignatieff is assured of finding a critical mass of fellow citizens who, in "choosing their belonging," only chose Canada.
That little piece of Canada is Kandahar, Afghanistan. And that, my fellow Canadians (or insert-loyalty-plus-hyphen-here-Canadians) is all you need to know to concede that the imposition of multiculturalism on a once-proud nation of patriots was Canada's greatest mistake.
Yoni Goldstein on publicly-funded university education