Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lil' Red Riding Hood and The Lone Wolf

           Justin Trudeau has the good looks of his mother and her genes evidently dominate also in setting limits to his cranial capacity.  In the best imitation of his dad’s stern face with which he announced the War Measures Act in Quebec 1970, Justin attempted to give vent to his outrage at the murders of the two soldiers that shook Canada last week.  Problem is Pierre Elliott’s anger was not staged; his contempt for the miscreants oozed through the pores of his skin. You did not want to get on the wrong side of this guy. His defiant resolve spoke loud and clear.  This was terror and intimidation and the democratic society which his government represented would defend itself with all that was at its disposal. The speech is a classic and though I was not always on side with Trudeau’s politics, I admired his guts and the ability to inspire.  In contrast, the most charitable way to describe Justin's speech is that he was simply lost in the word-salad handed to him. 

         The circumstances of Justin’s speech as the leader of the Liberals were similar, not the same as in his dad's speech, but enough to draw significant parallels. Like the October 1970 kidnapping of Pierre Laporte (who was later murdered) and James Cross, the killings this month were a deliberate assault on the country’s sovereign powers and symbols.  The political source of the action was known.  State functionaries and the base principles on which the country operates were attacked.  Unlike 1970, where the aim of domestic terrorism was simply to force a showdown in a constituent part of the Confederation, the command structure behind the attackers last week is obscured. However, there cannot be a reasonable doubt about the motive of the actions in both instances, and their aim, in which they succeeded, to hit in a random fashion the symbols of Canadian state and thereby strike terror into the hearts of Canadians.  

(If you do not agree that the attacks had the desired effect, consider the order for the military in the wake of the incidents to restrict wearing of military uniforms, which of course means, the military has been intimidated by the attacks and believes that "hiding" the military men and women in civilian garb reduces the chances they would be attacked. This is as silly and demeaning as would be a recommendation that women wear hijabs and ankle-length dresses in response to a sexual assault on a couple of teenagers by Muslim fanatics enraged by their immodest attire).   
        The first thing to note about Justin’s speech is that the word “terror” or “terrorism”, let alone “Islamic terror(ism)” are missing in action.  Trudeau speaks of “intimidation” by the killers who are described as “criminals” and “perpetrators”. Evidently, and this is where the strange part begins, Trudeau believes and considers important to tell us that they want to “shake us” and “want us to forget ourselves”.  Forget what ?  Selon Justin, the reason for the attacks was to make us forget that:  We are a proud democracy, a welcoming and peaceful nation, and a country of open arms and open hearts. We are a nation of fairness, justice, and the rule of law. Really?  Could fooled me!  Silly old fool, I thought that the idea was to intimidate Canada into withdrawing its support of the US in an airborne military assault on a bunch of degenrate killers calling themselves Islamic State.  Isn’t that why the targets were specifically uniformed soldiers, Mr. Trudeau?  Apparently we cannot say Islamic State and it could not have been on account of our planes in Kuwait because the Liberal Party does not support whipping out our CF-18’s in response to depraved slaughter and enslavement of whole populations on a territory larger than Great Britain.  We only do humanitarian things.  So, it cannot be that they want to intimidate the Conservative government into changing its policy of support of the US military action.  Or can it? Well, if Mr. Trudeau wanted to say that he botched it completely.  But I don’t think the leader of the Liberals wanted to go there.    

       The thrust of his ideas, insofar as they have any coherence at all, seems to be that the Grits will not be “intimidated” into changing their view of the Muslim communities in Canada and on immigration.   Again, one has to question the sanity of the remarks. If anything is obvious about the motive of the assailants then it is that they would be only too happy with Mr. Trudeau who does not know (or pretends not to know) what Wahhabism is. (Watch this excellent documentary on Wahhabism in Britain from 2007 !)  The last thing they would want to do is to intimidate him and the likes of him into changing their view of the mosques they visit and where they make their political alliances. 

       This is the gist of the matter: most people who have actually looked into the problem of the radicalization of Muslim youth (and who are not part of that problem) tell us that it does not happen in isolation.  It’s not just internet but a clandestine network of contacts made typically through mosques.  The Big Bad Lone Wolf narrative is essentially false. It denies that there are vital elements in the process which are formed, as a rule, through personal, face-to-face, contacts and these contacts are made mostly at mosques. It is foolish to believe that people ready to sacrifice themselves in the name of a death cult would not make themselves known to other members of the cult and seek their approval.  This narrative is simply designed to provide blanket protection of mosques, regardless of their true colour with respect to radicalism.  It promotes the myth of “self-radicalization” No-one self-radicalizes, says Andrew McCarthy. We need to address the problem of mosques financed by foreign donations or ones which have foreign-trained imams, and ones who have known hostile disposition to the basic civil make-up of the country.  Often they like to present themselves as agents of de-radicalization. But that too is often simply a smoke-screen to win exemption from scrutiny of our National Security agencies. Surveillance of mosques with known or suspected tie to radical Islamist ideas is of utmost importance. The kerfuffle with the RCMP withdrawing its support from the anti-terror booklet by an Islamist group with ties to Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood is a case in point. We cannot have foxes in charge of the henhouse if we don't want to lose chickens.  

 As I have written previously, it is not difficult to detect Islamist ideology in presentations and communications by Muslim groups and organizations. The test of moderate Muslim faith (or any other faith FTM), acceptable to the community at large in a country like Canada is very simple.  What we cannot afford here are na├»ve, foolhardy leaders having a bloodthirsty beast staring them in the face and their response to manifest evil is making poses and saying things that make no sense at all.    

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My White Privilege, My White Ass

I consider Tarek Fatah one of the good guys and a handy one to have around. When someone tells me there are no truly moderate Muslims I usually ask if they read Tarek Fatah’s book Chasing a Mirage. They will say, no, and the argument will then end up going somewhere else.  Evidently, there are Muslims in the West who are quite happy with the Western secularist society and value its civility over the Islamist medievalist mindset that now dominates the OIC and most of the social and cultural setting of the countries where Muslims are a majority. That quite apart from the most virulent strands of jihadism that have now flooded the Web and social media and thereby acquired global following.  That there are few Muslims like Tarek Fatah is a problem but not one he and those like him can do much more about than what they are already doing, ie. putting their finger on the backwardness and nasty nature of the politicized version of their faith.  So far so good. 

      Unfortunately, it appears Mr. Fatah has a different ideological hobby-horse, one that comes from his affiliation with the Left.  The Left has traditionally tried to push social agenda, which is ok, and push with it methods of accelerating the project of social justice which, as a rule, is not ok.   It is not ok because the perception of what is socially just comes often mixed with appetite for crude revenge against those who stand, or appear to stand, in the way of progress.  Often this appetite is not altogether self-conscious but it is there and palpable if you just happen to be on the wrong side of the nomenclatura.  On top of the list is the ubiquitous charge of racism.  

     Mr. Fatah’s take seems somewhat watered down but nonetheless I take issue with it.  He tries hard to avoid the term racist and racism, and even condescends to admit that some anti-racist people are white.  But, he maintains white privilege exists, and claims to have evidence for it.  He points as an example to the case of a white lesbian couple where one of the women was impregnated by mistake by a black man’s sperm and which is now suing the lab for a pile of money.  It is not clear immediately where the privilege comes into play in the couple insisting they have been injured by the error. The other examples have to do with the amount of news coverage that the ISIS and Boko Haram beheadings of non-white people, compared to that of Americans and Brits.  Again, Mr. Fatah’s perception that this to do with the privilege of whites seems hopelessly tangential.  He argues white racism but does not want to admit it. So he misuses a narrower term used for maintaining special (privileged) status of the white race.  The charge is far-fetched. The news of the butchering of the Chinese student Jun Lin by his boyfriend Luka Magnotta in Toronto was bigger news in China than elsewhere not because of a “yellow privilege” but simply because he was Chinese so they were more interested than they would be if he was, say,  Indian.  But if Mr.Fatah wants to hear some really sorry tales of indignities that the non-Chinese suffer say in Hong Kong all he has to do is ask. It starts in restaurants, where the gwai-lo’s (faceless devils, as the whiteys are called there) will be served out of turn.  I think Mr. Fatah makes the classical mistake of reading the natural human propensity to favour members of their own family, clan, nation, race over outsiders of these groups as evidence of discrimination, and with respect to the last of these, as a member of a racial minority in a very hospitable country like Canada falsely equates with some specific social “ill” which he chooses to call white privilege 

   Yes of course, we all have some horrifically banal tales of discrimination but some of us just have built a natural thick skin against it and would not dream creating political issues out of it. Especially, since in the bigger picture, these are minor irritants.  I remember working at the Department of Health in the 1990’s where charges of nepotism were regularly raised against this or that group. Indeed it defies logic that say one large family from Punjab would produce five biologists (or 55.6% of the senior researchers in the division) specializing in water pollutants capable winning a fair competition against all other applicants from all other ethnic groups in the cultural mosaic of Canada . Especially since three of them were not even biologists.  This was corrected eventually when complaints piled up, but all the same. Nepotism exists and doubtless some of it will enrage people trained to see injustices only to their own kind.  They will look for causes which are simply not there.

    I also find interesting the rationale that the columnist invents for the existence of this noxious phenom of white privilege. He says, it is not the fault of the person born white.  It is the product in part of what he calls white accomplishment. It goes like this: from Socrates to Thomas Payne, the Wright brothers to the Nobel Foundation, our contemporary civilization, undoubtedly has a (white) European foundation. Thank you very much, I think I am speaking for all us white folks when I say we are flattered to death.  But wait a sec !  Could it not just have happened that the cultural genus of a rational organization of society opened up in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean. No ?  It did not happen because the people there were white. Or did it ? Actually, if the racially obsessed feels the content of melatonin in one’s skin is a measure of cultural and scientific accomplishment, then the darker Europeans would be closer to madam Blavatsky’s Aryan stock of India than to the paleface of the Franks, Teutons and Vikings.  No-one of any intellectual weight claims, or has ever claimed, in this white privileged Europe (or America), that the superiority of this culture is due to the race of its practitioners. And strange as it may sound it is because reason has no colour (or for that matter, gender) identity.  Indeed, it is by no accident that the white European age of Enlightment’s first work of note, Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes happened to be a biting satire of the excessive cultural self-approbation. Interesting that the genius chose the backward Persians to pillory the French for their lack of enlightened governance, eg. Usbek’s appraisal of the French king: The king of France is an old man. We have no instance in our history of a monarch that has reigned so long. They say he possesses to an extraordinary degree the talent of making himself obeyed. He governs with the same ability his family, his court, his state. He has often been heard to say that of all the governments of the world, that of the Turks or that of our own August sultan pleased him most, so greatly he affected the oriental style of politics.   

     So, there is no white privilege as far as I am concerned and to look for it one will have to blind oneself to the obvious: such terminus technicus is around only to assert that other races deserve to be more privileged than the paleface.  One only needs to take a look at the affirmative practices of the federal and provincial governments (graphically conveyed in the pictures above) to get the idea who and what purpose the scheme serves. In the communist country I grew up in, they called it nomenclatura.  Of course, it was not racial but class identity, but if you think the the commissars intended to remove discrimination by way of preferential policy to certain social segments, you are simply wrong. They only wanted to reverse it!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

And In Kiev We Have an Uncle !

     I don't believe Winston Churchill's confession about Russia appearing to him a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.  It was play-acting, putting on he did not understand that Stalin was a Bolshevik, who signed a pact with Hitler to postpone an ideological war against Russia which both he and Churchill knew was coming. Winston showed he had firm grasp of the historical strategic interests of Russia in the next few sentences of that broadcast on the day Hitler invaded Poland:

......but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest of the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan States and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south eastern Europe,  That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.
Thus, my friends, at some risk of being proved wrong by events, I will proclaim tonight my conviction that the second great fact of the first month of the war is that Hitler, and all that Hitler stands for, have been and are being warned off the east and the southeast of Europe.

    Winston Churchill knew his geopolitics; the gynocracy that rules the latter US State Department does not. They say things to Russians for which the Moskali have a clever old saying that goes like: "In the garden we have edelberry; and in Kiev an uncle".  The adage does not lend itself to an easy translation. It is a mocking paraphrase of someone who is full of herself, puts on airs, talks nonsense, gets lost in her own fantastic schemes.  It seems tailor-made for the US/EU posturing on Ukraine.
      Most Americans, in their arrogance and ignorance do not quite appreciate how lucky they are to have someone like Putin calling the shots in the Kremlin and not, some swell-head driven by an ideology, politically or religiously in a fundamental conflict of values with the West, and seeing himself the chosen figure to bring in a messianic kingdom, the Mahdi's rule in the end of days or a historically inevitable workers' paradise.  Of course, this appears to be talking edelberry to the likes of Susan, Samantha,Victoria or for that matter, to the martyred first lady and feminist presidential redeemer to come, Hillary Rodham-Clinton.  Ergo they, and their drone John Kerry,  will reply by pledge of support to their uncle in Kiev.

          The Ukraine narrative of the State Department and the MSM did not make any sense to begin with. The few wise old owls in the States and in Europe said so from the start in February and never wavered. Kissinger pointed out that this foreign policy adventure (like some others recently) lacks a clear objective, a clear-headed end strategy. Klaus (yes, him again) thinks this the unfolding of events in Ukraine are the greatest political tragedy of post-WWII Europe.  The former Czech president and the anti-EU conservative maverick calls the late  western lying about Russia monstrous.  If one may put it more politely, they are stupid

         Not always stupid, mind you. The reports of mass graves with hundreds of bodies of Russian-speaking civilians that Churkin and Lavrov claimed last week seem greatly exaggerated and one of the war tales that take on life of their own. There were dozens of civilians reported shot by the Ukrainian paramilitaries in Maiuopol last May.  It turned out to be less than a dozen.  But the fact remains that Donetsk and part of Lugansk have been shelled by the Ukrainian military and the Kiev paramilitaries since the ceasefire in what appears to be deliberate targeting of civilians.  That part cannot be denied or obscured by obnoxious formulas that makes the two sides equally guilty of violations. There is also the shameful silence on the hugely disproportionate number of Russian-speaking civilians among the victims. This omission looks like a sly suggestion that the innocent dead are victims of the pro-Russian "terrorists" who are in reality militias protecting the Russian speakers against the politics of ethnic cleansing (whether by intimidating them to leave for Russia, or by anti-Russian legislation that would deprive of political rights and their ethnic identity). That this is not some Moscow brewed propaganda kasha would be apparent to anyone who listens to debates in the Ukrainian parliament for one hour or less. 

       In no country which is a member of the European Union, or aspires to be one, a brutal suppression of an ethnic minority would be tolerated.  Unless of course it happens to be one which is Serbian or Russian. To those two, different sets of rules apply. Before the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 there were approximately two hundred thousand Serbs in Kosovo. There are twenty five thousand left today. The tragic fate of the Kosovan Serbs prompted even an deep-in-the-wool Serb hater like the ITCY prosecutor Carla del Ponte to revise her view, and speak out against the NATO sponsored Atrocity-aspiring-to-be-a-European-State that is Kosovo.

    Or Ukraine.  Russia is that country's small problem. The much bigger problem is essentially a lack of a vision that could make it a functioning, prosperous modern state. What continually destabilizes Ukraine is not Russia but its internal identity crisis, a series of obsessive campaigns to redefine itself as a monolithic national whole. The only sustained theme of this struggle is a desire to be "not Russia", which is of course what all countries once dominated by Russia want to be. In the family of the Slavic nations perhaps only the Southern Slavs, namely the Serbs, Macedonians, and Bulgarians do not have a built-in defense reflex against Russia's quest of Euro-Asian hegemony.  There are two problems however which make Ukraine's version of it more prominent. One, the cultural and historical bond with Russia is much longer lasting than other nations', with the Russian state actually originating in the Kievan Rus and pushing eastward. Second, there is a large Russian speaking minority in Ukraine, and beyond that another, much larger segment of people who are ethnic Ukrainians who speak both languages but prefer using Russian for business and convenience. It is estimated that around 50% of the country stills speaks Russian or both languages at home.  Culturally also, Ukraine appears to be joined to Russia at the hip, with a number of Ukrainian writers and playwrights still preferring Russian. In the Galician (western Ukrainian) version of national identity, people who do not write in Ukrainian would not be considered Ukrainians, but that is not the view of most other compatriots. There are ongoing squabbles about Nikolai Gogol's nationality, even though all of his celebrated work was in Russian. The Bard of Ukraine, Taras Shevchenko composed in both languages, though his diaries and most of his personal correspondence was in Russian. 

          So, to begin with, the project of some ethnically pure laine Ukrainian nationality is a dubious undertaking which will be resisted by vast segments of the population, whether it be enshrining Russian as a second official language of Ukraine (Yanukovich's project which he abandoned) or, conversely, drastically curtailing the toleration for the use of the Russian language.  However, the language question is only scratching the surface.  In an able brief on the major political challenges the country faces Vaclav Klaus pointed to the artificiality of the state, stitched together as it were from different ethnographic regions, with varied historical loyalties and religious affiliations.  This goes beyond different dialects of the Ukrainian language. There does not seem to be a uniting motive other that essentially the negative theme of not wanting to be Russian, or to be dominated by Russia, or to be dismembered by Russia, in short of seeing Russia as the source of all of Ukraine's current misery. In a telling little incident in the Ukraine parliament not too long ago the current mechanics of destabilization have been beautifully illustrated.   They have nothing to do with Russia. The two actors are both anti-Russian: the one punched in the face a well-known political provocateur hurling insults at the bigger guy telling him to go and fight terrorists in Donbas. The puncher is affiliated with the supporters of the most prominent of the anti-Russian oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoiskij. 

       Which brings us to the biggest problem of Ukraine since it emerged as an independent state in the post-Soviet era.  It is a country dominated by oligarchs and political operators. In many ways it resembles Russia under Yeltsin, dragged into interminable fights for dominance by the top dogs, out to get as much of the piece of action as possible. The MSM in the West have no inkling of the behind-the-scenes manoeuvering of the political blocks around the huge concentration of money in the country. Or perhaps the do but they are not telling. At any rate, the system is well-known to people who follow events in that part of the world.

      How do the Russians see all of this ?  In absorbing several discussions on Rossiya 1 TV channel from the last month, I was surprised to find out that there is a general consensus around key issues. The Russian hyper-nationalists (who want "re-unification" with the cradle of Great Russia) were generally held in check. Most participants (well known figures in Russian political debates, academics and writers), seem resolutely against any kind of  "pan-Slavic brotherhood" of the sort that is falsely imputed to Putin by the western politicos and their media butlers. They are nearly unanimous in supporting the idea of a federated Ukraine, as they are against the continuation of the war in the East.  Surprisingly, one of the loudest "hawks" in Russia, the vice-chairman of the State Duma, Vladimir Zhirinovsky showed up consistently as a peace-maker and made a really uncharacteristic statement that "the worst peace (!) with Kiev is better than war".  (I think this was posturing but all the same !)  In the exchanges with the Ukrainian guests, there were some heated debates. The rep of Putin's party was attacked for the alleged use of Russian troops and for supplying the rebels with heavy weaponry. The response was predictable: "prove it !"  The argument that I did not hear before was that much of the heavy weapons which the militants flashed late in July, in the offensive in the South, was supposedly bought on the Ukrainian black market (where, the story goes, anything is available). But it was greeted with derision by the Ukrainians, and funny faces by the Russian guests. Everyone with any brains in Eastern Europe would not waste any time on arguing about this. In the unspoken rules of the Cold War, the opposing sides fight through proxies. Putin cannot agree politically to the hare-brained scheme of Nuland and Powers to restructure the country with the Galician hyper-nationalists and integrists calling the shots through violence and political repression. The scheme would turn Ukraine against Russia and destroy its influence in the region permanently. Such ideas can only breed in the heads of people who have no sense of reality.