Friday, April 27, 2007

Bai'i Bai'i

...for a little while. I'll be thinking of y'all, and will try to avoid getting into trouble.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Empty words

Just a thought for the day, as I shall soon be departing these shores with the young'uns for a well-deserved getaway. Does the use of empty words serve a political purpose? George Orwell thought so. And they're being deployed with flair by conservatives today.
Clichés are always annoying, but in the wrong hands they can be downright menacing. Take the oft-seen and heard slogan, "Support Our Troops." Can anyone tell me what that injunction means? How do we express that support
, in concrete terms? What, in other words, are we supposed to do, exactly?

I support our troops. I'd like to get them out of Afghanistan pronto, out of the crossfire between rival gangs of toughs. Of course the Taliban was a demented, deformed regime, with mediaeval attitudes towards women. No, let me correct that--in our own mediaeval period, women probably fared better, unless they were accused of witchcraft. Don't get your hopes up, though, about the folks now in charge, with their own quaint folkways in that respect. The current regime isn't exactly populated by feminists.

But "support our troops" in current usage seems instead to be code for "support the mission." This means that most Canadians, including me, don't support the troops. Does the phrase implicitly accuse us of lacking patriotism? Does it demand a kind of political conformity? You decide.

Another word that has been utterly emptied of its original content is "anti-Semitic." I've beaten this drum before, but let me offer a couple of recent examples. First, a friend in the opposing political camp read this article by Eric Margolis, and divined anti-Semitism in it. The French Presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy was described by Margolis as "backstabbing," and a possessor of "naked ambition," and "notorious aggressiveness." He is a supporter of Israel. And one of his opponents, Francois Bayrou, "won't rock the boat or give the French indigestion like hyperactive Sarko. He will keep France...France."

It's far more likely that Sarkozy's Hungarian background and name (he was the son of a Hungarian immigrant) caused him some problems among insular French electors. But the mere mention of the word "Jewish" was enough to condemn Margolis. (Is this reporter an anti-Semite too?) These aspects of Sarkozy's personality--ambitious, backstabbing, aggressive--are part of the Jewish stereotype, said my friend. Well, no, not really--if anything, the description seems to fit any ranking member of Canada's Liberal Party. But besides, must Sarkozy get a pass on these undeniable aspects of his character simply because he had a Jewish ancestor? That's just a kind of anti-Semitism in reverse, isn't it?

Then--and this has to take the cake for sheer political idiocy--right-wing polemicist Terry Glavin has suggested in a comment at his place that an earlier commenter is an anti-Semite, for calling him a "neocon." Glavin is Irish.

Last, but not least, we have the word "terrorist." It now applies, according to the Vatican, to supporters of same-sex marriage and a woman's right to choose. A majority of Canadians, under this new definition, would qualify as terrorists.

The danger in all of this, of course, is the floating, ambiguous nature of the terms. It allows anyone, at any time, to have an injurious label attached to him or her. This can be done arbitrarily and maliciously, and most of us are vulnerable. It can affect our livelihoods, our ability to travel, our reputations. The use of words and phrases in this manner, which helps to enforce a rigid right-wing political correctness, is a potent weapon in the hands of the dishonest, the lazy, the incompetent, or even the careless. Contrary to the old rhyme, sticks and stones can break our bones, but words can also hurt us--and even prove fatal.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Panhandlers are like pigeons

An anecdote: three of us were heading into a local delicatessen in Ottawa yesterday. A homeless man had taken up a position just outside. He said he was hungry, so one of my companions bought a beef sandwich and gave it to him--he devoured it on the spot.

Millionaire mayor of Ottawa Larry O'Brien wants to deal with the problem of the homeless. His solution? Stop feeding them. That's the way to get rid of these pigeons, just like any other pigeons, he says. The toonies you give them all go on crystal meth anyway.

Give them a bus ticket to Montreal, his CFRA host, the vulgarian Steve Madely, chimes in.

mp3 (click here to download)

While the two good ol' boys crack a bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin, and slurp down another helping of prime rib au jus, readers might wish to note that the homeless in Ottawa are already dying at relatively early ages, mostly of HIV, cancer, liver disease and heart problems. Starving them to death, as His Worship suggests, may not be necessary to rid us of these "useless eaters."

H/t to Ken Clavette, of Ottawa's Labour Community Services.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Doufeux* and campus killers

A short break from politics, and the dreadful news from Virginia. Or not. One of my passions is cooking, and this week I bought a lot of Dutch (or French) ovenry. Perhaps the endless April snows made me think of braises and stews and such, but I developed a short-lived obsession with cast-iron pots, and, perhaps unfortunately, there were a number of kitchen outlets close by to satisfy my cookware jones. I made the mistake of ordering a cookbook as well, written around a popular cast-iron cookware brand, and a goodly number of the recipes it contained made reference to something called a "doufeu." So I had to head out again today to get one.

This is a cunning invention: a pot with a recessed lid in which ice cubes are placed, producing a lot of condensation inside the pot, and hence a steady basting process. Sounds good. But people on-line tend to talk in superlatives, and this object is no exception--the raving resembles in both volume and intensity that of a typical blog commenter (no offence, people, I wasn't referring to my own combox, which is a refuge for the refined). So...anyone know some good doufeu recipes?

I'm not trying to be insensitive. I just find little to add to the stew of comments about the Virginia Tech massacre, other than a lot of questions. Why was the killer very early on described as "an Asian male?" Are the bulk of right-wing commenters serious when they argue that students and professors carrying guns of their own is the solution to this kind of thing? How much is massive information-flow responsible for these spectacularly public mass-murders? Was Cho Seung-Hui a Herostratus redivivus, a modern version of the fellow who burned down the temple of Artemis in Ephesus so he'd be remembered through time? Or was he a living expression of what the editor-at-large of the National Review, John O'Sullivan, who rejects the Herostratus hypothesis, calls "radical evil?" (I find the latter invention a confession of abject explanatory defeat, as well as confusingly proposed in his piece.)

I think easy access to handguns is part of the problem, not part of the solution, but it's not an explanation. Perhaps the best way of confronting this sort of thing may be simply to celebrate life and cease trying to read a diseased mind from beyond the grave. And that, too, is a confession of defeat, but at least it's a call to a kind of action. Unlike the Marc Lepine massacre in Montreal, where for once there were clear political and social lessons to be learned, there is a signal lack of political content in most of these crimes, and nothing new about them, either, as a Globe and Mail correspondent reminds us today.

Personally, I've had it with death. Sometimes all one can do is go on living, and try to find some pleasure in it. That's one in the eye for the crazed killers. On to slow-cooked coq au vin, and I hope I haven't offended anyone.
No, not another Jason post. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Elected judges, eh?

Quandaries are exciting, unless you stay in them too long. I've fussed away at the notion of elected judges--not to mention elected Crown Attorneys--for some time. The air is getting stale, and the sheets need changing. The blogosphere carried its share of comments for and against after the release of a Strategic Council survey indicating that nearly two-thirds of Canadians favour the election of judges. (I would have liked to hear from Bob Tarantino on the matter.)

Both sides of the issue are convincing and unconvincing at the same time. On the one hand, why shouldn't the people (or, in the case of the Supreme Court, their representatives) be permitted to elect those who wield such tremendous power in our society? On the other hand, do we want the (s)election of judges to be narrowly politicized? Do we want their objectivity compromised?

Wading one's way through the mystification that surrounds the issue is difficult enough. Confronting sharp contradictions in one's own fundamentally democratic principles is far worse. As a believer in strict accountability and as much citizen control over decision-making as possible, I find myself coming to a screeching halt when it comes to judicial appointments. I like the current system. What's the matter--don't I trust the people, all of a sudden, when their right to decide might actually count for something?

Time for some musing.

Let's look at the present system first, and strip it down to its essentials. To begin with, may we please avoid the fanciful and antique notion that judges are "objective" in anything they say, do or decide? The latter would remove them, not only from the political sphere, but from the human one, too. A cursory glance at judgments over the past several years indicates some horrific examples of gross judicial bias of all kinds. Left, right or indifferent, we can all cite our favourite examples, although doing so publicly in Canada is not always without risk. We must uphold at all costs this nugatory concept of objectivity, our judges pronouncing from on high according to sacred, hieratic principles, miles above the fray: they would never be influenced by "th' illection returns." We compound the mystification by making it a criminal offence for a jury member to discuss, after a verdict has been rendered, what went on in the deliberation room. Are we afraid of what we might learn?

The current system sets out standards for judicial appointments, but the appointments are ultimately made by politicians. Indeed, when it comes to the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister has the power to do this without review or accountability of any kind. The vast bulk of cases before the courts do not turn, of course, on partisan questions. But we can see for ourselves that differing notions of justice do have political content. Should there be a separate justice system for Aboriginals? Should the courts pronounce upon systemic bias by police against minorities? Is there a "feminist bias" in the court system today? If so, is that a good or a bad thing?

Stephen Harper may have done us all a favour by demystifying the process a little. He openly wants more judges who share his views, to the point that he's stacking selection committees to make it happen. The Liberals, of course, have been far from angels in this respect, so their posturing earlier this year seems a little contrived. The process has always been political, and in the narrowly partisan sense of the word.

So why not get all of this largely back-room stuff completely out in the open by handing the whole process over to the people?

Theoretically, this is a proposition that's hard to argue against, which might account for the poll results. After all, if the judiciary is politically selected anyway, and judges have ideological positions of their own, why not let the voters decide, as they do (if imperfectly, thanks to first-past-the-post) with their legislatures? Here's a little sic et non, in the form of an imaginary dialogue:

Anti: Being a judge is a specialized occupation. It requires not only a thorough knowledge of the law, but a professional track record as well. Minimum standards must be met to be considered. Would you want your physician to be elected, or your auto mechanic, or your electrician, on the basis of where they stand on Kyoto or affirmative action? Or do you just want someone who is qualified to do the job?

Being a judge isn't like being a physician. It involves wide powers of interpretation, and is a highly political activity. If we believe in the separation of powers, what do we think of unelected judges "reading in" Charter rights, imposing feminist or anti-feminist values from the bench, and being accountable only to themselves?

If this is the only difference, then it isn't much of one. An elected judge, like our other politicians, can pretty much do as he or she wishes between elections. We have a lot of checks and balances built into the current system--appeal rights, the doctrine of precedent and so on. All elections will do is throw irrelevant partisanship into the mix.

Pro: That's pretty dismissive of the popular will. And it's condescending. Are you telling me that people are too stupid or ignorant to make informed decisions based upon a candidate's expertise and track record--just as a selection committee made up of cops and political hacks does now? Who knows--maybe they'll do better!

Anti: I'm not denying that people can make good decisions. I thinks it's the way we do politics today that has me a little worried. Our political culture encourages apathy, fosters leadership fetishism, concentrates on one or two issues per campaign designed to leverage maximum partisan advantage, and usually floats well above people's real concerns, concerns that only get noticed by the parties when it's politically expedient. Complex issues are reduced to sound bites, attack ads, slogans. Politics in Canada is just a kind of ping-pong, played over the heads of the people. Do we want the justice system infected with that kind of thing? Judicial candidates running on promises to give everyone maximum sentences, to make the streets safe? Attacking their opponents for being soft on crime/terrorism/child pornography? Isn't it bad enough that the PM plays that game?

Pro: Harper hasn't got a majority buying into that nonsense. Maybe judicial candidates who take that line will be unsuccessful. Maybe not.
Why not let the people decide? You're just afraid that they'll vote the wrong way, aren't you? Or that political involvement is tampering with the mystical notion of judicial impartiality?

Anti: I admit that's a hard one to shake. But let me give a concrete example of the dangers. We've had a few political scandals end up in court in recent years. It's one thing when a judge is appointed by a Liberal, but essentially for life, so that the only allegiance he or she may have to the Liberal party may be sentimental. It's quite another when every three or four years they need the Liberal nod to run for office, isn't it? Then the allegiance becomes--practical. We won't even have specialized committees making selections--it'll be riding associations. By the time the people get to decide, most of the deciding will already be done.

Pro: But other systems are possible. Judicial standards can be imposed on possible candidates. They could all run as independents. It could be made illegal for a political party to endorse a judicial candidate, or vice-versa...

Anti: I'm confused. If you stick in all of these conditions, to make a political process as unpolitical as possible, why have that process in the first place? You're trying to have your cake and eat it too.

Pro: Perhaps. But at least the people would get to vote on a judge's qualifications and courtroom record.

Anti: Sounds great--in principle. But how would the public discussions be framed? Most of a judge's "courtroom record" is frankly boring and technical. As for qualifications, I have no problem setting a high bar, no pun intended, to qualify as a candidate. I'm not a libertarian. I don't want some racist ideologue with no formal legal training sitting in judgment on people, and such people should not be allowed to run.

Pro: But say some judge lets a child molester off on a technicality, or convicts someone because they're Black--I'm trying to be even-handed here--shouldn't that judge be accountable to someone? And I don't mean to his buddies on the Judicial Council, either.

Anti: Well, accountability is a fundamental principle of democracy. But I go back to the framing of the discussion. How does the public learn of "questionable" court decisions? Usually through the media. And the media are highly political. So they frame the discussion., in their usual sensational fashion. What if that "technicality," for example, was entering a home without a search warrant, or coercing a confession? Sure, the decision probably put a child molester back on the street. That's bad. But it also upheld the idea that the police must act within limits. That's good. In the case of the convicted Black, there's a whole appeals system in place, and organizations that would probably take such a case pro bono. If the judge really convicted on that basis, even the Judicial Council might take action.

Pro: But that's wide of the point. Why can't a judicial candidate explain him- or herself before the electorate? Directly, at all-candidates' meetings, debates and so on? Wouldn't that have the added benefit of educating the public about the way the legal system works?

Anti: Good point. But the current system exposes very few people to the candidates, and even then in small doses. So, in effect, the media are deciding, not the people, and usually on the basis of ignorance. Trial outcome bad. Judge bad.

Pro: So the people aren't sceptical enough? Not learned enough?

Anti: I'm not saying that. I'm saying that their sources of information are compromised. And the results are potentially horrendous--courtrooms run by politicians with strong party ties. Legal issues reduced to moralistic one-liners. Inconsistency: justice in a Conservative stronghold will be different from justice in an NDP one. Same crime, widely differing treatment, based upon competing party platforms. So much for equality under the law. Anyway, last word is yours--for now.

Pro: I say, let the people decide. If they're wise enough to be trusted with a ballot, we can't pick and choose. If they can vote for a legislature that makes life-or-death decisions, why not for a judge?

[Dialogue ends, but doesn't conclude.]

So, who wins? You be the judge.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bad trip

One of our own, from my alma mater Carleton University, in fact, fell afoul of the gendarmerie in JawJaw, You Ess of Eh, the other day. Speeding through the Peach State led to her being arrested, stripped and jailed overnight, even though the husband had the money to post a bond and US Customs and Immigration informed the local Che'f that she was in the country legally. Lucky she wasn't one of them nigras or Moozlums.

On the other hand, if it's an American cop who's doing the speeding, ferchrissake don't complain about it. And if you spend Christmas down there, don't play with your presents early.

We're more fortunate here in Canada. Oh, sure, the horsemen indulge in the odd summary execution disputed fatal shooting, and beat up law-abiding folks in their own homes for demanding search warrants, but at least we wouldn't drag a tourist off to the hoosegow for a minor speeding offence. We're not like those crazy Americans.

UPDATE: (April 12) I would advise American tourists, though, if at all possible, to stay away from Ottawa homeless shelters.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Of red waters, allophilia, and timeless masterpieces

There are times when sundry currents of information strike us at the same time, leaving us splashing in the roiled waters of our imagination. (Yes, I've been reading Rex Murphy again. Sorry about that.)

Nevertheless, today's Globe & Mail presents us with a series of images worth a comment or two. The first is of red water, with which those of us who have seen the recent trailer for The Reaping will be familiar. We learn from the Canada in Brief section that the Red River is rising in Selkirk, Manitoba because of an ice-jam, and, immediately adjacent to this report, we are informed of a leak at an Alcan factory near Jonquiere in Quebec, releasing bauxite sludge into the Saguenay River and causing stretches of it to turn red. Concerns have been raised about the effect of the spill on the environment, but an Alcan spokesperson assures us that there will be no ill effects, so I guess we can sleep tight.

This kind of odd juxtaposition can feed our primordial desire for meaning. End times, anyone? A compositor's decision with The Reaping as conscious or unconscious motivator? We look for order in chaos, and when flashes of order appear, we impose narratives--if you want proof, take a look at any conspiracy theory, such as the "inside job" of 9/11. The elements just seem to fit together, don't they? But that's what narrative does: it makes things cohere. On the positive side, it gives us order, however illusory; on the negative side, it can jam everything into one story--the so-called "grand narratives" that Jean-François Lyotard warns us to distrust. Or it can construct the closed delusional system of the paranoid, or of the conspiracy-mongering kerosene-and-rabbit-wire nutbar.

Which brings me, by a circuitous route, to theocracy. The impulse behind religion--the experience of the spiritual, the sense of wonder, the intuitive awareness of the interconnectedness of all things--is transmogrified almost inevitably into a set of rules and admonitions, an order imposed by force. The haunting poetry of al-Rumi turns into the ossified, hateful and simplistic dogma of the Salafist. According to one account,Christ danced with his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane (Acts of John 94-96), but the powers that be wouldn't let that one into the canonical Bible. Popes don't dance: they condemn millions to death in Africa with their opposition to condoms, and their priests destroy the lives of countless children who venture too close to them. The ecstatic William Blake, as always, says it best:

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;

A Chapel was built in the midst,

Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut

And "Thou shalt not," writ over the door;

So I turned to the Garden of Love

That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,

And tombstones where flowers should be;

And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,

And binding with briars my joys and desires.

So long as the spiritual is hijacked by the likes of Osama bin Laden, Benedict XVI and the countless Pat Robertsons, Jerry Falwells and Jimmy Swaggarts of this world, not to mention George Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, we shall have nothing but rods of iron and holy wars. And rivers running red with blood.

Turning now to allophilia, with a hat-tip to the Globe's
Sheema Khan, we have a professor at Harvard looking at social cohesion in a new way. Instead of "tolerance" of differences, and figuring out how to deal with xenophobia, Professor Todd L. Pittinsky thinks that we should be promoting and cultivating a positive
liking for other groups. What a concept! But a word of warning--someone else tried that a couple of millennia back, and we're observing the anniversary of his execution this very weekend.

And finally, back to where I started--with yet another florid, over-wrought column by Rex Murphy. Today he's exercised because Handel's
Samson oratorio is being given "a modern political reading" by an artistic director in Victoria. Samson is being portrayed as a suicide terrorist, which doesn't work for Murphy because the strong man has the wrong religion, and because the artistic director has the wrong politics, a sin that Murphy, with no visible trace of irony, attempts to rebut with political arguments of his own, when he isn't personally attacking the director. But then we come to this: "This insertion of current politics into timeless masterpieces is a form of petty vandalism."

That one took my breath away. Because Murphy is here arguing, not for art, but for religion. What, after all, is a "timeless masterpiece?" Has the man never been to Stratford, to witness the endless interpretations, many of them good, of William Shakespeare's plays? Does the strength of art not lie precisely in its capacity to be endlessly reinterpreted, made real and immediate for audiences across centuries and cultures? Its "timelessness" consists of its almost infinite adaptability, not its persistence as one thing while history and culture eddy around its vast, immoveable bulk. The latter isn't art--it's just another version of that vulgar notion of God that's causing so much trouble. It stems from the self-same desperate clinging to the authority and stability and order that totalitarians promise. It is founded on fear and self-deception, and there is no shortage of politicians and preachers to exploit both for their own ends.

Samson Agonistes, John Milton's poem upon which Handel based his work, is only intelligible to us today because we recognize the emotions and the images that it conjures up: the heroic representative of a people, captured, blinded and enslaved, who sacrifices himself in order to kill his enemies, delivering his people from the "Philistian yoke" and thus carrying out the will of God. In a place called Gaza. Attempting to discern his all-too-human psychology in the poetry, we might well develop a different, and deeper, insight into the mind of a suicide bomber, or a young kid at Vimy, for that matter, fighting the war to end all wars. Battles are at this very moment raging over Samson's grave. We can be stirred by this poem for numerous reasons, centuries after it was written--but not if we treat it as holy writ, timeless and unchanging, and wait for it to be interpreted for us by imperious clerks, high priests and newspaper columnists. The letter killeth.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Looking-glass world

Exploited whites, oppressed heterosexuals and endangered English-speakers should take heart from an article in today's Ottawa Citizen.
"Men, Misogyny and Misandry," written by an appropriately gender-balanced duo from McGill University (that august home of Margaret Somerville and assorted animal torturers), sets out the thesis that men are "a silent class of victims" in need of liberation.

Hostility towards women may be increasing among young men, the authors suggest. And this is directly connected, they argue, with a one-sided approach that emphasizes mistreatment of women, but ignores or ridicules what they deem to be the equivalent mistreatment of men. Why is the latter so underreported? Because men are reluctant to admit their vulnerability, and unlikely to be taken seriously if they do complain. Men, too, after all, are victims of domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape.

Popular culture plays a large role in targeting men, making us look stupid, or brutal, or maybe both. We suffer from double standards by which we are censured for comments and behaviour that would be perfectly acceptable if we were women. Movies and commercials make fools of us: "Ridiculing men, but not women, is politically correct."

And then, from these two McGill-based folks, this gem: "The elite culture of academia... routinely relies directly or indirectly on the belief that every major problem is due ultimately to 'patriarchy' (and therefore to men as a class)." Somehow these academics have avoided the elite culture in which they live and breathe, a classic example of the Ishmael effect. But this may simply be because they aren't very good academics, caricaturing, in a single breathless assertion, decades of social, political and economic thought, little or none of which is so absurdly reductionist. Another example, no doubt, of targeting men, in this case straw ones.

The authors go swiftly on to bemoan "statistics abuse" that indicates (through tendentious manipulation) that women are victims in this society, or in danger of becoming victims. The courts, thoroughly brainwashed, are now part of the problem, doing their bit to victimize men. Why, there aren't even any affirmative action programs for men, the authors declare, somehow managing to keep a straight face. And the laws are continually interpreted to the detriment of men.

No examples of "statistics abuse" are provided, so let me assist. In a recent article (
"The Hidden Face of Violence") in an Ottawa giveaway magazine, one Suzanne Schmiedel Lapointe resuscitates the canard that women are just as violent towards men as vice-versa. Let's look at the unmanipulated facts.

Statistics Canada reported in 2000 that, of those who have experienced spousal violence, 55.7% were women and 44.3% were men [ed. note: h/t to "2Sheds" in the comments for this clarification]. When the degree of violence is factored in, however, those figures change dramatically: 40% of the assaulted women experienced actual physical injury from their partners, while only 13% of the men did.

More generally, the author would have done well to consult the exhaustive survey of the ‘equivalence literature’ to be found in Dobash et al., "The Myth of Sexual Symmetry in Marital Violence"(R.P. Dobash, R.E. Dobash, M. Wilson, M. Daly, Social Problems, Vol. 39, No.1 [1992], pp. 71-91), which finds it methodologically flawed as well as contradicted by a veritable mountain of research.

Take the myth, repeated in Lapointe's article, that men underreport assault by their wives because of embarrassment and social stigma--an echo of that claim is found in the Citizen article. M.D. Schwartz analyzed U.S. National Crime Survey data from 1973 to 1982, and found that 67.2 percent of men and 56.8 per cent of women called police to report an assault.(Schwartz, M.D. "Gender and injury in spousal assault," Sociological Focus, 20 (1987), pp. 61-75). This finding is replicated in several other studies (Dobash et al., 1992: 76). So much for "statistics abuse"--and its effective debunking.

(As an aside, it was particularly offensive in the earlier piece to read once again of Warren Farrell’s glib comparison of the Montreal Massacre to the murderous rampage by Chicago resident Laurie Dann that took place around the same time. In the former case, Marc Lepine deliberately separated men from women at the Ecole Polytechnique, made a number of references to "feminists," and shot fourteen women dead for daring to pursue what was then a non-traditional occupation. On the other hand, we have no idea about the ideological motivations, if any, of Laurie Dann, a disturbed individual on dangerous psychotropic drugs. It would be more prudent to ask, What percentage of serial or mass killers are women? For every Laurie Dann there is a host of individuals like Ted Bundy and Richard Speck and Clifford Olsen.)

But back to our McGill researchers. The problem, they claim, is misandry, a "word which most people don't even know." These intrepid opponents of academic elitism have not managed, it appears, to shed the arrogance and condescension that accompany it. Misandry "is a form of sexism or even racism (given that maleness is a biological classification)," they state. I'm still scratching my head over that one--are they arguing that race is a biological classification, a grossly antiquated Gobineau-like notion still pushed by their marginal academic colleague Phillippe Rushton over at Western? Are they suggesting that men are a race?

The authors proceed to explain away the income gap between men and women in predictable fashion--women simply lack the qualifications, or they deliberately avoid promotional opportunities, or they prefer to be at home with the young'uns, "and so on." (I enjoyed the last bit--it was as though they had become bored with their regurgitation of these stale clichés.) In any case, women are fast closing the gap, but only because of evil
"equity" programs (their shudder-quotes, not mine) and the "downward mobility of men."

As for male dominance of the political scene, it's not only men who vote these guys into office, and besides, women exercise their power through lobby groups and government agencies like Status of Women Canada. Those sneaky broads implement their policies indirectly, "through bureaucratic fiat behind closed doors instead of public discussion in legislative assemblies" --"and so forth." (See "and so on," above.)

Certainly, the authors concede, the women's movement has greatly improved the lives of women, even if by underhanded means. Laws are being interpreted in their favour, while men are simply not seen as victims of discrimination, they assert indignantly, even though men alone were once conscripted into the armed forces. I'm not making this up.

To imagine that men oppress women is just "the conspiracy theory of history," the authors aver--a bit like imagining, I guess, that whites have ever oppressed blacks, or that rich folks have ever enjoyed the fruits of their employees' labour. In any case, it's a bit late at this point to decry conspiracy theorizing, given the prominence of it in this very article.

It's males who are in deep trouble now, the authors claim: their high school drop-out rates are higher (12% as opposed to 7% for girls), and they are now a minority in Canadian university classrooms (although males, it seems, continue to enjoy a comfortable edge in full-time graduate studies, something they fail to note). It's the beginning of the end: the inevitable result will be "an undereducated and impoverished male underclass." Yet men are afraid to speak out, for fear of being labeled misogynists. "It's time to wake up," the authors conclude. Now, where have I heard that before?