Sunday, December 02, 2012

First Rate Intelligence?

Ever since the United Nations vote on Thursday, the Harper government has portrayed itself as a beautiful loser. It and eight other nations -- most notably the United States -- voted against support for Palestine. Canada, say the Harperites, is on the side of moral clarity. Haroon Siddiqui wrote yesterday in the Toronto Star that:

The vote was overwhelming, more than two-thirds in favour — 138 for, 9 against and 41 abstentions. Much to Canada’s shame, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was among the loudest pipsqueak noises against the tide of history.

Even the United States, chief patron of Israel, was subdued, dishing out brief boilerplate statements. But the voluminous Baird was keen to showcase Canada in the august company of the Czech Republic, Panama, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau.

Stephen Harper claims that he is a loyal supporter of Israel. In truth, he is a loyal supporter of a like minded government; and he ignores Israeli opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu:

The prime minister portrays himself as a staunch ally of Israel, and tends to brand those who don’t agree with him as anti-Semitic and bully them — as discovered by the Christian ecumenical group Kairos, the Canadian Arab Federation and Palestine House, whose funding was cut, and Montreal-based Rights and Democracy, which was destroyed.

In fact, what Harper has done is to take sides with the right wing in an ideological and political struggle within Israel and the Jewish diaspora. He could have sided with those who do not agree with Israeli expansionism and permanent war on the Palestinians.

But Stephen Harper is incapable of balancing competing interests -- whether they be the interests of business and labour, Alberta and British Columbia or Ottawa and the provinces. The only thing he knows how to do is pick sides. And, like most people who call themselves conservatives these days, he is on the wrong side of history.

Scott Fitzgerald wrote that, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."  It has become abundantly clear that the Conservative caucus is not populated by people of first rate intelligence. And, when it comes to foreign policy, the prime minister is first among equals.


Lorne said...

Excellent post, Owen. You have very aptly identified the grave cognitive shortcomings of the extreme right in general, and Mr. Harper and his minions in particular.

Owen Gray said...

I remain dumbfounded, Lorne, how -- on the evidence -- the right can be so consistently wrong. They have no capacity for self correction.

bcwaterboy said...

Owen, self correction would mean admitting mistakes. None of "our government" TM, is capable of humble confession. Just to be non-partisan here, I also do not give Thomas Mulcair a free pass as he has yet to demonstrate that he is capable of taking harper on. So many missed opportunities to rip this guy's ideas to shreds and we should be hearing about that frequently and loudly, but harper continues to drown him out. The central reason is that Mulcair does not have a clearly defined vision. So, while the right lacks any kind of critical thinking capacity, the left has yet to step up to the plate to demonstrate why we are the better choice for Canada.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, waterboy. As a number of commentators have suggested, Canada lacks a clearly progressive alternative.

All the parties have moved to the centre -- and Harper has moved the centre to the right.

Most Canadians are still left of centre.

Anonymous said...

Where's the justice in our country's vote against the Palestinians? Harper's decision will make Canada an even greater pariah amongst nations.

Owen Gray said...

Absolutely true, Anon. I might be wrong; but I've never heard the word "justice" cross Stephen Harper's lips.

Justice is not on his agenda.

Alison said...

Yes. For a start we have to stop referring to Harper as "a friend of Israel" and start using the more correct phrase "friend of Likkud" instead.

Owen Gray said...

Exactly, Alison. To conflate Likkud's priorities with Israel's best interests is akin to assuming that Stephen Harper's agenda represents the priorities of most Canadians.

LeDaro said...

Harper is a little poodle of Netanyahu. It has been suggested that Netanyahu is an associate P.M. of Canada.

Owen Gray said...

It does make you wonder how much influence Netanyahu has on Canadian foreign policy, LeDaro.

Anonymous said...

Why not call our government's decisions what they really are? They're not merely errors in judgement, nor shortcomings which reflect a lack of critical thinking or vision - or worse yet, decisions which are "too far to the right". Nor is it an acceptable explanation that Canada simply has chosen to listen to the Likkud. Let's not create needless fog.

At bottom, our government's decisions are immoral.

We have shown our approval for the theft of Palestinian lands under the cover of negotiations for a "two-state solution" which likely will never be realized so long as Israel has its way. Furthermore, we have stated that we will punish Palestinians for daring to bypass these fraudulent negotiations in order to achieve nation status. What does being on the Right or the Left have to do with such threats?

How is being on the Right or the Left related to refusing United Nation requests for assistance with anti-AIDS medication for the Third World? What does it have to do with refusing to curb Canada's carbon-based emissions in the face of the whole World for the welfare of the planet? These are not merely examples of the Right or the Left, or of short-sightedness, or of "failures of the sympathetic imagination" as the American government's actions during the Vietnam War were once described.

Isn't it time we began using a different language to condemn what our government is doing in the name of our country?

Owen Gray said...

You have accurately and eloquently characterized our government and what it stands for and against, Anon.

I can add nothing -- except I heartily agree.

Anonymous said...

What really makes a person angry. Harper is a dictator. Harper speaks for all of Canada. Most Canadians don't want Harper as P.M. Most Canadians believe, Harper cheated to win the election. That Harper does not have the right, to speak for us. We don't want Harper, speaking for us.

Perhaps this is why, other country's bear arms and have revolutions? To get a monster out of office, this is what people in other country's, finally resort to doing. This is against Canadians grain. After all, isn't Canada a fair and democratic country?

Owen Gray said...

Most Canadians would like to believe that their country is fair and democratic, Anon.

However, the arrival of Stephen Harper has caused a lot of them to re-evaluate what they believe.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous writes:
"Isn't it time we began using a different language to condemn what our government is doing in the name of our country?"


I agree with you, Anon.

But I worry that using the term "immoral" will be more polarizing.

When it comes to talking to people on the other side of the issue (or to people somewhere in the middle) I think that it's better to get into the details (as you do) rather than label the details "immoral" from the start.

Owen Gray said...

You're right to point out, Anon, that simple name calling will do us no good. On the other hand, this is a government which claims to act out of "moral clarity."

It's worth remembering that some of the greatest atrocities in history have been committed by those who claimed they possessed moral clarity.

opit said...

It would be a sadder commentary if I didn't see it as merely a more blatant example of what we have really had going on for a long time. ( And it's also a sad commentary that a chap has to be Anon when truth is so well told. ) I don't see the truth as being something as simple as 'we are tools of Israel.' Only if Israel is Cat's Paw for London-Washington et al ...and covert military action regulating society throughout the British Commonwealth ( and U.S.A. ) and more.

Owen Gray said...

The entire Middle East is serving as a proxy for other battles, opit. The battle isn't simply between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

And, given the political climate these days in Canada -- where a lot of opinions degenerate into ad hominem attacks -- perhaps it's safer to comment as Anonymous.