Andrew in Wonderland

Weird column in today’s Leader-Post by Andrew Coyne (pictured). It’s about federal NDP leadership hopeful Thomas Mulcair and the fact that, in addition to being a Canadian citizen by birth, he also holds French citizenship through his marriage to a French-born woman.

In the first part of the columnCoyne lists a number of countries like Australia, Demark, Norway, Germany and Japan that require anyone who becomes a citizen of a foreign country to forfeit their citizenship in their home  country.

No problem there. But after musing about the balance Canada has struck between being open to people from other lands and the fealty we expect from them, Coyne veers into looney-land and starts waxing poetically about the glories of Canadian citizenship and the demands it places on us. This sentence in particular jumped out at me:

And these in turn depend upon an expectation that we are, in some more fundamental sense, committed to each other: that we are pledged, not merely to live with each other, but to be bound by and to each other, and to that enterprise in which we are all engaged, the construction of a society based on justice.

I’m not sure where Coyne has been for the last 30 years, but doesn’t he realize that his concept of citizenship is decidedly old-school and idealistic in the extreme? I believe former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said it best in 1987:

I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.

The technical term for that philosophical take on humanity is Homo Economicus. It’s the basis of most neo-liberal political and economic thought, and assumes that human beings are rational creatures whose actions are motivated exclusively by their desire to maximize their “utility” — be it through monetary or non-monetary means. In plain language, we look out for #1. We don’t concern ourselves with justice and other airy-fairy ideas like equality, fairness, community, environmental sustainability and anything else that doesn’t enhance our material well-being.

Usually, I enjoy Coyne’s insights into Canadian politics. But in this instance he really missed the boat.

Author: Gregory Beatty

Greg Beatty is a crime-fighting shapeshifter who hatched from a mutagenic egg many decades ago. He likes sunny days, puppies and antique shoes. His favourite colour is not visible to your puny human eyes. He refuses to write a bio for this website and if that means Whitworth writes one for him, so be it.

5 thoughts on “Andrew in Wonderland”

  1. You can be sure of one thing, if Mulcair wins the leadership, the Conservatives will be exploiting the hell out of this one. Probably compare him to a Nazi collaborator or so. The polite naive liberal-left had better get their nose out of their asses this time and understand Canadians are not “above” baseless ad hominum political attacks and be ready for it.

  2. Here’s how it will start:

    1. Andrew Coyne will write this article.
    2. Commentators on Canadian hate radio will pick this story up and start to muse, “oh, is this fair?”
    3. Regular callers (aka Paid Conservative Party hacks) will call into the open lines segment of the hate radio shows and start to muse, passively at first, “I mean, I don’t know (host name here). I mean, it’s Canada and all and he has the right to marry whoever he chooses to marry, but it just seems to me that with that duel citizenship, he’s got some kind of perk the rest of us don’t have, and anyway, it just makes me wonder, (host’s name here), whether this is sort of an out for him there. Like, if politics don;t work out for him, that he just hops on a plane and says ‘Sayonara’ and heads back to France. Makes you wonder how committed he really is to Canada, you know?”
    4. Hate radio host starts to push this as the dominant opinion on Mulcair’s caharacter/leadership ambitions, a type of “just visiting” if you will.
    5. Canadians start to digest this line, heard it intermixed with a bunch of other legitimate news, like traffic accidents and weather and sports, and start to accept it as obvious truth.

    Meanwhile, people on the liberal left dismiss concerns that this is becoming the dominant narrative of its leader, falsely believing that Canadians are smart enough to see thru such rightwing propaganda. They don’t defend Mulcair, they don;t retaliate, they just assume that as partners in this great place called Canada, that they will be given a fair shake, equal respect and due process, and expect such fringe opinion-making stays on the fringe.

    Then election day comes, and their guy gets walloped, because they were too polite to fight, and the scumbags who lie and bully their way to power go on to write and re-write history.

  3. “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”
    — Margaret Thatcher

    They should make a movie.

  4. It’s not 1979 anymore. Anyhow, they have Rae on running up deficits as NDP premier of Ontario – I hope the Libs have a good comeback for that one, at least counter with Flaherty’s own deficit as Minister of Finance – if they get Mulcair as leader, they’ll have him as representing the interests of bankrupt France over those of Canada. Could be a CP cakewalk in 2015. Libs-NDP remember how to sow infighting w/n opposition parties? Maybe get on the Chris Alexandre & Kelly Leitch thing, and Peter MacKay, too. Course, the Liberals would probably prefer to believe these 3 will someday join them in resurgent government, so better not to annoy.

    BTW, I understand Peter MacKay has presence, but to me the guy’s face is messed up.

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