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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

The New Canada: Free to be, Just Like Me

Either Karen Selick didn't get the memo that the CPC is focusing in TTP, or this is actually something that's been eating at her - demonstrating just how effective a wedge-issue Lynton Crosby found with the niqab.

Let's unpack what she has to say a bit, shall we?

"Employers may be forced to hire niqab-wearers... even though our natural inclinations might be to avoid such applicants."

This is perfectly logical and rational, right?  If you're going to be working with someone, you want to be comfortable with them, right?  You need to know that they think like you do, that there's no chance of any awkwardness that detracts from the bottom line?  It's not enough to weed out the people who's names you don't like on CVs, you need to freedom to exercise the same discretion in person.

Whether it's a woman wearing a niqab, a man with black skin, someone who's got a tattoo, or is in a wheelchair, or is gay... if they make you feel uncomfortable, you don't have to give them your money. Or let them in your store, for that matter - it's yours, right?

If we are landlords, we can be forced to rent premises to niqab-wearers, even though we'd rather shun them.

Consistency of language here - natural inclination... would rather shun... we're talking about emotional reactions.  Like feeling anxious at Pride parade, or worried the black boy on the subway probably wants to rob you or is carrying a gun.  Our feelings are our instincts and, rational actors that we are, our instincts are what matter most - right?

They can hold their employers, their landlords, their storekeepers and their garage mechanics in contempt for not sharing their religion, while nevertheless forcing all those people to deal with them and conceal their own antipathy towards face coverings.

Indeed.  By simply being themselves in public, they are expressing contempt for everyone else.  It's the same thing with those gay people holding hands, mocking the natural order of things, or groups of young coloured kids, clearly relishing the discomfort they cause the Karen Selwicks of the world.

And if a store keeper feels that the South Asian kid coming to buy a guitar from them is just scaring away real customers, it's okay for them to kick those people out, n'est ce pas?  Or if it's a man with cerebral palsy - he just makes everyone feel uncomfortable, and clearly someone like him can't be buying anything, so out the door he goes.  Heck, you could even extend the argument to people with positions you don't like - if you don't like what they have to say, you should have the right to exclude them, too.

(Sidebar: Of course smoke breaks are okay - it's not the same at all as alleged Muslims allegedly praying during the work day; it doesn't feel like the same kind of productivity loss as a costumed freak bowing to the floor.

The point here is that employers should have the right not to hire people they find undesirable. Business owners and landlords have the right to reject people that "make them uncomfortable".  Really, people on the street (the majority, obviously) who don't like to see women wearing niqabs, or men wearing thawbs, or girls or boys holding hands and kissing on the street, or groups of brown kids together, or black boys in general - it's their right not to be exposed to any of that, right?

That whole "judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" thing is just one of those socialist impositions to the free will of rational actors, eh?

Heck, if I as a man feel that women are too emotional to make good executives, or politicians, or columnists, that's my call too.

Selick's bottom line is this: 

It's a pity I'm not legally free to act upon my conviction and show niqab wearers by my conduct towards them what I expect them to do in order to gain my acceptance.

Gain her acceptance.  Not add value to society, not be good citizens, good neighbours or any of that - gain her acceptance.  Be accepted into the club by the Old Stock members.

Except does Selick qualify as an Old Stock Canadian?  Almost as justification for her position, she tells us about her immigrant Jewish grandfather:

There were no phony human rights laws back then, so he did what most Jewish (and other) immigrants did in order to become accepted in society: he assimilated and conformed to Canadian customs.  He adopted an anglicized surname for a while.  He worked on a farm and even went to church with the farm family to avoid being conspicuous.

Take note, immigrants - don't come here expecting to apply your degrees and ideas to new tech, economic development or social solutions.  Especially if you aren't willing to adopt standards Canadian dress, values, religious practices, etc.  If you won't be like us - if you can't be like us - you're not welcome.

And if you're from Canada?

See, Desmond Cole and his family are black.  It matters not what their education, social contribution or whatever is - the pressure is on them, as black people, not to draw negative attention to themselves from the people who's natural inclination is to dislike black people.

This isn't systematic racism or oppression, of course - it's freedom of expression.  For real Canadians, anyway.  The ones with proprietary ownership of what it means to be and sound and think and look like a Canadian.

Not First Nations - they're the minority, they have to get over the whole colonization thing.  The residential schools were probably the best thing that happened to them, because the goal was forced conformation.  

Not "minority" Canadians like Chinese, or Somali, or Jews - it doesn't matter how long their families and communities have roots in Canada, if they make the garage owners and landlords and lawyers like Karen Selick feel uncomfortable by speaking a language "the majority" can't understand or wearing clothes that don't conform or heaven forbid, aggregate in imposing groups, they are actually impeding the freedom of comfort of the "majority."

What else?  What other people, or perspectives, make Selick feel uncomfortable?  Poor people on the street?  Environmentalists?  Tree-huggers?

And if you can't gain the acceptance of people like Karen Selick... well, there should be protections for their freedoms from stuff like that, right?  

If she's a legit lawyer, Karen Selick has some education.  One would hope she has some inclination as to why we have certain laws and the context in which those laws were created.  She makes it clear, however, that her feelings - her discomforts and antipathies and natural inclinations - are her compass, not her training nor logic.

The sad truth is that Karen is a moderate voice for a seething underbelly of hatred in this country.  

Racism became a prominent, ugly feature of Toronto's last election, in no small part due to the legitimacy then-Mayor Rob Ford gave to being openly bigoted.  We're seeing more and more manifestations of this in places like Montreal and Toronto.

There's an uncertain economy, legitimate foreign conflicts fought by groups claiming ethnic and religious legitimacy (though it's the White Supremacists CSIS says we should be worried about, until a political staffer starts telling them to change the emphasis of their reports).  There are lots of reasons for people to be scared, to be angry, to be uncomfortable - and to look for someone to blame.

Instead of calling out some of the comments coming from his supporters as unacceptable, Team Harper has actively fanned the flames of hatred - the niqab, "barbaric practices" tip lines, etc.

When it's all about winning, you go with what works, right?

Karen Selick is, by her own definition, a bigot.  She focused on the niqab but, through the course of her piece, she emphasizes that which makes her feel uncomfortable as bad and conformity as desired.  She can justify to the ends of the earth why she's right, though much of her arguments would focus on proving you wrong rather than discussing context.

Finding solutions, adapting to change - these aren't her priorities.  Being right and being comfortable are.

There's an increasingly high level of cortisol in Canada, and it's not being addressed.  Instead, political opportunities are pouring gas on the problem with wedge-issues they know will serve them well.

This, sadly, is how it begins.  

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