Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Honorable Jason Kenny, Unacceptable Language and Inhuman Cultural Practices
If I was some pious individual, I’d have agreed with American Evangelical Christians, or fundamentalists I should say, that the world is coming to an end. Well, the world is not coming to an end. It’s just that we’ve become so narcissistic or solipsistic that we assume the centre of the universe is ‘us’; whoever the ‘us’ is.
There’s a host of ridiculous things we do or say but because we are the ones doing them, we ignore or see past their ridiculousness.
Whether it’s racially sensitive individuals complaining about Brad Paisley’s and LL Cool J’s provocative and audacious song ‘accidently Racist,’ or it’s Canadian Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenny, using an ancient language to describe a filthy cultural practice, I know the world is sick.
There are people who’d want the world to rid itself of racism but they don’t procure any methods through which racism can be tackled. When honest people start to do something to fight racism, they are attacked as insensitive, naïve etc. We can’t get rid of racism by stifling how people feel about themselves. Should people be told not to be proud of who they are now because it reminds the historically victimized of historical misdeeds? That’d be emotively enslaving the world. It strikes me as strange to see that ‘white’ people’s expression of ‘white’ pride is regarded racist. So these people should never, ever be proud of who they are?
To get rid of racism, people who harbour racist (hateful) feelings should have their feelings addressed. They can’t just be expected to get rid of their feelings without any proper prescriptions and due attention to how they feel and why they feel that way.
But this is not the worst part. People who are honest enough to talk about their feelings in an attempt to fight racism are told to shut up. People like Brad Paisley are honest and tenacious enough to talk about their feelings in an attempt to open up a credibly honest dialogue. But no, we aren’t expected to talk about racism but, you know what, we are still expected to rid of it. It beats me how we can talk about racism through glossing over the issue. And people have actually accused Paisley and LL Cool J of glossing over the problem.
I love the honesty in the song. It’s the intention that counts, not the erroneous, politically paternalistic interpretations.
However, there are times when sensitivity should be duly exercised. Since I moved to Canada, my fascination with how Canada and Canadians operate became my fascination. I carefully observed the political system and how people feel about themselves and the country.
Canadians have a knack for contrasting themselves with the ‘AMERICANS!’ Americans are portrayed as insensitive, naïve, unhelpfully unprogressive and hateful.
But as time went by, I realized Americans and Canadians are different only on principle not on practice. Some Canadians thought I lived among the lions and some thought Sudan was next to Japan. I’ve been discriminated against in Montreal and in Calgary. And people fearfully cross the street when they see me coming for fear of who I might be. Well, maybe the way Canadians do such things is different to a degree, from how the Americans do them. I don’t know. But my friends and relatives in the US have the same experiences.
So when the minister of immigration used the world ‘barbarous’ in a book that’s meant to introduce new Canadians to the beautiful country Canada is, I sit back and ponder. Is this the Canada that that relief worker in Kakuma Refugee Camp talked proudly about? And when I read Naomi Lakritz’s column of April 4, 2013 in Calgary Herald, I thought I’d woken up in 18th century aristocratic London. The article was completely UNCANADIAN.
Mr. Kenny capitalized on the fact that ‘Honour Killing’ is despicable. Justin Trudeau was criticized and he had to re-explain himself out of fear that he might be seen as supporting that heinous practice. Who in his right mind would support such a practice? And do Mr. Kenny and Ms. Laktritz think that the victims and the potential victims of this heinous cultural practice would be happy because the language is as ‘barbarous’ as the practice?
These people are intelligent enough to know that it’s the protection of the government through strong constitutional and institutional imposition that’s required.
What exactly am I saying?
This is my contention. People have to believe in the integrity of the Canadian institutions. There has to be a standard to be upheld. It’s not the uncouth, foul-mouthed language that’d prevent those who exercise this ancient practice. It’d be the modalities put in place by the government to make sure innocent women and girls are spared the fangs of this unfathomable cultural practice. Why would a minister stoop this low?
This ministry and the government have institutional powers to prevent this practice or to make people swear under oath that they’d never exercise this practice no matter what. There’s no reason to resort to 18th century language of racial exceptionalism.
I’ve come to be proud of Canada. I travel proudly with a Canadian passport. But when my government starts to use a language that is beneath the integrity of the office, I sit back and wonder if I’m overly judging, or something is terribly wrong. But I’m not wondering in vain. Canada has become my new home and I have a reason to voice the uneasiness with direction the current government would want to lead the country to. Well, I give Mr. Harper’s administration credit for their fiscal and economic discipline and conservatism. Not much else!
Not much else because the government is so care-free that the officials can say almost anything without due sensitivity. I remember a few years back when the Prime Minister sadly said that Islam is the number one threat to the west. The PM didn’t even specify the small clique of Islamic Radicals who use Islam to exercise their crimes.
When the top leaders of the land aren’t careful as to what they say and how they say it, I’m left wondering whether something is wrong with me. Am I too judgmental or is something terribly wrong here?
However, one can say that these are just politicians vowing to the whims of their electorates. But what would one say if a columnist actually vouches for the foul-mouthed language used?
Naomi Lakritz of Calgary Herald unashamedly wrote this on April 4, 2013:
“Kudos to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for sticking to his guns and ensuring that the federal guide for would-be immigrants uses strong language to let those who want to move to Canada know the customs that are alien to democracy and which won’t be tolerated.”
Kenny’s language is not a strong language. It’s beneath his ministerial, linguistic expectations. An unacceptable language never changes things but preventive and inviolable measures do. We need Canada to maintain its international standards.
I don’t know any country in which foul-mouthed language has ever changed things. Well, I know of countries where it’s changed things for worse. It’s the strength of the institutional and constitutional prescriptions that keeps the country’s integrity.
We need to put in place modalities that’d empower and protect the potential victims; instead of stooping to unacceptable mannerisms.
TOLERANCE & INCLUSION
While it is possible for us to racially discriminate or judge people we know, the chances of judging people we know diminish significantly the more we know them. An easy example of the importance of understanding others is the attitude people develop when they want to harm others or when they want to deny them something valuable. Essentially, before you fight someone, you insult them. Insults are attempts at diminishing the value of people, an attempt at estranging them, as Toni Morrison argued in The Origin of Others. It is easy to discriminate against strangers or make others strangers or dehumanized in order to discriminate against them.