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At last! Something interesting to report

Dear Charles:

Your last words to me before you died were “Call the instant anything exciting should happen!”. Unfortunately for the world, your friends and me, you departed to Valhalla before anything of sufficient merit occurred. Now I am pleased to report that something of interest has occurred, twenty years after your departure.

A 12-foot tall steel monolith has been spotted in the desert of southern Utah by a passing helicopter that had been intent of counting bighorn sheep. Investigation has not revealed whether it is an art project or an alien artifact. Naturally we should not call it a monolith because it is not made of stone, but let us not quibble, dear Charles, for this is actually interesting.

The report is here.

Charles Fisher (1914-2006) was always a poet and at various points in his life a soldier (Welsh Guards), spy (MI6) and stenographer in the Canadian House of Commons. Friend of many, mentor to the selected few. He died at 91 in Bangkok on vacation. I would like to think he was bedding a young lady at the time. He was famous for having people over for dinner and disappearing. “Where’s Charles?” someone would ask. Through the kitchen pass-through someone called back from the liviing room: “he’s gone to Cambodia”. “What do you mean he’s gone to Cambodia?” “He has gone to Cambodia” was the reply. He left the guests and acolytes to clean up.

I feel I have fulfilled my obligation, Charles, to report anything exciting, even if fourteen years late. You will have ways of getting the message. Of this I am sure.

His obituary in the Guardian is here.

His funeral was the only one I have ever attended where the mourners left the church walking an inch of the ground, so elated were they by the many recollections of this extraordinary force of life.

Now would someone please tell us what the monolith is?

confessions of a student marxist

Tobias Fibbs, a Cambridge graduate, dissects expertly the emotional and moral atmosphere of the modern university. 


Social theorist Mark Fisher described from first-hand experience the manipulation of this scene as a Vampire Castle which “feeds on the energy and anxieties and vulnerabilities of young students, but most of all it lives by converting the suffering of particular groups — the more marginal, the better — into academic capital. The most lauded figures in the Vampire Castle are those who have spotted a new market in suffering — those who can find a group more oppressed and subjugated than any previously exploited will find themselves promoted through the ranks very quickly.” The Vampire Castle recruits on the promise of community and self-healing. The reality is an ouroboros of emotional manipulation, stripped of the political and of all that makes life interesting and worthwhile…..

We would have laughed at the idea we formed an elite and we certainly didn’t act like one. But we were the vanguard for a movement that has swept the English-speaking world in the subsequent decade. We still professed to be fighting the old powers — patriarchy, white supremacism, the nuclear family, colonialism, the university itself. But in truth we represented what Christopher Lasch called psychological man, “the final product of bourgeois individualism,” and were being trained in elite formation for the therapeutic age just as surely as our forerunners had been for the previous, paternal age….

The material genesis of the radical cultural politics that has shown its strength in the last few months lies in the overexpansion of higher education, which produced a new middle class that is materially discontented and uncomfortable in its own skin. The globalisation of American pathologies has given this new urban class, present across the Western world, a politics that is carving through our institutions….


The good and bad ideas of Diane Francis

I am pretty sure Diane Francis and I could have an amiable disagreement, because we do not disagree so greatly as to make conversation impossible.

Today’s article in the Financial Post contains some important ideas. “The crushing of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott is proof Canada is run by a Liberal cabal”.

Duh! We all are aware that Canada is run by a Liberal cabal. Perhaps more neutrally I can call it a productive relationship between various parts of the permanent governing party, the PGP, which consists of the civil service, coupled with the judiciary, which has its own styles of reasoning and sources of authority, and the Liberal Party itself, which I consider to be the sales arm of the civil service and the judiciary, and the latter’s acolyte, the Court party (read provincial law societies).

Diane Francis proposes several ideas.

  • A long period of cooling off before government employees can join the private sector after quitting government, which she suggests should be five or ten years long.
  • renegotiate equalization payments among provinces
  • abolishing the bilingualism requirement in the civil service.

Let me rate these ideas

Cooling off periods lengthened – F

Very bad idea, because you need a flow of people to and from the civil service, which tends to become too isolated, physically and mentally, from the rest of society. Cooling off periods after leaving the civil service are just drapery anyway, and not useful. Too long a cooling off period means that people joining the civil service might never leave, which would further exacerbate the isolation of the civil service from the rest of society. Keeping people from joining the private sector from the government means that the civil service becomes more of a caste than a career choice. It is already separated enough from the rest of society: do not increase the separation by limiting the outflow and the inflow.

Renegotiating equalization payments – A

Absolute agreement, and it requires only provinces to act, especially the paying provinces.

abolishing bilingualism requirements in the civil service – A+

Nothing tilts the civil service away from a more equal national participation than bilingualism requirements. It means that the recruiting zone for the civil service, or the vast preponderance of its routine levels, is the Ottawa valley, segments of the Quebec population that learn English and what remains of English Quebec. Thus the civil service becomes a job preserve – in clerical and functional levels – of bilingual French Canadians and an English Quebecer here and there. And that, my friends, is just how the Liberals want it.

Whether Canada would survive the relative reduction of the presence and importance of bilingual French Canadians in the civil service is a reasonable question. My guess is that it could and would, but it would have to be handled skillfully. It would take a Royal Commission on ethnic, regional and xyz representivity in the civil service. It could probably be sold on the basis that the proportion of “new Canadians” in the civil service was too low. It would take some tact and skill, but it could be done. The period when we had to believe that French Canada was somehow important is over, and looking back, I wonder whether separatism was not the last gasp of French Canada’s political importance.

The impetus behind the growth of the civil service in the 1970s was the baby boom. The civil service expanded as a deliberate method of absorbing the mass of boomers into employment. Other countries, I am told, did not adopt the tactic of expanding the civil service as a job-creation strategy, but Canada under Trudeau the Elder did.

As we head into the baby-bust era, there is little reason to keep civil service as large as it is. I can envisage it shrinking, relatively to other employment and perhaps even absolutely. A bold and wrong prediction, many would argue. When I consider how irrelevant government seems to be these days, I can scarcely recall the breathless importance ascribed to this or that French Canadian civil servant in the 70s and 80s who was supposed to “save” Canada. A participatory hallucination of the time.

However, the baneful effects of selecting your civil service on the basis of a capacity to speak French are pervasive. It works against Hindu mathematicians and Muslim economists, Albertans and Saskatchewanians, and every one else who does not belong to the French-speaking Tribe.

But that is how it was designed to be, n’est-ce pas?