Ignatieff & Rae

Remember, folks, I’m still open to more guest bloggers!

In my continuing obsession with cryptozoology, I was intrigued by this story about a strange scream heard by residents of a small town in Ohio. The link includes a video with sound. How is this cryptozoological? Well, the scream sounds to me a lot like a supposed recording of sasquatch calls I once heard in a documentary. Who’s kidding? It’s likely a bunch of kids with a megaphone.

Now this story is likely to generate a lot of buzz. British scientists have shown that, among a sample of 100,000 people, men have statistically higher IQs than women. What does this mean? A great many things, potentially… or absolutely nothing. It depends, I think, on the methodology of the study and the type of IQ test applied. If the science ends up being rigorous, however, I wonder what the political fall-out will be. For the record, I’m one of those people who’s all in favour of comparing races, sexes, nationalities, etc., in terms of measurable criteria like IQ and penis length. While practically useless, such comparisons usually provide ammunition against bigots and always help us refine our analytical methodology, since the methodologies of such studies are examined and critiqued by pretty much everyone on the globe.

When David Suzuki debated Phillipe Rushton back in 1989, regarding Rushton’s controversial theories about racial superiority, I was quite disapponinted that Suzuki’s main argument was that “this sort of research should not be done.” Wrong, wrong, wrong! Every kind of research should always be done, so long as it is done well and with proper methodology and conservative interpretation. Keep these debates in the public eye by conducting and publishing the research, or else the bigots will accuse the world of hiding facts and refusing to face known realities.

Now, Brother Hrab sends us this article by a human rights professor arguing against torture. (Amazing that someone needs to argue against torture. Seems to me that the moral and practical arguments against it are self-evident!) I link to it here because the article names Michael Ignatieff as a well-known, though hand-wringing, advocate of torture as “the lesser evil.” The author rightly takes Ignatieff to task for even using the evil/good dialectic. I’ve been meaning to talk about Ignatieff for a while, as he is an eloquent speaker and the author of a book I enjoyed some years ago, Blood & Belonging

Canadian papers areall abuzz over how Ignatieff and the Liberal Party are courting each other, with strong speculation that Ignatieff is the heir-apparent to Paul Martin’s Prime Ministerial throne. Getting less buzz is the whispered rumour that former Ontario NDP Premiere Bob Rae is being courted for the same job. Weird times, especially since Ignatieff and Rae are lifelong pals.

My disclaimer and disclosure: Bob Rae was my MPP when I was a kid, and I have many memories of him sitting in our living room listening to my parents complain to him during election season. But Michael Ignatieff –the son of famed diplomat George Ignatieff and genuine Russian royalty– I have never met, though I went to high school with his niece Natalia, met his nephew Nicholas and have encountered other members of the family. I have nothing but respect and affection for the Ignatieffs I have known, but must recount one small observation. I’m not sure which one said it, but the opinion was expressed –passionately so!– that slave labour could not possibly have been employed to construct the Great Pyramids of Giza, since the things were so beautiful that anyone working on them would have done so out of love and nothing more.

That such stunning naivete could have issued from an erudite and otherwise sensitive individual was my first exposure to the class blindedness of the casually privileged. It is perhaps unfair to judge one member of a family by the utterances of another, but I can’t help but wonder if Michael is similarly blinded. It would explain his advocacy of torture, his apparent inability to truly conceptualize the moral horror of such a thing. It seems to me that there is an overlap in attitude among all those who approve of US torture of Islamic prisoners: an inability to project empathy to those of a different race, culture or class. Methinks there’s a thesis here for some keen sociology student, or at least a lame-ass op-ed.

Having said all this, I actually approve of both Rae and Ignatieff entering federal Canadian political life. I may find them both morally suspect at times, but both men bring an undeniable intellectual gravitas that is sorely lacking in contemporary Canadian public life. I think I’d rather be lead by a brilliant, ethically-circumspect man, than by a dumb man whose moral position so far remains well hidden. In other words, I guess I’m simply tired of the cavalcade of standard business-loving lawyers and MBAs who masquerade as leaders of communities.