I really don't know who Neil Macdonald is. I believe I've read his offerings once or twice before on the CBC News website before today's column. My recollection is that he's an unremarkable, centre-right, white male liberal. "Liberal" as in "liberalism." Which is to say, "neo-liberal" economics, and freedom of speech, and opposition to positive policies that help counteract prevalent and systemic racism, in favour of some sort of "colour-blind" policies such as encouraging bigots to hire the best person for the job, regardless of creed, colour or gender.
In short, not a person to be taken seriously. A typical example of the whole Rex Murphy, Amanda Lang, Kevin O'Leary cavalcade of right-wing dorks they've hired in a futile attempt to curry favour with the harper Conservatives and its paranoid, conspiracy-theory base.
Today's column is unexceptionable. In it, Macdonald takes on the frightening return of "political correctness" ... "the scourge of the '90s." Ordinarily I wouldn't bother reading one of these screeds, but he put the expression "mansplaining" in the title and I thought it was going to be a detailed discussion of THAT issue. I thought it would be entertaining to see how a privileged, white, male mediocrity grappled with it. Alas, he uses it once, and, I think, incorrectly.
Say something these days that offends, even unintentionally, and it can unleash a terrifying wave of internet "shaming.""Mansplaining" is actually an interesting concept. It's about how men have an innate tendency to speak down to women when describing things, with a famous example being a female author of a book about a famous scientist being repeatedly cut-off by a rich, white dude, who is telling her about the book she wrote. He's heard she worked on something about the scientist and doesn't want her and her friend to miss-out on this important information he has to give her about this remarkable book. The idea that the young female in front of him could have written it (as she tries repeatedly to tell him) is so alien to him that he doesn't even hear her protests.
As the New York magazine article argues, once that has begun, there is no defence.
Explaining yourself, or trying to put the remark in context, is characterized as "tone-policing," or "mansplaining," or "whitesplaining," or "straightsplaining," and just fuels the pillorying, which, of course, the internet allows the punishers to inflict anonymously.
"Mansplaining," I believe, also involves telling women how they should think and react to their own experiences, as if the man knows better how a woman should respond to sexism or anything else that women have to deal with more than men. (Generally the advice is to shrug it off and carry on.)
As I said, it turned out to be just a re-hash of the right-wing complaints about "political correctness" (or "PC"). ("PC" was originally coined by late-sixties' radicals to mock the doctrinaire Maoists who joined their groups. They'd be real sticklers for adhering to the formal rule for meetings -so that they could then dominate them - and for adhering to the party-line as handed down from Beijing.) Somehow the term got resurrected in the 1990s by angry, right-wing blow-hards, responding to the strange, new world in which racist, sexist, and other sorts of offensive slurs were no longer completely acceptable in all social circumstances.
I'm sure that Neil Macdonald, being the whiny-ass, titty-baby that he is, found it all most unsettling. And now, it's supposedly back with a vengeance, and worth writing about. (I can't recall that it ever really went away though. Mayhaps Macdonald just wanted to invent an excuse to complain about it again?)
Now, I want to make something clear. I used to read more of these sorts of complaints about PC, and I tended to agree that the instances of it they were talking about were ridiculous and excessive. Similarly, on the face of it, Macdonald's example of Mount Holyoke College canceling a performance of The Vagina Monologues because it discriminates against transgendered women, sounds troublesome. I'm actually a Canadian Civil Liberties Association - type when it comes to freedom of speech. I didn't mourn when harper killed our anti-hate speech laws because I think they did very little in the way of practical good and provided a useful bludgeon for right-wing assholes who wanted to complain about the angry writings of marginalized, oppressed peoples as being "hate speech."
But I don't recall the biggest "scourge" of the 1990s as being PC. I think the resurgence of US-American militarism, the austerity policies of Paul Martin and Jean Chretien, and Mike Harris, were a bigger problem to me. And I used to hang-out with the hippy-radical crowd in the 1990s. I wasn't a big social butterfly, but I consorted with artists, feminists, trade unionists, anti-racists, GLBT, eco-radicals, and etc., ... and I don't recall it being an oppressive experience. And, in case it's not obvious already from my blog, I'm not the most PC kind of guy. I was worse then. And I was never hauled up in front of some progressives' "kangaroo court" by the PC-thought police and shamed and ostracized by the community and made to engage in demeaning, public self-criticism.
When one thinks of the rapes, the sexist discrimination, the racist discrimination and police brutality against minorities, the physical assaults on people of alternate sexualities, the government spying and physical suppression of anti-imperialist groups, ... it seems to me that all the Howard Sterns and Rush Limbaughs and all the other brave warriors against the excesses of PC were a trifle ridiculous. (And Howard Stern occasionally makes me laugh.) They made every asshole who prefaced a statement with "this might not be 'politically-correct' but" think he was a hero.
And, you know, they didn't even stop PC really, did they? It's even less acceptable to be homophobic, or sexist or racist now isn't it? Maybe with all their bitching and whining, boors and boorish columnists like Neil Macdonald curbed the excesses of the PC thought police, or maybe progressives would have done that themselves.
But whatever. The reason I'm writing about Neil Macdonald's column today is because it's not only irrelevant, it's offensive. It's offensive (at least to me) because at a time when an inarguably police-state bill is being rammed through Parliament, this stupid prat chooses to write about the oppressive censoriousness of political-correctness. It's always been idiotic to write about PC, because there have always been far, FAR greater oppressions, but such writings have always given right-wingers (the same sort who vote for shit-head parties like the harpercons) the notion that they're freedom-fighters themselves.
As if government spying and harassment and entrapment and torture, are of equal import as the misguided banning of a play or contorted efforts to correct millennia of sexist language conventions.
Neil Macdonald has a national forum. There was a Day of Action last Saturday in response to this totalitarian, police-state bill. But I expressed the same sentiments as Dr. Dawg did about it:
But, dammit, there were a few hundred people, out of a city population of close to a million. It was a demonstration like hundreds I have attended. Nothing set it apart. And yet it was a protest marking a democratic crisis in this country. A turning-point. Our accelerating move into darkness. Where the hell was everybody?And Neil Macdonald's pathological failure to see what's the most important issues facing us, and to choose this period in time to write about this non-issue, is one brick in the wall of Canadian society's apathy in the face of this dangerous legislation. Why worry about the federal government labeling you as a "terrorist" for blocking the building of a pipeline ("approved" by a rubber-stamping National Energy Board, filled to the brim with harpercon stooges, in violation of even the minimal regulations that harper earlier eviscerated), which is "interfering with critical infrastructure" and endangering "the economic or financial stability of Canada" when there's a black lesbian shouting-down an anti-abortion person at a meeting? They're BOTH of equal importance, aren't they? [Note: The answer is "NO."]
Am I saying that Neil Macdonald is single-handedly responsible for the Canadian public's failure to see the danger of Bill C-51? No. I'm not. He's not that important. He's just a foot-soldier in the culture wars. One on side of the devils. One on the side of the status-quo. Which includes giving more powers and less oversight to an agency of remarkable incompetence, callousness and cruelty. CSIS is already responsible for the extended torture of at least FIVE CANADIAN CITIZENS. I have thought of writing about something other than C-51 lately. I guess I probably have. But my writings are read by, perhaps, 50-100 people AT MOST. If I had a platform like Neil Macdonald's I'm sure that I'd be doing my damnedest to alert my readers to the REAL threat to their freedoms. I wouldn't be prattling on about how sometimes oppressed peoples can be uncivil, rude or hypocritical.
I remember the last time I read Neil Macdonald now. He wrote a column about the unpunished, unjustified police killing of a white, middle class male on his doorstep. Macdonald's point was that the police are out-of-control, and not just against blacks or other minorities. A fair point, but too much of a tone of white, male libertarian to be taken too seriously. Yes, Neil, the police are out-of-control. Now imagine putting racism into the mix! (Neil: "Why does it always have to be about race? Bitch. Whine. Blubber. Cluelessness.")
And, apparently, I even wrote about Neil Macdonald once. He was shocked and appalled that some people objected to Condoleeza Rice speaking at their convocation. "First they came for the war criminals." ("Came" as in, refused to have them disgrace their university graduations with their presence.)