Garbage in, garbage out ByGeorgeWeigel
When Francis Fukuyama brought G. W. F. Hegel to Washington in July 1989 with an essay arguing that political and economic liberalism had triumphed and that history was thus over, he lamented that the future would be more boring than the past, the great arguments about the organisation of public life having been definitively settled.
Frankmight also have warned us that the end of history would be transcendentally silly. Take, for example, Canada: a lovely country, populated by very nice people, which is so far gone in political correctness and other post-historical madness as to make Brussels look antediluvian in its traditionalism.
When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested several Islamist terrorismsuspectsinOttawainAugust, the Mounties’ chief diversity officer was immediately dispatched to soothe the feelings of the Canadian capital’s Muslim population and to assure all and sundry that there had been absolutely, positively no “racial profiling” in the investigation. Canadian public life is also rife with a degree of psycho-babble that would make even your trendiest cleric blush. While the RCMP was busy mending its diversity fences in Ottawa, the rest of Ontario (and the nation, judging from radio talk shows) was embroiled in a debate over howmuch psychological damage would be done to teenagers by a new, draconian directive from the Ontario Ministry of Education on the gradingandevaluationofstudentsinsecondaryschools. The students, it seems, may actually be given lower grades for assignments that are completed after their due-date, and could even receive a grade of “0” for a course in which they did no discernible work.
And then there is the garbage; or as we say in La Belle Province—Quebec, where mywife and I have a summer cottage—les ordures pour le dépotoir. Two decades ago, when the late Father Richard John Neuhaus introduced us to the pleasures of vacationing in the Ottawa Valley, our island paradise had an honest dépotoir: that is, a dump, which is to say, a great hole in the ground, in the middleofnowhere,wherelesordureswere,well,dumped, and then burned and buried. The system had worked beautifully for generations. Then came the recycling fanatics, and le nouveau dépotoir took on a vaguely industrial look, withaconsiderably expandedstaff sorting through the recyclables and passing judgment on whether their customers were following the instructions on separating this-from-that which emanated from the bowels (so to speak) of the Quebec provincial garbage bureaucracy.
This summer, we came to the cottage to discover the Great Quebec Ordure Revolt in flood tide. The garbage bureaucrats, fearful ofoffendingMotherGaiabyfurther
Bin there: Recycling receptacles in Quebec
garbage burials, had closed all municipal dumps in the province, and residents were now given 26 clear (and very official) plastic bin-bags, which were to last each family a year in disposing of non-recyclable and noncomposted garbage. This madness had, of course, immediately created anundergroundgarbageeconomy, in which the official garbage bags became a kind of unofficial tender and local ordure entrepreneurs offered, for a fee, to truck your garbage over to slightly-less-insane Ontario, just across the Ottawa River.
Perhaps Fukuyama was wrong, however, and history will recommence in Canada: say, with Vladimir Putin’s Russia challenging Canadian sovereignty in the melting Arctic. That, but perhaps only something like that, might concentrate the corporate mind of Canada’s post-historical elite and put paid to la guerre des ordures. Meanwhile, I do have some extra, official bags…
Abolish the author ByKarenHorn
Thilo Sarrazin has left the board of the Bundesbank—“voluntarily”. The pressure was more than he could bear, the highly successful former finance senator of Berlin explained. In fact, the show being staged in Germany in September was nothing short of verbal stoning, unworthy of a free country.
The attack did not mainly come from the Bundesbank, nor from the intelligentsia, which at least made serious efforts to analyse the arguments Sarrazin put forward in his recent book Deutschland schafft sich ab (“Germany Abolishes Itself”). The bottom line: most Germans are well-educated but have few children, while many immigrants, especially the Muslims, are poorly educated, refuse integration, live in parallel communities, reject or fight Western civilisation, live on taxpayers’ money and have large families. This way, he argues, we are bound for cultural disaster.
From personal acquaintance, I can testify that Sarrazin is a provocative but entirely honest intellectual. And he’s not a racist. While his diagnosis rings true and his worries are shared by most of the German public, the problem with the book nevertheless lies in its biological musings, potentially implying—at least for those who confuse ex-post explanations with ex-ante determination—that intelligence is genetically hereditary and education won’t help. When Sarrazin undertook to explain genetic inheritance in an interview, trying for once to avoid any reference to people from Muslim countries, he was imprudent enough to use a taboo word: Jews. He said that they share a common genetic inheritance—which most of them do, and are proud of, like many other groups of people—but by the standards of German political correctness, this was too much.
The main and decisive attack came from the politicians. Even before Sarrazin’s book was on sale, Chancellor Angela Merkel set the tone of the debate by judging it “unacceptable”. Under Germany’s constitution, the Chancellor does not have the power to sack central bankers, but she suggested openly that the Bundesbank should get rid of its black sheep. Germany’s new President, Christian Wulff, explained on TV that the central bank that once had set the standard for Europe’s monetary policy “could certainly do something to prevent the discussion from harming Germany”. The “something” was to fire Sarrazin. The supposedly neutral Wulff would then follow suit and endorse the bank’s decision. In the end, he didn’t have to, given that the Bundesbank and Sarrazin reached a so-called agreement.