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View Diary: More on Ignatieff Saga: Devastating Critique of Harvard Prof (16 comments)

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  •  Thanks for the tip on that NYT Mag piece. (none)
    And while I think I see your complaint about Ignatieff being an interpreter of Canada for Americnas on certain issues--esp, the WoT, Iraq, etc.--I can't say the same for some of the other issues he's dealth with in writing.  

    I'm thinking in particular of his stuff on religion, ethnicity, and national identity.  Those aren't issues that Americans really care about at all: they have their "melting-pot" metaphor, and as nonsensical as it may be, they seem to be mostly happy with.  Canadians, though, need to worry about how to make a persuasive, intellectually grounded case that Canada, as nation, does not need to be based on any particular ethnic identity--i.e., that even without any such single ethnic identity it is nevertheless very much a "real country".  I like Igantieff on those issues.

    That said, I agree that the foreign policy stuff is a real problem.

    •  But that idea isn't new or startling (none)
      Canadians long ago rejected the notion of a melting pot.  He's not adding anything new to that discussion.

      My favorite Canadian story (true).  The CBC ran a contest to finish the sentence "As Canadian as....".  The winner, no kidding, was "As Canadian as possible under the circumstances."  That's who we are...

      •  Okay. (none)
        I'm getting the sense that you're not really familiar with the Ignatieff writings that I'm talking about.  So, yes, Canadians long ago rejected the melting pot.

        But rejected it for what?  Well, in lots of parts of the  country, and especially in cities, it was rejected in favour of some or another form of multiculturalism.  In all parts of the country?  No, decidedly not.  There is at least one province that is still very much domninated by a politics that takes linguistic and ethnic identity to be constitutive of national identity.  

        I am talking about Quebec, where the politcal leaders get drunk and talk about "us" in distinction from the ethnic and racial minorities who vote differently than the intended "us", and where political leaders claim that Canada--because it's not founded on any particual ethnic identity--is "not a real country".

        Is Ignatieff some late-comer to a national discussion that's already completely persuaded Quebecers that a nation can be composed of many peoples?  No, he obviously is not.  He is, rather, someone who has written at length about this problem, as it plays out in Canada as well as other countries, and has written at length about the dangers of insisting--as many seperatists do--that nations can be founded only on linguistic or ethnic or racial identities.

        Whether you like the guy or not, there can't be any serious question that he's made substantial contributions to political discussions that have an unmistakably Canadian flavour, and that are very, very, very relevent to present day Canada.

        •  Reply (none)
          Sorry, I was in a hurry, and that was a throw-away comment.  To elaborate on why I don't think Ignatieff really brings anything much new or substantive to the Canadian discourse:

          1)    Ignatieff's talks about Canadian unity as though it is some fresh, bright new idea.  Good grief, that's the very core issue at the level of federal politics and has been for decades.  The whole sponsorship scandal that ultimately brought the Liberal government down was about money being funneled to promote the Canada logo in Quebec.  
          2)    Similarly, Ignatieff likes to say that he's not a Russian-Canadian or a Scottish-Canadian, he's a Canadian.  Well, the Conservative Party has been saying this for many years.  His position on the Iraq War and the defence-missile shield is, similarly, the Conservative position.  The only thing "new" her is that it is a member of the Liberal Party--I guess he might have finally gotten around to joining the Party sometime last week--saying these things.  In effect, he is the Joe Lieberman of the Liberals.
          3)    He talks about the balance of individual rights vs. group rights but there is a deep-seated mistrust and often hostility towards group rights in his writings. Although in typical slippery ambivalent Ignatieff fashion, he "celebrates" that which helps people to believe in causes larger than themselves.  Yet he often conflates self-determination with "tyranny of an ethnic majority".  

          As a historian he should know better.   Civic nationalism rarely is divorced from questions of language, culture, and history; much of what passes for ethnic nationalism does not espouse primordialism or ethnic exclusivity . And, most importantly, political projects change over time.   The Polish national movement of the 19th c.  is a good example of project that was, at times, "civic" and, at others, "ethnic", and sometimes both at the same time.  Spectrums and mixes, not well-defined categories and crystallized ideologies are the reality of most movements and societies.  

          In that respect, it is decidedly not helpful for someone who aspires to assume a leading political role in Canada to talk about the Parti Quebecois as "malevolent".  It does nothing to win over those for whom calibrating the degree of Quebec sovereignty is the issue.    

          2)    Having been out of the country for nearly 30 years, he may see Canada as the best living experiment in "civic nationalism" (which was a "new and fresh" academic concept about 15 years ago) but he really looks like a latecomer to the party.  There is something weirdly colonial  and patronizing about a middle-aged white man, scion of an old aristocratic family,  pushing aside the only black woman in parliament and elbowing his way past local candidates in order to "help Chinese, Ukrainian, and Italian Canadians achieve power".   These people are perfectly capable of representing themselves without intermediaries and have been doing so for decades.

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