(Image Credit: Wellcome Images via Wikimedia Commons; the image is this link. Used without modification under Creative Commons Licence)
When a government is fanatically ideological, it is only natural that it would be penetrated by an assortment of nefarious elements. The sorry chapter of CMAC / Laith Marouf is merely a symptom of a deeper problem.
As the CMAC / Laith Marouf controversy rolls on, the milquetoast statements from assorted members of the Liberal caucus, coupled with the foot-shuffling by Ministers Hussen and Rodriguez, give off a distinct sense that their strategy is to ride out the storm of criticism so they can go back to business as usual. The initial approach taken by the government consisted largely of trying to distance itself from the appointment of a singularly ineligible individual by shifting the blame on to CMAC. When it could not be avoided that Marouf and CMAC are essentially the same entities, the tactic has shifted to putting the blame on ‘vetting’. But making basic inquiries as to the desirability of awarding government contracts to persons or entities is not exactly an earth-shatteringly new phenomenon, and so the existing vetting procedures should have sufficed to avoid this situation. The fact that a simple Google search could have prevented the grotesqueness of putting a known rabid anti-Semite and a raging, raving racist in charge of an anti-racism initiative is being studiously ignored. Therefore, the noises emanating from the government aisles have the aura of a steam-whistle of a pressure cooker; the objective is to release the pressure that had been built up by persistent application of heat. But all the figurative foot-shuffling by the ministers and their mouthpieces is not going to remove the fundamental inappropriateness of the awarding of the contract to CMAC / Laith Marouf. As a side note, I must note (as many people have already) that the same government that could not conduct a simple Google search for one individual has proposed to endow itself with the power to regulate the entire internet.
Of course, I do not intend to claim to be the first person to come up with these (and other) obvious questions regarding this sordid saga. I am grateful to everyone who has posed these questions in the public sphere – specifically because it allows me to look beyond the immediacy of these questions and at the broader picture. Given my background, this picture often relates to nuts-and-bolts of government functioning, and governance in general. My view in this CMAC / Marouf affair is that it is not an aberration, but rather, it was inevitable, given the characteristics of this government which were in full view even before it came into office. Let me explain.
Prior to the 2015 federal election, Justin Trudeau (then just an MP and the leader of the Liberal Party) made it a condition for all nomination candidates that they must adhere to his stance on the matter of abortion. Anyone having a different view on the matter for any reason was denied nomination. It is a sign of the times – or perhaps the personality cult around Justin Trudeau – that allowing individual MPs to vote or even express their views on this issue based on their conscience is routinely called a ‘CON’ thing; until 2015, the Liberal party fully acknowledged their MPs’ right to follow their conscience in the matter of abortion. The unambiguous message was that anyone who wanted to be part of Team Trudeau had to pass this Purity Test.
Up next was the legalization of marijuana. I am friends with a senior Sikh gentleman who also enjoys a weighty position in the Sikh community in the GTA. Once, he related to me that when this vote was upcoming, he asked Sikh MPs as to how they could go against the teachings of their religion (which prohibit intoxicants) to vote in favour of this Bill. Their reply was that they are Sikhs only outside the parliament; inside, they have to abide by the diktats of the Party (which I interpret to mean Mr. Trudeau). I suspect that the Muslim members of the Liberal caucus also wore a similar dichotomous identity.
The marijuana issue didn’t create any ripples in the public sphere – at least not to the extent that the subsequent Purity Test did. In 2018, the Trudeau government declared that in order to qualify for the Summer Jobs grant, an organization had to attest their full support of ‘women’s reproductive rights’ (= abortion). This posed an insurmountable obstacle for many religious institutions and charities, but in spite of a concerted challenge mounted by them and their supporters, the government did not give in. We haven’t heard much – or anything at all – about this issue in the succeeding summers, so it is likely that intransigence has won.
We have seen similar intransigence in the matter of carbon tax (which, in government lingo, is not a ‘tax’ but rather a ‘price’ – as if they are selling us something in return for our money). No amount of financial suffering for Canadians suffices to alter its stance, to the extent that FURTHER increases in carbon tax have been put in place in direct contravention of the earlier promise that the carbon tax would be capped at $50 per ton in 2022. Now, we are told that the tax will be ‘capped’ (if we are prepared to take this term at face value now, in light of experience) at $130 per ton in 2030. Increasing taxes in a time of economic hardship is always a bad idea, as is universally accepted, but the ideological zeal of the government makes it blind to this obvious reality.
In a nutshell, this government takes hard positions on ideological grounds, and then digs in until the other side yields or gives up the fight. Viewed from another angle, what this means is that the government is totally inflexible on matters of policy; any compromise is off the table. This situation creates a fertile ground for nefarious elements to gain advantage. I used the term ‘nefarious’ here because they have certain targets that are athwart the well-being of the society and/or groups and people therein, so let’s talk about that part first before we take a dive into how they go about securing that advantage.
‘THEY HAD IT COMING’
During the Summer Jobs Grant brouhaha, a lot of support for the government’s diktat originated from people’s animosity towards churches (‘They don’t pay taxes’, ‘Remember the widespread sexual abuse’ etc.). I am prepared to believe that these ideas were deliberately seeded into the public discourse in order to create support for the diktat and resist the demands for change. A pre-existing sentiment was leveraged to create support for the government’s stance on the issue. As a result, the debate was turned from an objective assessment into a matter of emotion.
At a broader level, over that past several years, it has become acceptable – perhaps even fashionable – to express all sorts of vile things about white people (unless they happen to be ‘Progressives’, in which case they are the very embodiment of virtue). The nastiness of these expressions is supposed to be justified because of the actions of people from decades or even centuries ago. Here, it is important to note that the white individual in the present time need not have any connection with those people of the past. In the modern dogma of Progressivism, people have no individual identity; every member of a group is identical with every other member of that group. Further, the Critical Race Theory explicitly advocates that injustices of the past can only be redressed by injustices (in the opposite direction) in the present. This is the reason why we heard last year, when many churches were being burned down in the wake of the discovery of mass graves of Residential School students, that the arson was ‘understandable’. The fact that many of these churches had been lovingly built by Indigenous people themselves didn’t matter. What mattered was that abuses of Indigenous children took place in the past, at the hands of church officials, and therefore the congregation of any church in the present ‘had it coming’ (which is just another way of saying that the arson was ‘understandable’).
And as we know all to well, Jews are at the top of the list of people / groups who are deemed as a group that ‘had it coming’ – and this isn’t new, unfortunately. What is worse is that instead of getting a grip on the problem to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) its occurrence, the current environment is actually set up to exacerbate it.
At the heart of the process of subverting society while pursuing official policy lies the interface between the two sides of the machinery of governance, viz., the political side (the elected government) and the operational side (the public service). Since the policies enacted by the government to be implemented by the public service, there is a translation (at the point of interface) as to what it means. Anyone who can manipulate the meaning of the policy can get it to work for their purposes. Normally, the wiggle room for interpretation is limited, but a government committed to ideology creates enough ambiguity to expand this wiggle room. Moreover, given the zealotry on the political side, the operational side is extremely wary of rejecting an interpretation for fear of angering their political bosses. Thus, even outlandish interpretations of (already wonky) policies make their way into implementation.
In the backdrop of ‘they had it coming’ sentiment against Jews, reinforced by the conflation between a people and a country (i.e., Jews on hand and Israel on the other) and further bolstered by the ambiguity relating to Zionism / Zionist (the definitions vary on the two sides of the argument), statements that are odiously anti-Semitic to one side are perfectly acceptable expressions in the service of ‘social justice’ to the other (this applies to statements against white people as well, albeit the Israel – Palestine conflict pitches the statements to a much higher level).
In sum, therefore, I consider it likely that the statements by Laith Marouf over the years (and perhaps decades) were perfectly known within the State apparatus (both the political as well as the operational sides) and were not regarded as objectionable within that apparatus. The public servants who had any reservations (assuming there were any) would have held back and kept mum so as not to harm their career prospects. It was only when a pandemonium broke loose over these statements among the general public that any idea of backtracking occurred to them. In typical government fashion, they first tried to scapegoat the contacted entity (CMAC), and when that didn’t work, they have now shifted to laying the blame on the ‘vetting process’. But any additional ‘vetting process’ will not serve a useful purpose so long as the government remains ideological; the ideology, or its perception by the public service, will always vitiate the process of governance.
SIR HUMPHREY’S WISDOM
In the famous and classic British TV comedy ‘Yes, Minister’, there is an episode in which Minister Hackett grapples with the issue of ‘right versus wrong’. His top aide from the public service, Sir Humphrey Appleby tells him about the true function of a government. This conversation can bee seen at this YouTube link; at the 2:17 mark, Sir Humphrey says:
“Government isn’t about morality… (it is about) stability, keeping things going, preventing anarchy, stopping society from falling to bits, still being here tomorrow.”
Minister Hackett: “What for?… What is the purpose of government if it isn’t for doing good?”
Sir Humphrey: “It isn’t about good or evil – it is only about order or chaos.”
If our government were to heed Sir Humphrey’s advise, it would focus on the fact that our airports are in chaos (tarnishing Canada’s international reputation), issuing of passports and SIN cards takes obscenely long (throwingpeople’s lives into disorder) and there is a backlog of 2.4 million applications at Immigration & Citizenship Canada (throwing even more people’s lives into disorder). On a more long-term level, our healthcare system is crumbling and is held together by duct tape, housing remains prohibitively expensive for millions of Canadians, there is raging inflation that will take years to tackle, Canada has lost its competitiveness at the global level and so on.
But attending to these humdrum functions isn’t ‘sexy’. It doesn’t afford a politician the opportunity to grandstand (mainly for votes) or lecture Canadians from a pedestal. It doesn’t get their photos and interviews published in glitzy magazines abroad. These moments are their dopamine hits, and the damage caused to the Canadian society & Canadians in general be damned. Until they see their electoral prospects get harmed by remaining on this trajectory, they will continue riding their hobby horse – into the sunset of their eventual retirement. In the meantime, the fissures that have caused and widened in our society will continue to exist and grow into veritable chasms – and yet more Laith Maroufs will continue to lecture Canadians against something (racism and anti-Semitism) that they are ardent practitioners of themselves.