Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Biases of Humankind

"Academic freedom is a foundational principle of university life."
"Often, such academic debate expresses views that may be perceived as controversial and unpopular."
Robert MacKinnon, vice-president, University of New Brunswick

"The administration [of UNB] doesn't want bad publicity, that's all it's thinking about. I'm sure they wish I would just stop this research [into aspects of immigration and multiculturalism]."
"I emailed them [Vancouver city councillors] to see if they would reply to me. I wanted a debate."
"[Vancouver has been transformed from a] serene, community-oriented British city [to] a loud, congested Asian city (still attractive only because of the architectural and institutional legacy of past White generations)."
Ricardo Duchesne, professor of sociology, University of New Brunswick

Professor Duchesne, ironically enough is an immigrant, originally from Puerto Rico, but now a true Canadian. He joins tens of millions of other true Canadians, all originally of immigrant stock, since Canada is a country comprised of immigrants, but for its indigenous native population. The country hasn't done a too-bad job of integrating people who have come to Canada to plan new lives for whatever reason, making up a major part of the social fabric of the country.

But there was a time in the past when immigration was encouraged only from among Anglo-Saxon or white European populations, a time when racist discrimination was alive and doing very well in Canada, even though its population base was comprised of migrants. The decision was made, reflexively by those in power, and in fact reflecting the biased opinion of most Canadians derived from those white-sourced populations abroad, that exotic 'ethnics' be excluded.

And so, Jews and blacks and orientals were viewed as undesirables, their unwanted presence certain to blight the population stock; they were viewed as incapable of melding into Canadian society, and because they were mostly visibly different, they wouldn't present as desirable in a culture that celebrated its white Christian heritage. Those in Canada emanating from a heritage other than the desired one were excluded from polite society, from academia, social clubs, and political standing.

The Chinese head tax imposed by the government of the day attached to the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 represented a disgraceful piece of racial bigotry, even though Chinese labourers were brought to the country to slave conditions working on the railways to link the country from coast to coast to coast. The horrors of World War II might have been absent some thousands of Jewish children and women sent to the gas chambers but the government of that day shuddered at the very thought of taking in Jewish refugees.

The Japanese Canadians who were interned during the war years, as enemy-aliens, though they were loyal Canadians and had been for generations represent another colonial-mindset horror story of white entitlement biased against orientals. Sociology Professor Duchesne, himself of immigrant stock, appears to find it an atrocious situation that official Canada has apologized for the social misdeeds of previous administrations, and he is downright apoplectic at the thought of financial redress.

He has written an essay, Chinese Head Tax, White Apologies, and 'Inclusive Redress', deploring all of the above. In a sense, apologizing generations after a wrong has been done is a formality, recognition that justice takes its time. As for redress, the emotional anguish suffered by the oppressed and the discriminated against cannot be wiped out of the past. But that $500 was imposed as a 'tax', a monumental sum back then, slapped on Chinese immigrants, and the confiscation of Japanese properties as they were sent to wartime internment camps does require some level of reckoning.

In a spirit of provocation, Professor Duchesne emailed links to his essay to a number of people of Asian descent, living in Vancouver, among them Kerry Jang, a psychiatry professor at University of British Columbia who also happens to be a member of Vancouver city council. Professor Duchesne wrote that financial compensation linked to ancestral repression and oppression and seeking to ensure that this particular civic history be included in school textbooks leads to "the goal of taking Canada away from the Europeans and transforming the nation into a multicultural and multiracial society".

A claim that cannot perhaps be denied, but on the other hand, the reality is that Canada is a multiracial society; this is the fundamental bedrock of the country's population base and becomes increasingly so since Canada stopped its discriminatory, human-rights defying previous prejudicial selection making in immigration. That it is also a multicultural society in the sense that recognition is given to the cultural underpinnings of immigrants is also true. But this is what makes Canada uniquely welcoming.

Yes, many within Canadian society, irrespective of their cultural-heritage-ethnic backgrounds feel there is too much emphasis on the multicultural aspect, and not enough on a common, historical culture reflecting Canada's values and heritage as a Christian-majority, liberal democracy, and they have a valid point. Professor Jang was perturbed at the actions of Ricardo Duchesne, and asked senior UNB administrators to reflect on the fact that the man's "blog postings" are "troublesome in that they go beyond fair comment and abuse the privilege of academic freedom by their pejorative nature that is based on poor scholarship".

UNB's response was unsatisfactory in the opinion of Professor Jang in upholding academic freedom. Nor did the response please Professor Duchesne who felt that the endorsement given his work by the university was somewhat less than enthusiastic. He admitted that he would have been sanctioned by the university's administration in all likelihood had he not been a tenured professor. He doesn't plan, however, to relent on his campaign to discredit open immigration for Asians to Canada.

He maintains a website he has named the Council of European Canadians, focusing on immigration, intent on ensuring that Canada is kept as "white" as conceivable, promoting "European values", opposing "the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into Canada that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority within our lifetime". His founding Council's purpose is to "arm people with the ideas and courage to speak and fight against those who seek to demonize us and in our efforts to recruit and persuade Canadians".

In a sense, though it might seem somewhat premature, this man of immigrant stock is following the example of conservative Europeans reacting to the influx of Muslims sourced from various dysfunctional hot-spots of the world in wild, destructive conflict, sending refugees scattering to all corners of the world, bringing with them the seeds of future conflict through sectarian violence and a basic Islamist jihadist conquest message to the faithful, creating upheaval wherever they congregate.

It's a very uncomfortable place to be in, that frame of reference and of mind. Solutions to what is happening in the world with the wide-ranging discord, violence and criminal action on the part of governments and non-state militias alike, roiling and ruining societies, creating massive bloodshed on an incredible scale, sends some kind of message of hoped-for avoidance. It's as though we must always have some creed circulating that casts suspicion, fear and slander on some group or other.

Humankind seems biased against itself, without end.

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