Comment on Television creates terrorists by Patrick Sookhdeo (31/05/2003)
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the second Spectator contributor in the past few weeks to express the view that the world should hear and see a good deal less about the world than he thinks is right.
What we can do about the stuff that concerns Dr Patrick Sookhdeo isn't all that clear: bomb the TV broadcasters he disapproves of? Already done in Belgrade and Iraq and Kabul, and we must be running out of nations that have little choice but to grit their teeth ad take it. Qatar, which your correspondent correctly names as the home of Al-jazeera, is a "friendly" nation used as general headquarters for the recent unpleasantness in Iraq.
I'm afraid your correspondent belongs to the long-lived burgeoning school that thinks it ain't whut we does that matters, it's whut them others says we does. In other words, kill the messenger. Hardly evidence of our superior civilisation: Saddam Hussein thought much the same.
I fear that Dr. Sookhdeo's remedy of establishing a 'sensible' or 'moderate' TV station to get Islam back on the straight and narrow is somewhat fanciful. Given the volume of hysterical nonsense that is emanating from the Arabic and Farsi press, plus large sections of Islamic society in general, I believe that we may be witnessing a kind of collective nervous breakdown on the part of substantial areas of Islamic culture.
This would not be, I believe, historically unique. The German cultures of central Europe appeared to suffer from the same kind of moral and intellectual disintegration in the wake of W.W.1.
Defeat and humiliation led to a collapse in self-confidence, a flight from rationality and eventually mistrust and hatred of all those defined as 'The Other'
The heartland Arabic cultures of Islam are showing exactly the same signs in the wake of defeat by Israel and seemingly irreversible social and economic decline. The only crumb of comfort is that Islam does not dispose of the same level of military power as Hitler's Germany so is unlikely to pose the same challenge to us, in the West, as pre W.W.2 Fascism. Nevertheless the future does not look peaceful or rosy.
Comment on When rights are wrong (31/05/2003)
I wholeheartedly support your campaign for a referendum on this 'Constitution'. However, I think it should be broader based and aimed at a real debate, hopefully devoid of the usual name calling, about whether we in Britain want to be part of the EU.
If other European nations wish to go this route then fine and good luck to them, I really don't think the majority in these islands do. It would be better for our future relations with our neighbours for us to have an open debate and a negotiation about us being just a 'trading partner' rather than constantly being portrayed as the 'reluctant member' we currently are.
By conducting a proper debate that excludes flag waving and instead concentrates on the factual aspects of withdrawal from the EU, we would also do many other Europeans, a great service because the 'doubters' are not only living in the UK.
A decent airing of all the facts may well help the EU to confront and deal with these issues and in the process, modify its behaviour and the ambitions of the few that seek to impose their will on the many.
The key problem with the EU is its "democratic deficit" which can only be addressed in one way:
The abolition of all national parliaments, the creation of a United States of Europe with all power in the hands of a directly elected European Parliament, Presidency etc. In other words, the thing needs to be made accountable.
Personally, I am opposed to being a citizen of a USE and I suspect, right across the Continent and however 'pro EU' individuals may be, the vast majority of Europeans would be too, seeing it as a bridge too far.
The problem with the current situation is that because politicians won't tell the people the truth outright, we are all lumbered with endless treaties that limit our freedom of action and give nothing in return.
In Britain, our biggest problem lies in our citizens feeling divorced and disconnected from Westminster. We need to reform the Commons probably by reducing the number of MPs to 300 and strengthen local Government.
We need to reconnect the electorate to the political process to strengthen our democracy not reduce it by giving it away so that people 'blame' Brussels rather than Westminster.
Comment on They love to hate us by Rod Liddle (31/05/2003)
For all Rod Liddle's irony, there is one overweening reason that "asylum seekers" and other economic migrants come to Britain and that is, the entire world speaks, however marginally, English. Let's face it: no one bothers to learn French.
Comment on Land of the free by Paul Robinson (31/05/2003)
Paul Robinson's article on The Land of the Free would sound like some country other than the one I live in if it were not so typical of the nonsense printed regularly in the liberal press in Canada. While I do not wish to diminish the many accomplishments of Canadians, things are not as rosy here as the article implies.
First, there is no "enormous pressure to integrate" if that means join the American Union. Few Canadians want that and I have never heard of Americans clamouring for it. On the other hand, economic integration is already a fait accompli and it has been done as much by liberals in the Liberal party and Government as by conservatives.
Second, every informed person knows that the Canadian military is a shambles. Yes, we can muster a few platoons of well-trained infantry who acquit themselves with honour, but the state, and absence, of their equipment is an embarrassment.
Third, there is opportunity here, compared with, say, India and South Korea, and even for Canadians, but there is also an acknowledged "brain drain" to the US which sucks away many of our best and brightest.
Fourth, yes there is socialized medicine but why is that a given advantage? For two decades or more there have been inquiries and criticisms galore on how the system is too costly, inefficient and even incompetent in some areas. People who can afford it go the US for prompt, high quality care that the Canadian Medicare system simply cannot provide. Introducing private sector health delivery is already in its early stages and is inevitably going to grow.
Fifth, what is "far-sighted" about subsidies to the arts? Everyone except the recipients, the arts special interest groups and starry-eyed academics knows such subsidies are one of the great boondoggles of all time.
Sixth, it is not subservient to join one's greatest ally in fighting terrorism or corrupt, brutal neo-Nazi regimes. Many of us Canadians have nothing but admiration for the British and Australians for doing what's right rather than slinking off into the darkness after poking the US in the eye.
Seventh, as for moral fibre, most of the examples Mr. Robinson provides are decades old or relate to small, select groups. I certainly do not disparage the courage of those he described, but I live among Canadians and, sadly, moral fibre isn't what first comes to mind when I think of my fellow citizens. And why is not attending church to their credit? I am old enough to remember when upwards of sixty per cent of the population professed to be regular church-goers, and I can tell you there was a lot more moral fibre even among the church-going hypocrites then than there is among the atheistic hypocrites of today.
Eighth, the so-called "third way" is a farce. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau tried that in the seventies and it was an abject failure.
Ninth, Mr. Robinson seriously misrepresents the state of taxation in Canada. Notwithstanding some improvements over the last few years, Canada is still one of the most highly taxed countries in the western world, and Alberta is a very notable exception.
Tenth, I admire the number of Canadian artists who have become worldly successes - but note that they have become successful largely because they have succeeded in the US.
Defenders of the status quo always describe critics of what is defended as "bashing." Any rhetorician knows that skilful use of such emotive words can go a long way to discrediting the critic. But I and my fellow National Post readers long for the return of Mark Steyn whose penetrating insights, searing criticism of the pompous and shallow, and his unparalleled humour have achieved for another Canadian a world-wide audience - but he is now a resident of the US too.
It was the great Liberal Prime Minister, Wilfrid Laurier, who confidently predicted that the 20th century would belong to Canada. That promise now rings as hollow as the centre of a Tim Horton's doughnut. With the same population and 10 times the natural resources, we have one half the economic output of California. What's the problem? Paul Robinson's article sings the praises about Canadian talent and virtue. Therefore there must be something wrong in our particular brand of public policy. Just can't seem to come up with a successful recipe "mix" like that of the doughnut purveyors. No wonder Canadians are seeking comfort in comfort food. God knows, we need some!!
According to former Prime Minister Mulroney's speech to the Conservative party leadership convention on the weekend, Canada will soon be competing with Mississippi for the North American territorial jurisdiction with the lowest per capita income. Mr. Robinson finds virtue in what others, the so-called "Canada-bashers" (ie. Mark Steyn and anyone else who opposes the reigning Liberal orthodoxy), find cause and effect for this under performance. Overweening European style statism and government intervention.
Basically Canada's most mean spirited, petty and vengeful Prime Minister in history was fired by his own party for being a political liability. But since Canadians suffer from a terminal case of "Nice", no one in the ruling Liberal party has the guts to put the knife in