Sorry it’s been so quiet here all week. Our cat Tetrys is very sick and the vet detected a lump on Tuesday (this has nothing to do with the whole “I’m radioactive” scenario last summer). He survived today’s exploratory surgery (we weren’t sure he would) but it’s now 5 days of waiting on a biopsy. He’ll be home sometime in the next few days. The whole thing’s very sad, emotionally draining really and contrary to appearance of confession on this blog (and the genre in general), I don’t feel like writing much about it. At least not now.
I do feel like writing short takes on two other topics, so here we go.
–The cartoon scandal. I’d originally hoped to get together a Bad Subjects oped, but it’s not happening right now. The whole thing is a textbook case of the liberal free speech scenario presented in John Durham Peters’ Courting the Abyss. Peters writes that liberalism’s enchantment with free speech is essentially satanic in that liberalism derives its nobility from hanging out with objectionable characters. The moral crediblity comes from, essentially, “tolerating” morally in-credible speech in order to sanctify the virtue of free speech itself. So basically, you have a Danish* newspaper doing a very stupid thing by running cartoons of Mohammed for no good reason, and a bunch of people who are not hailed by the discourse of liberalism getting extremely pissed off. There has been some spectacularly bad editorializing in the Globe & Mail by Rex Murphy and others arguing that this proves how uncivilized and “different from us” the Muslim world is. Let’s see what happens when Danish newspapers start running caricatures of Jesus. Already, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are complaining about a cartoon featuring Donald Rumsfeld which might pass as a caricature, but from the sound of it stikes me as grounded in reality. None of this excuses violence around the world in response to the cartoons. That is inexcusable and I have no patience for religious absolutism of any kind. My point is simply that the same kinds of reactions are just as available in the “west” as they are elsewhere. And free speech for the sake of free speech is not very free at all.
–what’s up with nationalism here? It has been a topic on my mind lately (partly beause we’re doing the whole nations-and-media imagined communities thing in my undergrad class, or rather just did), but Canada is really the only place I’ve ever been where leftists put forward earnestly nationalist discourse — both Anglophones and Francophones. Maybe I don’t travel to the right places, but it’s just a bit weird. Of course, in the U.S., where nationalism is so clearly articulated to the slaughter of thousands and thousands of innocent people, the objection is more obvious. But still.
* I am totally embarassed that I originally typed “Dutch” as Denmark and the Netherlands are REALLY different places. I’m going to chalk it up to sleep deprivation.