Organizations such as SAFS and the US based National Association of Scholars (NAS) are to be commended for their relentless defense of academic freedom and freedom of speech, both on and off campus. And all of this despite severe headwinds in the United States, Canada, and pretty much every other western democracy where critical masses seem determined not only to erase our history, but also to undermine and ultimately supplant traditional values, institutions, and systems of governance. Woke/politically correct diversity, supplemented by eco extremism, is at the root of much of this malaise.
At first blush, diversity may seem like an oh so nice tolerant model for any society. Yet the diversity currently in vogue is more pernicious. It emphasizes race, gender, sexual orientation, transgenderism, and non-Judeo-Christian religions, at the expense of everything else. And the more “intersectionality”, the better.
Unfortunately, individuals in such a climate (our current climate) are subordinated to the above-cited larger entities. They are reduced to nothing more than grist for the mill - mere pawns to be exploited for some alleged greater good. Each is encouraged to accept a designated mass identity, even if it is at odds with whom they really are; a plight that flies in the face of human nature. After all, the diversity cited above does not respect the basic fact that each individual differs from all others. Furthermore, freedom to try to fulfill one’s potential is thwarted when emphasis is placed on group conformity. Indeed, the disaster that is communism partly stems from its unwillingness or inability to acknowledge this basic facet of the natural human condition.
Indeed, suppression of the individual may discourage someone from achieving things on her own and gaining the confidence that goes hand-in-hand with personal accomplishment. An individual is better able to think critically and be more creative when exposed to, and free to explore, different ideas, free from such authoritarian controls as demonization, censorship, and other diktats that are inevitable when one lives vicariously through the tunnel vision espoused by a larger collective entity. And people “bubble wrapped” and denied “freedom to grow” will not fulfill their potential; the end product being a society more miserable, less free, less productive, less affluent, and more dependent on the state than it ought to be.
But while individuality is important, we also need a set of core principles that unite not only a nation, but also organizations such as universities. Thomas Hobbes warned us that the structure provided by civil society is necessary to best avoid a lawless anarchic state of nature where “life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Furthermore, the first amendment to the United States constitution is civilizational freedom’s gold standard and an excellent supplement to Hobbesian stability, given its freedoms of speech, religion, the press, assembly, and peaceful protest guarantees. Such standards are universal and not restricted to race, colour, religion, or creed, as exemplified by those from all over the world who flock to America seeking a better life.
Similar guarantees ought to exist in Canada, although our Charter, sad to say, appears not to be worth the paper it is printed on, given that we now have political prisoners (Tamara Lich and some protestant ministers) and political persecution, including the freezing of peaceful protesters’ bank accounts. Nevertheless, our Charter’s principles are ones that can bring a society together and it is the acceptance - the rallying around - of these ideals, along with parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, that might potentially restore relative harmony not only to our country, but also to university campuses, workplaces, and other institutions.
If only things worked that way. Instead, we have competing tribes fueled by envy, grievance, and hate, with each group feeling it has been mistreated, and all too frequently chalking it up to “white supremacy” and “white privilege”. Forget about speech that may offend certain sensibilities or honest conversations about what divides us. All of that has become verbotten and accompanied by dire consequences (firings, shame, humiliation, demonization, doxing, harassment). So much for freedom of expression and speech.
Yet if we are so bad, how do our civilizational critics explain an inconvenient truth that Asians in Canada and the United States outperform whites and everyone else, both educationally and socioeconomically? Would this happen in a “white supremacist” country? Perhaps individuals within Asian cultures place greater emphasis on education and a work ethic than others. Unfortunately, such commentary is now made at one’s peril, as is the suggestion that poverty is best avoided if one finishes high school and doesn’t commit any crimes.
Additionally, gender and racial quotas are not only bigoted and discriminate against “out groups”, but also shrink talent pools, with obvious adverse consequences for businesses, professions, governments, and, yes indeed, universities, not to mention the overall economy. Some qualified student applicants (Asians applying to Harvard, for example) will be rejected in favour of those less qualified, and some better qualified teaching candidates will be passed over in favour of those less competent, but with the required immutable characteristics. Academic standards take the inevitable hit, with a less qualified faculty dumbing down the curriculum to accommodate a poorer quality of student, some of whom will be our future doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and politicians. Be concerned, folks - be very concerned.
Instead of forever making excuses and blaming others for our misfortunes, we should recognize that we all have weaknesses and it is up to each of us how we handle them. We either overcome them, live with them and muddle through, or find a niche where these weaknesses do not matter. Failure to address our flaws means never overcoming them; thereby remaining trapped in a psychology of defeat.
So what are universities to do? Well paid diversity bureaucrats on campuses have done a better job fanning the flames of division than bringing people together. Nor are they seemingly willing to relinquish their power. Indeed, one is reminded of Keith Wilson’s (QC - Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms) comments about the politicians, their health bureaucrats, and their approach to covid lockdowns, mandates, restrictions, etc. They liked the increase in power granted them by the covid crisis, much like a child who, upon receiving an ice cream, decides he likes it, and must have more and more. Cash strapped universities might want to send their diversicrats packing forthwith, and no doubt spare a great many professors much grief in the process.
Finally, we all know that universities ought to be havens where various ideas are free to flourish, without censorship, with the best ones hopefully winning out. But on or off campus, it is also vital to recognize that each of us is distinct with an identity not based on being a slave to the dictates of a group. Let’s base assessments of others on individual merits and demerits without group identity baggage getting in the way. Having a beer, a coffee, or breaking bread with someone provides enhanced insight into their character and may better mitigate the scourges of racism and bigotry. One thing that is absolutely unacceptable is to blame an individual for something he never did, had no control over, and perhaps happened before he was born. And it is bigotry pure and simple - not to mention irrational - to demand this individual apologize for some heinous deed committed by someone who just happens to share his immutable characteristics, but nothing else.