You have to be very swift these days to keep track of the latest societal cliché. One needs Ben Johnson-like speed to keep up with the trendy new outrage. Social workers and social activists are worn to a nub, mainly on account of the number of TV interview shows they must zip to in expense-paid taxis so as to express their outrage at the disgrace-of-the-month.
This month, the ire of the nation is directed at one nutty professor at the University of Western Ontario in dull, dull London where they breed only insurance companies and the original McDonald’s Canadian headquarters and therefore anything out of the ordinary is regarded as something imported from Mars.
One would think, from the fuss, that the very fate of the dominion rested on the arcane theories of one Philippe Rushton, a professor of psychology who is undoubtedly wrong but not really quite as dangerous to humanity as Hitler, as he is painted.
This is at the heart of the cliché: any minor nut who puts a finger on the new sacred “racism” touchstone is regarded as a man more serious than he is, a chap more perilous to the commonweal than he is, a man who can shake the very foundations of our precious way of life.
This is silly. Nonsense is eventually recognized as nonsense. Rushton, as nutty as professors are often nutty, has a goofy little theory that is being elevated as serious only because the current fashion—fostered by the feverish media—is to treat such goofballs as really serious people. Rushton, an ex-Brit who strikes one as completely humorless (the worst sin of all), delivered a paper to an American collection of humorless academics that attempted to prove that Orientals are intellectually superior to whites and whites are brighter than blacks.
Ho hum. I know newspaper columnists, some of whom live in Vancouver, who think the same. There will always be such types. The world will survive them. This month’s outrageof-the-month will survive Rushton.
Among his naïve findings is that blacks—
look at the crime statistics in the United States!—are given to violating the social order. More than that, they are more promiscuous than whites. As to the former, the good professor seems completely oblivious to the whole history of the black race in the United States and its position as the low-income, illeducated underclass and how this just might relate to their frustration and their rebellion and their violence—all understandable if one ever got out of the lab and the classroom and walked through Alabama or Harlem or the 70 per cent of Washington that starts two blocks east of the White House.
As to the latter, someone has pointed out that one would have to be a Rip Van Winkle (with or without advanced degree) not to have noticed that the most randy portion of our society in the last several decades has been white college students. Come on now, prof, sniff a coed dorm.
This whole hullabaloo is liberalism gone wild. Yuppie students, whose next major problem is the payment on the Saab, were paying $20 scalper prices for the $1 tickets at the Western campus debate last week where the nonentity-made-martyr was to debate my friend David Suzuki.
My friend disappointed. Suzuki, who knows racism since he spent his childhood in a B.C. internment camp when Canadian authorities panicked at the Japanese strike at Pearl Harbor, has done more than anyone through his TV program and his columns to marry difficult science to understandable terms that can be understood around the supper table.
He declaimed—while 2,000 newly proud democrats shouted and screamed—that Rushton’s “claims must be rejected.” Of course. But he went on: “ ... his research grants revoked and his position terminated.” That’s sad. David Suzuki, one of the adornments of Canadian academe, with an international reputation as a geneticist, demanding that a marginal nut case be cashiered because he pushes an unpopular cause. Sad. Suzuki knows better. He himself was almost blackballed by his academic colleagues because he was doing the outrageous thing of going on TV and making science understandable — and popular.
The university president, George Pederson, who was uncorrupted by the fact we used to play on the same basketball team in downtown Sardis, B.C., 150 years ago, has the more calm—and correct—attitude. He, too, thinks Rushton is a goof. But university academic freedom must accommodate goofs. Otherwise, we’re back to what a politician called Hitler did to the then-brilliant German academic community, which had to flee to the U.S. Pederson is correct. Suzuki is wrong.
The Toronto Star, which can spot a trendy liberal cause at 40 paces, at the height of this furore had on one day last week all three main headlines on its front page featuring “racist,” “race” and “racism.” Warned Toronto’s mayor: “Racism has us at crossroads.” That’s not true. There are far worse perils. Poverty as a whole—which produces residues that may fuel racism. The greed and corruption among the moneymen that produce the scandals revealing who are really the criminals in our society.
The lack of reasonable housing for reasonable people is a disgrace. “Racism”—or the lack of it—is not really the issue that we might assume by looking at the headlines in a few key cities that are looking for circulation figures. It’s the flavor-of-the-month.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.