July 03, 2008

The mind of the single-issue man

Today's Montreal Gazette contains, on its op-ed page, a stunning apologia for Robert Mugabe written by Mohamed Elmasry, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.

I have neither the time nor inclination to detail how astonishingly wrongheaded this piece is - though what the hell, I'll pick at a few points: 1) it hasn't been about the white farmers for at least five years now, and anyways, the "land reform" wasn't; 2) the 2002 election was highly questionable and is now hardly relevant; 3) the country is in ruins not because of "Western sanctions" but because of jawdropping kleptocracy and mismanagement; 4) describing widespread violence, starvation as a political tool, and other horrific abuses as "clumsy" is, to grossly understate, a wee bit disingenuous.

But what is actually interesting about this piece is the glimpse it gives us of the single-issue mind: a person who has only one sociopolitical litmus test, and views all events through glasses tinged with that colour. Elmasry's a smart guy - aside from being head of the CIC, he's an engineering professor at the University of Waterloo. (I'm pretty sure he taught one of my classes there. My memory of him is vague, but I was not exactly a faithful student, so that's true of most of my former profs.) But he appears to be utterly incapable of analyzing a person, or a situation, in any light other than "does it challenge the Western hegemony? If so, is good, and if necessary we will twist our minds and arguments into Moebius pretzels to support it! If not, is bad, and we must condemn!"

He's not so different from the many who take all criticism of Israel as anti-semitism, or the even more who see everything in terms of gender politics. Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if his type is a near-majority. But most such people use weasel words and pretexts in an attempt to seem reasonable. You rarely get to see so stark an attempted defense of the indefensible as this. It's weirdly fascinating, in that car-crash way.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you said the sum total of nothing here

11:18 PM  

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