Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Canada—where fed-up Malcolm Gladwell will go to relax?

Malcolm Gladwell’s success as a Canadian-born, best-selling, Manhattan author and regular New Yorker writer is celebrated in Canada. He can get Americans to buy new ideas and has coined popular explanations (“Tipping Point” and “Blink”) for change and success in American society—polemical skills Canadians don’t expect to see very often in fellow Canadians. He has made us proud.
Nevertheless, his melodramatic and teasing rationale for coming home is embarrassing.
Ian Bailey, while introducing his weekend Globe and Mail interview with Gladwell, highlighted that Gladwell would discuss his new book on the uses and abuses of power, the Occupy movement and “what might make him grab his Canadian passport and head back home for good.” 
Wow. What would drive a such a winner to take refuge in Canada? Here’s what we’re told:
           “You point out that most of politics is tweaking. Do you see that changing?
“Increasingly now, there are these situations where something more is demanded. I don't know whether you can tweak your way out of the euro. I think maybe you have to blow up the euro and that demands a very different mindset. It may have been that was a completely misbegotten experiment, and that it will cost all of Europe in the end and maybe something radical is demanded. And the health-care system in America, I think, is so ill at the moment. I think it, too, needs to be blown up. I don't think it can be tweaked.
“Despite health-care reform?
“Yeah, I actually think health-care reform was too timid. So there are a handful of areas where problems are so intractable that I think, maybe, you need some more revolutionary vision. We have gone beyond the realm of the tweaker who is at least someone who gets things done.
“Where do you see that going?
“I don't know. I see myself taking my Canadian passport and coming home.”
It’s easy to be a big thinker: you get excited; you tell us that we should blow up the euro or the biggest healthcare regime in the world; you scan the channels for news that the revolution is happening; by Friday, you lose patience—and, without blinking, head back to Canada.  
America is full of losers, but not as many quitters.
What is Canada’s appeal? Is its genius simply not stirring up radical ideas in the first place? Allowing quitters and patriots to console one another?
Maybe, Gladwell’s motives are deeper, profoundly pessimistic and quintessentially Canadian. He maybe genuinely believes that America is ungovernable and on the edge of collapse. (There’s a sentiment that won’t get him thrown out of any of the top parlors in Toronto.) However, leaving Toronto readers with the idea that he’d come home to feel safe is delusional.  
A few New Yorkers and many Torontonians share a vain proposition: they can side-step the mess on their continent. They think of their cities as island civilizations—diversified globally and with plenty of brands of their own. In truth, at their best, both cities are indebted to and dependent on the vitality and wisdom of the mainland—and its system of popular government.
Not having the vote in next year’s American showdown simply makes it easier to sit on your hands in Toronto.

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