Friday, January 30, 2009

Quality Trumps the Incidentals

Letter to the Toronto Star. Unpublished.

Re New push to make boards match colour of city, Jan 26 (2009)

Toronto has adopted a Utopian report that every board, commission, committee, sub-committee and school-yard huddle must consist of people reflecting the ethnic mix of the city. This misplaced idealism carries seeds of danger en route to failure. Nowhere do we read of quality, competence and ability.

In this quota system, the minority appointees will feel they represent only their particular ethnic or social group. In the absence of competition for these appointments, how else did they get the job? This initiative is based on the belief that the present system does not represent every community. By the same token, should we fear that ethnic appointees will not represent majority interests?

The danger is the ghettoization of supposedly pan-representative committees and commissions. Worse yet, the majority may defer to the representative of this or that particular community, even though the matter under debate is not in the best interests of the larger community. Worse still, the practice may develop whereby community representatives horse-trade authority among themselves.

Toronto's motto once was: Industry, Integrity, Intelligence. The city's new motto, Diversity Our Strength, celebrates our differences, not something we can all aspire to together.

This is multiculturalism and diversity gone barking mad. How else to keep this policy current other than by racial profiling? We can hope this is a temporary aberration in our city's passage into maturity. At which time, the sole criterion for appointment or election to office will be ability to speak to the interests of every community, and voters mature enough to judge candidates solely on quality, competence and ability.

One person cited in this report believes that children are inspired by people of the same skin colour, ethnicity or religion. Role models are important. But to the extent that it is true, our educators have failed. The challenge is to teach young people that they can be successful regardless of these incidentals, and that they should grasp good ideas and inspiration whatever their source.

Atheists and their Wannabes

Letter to The Globe and Mail. Unpublished.

Margaret Somerville, McGill University Founding Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics, and Law, speaks of the passion, actual or staged, of people like Richard Dawkins (The search for shared ethics, Jan 27, 2009). Atheists define themselves by what they do not believe.

But, Dawkins and his wannabes are anti-theists. They define themselves by what they ardently oppose. And what they oppose is the inclusion in the public forum of the beliefs of the majority, people, those people who acknowledge some form of Higher Power in the grand scope of things. As Professor Somerville points out this attempted exclusion is undemocratic.

The legal concept of separation of church and state originated in a distorted interpretation of the First Amendment of the the U.S. Constitution.  The Amendment was designed to protect churches from state interference, from the government creating a state religion. Somewhere along the line, it got contorted into its present configuration.

The fact that this concept is not in accord with Islamic thought poses a problem for the Western world.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Anti-aging Racket

Letter to The Globe and Mail, January 14, 2009, in reaction to an article on aging. Published.

We want our wine to age, but whine when we age (The quest for the test tube of youth, Jan 10). We describe this futile quest by that anti-human, insulting word "anti-aging." This makes us prey to every faker, charlatan and snake oil salesman on the planet. Aging is not a disease.

The film of each life ends. That's all folks. The Book of Life has no sequel, not even a second edition. The quest for long life begins in youth by the proper care of the body. The only effect an elixir, nectar, ambrosia or potion will have is to decrease one's estate.

Rather than waste energy putting on the trappings of the young, a better option is to make the most of every day (and night) "before we too into the dust descend" when the world will hear "no more talk of thee and me." The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam offers an inspiring place to begin.

Letter to the Toronto Star. Unpublished.

Re Facing end of road the hardest part of living, Nov. 15

Pardon me if I detect a dab of condescension in Judy Steed's comments on aging. If Ms. Steed be "haunted by the eyes of old people," and "touched by their courage in growing old, in revealing their vulnerability," then she has not looked into my eyes or the eyes of other septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians whom I know. Yes, some people our age have shut down their life's horizon. That's a personal decision. It is not for others to judge, or even comment on.

Hardly is it "the bravest thing to continue to live." Its acceptance acknowledges that the parade of life one day will move on without us. And we move elsewhere. Frankly, that's not a bad idea. All required is a sense of maturity, a maturity younger people do not have, and will not understand until the sand of their hourglass has shifted into life's lower chamber. "At my age, I don't even buy green bananas," jokes a truly mature person.

Yes, older people sometimes become dependent on others. We are always dependent on someone, only in different ways at the different stages of life.

Those truly fearing time's passing may find solace in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Among other things, this 12th century Persian advised:

So when at last the Angel of the Drink
Of Darkness finds you by the river-brink,
And, offering his Cup, invites your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff it --- do not shrink