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Poverty of thought

By Steven Martinovich

The Professor (September 23, 2002) - If anyone thought that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien would be chastened by the uproar caused by his recent comments linking the September 11 terrorist attacks to U.S. foreign policy and envy of the Western world, those fears were put to rest on September 16. Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, Chrétien did himself one better by declaring that poverty was a root cause of terrorism.

Chrétien isn't alone in linking the mass murder of civilians to poverty. Back in April, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore condemned "another axis of evil in the world: poverty and ignorance; disease and environmental disorder; corruption and political oppression," all of which lead to terrorism. Although Chrétien may believe himself in good company by subscribing to a belief shared by people like Gore, Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, Ted Rall and Noam Chomsky, what it should have done is remind him of the old admonishment that no matter how many people say a wrong thing, it is still wrong.

Ignoring for the moment that Osama bin Laden was wealthy and that all the participants in the September 11 terrorist attacks were the privileged and educated sons of the Arab world's well-off, it's silly to attempt to find root causes outside of the obvious: hatred of the secular and free west and what we represent. As experts have repeatedly pointed out, conclusions perhaps missed by Chrétien, terrorist groups have little use for illiterate peasants who can't pass convincingly as members of the society they are targeting or unable to comprehend the complex plans needed to pull off attacks like the one that brought down the World Trade Center.

Foreign Policy Research Institute Senior Fellow Michael Radu recently pointed out that terrorism "has been a virtual monopoly of the relatively privileged." From the members of the Environmental Liberation Front -- a group labeled by the FBI as America's largest terrorist group -- and their intellectual peers in the radical anti-globalist organizations to past groups like America's Weathermen, Germany's Baader-Meinhof Gang and France's Action Directe, terrorist groups tend to be composed of middle class members.

If there is a root cause for terrorism, it's far more complicated than simply material success. The common denominator that unites terrorists -- regardless of their ideology or ultimate goals -- is their hatred of rationality, individualism, secularism -- whether political or religious, and capitalism. Their common enemy is Western culture itself.

"That enemy is the Western culture of democracy (which is correctly declared un-Islamic by all ideologues of Islamic terrorism), capitalism (hated in a very ecumenical way by Marxists of all stripes and Islamists), and individualism (opposed by Marxist totalitarians dreaming of Marx's stateless communist Utopia, as well as by Islamic believers in a new Caliphate to lead the community of Muslims worldwide)," wrote Radu.

That means the West can dump all the aid money it wants into Africa -- which appears to be Chrétien's preferred solution to address his root cause -- without addressing what truly motivates people who become terrorists. It isn't material success which they envy, it's the conditions which causes material success that they hate. Addressing a person's world view is far more difficult than simply writing a cheque. You can't pay someone to stop thinking that evil lives in the form of a Western citizen that does not subscribe to their beliefs.

Although Chrétien and the 22 per cent of Canadians who -- according to a COMPAS poll -- "strongly agreed" with the statement that "Western democracies, including the United States, may have fueled terrorism, including events such as September 11, because of their greater wealth and power" may continue believe the root cause of terrorism is poverty, the reality is that the Arab world itself is the root cause. If Chrétien truly believes that poverty is the root cause of terrorism, he would be wise to support the belief that the autocratic regimes that dominate the Middle East should be replaced with Western style democracies.

This essay originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post on September 18, 2002.

Legalized bigotry

By Steven Martinovich

(September 2, 2002) - On August 19, Canada's federal government unveiled an ambitious $30 million program grandly entitled "Embracing Change," one that the government hopes will bring about more diversity in the ranks of the nation's civil service. Of course, when it comes to government announcements, the language used is a thin approximation of what's really going on.

Starting in March 2003, the federal government will set aside a quota -- and of course they aren't called quotas but rather targets -- of 20 per cent for visible minorities and women when it comes to hiring and promotion. That's on top of already established quotas for aboriginals and women. The aim, at least according to the government, is to overcome decades of discrimination against certain groups.

While ethnic diversity may be an aim with the new program, the Chrétien government probably let other considerations influence their endorsement of the Task Force on the Participation of Visible Minorities in the Federal Public Service's report. Specifically, there are probably two considerations that excite the government: the promotion of the government's agenda from within and the redistribution of wealth in the form of jobs and not direct social spending.

Although it's hardly a secret, few Canadians realize how important the civil service is to the effective functioning of the federal government. The civil service's enthusiasm or lack of it for the policies of a government is often an important factor in how well those polices are implemented. By instituting quotas, the federal government receives a far greater control of the machinery of state by promoting those qualified individuals who support its ostensibly progressive agenda at the expense of similarly qualified who may not.

"Of course, despite claims otherwise, the purpose of this new policy has nothing to do with diversity. It's exactly the opposite -- it's to ensure precise conformity of thought in the federal government bureaucracy to what the progressives think and believe," as Canadian writer David Janes argued last week.

As a tool for wealth distribution, employment in the civil service is a remarkably powerful one. The federal government has some 60 departments and agencies with 178 000 employees. That makes it one of the nation's largest employers and its employees one of its largest lobby groups. That usually means the civil service is able to resist consolidation as the American federal government learned during the Clinton administration. During then-Vice President Al Gore's half-hearted - and ultimately failed - drive to promote efficiency in the federal government, it was put forward that the size of the civil service should be cut. One reason why Gore's drive failed were attacks by certain interest groups that the cuts impacted minorities, of which the government is one of the largest employers.

An increase in the number of visible minorities in the civil service would more accurately reflect Canada's population. Women are represented quite well in the civil service, sometimes making up to 80 per cent of an agency's staff - such as the 80.6 per cent that make up the civilian staff of the RCMP or the 96.2 per cent employed by Status of Women Canada. Minorities as a percentage, in contrast, rarely are employed at the same level they are available as a percentage of the labour market.

That said, engaging in legalized discrimination to adjust these numbers is immoral. It is, as Ayn Rand stated, nothing less than barnyard collectivism. Like racism, quota hiring and promotion ignores a person's character and intelligence - in essence their individualism - in favour of the specious promotion of a collective group that despite shared genetic traits is not homogenous and not equally deserving of the federal government's largess. There is a reason why systems based on meritocracy work: they reward individuals, no matter who they are. Embracing Change is the furthest thing from that principle.

Thanks for reading,

Steven Martinovich

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