Charles Taylor is one of Canada’s most eminent philosophers, a Roman Catholic, a three time candidate for the NDP, and well decorated for his accomplishments. I heard him back in 1967 lecturing at McGill University on political science, where he demonstrated to me a complete misunderstanding of philosophers prior to the French Revolution. I mean howlingly wrong.
Thirty years later, or thereabouts, I heard Taylor again after a conference on communitarianism in Ottawa in the 1990s. Communitarianism is a view of society promoted by Amitai Etzioni, an Israeli immigrant to the United States.The founding idea of communitarianism is that the community has rights; and it may reduce to something as simple as: where your neighbours mow their lawns, mow yours too. It is vain and socially detrimental to assert your “right” to turn your lawn into a weed-infested wild prairie in a carefully maintained garden suburb.
His writings emphasize the importance for all societies to have a carefully crafted balance between rights and responsibilities and between autonomy and order.
Etzioni said to me that one of the most important aspects of Canada is its very strong sense of community order, which is stronger than that sense in the United States.
The meeting was held in the same building as the old Ottawa Press Club, and thus Charles Taylor, who had been one of the speakers, was interviewed by the CBC right after the conference. We were sitting in the bar of the old Press Club and we saw Taylor being interviewed live on CBC, saying something utterly wrong about Etzioni and what the conference had been about, rhetoric that communitarianism was a left-wing phenomenon about greater social spending rather than what Amitai Etzioni says it is, which is a call for the legitimacy of higher senses of community order.
Glendronach and I sped to the elevator, and to the CBC floor, whereupon the door opened and there appeared all six feet three of Charles Taylor, whom we greeted with a loud collective spontaneous cry of
“No it isn’t!”
And that pretty well sums up my view of Charles Taylor. I do not have the specialized knowledge of the subject to dispute him in his specialist domains, but wherever his views intersected what I already know about (politics, philosophers pre-French Revolution, and now the niqab issue) his rubber does not hit the road.
Today’s report in Huffington Post says:
Taylor said Harper is fueling anti-Muslim sentiment and that, in turn, makes alienated Muslim Canadians easier targets for recruitment by radical Islamist terrorists.
“Ask yourself what are the recruiters for Islamic State saying? They’re saying (to Muslims), ‘Look, they despise you, they think that you’re foreign, you’re dangerous, you’re not accepted here, so why don’t you come with us?'” Taylor said following a speech to the annual summit of the Broadbent Institute, a social democratic think-thank.
“The more you make it sound like that (is true), the more you’re helping them. And it’s strange that people don’t see this.”
Let us try to dissect this for a moment.
- we despise those aspects of Islam which suppress the freedom of women to be present in society, and this is not a modern trend. Christianity has always allowed women to be socially present since its inception. Pagan societies too. Consider the existence of Byzantine Empress Theodora, AD500-548, co-ruler with the Emperor Justinian. Or how about Boudicca, the Celtic queen of the Iceni tribe who led the rebellion against Roman rule in Britain in AD 60-61? Women have been in power a long time on this side of the religious fence;
- we do think many Muslims are foreign, in consequence;
- they are dangerous, as has been amply demonstrated;
- their practices are not accepted here;
- so why do they not return to Islamic countries and practce their barbarous religion and social system where they came from, rather than try to colonize us?
Professor Taylor, what would you have us say to them? That we approve their social exclusion of women, their jihad, their violent intolerance of religious freedom, their attempts t o colonize us for Islam?
Who would believe it if it were ever said?
“We’re in a context where Islamaphobia is very powerful in the West,” he said.
“It’s perfectly understandable emotionally. We have to get over it and the worst and the last thing we need is for our political leaders to surf on it and encourage it.”
The fear of Islam is actually one of the few indicators that western society is healthy, and has a sense of itself as a community, despite the endless articulation and elaboration of “rights” of the individual against the community, so constantly promoted by our out of control legal culture. Islamo-phobia is healthy, same as Nazi-phobia, or Commie-phobia. Totalitarian political ideologies should be resisted by liberal society, and not, as Charles Taylor would have it, embraced as just another part of life’s rich tapestry. You do not let weevils ruin the tapestry.