As many Canadians will know – but I’m not sure the story has hit the international wires – I invited a certain Dr. Frances Widdowson to give a talk at the University of Lethbridge on February 1st, on a topic about which she’s far more familiar than me, namely the effects of woke-ism on Canadian post-secondary education. To my surprise – I’m embarrassingly naive about these things! – in anticipation of her visit a veritable firestorm erupted. You know… the usual. The very fact that there are people interested in hearing her views is deeply, and so actionably, hurtful to those who are not. That kind of thing.

In any event, on Friday January 27th, University President Mike Mahon, appealing to the university’s commitment to academic freedom, announced he was begrudgingly allowing the event to go ahead. But by the following Monday, ever the invertebrate, discretion proved the better part of valour – and of his integrity – and he cancelled the event instead, using the standard ‘hurtfulness’ argument cited above.

Needless to say, some students and other stakeholders – the ones unafraid to do so – have been crying bloody murder, while the cancel-culturists are high-fiving each other over yet another victory. But at least the contretemps has attracted some media attention. Actually a lot of media attention! That doesn’t mean anything will change. But at least it informs the public on the state of academia in Canada, whether one judges it a sorry state or a welcome one.

But none of this is what I want to blog about here. What I want to blog about is the sorry state, not of the institution to which we belong, but of the colleagues who belong to it. I have one colleague who thinks that if he “finds it hard to believe” something, then not only should he decline to listen to anything that might make it easier, but neither should anyone else be allowed to.

I have another colleague who thinks that if a government mandates universities to teach a particular doctrine – say, that Jews are all enemies of the people – then faculty members have a moral obligation to teach that doctrine, and disallow any teaching to the contrary. And as to the rest of my colleagues, well, they’ve gone to ground, because, well, you know, “Not my problem!” That kind of thing.

Beyond my own department there’s a colleague – I shudder to use that term – who thinks that because 1) I know Dr. Widdowson, 2) Dr. Widdowson has a Facebook page, and 3) that page has been trolled by a Holocaust-denier, it follows that 4) notwithstanding I’m Jewish, I should be investigated for my antisemitism. And there’s another who thinks that the expression “The milkman always gets in there!”, which is used to account for people of mixed race, is an accusation that Indigenous women are inordinately promiscuous. Such is what counts as critical thinking in our Women’s Studies and Indigenous Studies Departments respectively.

I’m tempted to say that the University of Lethbridge has ceased to be a university. That it hasn’t been one since academic freedom was placed under constructive suspension by Mahon six years ago. But I can’t say that. Why not? Because academic freedom is not part of the definition of a university.

I’m tempted to tell students to go somewhere else to study. But there is no university elsewhere in Canada not under the same nigh-absolute authority of the cancel-culturists. So instead what I tell those of my students who see what’s going on here is just “Keep your head down, get your degree, and get the hell out as fast as you can.”

How did it come to this? Some people saw it coming, but the serpents got them like they did Laocoon. Could it have been stopped? Not if Marx’s dialectical materialism is true. Could it be reversed now? I dunno. I’m out o’ here soon enough. So, you know. Not my problem.

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy, Why My Colleagues Are Idiots

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4 replies

  1. Hello, Paul. I’m a History and Philosophy student and an active communist. Naturally, I’m drawn towards protests and other such deliciously paradoxical moments of organized instability. I was at the protest, exercising my right to free speech, which I understand you felt was not granted to Dr. Widdowson. I can definitely see why it would seem that way. However, I felt the need to clarify a few things, so I’ve annotated some of the points that stuck out to me in your blog-post.

    “The very fact that there are people interested in hearing her views is deeply, and so actionably, hurtful to those who are not.” That…really isn’t what this was about. And I think that’s why you’ve put yourself in a bit of a hole. We really didn’t give a damn about the speech on “woke-ism”. If that was all her schtick was, we’d chalk it up as some kooky weirdo who we otherwise would’ve ignored. But that’s not what we’re concerned with. We’re concerned about her views on the Indigenous peoples of our country, a country drawn with arbitrary lines over stolen land. The Indigenous community isn’t hurt because they found out that there are people who support Dr. Widdowson’s views, it’s because she spews utterly abhorrent horseshit to a community that has been ethnically cleansed for the last four centuries. It doesn’t matter whether it was one person attending in her camp, or a thousand. The message is the same: your suffering isn’t valid. You aren’t allowed to carry trauma for what you, your parents, your siblings and cousins, your people endured. It simply doesn’t matter anymore. Well…it does, and even some of us Caucasian folk have at least a mild degree of introspective capability to realize that “reconciliation” doesn’t typically involve telling people that they have no right to their own pain.

    “Needless to say, some students and other stakeholders – the ones unafraid to do so – have been crying bloody murder, while the cancel-culturists are high-fiving each other over yet another victory.” We’re not high-fiving. My Indigenous peers were thinking of their family, some of whom never returned home. There were more tears than celebrations. Although, a few of us, myself included, did get a kick out of calling Widdowson and her supporters all manner of expletives that I dare not repeat here. Freedom of speech, right?

    “But at least the contretemps has attracted some media attention. Actually a lot of media attention!” Ah, so there it is. The root of it all, as it were. I know this kind of controversy gets you absolutely pulsating. It’s moments like these that you live for. Unfortunately, it’s not some noble effort to portray “the other side”, it’s the actions of an insufferably infantile contrarian who wants to stick it to the “woke snowflakes”.

    “say, that Jews are all enemies of the people, sound familiar?” Nice. The classic “repression is literally Nazism!” trope. Not really. She could still speak. She didn’t get arrested. She didn’t get shot. She didn’t get censored. We were merely exercising our right to free speech after all, it just so happens that we were speaking so loud we couldn’t hear her. Shame.

    “Could it have been stopped? Not if Marx’s dialectical materialism is true.” I cannot phrase this next point formally. So I won’t. What are you on about, mate? Might be time to dust off the old tome of Capital, comrade. First, Marx and Engels were fervent critics of imperialism. Is this the same Marx, who along with Comrade Engels, used the Indigenous Americans (in particular, the Seneca) as an ideal example of primitive communism in effect? Did Marx not state explicitly in Part 8 of Capital (Primitive Accumulation) that: “the discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of that continent, the beginnings of the conquest and plunder of India, and the conversion of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of blackskins, are all things which characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation.” He goes on: “The treatment of the indigenous population was, of course, at its most frightful in plantation-colonies set up exclusively for the export trade.” He continues by listing the financial rewards for the collection of indigenous scalps. In using dialectical materialism, you phrase the drowning out of Widdowson as an event that has just occurred as society continues to shape itself and its relationship to the world. Dialectical materialism IS true, so I would have to agree. However, it never states we can’t go back to where we were, which is the entire point of the theory. That end point? Well, it looks like the Seneca (and the Wendat, among many, MANY others) already figured it out.

    It’s these supposed “woke cancel-culturists” that are educating ourselves outside the classroom through activist and political groups, discussing theory and philosophy, as well as ways to implement them. We agree that speech should be free. Absolutely! But, then we’re free to clown the living hell out of whatever redundant liberal democratic mouthpiece crawls out of the bowels of some scummy online forum. If that makes you concerned, or sad, or scared, that’s great. Keep whining. We absolutely love it.

    Until the revolution,


  2. My theory is that as the obligation to pay taxes shifts onto an ever smaller minority, and the provision of tax-paid benefits expands onto an ever-enlarging majority, — particularly free health care which we value in Canada over all else at any price — the tax-receivers can vote to themselves whatever largesse they feel entitled to, limited only by their own avarice.

    Politicians no longer bribe voters with their own money. They bribe voters with other people’s money. An election or two ago, a reporter asked the Prime Minister if he was contemplating running on a promise of Trumpian-style tax cuts. The PM replied that there are too few taxpayers in Canada for tax cuts to be electorally valuable anymore: the number of voters who would be furiously outraged that high earners weren’t paying their fair share, and defect to the NDP, would dwarf the few who would benefit. That was the tipping point. The only other restraint is the foreigners who have to decide how much they will charge us to buy our debt.

    All the Woke stuff is just the various intersectionals jockeying for position to protect their own grift as the Treasury starts to leak money. Some of course do want to make the system collapse so they can seize power from the rubble. Many others are useful fools who will be crushed by whoever wins out, most likely those most comfortable with using violence, as always.


  3. It truly sickened me to see what happened to Dr. Widdowson earlier this month. By my estimation, the accusations of anti-semitism made against you are borne out of a cognitive inability to differentiate things that the cancel-cultralists do not like. It is, ironically, the same type of conflation tactic that the NSDAP used before, and during, its reign: It isn’t two separate things I dislike (In Germany that was i) Bolshevism, and ii) Judaism) – because I dislike them, they are actually the same thing.

    The Canadian holocaust narrative is so important that it is considered a type of holy, or sacred, narrative to its most zealous followers. If you even contemplate questioning any singular piece of evidence that contradicts the narrative – you are, therefore, a “denier” who should be silenced in to submission.

    These people would be disappointed if they knew how few actual white supremacists, white nationalists, and anti-indigenous people lived in this country. They would be disappointed because they would realize they are fighting against imaginary phantoms.

    The Academy is meant to be an institution that teach people how to think – how to learn, and critically analyze. How boring of a learning environment it would be if some ideas were simply off the table because they happen to offend people. The University may as well just be a church at this point if certain ideas are rendered too heathen, or taboo, to discuss.


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