October 05, 2006

Post on CF recruiting: clueless

National Post columnist Barbara Kay is, how does one say, not very bright. Case in point: her column on CF recruiting. On the upside, in addition to being a horrible column, it does contain most of the rules for avoiding the writing of a horrible column all in one exemplar.

"There are indications that those Muslim youths who do consider a military career find more appeal in the Reserves, where cadets can choose their missions -- or choose not to be deployed at all."

Okay, well Kay lost her entire military audience right there in para 4. Can't see why? Because Cadets is a kids program, like Boy Scouts. The Canadian Forces reserve employs soldiers. Part-timers, true, but they are still soldiers. Calling them "cadets" is somewhere on the other side of incredibly insulting. Rule #1: Don't use words you don't understand.

"Baker Siddiqi, president of the Ottawa Muslim Association, explains that fighting people of one's own religion and culture is a "delicate" matter, a problem for Christians as well as Muslims. That's not actually true, though. Our soldiers, mostly Christian or of Christian-heritage, are now fighting both for and against Muslims in Afghanistan, but fought no less bravely for and against Christians in the First and Second World Wars."

This is just an incredibly obtuse statement. All of Canadian history involves our "Christian" forebears choosing to fight or not to fight based on cultural or ethnic identification. It's one of the most significant Canadian historical themes there is. In 1812 recent immigrants were suspected of sympathizing with Americans, while second generation immigrants signed up in droves because of their ancestors' Loyalist experience. In 1885, French-Canadians refused to sign up to put down the Prairie revolt by Catholic, French-speaking Metis. In 1900, 1914 and again in 1939, the country was nearly split apart by French-Canadian discontent over supporting "Anglo" wars overseas. Meanwhile, in 1914, most of the "Canadians" that signed up for service in Flanders had recently immigrated from England... they weren't Canadian-born at all. Getting Canadians to work together to support the military has been one of the defining dilemmas of our entire history, and Kay is stunningly apparently completely unaware of this. Rule #2: Read a freaking high school history textbook once in your life.

"This innovation, using houses of worship as a recruitment strategy, transgresses the military's own diversity mandate. The DND's "Diversity in Recruiting" mission statement specifically encourages "increasing awareness of CF employment opportunities for women, visible minorities and Aboriginal people." Religions were deliberately excluded from the list.",

Anyone with a mental picture of a mosque probably also pictures some visible minorities in and around it. Rule #3: Don't say obviously stupid things.

Stratford Festival audiences are dominated by white Canadian females, but tickets are available to everyone, and its board of directors isn't visiting mosques to attract a more diverse audience. In a free country, with widely publicized options, people choose to do what appeals to them.

Going to a play at Stratford, even one of the really bad ones, is a form of recreation. Joining up for the military is a sacrifice. Rule #4: The apples and oranges rule does not exclusively refer to fruit.

We really have to get over our obsession with diversity and proportionate representation in the military. The mission today is to defeat the Taliban, who don't make such fine distinctions. Put out the call for recruitment to all Canadians on culturally neutral territory. If "Canadian white males" are the ones who step up to the plate, we salute them, whatever God they do, or do not, worship.

And if a couple immigrants, or people of colour, or immigrants happen to show up, well, they don't get the salute, but we'll still let them join too... I guess. Rule #5: Be self-aware enough of your own prejudices to avoid bigoted Freudian slips.

Look, the CF should recruit everywhere it can get an audience right now, for two reasons. And I'm not including the so-obvious-it's-too-stupid-to-point-out argument that Afghan-Canadians, for example, might actually really have something special to contribute to our understanding as a military right now, and Next-country-we-visit-Canadians likely will when it's their turn too, so get them to sign up now.

One, getting an 18 year-old in any culture to dedicate their life to something is never simply about engaging the 18 year-old. It's also about engaging the entire community around them, so that they support and don't undermine that individual's commitment. Immigrant or United Empire Loyalist, parents do have a say. You need to engage the entire community, not just the individual.

Second, our biggest problem with military support in this country is our incredibly low military participation rate across the board (lower than any other Western country), leading to ignorance and apathy in peacetime, and disengagement from our troops in times of hostility. When it comes time to make political decisions in our country, about the worst thing that could happen would be if vast swathes of the population do not see the military as representing them. And so long as all the military's support and understanding is focussed within the "Canadian white male" demographic, the probability of anything that the military could accomplish, at home or abroad, being turned over by any winning electoral coalition that isn't predominantly Canadian anglophone white male-based is extremely high. The military draws lots of its recruits from rural and semi-rural areas, and proportionately very few from cities: but it's metropolitan areas, and specifically the diverse communities within those cities, where the growth in population and political power in this country is happening right now.

The military is, for once, trying to get out in front, and should be commended for it. It's not as simple as getting a few more Muslim Canadian young men (and women) in uniform, so that their voter parents and voter friends have a larger understanding of and stake in supporting parties that have sound military and foreign policies, but it's not much more complex than that, either.

This is especially true in Quebec (where this recruiting drive is happening), where aggressively reaching new immigrants may be the only way the military can ever hope to counteract the deep disaffection that pur laine francophones have for their services. And all this should be so f---ing obvious that it pains me even to have to articulate it: there's 20 minutes of my life I'll never get back. I should have just written "Barbara Kay is an idiot" and moved on, but there you go.

Posted by BruceR at 02:25 PM

Things I'm ashamed to admit dept.

I think Rona Ambrose looks kinda like Darth Vader.

Posted by BruceR at 01:35 PM