In exploring Aaron James’ book, “Assholes,” Brandon University President Dr. Deborah Poff (Brandon Sun, Feb. 16) makes some disturbing conclusions about what constitutes morality, who by nature is immoral and what is generally assumed to be the “fundamental social contract” that makes a stable, civil and reasonable life possible.
Ultimately she expresses a prejudice against “younger generations” generally defined as those who act with an economically and environmentally unsustainable, materialistic, selfish and entrenched sense of entitlement and are intrinsically immoral by virtue of “character and disposition.”
Her discussion of James’ exploration of the immorality of “inconsequential acts” that “are hardly that damaging” implicitly assigns blame to younger people for disrupting her sense of civility to the point where she consistently finds herself in a “frenetic state of rage” from such behaviour. Similarly, she infers and confers blame on the pilots (in a labour dispute with Air Canada) as the catalyst for “immoral” traveller behaviour at the Toronto airport. This bias is not surprising given her role in the 2011 Brandon University strike.
Does Poff feel enraged by “younger generations” who are marching and disrupting settler economic activities within the Idle No More movement in resistance to colonial oppression? Or by the BU faculty (many of whom are “younger”) who took job action to resist the administration’s assault on existing rights, academic integrity and freedom and a desire to keep up with the cost of living?
Does she get frenetic at Ghandi’s historically powerful and deeply moral resistance to the colonial oppression in South Africa and India when he refused to accept the unjust moral assumptions, laws and the “fundamental social contract” of the ruling, racist and monied elite? How does she feel about the raft of social laws enacted in the U.S after reconstruction to reinstitute African-American slavery under a different form?
It is easy to talk about morality, mutual respect, social order and to suggest that younger people should expect much less than the older (Poff’s) generation when one is in a position of privilege.
Poff is correct that the “world is only as good as we individually and collectively make it.” For me, that means not wasting anger on “inconsequential acts” and declaring them to be immoral under the thin veil of intellectual discourse.
Rather, anger ought to be focused on the fundamental immoral and unethical realities that contribute to the ever-widening chasm between the poor and rich, a chasm that the privileged dress up and trot out as the civil, reasonable and stable social contract for the sole purpose of protecting their privilege. So how do we indeed achieve true mutual respect?
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 7, 2013