Friday, December 12, 2008
Is It Possible Canada Might Finally Have Another Decent Prime Minister?
When I first heard that Michael Ignatieff was going into political civic service...I was like what? The same Michael Ignatieff I've been reading his books for twenty years? No way.
I mean this man is called a "public intellectual" in fancy magazines. He has everything...why on earth would he want the crummy job of politics.
Holy shit...he might actually be doing this because he wants to be of service! Like an old fashioned Canadian politician!!! Like my hero Tommy Douglas! Like Pierre Trudeau!
Now listen...I haven't always agreed with everything Michael Ignatieff has written in his philosophical works, sometimes I REALLY haven't agreed with his perspective... but I have a huge respect for his thinking and his books. The Right's Revolution, The Russian Album , Blood and Belonging: Journeys Into the New Nationalism , Warrior's Honour: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience, and I even met him at a film party once. (yes, he's even made films..what?!) This guy is a force of nature...in a brainiac sort of way. And he has been able to apologize for some of his mistakes publicly and he gets my respect for being openminded and listening to his peers: us.
Here are a few things he has said in writing...
"As a former denizen of Harvard, I've had to learn that a sense of reality doesn't always flourish in elite institutions. It is the street virtue par excellence. Bus drivers can display a shrewder grasp of what's what than Nobel Prize winners. The only way any of us can improve our grasp of reality is to confront the world every day and learn, mostly from our mistakes, what works and what doesn't. Yet even lengthy experience can fail us in life and in politics. Experience can imprison decision-makers in worn-out solutions while blinding them to the untried remedy that does the trick.
Having taught political science myself, I have to say the discipline promises more than it can deliver. In practical politics, there is no science of decision-making. The vital judgments a politician makes every day are about people: whom to trust, whom to believe and whom to avoid. The question of loyalty arises daily: Who will betray and who will stay true? Having good judgment in these matters, having a sound sense of reality, requires trusting some very unscientific intuitions about people.
A sense of reality is not just a sense of the world as it is, but as it might be. Like great artists, great politicians see possibilities others cannot and then seek to turn them into realities. To bring the new into being, a politician needs a sense of timing, of when to leap and when to remain still. Bismarck famously remarked that political judgment was the ability to hear, before anyone else, the distant hoofbeats of the horse of history." Michael Ignatieff in the New York Times article "Getting Iraq Wrong".
(A slightly different side of Ignatieff is something he wrote about the public mourning for Princess Diana. Maybe the UK Posse of Red and Nowt will find this interesting?) Muppie and Gardenia and anyone who has gotten involved in political campaigns might find all of his stuff interesting.
"Rights alone cannot create community feeling - you need a common history and shared experience for that. But living in a rights culture can deepen one component of community, which is trust. It's not full loving trust of the kind you get in good families or happy marriages. A rights culture is properly poised between faith and suspicion: we trust each other just enough to argue out our differences, but not so much as to forget the possibility that others may be tempted to tread upon our rights."
"Human-rights commitments are on the outermost arc of our obligations, but they can be only as strong as our innermost commitments."
"Rights are not abstractions. They are the very heart of our community and the very core of our values. We have them because those who went before us fought for them, and in some cases died for them. Our commitment to rights is a commitment to our ancestors. We owe it to them to maintain the vitality of the right to dissent, the right to belong, and the right to be different." ...from his speech...The Right's Revolution
Is it possible we might have a philosopher king in our future? A real public servant?
Eat your heart out Harper!