Spare me the therapeutic platitudes

I’m supposed to be happy my room complaint is a growth experience for hotel staff?

Spare me the therapeutic platitudesAs readers may recall, a few weeks ago I was invited to testify at the House of Commons about the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission. While in Ottawa, I stayed at a certain local hostelry that shall be nameless (the Château Laurier). I don’t like to complain. Seriously. I do so much of it for a living that I resent giving it away for free in private. But my room was unsatisfactory in many basic respects, and, a few days after I drew them to the attention of the gal at the checkout desk, an email arrived from the Assistant Manager, Housekeeping, which I quote in full:

“I would like to extend my thanks for bringing these issues to our attention. We truly appreciate Guest feedback, as it enables us to learn and grow from difficult experiences and truly strive to improve the overall Guest experience.

“We have followed up on the issues you have encountered and would like to apologize for these oversites [sic]. Although you mentioned small [sic], such details are an important component of our mission and serve a company-wide standard of consistency.

“Mr. Styen , thank you for staying with the Fairmont Château Laurier. We hope that we can invite you back in the near future.”

I’d forgotten all about my complaint by this time. But this response from the “Assistant Manager, Housekeeping” enraged me far more than my original dissatisfactions. I’m not saying I hurled my computer monitor through the window into the yard and shot up what was left of it while jumping up and down yelling, “You f****** a******! ‘It enables us to learn and grow from difficult experiences?’ What the hell kind of f****** f****** is so f****** f***** as to think the first thing a dissatisfied customer wants to hear is that he’s helped provide a personal growth experience for you, you ********?” Instead, I hurled the monitor through the window and shot it up while pondering two alternatives:

Either the Assistant Manager, Housekeeping is blameless, and this is some form letter cooked up as an auto-response for Cranky Customer Scenario #73 (b) by the Assistant Manager, Customer Relations Flim-Flam at corporate HQ. Which is a dispiriting enough thought.

Or the decay of human communication into a Mogadon-pumped blancmange of pseudo-therapeutic vacuities is so advanced that people now talk like this entirely naturally. “Such details are an important component of our mission and serve a company-wide standard of consistency”: what does that mean translated from the original bollocks?

A couple of weeks later, Jennifer Lynch, QC (Queen Censor) and Chief Commissar of the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission, came to the House of Commons to offer her own view of Section 13. Facing very specific allegations of abuse of power and conflict of interest, she took refuge, like the Château Laurier, in soothing generalities. Indeed, as with the Assistant Manager, Housekeeping, recent difficulties seemed to have provided a marvellous opportunity for a growth experience: “ . . . just to reassure myself as I can reassure you here today that Canadians can have pride in all of the employees of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the way we carry out our complex mandate.”

“Ms. Lynch, let me stop you there,” said Joe Comartin, the dogged Dipper on the Select Committee. “That’s not an answer to my question. Did you conduct a detailed investigation into these allegations?”

Since the “human rights” racket ran into its little public relations problem with the complaints against this magazine a couple of years back, Commissar Lynch’s technique has been to say at every opportunity how much she “welcomes the debate.” Indeed, she’s been so busy welcoming the debate that sadly she’s had no time to have one. Still, it came as a surprise to see her offer up the same flat bromides to the Parliament to which she is, supposedly, accountable. The Queen Censor spoke to the Select Committee with the same weirdly fixed smile on her face for the full hour. Presumably she fancies this makes her look friendly and reassuring, although movie buffs may find it alarmingly reminiscent of the guy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers who tells you in the evenly modulated voice that the process is completely painless and you won’t feel a thing. Her response to specific questions was to freeze the smile and pause just a little too long before replying, as if the random Form Response Generator was running a bit slow.

Thus, replying to a query as to why she and her colleagues hadn’t sued me and Ezra Levant for making false and defamatory statements, she paused, smiled, and responded that “with a very broad mandate, with a lot of interesting, important and exciting work, we are leaders and catalysts in advancing equality in Canada and in fact internationally.” I believe that’s Form Response #29 (e). I suppose these soporific accumulations of modish banalities are intended to send the message: “Nothing to see here. All’s well. Celebrate diversity. Go back to sleep.” But the hogwash isn’t entirely benign:

“The challenge of ensuring the right to freedom of expression and the right to equality and dignity is not new . . . ”

Whoa, hold up there. “The right to dignity”? Where’d that come from? Unlike the first right, it isn’t one of Canada’s constitutionally enumerated “fundamental freedoms”: the word “dignity” doesn’t appear in the “Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” since even the authors of that comically worthless document felt unable to advance with a straight face the creepy concept of state-mandated “dignity.” True, as Commissar Lynch notes, the word appears in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but so do many others that Canada’s “human rights” regime consciously disregards—including the presumption of innocence, equality before the law, a fair and public hearing, and of course the “freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media.” At last count, Canada’s “human rights” racket is in breach of Articles 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19, so Commissar Lynch’s fondness for the “right to dignity” is highly selective to say the least.

But, having embraced this pseudo-right, she then claims no one right trumps any other and it is her job to “balance” competing rights. This “balancing act” is a favourite shtick of the thought enforcers. Haroon Siddiqui, a lonely defender of state-regulated speech even among his Toronto Star colleagues, was musing the other day about balancing “free speech vs. freedom from hate.”

One of those is a real right. The other is a statist con. As I said in my own testimony to Parliament:

“Ian Fine, the senior counsel of the CHRC, has declared that the commission is committed to the abolition of hatred—not hate crimes, not hate speech, but hate. Hate is a human emotion; it beats, to one degree or another, in every breast. It is part of what it means to be human . . . To hate is to be free, and when the alternative is a coercive government bureaucracy regulating what you can say, then as Michael Ignatieff would be the first to point out, you are no longer free. I am with Mr. Ignatieff on that.”

Yes, well. It’s not clear whether Mr. Ignatieff is still with Mr. Ignatieff on that, but that’s for him and his conscience to wrestle with. It’s tempting to give Messrs. Fine and Siddiqui a pass, and at least allow that “freedom from hate” is an understandably desirable goal. But it isn’t. It’s explicitly totalitarian. In Norfolk, England, the other day, the 67-year-old wife of a Baptist minister wrote a letter to her local council making some politely expressed objections to the (publicly funded) Gay Pride parade and in return was visited by two police officers who informed her that her letter “was thought to be an intention of hate.” An “intention” of hate? In 1956, Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi story “The Minority Report” introduced the dystopian notion of “pre-crime.” Half a century on, some of the oldest constitutional democracies on the planet are embracing the concept ever more openly. As Commissar Lynch primly notes, “This approach to creating a harmonious society is not ours alone.”

I don’t want to live in state-regulated “harmony.” Not just because I have a low opinion of Jennifer Lynch, Haroon Siddiqui et al., and thus have no intention of singing harmony to their turgid tune. I don’t think they should have to harmonize with mine, either. As that incident in Norfolk suggests, when the heavy hand of government enforcers starts regulating you into harmony, all you’re allowed to sing is a crappy medley of We Are the World and the Barney the Dinosaur song. Language itself dies, until public communication is reduced to Commissar Lynch’s insipid banalities and the Assistant Manager, Housekeeping’s therapeutic platitudes. With respect to the latter, it’s not a growth experience. It’s a shrivelling experience.

To advance such pseudo-rights as “freedom from hate,” the very language is being neutered into compliance. Commissar Lynch’s performance is a preview of a world in which public discourse is conducted only in fraudulent abstractions and euphemistic evasions. Don’t buy it. When a government apparatchik tells you she’s busy creating a “harmonious society,” she’s not playing your song.