As a known student radical and victim of police brutality, I find Abraham Moussako’s Guest Column (“Moral superiority and student politics”) generally callous and presumptuous. In particular (and more relevant to my critique), I found the text personally offensive.
In his recent opinion piece, he looks down upon the complex dynamic structure of our highly politicized campus, and offers a theoretical account so divorced from reality that it could only have been published in the McGill Tribune.
If pressed to do a genuine analysis of his major argument, it would go something like this: Moussako attempts to understand the conflicts on campus that appear to disrupt the naturally peaceful social structure of campus. He projects the cause of this on the invasive “campus radicals” who he then accuses of participating in what he calls a “stark, good vs. evil viewpoint that would make Rumsfeld and company proud.”
I can’t imagine what made Moussako write that. Rumsfeld famously ignored the unknown knowns (the subconsciousness) in his speech about the known knowns. He also lied about WMDs in Iraq, and is an international war criminal. The connection seems tenuous to me. Maybe Moussako hasn’t interrogated his hidden assumptions, or actually investigated what drives the people he lambasts.
His division between “the university” and “the world” is arbitrary at best. It is hard to understand why we should view campus politics as separate from the politics of the world at large. The concern here is about people’s engagement in important social and political issues, both locally and globally. Campus is only part of where you can draw that out.
Assuming this premise is not wrought with unreflexive irony, we still look beneath to find that the target of his criticism is actually a straw man of the radical left campus political scene. He postulates that the goal of their presence on campus is to try to get others also involved in campus politics—like some industry bent on growth.
Finally, I want to explicitly assess Moussako’s claim that “there is no moral virtue to campus politics.” I will offer a short list of facts on which I find would be an ethical abomination not to take a moral stance. If you subscribe to Moussako’s false dualism, then maybe no point on the list could be considered to be relevant to the university; but I will leave all this for the reader to decide:
First, Professor Gregory Mikkelson was beaten with a nightstick and pepper sprayed in the face by the riot squad while on his way to retrieve his daughter from the nursery on Nov. 10th, 2011.
Next, A CEGEP student named Francis Grenier was playing the harmonica just across the street from the Schulich School of Music on Mar. 7th, 2012, when a flashbang grenade thrown by the police obliterated his eye.
Finally, police kicked my [expletive removed] and smashed my arm in April—which required multiple surgeries to set. If I said I was scrapping with the Pigs at the time, I would be lying. I was hit from behind, and then kicked repeatedly when I was down.
I am not preaching of any logical relations that these situations necessarily show, but a sympathetic reader should continue reading. If your heartstrings were pulled a little by any of this, even better. For everyone left over, I’m not really sure what I can do for you.
Even if you stand ideologically opposed to those who fought in the 2012 Quebec student strike, you should respect that they struggled and suffered for our tuition refund, rather than cling to a $254 cheque from the armchair of analytic certainty.
Ultimately, Moussako attempted to make a “politically neutral” analysis, not realizing that he can only do so by never acknowledging the sacrifice of his dissenting colleagues—many of whom were pepper sprayed and risked being beaten by standing firm in protests. Why did they risk it again just to picket a few classes and talk to you about tuition hikes? These dedicated people went back to the streets when strike vote results sided with the status quo. On the side of the police and the tear gas.
If Moussako’s goal was to side with power, then he succeeded. By examining “campus radicals” through his own preconceived notions, he doesn’t seriously consider what the actual concerns are for these people. Instead, he trivializes the struggles and experiences of those who confronted real violence trying to have their voice heard.