“Do you kiss your mother with those lips?”
Many individuals have employed the arresting retort “do you kiss your mother with those lips” when faced with ribald, sexually inappropriate comments or otherwise offensive or insulting statements.
A variation of this expression should be developed for Michael Ignatieff in light of his new work (if one could generously stretch the term) entitled True Patriot Love: Four Generations in Search of Canada published by Viking Press. In light of this platitude-filled simplistic book and in light of Mr. Ignatieff’s only putative qualification for the Prime Ministership of Canada — namely his much vaunted career as an intellectual and an academic — the variation for Mr. Ignatieff should be: “Did you write your dissertation with that pen?”
To the portion of the public who do not hail from a political science academic background, Mr. Ignatieff’s stature in academia has perhaps been somewhat artificially inflated. One can speculate as to why this is: maybe it is due to his years in the UK on the BBC or perhaps through his shrewd tailoring of academic publications for both academic and public consumption. But regardless of the merits of the arguments he made within academia or how intensely they have been critiqued by both the left and the right, Ignatieff was not too long ago a legitimate and serious academic.
For all its faults and much maligned “ivory tower” status, the one thing that is genuinely different and unique in academic political science discourse is that regardless of the position being argued, it cannot be argued merely on empty platitudes or trite, meaningless verbiage. Any academic who tried to publish such a piece in a peer-reviewed journal would find herself or himself laughed out the door and then not-so-subtly mocked behind his or her back. This is not to say that all of the arguments coming out of academia are either strong or convincing. Perish the thought! But the academic’s pen has always been considered, at least within academia, as too meaningful to sully with the kind of empty and meaningless soundbites that usually characterize the political discourse of camera-crazed politicians.
An excerpt from Fulford:
Enthusiastic flag-waving and empty generalizations, the daily bread of politics, apparently no longer bother Ignatieff. At one point, mentioning certain failures of Canadian life, he says: “Despite these challenges, or because of them, most of us [Canadians] are quietly but intensely patriotic.” How the hell can he know that? Did he do a poll? And if someone’s patriotism happens to be quiet, how can he know it’s also intense? He can’t, of course, and probably wouldn’t even try to defend that sentence if challenged in public.
A few pages later political enthusiasm carries him into the realm of ersatz poetry: “We [Canadians] are still a band of incorrigible romantics. We still believe in that imagined Canada, just beyond the horizon, which one day we could make our own.” Those lines are for reading to a willing mob of power-starved Liberals, desperate for a reason to leap to their feet in applause.
On this point all thinking individuals, be they of the more conservative persuasion like Fulford or be they on the left, can agree.