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Patrick Luciani: The intellectual roots of why so many support Hamas’ terror attacks

Commentary

In the latest Hub book review, Patrick Luciani reviews The Rebel’s Clinic: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon by Adam Shatz (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023) and traces the connections between the writings of Frantz Fanon, the academic embrace of anticolonialist theory, and the support of violence and terror by some on the Left.

If we want to understand the violence perpetrated by Hamas and those who supported it, we have to understand the political motivation behind the attack. For that, we need to understand the mind of Frantz Fanon. 

Not a name known by the general public, but certainly known in the academy in post-colonial studies and political theory. A new biography by Adam Shatz’s beautifully written and well-researched book, The Rebel’s Clinic, gives us a highly literate account of Fanon’s life that brings us closer to understanding how Fanon became an icon of the left and the justification for violence in his classic work, The Wretched of the Earth, published just before he died of leukemia at the age of 36 in 1961. 

Fanon’s book did not go unnoticed. It was widely translated and “cited worshipfully” by radical movements, including the Black Panthers, the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, Latin American guerillas, Islamic revolutionaries of Iran, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. 

Born in Martinique in 1925, Fanon fought for the French against the Nazis in 1944 as a French citizen. Despite being a decorated soldier, he realized his blackness when white French women refused to dance with him in celebration after the war. His 1952 book Black Skin, White Masks chronicles the hardships of a Black man putting on disguises to survive in a white world. 

Fanon went on to study medicine in Lyon and practiced psychiatry in the French colony of Algeria. There, he treated the victims of the struggle for freedom and realized that violence lies at the heart of colonialism. These themes would consume the rest of his life. 

For Fanon, physical violence and severe mental and emotional harm define the natural state of colonial rule. This violence is further compounded by the reduction of the native to a lower form of a human. He saw a Manichean world split between good and evil with no chance of mutual understanding, compromise, or peaceful coexistence. The colonizer is “the corrosive element, destroying all that comes near him.” Under these conditions, violence is a natural and logical reaction to the violence that the colonialists bring to their colonies. 

Shatz’s biography shows that Fanon truly believed in the regenerative potential of violence and the mass killing of Europeans as beneficial medicine for the colonized; further, it would liberate the white man from his awful identity. In his famous introduction to Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, Jean-Paul Sartre aggressively supported the need for violence, saying, “To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone: there remains a dead man and a free man.” Fanon went on to serve the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale) as an ambassador throughout Africa while raising funds for the liberation of Algeria. 

Independence may bring some form of moral compensation, but benefits are often short-lived. That was the case after Algeria became independent in 1962, a year after Fanon’s death. His dream of a free, democratic country fell apart under radical Islamism. Citizenship was restricted to Muslims only while almost one million pieds noirs left, along with most of its Jewish population that had been in Algeria since the times of the Romans. The misery for Algeria did not end there as tens of thousands of Algerian peasants were slaughtered for their association with the French, the very people Fanon idolized in leading the revolution. Fanon’s vision of a “new man” rising from the ashes would have to wait another time. 

A young boy holds up a Hamas flag as people gather during a pro-Palestinian protest in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. Francisco Seco/AP Photo.

What didn’t wait was the zeal of revolutionary groups around the world, which took up Fanon’s passion for using violence to justify their cause for liberation, especially in the Middle East, where Zionism is now seen as the new settler colonialism. In a world split between settler-colonized and post-colonized nations, violence seems acceptable and justified after Fanon who gave if not his permission then a rationale for indiscriminate destruction. In Canada, the burning of dozens of churches was covered by the media as a natural reaction to the rumours of mass graves of First Nation children at residential schools. 

Not all intellectuals concerned with the liberation of African nations sided with Fanon’s methods of political salvation. Hannah Arendt’s essay “On Violence” was a direct response to Fanon’s vogue appeal to New Left radicals. She made the point that violence is not power but the absence of it. Through his writings on anti-colonialism,  Albert Memmi—a Tunisian Jew and novelist and one-time supporter of Fanon—came to realize that the struggle for meaning is not found solely in the social and political struggle against colonialism but also in the need for “inner emancipation,” a message hardly conducive to modern post-colonial studies. 

But after five decades of post-colonial studies and courses on French existentialist thought, moral relativism, anti-western and Eurocentrism, Marx and Gramsci, historicism, and critical race theory (an idea inspired by Fanon’s writing) many students were uncritically conditioned to side with the terror of Hamas. 

Matt Spoke: Conservatives should end $10-per-day child care

Commentary

It’s been well over a year now since Trudeau’s child-care policy has taken effect in most provinces across the country. Naturally each province, through negotiations with the federal government, has approached its implementation of the program slightly differently.

The program promised three definitive outcomes: quality (a subjective measure, but one worth unpacking), accessibility (i.e. more spaces), and affordability (i.e. less expensive spaces).

Quality

To start with the most nuanced, let’s consider quality. In order to measure the quality of a program, one first needs to understand the policy objective that the program aims to accomplish. 

In reality, there are two quite different schools of thought when it comes to this area of policy. Simply put, you might call the first “child care” and the second “early childhood education.” In most of the country, these terms have become seemingly synonymous. In fact, we refer to licensed staff at child-care centres as “early childhood educators.”

So what’s the difference? Well, as the name implies, child care is for the purpose of having someone care for your child so that you might go to work. You might think of this similarly to hiring a babysitter while you’re out at night. A responsible adult needs to be present to ensure your child (or children) is safe. Put differently, the beneficiary of child care is not the child, but rather the parent.

Whereas early childhood education is for the purpose of educating our children. Decades of research support the idea that a strong foundation in early childhood education is one of the biggest determinants of future success. In this context, the beneficiary of early childhood education is clearly the child.

Although it’s plausible to combine child care with early childhood education, it’s important to clarify which outcome a set of policies intends to solve for. Are we designing a system to provide what amounts to institutionalised babysitting for parents, or are we designing a system that educates our kids and sets them up for long-term success?

Where does the Trudeau government’s plan land on this question? Has it designed a policy of child care or of early childhood education?

One doesn’t have to look much further than a regular media appearance of the prime minister or the finance minister to hear them cite the increase in women’s participation in the workforce as the primary measure of success of their child-care policy. The problem, as discussed above, is that this policy goal can be at odds with one focused on child outcomes. The experience from Quebec for instance certainly signals a tension here.

Accessibility

This measure of success is quite easy to measure. Have the number of available spaces at child-care centres increased or decreased as a percentage of the relevant population of children? A slightly more nuanced analysis would also consider the geographic distribution of those available spaces and whether they are in fact accessible to all socioeconomic groups equally. On the latter point, Rahim Mohamed covered this in a great piece last year for The Hub.

The more superficial measure of accessibility should be quite easy to measure, although any recent and relevant national statistics are lacking. So instead, we can look at recent anecdotal headlines to get a sense of where the sentiment of operators in the industry is on the question of accessibility.

CBC News in Toronto recently covered a 100-year-old child-care centre with 175 spaces announcing its closure, citing the provincial subsidy program as the primary cause. Similarly in Alberta, “rolling closures” of child-care centres are expected across the province. In Saskatchewan (as in other provinces), the province is falling well behind its commitments of opening sufficient new spaces. 

All in all, across the country the consistent story is that waitlists are increasing, staff shortages are getting more severe, and child-care centres are not able to make ends meet within the prescribed formulas of their respective provinces. 

On accessibility, it’s hard to argue for anything but a failing grade.

Affordability

This term is often significantly misunderstood. Whether in the context of groceries, housing, or child care, it’s important to think of affordability as a relative measure. Put differently, a $10 gallon of milk can be extremely unaffordable to a low-income family on a tight budget, but not make a real dent in the budget of an upper middle-class household. 

What’s perplexing about this policy is its emphasis on $10 per day as an arbitrary measure of affordability, rather than considering the means of the family benefiting from the program. 

Are there families paying less for child care today than before the program existed? Yes.

Are families with the greatest need disproportionately benefiting from the program? No, and in fact early data is suggesting the opposite: higher-income families are disproportionately benefiting from the subsidy.

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C. on May 29, 2018. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press.

Anecdotally and statistically, we’re seeing evidence across the country of higher-income families (who historically have been able to afford market-rate child care within their budgets) get to the front of the line for access to the subsidy ahead of lower-income families who might not have put their children in child care historically.

Whether you agree with the designed intent of the policy or not, it’s hard to argue that the metric of affordability has been met. On the one hand, families who don’t need the subsidy (or at least not the full value of it) are benefiting more than they should, and on the other hand, many families who could benefit are still stuck on waitlists or can’t find child care that meets the unique demands of their schedules (e.g. nurses working night shifts, retail workers with unpredictable schedules, etc.).

On system-wide affordability, I give the program a failing grade. 

Conservatives need to scrap this program

I’ll leave the political calculus of this opinion to others, but I’ll highlight that Andrea Mrozek lays out a pretty compelling case that this issue is not as one-sided among Canadians as you might think.

Whether under the leadership of a Poilievre-led federal government or simply when it comes time for a renegotiation with the provinces, conservative leaders at both levels of government need to push back against this misguided policy that is showing early and worrying signs of failure.

Our objective as conservatives should be twofold: firstly, a policy that promotes parental choice and flexibility, and secondly, a policy that prioritizes the well-being and development of children within early childhood. 

Taken together, this would undoubtedly lead to a generous system of tax credits directed to families with young children (adjusted for income), coupled with regulatory reform agenda to open up a competitive industry of early childhood education options that’s ultimately ranked based on the quality of programming.

To conservative provincial ministers responsible for early childhood education, the challenge is yours to solve.