Did Leo Strauss Get Rick Salutin Fired?

Posted on Friday, October 08 at 08:18 by robertjb


Rick Salutin, recently of the Globe and Mail, was easily one of that papers most sophisticated and erudite columnists. He wrote with authority and conviction on a wide range of subjects. He “stuck out” at the Globe and Mail as he was clearly identified as left leaning, but then good newspapers have a mandate to publish a cross section of opinion. With the departure of Salutin the Globe and Mail has big shoes to fill on its opinion page.
In one of his last columns(Stephen Harper- the last Straussian?, Sept.18th 2010) Salutin suggested the prime minister was a Straussian. If you are a prime minister who has spent his political capital and lusts after one last run at a majority government the last thing you want is to be outed as a Straussian.
Who was Leo Strauss? He was a Jewish-German immigrant who arrived in the US in 1922. He taught political philosophy at several American universities but most notably at the University of Chicago from 1949 to1969 where he tutored a generation of future leaders and politicians and is in many ways the god-father of neoconservatism. 
For anyone who reads beyond the crimped pages of our national dailies he has been a major influence in recent American politics, especially so in the Bush II regime where leading lights of the neoconservative movement were under his influence, Paul Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, among them. Even now, Washington is in the embrace of Straussian ideology. It knows no borders and is very contagious and deleterious to a countries political health and well being. 
Strauss, is a four letter word for anybody who believes in democracy, peace, order and good government. Straussians lead by stealth, deception and are accountable to no one. They are contemptuous of society, misanthropic and believe that a small elite is entitled to rule by natural right. The “noble lie,”  the culture of fear, the police state, continuous warfare are acceptable norms for them.
Straussians believe that we can only survive in a society of “us” versus “them”, in a constant state of war, where if the enemy does not exist it is manufactured, where fear and threat are the glue that holds society together.  
        Salutin may have felt the need to the open window on a critical philosophical and political debate that rages for the most part outside the public domain. Where Strauss is known on the internet he does not get coverage in the circumscribed content of our major dailies. His absence from the larger public domain is in itself Straussian as secrecy and stealth are essential strategies and he believed the common man should not be concerned with the shape or form of society as this should only be dictated by the elites.
All else aside a Straussian belief system has one conspicuous and utterly sophomoric flaw- the lack of accountability, and it is indeed, an ideology whose inherent design is to elude accountability. When we look about our political landscape what is conspicuously wrong in too many instances is a failure of accountability, a failure to lead, to regulate, to practice common sense and a retreat from governance. We are seeing the glorious implosion; the triumphalism of denigrating government, democratic values, civil liberties, and contempt for anything that resembles progressivism.
Political elites must in all cases be held accountable through our legislatures. Where they are not we slide gracelessly toward reactionary politics and political paralysis. Straussian thought is an ideology of resignation, of defeatism giving into our dark side and medieval instincts. It is not political philosophy but merely guidelines for establishing a totalitarian state.
        As Straussian thought is a corner of neoconservative values so too is it an indictment of this aberrant form of conservatism.
Is Canada vulnerable to Straussian creep? Most definitely. We have a government obsessed with stifling dissent, obsessive control and secrecy. Most ominously, we share a long undefended border where Straussian belief is resurgent.
To claim that our present government is not under the influence of, and has direct connections to the Republican Party is to claim the sun no longer sets in the west. Fortunately, this stealthily imported ideology has been kept in check by the limitations imposed on minority governments. Should our apprentice Straussians ever achieve a majority they will no doubt try for journeyman status at the expense of the country.        
        Shadia Drury, political philosopher at the University of Regina is a leading authority on Strauss and one of his sharpest critics:
There are difficult if not tragic choices to make in politics, as in life. Modernity is not a political panacea. It is just one more complex set of possibilities in which the good and the bad are closely intertwined. And because we are forced to take the bad with the good, our task as thinkers and citizens is to identify the evils of modernity and to devise methods by which those evils can be mitigated.
So too, as “as thinkers and citizens” we must ensure our decisions on modernity are collective, informed and responsible.
Strauss and his tainted values must be part of our political discussion. Before we can embrace an urgently needed progressivism some old devils need to be pushed into history’s rubble heap.    
Vive le Canada libre!     

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