Notes on Christianity
and Ideas

Issue 8
September 1998

Published by Theodore Plantinga

In this issue ....

Daniel Goldhagen has raised painful questions in Hitler's Willing Executioners. Must we forever blame "the Germans"? Who are "the Germans" anyway? Click here to read "Assigning Blame in History: The Case of the Holocaust."

Does your mouth run ahead of your hand? Do you take credit for what others have sweated over? Perhaps you need not feel guilty. Click here to read "What My Hands Have Done: Reflections on Agency."

Are you up on the strange predictions regarding a possible cyberfuture for our race? If the cyborgs invite us to join them, will you say yes? Click here to read "When the Robots Rule."


Don't take the term literally. I don't plan to turn pages for you. If I inform you of a website, I will simply pass on the address. But for the most part I will comment here on materials in the world of the printed page -- brief book notes, observations about periodicals, and perhaps a comment on an event.

More on pronouns. The following two paragraphs come from Ben Buckner in response to a December 1996 piece called "Please Contact Myself." --TP

I was just reading your essay on the oddities of contemporary colloquial pronoun usage "Please Contact Myself." I've of course observed the same phenomenon with "I"/"me", though in the particular regions of America I've lived in, "myself" hasn't really made so much of an inroad in replacing "me." Like you, I had quite a bit of Latin in school so I don't have so much trouble applying a Latinistic model of case governance, but then English obviously isn't Latin. I think a lot of the blame for this problem should really be placed on the shoulders of a secondary-school establishment that insists on applying Latinistic case rules to English. I don't think they should necessarily be using the latest transformational grammars to teach, but it seems like there should be some compromise between the absurdly archaic model used and the way case actually works in English. The current situation causes enormous confusion because it's grammatically trying to force a round peg into a square hole. It's no surprise that students are incapable of correctly applying specific rules that don't really jibe with the rest of the language. If you tell them 2+2=4, but 4-2=3, why wouldn't they be confused?

But actually what I really wanted to talk about was the indefinite "they" construction you mentioned. If you check the OED 2nd. ed., you'll find citations of this construction going back to the 16th century. Unless we intend to find the roots of PC in Tudor England, I think we have to look a lot deeper for the origin of this construction. Personally, I don't really have any problems with it since it's well-rooted in colloquial English. Certainly my dialect prefers "they" when no gender is intended to be specified. It makes much more sense than many of the artificial genderless constructions I've seen.

Saying no to Reform. Many Canadians believe that we are doomed to be governed by the Liberal Party until such time as we succeed in the great enterprising of "uniting the right." What would be involved in "uniting the right"? Would the Conservatives have to join the Reform Party? There is an element in the Conservative Party that scorns any such suggestion. It is not even clear that such Conservatives would welcome all the Reform Party members as members of the Conservative Party.

Hugh Segal is one such. His name is in the news lately because he has declared his candidacy for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party. It happens that his political memoirs, published just two years ago, are available to give us a solid indication of his thinking on the question of "uniting the right." His title is No Surrender (published by HarperCollins in 1996). His subtitle, it should be noted, is a little more conciliatory: Reflections of a Happy Warrior in the Tory Crusade,

The "no surrender" theme also has reference to Brian Mulroney, whom Segal served in various capacities. It is fashionable to blame Mulroney for all sorts of woes of the country and of the Conservative Party, which suffered a crushing defeat at the polls shortly after Mulroney resigned from office in 1994. Segal gives a calm but pointed defence of the Mulroney policies and also of the man himself. Another hero of Segal's (whom he also served in a staff capacity) is former Ontario premier William G. Davis. Joe Clark gets a rough ride, and John Diefenbaker's failings (especially in his later years, when he made life difficult for his successor) are freely acknowledged. Robert Stanfield is hailed as a great opportunity lost: he would have made a fine prime minister. And Kim Campbell is not entirely to blame for her humiliating defeat at the polls in 1994.

Segal has not written a kiss-and-tell memoir. His book is not as entertaining as the pair of memoirs of the Mulroney years produced by Michel Gratton (entitled So, What Are the Boys Saying? and Still the Boss). But for people with a thoughtful interest in the future of the Conservative cause in Canada, it is well worth reading.

Loose cannon unleashed? John Crosby is a self-confessed loose cannon. Or, to be more precise, he admits that he was regarded as such by the Mulroney government in which he held various portfolios between 1984 and 1993 (justice, international trade, fisheries, transport). Nonetheless, his memoir regarding his Ottawa career, entitled No Holds Barred (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1997), does not fall into the "blame Mulroney" genre. He repeatedly speaks well of his former boss, whom he opposed for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1983.

Crosby came in third when Mulroney was selected as leader; Joe Clark was second. Crosby also served under Clark, as finance minister. But Clark, whose government of 1989-80 lasted less than a year, does not come off as well as Mulroney.

Some Canadian political observers have regarded Crosby as a buffoon. He thinks of himself as a fellow who likes a clever phrase and as a speaker who likes to get off a one-liner before he gets down to serious business. I've admired him for years, and I miss him on the federal political scene today. His book is worth a look. It offers interesting candid insights into life in Crosby's native land of Newfoundland, and also details Crosby's struggle against Joey Smallwood, first from within Smallwood's own liberal cabinet, and later as a member of a Conservative cabinet, before switching to the federal scene in 1976.

General information

This electronic journal is my way of keeping in touch with friends, colleagues, former students, and so forth. It does not have a regular publication schedule. Feel free to download it and pass it around. You may even wish to send me a comment; I do not guarantee a response to each communication. If you wish to repost anything in this journal, please let me know. If you care to print something in paper form, this can also be arranged, provided that I retain the copyright so that I will remain free in my use of the material. Please regard the materials in Myodicy as copyrighted by me, except in the case of articles written by someone else. What is written in Myodicy should not be regarded as reflecting any official position or policy of Redeemer College.

Theodore Plantinga
E-mail: [email protected]

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