Monday, January 20, 2014

Back of the Bus

Suppose that, in some country that vaunted itself on its record of human rights, in North America or Western Europe, there was a cardiac hospital whose waiting-list for heart-surgery numbered both black and white patients.   Now suppose that the hospital had -- not surreptitiously and shame-facedly, but quite openly and unabashedly, even as something to pride themselves on -- a hard-and-fast rule:  So soon as a white becomes a candidate for surgery, he automatically zooms ahead of all the blacks on the waiting list;  and so on forever.   Assuming that, as in most places, the demand for the surgical service always slightly outpaces the supply, the upshot is that no black could ever receive heart surgery.

This morning there appeared a radio essay by the Dutch-Moroccan academic and journalist Fouad Laroui, Je fume, donc je suis, reporting just such a case, in the north of ultra-bien-pensant Holland;  only, with one difference:   The group continually sent to the back of the bus  are not blacks, but smokers.

And such is the climate of political correctness there reigning, that the principal challenge to this invidious rule  has come, not from the quarter of general societal welfare and logic (shall such exclusions be applied, on the same grounds of ills abetted by personal behavior, to other risk groups, such as the obese or homosexual?),  but rather, from the ranks of Identity Politics themselves!  For the Turks resident in the Netherlands have -- not opposed the rule per se, but merely demanded that they themselves be excepted, as a group, on the grounds that, in their culture, smoking is not an individual choice, but an ethnic identity badge: Among Turks, a man wears a moustache, and smokes;  un-point-c’est-tout.

Laroui regularly reports on issues affecting Muslims in his current country of residence, les Pays-Bas;  and generally to defend them.   But in this case, he twits the Turkish case for absurdity, pointing out that it is a slippery slope down which other groups can be expected to snowboard, as some already had:  Muslim Somalis in Holland demanded group exemption from Dutch anti-narcotic laws, on the grounds that qât is part of their culture.   (Such an exemption was successful in the United States, in the case of Amerindians and peyote.)   He does not, however, take explicit exception to that hospital regulation itself;  perhaps deeming such comment superfluous in the case of so evidently overweening a rule, but perhaps not.

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