Mallick: Ban ‘Lord of the Flies’? In the age of Donald Trump, it’s required reading

Legitimate critique of excessive wokism, woke bullying and craven public administration. :

“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”

It’s a shame that many Ottawa high school students will no longer be able to read murderous quotes like that from the very instructive “Lord of the Flies” in class.

The trouble began when an Ottawa student wrote in her school paper that William Golding’s 1954 novel about white boys stranded on an island turning savage and killing their own, did not reflect what she as “a Black, Jewish, feminist and social justice activist” wished to read.

“I do not need to learn about … how these boys cannot act in a civilized manner to protect one another without desiring power, hierarchy and having a thirst for blood.” And the Ottawa-Carleton school board listened, as have others, banning Golding’s novel and other novels too. 

Breathes there a high school student that doesn’t feel that the world should reflect her personally? It’s part of the maddening sweetness of the teenagers we all were once.

The student didn’t like memorizing Orwell either. But memorization is a gift. As climate change advances, it will give people something to do as they wait in cooling centres or sinkholes or planes stuck in melted tarmac.

I recite F. Scott Fitzgerald (“I left my capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zelda’s sanitarium”). She of course may only have “Do it to Julia! Not me!” or a description of George Orwell eating boiled cod with turnips and enjoying it out of socialist idealism.

I fear for students like her. The novel is at base about bullying. A plane full of children crashes on a tropical island. Their means of survival is a plot that will be re-enacted in every workplace, social justice enclave, airplane flight and Green party meeting she will ever encounter. 

What she seeks, she wrote, is “to learn about why it is important to protect one another and to be allies to those who are less privileged.” But this was precisely what “Lord of the Flies” revealed.

If she wants to read about groups cohering peacefully, in other words novels without plots, the Peppa Pig stories are a go-to. Or those terrific Sally Rooneys about smart women dating inert men. Or Nigel Slater’s “Real Fast Puddings.” Then there’s Margaret Atwood’s “Cat’s Eye” about girl-on-girl terror.

So it’s back to Peppa, really.

I can’t see how she missed the novel’s slide into group madness led by frat-boy Jack and the killing of Simon and his fat, asthmatic, bullied friend Piggy. But then I frequently finish murder mysteries and have no idea who the killer was.

As she wrote, Golding’s boys were all white so perhaps they seemed much of a muchness, fair enough, but blood is blood and by the end Simon and Piggy were simply covered in it, so there’s a plot flag right there.

Every class has such students; what troubles me are the adults who don’t worry about them. Rather they cater to them, a mistake because we’re all living a Lord of the Flies moment.

The Trump years ended with the portly post-president gleefully presiding over the Capitol assault on Jan. 6, a truly rancid Lord of the Flies gang crawling and battering their way into the building.

Think back to Sep. 11, 2001 and the 40 passengers and crew of Fight 93 who realized their hijacked plane was likely aimed at Washington’s Capitol. A random group of people — various Todds, Jeremys, Sandras and Marks — decided to protect the Capitol, seat of the very chambers that 20 years later, a different kind of American would casually invade, hijack and terrorize.

On Flight 93, passengers teamed up and attacked the cockpit, knowing they would all die in minutes. The terrorists, unable to shake them off, flew the plane into the ground, vaporizing everyone.

In today’s Lord of the Flies, which gang would make the better novel, the Saudi terrorists, the American terrorists, or the American passengers? Does modernity make any difference?

We are at this impasse now too. Think of the loud, violent gangs at Trudeau rallies this fall, the shaggy marches of the unmasked and unvaccinated in Toronto, and the hollowing of the Toronto transit system left unsupervised and a magnet for angry unmasked people.

Look at Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, bullied by his doctrinaire MPs and afraid to tell them to get vaccinated. O’Toole resembles Piggy. I wonder if he knows this.

The Ottawa student wants to study different tales in school, chosen not for their brilliance but for their newness and the diversity of their characters but it puzzles me that she hasn’t suggested anything. 

It has been said that there are only seven basic plots: Overcoming the Monster; Rags to Riches; The Quest; Voyage and Return; Rebirth; Comedy; and Tragedy. Lord of the Flies is the first, its plot eternal. We have many lords, many flies, in our future.


Sorry, no sex-ed, please — we’re Canadians: Cohn

More balanced assessment than Heather Mallick’s (Sex-ed compromise is short-sighted: Accommodating body-shaming parents is a betrayal of Canadian multiculturalism):

The most maddening and exasperating aspect of last year’s protests was the attempt by a minority of people — motivated by religion, culture or ideology — to impose their views on the vast majority of parents who support modern sex education for their children. The protesters argued, absurdly and selfishly, that if they disliked the sex-ed curriculum, everyone else’s children should also be deprived of that education.

It was an utterly anti-democratic example of the intolerance (and tyranny) of the minority imposing its unsupported views on everyone else — aided by some opposition Progressive Conservative MPPs and abetted by their current leader, Patrick Brown. What made their anti-sex-ed campaign even more objectionable was that their protests were so pointless — for the simple reason that anyone with a religious objection could easily opt out, taking their child out of class.

Don’t like it, don’t take it. But don’t take away my child’s right to a modern education.

Despite that opt-out option, hundreds of parents escalated their protests by withdrawing their children from all classes last spring (not just sex-ed instruction). Many of them also delayed enrolment in the public school system last September to ratchet up the pressure.

Against that backdrop of disruptive protests, Thorncliffe Park principal Jeff Crane undertook extensive consultations. He proposed an alternative class for those first graders whose parents refused to let them see or hear any explicit references to their anatomy — exposing them, at least, to the rest of the health and physical education curriculum.

Did he go too far in acquiescing to unreasonable demands?

In sex-ed, as in sex itself, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Compromise can be a good thing if it minimizes the harm that might come from depriving first graders of any sex-ed at all should their parents persist with boycotts.

The religious objectors had the right, under our existing system, to deprive their children of essential learning. Now, these students will at least benefit from the rest of the curriculum, notwithstanding their parents’ obstinacy.

That’s better than the alternative of an outright boycott. The key point is that all other students, in this school and across the province, will still get unexpurgated sex-ed classes that don’t dilute the overall curriculum.

A child’s interests should always come first. In this case, a principled principal at Thorncliffe Park has shown us that “reasonable accommodation” with unreasonable parents can produce a rational compromise that serves society.

Source: Sorry, no sex-ed, please — we’re Canadians: Cohn | Toronto Star

Munk Debates would benefit from more women panellists | Mallick

Heather Mallick on the lack of women at the Munk debates. Striking and pointed:

Trick question. The three Fareeds are one guy whose last name is Zakaria and I now wonder if the reason he never lost his job over repeated plagiarism accusations is that he’s the stock non-white panel guy no one can afford to lose.

The men were all participants in the right-leaning Munk Debates, a creepy stage series run by a guy named Rudyard that is now appearing in book form. Nine book covers from the series, with 34 names, appear in a full-page newspaper ad that no one realized would look odd to the new readers that newspapers want to welcome.

Another trick: only one woman, the wonderful Anne-Marie Slaughter, who is famous for having downsized her U.S. political job because it crushed family life, debated with men. Munk held one debate on women’s rights and, naturally, it was about whether they should have them (had it made men obsolete?). Four women were hired for cat fight purposes. The women’s panel was clearly intended as the Bearded Ladies show at the carnival, and I’m not falling for it.

The debates were on loaded questions about weighty subjects — Obama (is he malign?), state spying (is it making us safer?), the EU (has it failed?) — which were too important to include women debaters. When women speak, it’s usually on “female” subjects, subjective and lightweight.

The classic Munk audience has never heard women speak aloud in public, plainly, the way men do with ease. It would freak them out. I’ve had men accuse me of writing columns simply “to provoke.” One talk show host who has blamed women en masse for refusing to appear on his show — “No man will say, ‘Sorry, can’t do your show tonight, my roots are showing,” he wrote — made the provoke remark to me recently. This man had only noticed in 2014 that his guest lineup was unconscionable.

… If the men of Munk think that a newspaper page full of men’s names, like some kind of proactive war memorial, is proof of “great debates” and “great reading,” I’m saying that women also have “great” things to say about taxation, nuclear weapons, European politics, state surveillance and even China. China has women. Some women are Chinese, imagine that.

The men of Munk will be giddy to hear this. Go nuts, Rudyard! Ask a lady to talk. Ask a Chinese lady. Ask several. I know this is crazy stuff but women are loaded now — call it mad money — and they like to talk and be talked to. Pay them at the same rate.

Women. Talking. This is crazy stuff in 2015 but something tells me the audiences might be ready for it.

Munk Debates would benefit from more women panellists | Toronto Star.

Stephen Colbert furor is a mess of hurt feelings: Mallick

Heather Mallick on the Colbert controversy. Think she nails it:

Colbert plays an idiot on his show, “an egomaniacal right-wing gasbag.” Nine years ago, even he did not think his show would succeed and he somewhat regrets the fact that he didn’t change his name before it became a hit. He doesn’t allow his children to watch the show lest they catch their father being “insincere.” Park was being an idiot about an idiot.

Truly, Twitter has eaten itself. Meta beyond belief, the Colbert frenzy has made me comment on a commenter who commented on the reaction to a tweet by a commenter who commented on a comedian playing a character who joked about a remark by a racist reacting to comments by football fans on the name of his team. And I’m boiling it down here.

All this would be worthy if I were commenting on actual racism, which is probably the worst virus going around. The expression of pointless racial prejudice has caused hundreds of millions of early deaths and soured countless lives. That said, can we not concentrate on damage caused rather than feelings felt?

Stephen Colbert furor is a mess of hurt feelings: Mallick | Toronto Star.

Why Himmler letters deserve closer study: Mallick | Toronto Star

Heather Mallick, who usually writes to the left on issues, has a good column on the Himmler letters and the nature of evil:

The truth is that evil exists, that it has to be confronted, and people will do anything not to. We don’t like hard truths. When I hear about murder, I’m curious about what built the killer. Tell me about child abuse, blows to the head, adolescent shocks and adult lies. Don’t tell me we can treat conditions that we can’t even yet identify because psychology is still a young science. What makes a person evil?

If there’s a thread that runs through all these histories, it’s a bizarre attachment to family. We see it all the time, mothers speaking kindly of their serial-killer sons, siblings defending the indefensible, the idea that everyone has something lovable in them and only families can see it. But is it true, even if Heinrich had pet names for Marga and Hedwig, even if evil has its apologists?

Here is the verdict of Katrin and her co-author in a new book about Heinrich: “These letters show the deformation of normality, violence masquerading as harmlessness, cold-bloodedness that goes along with ostensible care, and the unswerving moral certitude even while committing mass murder.”

Why Himmler letters deserve closer study: Mallick | Toronto Star.