13, 2001, Gazette)
Dr. Lloyd Axworthy was an excellent choice to be the inaugural speaker
in the John Kenneth Galbraith Lectureship in Public Policy (St. Johns
campus, Nov. 19). His training and experience (particularly his recent
visit to Afghanistan) equipped him well to speak, both from within the
academy and from the outside, on his topic, The Human Security Agenda:
Prescriptions for Canada in an Age of Globalization.
It is not my intention here to comment on the content of Dr. Axworthys
address directly. I could only give my strong approval to his words,
delivered with a clarity and conviction that kept his listeners very
much alert. His explicit challenge to Canadians was to enable the creation
of community in a troubled and broken global village.
The point I would have raised had there been more time, and now take
this opportunity to express, is his implicit challenge to the academy
and academe. It was that the study of the humanities be taken very seriously.
This is not to be critical of the work of other university faculties.
But in Dr. Axworthys address, and in the public response, it was
clear to me that there were deeper questions than those of means and
technique coming to the surface. For example: Why should Canada be concerned
about the common good in a global village? What principles are employed
to define the common good? What is the true nature of community? Why
should females and males be treated equally? Is the search for answers
to these, and similar questions, rooted simply in cultural whims, self
preservation, self aggrandizement? Or have the answers to do with the
meaning and purpose of life, and the intrinsic equality of all human
beings? I, of course, support the latter approach.
It is my opinion that unless his implicit challenge becomes a central
focus of education, the approach to global issues will continue to exhibit
a pragmatism, often not more than a band aid or quick-fix solution.
The academy, therefore, must give greater emphasis to the equipping
of young (and old) minds not only with the skills to earn a living
important as these are but also the art of living itself. History
is exhibit A of the human failure to know how to live, to seek the common
good, honesty, truth and beauty. These ideals have to be taught; they
are not, at least in our time, acquired by some process of natural absorption.
In conclusion, let me reiterate that my purpose is not to denigrate
the important work of other branches of learning, or to suggest that
these ultimate questions are not raised outside of a study of the humanities.
I know better! My point is that there is a need to be more deliberate
in dealing with them. Such an approach can only help those who follow
us to seek solutions to the worlds problems based on principles
and ideals that will create the genuine community to which Dr. Axworthy
referred, in the global village. Our failure to respond will only speed
up the realization of an Orwellian 1984.
Retired Provost of Queens College