If your week was less than fun, spare a thought for Justin Trudeau. The Canadian Prime Minister’s seven-day visit to India went down like an undercooked biriyani on the subcontinent.
When he landed in New Delhi last Saturday, Trudeau was greeted on the tarmac, not by the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister but by the junior minister for agriculture and farmers’ welfare. Other world leaders, including Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, have been given a personal welcome by Narendra Modi. Prime Minister Modi, a savvy social media user, failed even to note Trudeau’s arrival on Twitter, though on the same day he found time to tweet about plans to unveil a new shipping container terminal. He did not acknowledge Trudeau until five days later and only met him the day before the Canadian PM and his family were to return home.
Why were the Indians so frosty in their reception? They suspect Trudeau’s government of private sympathy for the Khalistani separatist movement, which wants to form a breakaway Sikh state in Punjab. Thankfully, Trudeau didn’t do anything to inflame those suspicions. Well, unless you count inviting a notorious Khalistani separatist to a reception. And then to dinner. With the Prime Minister. Not just any separatist, either. Jaspal Atwal is a former member of the International Sikh Youth Federation, proscribed as a terror group in both India and Canada, and was convicted of the attempted assassination of Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu. Best of all, he even got a photo taken with Trudeau’s wife Sophie.
But there were still a few Indians unoffended by the image-obsessed Canadian PM and he quickly remedied that. He turned up for one event in a gaudy golden kurta, churidars and chappals. At another, he broke into the traditional Bhaṅgṛā dance only to stop midway through when no one else joined in. Only after the local press pointed out that this was a little condescending and a lot tacky was Justin-ji finally photographed wearing a suit.
It was less like a state visit and more like a weeklong audition for the next Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie. Here was Justin Trudeau, the progressive’s progressive, up to his pagṛi in cultural appropriation. At least he achieved his goal of bringing Indians and Canadians closer together: both have spent the past week cringing at this spectacle of well-meaning minstrelsy.
I want to like Justin Trudeau. I really do. He’s a centrist liberal in an age where neither the adjective nor the noun is doing very well. Trump to his south, Brexit and Corbyn across the water, Putin beyond that: Trudeau should be a hero for liberal democrats. Instead, from his Eid Mubarak socks at Toronto Pride to his preference for ‘peoplekind’ over ‘mankind’, Trudeau presents like an alt-right parody of liberalism. He’s gender-neutral pronouns. He’s avocado toast and flaxseed soy smoothies. He’s safe spaces and checked privileges. Trudeau is a cuck.
And all that would be fine. In fact, it would be a hoot to have a liberal standard-bearer who could troll the 4chan pale males in their overvaped, undersexed basements. But far from an icon for the middle ground, Trudeau is the sort of right-on relativist who gives liberals a bad name. He has spoken of his ‘admiration’ for China’s dictatorship for ‘allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime’. He called Fidel Castro ‘larger than life’ and ‘a remarkable leader’ who showed ‘tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people’. Trudeau’s government refused to accept the Islamic State’s ethnic cleansing of the Yazidis was a genocide until the UN formally recognised it as such. In 2016 he issued a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that neglected to mention Jewish victims of the Shoah and the following year unveiled a memorial plaque with the same omission.
Trudeau’s problem is that he always agrees with the last good intention he encountered. He seems to have picked up his political philosophy from Saturday morning cartoons: by your powers combined, I am Captain Snowflake. There is no spine of policy, no political compass, no vision beyond the next group hug or national apology. The centre ground needs a champion and instead it got an inspirational quote calendar with abs. Trudeau’s not a Grit, he’s pure mush.