Saturday, May 23, 2015

Civil Libertarians of Canada, The Charter is Not Your Friend!

For several months now civil libertarians in Canada have been – rightly – concerned about Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism legislation introduced after the shootings in Ottawa last October, which passed its final reading in the House of Commons earlier this month and is now before the Senate. The primary concerns are that the bill defines terrorism so loosely that it could be used against legitimate dissenters and that the information collecting powers it gives to CSIS threatens the privacy of Canadians.

This is not the first time the threat of terrorism has been used as an excuse to pass legislation unnecessarily expanding the powers of government. Jean Chretien’s Liberals passed anti-terrorism legislation in the fall of 2001, similar to the USA PATRIOT Act and, like the American bill, a response to the September 11th terrorist attack against the United States. Predictably, the legislation was abused. Rather than being used to stop jihadists bent on murder, mayhem, and torture from harming Canadians it was used by our authorities to throw an elderly man, Ernst Zündel, who lived in Canada for decades without ever being a threat to anyone (although he himself had his home bombed by terrorists) into a 6 x 10 cell in which the lights were constantly on, where he was kept while an obviously biased judge was presented with “evidence” to which he and his lawyer were denied access maintaining that he was a threat to national security, which resulted in him being deported to a country where he faced, as our government was well aware, arrest, conviction, and a stiff prison sentence merely for uttering his controversial views. This, of course, violated all sorts of rights, liberties, and constitutional protections that have long been traditional in Canada and all other countries under the Crown.

The Chretien anti-terrorism legislation was actually a greater violation of our traditional rights and freedoms than Bill C-51 is. I say this, not to dismiss or play down concerns over Bill C-51 or to make excuses for the present government, but to make an important point about a flaw in the way opponents of Bill C-51 have been framing their arguments. The bill, we are told by serious civil libertarians, from whose number we will exclude the tinfoil hat crazies who see the bill as a plot against Indians, environmentalists, and non-jihadist Muslims, endangers the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter. Thus the whole issue is framed as a conflict between two documents, a good document, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees and protects our liberties, and a bad documents, Bill C-51 which threatens them. The problem with that structure is that while Bill C-51 is certainly a threat, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is no solid ground for its opponents to stand on. The Chretien anti-terrorism legislation did violence to the traditional rights and freedoms of Canadians without violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That so many Canadians think that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was passed as part of the Constitution Act of 1982 that repatriated the British North America Act, either gave us or secured to us our basic rights and freedoms, indicates just how badly our educational system has failed us. The Charter’s second section identifies as “fundamental freedoms” belonging to “everyone” the following:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

Canadians did not have to wait for the Trudeau Liberals to introduce the Charter in 1982 to possess these freedoms. Freedom of religion, not in the modern liberal sense of “the separation of church of state”, but in the sense of Roman Catholics being allowed to practice Roman Catholicism, Protestants being allowed to practice Protestantism, and so on, without persecution and interference, has long been part of the tradition upon which our country is built. Nor did the Charter make these freedoms any more secure.

Consider the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”. It was two years after the Charter was introduced that Ernst Zündel was first put on trial for publishing a pamphlet maintaining that significantly less than six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis and that the Third Reich had no designs to physically exterminate European Jewry. He was put through two public trials over this, then was investigated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for expressing the same views on the internet (an “other medium of communication”).

The agency that conducted this latter, much more secretive and less public, investigation was created in 1977 by the same government that gave us the Charter. The Act which created the CHRC is itself a major violation of the fourth of these fundamental freedoms, which bestows upon certain people because of their “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered”, a right to not be discriminated against by others, which is a phony right because it places burdens upon other people other than a) those which arise naturally out of their relationships with the rights-bearers, b) those they have voluntarily contracted to or c) the basic duty to leave the rights-bearer to be in peace.

The fourth time our government went after Zündel, during the premiership of Chretien, it was more than just the freedom of “thought, belief, opinion, and expression” that was violated. The seventh section of the Charter says “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” Is it in accordance with “the principles of fundamental justice” to throw somebody in a tiny cell with the lights on around the clock and refuse to allow his advocate to hear and respond to all of the claims against him? Not according to our traditional standards of justice and not according to the ninth through twelfth sections of the Charter either.

Nevertheless, the anti-terrorism legislation which allowed for this treatment of Zündel was not in violation of the Charter. This is because the first part of the thirty-third section of the Charter reads:

Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter.

The second section is the section about fundamental freedoms quoted in full above. Sections seven through fourteen are the sections about our legal rights. All of these freedoms and rights were part of our tradition before the Charter was passed. Rather than making them more secure, the Charter clearly makes them less secure by allowing Parliament and the provincial legislatures to disregard them entirely. There are limitations on the use of the notwithstanding clause – part three places a five year limitation on bills that make use of it, but the limitations are fangless as the next part allows for the legislation to be re-enacted.

So no, civil libertarians of Canada, the Charter is not on our side. All the present government would need to do to make Bill C-51 comply with the Charter is to insert a five-year sunset clause and invoke the notwithstanding clause. This is how the Chretien Liberals got away with passing the laws that allowed them to commit that grotesque injustice against Ernst Zündel.

The fundamental freedoms listed in the second section of the Charter and the legal rights listed in sections seven through fourteen already belonged to every Canadian long before the Charter was introduced. In 1776, British North America divided between those who declared their independence, established a federal republic, and put their faith in the ability of a parchment document to forever safeguard their rights and freedoms, and those who refused to break with Britain, remained loyal to the Crown, and built Canada within the older tradition the organic continuity with which had never been broken. This older tradition had evolved over more than a thousand years of history to include the rights, freedoms, and legal protections we regard as basic today, and while the Loyalists rightly rejected the American Revolutionaries’ claim that Parliament was violating these “Rights of Englishmen” by passing a small sales tax, they did not dispute that these rights belonged to the tradition. Canadians looked to this tradition and our organic connection to it as the source and safeguard of our rights and freedoms and the tradition never let us down. It was only when the Liberals turned their backs on the tradition and decided that we needed a written guarantee of our rights like the American Bill of Rights that these rights and freedoms were placed in serious jeopardy. The Liberals have never understood or appreciated how our rights and liberties are tied to our British institutions and tradition so that the former stand or fall with the latter.

The Old Conservatives did understand this and they defended our British traditions as the foundation of our rights and freedoms. This, unfortunately, is not the case with the Conservatives of the present day who, to a large degree, share the Liberal Party’s tendency to look away from our British heritage towards the United States. Bill C-51 is an attempt on the part of the present Conservative – supported by the Liberals – to follow the example set by the United States in the passing of the USA PATRIOT Act and the Department of Homeland Security. The example of a government whose first response to a terrorist attack is to vastly expand its own powers and to try to remove constitutional and legal roadblocks to the abuse of those powers while all the while doing a cheerleading dance for “freedom” and running it up the flag pole is a terrible example to follow.

Civil libertarians, however, will need solid ground to stand on in opposition to this bill rather than the sinking sand that is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The only such ground is Canada’s British institutions and traditions. Alas, most of the opposition to the bill in Parliament is coming from the party which is not only the party of the tinfoil hat wingnuts who think that the true purpose of the bill is to allow the government to throw tree hugging hippies into jail but also the party most hostile to our British heritage. The outlook is not good for our traditional rights and freedoms.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Alberta's Left Turn

I had not been following the recent provincial election campaign in Alberta. I found it interesting, therefore, when Kevin Michael Grace over at The Ambler predicted an NDP win shortly before the election, but I was not really surprised when this prediction came true. Mr. Grace has frequently demonstrated his acute insight into the myriad of aspects of Canadian politics and the NDP and Alberta are not as odd of a match as many people seem to think. Capitalism and socialism have never really been polar opposites, they are more the opposite sides of a single coin, perhaps the plugged nickel. Both think that the acquisition of money is the purpose for human existence, with the difference between the two being that capitalists think that money should be obtained through the free exchange of goods, services, and labour whereas socialists think it is better for the government to take money from those who already have it and give it to other people. I don’t wish to trivialize this difference – the former, being relatively the more honest of the two, is clearly to be preferred by sane, decent, and normal people over the latter, the preference of crooks, scoundrels, and fools – but the difference pales in comparison to that between the shared assumptions of capitalism and socialism and the truth that there are many things more important in life than making money.

For as long as I can remember I have heard Alberta described as Canada’s “most conservative province” but I have long questioned the accuracy of this designation. It might have been true at one time. In the fall of 1936, Stephen Leacock, the famous Canadian professor, economist, social commentator, and humorist began a lecture tour of the Western provinces and he described his experiences in My Discovery of the West: A Discussion of East and West In Canada, which was published by Thomas Allen in Toronto in 1937. In his ninth chapter, “Monarchy in the West”, Leacock wrote that:

People who know nothing about it always imagine that the West of Canada is far less British than the East. Apart from the Maritime Provinces this is not so. It is even the reverse of truth.

From this he went on to argue that the large number of Americans who had moved up to the Canadian West between 1905 and 1914 made “no great difference as to the British connection and British institutions” because Americans had been British originally, and were reverting to their roots. He put it in these memorable words:

It used to be said that the last shot fired in defence of British institutions in America would be fired by a French-Canadian. It looks now as if there would be one more shot after his. It will be from the gun of an American whose name will be something like John Bull McGregor. His people will have been among the McGregors of Mississippi and the Bulls of the New York police: so he won't miss what he shoots at.

If Leacock’s assessment of 1936 Alberta was accurate, that those settling the province valued Canada’s British institutions, had not a trace of republicanism, and that the former Americans among them would be the ones to fire that last shot on behalf of the Crown, then it might have been true to say, at that time, that Alberta was the most conservative province in the Dominion. That was then. This is now.

In Canada, a conservative is someone who believes in and supports the traditional British institutions of this country. This was historically true even of conservative French Canadians – and until the 1960s French Canadians were very conservative indeed – for while their primary concern might have been the preservation of their language, Roman Catholicism, and their traditional way of life, they understood that these things had been guaranteed by the Crown since 1774 and that had all of British North America gone over to the American Republic in the Revolution their language, religion, and culture would not have survived. The two best articulations of the political meaning of conservatism in the Canadian context, John Farthing’s Freedom Wears a Crown and John G. Diefenbaker’s These Things We Treasure, the first by a central Canadian who grew up in Ontario and Quebec, the second by a Westerner, who grew up and practiced law in Saskatchewan before entering federal politics, both argued that Canada’s British institutions were the foundation and framework of our traditional rights and freedoms and that the latter stand and fall with the former.

If Alberta were the most conservative province in Canada that would mean that the ideas in the preceding paragraph would be more prevalent in Alberta than anywhere else in the country. Is this the case? Hardly. Indeed, one of the most curious things about many who identify as conservative in the province of Alberta is an inability to put two and two together and come up with four on this matter.

From 1963, when Lester Pearson became Prime Minister until 1984 when Pierre Trudeau stepped down as Prime Minister, the Liberal Party of Canada waged an aggressive war against Canada’s British institutions and traditions. They removed the designation “Royal” from many institutions including the post office and the navy. They insisted that we needed a new flag of our own, even though the Canadian Red Ensign had been declared our country’s flag by Order-In-Council in 1945, three days after the end of the war in which it had been baptized our national flag in the blood of the soldiers who fought under it in our country’s finest hour. It was the Union Jack in the canton that made the old flag objectionable to them. These are just two examples, many more could be provided. At the same time the Liberal Party was attacking Canada’s British heritage and institutions it was also attacking and undermining the basic traditional freedoms of Canadians. In the early 1970s they added a law against “hate propaganda” to the Criminal Code, which set a bad precedent for freedom of speech by making certain types of speech illegal on the basis of the thoughts expressed within them. Existing laws governing speech, such as the law against incitement, only made speech illegal when it called upon people to commit violence and break the law. Then the Liberals passed the Canadian Human Rights Act, an attack on freedom of association patterned on the American Civil Rights Act of the previous decade, which further attacked freedom of speech with its chilling Section 13, designating hate speech as an illegal act of discrimination and defining it so broadly that virtually anything offensive to those protected against discrimination would qualify. Finally, when they repatriated the British North America Act, they tacked onto it a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that under the guise of securing for us the rights and freedoms we already possessed by prescription as subjects of the Crown, nullified those rights and freedoms. (1) These attacks upon traditional and basic prescriptive rights and liberties, producing the oppressive politically correct atmosphere that Albertan “conservatives” rightly object to, were carried out at the same time and by the same people who were ripping apart our British heritage, proving the analysis of traditional Canadian Tories like Farthing and Diefenbaker, that our freedoms stand and fall with our British traditions, institutions, and heritage, to be correct.

Yet many Albertan “small c conservatives” don’t seem to get this. To the last man they have an intense loathing for Pierre Trudeau and the Liberal Party, yet many of them show little interest in turning to Canada’s British institutions, traditions, and heritage. Indeed, I have known more than a few of them to approach our British heritage with an attitude of contempt scarcely distinguishable from Trudeau’s own. Royalism is the sine qua non of conservatism in Canada, a non-negotiable, and Pierre Trudeau was notorious for, among other things, his disrespect for Her Majesty, yet you will encounter in Alberta, far more than anywhere else in Canada, people who claim to be Trudeau-hating conservatives but who are republicans rather than royalists. Self-identified Albertan “conservatives” tend to be continentalists – sometimes to the point of being annexationists – and free traders, both of which, ironically, are positions that historically belonged to the Liberal Party. It is further ironic that free trade was only embraced by the Conservative Party in the 1980s under the leadership of Brian Mulroney, the Conservative leader most hated in Alberta, whose misgovernment drove traditional Conservative Party voters, not only in Alberta but throughout the West, into the Reform Party of Canada.

This does not sound like a conservative province – more like a belligerently regionalist province with a chip on its shoulder. Localism is an important element of conservative thought, but in a form similar to the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity, never anti-patriotism.

Where then does Alberta’s “conservative” reputation come from?

Is it the most socially conservative province?

When one thinks of social conservatism – in the sense of opposition to the moral and social disintegration that has taken place in the United States, Canada and the rest of the Western world since World War as manifest in such things as the collapse of social authority, no-fault divorce, birth control, abortion, the sexual revolution, cohabitation without marriage, serial marriages, alternative sexualities, and the like – three voices come to mind as having spoken louder on behalf of social conservatism in Canada than any other – George Grant, William Gairdner, and Ted Byfield. All three were from central Canada.

Yes, that’s right, all three. Ted Byfield, the founder of the Alberta Report which joined Christian social conservatism with a defiant Western and particularly Alberta populism, was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. That, in itself, does not perhaps say much, especially since moral and social decay, and worse, government brainwashing of the young against traditional norms, has gone further in Ontario, under the premierships of McGuinity and Wynne than anywhere else in the country. Nevertheless, it is in Alberta that the Rev. Stephen Boissoin was dragged before the Human Rights Tribunal – they have one of these odious kangaroo courts in Alberta too – for writing a letter to the editor, criticizing the actions of the politicized homosexual movement.

More substantially, Albertans more than any other Canadians, love American popular culture and oppose any attempt on the part of the national government to protect domestic Canadian culture. While our cultural protectionist policies have been a complete failure, and indeed have done harm rather than good, my point is that there is nothing that has done more to erode traditional social institutions, the authority of parents, teachers, and churches, and moral standards, than Hollywood films, pop and rock music, and television programming. A social conservatism that is wed to an objection, at the theoretical level, to cultural protectionism on the liberal grounds of market freedom, is a social conservatism that has laid down, raised the white flag, and given up.

The other grounds on which some have claimed that Alberta is the most conservative province are those of fiscal and economic conservatism. Fiscal conservatism is the idea that the state should live within its means and not export its costs into the future for posterity to pay. The economic ideas regarded as being conservative in Alberta are actually economic liberalism – free markets, free trade, and low taxes to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit, promoting economic growth that creates jobs and generates wealth. These two ideas are not always compatible. The goal of economic liberalism is constant growth so it always calls for lower taxes, whereas fiscal conservatism recognizes that to meet its goal, of not creating burdens for future generations, taxes may sometimes need to be raised in the present. It has been my impression that for most Albertan conservatives when these two ideas and goals clash, it is economic liberalism that wins out over fiscal conservatism. At any rate, actual economic conservatism is a variation of economic liberalism called economic nationalism, in which the government passes laws and taxes that favour and protect domestic production, thus exporting its costs not to future generations but to foreign companies and countries, as an entrance fee for access to the national market. Needless to say this idea would go over like a ton of bricks in Alberta.

Which brings us back to what I said at the beginning about capitalism and socialism – they are not polar opposites, but two sides of the same coin. That Alberta, the bastion of economic liberalism in Canada, would flip the coin and a give a majority government to the socialist party of high taxes and even higher spending, the very opposite of fiscal conservatism, is less of a shock than it would have been had the province managed to put fiscally conservative economic patriots into power.

The NDP is about more than socialism, of course. It is also about feminism, abortion-on-demand, anti-white racism, climate change alarmism, the Orwellian thought control that is political correctness, and the triumph of the abnormal over the normal and the average over the exceptional. Albertans will find to their horror that it is these latter things, even more than socialism, that they have in store for them under an NDP government.

The NDP is also, however, the most anti-Canadian of parties, when Canada is rightly understood as being the British country, confederated under the Crown in Parliament in 1867, upon a foundation rooted in Loyalism. The NDP wish to finish what he Pearson-Trudeau Liberals started in the 1960s-1980s, and obliterate our British heritage entirely, abolishing the upper chamber in Parliament, and severing the country’s ties to the monarchy. Had Alberta truly been the most conservative province in the country, the NDP’s contempt for Canada’s British traditions and institutions would have prevented them from ever giving the NDP a single seat. Many Albertans, however, chose to join what ideas they had that were fiscally or socially conservative, to a very unconservative anti-Canadian, anti-patriotism that is not that far removed from that of the NDP, making this election’s outcome much less of a surprise, although no less of a disaster.

(1) Section 33 effectively nullifies all the rights and freedoms listed in section 2, and sections 7 through 15.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Modern Man Reaps the Insanity he has Sown

As Western man entered the Modern Age, he began to regard those things which had been central to his worldview but which cannot be directly perceived by the senses as being less real and therefore less important than those things which are directly available to him through the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Whereas previously he had accepted that God, as the Creator and Source of the physical world available to man through his senses, must therefore be more real and more important than that world, modern man reasoned that what is most real and important to us is that which we can observe directly and that God, if He exists at all, is out there somewhere doing His own thing and of little consequence to us. While St. Paul had traced to its inevitable terminus the route which this train of thought must travel in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans, modern man ignored his warning, jumped aboard that train nonetheless, and has been travelling it ever since.

Modern man has both gained and lost by his decision to travel this path. By concentrating his attention on the physical world he has gained sufficient knowledge of that world to manipulate it to accomplish his ends – and so has managed to prolong his life, to make his labour easier and more efficient thus increasing both his productivity and his leisure time, and to combat scarcity and sickness. These gains are not to be sneered at or lightly dismissed and the fact that they are immediately present to us and observable makes them strong evidence indeed on behalf of the project of modernity.

Now let us think about what we have just noted about the gains of modernity. If such benefits to modern man as prolonged life, better health, abundance of material goods and leisure are evidence on behalf of modernity what is it that they are testifying to on modernity’s behalf? The answer is that they are testifying to modernity’s possessing the quality of being positive, beneficial, or good. Here we encounter a dilemma. If we are required to prove modernity to be good by pointing to the evidence of how it has benefited us this means that goodness is a standard to which modernity is held accountable, which means that goodness is higher than modernity, more important, and therefore more real than modernity and all of its benefits. Yet goodness is not something that we can look upon with our eyes or hear with our ears or otherwise directly detect through our senses. We perceive it indirectly in the many ways it manifests itself in the world of the senses but we approach it directly only through the avenues of faith and reason. In other words the very fact that we find it necessary to prove modernity to be good by pointing to the ways in which it has improved and enriched our lives is a contradiction of this fundamental tenet of modernity that it is the physical world of matter and energy, that we observe through our senses, that is real and important, and that the God Who created that world and such invisible and intangible qualities as goodness itself are less real and less important.

What this tells us is that although we have obtained real, tangible, benefits from modernity, benefits which must not be casually waved aside as if they are nothing, these benefits do not prove the ideas that comprise the foundation of modernity to be true. Truth is another one of those invisible and intangible qualities like goodness, which can be approached through faith and reason, but only perceived indirectly. While modern man talks much about truth, professes a high regard for it, and claims to possess it in greater quantities than men in previous eras, he has altered and reduced its meaning, almost beyond recognition, in accordance with his new understanding of what is real and important. To modern man, “truth” is merely the quality of accurately describing in our speech, what happens in what modern man considers to be the real world, the physical world. While modern man may have more facts at his disposal than ever before, he has lost the larger part of the very meaning of truth itself, and so truth must be marked down on the loss side of the ledger of modernity. In this we see that the losses of modernity, must not be lightly dismissed either. This is a sobering thought when we consider that if we have lost the concept of truth in its fuller sense, we may very well have to count among the losses of modernity the information and standards we need in order to properly weigh the gains against the losses and to determine whether the former are worth the price of the latter.

The end of the modernity project all along has been the subjection of reality to the will of man in a universe where man has usurped the place of God. The elements of the physical world are directly available to man – therefore, since man has declared himself to be the centre of everything, they are the most real and the most important. The elements of the physical world are themselves ranked in importance according to their utility, i.e., how useful they are to man and we now concentrate our intellectual activity in the accumulation of the knowledge and the development of techniques which maximize that usefulness. Man used to find meaning in life, existence, and the world around him by searching and striving for goodness, truth, and beauty, (1) which were what they were in themselves and were regarded as being more real and important than the physical, visible, and tangible elements of reality. Modern man, rather than searching for meaning, projects it upon the world around him, by, for example, creating and choosing values rather than cultivating virtues.

It is illuminating to consider the way in which modern or postmodern man has now moved beyond treating the invisible and intangible as less real and important than the physical and observable and is now treating elements of physical reality in the same way. The obvious example of this is sex.

Sex is very much an observable, physical, element of reality. It is a trait that human beings share with many other living creatures, plant and animal. We come in two kinds, male and female, each with a distinctive physiognomy, each of which produces its own gamete which must unite with that of the other for reproduction to take place. With some animals, male and female come together only for short periods, at certain seasons, to reproduce. With human beings, however, male and female couple with each other for the long term, and all human societies and cultures have ceremonies in which this coupling is formally recognized, establishing unions that come with responsibilities and rights. In part this is because human children are born helpless and dependent, a condition in which they remain for a long period of time, making a long term partnership between their mother and father the optimal way of ensuring that they are raised to maturity. In part it is because we are self-aware individuals and as such we form intellectual and emotional bonds with the other self-aware individuals with whom we mate, thus elevating the sexual union to something that transcends the merely physical.

Sex is such an obvious part of the reality we know that it would seem incredible that anyone could think of it in the way so many modern minds think of beauty, as something that has no meaning or existence, except that which we choose to endow it with ourselves. Yet that is exactly the way some people appear to be thinking of it!

Suppose that someone you know was to come home one evening, announce that he is a chicken, move out into the chicken coop, make himself a nest, and sit there trying to lay an egg. Would you try to get him psychiatric help? Or would you say that if he considers himself to be a chicken that must be what he is, condemn everyone who does not accept his avian self-assessment as being bigoted, and head out to the coop every morning in search of eggs?

I think it is safe to say that most, if not all, of us would consider the first to be the sane and rational option. A man is not a chicken nor by any act of the will, no matter how forceful and inventive, can he make himself into a chicken. Yet today, if a boy announces that he is a girl, or a girl that she is a boy, there are many who would say that the rest of us are under some sort of moral obligation to go along with this. Three years ago, the Ontario legislature passed Bill 33 or “Toby’s Act”, which amended the provincial Human Rights Act to protect people from being discriminated against on the grounds of their “gender identity” or “gender expression”. Protecting people from discrimination on the grounds of “gender identity” or “gender expression” is euphemistic language for telling everybody else that if a man says he is a woman or vice-versa they have to accept this and treat he/she/it accordingly. What this meant in practice was that people who identified as members of the other sex would be allowed to use washrooms designated for the use of that sex. There are plenty of good and valid reasons for having sex specific washrooms, but these were swept away as being of no consequence so that a miniscule fraction of society would have the “right” to make everyone else pretend that men who say they are women and vice-versa are what they say they are, even though they no more are what they say they are than the man who says he is a chicken is what he says he is.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Ontario’s Bill 33 was merely proof of the extreme flakiness of the Dalton McGuinty Liberals and that this sort of thing couldn’t happen elsewhere. It has been happening all over North America. The problem is far deeper than a dispute about who gets to use what washroom. There are cosmetic surgeons today, who claim to be able to change a person’s sex. If a technique were discovered whereby a beak and feathers could be successfully grafted on to a man this would still not make him a chicken. No more so, does removing a man’s penis and testicles and building an artificial vagina make him into a woman. This “sex reassignment therapy” is made available as a treatment for “gender dysphoria”, which is the medical designation for the condition of being so convinced that you are the sex other than the one you were born into that all the evidence that this is not the case causes you to suffer emotionally. The doctor who proposes as “therapy”, for the man who thinks he is a chicken, a jelly doughnut, or Napoleon Bonaparte, that we change reality to conform to the delusion would be regarded as being crazier than his patient. Yet our governments regard sex reassignment therapy as a legitimate treatment, pay for it with our tax dollars, and register it as having changed the person’s sex in the eyes of the law.

This sort of madness does not come upon a people overnight. This collective denial of the reality of sex took place in a series of stages, in each of which, under the guise of accomplishing a social and political reform, an element of the reality of sex was denied, until finally, cumulatively, the reality of sex was denied in its entirety.

The first stage was feminism. The so-called women’s movement began in the nineteenth century as a response to industrialization. The early feminists believed, not without justification, that the changes wrought by mass factory production and urbanization had undermined the security of women thus creating a need for legal protection in the form of recognized rights to own property, pursue a professional education, and a career. This seemed reasonable enough and so we accepted the justice of these demands. The problem was that feminism demanded something other than justice, it demanded the equality. The cosmetic similarities between the two are such that the deeper differences are often overlooked. Had feminism made the case that women had been harmed by industrialization through a loss of their security and were therefore entitled to compensation in the form of legally recognized rights this would have been a demand for justice. By demanding equality, however, feminism demanded that society accept a fiction, the fiction that there is no substantial difference between male and female, man and woman. Justice requires that people be treated right, be given their due, whereas equality requires that people be treated the same, which is not the same thing at all. As feminism has evolved from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first, it has continued to march under the banner of the equality of the sexes, but the demands of the harpies and harridans who rule the roost in present day academia, unlike those of the early suffragettes, do not bear even a superficial resemblance to justice.

So in feminism, we have the first stage, the denial of substantial difference between male and female. The revolution was the second stage. The sexual revolution, which had been the dream of libertines for centuries, began in the 1950s and 1960s after the theoretical foundation for it was laid by Boasian anthropology, Freudian psychoanalysis, and the “research” of Alfred Kinsey, and has been ongoing ever since. The basic idea behind the revolution was that with new scientific discoveries and inventions, particularly of effective contraceptive technology such as the birth control pill, sexual activity had been divorced from reproduction, and so all traditional rules governing sexual behaviour from cultural mores to religious dogmas to government decrees had been rendered outdated and obsolete. This too, was a denial of part of the reality of sex. By saying that the invention of contraception had separated sex from reproduction invalidating the old rules, the sexual revolution denied that for human beings sex had always been more than mere animal reproduction. In doing so it cheapened both the reproductive and the non-reproductive aspects of sex. By saying that the reproductive aspect of sex was something that could and should be made optional by contraceptive technology the sexual revolution reduced the reproductive aspect of sex from the exalted level of being the means of our survival as families, societies, and a species to being the unwanted consequences of the act of carnal gratification. The sexual revolutionaries debased the word love, which traditionally denoted sexual union and the attraction that leads to it as conceived of as being higher than mere bestial copulation, by stripping it of that which made it higher, its connotations of self-sacrifice and self-denial, and making it mean the virtual opposite, mutual self-gratification. In the end, what emerged from the sexual revolution was a concept of sex in which it was less than animal reproduction and not more, as evidenced by the way the phrase “it is just sex” is now used to casually dismiss any attempt, however slight, at reasserting the old standards.

The third stage was the gay liberation movement. What began decades ago as the fairly reasonable demand that people who are attracted to members of their own sex be allowed to go about their private lives without fear of police raids, violent attacks, and other persecution has evolved into an intolerant, bullying, demand that state and society, at every level, in every way, and in every institution, both accept homosexuality and reject and persecute anyone who does not. Much could be written about this transition from a call to let us be to a refusal to let others be but it is the movement’s denial of a reality about sex that concerns us here. Here is that reality: Human beings are a sexual species, which means that male and female must unite for reproduction to take place, which means that the natural order is for male to be attracted to female, and for female to be attracted to male, and not for male to be attracted to male, or female to female. For whatever reason, some people find themselves attracted to members of their own sex, and while we should treat such people with compassion, kindness and tolerance – provided, of course, that they agree to the quid pro quo of reciprocating these attitudes toward others which the self-appointed spokespeople on their behalf appear to have little interest in doing - it is a plain and simple denial of reality to claim that attraction between members of the same sex is equal to opposite sex attraction in the natural order of things, which claim is what the gay liberation movement is now insisting that everybody accept or be branded a heretic and treated accordingly.

The fourth stage is, of course, the one we began this discussion with, in which a person’s sex, male or female, is no longer something that just is, that one is born with, but what a person decides it to be, and if they decide that their sex is something different from the one they were born with, the rest of us have to accept it, and go out of all of our ways to accommodate their delusion.

We have traced this denial of a reality that is immediately present to us in the physical world available to our senses through the stages of several social and political movements from feminism through the sexual revolution through the gay liberation movement to the present stage. This process, by which we have come to deny a part of reality that is right before our eyes, could not have come about, had modern man not first denied, the greater reality of those higher verities, goodness, truth, beauty and ultimately God Himself, that cannot be looked upon directly, but which nevertheless are there to be seen indirectly, reflected in the world around us. By rejecting the reality which we cannot look upon directly, we have lost our hold on that which we can see all around us, and are now reaping the insanity we have sown.

(1) It will seem strange to many to say that beauty is not visible but it is nevertheless true. You do not directly see beauty as it is in itself, you see beauty in a beautiful person or object, that is to say, indirectly.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Politically Incorrect Miscellaneous

When The Shoe is on the Other Foot

It is the one hundredth anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Armenians that took place under the Ottoman Empire. While Pope Francis made headlines for offending the Turks by referring to these events as a genocide, Israel has made headlines for its refusal to recognize the genocide. The reasons for Israel’s stance are understandable – she does not want to offend what, until recently, was one of the few regional allies she had and which she hopes to have good relations with again. Nevertheless, it must surely strike those who possess a sense of irony as being truly ironic indeed that the government of a nation whose core ethnic group has lobbied to have the historical revision of their own genocide at the hands of the Germans seventy years ago criminalized as “Holocaust denial” across Europe and which has used several different laws, from an archaic law against spreading “false news” to the “hate speech” section of the Human Rights Act, to punish revisionists here in Canada, would turn around and deny someone else’s genocide.

An Awful Woman

Last evening I went to the final performance of the Manitoba Opera production of Puccini’s Turandot. It was an excellent production. Although I was already familiar with the opera for some reason it struck me for the first time last night what this opera was about – the conversion of a feminist. Well, a proto-feminist at least, as the story takes place centuries ago. Be warned that I am about to give the entire plot away. As the opera is almost a century old, based on an even older story, and sung in Italian, I doubt you will mind. The title character is a real ice princess. The daughter of the Emperor of China, whose hand is sought by suitors far and wide, puts them to a test. They must answer three riddles she sets before them and if they fail on any of the riddles, they will lose their lives. When the story’s hero, Calaf, the son of the deposed Tartur king Timur, takes the challenge she explains that she is indwelt by the spirit of one of her ancestors. This ancestor was a princess who had ruled in justice and peace, holding men in scorn, until an invading prince conquered and killed her. Now Turandot, has similarly rejected men and devised this scheme as a means of obtaining revenge on all men. Calaf answers all her riddles correctly but seeing her plead with the Emperor not to marry her off to him, he offers her a reprieve. If she can discover his name by dawn, he will forfeit his claim and his life. In the final act, the princess, desperately trying to find the stranger’s name, has an old man and slave girl that had been seen talking to him, captured and tortured. This is Timur, his father. Liu the slave girl announces that she knows his name, but will not give it up, even though she knows that by refusing to do so she gives him, whom she loves herself, to Turandot and then, grabbing a guard’s knife, stabs herself to death. Rebuking the princess for her cruelty, Calaf takes her in his arms and kisses her. Breaking down, Turandot begs him to leave and take his mystery with him, but he instead gives up the mystery, telling her that he is Calaf, son of Timur, in doing so handing his fate back to her. As dawn breaks, the conquered princess informs the Emperor and his assembled court that the stranger’s name is Love. Turandot has been criticized several times for its ending, as the title character’s change of heart is implausible even by operatic standards. The ending does not bother me, as seeing a feminist repent of the error of her ways is a rare pleasure, unlikely enough in itself as to make the incredibility of the circumstances of little comparable consequence. Where I would take issue with Puccini’s opera, as I would also with William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, is why Calaf (Petruchio in the case of Shakespeare) would want to go to so much trouble for the sake of so unpleasant a female, the exact type that as Stephen Leacock pointed out, used to be called an “Awful Woman”.

You Know What They Say About a Stopped Clock

After countless attempts to force stories into their prefabricated, “evil white cop kills sweet innocent black youth” mold, ruining people’s lives and stirring up mob violence in the process, in the case of the shooting of Walter Scott by Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina, the factory of deceit, otherwise known as the media, may actually have found a bona fide case that matches the mold. Note that I said “may”. We’ll have to see what further evidence comes out as the case goes to trial. In the meantime, if the “black lives matter” crowd really believe their slogan, which has the distinction of having achieved banality the second it was coined if not before, instead of focusing on white law enforcement officers, would do better to complain about the real mass killers of blacks – abortion and black crime.

Just Fabulous

There has been a lot of nonsense spoken, in the weeks both leading up to and following the state of Indiana’s decision, a month ago, to pass the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”. The basic gist of the bill is that allows people and companies to plead the freedom to exercise their religion as a defence when sued in court. The question that this ought to raise is why on earth it was deemed necessary to pass such a law in a country in which freedom of religion is already guaranteed in the first amendment to their Constitution, the first entry in their Bill of Rights? The immediate situation to which this bill was a response was created by the recent cultural revolution in which governments have redefined marriage to include same-sex couples. In the wake of this revolution, Jacobins have been suing Christian photographers, florists, and bakers who do not wish to participate in these phony weddings. The purpose of the bill was to protect these Christians who cannot, after all, accept this change in the meaning of marriage if they truly believe Him to be the Son of God Who said “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matt. 19:4-6). Knowing full well that this is what the law was about, a host of celebrities, civil rights activists, businessmen, politicians from other states, journalists, and other assorted scum and riff-raff, began to ham it up, and put on this big act of moaning and crying and carrying on about how the wicked, backwoods, bigots of Indiana had passed this terrible law so that now hamburger shops, instead of asking if you want fries with your meal will be asking if you are gay and lesbian and if you answer yes will be booting you out on the turf. These concerns are mostly fictional – the lawsuits against Christians are very real. (1) The root of the problem is the idea that discrimination should be against the law and governments should be actively trying to extirpate their peoples’ prejudices. What utter rot! Any good such laws and government practices might possibly accomplish is far outweighed by the evils done, including the severe abridgement of long established and recognized liberties. The road to the present day, where judges place the gun of the law to Christians heads and force them to participate in gay weddings, while the progressive propaganda that passes for journalism today claims to see no threat to religious liberty, began with the road to Selma. It is time the idol of Martin Luther King Jr. were tore down before more destruction is wrought in his name.

(1) Here is a list compiled by WorldNetDaily: A new one was added just today: Note the huge, punitive amount of the fine, and the chilling recommendation of “re-education”. h/t Laura Wood

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Canada's Tradition or Canadian "Values"?

A figure who had a brief starring role on the stage of Canadian history in the early 1990s has re-emerged from the obscurity into which she subsequently receded to make an interesting observation about how an idea she holds dear and believes other Canadians do as well is faring in certain segments of the immigrant community. That figure is the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, who entered Parliament as a Progressive Conservative representing Vancouver Centre in 1988 and held a number of cabinet positions in the Mulroney government before taking over the leadership of the party and the Premiership of the country for the Parliamentary recess between Mulroney’s resignation and the general election in which the Conservatives were decimated and Jean Chretien’s Liberals came to power. The National Post, on Thursday April the 16th, reported on a panel discussion at the University of Alberta the previous day that was hosted by the Peter Lougheed Leadership College of which the former Prime Minister is the Founding Principal. She was also one of the panel speakers and the newspaper focused on her remarks.

According to the National Post she told her audience that immigration has brought individuals into our society who “come from cultures that don’t believe in gender equality” and that we have not been doing a good job at selling this “Canadian value” to them. She expressed specific concerns about cultures like that of Islam which require women to wear concealing garments. She objected both to the suggestion “that women bear responsibility for the sexual behaviour of men” and to the fact that wearing a face-concealing veil in a citizenship ceremony runs contrary to the ideal of an open society.

Now before you jump to the conclusion that this is a good sign, an indicator that some members of Canada’s political class are finally waking up to the many ways in which the open immigration policy imposed upon us by the Liberals in the 1960s has been harmful to our country and our society, note how the National Post informs us that:

She said one of Canada’s challenges is to guide the integration of cultures that don’t share this value. Better education of Canadian residents is the key, she said, adding if Canadians don’t understand their own history and values, people new to the country will find them difficult to learn.

In other words, to this past Premier, if some immigrants do not believe in or accept what she regards as an essential Canadian “value”, the problem is not with our open immigration system that lets anyone in whether they accept our “values” or not or even with our complete lack of a system for assimilating newcomers and integrating them into Canadian culture but rather with those of us who already live here and we need to be re-educated so as to exude those “values” in such a way that the new immigrants will absorb them into themselves through some kind of cultural osmosis process.

This astonishing conclusion could only be arrived at by a mind so indoctrinated in the idea of Canadian “values” that it cannot accept that one of these values, open immigration, might be incompatible with another of these values, sexual equality, (1) despite the glaring evidence that such is in fact the case.

Now both of these supposed Canadian “values” are stupid ideas in my opinion, and I could make a separate case against both open immigration and sexual egalitarianism, but having done so already several times in the past (2) and being likely to do so again, I think that it is the very idea of values that warrants further examination here.

A number of years ago, John Casey, writing in the Spectator, told of an exchange that had taken place during a Conservative Philosophy Group meeting in the early 1980s in which Enoch Powell made an important point about values to then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:

Edward Norman (then Dean of Peterhouse) had attempted to mount a Christian argument for nuclear weapons. The discussion moved on to 'Western values'. Mrs Thatcher said (in effect) that Norman had shown that the Bomb was necessary for the defence of our values. Powell: 'No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.' Thatcher (it was just before the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands): ‘Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.' 'No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.' Mrs Thatcher looked utterly baffled. She had just been presented with the difference between Toryism and American Republicanism.

Powell’s point, apparently beyond Mrs. Thatcher’s grasp, was that values, whatever they may be, are not worth fighting, killing, and dying for, that you only do that for something solid and tangible, your country, consisting of real people, in a real territory, with real institutions and a real way of life.

This is one point about values that I think well worth re-iterating but there is another that I wish to focus on. Interestingly, the year before Kim Campbell was elected to Parliament a book that made this point, Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (3) became a best-seller in the United States, while the following year, in one of Nabokov’s “dazzling coincidences that logicians loathe and poets love”, the man who had for years been making the same point up here in Canada, died, George Parkin Grant (4). The point in question is that it while everybody speaks of values today this is a recent innovation and not one for the better. (5) Whereas we used to speak of good and evil, which were what they were in themselves and were out there for us to discover, and of virtues which were habits of behaviour or character traits that we were to cultivate because of their goodness, now we speak instead of values, which are substitutes for goodness and virtue that we create and choose for ourselves. Since different people may create and choose different values for themselves, and who is to say, now that values have replaced good and evil, that one set of values is better or worse than any other, the language of values is the language of moral and cultural relativism. (6)

Apart from the relativism of the language of values, it is also worth noting that traditional religion uses a different, much less attractive word, for those things we create for ourselves and substitute for God and the higher things. That word, of course, is idols.

The expression “Canadian values” has a particularly odious set of connotations because it is generally used to refer to those values created for Canadians by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal Party in the 1960s and 1970s as a substitute for Canadian tradition. These included such things as open immigration, multiculturalism, bilingualism (at least for English-speaking Canada), feminism, and the like. These, the Trudeau Liberals decided, were to be Canada’s new values and were to be shoved down Canadians throats whether they liked them or not, and if they didn’t like them they would be called “racists” and “sexists” and other ugly names. As it turned out, apart from the intellectual elite who are guaranteed to be the least intelligent segment of any society and who in Canada adored Trudeau, these values were not to Canadians liking and so, when they had had quite enough of Trudeau’s arrogance, they gave a landslide victory to the party whose historic role it had long been to safeguard the Canadian tradition, including such things as our British parliamentary monarchy and our Common Law heritage. That party was the old Conservative Party, then led by Brian Mulroney. Unfortunately the Mulroney Conservatives seemed little interested in performing their historic role and rescuing Canadian tradition from Trudeau’s values. Thus much of their support evaporated and the party, now under Kim Campbell’s leadership, collapsed.

Our concern ought to be that newcomers to Canada accept Canada’s tradition, not a set of absurd idolatrous values created for the country by a contemptible sleazebag who adored Mao Tse-Tung. Who will speak for that tradition? Historically that was the role of the old Conservative Party but they laid down on the job and their party died because of it. The present Conservative Party gives lip service to Canada’s tradition but it began life as the Reform Party, a Western populist party whose profession of small-c conservatism proved to be false because they could not grasp that there can be no conservatism without patriotic attachment to your own country, its traditions and institutions. (7) The other parties – Liberal, NDP, and Green – are all committed to Trudeau’s values rather than Canada’s tradition. So the question remains open – who will speak for that tradition?

(1) The former Prime Minister spoke of “gender equality”. Human beings have sexes, words have genders. The substitution of gender for sex in reference to human beings is akin to the substitution of “values” for goodness and virtue.

(2) See, for example, “The Progressives’ Penance” ( on immigration and “The Folly of Feminism” ( on sexual egalitarianism.

(3) Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987).

(4) While it comes up repeatedly in his writings see especially Grant’s Technology and Justice, (Toronto: Anansi Press, 1986), in particular the essay on Nietzsche, and the essays in section five of William Christian and Sheila Grant, eds, The George Grant Reader, (Toronto: The University of Toronto Press, 1998), in particular the first essay in the section “The Good or Values: Value and Technology?”.

(5) Both Grant and Bloom were influenced in this by Leo Strauss who had been a correspondent of Grant’s and a professor of Bloom’s.

(6) Grant, Bloom, and Strauss trace the language of values and the relativism it represents back through Max Weber to Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche believed that modern rationalism had made the religious beliefs of the past untenable, but, an atheist of the right, he condemned the rationalistic, liberal, egalitarian, democracy that he saw modern man to be constructing as condemning men to lives of mediocrity as “the last men”. He believed that man’s heroic spirit must be fed by myths (akin to Plato’s “noble lies”) and hoped that men would exercise their “will to power” to avoid the fate of the “last men”, rise to that of the “supermen”, and create appropriate new myths. He condemned Christian morality for exalting weakness, comparing this unfavourably to the old Greek and Jewish moralities which identified virtue with strength, but hoped that men would go “beyond good and evil” and embrace values, as expressions of their own will and creativity.

(7) Reform’s leaders far too often seemed to want to replace Canada’s tradition with that of the United States.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Save The Senate!

As the ongoing trial of disgraced Senator Mike Duffy continues to loom large in the news the media has been treating Canadians to a daily diet of opinion columns and letters to the editor asking why we don’t just get rid of the Senate. For someone with a high regard for the intelligence of either the general populace, the letter writing segment of it, or the class of professional scribblers who earn their bread and butter by composing opinion columns, it must surely be disheartening and disillusioning to realize that so many of those they so admire have displayed, through asking this question, their acceptance of an easily refutable premise. As one who does not hold any of these groups in high regard I do not share this disillusionment – merely a sense of disgust.

Suppose someone were to come forward with evidence that high ranking police officers have been taking bribes, trafficking confiscated narcotics, and otherwise abusing the powers and privileges that come with being charged, in Her Majesty’s name, with the enforcement of the laws of the land? I imagine you are all shocked at the very suggestion of such an unheard of possibility. Once you revive from your faint, snap out of your catatonic state, or otherwise recover from the trauma that has just been inflicted upon your psyche ask yourself if, in the event, perish the thought, that such evidence were to be found, it would be reasonable to argue that because of such corruption, law enforcement agencies therefore ought to be abolished. Perhaps someone reading this who is an anarchist by way of political ideology would say that such an argument is reasonable but if he is a true anarchist he would say that all government agencies including the police are illegitimate regardless of whether we can point to specific examples of corruption or not. Otherwise, I expect, very few would conclude that the abolition of law enforcement is a reasonable response to police corruption.

That point that I wish to make is that you cannot deal with corruption and abuse of office by tearing down institutions and offices once such corruption and abuse is manifest within them. If we were to seriously attempt to do this then very soon we would have no institutions left but corruption would be as much present among us as ever it was before. This is because the source of corruption, as Christians and conservatives have always known although the fact continues to elude liberals, progressives, and socialists to this very day, is not institutions but the human heart. If you tear down an institution because you find corruption in it, you will also find corruption in whatever you erect to take its place because it too must contain the human element. Unless, of course, you are envisioning the replacement of man by machine ala James Cameron.

The Canadian Senate, let it be said, does not do a very good job of representing the principle it is supposed to embody and has not done so in a very long time. If the principle is a true one, however, and important to the balance of Parliament, then an imperfect and badly flawed representation is better than no representation at all. The House of Commons embodies the principle of representative democracy – that we, through the representatives we sent to Parliament, have a say in the laws we live under. The Crown embodies the principle of dignified, prescriptive authority that transcends popular politics. This is the more important of these two principles because governments can only derive power and not authority from winning elections – the power of numbers that comes from having a majority or at least a plurality behind you. A government that has power but not authority is a tyrannical government even if its power is democratic power. In our constitution, the government possesses authority as Ministers of the Crown in whose name they act and power as elected representatives of the people. What then does the Senate represent?

The Senate represents the principle that laws should not be enacted in haste, that reason should govern passion, and that legislation written by the representatives of the people should be reviewed by those representing experience, public spirit, and the wisdom that comes from age before it is allowed to become law. As I said, the Senate does not represent this principle well. Indeed, it would not be going too far to say that it does an abysmally poor job of representing the principle. Nevertheless, the principle is a sound one and it is better that it be represented poorly than that it not be represented at all. Note how the impulse to tear down the institution because of the corruption within it is the very opposite of the principle of not acting in haste and allowing reason to overrule passion. To give in to such an impulse would not bode well for our country.

If abolishing the Senate is a bad idea, and it is, the Upper Chamber is badly in need of reforms. I would suggest the following reforms as being particularly appropriate and necessary: 1) that the advisory role to the Crown on appointment to the Senate be taken from the Prime Minister’s Office and placed in the hands of a committee that itself is independent of the Prime Minister’s Office - perhaps consisting of representatives of the provinces, 2) that we increase the minimum age of Senators from thirty to perhaps forty-five or fifty, 3) that we either scrap salaries for Senators altogether or reduce them to something that is a mere honorarium while 4) updating the Constitutional property requirements for Senators to reflect a century and a half of inflation. (1)

These proposed reforms, which unlike the Triple-E alternative advocated by the old Reform Party, seek to be respectful and true to the tradition upon which our Parliament is founded, would go far towards ensuring that the Senate is filled by public spirited individuals with the wisdom of experience rather than cronies of the Prime Minister looking for a cushy position with a large salary and expense account. This would lessen greatly the biggest problem with the Senate as it currently stands while helping it to much better represent its principle in Parliament.

Of course, these proposals would be anathema to someone like Warren Kinsella who in his Toronto Sun column last weekend argued that the Senators were hastening the demise of the Senate by their own words and actions and gave as his chief example of this, Nancy Ruth’s remarks about the quality of airline food given in answer to the auditor general’s question about why she had charged a different breakfast to her expense account. Kinsella spoke of her “arrogance” and her “appalling condescension and contempt”, an interesting choice of pejoratives coming from someone who often tells Canadians what they think or feel as if those who thought or felt differently from him were not “Canadian”, examples of which can be found in the very same article. Kinsella led into this by providing details about the Senator’s background in the Jackman family, using her wealth against her to paint a portrait of patrician pride. Thus I infer that he would not approve of my proposal that only those of independent means be allowed to sit in the Senate.

Reading Warren Kinsella’s column solidified more than ever my conviction that the Senate must be retained and that the reforms which I have proposed would be for the best. After all, which is the more reasonable response to a rich Senator complaining about how airline breakfasts “are pretty awful”? To tell the Senator that she can pay for her breakfast out of her own independent means or to insist that the Upper House of Parliament be abolished altogether?

(1) For a more detailed exposition of these proposals see:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Lessons of Poetry: Part Two - The "Good War"

War is a basic reality of human existence. Individual human beings cannot live together without generating friction that sometimes bursts out in disagreements, disputes, and fights and the same is also true of human societies. When societies clash in war destruction is generated on a much larger scale then when individuals clash and it has long been a dream of many that one day man would lay down his arms forever and war would be no more. The Christian Scriptures speak of such a day but they place it in the world-to-come, beyond the end of history and the Return of Christ. Only those with a naïve and foolish faith in the ability of human ingenuity to overcome each and every limitation placed upon us by the realities of our nature – we call such people “progressives” – envision the abolition of war as a human accomplishment to be achieved inside of history. The schemes they propose to achieve this end generally strike those of us who are not progressives as being unduly optimistic at best, pathways to evils greater than war at worst, and for better or for worse, inevitably doomed to fail.

Once we accept that war is a basic reality of our existence that we cannot, however much we may wish it to be otherwise, do away with forever we are forced to consider how we will deal with this reality. Two questions stand out as being of utmost importance. The first is what limits or boundaries, if any, we may place on war so as to lessen and minimize its destructive potential. The second is how we can best prepare our countries so as to be ready for war when it comes. This second question has two quite different facets depending upon what we have in mind when we think of preparation for war. We might think of such preparation in terms of fortifications, arsenals and military training of a strategic and technical nature. Or we might think of it in terms of the cultivation of the virtues, the habits of character, of the warrior. Since the virtues that serve a man on the battlefield serve him elsewhere as well the second would seem to be clearly the more important of these two perspectives and it is a powerful indictment of the modern mind and the education that forms and feeds it that it thinks of military preparation almost exclusively in terms of the first.

These two questions, of how we may limit war so as to lessen its destructiveness and how we may cultivate the virtues of the warrior so as to prepare our country for war are the subjects of two long-standing traditional discussions in the civilizations of the Western world and it is a further indictment of modern education that it has, to a large extent, cut the modern mind off from these discussions and the traditions which contain them. The first question is what philosophers and theologians traditionally sought to answer in their discussion of justice in war – for what causes may we justly go to war and how, once we have gone to war, we may conduct it in a just manner. The second question is the subject of an older and longer discussion that goes back at least as far as Homer in the eighth century BC, a discussion carried out in the language of poetry.

It was poetry that took the Greek word for a man of war – hero – and exalted it into a term of adoration and praise. Although poetic language is not exactly noted for its realism, poetic licence being a byword for exaggeration, hyperbole, and the dressing up of the facts, the inescapable realities of human existence – life, death, joy, suffering, love and yes, war – are its subject matter. Of the themes that recur throughout the poetry of the Great Tradition when war is the subject, it is that of the hero and his mighty deeds which stands out. It is a theme which the modern mind, formed by utilitarian education and fed by comic books, video games, fantasy novels, television, and cinematic film easily misunderstands and in such a mind the concept of the hero is inevitably reduced to that of the “good guy”.

The good guy is the person you are supposed to cheer for because he is on the side of Light opposed to Darkness. The hero is not so one-dimensional a character. He is good in a sense, for otherwise he would not be the object of praise, but his goodness does not consist of his being on the side of Light or even of his being a particularly moral person. It consists of his possessing, as evidenced through his actions, the qualities that befit a warrior. While these include such natural traits as physical strength (Achilles, Heracles) and crafty intelligence (Odysseus) it is traits of character, foremost of which is that of courage or valour, that are awarded the highest praise. Indeed, gallantry is held to be of such importance that it is worthy of glory regardless of whether it ends in victory or defeat, or even if, as is the case in Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade, it is wasted due to some grotesque mistake.

This immortalisation in verse and song was justly due the warrior for risking or even laying down his life in duty and service to his country and it fell to the poet to pay this due on his country’s behalf. It also served a pedagogical purpose. To hold up examples of courage and other martial virtues for adulation is to also hold them up for emulation, particularly when the learning of these verses by heart played so important a role in the training of young minds.

In one of the earliest known discussions of educational theory, that which takes place between Socrates and his friends in Plato’s Republic, the pedagogical aspect of poetry is a major concern and it is famously proposed that lines from Homer that might teach the wrong lessons be bowdlerized. It is a repugnant proposal, of course, but the concern behind it is one the poet may very well have shared, as there are varying degrees to which heroes are worthy of adulation and emulation and even the best of them possessed less desirable or even undesirable traits and qualities in addition to the heroic virtues. With this in mind, consider how Homer presented his heroes.

The main hero of the Iliad is Achilles, king of the Myrmidons. The epic begins with the poet evoking the Muse and asking her to sing of the wrath of Achilles and is structured around that wrath as first, in anger against Agamemnon, Achilles withdraws himself and his men from the siege of Troy causing the tide of the war to swing against the Achaeans then later, in sorrowful anger over the death of Patroclus he returns to battle to slay Hector, crown prince of Troy. Yet the poem ends by honouring the latter in a funeral that is made possible by divine intervention. This intervention is necessary because Achilles in his wrath is determined to defile the body of Hector by dragging it behind his chariot and leaving it to be devoured by dogs, thus incurring the anger of the gods.

It is Hector, not Achilles, nor any of the other Greeks for that matter, who comes across as the noblest, the most worthy of emulation of Homer’s heroes. It is significant that while it takes Achilles, Greece’s bravest and strongest warrior, to slay Hector, Achilles’ own death, which takes place outside of the time-frame of the Iliad but is prophetically alluded to, is at the hands of Paris, Hector’s weak and cowardly brother.

Achilles is portrayed as the embodiment of the follies of youth. He is arrogant and impetuous, easily swayed by passions, and overly concerned with his own glory. Indeed, the latter seems to be his only real purpose for going to war for, while he hints, when he reminds Agamemnon in their dispute that he has no personal quarrel with the Trojans (1), at the mercenary motivation that had shocked and offended Plato, he and his mother make frequent reference to his having been presented with a choice by fate – he could stay at home and live a long but unsung life or he could go to Troy where he would die before its gates but win a name that would live in song forever. He chooses the latter and accordingly is remembered as the greatest of the Greek heroes, with the possible exception of Heracles, but in the discontent of the words of his shade in the eleventh book of the Odyssey, expressing a preference for the lowest station on earth over the highest in the underworld, the message comes across that there can be no satisfaction in glory sought for its own sake.

It is Hector, by contrast, who fights for worthy reasons. Hector, “tamer of horses”, fights not for his personal glory but out of a sense of duty to his father and mother, his wife and son, and to their city. He fights for family and home and is all the more noble in doing so because he is aware that it will ultimately be to no avail, that he will die, the house of Priam will fall, Ilium will be destroyed, and his wife taken away into captivity. To fight and die for these things is what the poets have honoured heroes for down through the centuries from Homer to Horace to Thomas Babbington Macauley.

This view of war and the warrior, of what is worth fighting and dying for, and of the standard by which the warrior is judged worthy of praise or shame, is worlds removed from an image that has pervaded the popular consciousness in recent decades. This image began as a way of looking at and explaining the Second World War but it has grown into a paradigm by which all new conflicts are to be parsed and which has even been superimposed upon previous wars including the First World War and the war the American states fought between themselves in the 1860s. The image is the “Good War” narrative which has supplanted both the poetic idea of the heroic warrior, winning praise and renown for his gallantry as he lays down his life for family, friends, home, and country and the traditional discussion about what constitutes justice in war.

It is in keeping with the older traditions to say that the Allies were justified in going to war with Nazi Germany. By the fall of 1939 Hitler had proven himself to be thirsting for war, a threat to his neighbours, and a pathological liar who could not be trusted to keep his word given in negotiations. He had given Britain and France more than enough of a casus belli to justify their declarations of war. For countries like my own, Canada, and Australia, it was loyalty which moved us to enter the war and stand by our king and mother country in their hour of need. What could be more in keeping with the older traditions than this?

The Good War narrative goes far beyond any of this. It declares the war itself to have been good because the character of the two sides was such that it was a microcosm of the great struggle between Good and Evil. The Allies were the Forces of Light, embodying all that is pure and good, and the Axis were the very Forces of Darkness. What need is there to find a just cause for such a war? It is its own just cause. Who dare speak of limitations on how war can be justly conducted when the enemy is the avatar of Evil?

This narrative embraces a cosmology that is considered heretical by the standards of traditional, orthodox, Christianity. Dualism, the idea that the cosmos is eternally engaged in a battle between the matched forces of Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, is part of the mainstream of several Eastern philosophies and religions but within the Christian West was a doctrine of Gnosticism, historically the heretical rival of orthodox, Apostolic, Christianity. The growth of the Good War narrative is, therefore, yet another evidence, as if more was needed, that the period after the Second World War is a post-Christian as well as a post-modern age.

Both of the traditions which the Good War narrative has supplanted have been accused of being instruments in the hands of hawks and warmongers. Not infrequently those who make these accusations on the one hand embrace the Good War interpretation of World War II on the other. Yet today, whenever a politician wants to bomb or invade some country it is to the rhetoric of Winston Churchill of which he can provide a poor imitation at best rather than the arguments of Cicero, St. Augustine, or St. Thomas Aquinas that he turns to make his case. The leaders of the country he wishes to attack are inevitably new Hitlers and those who oppose his plans for war are inevitably compared to Neville Chamberlain. Not to be outdone, the radicals who pour contempt on the poetic ideal of the hero and heroism and traditional just war theory and who automatically condemn any and every military action taken by their own country – or any Western country, especially the United States – regardless of the particulars, make use of the Good War narrative as well, except that in their rhetoric it is the Western leaders who are Hitler.

However did this image of the Good War arise? It could hardly be said to have been born out of the facts of the Second World War. The most repugnant and repulsive characteristics of the Third Reich – its tyrannical dictatorship, secret police, network of prison camps, and repressive totalitarian state which held the lives of its people extremely cheap - were shared by the Soviet Union. The war began with an alliance between these two powers that included a secret deal to divide the spoils between themselves. After this alliance was broken by Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union the Stalinist regime joined the Allies and one of the most obvious results of the war was a significant expansion of that regime’s territory. At least as strong of a case can be made that Stalin and his Bolshevik regime were the greater of the two evils as can be made that Hitler and his Nazi regime were. More people died in this war than in any other and well over half of these were civilian deaths. Those who were the Forces of Light, according to the Good War theory, invented weapons whose destructive potential was exponentially greater than any the world had known before and brought the war to an end by dropping two of these weapons on heavily populated cities. Then, when the war was over, the Forces of Light put the leaders of the Forces of Darkness on trial before a court that operated in accordance with a concept of “justice” far closer to that of Stalin than that which is traditional to the English-speaking world. No, the facts of the Second World War do not support the Good War narrative at all.

It is surely no coincidence that this narrative arose in a period in which the old tradition of celebrating heroes and their deeds in verse and inspiring through such verse the cultivation of virtues such as courage, loyalty, and dutifulness to home, family, and country was all but dead. It had been alive and well in the Victorian era but seemed to sing its swan song in the first World War, which saw a plethora of soldier-poets, some of whom, writing in the old tradition, produced the poems that remain part of our annual ceremonies of remembrance to this day, while others concentrated on the horrors of the war and expressed cynicism towards the old tradition and the heroic virtues. War has always been horrible, of course, but poets from Homer to Housman had managed to lament the cruel reality of war with its waste of so many lives struck down prematurely while at the same time praising the patriotic valour of the warrior. This became more difficult as modern technology changed the nature of warfare. It is easy to see the gallantry of light cavalrymen charging with sword in hand against a battery of artillery at the end of a valley with enemy guns on all sides. Where can it be possibly found in the dropping of bombs that kill civilians by the thousands from aircraft miles above?

It is not just that poets have found it difficult to maintain the old tradition in the face of new, modern, technological, warfare. It is also that poetry itself has come to be supplanted, first by other forms of literature such as the novel, then later by media such as film and television that have supplanted the written word altogether. It is films and television, novels and comic books, which form and feed the modern mind. These are the genres that have reduced the complex hero to the simple good guy and it is in the minds fed by such junk food that the image of the Good War was born.

(1) Achilles was the only one of the Greek kings who could say this. Paris, prince of Troy, after enjoying the hospitality of Menelaus, king of Sparta, had absconded with his wife, Helen. Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and Menelaus’ brother had organized the retaliatory expedition against Troy. In doing so, according to the myth, he had reminded all of the other kings that when, in their youth, they had been rivals for Helen’s hand, the contest had been resolved when they swore an oath to support and uphold whomever Helen had chosen, which was Menelaus. Achilles, being much younger than the others, had no part in either the contest or the oath.