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Author Archive | William D. Gairdner

Canada’s Thought Police ~ Shame On Us!

Below is a story that appeared in the New York Post on December 16, 2007.

Read carefully. I never thought I would see the day that we had thought police in Canada, of the infamous kind that have preceded the eventual complete shut down of so many basic freedoms in every totalitarian regime and dictatorship in history, such as Red China, North Korea, or Cuba.  But they are here in force.

It used to be the case that ordinary Libel and Slander laws protected us from damage to our reputations or livelihoods due to intentional false statements or accusations by other citizens. But the simplistic idea that the State has an official position on free verbal expression of any kind, or that free citizens are no longer permitted to state openly that they dislike or disapprove of or find antithetical to our common way of life a culture, a religion, an ethnic or language group, or a human behaviour, is unprecedented in recent times and offensive in the extreme to human liberty. We may not like what others say, but within the bounds of proven harm to reputation mentioned here, we ought to defend to the death their right to say it.

It is a cowering population that lives in fear of punishment for speaking freely, and it is no country worth the name that accepts the idea that free people are permitted to say out loud, or to write, only what the government will like.

                                                            ~

Canada’s Thought Police

Celebrated author Mark Steyn has been summoned to appear before two Canadian judicial panels on charges linked to his book “America Alone.”

The book, a No. 1 bestseller in Canada, argues that Western nations are succumbing to an Islamist imperialist threat. The fact that charges based on it are proceeding apace proves his point.

Steyn, who won the 2006 Eric Breindel Journalism Award (co-sponsored by The Post and its parent, News Corp), writes for dozens of publications on several continents. After the Canadian general-interest magazine Maclean’s reprinted a chapter from the book, five Muslim law-school students, acting through the auspices of the Canadian Islamic Congress, demanded that the magazine be punished for spreading “hatred and contempt” for Muslims.

The plaintiffs allege that Maclean’s advocated, among other things, the notion that Islamic culture is incompatible with Canada’s liberalized, Western civilization. They insist such a notion is untrue and, in effect, want opinions like that banned from publication.

Two separate panels, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, have agreed to hear the case. These bodies are empowered to hear and rule on cases of purported “hate speech.”

Of course, a ban on opinions – even disagreeable ones – is the very antithesis of the Western tradition of free speech and freedom of the press.

Indeed, this whole process of dragging Steyn and the magazine before two separate human-rights bodies for the “crime” of expressing an opinion is a good illustration of precisely what he was talking about.

If Maclean’s, Canada’s top-selling magazine, is found “guilty,” it could face financial or other penalties. And the affair could have a devastating impact on opinion journalism in Canada generally.

As it happens, Canadian human-rights commissions have already come down hard on those whose writings they dislike, like critics of gay rights.

Nor should Americans dismiss this campaign against Steyn and Maclean’s as merely another Canadian eccentricity. Speech cops in America, too, are forever attempting similar efforts – most visibly, on college campuses.

In fact, New York City itself has a human-rights panel that tries to stamp out anything deemed too politically incorrect.

Since 9/11, Americans have been alert to the threat of terror from radical Islamists. But there’s been all too little concern for a creeping accommodation of radical Islamist tenets, like curbs on critical opinions.

That needs to change.

 


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Religion, Sex, and the City

At the recent McGill Conference, I was asked to participate with four others on a panel to discuss “Religion, Sex, and the City.” We each got five minutes to deliver a few opening remarks, and to answer two questions: Does pluralism mean the end of public morality? And if not, what role, if any, ought religion to play? The discussion went from there. Here is my five minutes worth. At the end of the hour, there was some discussion of Charter-type paper documents that (I argued) nations seem to invent and then impose on their people as a kind of substitute for the absence of a genuine common moral bubble (this metaphor explained below). This led to some comments on the effect of Canada’s Charter on our status as a self-governing people, which I have added at the end.


I would like to begin by looking at the meaning of the City held dear by almost all who have come before us. Then I want to contrast that to the current view of the modern city, and offer some thoughts on what this means for religion and sex.

We know that the ancient city -called “the polis” by the Greeks – rested on at least four convictions:

1) Everything has an end, or good, toward which it aims for its fulfillment.

2) The city is an organic whole greater than the sum of its individual parts, the end of which is the flourishing of all. As the seed is to the flower, the citizen is to the city.

3) Citizens live under a common moral bubble of shalls and shall-nots sustained by moral and religious conviction and debate.

4) The most fundamental rule is that the good of all comes before my individual good.

However, the modern city – which we can date from the middle of the nineteenth century – stands as the complete and even proud repudiation of all that I just said, and for that reason I describe it as “the anti-polis.” In such a place –

1) There is no particular vision of the good that is considered better than any other, and so the idea of a common good is off the table.

2) The anti-polis is a collection of individuals, and it can never be a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

3) Each citizen lives in a private moral bubble, strictly off-limits to the uninvited.

4) And finally – and this is the key equation of the anti-polis: if all individuals follow their freely-chosen ideal of the good, then society will also end up good.

Needless to say, this notion of the City as a ship without a course, a rudder, a larger purpose, is unique in human history, and we have arrived at it via our embrace of what I call “hyperdemocracy.” This is a modern political form in which the idea of sovereignty, formerly vested in rulers above, after descending into the hands of “the people” for a century or so, has ended up vested, as we like to think, in autonomous individuals.

At the end of such a fateful journey, all questions about the proper ends of Man and the City, become non-questions. They cannot be answered because although they may be asked of you, or of me (as at this conference) they can no longer be asked of us, for there is no longer any corporate body in the name of which we feel moved to respond.

From this brief sketch, we can now ask:

* Does “pluralism” (which is really just a feel-good cover-term for the disunity of a people) mean the end of public morality?

Seen from the hinterlands, of course it does.

But if you are a citizen of the new anti-polis, where the very term “public morality” is considered retro, the answer is a firm no, simply because pluralism is itself the formalization and sanctification of the “anti-morality morality” I have described.

* Does religion have a role in public morality? I think we should face the fact that in the modern democracies, even before we surrendered our common moral bubble, the Christian religion (in Canada, at least), had not played a forceful role for a very long time, and whenever fresh opportunities have arisen to demonstrate moral outrage and religious fortitude – such as during the recent betrayal of traditional marriage – it has been weak beyond words.

* On the question of sex, I would simply say what everyone knows: In a secular and materialistic society purely spiritual purposes are diminished in principle, and this leaves sex – which was unlinked from biology some time ago – as something pretty close to the highest human joy. In its current free-floating pansexual form it has become a substitute for spiritual bliss and is now worshipped as such in the public square.

The invention of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms was a backward step that returned Canadians to the kind of political condition they endured under their British masters during the colonial period. Let me explain. At that time those who governed the separate colonies in what was to become Canada were officials of the British Crown and were not responsible to the people but to the legislators, judges, and courts of Great Britain. So for decades Canadians fought hard to bring about “responsible government” – a term which in Canadian political history came to mean that government must be responsible to the elected representatives of the people. They were granted bits of this by the mid-1840s, and by Confederation in1867 the principle of fully responsible government was institutionalized in Canada. Accordingly, the laws made by their representatives in Canada’s Parliament were considered an expression of the will of the people and hence the supreme law of the land. (It bears noting, however, that the founders both of Canada and the United States of America considered even the will of their elected representatives supreme only with respect to new statute laws; to their minds, even statute laws were subordinate to the inherited legal rights, customs and traditions of the English speaking people since Magna Carta).

But this happy 115-year tradition was radically altered in 1982 with the introduction of a Charter that was declared “the supreme law of Canada,” and thus a law over and above the laws of Parliament and all other inherited and customary forms of law . The result has been that since then the will of the Canadian people as expressed in Parliament has been subordinated to and must now conform to interpretations of the law of the Charter. In short, the ultimate authority over the meaning of all existing laws and especially over any new laws made by Canada’s legislators is once again, as in colonial times, held by officials the people did not elect, who cannot be removed by the people, and who are not responsible to the people in any direct way.

In response to this charge, Canada’s judges maintain that parliamentarians still hold the ultimate authority because they can make and re-make laws. However, any balanced scrutiny of the record since 1982 will show an abdication, if not a judicial suppression of legislative freedom and responsibility: Parliamentarians are so fettered by the threat of actual or potential Charter scrutiny that they repeatedly defer to past court decisions or to anticipated Charter rulings prior to creating new legislation. The emphasis since 1982 has shifted from the question of what laws the people wish their elected representatives to make, to the question of what laws their judges will allow them to make.


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A Fun Debate

This past weekend I participated in the annual Civitas Conference in Halifax, which was great fun. There was lots of conservative/libertarian/classical liberal discussion and argument (also some great lobster and music!). I was was one of four people divided into teams of two to participate in one of the six sessions, which was set up as a debate on the question: “Which Comes First, Institutional Reform, or Moral Renewal?”  I was on the moral renewal side, with Richard Bastien, editor of Egards, which is an excellent French-Canadian Journal. You have to love the logo of the Journal: “Revue de la resistance conservatrice” which means a journal of conservative resistance. Yes! We went up againt Link Byfield and Rick Anderson on the other side, both of whom were arguing for democratic and parliamentary reforms and the like, and all of us were asked to be sure to put our ideas provocatively so that there would be lots of reaction between ourselves and from the audience.  There was, and it was good fun.  We each got only four minutes to present our thoughts, and here are mine.

On the question of how to win a debate against opponents arguing that institutional reform is better than moral reform – I would say they should surrender now, simply because it is impossible to imagine reform of any kind that does not have a moral basis.

For example, if you call for democratic reform, or electoral reform, you believe that rule by the people is preferable to an alternative such as aristocracy, or monarchy. The moral preference is that it is better to be a free man making your own laws than to be a slave to laws you cannot change. And again, if you call for tax reform – say, more progressive tax rates, or a flat tax – you must defend this on some moral theory about social justice in the first case (that the rich ought to pay more than the poor), or in the second that tax equality is morally preferable to tax discrimination.

When economic and social policy reformers ask (as did our moderator Sylvia in an email framing this debate) “can institutional reform get us the kind of policy changes we want if we don’t first change the climate of public opinion?” – she was touching on two fundamental questions that ought to bother all policy wonks. Namely: are we trying to change public behaviour because we believe we know what is good for people better than they do themselves? (this, too, is a moral question). And if so, is it right (also a moral question) to engineer these changes whether or not the subjects of policy manipulation – you and me – are aware of their designs on our behaviour? I respectfully submit that casual phrases such as “institutional reform,” and “changing the climate of public opinion,” are really just cover terms for underlying moral points of view that policy-makers seek to impose on the rest of us, mostly because they have long since abandoned ship on the true-conservative conviction that a firm public moral consensus will always produce self-governing human beings. So, just to take one example, in the face of the dire social and population consequences of things like dogmatic man-hating feminism, tax-funded abortion, and so-called gay marriage – instead of fighting back by persuading the public, and especially young people at home, at school, and in the public square of the fundamental importance of heterosexual marriage, the sacredness of all human life, and the crucial civilizational role of generative sexual love and family bonds, they surrender, panic, and then respond pathetically – by offering bucks for babies!

So a tough version of my thesis is that a lot of institutional reform in free societies really operates as a kind of covert moral totalitarianism imposed from the top. Policy-makers prefer this to genuine moral reform commanding high standards of personal and public behaviour such as is normally generated by free individuals, their families, their religions, and their moral and social interactions from the bottom up. This leads to the only question that matters: is it better to impose behavioural change on unsuspecting citizens through legal and tax and policy manipulations that imagine them as unconscious policy objects, or is it better to encourage true change that starts in the hearts and minds of self-aware and morally conscious individuals?

I propose that the latter is to be preferred for the reason that Burke gave us long ago: the more control (he meant moral control) we have within, the less we need without. In other words a high standard of personal and public morality – which means nothing if it cannot produce a common, and yes, a very public sense of virtue and vice – has always been the most effective and inexpensive form of crowd control and is far preferable to institutional manipulations dressed up as social, economic, or political science.


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Restoring A Pro-Family State

We see hints of it every day now. I mean, of the feeble struggle to restore the pro-family state. In recent articles we read: “U.K. urged to step in to save marriage” (National Post, March 3). The marriage rate in the U.K. apparently dropped by 10% in 2005 (the most recent year for which numbers are complete), resulting in “the lowest marriage rates since they were first calculated in 1862.” In fact, this trend is repeated throughout most of Europe. One brave English soul actually spoke up to say that “the government needs to abandon its pretence that all family forms are of equal value to society.” I’m sure he got sent to the Tower of London for that.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how many people marry in the proper traditional sense of that word; it only matters how many children they have, because the great underlying crisis looming throughout the western world is the gradual depopulation trend that began about 25 years ago. Another article “Canadians support income split” (National Post, Feb. 27) tells us that 77% of Canadians support the idea of income-splitting that would allow “couples” to “reduce the taxes they pay by averaging out their income.” There is no definition as yet of the word “couples,” and I will offer my own tough notions on that below. I mean, if you want to grow your country in a time of rampant individualism, with egalitarian hog-swill as your public philosophy, with rabid feminism infecting otherwise healthy minds, and a marauding tax-hungry state that is always searching for more control and regulation to justify its own existence, you had better be prepared to bring in tough and very discriminatory tax policies. I will get to some of those at the end of this article. But first, the background about how we got into this pickle in the first place.

About a hundred years ago, all the Western democracies took a page from the communistic writings of Karl Marx and instituted “progressive” tax regimes under which portions of money earned through labour would be forcibly extracted “from each according to his ability,” and transferred “to each according to his need.” There was considerable protest at the time on the grounds of inequity. For what could justify taking 20% of one man’s income, but 50% of another’s? Such a regime would rob the most productive, hard-working and successful, would institutionalize envy, and create an enormous class of citizens beholden to the state and its hand-outs.

“Equality” once meant we were all to be considered equal before the law. A rich man and a poor man could live as they wish, and climb or fall in life by their own hand, but each should be punished the same way for the same crime, and so on. This was a stirring standard of western freedom for quite a while. But it was soon argued that freedom is not enough, because the rich keep climbing and the poor keep falling. None of this has ever been true, and our own government’s annual report on the quintiles (fifths) of income earned have always looked about the same regardless of a century of extensive policies to alter them. At any rate, in order to bring about a world of homogeneous incomes our once-free societies began changing the ideal of “equality” to the ideal of “equalization,” and were not shy about using the powers of the state to do this. Hence little by little we began to hear more and more about so-called “substantive” equality – a term used for the idea that everyone ought to have equal substance in life, such as material things, food, homes, money, education, and so on. To bring such a condition about, our freshly-minted egalitarians would now have to engage in unequal tax practices, just as Marx had advocated. What an irony! Citizen equality would now be achieved by a radical inequality of citizen tax treatment. We have now had more than a century of this civilized form of communism, or legal plunder, accompanied as it is on the part of taxpaying individuals and corporations by a myriad of loopholes and strategies for avoiding taxation, and on the part of vote-seeking political parties by ever more schemes, as a French tax-collector put it so long ago, for “extracting the maximum number of feathers from the goose, with the minimum amount of squealing.”

Accompanying this morally unjustifiable, but by now quite settled procedure has been the corresponding tendency by all modern welfare states to “atomize” their own societies. I have written about this here before, and repeat it now because I am convinced that over the long term, perfect social equality of the kind intended by such total states is impossible to achieve without first attacking and dissolving the freely-chosen preferential forms of social life that give rise naturally to (what are now defined as) “inequities.” Atomization suggests the splitting apart of a whole range of social molecules (to continue the metaphor) into their individual parts. That is, the breaking-down of voluntarily-formed social groups (social molecules) into a collection of autonomous, independent individuals, or atoms. If there is a key distinction to be made here between the state and society, it is the fundamental fact that society (the sum total of all freely-formed social molecules) is voluntarily constituted and has no power other than the usual forms of persuasion or dissuasion that spring from religion, morality, parental reward or censure, and so on. The state, on the other hand, is the sole entity with a monopoly on power, and in this it must be carefully distinguished from society. Your father or your priest may shame you or praise you into right behaviour. But the state can force you. These two very different forms of suasion – one moral, the other legal-political – have always been in conflict. And I think it is true to say that the more total the aims of the state, the stronger its official jealousy of any competitive form of suasion. Hence much of the effort of the state, whether ancient (such as the Roman Empire) or modern (our territorial-ethnic states), to gain more effective control of citizens has been devoted to the usurpation of the traditional moral powers of society’s various groupings by breaking these constituent molecules into atoms. This is achieved by dissolving or weakening the influence of social groups over their own members, directly, or indirectly by funding competitive government services meant to replace the same things offered privately (examples are tax-funded daycare, and tax-funded and controlled medical care); by de-legitimizing such freely-formed groups, services, and customs (by calling them “discriminatory” or “chauvinist” or “sexist”, or “homophobic” or the like); by burdensome or double taxation (you may send your kids to a private religious school, but you must pay taxes for government schooling anyway), and by many other means.

The underlying reasons why this process has occurred are not hard to see. The first is wealth. At the turn of the 20th century, by any measure, there were only about a half dozen truly wealthy nations. But by mid-century, there were more than thirty such, and today there are over sixty. Well, one of the inevitable consequences of more wealth is more tax harvesting, and hence the invention by governments of more vote-seeking programs intended to grow the influence of government itself, much of it by substituting government services for those that individuals and social groups – such as the family – used to perform for themselves (and often, with a proud independence, and defiance of state intrusions). Riding alongside this development, like a frenzied harridan whipping her horse has been the modern radical feminist movement. Most of us approve of better treatment of men and women alike, where reasonable and possible, and according to the needs of each very different sex. European feminists largely think this way, and they call it “difference feminism.” They don’t want women treated the same as men.  They want to be treated differently from men, and better as women. But the dominant North American variety of feminism got stuck in a radical equality rut. And Europeans consider us pretty stupid for having taken this gender-denial route to equality. For through a whole variety of ridiculous affirmative action and so-called equity policies we have actually tried to eliminate all biological, social, and economic distinctions between men and women. At the extreme, we have even argued that gender is not something biological and natural, but is “socially constructed.” Suffice it so say that this philosophy – one quietly embraced and promoted by a whole string of Canadian governments, liberal as well as conservative, since the late 1960s – has fed traditional society into the equality-grinder of the state by militating against the traditional family. You know: where the man is expected to earn a decent family wage and the woman is expected to raise the kids at home. If you want to see this program instituted with a vengeance outside communist countries, look first to Sweden, where it began in the 1940s. In Canada, which used Sweden as a model, this same program got started after WWII, but we soon raced past Sweden. Canada is now viewed by leftist radicals the world over as a model “autonomist” nation, where the biological basis of society has been all but neutralized or eradicated in public policy, and each taxpayer is considered an individual “economic unit” (and taxpayer) rather than part of a social or family unit, as in the past. What are some of the clues?

Well, Canada used to allow wives and husbands to split incomes before taxation, but this was one of the first pro-family tax policies to be eliminated in Sweden as in Canada by the end of the ‘60s (and the present conservative government is trying to re-introduce this sensible policy). Even when socialized medicine began in the 1970s, each family was issued a family health card. But now we all have individual health cards. All the tax schemes and policies of the past few decades: national day care plans to encourage the removal of children from families and have government workers care for them; unfairly burdening strong single-earner (that is, traditional) families with higher taxes; offering state welfare to all wayward youths who demand it, whether or not they come from wealthy families (another attempt to break this family tie); offering state-funded abortions to all comers without requirement of parental consent for girls over 14, even permitting teachers to arrange abortions for students without advising parents; removing the idea of contract from marriage and introducing divorce on a no-fault basis; and finally, it is here now – introducing the cockamamie idea of gay marriage and the whole ideological paraphernalia for shaming the population into accepting this profoundly unnatural idea on the ridiculous grounds, again, of … equality. All these things are the engines of atomization. Get used to it. The loser is traditional society and the myriad bonds of belonging that people will always generate if left alone. The winner is big government.

The current government is clever enough to introduce its income-splitting policy on the grounds of equality, too – but this time by asking why two married couples should be treated differently in the tax code just because both spouses of one couple work outside the home, but only one does so in the other. Of course, what they are doing is pushing for a return to a family-based tax system, and a retreat from the current atomizing system of taxing us all as mere individuals. Clearly, the former strongly promotes family formation and the home-rearing of children, and the latter as strongly discourages this – indeed, it discourages having children in the first place. So I say, Bravo!

Some years ago (1993 on) when touring Canada with my book The War Against the Family, I urged exactly this kind of family income-splitting, and a few other devices to encourage family formation and procreation, to boot. I still believe that if we really wanted to populate our own country with more of our own children (rather than relying on immigration for replacement) and get ourselves above the fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman which we need just to maintain our current level (rather than the scary nation-depleting rate of 1.65 or thereabouts where we have been for almost two decades), there are vigorous steps in taxation and public policy we could take. For the timid, some of these may seem aggressive and, as such people are wont to say, “discriminatory.” But that is precisely the point. To repeat: all true public policy is intentionally discriminatory in a very positive way. It is meant to achieve a specified public purpose by application to some particular target group, and not to other groups (for this would defeat the policy). So if we want to push back the state, restore a strong civil society, bolster procreation and the family, and turn back the Great Die Off that is looming over the coming decades, we will need all of these ideas, or something like them. I am not a taxation expert, and I know that to make any of these ideas work there would be a labyrinth of (hopefully better) laws and re-jigged regulations. But the intent is clear, and where there is a will there is a way. To the objection that these are radical ideas, I answer that they are only as radical as the ideas that have already demolished the pro-society and pro-family (and anti-statist) reality with which we began. If you want to know what a family-friendly state’s policies might look like (depending on the level of population panic) read on. (Here, LMH means “legally-married heterosexual”).

1) Allow splitting of incomes for LMH couples only (a pretty strong incentive for home-rearing of children; for scaredy-cat common-law couples to get off the pot and commit themselves to a real marriage; and to discourage homosexual unions. The French government currently permits income-splitting between all family members for precisely this purpose. I have a friend earning $100,000 per year who has five children, who moved to France three years ago where he now pays zero income tax because his income is divided as if earned by seven!).

2) Increase dependent-child tax credits progressively, by the number of children, payable until children reach 18.

3) Introduce a generous and progressively larger one-time maternity cash and tax-free bonus for each child in addition to 2)

4) Allow mortgage-interest deductibility for LMH couples until the last child at home reaches 18 (same motive as 1, above).

5) Index incomes of LMH couples to counter inflation and tax “bracket-creep.”

6) Allow higher RRSP contributions for LMH couples.

7) Allow a generous tax-credit for “same-home” care of elders, by any family member.

8) Disallow welfare for children of the wealthy (this helps drive them back to their own families for support first rather than into the arms of anonymous taxpayers. Mostly it forces misbehaving kids to grow up fast if they want to eat).

9) Create business-loans insurance for LMH small family enterprises.

10) Eliminate no-fault divorce on the grounds that no-fault means no responsibility and also removes the basis of the marital contract (a true contract requires the consent of both parties to enter or to break the contract and breaches should entail fault and a penalty).

11) Make divorce a lot tougher for families with children – require, say, a 5-year cool-off period where the youngest child is under 15.

12) Encourage LMH families to adopt Canadian children with generous tax credits for each adopted child.

13) Define the traditional family to be “a married mother and father living together with their dependent children.” All other forms are less committed, and ought to be less favoured in law, policy, and taxation.

14) Rigorously enforce child and spousal payments from errant fathers (or mothers).

15) Consider mothers and fathers each legally and financially responsible for their children from conception.

16) If we are too stupid to dump it entirely, then we should at least restrict the use of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the protection of citizens against government force and infringement. End its use by citizens against each other and especially against society as a whole (which would end such things as invented Charter arguments against traditional marriage and all other such hallowed traditions).


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From History to Harper and the “nation” situation

The commentary below is one citizen’s best effort to see the road ahead from the road behind. 

In asking Parliament to endorse a motion “that this house recognize that the Québecois form a nation within a united Canada” our Prime Minister has dictated the terms of what will be a protracted debate over sovereignty. The fact that he also hobbled his liberal and separatist enemies and befriended the wily province (or is it “the nation”?) of Quebec with a single stroke was fascinating. But it was immaterial to the much larger question that has plagued both American and Canadian federalism from the start. Namely, can there be a state within a state? Harper was careful to head off this question when he added: “Do the Quebecois form a nation inside Canada? The answer is yes. Do the Quebecois form an independent nation within Canada? The answer is no, and the answer will always be no.” But to understand what he is up to, the long-term stakes, we need to revisit the constitutional logic of our own history.

As it happens, the Constitution of the United States of America, thrashed out in 1787-8, and Canada’s British North America Act of 1867 were both among the boldest efforts ever undertaken to resolve the ancient problem of imperium in imperio, or “sovereignty within sovereignty.” The challenge recognized by both nations was to find a solution, and both were certain they had done so. But in this writer’s opinion both sets of founders, were they here today would say that the fondest hopes and intentions for their constitutions – their respective solutions – have been betrayed.

The background for the American settlers, and by extension for Canada was the relationship of the original American colonies to the sovereignty of mother England. The Americans at first attempted to gain independence without severing their ties to the Crown. But their British masters insisted that imperium in imperio is a solecism – a contradiction in terms that can never work: the colonies could not be governed by England, and also by themselves, because sovereignty is by its nature indivisible. In words that were as prophetic for them as they are now for us, the loyalist Thomas Hutchinson asked: “How can there be a subordinate power without a power superior to it?” George Mason, too, had insisted that “two concurrent powers cannot exist long together; the one will destroy the other.” And Patrick Henry declared that a mutual concurrence of powers “will carry you into endless absurdity.” No one had ever squared the sovereignty circle before because it cannot be squared, the Englishman James Galloway had warned; it is “unintelligible jargon, and horrid nonsense,” simply because “the notion of two sovereign authorities in the same state is a contradiction, a monster!”

These warnings were still ringing in the air when the Americans achieved their Independence in 1776, an independence made inevitable largely due to the fact that a sovereign America under a sovereign England had indeed proved a monstrous idea. So once free of Britain the thirteen colonies began to operate as thirteen independent democratic states. And for a decade, chaos ensued. Most of them immediately raised their own armies and navies, and some seized each others ships. Seven of them printed their own money (including inflationary fiat money if that suited them), fought interminably over borders, passed tariff laws against each other and, on several occasions mobs of angry farmers swarmed their own legislatures demanding that laws be passed to forgive their debts. Some of the new states even eliminated their own senates (because they wanted to remove all obstruction to their will), and in one state the mob called even for the elimination of its own legislature: each town could rule itself! Alexander Hamilton, one the brightest lights among the American framers of the new Constitution aiming to end this madness, famously complained that the thirteen independent states had become “wretched nurseries of unceasing discord.”

So it was high irony indeed when the founders met in the summer of 1787 to frame a constitution for their vast territories and found themselves making the same arguments England had made with respect to the former colonies. For how was a single government to administer America? Were its officers expected to travel 3,000 miles of wilderness to do their business? Of course not. Now they could see why the Frenchman Montesquieu, whose teachings were at the time so influential had already warned that a unitary democratic government can only work in a small country. And then there were the facts: the thirteen states were already sovereign in their own right. They would be meeting now to delegate, to surrender, powers they already had over themselves to a new general, or central government. This meant the newly United States would need two levels of elected government – state, and federal, which in turn meant there would be two sources of popular will that could erupt in conflict any time. And that is why the debates over the very shape of the new Constitution of the United States came to center on the problem of how to tame the monster. The system the Americans eventually settled upon became the background for Canada’s rather different solution in 1867.

The American camps were divided into “federalist” who wanted power to be more centralized (the emphasis was on the word “united”), and “anti-federalists” (emphasis on the word “states”) who wanted more powerful local rights because they were terrified of all forms of centralizing power. This, they equated with the English tax slavery from which the colonies had just escaped; they were not going to set up the same despotism in their own house! So in the end the states delegated a list of specified general powers to the new central government, and kept all their own local powers. The individual states also retained all “residual” powers, or the right to any unforeseeable future powers that might be required. As a further restraint their Constitution rested on the novel idea of “checks and balances,” of breaking sovereignty into pieces through a division, a balancing, and a sprinkling of it between competing institutions of government – the courts, the legislature, the senate, and the executive – so that none of them could amass too much power and become a tyrant over the people. Even so, in a wonderful phrase a sorrowful critic of this new arrangement decried the powerful new office of a President who was given the power to veto laws and declare war, as “the fetus of monarchy.”

But the abiding faith was that this new two-level sovereignty-within-sovereignty would be limited by carefully defined and restricted powers, each in its own realm. States would look after things internal to themselves, while the feds would look after all things general, or external to the states. For the one thing feared by all – federalist and anti-federalist alike – was the idea of any government that could creep into every corner of the country, that would “wait upon the ladies in their toilett … accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly … enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook, attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps.” In today’s lingo, the common enemy was any tax-harvesting, over-regulating government; which is to say, they all feared precisely what America and Canada both now have. (Then, taxation hardly existed. Today, the average Canadian family forks over 46% of income annually in total taxes, for a lifetime.)

On paper at least, the plan seemed to make sense for governing a widely-dispersed people. And because the lesson of the bloody French revolutionary experiment with democracy and also the wretched discord of the thirteen states themselves were both still fresh in memory, the “democratic element” to be included in the Constitution would be democracy by delegation. The expression of the popular will via “representation” was invented as a way to keep the rabble from direct law-making. That is, to prevent too much democracy. The new Americans (and later, the Canadians) wanted instead a “filtered” democracy, relying on a “natural aristocracy” of wise and elected reps expected to make laws for the whole people, not merely for their own local electors, and who would have unelected senators presiding over them to further chasten the popular will. There would be no more mobs of farmers swarming legislatures and directly changing the laws to suit themselves.

So what became of this noble experiment across the line? History has provided the sad story of America’s losing battle with the monster. The first, and most dire wake-up call was the dreadful, nation-splitting outcome of the Civil War, which although ostensibly fought over slavery, was at bottom a struggle between states rights (among them, the right to pass local laws about slavery), and federal rights (the right of a central government to forbid state laws). Very few of the new centralizing powers invoked to win that war have since been repealed. Then came the nation-mobilizing pressure of two world Wars with their new taxing powers. Between the wars there was the even more centralizing reality of relief efforts during the Great Depression. But perhaps the coup de grace to states’ rights was constitutional dickering such as the 14th amendment which gave the U.S. federal government massive powers – a constitutional primacy – permitting it to disallow state laws. And more recently there have been huge increases in the dictatorially intrusive powers of the courts which, against the founders’ intent have now set themselves up as the sole authority on the Constitution. Prior to this change, the people (via the amendment procedures), and even the President were acknowledged as the principal interpreters of the Constitution, and not the courts. The consequence of all this is that America has become something very close to an invasive, hyper-regulatory unitary state – a monster. The contradictions of imperium in imperio have been borne out there, the superior powers of Washington, Congress, and the courts having extended a net of control over all subordinated powers.

And what happened to Canada? We began with a sense of superiority and a prideful optimism that we would tame the monster better than the Yankees had done. In a speech of 1865 John A. Macdonald set the Canadian tone: “Ever since the [American] union was formed, the difficulty of what is called ‘States Rights’ has existed, and this had much to do with bringing on the present unhappy war in the United States. They commenced, in fact, at the wrong end. They declared by their constitution that each state was a sovereignty in itself ….”

In short, Canadians wished above all to avoid the clash of sovereignties that had reduced the United States to the rubble of civil war. So of the many differences invented, perhaps the most significant would be our special way of dividing powers, not as in the republic over the line, but in a novel Confederation. The Yankee states had delegated a list of specified general powers to their general legislature but had, the Canadians thought, mistakenly left everything else – all the things unspecified – to the local legislatures. The Canadians thought it better to specify the limited and exclusive powers of both legislatures. In the new Canada there would be a list of general powers for the general government, and a list of local powers for the provinces. Ours would be a system of coordinate sovereignty, with neither entity sovereign over the other in its own realm. It was thus that through a pragmatic division of powers in what became the BNA Act of 1867 Canada’s founders were satisfied that they had tamed the monster once and for all by restricting the sovereignty of provinces to what was “assigned exclusively” to them (their “list”), but also by permitting the general government to make laws for “peace, order and good government” in relation to all matters not among those assigned exclusively to the provinces. It was no small condition, either, that in order to prevent excessive local power gotten by spending beyond their means, the borrowing power of all the provinces was to be restricted by law to their “sole credit.” Also in contrast to the American system, our federal government (rather than local governments) would look after all unspecified general matters.

Canada’s monster-taming scheme worked well for almost 100 years. By that time – 1968, the advent of the modern liberal effort to socialize Canada – we had a total debt after an entire century of only some sixteen billion dollars. But as in America, the mobilizing force of imperium in imperio is always the lust for superior sovereignty. Indeed, for total sovereignty. And the trend over time is always that the superior power will find ways, however devious, to slowly gobble up the subordinate ones. (It is a process that has also been at work at lower levels, where the provinces have been gobbling up municipal powers.) At any rate, the Federal-provincial gobbling in Canada has been achieved in a variety of ways, including, of course, by direct legislation; but especially via so-called “shared-cost” programs in which the federal government has circumvented the wise constitutional constraints of our founders on provincial borrowing. It has done this by harvesting money through exorbitant taxation of individuals and their corporations (a corporate tax is just a pass-through tax on individual consumption), and then offering to share with the provinces the cost of many things that under our Constitution were intended to be controlled “exclusively” by provinces (such as health care). This they have offered to do this in exchange for the provinces submitting to central control in those matters. In other words, this form of central control has been gained through bald fiscal bribery aiming at a flagrant evasion of the very constitutional prohibitions – the wisdom – intended to prevent it. Perhaps the most disturbing expression of this impulse to control local jurisdictions and ideologically to reshape even the most venerable customs and traditions of Canada, has been via Supreme court rulings since the creation of the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many of these rulings have in effect rewritten our Constitution by repealing wise common law judgements and customs centuries old, but especially by “reading into” the abstract words of the Charter meanings that unelected judges who represent no one simply believe should be there. This autocratic centralizing process began gradually in Canada, but accelerated with a vengeance during the 1960s. It was then that Lester Pearson, his Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau alongside, remarked that in effect being the Prime Minister of Canada was the closest thing to being a dictator, if you wanted to be one. In 1969, when asked by a reporter:“What society would you like to make Canada? Socialist or capitalist?” Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau replied: “Labour party socialist – or Cuban socialism or Chinese socialism – socialism from each according to his means.” By the time he ended his time in power Canada had two hundred billion dollars in federal debt alone, and another trillion in unfunded government liabilities (promises to pay future benefits). That two hundred billion, at the rate of interest since then comes to the almost six hundred billion in federal debt we carry today. By this socialist process of taking from each according to his means, and giving to each according to his need (the most famous slogan from Karl Marx) the regions of Canada had by then been divided by fiat into giver provinces, and taker provinces. The country had also experienced one of the most massive and rapid expansions of civil service of any free nation in history. Ottawa informs us that today we have one full-time government employee for every five Canadian citizens. But if we think only of taxpayers, it comes to something more like one full-time government employee for every two or three taxpayers.

It was into this pregnant history, this top-heavy consequence of imperium in imperio that Stephen Harper walked when he first entered political life as a Reform Party member in 1990. Now he is our Prime Minister. What kind of man is he? By training he is a free-market, if not a libertarian (anti-statist) economist. By religion he is an observant Christian who feels in his bones the importance of individual moral agency and personal and local responsibility. He holds dear the crucially important social role of marriage and the traditional family, values the importance of self-reliance and meaningful work for all, and looks for a strict observance of law. For all these reasons and more he believes as deeply that the best government is the least, and the more local it is, the better. Which is to say that our new Prime Minister belongs to a venerable “anti-federalist” (in the sense of anti-statist) tradition, through and through. By instinct and where possible he will choose “subsidiarity” as his moral and political guide: let us solve our problems first at the lowest possible level, and then rise for help to each successive level only when absolutely necessary or specified by the constitution. Let us fight back against big-taxing, hyper-regulatory socialism, and bring about a devolution of power, placing responsibility locally where it belongs, where it operates most efficiently, and … where Canada’s own founding fathers were certain it would stay if Canadians simply chose to abide by their own constitutional constraints.

The case shaping up here is that Mr. Harper, like this writer, I confess, is, in the Canadian context, a conservative revolutionary. He believes that nations ought to live by their own constitutional commitments, and if they want to change those commitments it should be by proper constitutional means and not by the sort of cheating legal stealth and fiscal bribery that has been used to convert Canada from a well-balanced constitutional confederation into a centralizing welfare state now carrying a total debt (including unfunded liabilities) of over three trillion dollars. He knows this is a system that cannot sustain itself. No such system has ever succeeded beyond a few generations. They are always taken down by structural debt they cannot escape, by the demoralization that always follows the removal of essential individual and community bonds and responsibilities, and by the politics of regional envy – the war between have and have-not regions – leading to fluctuating allegiances (Am I a Canadian? A Quebecer? An Albertan? A hyphenated-Canadian?) and hence a loss of any true national identity. Which is to say, by imperium in imperio. So it must be undone. There must be a rebalancing, devolution, and restoration of assigned constitutional powers; a restoring of states rights, so to speak. Canada must be returned to something resembling its original constitutional framework by withdrawing federal powers from all places where they have never by right or by law belonged.

Such an initiative, which I submit has just begun will – has the potential – to turn Canada back from its foolish reliance on a socialistic model, to something more in keeping with the vision of our founding, a Confederation. A good real-world example of this at work today, which produces an extremely high standard of living, is Switzerland, where most of the conservative moral, fiscal and political principles outlined here have held sway for many centuries, and where peace, productivity and freedom are maintained in a democratic nation that has 21 provinces (called cantons) and five distinct language groups.

And yet it must seem ironic in the extreme that Quebec has never followed the socialist model imposed on ROC – the Rest of Canada. And that is because Quebec has always insisted on building the socialist model within Quebec. However, for socialism to work, it must always be total, and no small total state can survive inside a larger one. That is why Quebec has fought to the brink for its own constitutional provincial rights, and more, and in exchange for its block voting power and four or five billion a year in transfer payments from the rest of us, it has gotten them. She has fought for the right to control her own language laws, her own pension plan, her own immigration selection, education policy, and a hundred other matters large and small. In effect, Quebec has merely done what all the provinces ought to have been doing all along: fight to preserve all those provincial rights “assigned exclusively” under our Constitution, and push back all centralizing intrusions of power wherever possible. For entirely different reasons, this initiative is catching on elsewhere in Canada, too. For the past two decades, Alberta has been flirting with the same anti-centralizing psychology, though far less successfully because it has less to whore with in voting power. But because Alberta has always been a giver and not a taker province, many Albertans are today pushing for just such a devolution or rebalancing of sovereignty, including a restoration of provincial control over their own exclusively provincial matters, such as for the privatization of medical care, for a provincial pension plan, and more.

So in conclusion, what we have before us under the rubric of a qualified nationhood for Quebec is in fact the first bold step in reversing the Canadian welfare state. Harper is keenly aware that no one will now dare to deny Quebec its new “nation” status. He is also aware that Quebec will now likely support him for a majority government in the next election. And he knows that Quebec will continue to push for the powers appropriate for a nation. But he will hold them to what he said: Quebec will be considered a nation “within a united Canada.” And he will then slowly apply that condition to all other provinces that want it, because under our Constitution provinces were intended to have provincial sovereignty over their own list, and the feds were to meant to keep their hands off. To respect provincial sovereignty in a united Canada. Of course, the other provinces not so dominated by a single ethnic and linguistic group will not care if they are called a “nation,” but it will have to be by some label just as chummy. What they will insist upon is “equal” provincial rights and sovereignty. Thus, through a long process of reversing the workings of the monster – to include reducing taxes wherever possible, eliminating the national debt, removing nanny-state federal tentacles from all places in which they have never by right belonged, and of course by removing transfer payments – he will undertake to restore provincial constitutional rights. Harper has just commenced the deconstruction of our rusty welfare state. He aims to slay the monster and restore us to our own constitutional truth and honesty.


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Rambling Rae

On the Editorial page of the National Post (“Careless Rhetoric…” Nov. 7), Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae – formerly of the NDP, and once the Premier of Ontario for a mercifully brief period – warns us to “reject those who suggest there is a fatal flaw in the Canadian idea.”

Perhaps this warning is a little self-serving, rolling as it did along with a lot of other misleadingly glib observations off Bob’s own lips. For the problem is, the “fatal flaw” is Bob himself – along with all those other pretentious political puffballs with which so many political parties seem infested, who wake up every day with their strangely “Canadian idea” of “leadership” – a word they all fancy applies to their chosen role in Canadian life. But it merits a little scrutiny.

Bob’s editorial feels good. And most of it deals, rather sensibly, with how he believes we ought to handle Quebec. But like so many other politicians he has mastered the art, either of saying nothing at all in carefully selected phrases of non-commitment to anything except the nearest rhetorical escape route if questioned too closely, or of saying what is not in fact true, but presenting it as fact and history.

We are told that “Canada’s Constitution was, in 1867, an act of the British Parliament,” and, he laments, “it took over a hundred years before it became truly ours [in 1982], with an entrenched Charter of Rights and its own amending formula.”

But this was precisely the point at which, for many Canadians, the Constitution became untruly ours. For in effect, on that date it left the hands of the Canadian people, and became Trudeau’s, and Bob’s (and all that benighted leftist ilk). Indeed, with these remarks, sly Bob fingered the real cleavages in this country.

First, we have a population cleavage, because millions of us old enough to remember can honestly say we grew up in a different place prior to 1982. From 1867 until then our legal and political system rested primarily on a venerable common-law tradition centuries old, the provinces more or less exercised their own precisely enumerated provincial powers (which have always been distinct from the federal powers), and we had a representative democratic parliament via which our will – captured in the laws we thought it wise to promulgate – was expressed by our representatives in the House of Commons. Once ratified, those laws became the highest law in the land.

But Trudeau’s (and Rae’s) beloved Charter changed all that. No Canadian since 1982 can now truly say the laws of the land express his or her will, or even the will of the Canadian people, simply because the Charter is now the Supreme law of Canada, and only unelected judges may decide what the words of the Charter mean. So the true and fundamental meaning of that change was and is – to hell with the will of the people. There are two practical reasons why this is true. First, because our elected representatives simply will no longer bother to propose a new law (no matter how good they, or we, think it would be for the people) which they know an ideological court will shoot down as soon as look at it. And secondly, all existing laws dragged before such courts now have their previously established meanings re-constituted, not according to what the judges honestly believe the people intended when they made those laws, or according to the force of case-law over the centuries, but according to what the judges personally believe the law ought to be. In other words, since 1982, at almost every turn, the opinion of judges is being substituted for the voice of the people.

Now I think it bizarre that prior to 1867 voices were raised in tumult and even many lives were lost in the clamour for “responsible government.” Canada’s settlers insisted on the right to make their own laws through their elected representatives, rather than have them handed down by the British parliament and courts. We finally got responsible government in 1867. But there is a good case that we surrendered it again in 1982, for at a single stroke of Trudeau’s pen we removed the right of the people to make the supreme law of the land and handed that right over to our own courts. I suppose that is better than handing it over to the British courts once again. But not much. Point being, we no longer have responsible government in the sense of having the right to express our will through unfettered representatives. Say what you may, they are fettered anew. And I would say this whether the courts were leftist or rightist, because the principle is dead wrong in itself, by itself, because it surrenders us to judicial oligarchy, by whatever stripe.

I write of these things only to say that like so many others who gleefully re-arranged Canada on that day in 1982, Bob is out there once again promoting himself and his leftist views. Note how he closes: “Leadership is about building confidence through success in addressing the practical needs of Canadians. Above all, we need to address the real imperatives of our era. These include acting on climate change, building a prosperous economy, providing jobs for Canadians, maintaining an independent and thoughtful foreign policy, ensuring a competitive tax regime, reducing child poverty, supporting learning.”

Please forgive my cynicism. But it is surely outdone by Bob’s own. So allow me to recast his remarks by way of offering an alternative vision. “Leadership” is about stopping the growth of meddlesome, over-regulating government at all three levels, so that the people regain the confidence that comes from running their own lives, families, and livelihoods responsibly. It is about recognizing that no one really knows anything about the reasons for climate change. We don’t even have the slightest idea whether or not it is actually changing, and if so, why? So we should keep the planet as clean as we can personally, locally, and nationally, without using supposed climate change as a cover for more taxation, more socialism and more regulation. As for “building an economy”? Aside from the prevention of force and fraud and the enforcement of contracts and the law, we should get out of the way of the people when it comes to commercial affairs and entrepreneurship. And we should also stop giving businesses money that is taken from the hands of so many ordinary citizens who can ill afford to part with it. Governments cannot “build” economies. They can only create an appropriate framework for them. As for creating jobs? We know only too well that every job government “creates” to make itself look good costs more to other taxpayers than the job itself ever pays back to the country. In this sense, so-called “job creation” is just another form of vote-buying welfare. Most of all, we should burn as much government red tape as possible so that vital and imaginative young Canadians will think about staying in Canada to work, invent, and invest, instead of heading south after we spend $100,000 educating them. And so-called “foreign policy”? Canada is a very small country with what is perhaps a disproportionate political clout because it is perceived by others as decent. But we need to stop congratulating ourselves with our pretended moral superiority and also stop spending untold millions on useless, mostly leftist foreign causes, because we cannot afford it, and anyway, in the long run, the countries we assist simply have to learn to fend for themselves instead of waiting for handouts. To a great extent, international “aid” is a crutch to national development. When it comes to our “tax regime,” child poverty, and learning? We should take the position that the least tax is the best tax, and leave as much of the people’s income in their own hands as possible so they can steer their own lives. Also, it is a myth that corporations pay taxes. They do, of course. But all corporate taxes are just passed on to consumers in the price of products. So in that sense, only consumers pay taxes. True child poverty is very rare, because most parents would die before letting their children starve or live in want. So the first and best way to deal with poverty of any kind is to strengthen the roots of the traditional family by encouraging marriage over common-law, by chasing down dead-beat dads who don’t support their own wives and kids, and by tax cuts and incentives to families to look after their own elderly parents. Finally, there is learning. Our universities are still good, and some of their departments even great. But modern campuses have too few serious students, and too many who are there mostly for a tax-funded holiday from reality, and partying (see the Post: “Business Students: Debauchery Lesson” page A3). Everyone loves a good party. But funding education for rich kids, or for the growing youth drug and party crowd, or as a means of vote-buying or cozying to corporate research at the taxpayers expense, or tolerating the Gentleman’s B grading system and handing out B.A. degrees to all comers regardless of genuine performance, or giving deadbeat professors tenure? Well, we can “support learning” by taking a clean broom to the whole business.

Enough for today.


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Choosing Your Belonging

There are some things about which concerned citizens must speak up, and here comes one of them.

In a recent speech attempting to lure Quebec voters, liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff said “The great achievement of Canada, and I think we’re already there, is in Canada you’re free to choose your belonging” (National Post, Oct. 14).

By “already there” he meant that his modern liberal vision of citizenship has already been realized. For he went on to say “You can be Quebecer first and Canadian second, or Canadian first and Quebecer second,” and then added – and this is what struck me – “in the order that suits you.” If what we are choosing is our citizenship – the basis of our national loyalty – then Ignatieff is a spokesman for the bizarre idea that the basis of national citizenship is self-chosen.

If I am not mistaken, the last time the Canadian nation as a whole decided to confront the international peril of totalitarianism on the European continent by defending Britain and the British Commonwealth of nations – the source of our political system, our freedoms, our common-law, and the dominant culture of the Canadian nation – this sort of “choosing your belonging” was vigorously manifested by many thousands of young male Quebecers who, though they were born here and cheerfully accepted all the rights and benefits of Canadian citizenship, chose to decline the responsibility of fighting alongside their Canadian brethren to defend those rights and benefits. What they were choosing really, was that it was okay for us to die for them, but they refused to die for us. By the time this trial balloon for “choosing your belonging” ended, and Quebecers indeed were conscripted to fight alongside us, we were all Canadians, all one, and they proved to be great fighters.

But what this illustrated was that “choosing your own belonging” is not a sound basis for citizenship or nationhood. For any nation worth the name must decide from the very start what it stands for, who is to qualify as a citizen, and how the nation as a whole will control and defend its territory and its national character and long term ambitions. To suggest, as Ignatieff has done that the provinces or states of which a federation is composed may compete with the unity of the federation as a whole for the primary loyalty of citizens is to argue that there is no federation worth the name. Canada may defend itself this week, but not with Quebec-Canadians, or Albertan-Canadians, or Ontarian-Canadians. Next week, however – if oil, say, is threatened – Canada may defend itself with all the latter, but not with Newfoundland-Canadians who have their own oil. It’s everyone’s choice.

Now what is the origin of this idea? It is, I believe, a desperate response to the reality that Canada as a determined nation – I mean a nation determined to define itself culturally, morally, religiously, and politically, has lost its way. Canada has no national will to self-determine. We do not ask ourselves what we want to be. But what is the point of maintaining a nation that has no way, that is blown hither and thither by the winds like a ship at sea with no course or destination? To put this question in perspective, let us imagine we are to start over tomorrow to form ourselves into a new nation. We would have to choose between all available systems of government on offer, choose a dominant language for business and government, a core religious tradition, a legal system, a set of core customs and traditions, and the like. And I believe that if all such choices were laid before us, we would very likely choose a parliamentary system much as we now have, with English as our dominant language. We would include the ancient common-law traditions and customs we have enjoyed for so long, and we would also opt for the Christian religion as the source of our moral code and the underlying foundation of our civil, legal, and political understandings such as the value of persons and property, habeas corpus, and so on. We would also likely insist that immigrants to our new country should share and defend these aspects of nationhood, or seek their happiness in some other land. We would not allow them to choose “what suits them” as a basis for their national loyalty. But what is Canada actually doing?

Another Post item (October 18) tells us that the expected “supertanker” of Chinese immigrants (meaning the flow of immigrants from China) has in fact turned back because “China’s interest in Canada as a place to live is on the decline.” So we are informed without emotion or comment that “Canada’s racial face is about to change.” Notice the passive sense used here. The item does not say that we as a nation, a people with control of our own destiny have decided to change our racial face (here, for race, you can substitute national language, religion, legal system, and so on), but that some force outside Canada – a “demographic shift” – will decide this for us. We learn that the “foreign springboard” of China, will soon launch a majority from India instead, who will bounce into Canada, where the Indian community “with all its domestic political resources” will “continue to widen the flow.” Seems the springboard is to become a Ganges river pouring over our land. What are Canadians to make of this demographic shift? Who has made this decision to alter the very fabric of our nation in this way? A Ms. Wilson, speaking for Citizenship and Immigration Canada was careful to stress that it is not we, the people who have willed or expressed a wish for this change. She informs us – again without emotion or commentary – that the federal government’s immigration program is “demand driven,” and “We don’t tweak it in any way, or impose quotas.”

What this means is that the type, speed, and direction of alterations to the fundamental fabric of the Canadian nation and its people – its legal, religious, linguistic, cultural and moral profile and institutions as we go forward into the future – is being decided by non-Canadians. By which non-Canadians, you may ask? Holding what beliefs? Willing to defend what traditions, laws and customs? It doesn’t seem to matter. As a nation and a people we seem content to remain undefined, undetermined, with no concern about what we become. We are being led into the future by strangers.

If that is what we want, then fine. Let’s openly and proudly choose not to choose what suits us. But I don’t think anyone in recent memory has asked us, and at any rate, whatever it is we think we belong to now will soon not likely be here. Whatever. As long as it suits someone.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Rights Talk and the Culture of Entitlement

Rights-talk is all the rage these days.

The Canadian government has just announced –on a $50,000 page of the National Post (Oct. 6) – that we must now thrill as a nation to the creation of “The Canadian Museum for Human Rights.” Immediately I hear the sound of cocktail glasses tinkling at tax-funded conferences; I see limousines waiting for overpaid government bureaucrats who are putting the final touches to yet another dreamland social-engineering document.

Rights are a Roman invention that was extended to ethics via natural law theory. For over two millennia we were assumed to have various rights, and corresponding obligations and duties according to our human natures. From this grew traditional parental rights, matrimonial rights, property rights, and so on. Most of these have come down to us in our fast-fading common law tradition. Fading, because our belief in nature and natural rights has been under relentless attack by egalitarian radicals over the past century and replaced by the notion that human rights exist not due to our natures, but to our status. That is because radicals find the whole concept of human nature dangerous. And of course it is. So they have gotten rid of it.

The American legal scholar Wesley Hohfeld (1879-1918) created the most simple and widely used fourfold classification of modern rights. These are liberties, powers, claims, and immunities. A simple example of each type would be, say: a liberty-right to free speech; a judge’s power-right to sentence a criminal; a claim-right to social security; and an immunity-right to be free from persecution. But little of this has anything to do with human nature.

As a result we are now said to have human rights not because we are human beings (or male or female, or married, and so on), but simply because we are all citizens. And of course – not to be overlooked by grant-seeking academics and fee-hungry lawyers – once we drop nature and define rights only by status, the list of new rights has no natural end. So up on the table we get women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, rights of the disabled, bilingual rights, washroom rights, the right to social security, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to education, the rights of blacks (disabled blacks, lesbian blacks, etc.), the rights of fat people, of tall people, and on it goes. And it all makes me nervous.

Because all you have to do to create a new “right” is to argue successfully for a new status. This is the process by which so many new rights have come into existence, even though things like gay marriage are so clearly against nature. At any rate, this is how we have become nations of rights-seekers, our courts endlessly consumed (when so many rights come into conflict, as they must) by debates over whether or not one guaranteed right ought to “trump’ another (which is to say that in the circumstance, one of them will not be a protected right. It will be surrounded with “specifications”). So as it happens, “rights” that everyone assumed had some force and effect end up receiving or losing such through the often bizarre social and moral views of unelected strangers called judges, and human rights commissioners. In other words, modern rights-talk, for all its prevalence, is fluid, fickle, and up for grabs according to who is waging the strongest emotional rights-war against whom.

How to explain this modern empire of rights? My wife says it is a psychological response: we seek to create and defend an increasing number of new human rights in a vain effort to regain the dignity we used to believe was bestowed on us by God. Modern rights may thus be seen as a compensatory reflex or grasping for legal dignity as a replacement for moral dignity. We lived under felt social and moral obligations widely recognized and upheld precisely because they had an absolute source that judges and commissioners could not mess with. And these placed a moral onus on all to perform and behave in certain commonly accepted ways. The Ten Commandments (a list of moral obligations common to most civilizations in history) is a good example. But modern rights are different. They do not create expectations to honour, respect, obey, or to perform a duty to others in any way, but to receive something from others or from the state, or from a court. At bottom, many of them seem designed simply to defend us from the actions of others. So whereas obligations are selfless and create a sense of duty to others, many modern rights are selfish and create a sense of entitlement and defensiveness against others.

A solid critique of this trend – one I am most embarrassed to see Canada now enshrining in a “museum” – is by Mary Ann Glendon in her book Rights Talk: the Impoverishment of Political Discourse (NewYork: Free Press, 1991). Herewith:

“Our rights talk, in its absoluteness promotes unrealistic expectations, heightens social conflict, and inhibits dialogue that might lead toward consensus, accommodation, or at least the discovery of common ground. In its silence concerning responsibilities, it seems to condone acceptance of the benefits of living in a democratic welfare state, without accepting the corresponding personal and civic obligations ….”

She, and other critics amplify this point by insisting that rights-talk is bad because it teaches citizens to make impractical and forceful demands to entitlement (accompanied by the appropriate “outrage”) with no thought for the consequences to others or to society at large. That is why it is no accident that North America, “the land of rights,” is also now the land of litigation.


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Quebec a Nation? Never

Somebody pinch me. Professor Michael Ignatieff, a contender for leadership of the liberal party, wants to campaign on the supposed right of Quebec and of aboriginals to form their own “nations.” But what is a nation? Surely it is a territory with a legally-constituted sovereign government with boundaries recognized and accepted under international law? If he means a “culture,” then he ought to have said so. We all have our cultures. But since 1867 Quebec has been a province of Canada, and not a nation. So what is Ignatieff talking about? Seems to me he is proposing something that runs contrary to the will of the Canadian people, to the Senate, to Parliament, and to at least nine provincial legislatures, and that openly challenges the Constitution of Canada. Yet aside from some media reaction questioning his judgement there has been tepid public reaction – perhaps because most Canadians are understandably tired of the whole topic, and … they have never been given straight answers to fundamental questions. Such as:

Who Gives Permission to Separate and Form a New Nation?

In a heated radio debate against Bernard Landry when he was Vice-President of the P.Q., I asked him, “Why do you think Quebec (or any other province) has the right to separate?” Without hesitation, he blurted out: “Democracy. We have been a democracy for three hundred years!” Then he cited the tiresome idea that all any separatist party needs is “a majority of fifty per cent – plus one vote” to recreate itself as a new nation. His eyes glazed over when I argued that neither Canada nor any of its provinces has ever been a direct “democracy” in the sense he was implying. Our Parliament makes our law, not the people directly. I also argued that the 50% plus one idea, besides not being legal, is not sensible either, for it means that if one half of the people in a province say NO, and one half say YES – in which case both sides are legitimately opposed, balanced, and equally in the right – a single citizen could change his mind, walk into a ballot box, and decide the entire destiny of Canada. That has always been the weakness of direct democratic methods attempted within federations.

Fortunately, Canada is a federal state – a constitutional, representative democracy, not a direct one, and one of the founding motives in its original design was to avoid, if not make impossible the very sort of democratic destruction of the nation separatists have imagined. By contrast, the core idea of federations is that they have a tangible and legal reality that is more than the sum of their parts. As constitutional lawyer Stephen Scott of McGill once said: it would be “disastrous for constitutional negotiations to proceed on the premise that a province, if dissatisfied, can overthrow the state,” for no federation could possibly survive such a premise. Rather, in all federations serious national matters are decided, not by the opinion of one half of any political party, or subordinate group, or territory, but by the whole union acting according to the law of the Constitution. Canada’s Constitution already has a perfectly good legal amending procedure (in Part V) that could be used to arrange the separation of any province if the people as a whole wanted such a thing. But this section specifies that no province of Canada has the legal right to alter boundaries without the consent of the House of Commons, The Senate, and all the provincial Legislatures. Any other method would be a revolt against the government of Canada.

Who Decides What May Be Taken?

In the unlikely event a province ever won the legal right to form itself into a new nation, as above, struggles would already have arisen over property rights. For Canada as a whole belongs to the people as a whole, regardless of where they happen to live. It is not as if by living in Ontario today you have some legal property claim over your proportionate share of that province, and then by moving to Alberta next week you surrender this, and now claim a new proportionate right over a piece of Alberta. Quebecers do not “own” Quebec any more than Albertans own Alberta. Canada is not like a condo, in which each apartment (or province) is owned by some specified citizens and not by others. It’s more like a building having 12 rooms (provinces and territories) that is owned-in-common by all. So a small group trying to rip a province or territory out of Canada would be like someone trying to chain-saw a room off the building without the permission of the other owners. And it happens that most of Canada’s territory and property inside Quebec boundaries was originally placed under Quebec’s jurisdiction to be administered as a province of Canada, and not as a separate nation. So Canada would probably and rightfully claim a good deal of it. The truth is Canadians through their government alone have the right to decide on all terms and conditions for the break-up of their country, on debt repayment, or on land settlement, under the laws of the Constitution.

Can We Separate From Separatists?

This is the catch-22 of all separatist arguments based on the 50% plus one idea, because any argument successfully used to legitimize the division of Canada can as easily be used to legitimize in turn the division of a maverick province. In Quebec, native people and anglophones would quickly seize upon separatist-style arguments either to remain there in Canadian enclaves, or to create their own new provinces. During the last so-called “referendum” (it was really a unilateral provincial plebiscite, not a legal national referendum) one group of anglophone Quebecers was already campaigning to form “Quebec West” as a new nation. Only force can stop this domino effect once separation on such flimsy grounds is condoned. That is why you can vote your way in to most federations, but not out of them once they are duly constituted.

So the truth seems to be that under the laws of Canada, there can be: No unilateral referendums by provinces to decide the fate of the whole nation. No unilaterally declared “nations” formed inside the nation of Canada. And no unilateral claims by provinces to sovereign territory or property belonging to all Canadians.

How long must we endure politicians so eager to secure Quebec votes they are willing to suppress these nation-binding truths?


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Montreal and Morality

My wife and I discovered this morning that we had both flipped past the many columns and photos in the National Post giving morbid details and panic shots of yet another Montreal massacre. When I heard her say, “I just couldn’t read it,” a little bell went off. 

I think it was Andre Malraux who in the 1950s wrote: “chacun a tué son mandarin.” Which loosely translated means “Each of us has killed his chinaman.” I think he meant that every human being has happily done something or other in life without regard to the terrible consequences for faceless strangers. Alas, at the breakfast table we were exposed to overkill in the dreadful sense of that word. So we ran for protection from another daily dose of disgust, fear, and, in the end, of hopelessness. My day is already better because I didn’t examine those Montreal photos or read the ugly details. But it hasn’t left me. I am writing about it just now. And I confess to a certain anger combined with a sense of my own frustrated manliness. I would like to do something to stop such senseless acts. Most of all, to reverse what I fear are the deepest trends in our society that make such things possible. So I write to fight back. 

It is true that many acts of violence are simply by random nutbars. And maybe in past generations such alienated people were kept in institutions instead of allowed to wander among us as they do now. At any rate, I don’t think we, the public, will ever find out what causes these things, because we will be reading different stories tomorrow, and the next day. And those poor Montrealers will have become our psychological mandarins. But it is in our nature to want causes, for we are convinced that with causes firmly in hand we can fix the consequences. So in its editorial column today the Post took a shot at telling us how to prevent more random murdering. Citizens are advised they “must remain vigilant in picking up on the warning signs they see in others.” And further, we are cautioned that instead of hunting for “external phenomena” (I think this means things like guns, bad neighbourhoods, and violent computer games) on which to blame such tragedies, we should focus our attention on the real “root cause” of school shootings, which, we are informed, is “evil, troubled souls.” 

Now this is where the little bell went off. The editor of what must be considered a normal newspaper is speaking to a determinedly secularized society in which the mainstream ethic for a century and a half has been the veneration of individualism and the privatization of morality. Yet he is advising us to watch over each other very carefully for warning signs, and concludes in plainly religious language (long since outlawed from our public discourse) that the cause of these horrors is … “evil,” and “troubled souls.” So it does strikes me that the chickens hatched from our deeply embedded social and moral contradictions are coming home to roost. 

I mean, we all proudly and publicly preach individual freedom and moral autonomy, but when this gives rise to serious trouble we ought to watch over each other? But only then, with the dead at our feet? And we ban speaking publicly in any way of evil, or of souls, because in a secular society these very concepts are like bad jokes, very retro. And yet when we are at a loss for causes, we reach immediately for the concepts we have scorned? 

Among the contradicitons: We are not born free. We are born into a complex society that nurtures us and that we nurture, until death. I am not speaking of the meddlesome state, of the organs of government with its monopoly on force. I am speaking of society as the sum total of all free and interdependent human associations to which we bind ourselves as persons. And in this context, as the seventeenth-century poet John Donne put it, “No Man Is An Island.” Indeed, in the very root meaning of the word, no “society” has ever succeeded as a mere collection of autonomous individuals suckled on personal freedom and choice. That is a modern contradiction, a confusion of language, made canonical by John Stuart Mill in the middle of the nineteenth century. For society only exists in the first place as a moral compact of human beings devoted to the flourishing of all, and above all to the flourishing of society itself considered as an organism or entity that is more than the sum of its individual parts. Hence in any society worth the name, individuals must be willing, even if made unhappy by this, to surrender their merely selfish individual wants to the flourishing of society. That is not possible, nor can it be taught as necessary to such as the Montreal murderer unless, in the first place, and from childhood, society is recognized by all of us as an entity greater and more valuable than the sum of the individuals it contains. 

The consequence of this truth is that any one of us can develop attitudes, behaviours, and actions that by their mere existence will lift us all up, or demean us all, and no society that denies this will long prevail. We have denied it for too long. For at bottom, Mill was dead wrong. There can be no such thing as private morality. The very concept of morality is public by its nature, for it implies the presence of more than one person who cares. That is where society begins. In most cases, we have societies of millions of people, and they thrive truly only on moral care, not merely of the individual self alone, but care of the-self-among-and-for-others. Indeed, when we lose this concern for society above ourselves, for good manners, for civility, the respect for and love of what is good for all; when we surrender our responsibility to speak up – when we become frightened to speak in favour of what is good in the attitudes and behaviours of others, and against what is evil, society is at an end. Courage, mes amis.


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Six Kinds of Freedom

Like many people, I have a reflex affection for the word “freedom.” Nevertheless, I pause when asked to explain what it means. Most people answer: “It means doing what you want.” This common response speaks for an age – our own – which sees self-expression and personal satisfaction as the key to authenticity. But throughout history various cultures and civilizations have had vastly different concepts of freedom, and even within our own tradition the meaning has never ceased to change. The Greek sense of freedom differed from the Roman; the earliest Christian ideal of freedom differed radically from its later one; freedom in the Renaissance meant release from the supposed darkness of religion and a return to the enlightened classical past; and by the Eighteenth century freedom meant living by the light of pure “reason”. Then again, in the Romantic period from about 1780 to 1830 people revolted against the idea of cold and heartless reason and sought “true freedom” in feeling and original self-expression.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, classical liberals (as distinct from their modern brethren who are pro-statist) began extending this idea into political life, demanding freedom from all unwarranted authority – especially that of the state. And finally, our most recent ideal of freedom is a rather paradoxical one: we want a combination of radical individual rights, but also a vast social security net to be provided by the welfare state. This uniquely modern combination we may think of as a kind of libertarian socialism. At any rate, as the concept is so multi-faceted, a single definition of freedom is almost impossible to find. So I have found myself wondering if a better approach might be to try a working classification of the different kinds of freedom. There are at least six of these, as explained below. But first, there is an all-important distinction to be made between freedom and liberty, as these two words are often used interchangeably. 

I propose that the word “liberty” should be used to refer to freedom in its physical context, and not to other kinds of freedom. A man in jail, for example, has almost zero liberty but retains all his freedom in the sense that he has not lost the ability to choose among myriad options, attitudes, and values. He can sleep, count the miles while pacing the floor, or write poetry. He can also decide to lie to the warden to protect a fellow criminal, or tell the truth. Most people, it seems, use their freedom to restrict their liberty in all sorts of ways. For example, selling oneself into slavery for a few years used to be common in the ancient world. Sometimes whole towns sold themselves as slaves to a neighbouring city in exchange for military protection. And there have always been people who have chosen to become hermits or monks, voluntarily restricting their liberty in the hope of finding spiritual freedom. Less dramatically, most of modern life for everyone is spent freely getting tangled up in all sorts of ways that reduce liberty. Mortgages, bank loans, contracts, leases, business deals, and family and personal promises and obligations are mostly how we use our freedom to restrict our liberty. Indeed, a bit of reflection will reveal that most human beings most of the time build a lock-step kind of life for themselves … and then complain they would like to be more free. With this distinction hopefully cleared up, I now want to describe the six different kinds of freedom that come to mind. The effort will be repaid if the next time someone asks a reader what freedom means, they may in turn be asked: “To what type are you referring?”

Internal Freedom
The first and most basic type of freedom is embodied by the chap in jail. He has all his internal freedom, but no liberty. All normal human beings are born and remain free in the most important sense that they are forever and at every conscious moment freely-choosing beings, and every life is a delicate tapestry of millions of such personal choices, for better or worse. We cannot escape this kind of freedom even if we try, for we must then freely choose among means of escape, and so on. From this perspective we are condemned to be free, for even choosing not to choose is a choice. Internal freedom is of the greatest personal intimacy and secretiveness, indeed it is the hidden core of our being and unknowable by others. It distinguishes human beings from the animal kingdom, and from each other, and is the basis on which we are able to become moral – or a-moral, or immoral – beings. That is why some people call this moral freedom. But this kind of freedom is not in itself moral. Rather, it is the unique capacity we have to become moral or immoral according to how we use our freedom.

Self-Freedom
Most of the world’s freedom talk, at least as found in the great religions and philosophical movements has had to do with freedom from ourselves, in the sense of learning how to escape the ever-present danger of enslavement by our own passions and ignorance. For the ancients, self-freedom had to do with the practice of self-control, restraint, and balance to achieve the admired master-slave relationship of soul over body that they were certain is essential for the good life. In modern times, however, this ideal has largely been turned upside down with the expression of strong feelings, of the “true self,” elevated to the superior position. The goal of this kind of freedom is therefore often expressed as the need “to find my self” (although no one ever seems to ask how we would know whether the self seeking, or the self sought, is the true self). At any rate, this inversion of the traditional relation of mind over feeling has according to many produced what our forbears would have called a disorder of the soul. But whatever may be the outcome, few moderns ever escape a lifelong dialogue with themselves on this kind of freedom. 

External Freedom
(Sometimes called “freedom from…” ) This refers to the normal and common freedoms expected in daily life, in most countries, throughout history. It is sometimes described as freedom from, because it implies immunity from undue interference by authority, especially by government. It is also sometimes called “negative freedom,” meaning freedom to do anything not forbidden by the laws (in contrast to a totalitarian system that says you may only do what is permitted by the laws). Many in the Western tradition consider this, in combination with Political Freedom, explained next, to be the most important kind of freedom.

Political Freedom
(Sometimes called “freedom to…” ) Try to imagine a world in which you are ruled by a tyrant who lets you do what you want on Monday, but not on Tuesday, and so on, unpredictably. You would likely conclude that whatever your external freedoms may be, they are too unpredictable to be of any use. What we might call “political freedom” has to do with establishing certain predictable and permanent rights of action (whether we use them or not) and limits to government power that help to guarantee the practice of those rights. The most common political freedoms are the right to speak freely, to associate with people of your choice, to own property, to worship, to leave and re-enter your country, to be tried by a jury of your peers, to vote in elections (if you live in a democracy) and so on. When these rights exist we can say we have freedom to do these things (though to speak truthfully, we are only free to do them if they are permitted). They comprise the normal rights associated with a free society (which may or may not be a democratic one). For example, ancient Athens had all these things, but was not democratic in our modern sense of the word (up to a third of the citizens of Athens were slaves). England had all these rights fully two centuries before she became democratic. The former Soviet Union, on the other hand, promised all these things to citizens on paper, but did not allow them in practice, because the only sense of freedom expected there was collective freedom.

Collective, or Higher Freedom
(Sometimes called “freedom for…” ) Many commentators on freedom take the view that external freedom and political freedom are just formal concepts that mean nothing to the poor and disadvantaged. Indeed, they often amount to a recipe for a chaotic liberal society, an uncivil nightmare of clashing wills and unconnected citizens chasing bucks to see who can die with the most toys. What is really needed, they argue, is a “higher freedom” based on a collective will to achieve the common good. This is sometimes labelled “positive freedom,” or “freedom for”, because it is based on an ideology of collective unity that prescribes distinct social and moral values and objectives for all. For example, often under this ideal of freedom the state alone is allowed to control the production and supply of all basic citizen needs, thus giving them freedom-from-want. Believers in collective freedom say the idea of protecting citizens from their own government is not logical if the government is the embodiment of their will in the first place. Needless to say, this type of freedom, in the name of which we have seen disastrous totalitarian experiments in our time, is the deadly enemy of the sort of political freedom found under liberal constitutionalism.

Spiritual Freedom
In its purest form this type of freedom comes from striving for a complete identification with God (or God’s will, or all creation, for example) to arrive at a condition of soul that transcends the confusion and disharmony of the self and the material world. There are many types here, but at the extreme some seekers after this kind of spiritual freedom take one of two opposing routes. They engage in a kind of libertinism of the flesh on the ground that the body is of no importance whatsoever and so may be used, abused, and enjoyed until it is spent (pot-smoking hippie mystics come to mind). Or, they take the ascetic route and deny the flesh altogether on the ground that worldly needs, pleasures, and longings prevent achievement of the complete spiritual freedom (I think of my Buddhist neighbour here). For this type, strict control if not denial of the allurements of the body leads to complete freedom of the spirit. 

That’s the best I can do for now. This little exercise helps me think about the nature of freedom, and I hope it has helped readers, too.


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Feminization of the Nation

Below is a piece I published sixteen years ago when feminism was in a more strident ideological phase and all western democracies were being pressured internally by tax-funded interest groups to fight discrimination and “sexism” by recruiting more women for military service, and even for active combat. (I put that word in quotation marks because a comment on natural gender differences is not “sexist” if it is true. It is just an observation of fact). What follows is lifted from my book The War Against The Family (1992), and what strikes me on re-reading it is the extent to which society has accepted and even normalized this state of affairs. So we can now only guess what future historians will say about the tired democracies of the western world. Perhaps something like this: they were characterized by shrinking and aging populations they attempted to beef up with mixed immigration from civilizations often at war with their own values, even as they annually aborted 25% of their own unborn citizens, and were so blinded by a strange egalitarian creed that they cheerfully sent many of their most attractive potential mothers off to fight alongside their lusty sex-starved male soldiers, where they risked being killed in war. What follows is the picture from the recent past. If anyone can point to a concise update on the current situation of women in the militaries of the Western world such as was provided by Mitchell’s book Weak Link, below, I would like to hear of it.

The inclusion or exclusion of women in military combat represents the cutting edge of feminist ideology (and the greatest challenge to the radical feminists’ effort to feminize society). For the military is the quintessential male world. The first group of eight Canadian women combat recruits, all of whom failed to meet minimum standard (Toronto Star, August 15, 1988) complained of the discomfort, dirt, inability to shower, and the fatigue (men kept them awake regaling each other with macho stories, or awakened early – to get going). Meanwhile, several of the men said it was the best time of their lives.

For many of the reasons discussed, men and women have radically different attitudes toward war, and killing in general, and no good military unit will survive in all-out battle if the two attitudes are confused in ways that adversely affect troop deployment, military strategy, or staying power while the enemy is engaged. The American experience is very important to Canadians, first, because we are just now trying what the Americans have been doing for years; and because, as things now stand, we couldn’t fight our way out of a wet paper bag, and in the event of a real war, would have to beg American protection. As their troops go, we go. Finally, this is a subject that affects families deeply, because, once a nation accepts the extraordinarily indefensible and self-defeating premise that women are the same as men, and are therefore as capable at war, and therefore they must be drafted into service, guess who loses? The children, once more the victims of radical feminist ideology. For who will ever forget the heartbreaking photo of soldier Hollie Vance that flashed around the world (Associated Press, August 23, 199O), as she held her seven-week old baby to her breast, and said "I never dreamed of going into combat," before shipping out for Operation Desert Storm. Seven weeks! Never dreamed of combat? That photo, sure to become a classic, symbolizes the essence of the conflict between the idea of mothers at war, and the family. Combat is all that most male soldiers think about. They practice it with sticks and stones as children.

As it is the job of nations to protect their families, it is the job of armies to protect nations. But by all accounts, the influence of radical feminism on the U.S. armed services runs deeply indeed, and is eroding the service from within. It is bound to do the same in Canada. Following are a few more insights from hardened female soldiers who served in Iraq, and Panama. By the way, I have no problem with women filling support roles in the military. And I know that women can be good pilots, and under certain conditions, killer soldiers. But their mere presence in training and actual combat is a subtle and multifaceted disaster for combat troops. Even if they were every bit as good, their presence would be a disaster, for the simple reason that, contrary to the feminist ideology, women are women, and men are men. They are different. To have women in the trenches, cheek to jowl with men, who have wives at home, is an offence against the whole meaning of male warfare. Mere sexual attraction between them – something drawn to near-crazed proportions after weeks or months without the comfort and warmth of a female body – is an enemy weapon within. Such instinctual attraction is out of the question between rough, smelly, unshaven soldiers, who anyway are repelled in a cult-like way by the homosexual alternative. So they think only of war. Drive the unsatisfied sexual instinct downward, so that it will come raging back up as the killer instinct, all the more dangerous because it is the enemy there, over that hill, that is keeping the soldier from his sex, his woman, his children, his country, and all that he hold’s precious. In this way, female troops in intimate action with males will always weaken the resolve of any male soldier worth the name; for the distant aching dream called girlfriend, or wife and home is daily threatened and potentially diminished by the presence of female troops, and thus so is his reason for fighting. Even for those without wives or girlfriends the attraction of softness, sexuality, romance, and all its promise dissolves the killer instinct of a battle unit, and softens the hatred of the enemy, compromises courage, and impairs judgement – even badly so if the soldier wants to protect a weaker female instead of helping his unit. "We do not do what you do in the United States," one Israeli General remarked: "We have to take war seriously."

"It’s like this: I’m a woman and a mother before I am a soldier," sobbed Spec.4 Robin Williams, mother of two, as she talked about her family back home. "Out here I think more about my family than my job, and, yes, that could affect my performance if things got intense here." (Los Angeles Times Syndicate, August, 199O). It could affect her whole unit and cause needless death, is what she means. Careerist and feminist soldier Lori Moore, after a week in Iraq, said "I hate to say it, because it doesn’t fit with the whole scheme of the women’s movement, but I think we have to reconsider what we are doing."(New York Times, August 199O). "Children," she rightly observed, "are the unsung victims of Operation Desert Shield." She ought to have said that they are the unsung victims of feminism. She quit the army in mid-battle, with a less than honourable discharge, to rejoin her family. Meanwhile, Spec. Rose DeBerry, who served as a military police officer in Panama, said "I don’t think women are physically and emotionally prepared to go into combat units." Her friend, Staff Sgt. Christine Brown, said "I think the test [a real battle] would be a set-up for failure." (Toronto Star, March 21, 199O). Army Pfc. Sherry Kaiser, 2O, who refused to be shipped out, said, "If they want to court-martial me, they’ll have to, but on what grounds – that I want to take care of my baby?" What kind of army is this?

Three out of four female soldiers interviewed after Panama by journalist Charles Moskos opposed the idea of armed combat for females. And that was a military operation in which even top Brass were lying through their teeth to cover up for two female sergeants who were crying, and refused to go back on duty after a scary driving mission beca
use they were "tired out." Somehow, they avoided what would have been a routine court-martial for a male. Before Desert Storm began, young women soldiers all over America were desperately trying to find last-minute care for their infants, many of them still breastfeeding. When the naval frigate Acadia docked in San Diego, it had 36 pregnant crew members; the Yellowstone had 2O. And still, a deeply indoctrinated navy spokesman protested: "They have a right to get pregnant." But the real truth was that a whole lot of them got pregnant so they could avoid duty, or be relieved of it. Abortion was always on stand-by for after their release.

So the feminists have won the battle at home – but I think they would lose a war. Everywhere there are tears, pregnancy, and double standards of performance for men and women, utterly betraying the "sameness" idea underlying the whole fiasco. In his book Weak Link: the Feminization of the American Military, author Brian Mitchell reveals the utterly shameful military fiasco feminism has wrought. For by now, he tells us, no other military on earth depends so heavily on women as the U.S. [1O.3% in 1990]. Canada is second [9.2% in 1990, a total of 15% of all military occupations in 2006, most in support roles, with just 225 women in “combat arms” – a term that does not disclose much]. The U.S. services report that in general women soldiers have higher rates of attrition than men, are three times more likely to be discharged for homosexuality, miss twice as much duty time as men for medical reasons, are four times more likely to complain of spurious physical ailments, and have injury rates fully 14 times as high as males submitted to the same drills. In any one year, up to 17% will be pregnant – some small units have reported up to 5O%! Someone is firing more than bullets! A 1982 Army study found that "barely one tenth of Army women possessed the strength to meet minimum physical requirements" for 75 per cent of Army jobs – yet, 5O% of women were assigned to those jobs anyway. Psychologically, military women were found to be less aggressive and daring, less interested in military history, less respectful of military tradition, more likely to suffer "emotional distress", and … they routinely scored lower than men on all the subjects deemed most important for military success. The one item on which they beat the men every time was: they were better behaved! Their continued presence in the military, Mitchell says, is due to the fact that "women enjoy preference and protection in a variety of forms. Nowhere are women required to meet the same standards as men, and nowhere are women subjected to the military’s sternest trials of mind and body that many men face." Mitchell rightly discerns that any decent (i.e. battle-effective) military is by nature contrary to every principle of feminism. It is inherently hierarchical, anti-egalitarian, status-and-class oriented, performance-and-merit oriented, and altruistic. It’s last concern is the individual soldier and his "equal rights".

Everything is geared to the survival of the hierarchical group. In this sense, the military is a mirror of the very values feminists are up against in an effective society, and Mitchell says "the feminization of the American military is perhaps the greatest peacetime military deception ever perpetrated." Have women changed the military? You bet. The double standard is everywhere. They get shower curtains, men do not. Men get their heads shaved, women do not. They are exempt from boxing and wrestling. The military has invented all sorts of euphemisms to disguise double performance standards, speaking of "equivalent training" or "equal effort" instead of about accomplishment, or performance. In all services, women have lower standards for strength testing, running, carrying heavy equipment, and the like. Only 32 percent of women could pass the standard endurance run passed by 97 per cent of the males. So to avoid "stigma" to the women … the Army eliminated the run. Jogging shoes have replaced combat boots on morning runs, mental pressure on recruits is disallowed (too many females broke down, or cried), peer ratings to discern leaders were deemed unfair to women, so these got eliminated. Mitchell shows that one of the biggest reasons for women in the military schools, where women are outnumbered 9 to 1, is marriage. Up to half of a class is likely to marry another midshipman after graduation. So the gals are getting their Mrs. degree, but "nothing can explain why 6O to 7O per cent of the women at West Point score below the mean [average] in easy military subjects like map-reading, military heritage, and tactics, except that they do not much want to be soldiers." The list goes on. When it comes to important military assets like strength and endurance, the men outscore the women by so much it’s, well, dangerous (473 per cent on leg-work output). Even outside of battle, the Army reports that 65% of female aircraft mechanics could not perform required tasks such as changing aircraft tires and brakes, removing batteries and crew seats, breaking torque bolts, and so on. Female missile mechanics could not lift warheads. Yikes!

Clearly, anyone who reads Weak Link, will be convinced that the intrusion of feminism into the military is designed not to improve the effectiveness of the armed forces, but to advance the ideological warfare of feminism on the home front, even as it weakens the services from within. This has been a sad story, and it is not meant to demean the many courageous women who have served, or lost their lives for their countries. Rather, it is meant to suggest that if we persist in having women in the military, let’s do it in a way that strengthens the military, rather then weakens it. Let’s have the same high fighting standards for all, and let the chips fall where they may. Most of all, let’s remember that more women in the military likely means more children getting second-best at home, or pushed into the arms of aging, tired grandparents. A nation faced with this dilemma should make the smartest choice to protect itself: send the best fighters out to fight; and send the best nurturers home to nurture, instead of nurturing the fighters.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Grieving Nichola

I have been grieving for Nichola Goddard, the first Canadian woman ever to die fighting in battle. For some reason this struck me as more than the death of someone who was clearly a wonderful person and a highly capable soldier. Like many Canadians, I am intensely proud of her and the life she gave for me, my family, my children, and my people. She is a hero in my mind. Nevertheless, I will always believe that no matter how good they may be, to send women to battle in place of men is wrong, and the fact that we do so makes me feel a little guilty and even shames me as a man. I can’t help that. It is what I feel, and deeply so. And it has left me angry at my country. But how does it make sense to be so proud of her soldiering, yet so upset that we sent her off to die?

Call this a knee-jerk, dinosaur emotion of an unrepentant male reactionary, if you like. That would be the expected and simplistic response. But I ask: How can it be right for a country filled with strong and vital men to send women into battle to die in their place? In their place you say? She chose that life! She loved what she was doing! True. All true. But while an individual’s choosing something, if it is good, makes it good for that person, it does not follow that somebody choosing something good for themselves makes it good, or right, or the best choice for society as a whole. Why do I and so many others feel this way? Why has every Canadian man worth the name felt an inner twinge of conscience over her death?

Well, for starters, women have a unique role in society that men can never fill: they give birth to other human beings and nurture human life in ways that a man cannot. All men know that. And most of us grow up with an inbred awe of, and respect for that natural fact of life. That is, for the intuitive knowledge that civilization comes to a grinding halt – we all die – if women, the mothers of us all, die out. So, it seems (again so strongly intuitively) that although it is a noble tragedy for a nation to lose a single life in battle, it is a kind of double tragedy to lose a woman’s life. For a young woman who dies in battle loses her own life and also the lives for which she was a living proxy-in-waiting. That is because all women hold in biological potential as many lives as they care to create. That is the deepest mystery of the female, and it is why to lose a woman in war is rightly felt as so costly to all. It is this that fighting men know in their hearts, and to deny this truth is to undermine what is sometimes called the life force, and therefore the very fabric of society.

For just as there is nothing higher or nobler for women than to create human life and nurture it, there is nothing nobler for men than to love and protect their women and children, and if necessary to die for them. All manly men feel this call deeply. It is strange to say, perhaps, and against all common sense, but many men love war precisely because it provides them with the opportunity to be heroic, to be wholly altruistic, to answer a higher calling of a kind that all women feel naturally in creating life, but that is not an inherent part of a man’s biological nature. So men must seek out the equivalent. So deeply do most men need and long for this that they will unhesitatingly face terrible odds in battle and willingly die to protect their fellows. Call it a guy thing. But this is why I say there is something deeply amiss with the values of our society when Nichola is killed, and the same day back home a few hundred thousand very tough men go to work, play their sports, then go out at night to drink and dance, and then go home for a good sleep. It is the truth of this stark contrast that hit me like a body-blow against the manliness of our country as a whole.

For just as it would be wrong and cowardly, and would instantly and naturally incur loathing in any manly man to watch another man beat up a woman for the last space on a lifeboat, it is wrong and incurs a silent shame in most men to see women go to battle in their place. Especially against a Muslim enemy they know is outraged to be fighting against women in the first place, and so is very eager to target them first. And what real man would argue that if we had two platoons of Canadian soldiers, one all-female, and one all-male, both equally prepared to attack the enemy, that it would be right or natural to send the women’s platoon in first? No. That would be against nature and against all manliness, and against the deepest male instinct and desire to fight and protect.

For these reasons, and so many more, I fear we are putting women at risk in war to satisfy a strangely powerful but misguided ideological craving for equality in all things. Indeed, it seems we crave such equality in inverse proportion to our loss of confidence in the great and natural truths of human life. So strong is this pathetic public ideal that we now demand that all things male and female that are clearly and naturally different must be officially denied and made the same at all costs, and we are prepared to fudge the truth and at great expense to change all social reality to make them so. Nichola died for her country. But she also died, whether she knew it or not, in the name of a stridently radical ideology that has been corrosive of the social and family fabric of Canada for more than three decades, and in the name of which she got to the front lines. She chose this because it was available. And it fulfilled her as an individual. So we have to believe she died happy. But as a society it is we who chose to make that choice possible to her, and I do not think any life, male or female, should be sacrificed to an ideal so clearly wrong-headed and against natural truth.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Opus Dei & “No Pain, No Gain”

The other night CBC ran a special about Opus Dei, the Catholic organization that is now famous due to the role attributed to it in the Da Vinci Code. I have not read the book and will probably not see the movie, even though intimates inform me it is a rousing tale of the potboiler type.  The CBC was making an effort to appear understanding, even though the simple fact of presenting such a topic on national television presupposes criticism. We saw and heard a pleasant member of Opus Dei explain how he wears an uncomfortable spiked chain around his leg for two hours a week, and periodically whips himself on the bare butt with a toy whip – all this in the hope of sharing the suffering and pain of his hero and saviour, Jesus Christ. Indeed, he is hoping that in imitating Christ, some of the spiritual closeness will rub off. He believes his hero must have felt just like this, and so this is what it feels like to be Him!

Is this weird? Well, I am pretty sure that despite its strained neutrality on this topic, our national network once again saw itself as playing a crucial role in showing us that religion, especially Catholicism is, um, very retro. The message was that self-inflicted pain, or so-called “self-mortification,” is weird (and so religion is weird). Now I am not certain of the meaning of the phrase, but I suspect it has something to do with dying to yourself, or making your own physical “self”die, so to speak, so that your spirit can be free from the bonds, allurements, pleasures, and deceptions of the flesh. The underlying notion is that the spirit is always threatened with enslavement to the body.

This reminds me that most of the key writings in our tradition document a continuous struggle in which central figures attempt either to lose the self through immersion in bodily pleasure, or to escape the body and its appetites altogether in search of a purely spiritual experience. For the former type, intense pleasure is the road to ecstasy. There is even a drug called “ecstasy” that serves this purpose. I believe this word is rooted in “ex-stasis” – to exit from the static, or from what is, from ordinary bodily life and awareness. At any rate, this type escapes the self through physical enjoyment. The latter type exits, or escapes the self through mortification, or physical pain.

How common are these two escape methods today, and is there a sense in which not just Opus Dei members, but our entire civilization is caught up in one or the other of these methods of escaping the self? For sure. It is quite possible the CBC interviewer, perhaps a confirmed secularist, after leaving the studio feeling gratified that he had exposed religion as a weird self-punishment thing, happily strapped on his jogging shoes and ran a very painful 10K … to make himself feel purified and “fit,” or to get “an endorphin high.” There are millions of people, and I am one of them, who make a daily habit of this sort of self-mortification. And I am absolutely certain that two hours a week of whipping your butt with a toy whip to feel better spiritually is no match for a two hour ride over punishing hills with my son. I mean, we really grind it out. There is intense pain in the thighs, burning lungs, lactic acid in the mouth, and stiffness that can last for days. And for sure, sometimes we wear the yellow bracelet, or even a special Lance Armstrong biking shirt … and we imagine for a moment, on the crest of a hill, that we are feeling what Lance felt, that this is what it feels like to be him.

And when I go to the gym, I see hundreds of people pumping huge machines, blood vessels popping, carpets wet with sweat, wiping themselves off with towels, exiting painful “spinning” classes they brag about; assuming horribly twisted and painful poses in their Yoga classes; some even don boxing gloves and slug the hell out of each other, or suffer broken hands, ribs, or feet in smelly karate classes; or – I have seen it – lose an eye to a squash ball. Fitness and sport are popular forms of ecstasy we are convinced lift us above or out of ordinary life, and hundreds of millions of people daily drive themselves through this experience of reaching for the feeling of emotional or spiritual purity – even superiority to other human beings – through pain. We say “no pain, no gain,” and coaches tell their athletes, “Go hard, or go home,” meaning – if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

And on it goes. Afterward we often get into a popular form of ecstasy called beer, and many of us suffer the painful consequences after. Some people actually kill themselves this way. During the day, I see thousands of women suffering voluntarily for hours at a time in high heels for the pleasure of personal vanity. In my own case, all my physical pains – a broken and now disabled shoulder joint (three surgeries) and emergency back surgery ten years ago (from an old long-jumping injury) – both of these give me daily pain for a lot more than two hours a day, often even waking me at night. But I don’t regret a thing. It was all for the glory and the high of sports I have loved. So it’s not just Opus Dei. We are all doing it. And maybe the CBC should do a little corrective programming about how normal it all is.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
**Link to this article alone ** Posted under the categories(s): William D. Gairdner Joel Johannesen on TwitterFollow Joel Johannesen on Twitter

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