The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Monday, June 28, 2010

Moral Versus Intellectual Error

On July 16, 1969, NASA launched the Apollo 11 space flight from the John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Four days later the spaceship Columbia arrived in orbit around the moon, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the lunar landing module Eagle and made history by becoming the first men to walk on the moon.

Or so history says and so most of us believe. Some people think differently. Some believe that NASA was unable to land men on the moon for real and so they filmed the moon landing on earth and passed it off as real. The theories vary as to why NASA would have wanted to do this, some saying it was to get more funding for their projects, others that it was a propaganda attempt to demoralize the Russians in the Cold War. Those who hold to the “moon landing hoax” theory point to what they see as flaws in the official version of the moon landing as evidence of their claims.

The question of whether they are right, wrong, or in severe need of medication, is beyond the scope of this essay. For the sake of the argument we will assume that they are wrong however. How do we as a society respond to people who hold views so strongly at odds with what is generally accepted as established history? Some listen to them, politely nod, and hope the subject changes. Others argue with them in the hopes of persuading them that they are wrong and that the moon landing actually did occur. Most people probably just shrug and laugh at the idea.

What we don’t do is demand that these people be silenced by the government, jailed, or fined for their views. Most of us, I would hope, would consider that to be an abuse of government power that is in conflict with our society’s basic principles of freedom.

Why would it be inappropriate for the state to step in and tell people they cannot deny the historicity of the moon landing without suffering legal consequences? It would be inappropriate, because the error of the moon landing deniers is not a moral error. They are wrong intellectually but not morally.

We must not get the categories of intellectual and moral error confused. It is easy to do so because we use the same terminology to describe both. If someone adds 2 and 2 and gets 5 we say that he is “wrong”, and we say a person is “wrong” to steal a car. They are not wrong in the same way.

To make a mistake in calculation, to get the facts of history or any other subject for that matter mixed up, to hear conflicting accounts and to judge the least accurate to be the correct account and vice versa, are examples of intellectual error. The person who is wrong in these ways has erred in the use of their reason, memory and other intellectual faculties. They are wrong but in a way that is in and of itself morally blameworthy.

What is morally blameworthy? Willful actions which are harmful to oneself, others, or society itself and the character traits which encourage or produce such actions are morally blameworthy. Moral error, is error of the will and character.

Moral and intellectual error are not unrelated. A person might be wrong intellectually because of moral error. For example, they might fail their history test because they disobeyed their parents and did not study when they were supposed to. The moral error, however, lies in the not studying rather than in the wrong answers on the test.

Socrates, at least as he is depicted by Plato in The Meno, believed that moral error was the result of intellectual error. He argued that no one would knowingly do what they thought was evil so all evil is the result of faulty knowledge of the good (an interesting position for someone whose most famous words were “I know nothing” to take).

Aristotle, who made a clear distinction between the intellectual and moral faculties of the mind, disagreed with Socrates about the source of moral error. He argued in the seventh book of the Nicomachean Ethics that akrasia (incontinence, weakness of the will), results in people doing evil despite knowing the good. This is the view that St. Paul embraces, in verses 14-25 of the seventh chapter of his Epistle to the Church in Rome. 

In this disagreement between Socrates/Plato and Aristotle/St. Paul however, the knowledge in question is knowledge of what is good and right, not knowledge of how many ships were in the armada Agamemnon led to Troy. It is highly unlikely that anyone on either side of the debate would have considered a mistake about the latter to have a deleterious effect on the morals of the person who made the mistake.

The law pertains to the moral not the intellectual. Society seeks to encourage morally praiseworthy acts and character traits (virtues) and to discourage morally blameworthy acts and character traits (vices). The law is a tool that society uses in doing so. It is an essential tool, but not the only tool, nor the most important one. It is actually very limited in its scope and capabilities. The law prohibits certain acts and penalizes those who commit those acts. By doing so it discourages people from committing those acts and forming the character traits which produce those acts. This indirectly encourages people to commit the opposite acts and form the opposite character traits.

There are limits on which acts should be prohibited by law. The government that fails to recognize these limits crosses into the realm of tyranny. One obvious limit is that the acts prohibited by government should be mala in se, they should be morally blameworthy in and of themselves apart from legislation and regulation. Another limit is that the acts prohibited by law should fall within the lawmaker’s proper sphere of authority. In passing laws governments should not intrude into and infringe upon the authority of parents in the family or of religious leaders in the church. Most acts of moral error are best left to these authorities. A government would not go wrong in limiting its laws to prohibiting acts that are intrinsically criminal, i.e., acts like murder, rape, and robbery which the government would be committing an injustice if it did not prohibit..

A government would go terribly wrong, however, if were to start punishing people for getting the facts of history wrong.

Nobody has yet been punished for thinking the moon landing did not occur so far as I am aware. Some people have been punished, however, for getting other historical facts wrong. Ever since World War II there have been those who have argued that the atrocities attributed to the other side in that war have been grossly exaggerated. That is actually a reasonable assumption because that is the way wartime propaganda works and, in fact, some of the early atrocity tales have been discounted by most historians. Some continue to insist that historical account taught in most schools and history books reflects the exaggerations of war propaganda. Their specific claims are that the estimated number of victims is way too high, that the deaths were the result of concentration camp conditions rather than a systematic planned extermination, that there were no homicidal gas chambers, and this sort of thing.

These people largely depend upon arguments from silence and poking holes in the credibility of the evidence upon which the generally accepted history rests. This is not the same as making a positive case for why your alternative history should be accepted instead, and on that basis we will say that these people are factually wrong. Are they morally wrong?

I would say no, based on the arguments I have spelled out above. Others say yes. They argue that the only reason the holocaust revisionists make the claims they do is because they have the same murderous hatred of the Jews that Hitler possessed and wish to start up the persecution of the Jews all over again. Therefore, they demand that the government do something about “holocaust denial”. In some countries laws have been passed criminalizing “holocaust denial”. Other countries, such as ours, have not criminalized it per se, but have found other ways of persecuting holocaust revisionists.

One wonders, if all those who are so sure that “holocaust denial” exists for no purpose other than to be a sword to use against the Jews, ever considered the possibility that it might have been forged as a shield to defend the Germans against all the German-bashing that has gone on in the decades since the war? I doubt it very much. Anti-racists are so self-righteous that the possibility that they might ever be wrong, morally or intellectually, has probably never entered their heads.

The distinction between moral and intellectual error is vital to maintaining a free society. The government should not be punishing people for getting any other facts of history wrong, whether it be the history of WWII, the moon landing, or anything else.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Matter of Honour

In William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing Don Pedro, the prince of Aragon, arranges the marriage of his friend Count Claudio to Hero, who is the daughter of their host, Leonato, governor of Messina. Things would have gone smoothly, and thus have been far too uninteresting to put into a play, were it not for the actions of the prince’s illegitimate brother John. Don John, who is bitter at the world and takes delight in ruining the joy of others, plots against the happiness of the couple. With the help of his attendant Borachio, he arranges it so that Don Pedro and Claudio witness what appears to be a secret tryst between Hero and a lover at Hero’s window after midnight on the night prior to her marriage. Fooled by these machinations, Claudio denounces Hero at the altar with the support of Don Pedro and Don John, then marches out of the church.

As this play is a comedy not a tragedy it all works out in the end, but in the immediate aftermath Hero faints, her cousin Beatrice assumes she is dead, and the devastated Leonato, who has believed the accusations declares:

O Fate! take not away thy heavy hand.
Death is the fairest cover for her shame
That may be wish'd for.
(Act IV, Scene 1)

In recent weeks the newspapers have been full of stories about people who obviously agree with Leonato’s sentiments but who have presumptuously assumed to themselves the role that Leonato assigned to fate. On June 15th of this year, Muhammed and Waqas Parvez pled guilty to the murder of Aqsa Parvez, who was daughter of the Muhammed and sister of Waqas. The murder had taken place in December of 2007 in Mississauga, Ontario. The reason, according to the murderers who had turned themselves in, was that she had brought dishonour upon the family by refusing to wear the hijab.

The murder of Aqsa Parvez was an unjustifiable atrocity and has been rightly condemned by virtually everybody who has commented on it. Perhaps, however, we should reflect upon the question of why this murder is so repulsive to us? Is it because our sense of justice is affronted by the idea that a trivial offense like immodesty would receive so disproportionate a penalty as death? Is it because the thought of a father and brother killing a daughter and sister offends our concept of how family members are to love and act towards one another?

Or is it because we as a society have lost all sense of honour and shame and are simply incapable of understanding those who still hold to those concepts, albeit in a warped and twisted form?

How exactly does our modern, liberal, society compare to societies whose culture encourages such things as honour killings? Do we murder our own children less often or more than they do? When we do so, do we at least do so for better reasons than they do, or for worse?

According to Statistics Canada there were 105,535 abortions in our country in 2002, 103,768 in 2003, and 91,377 in 2006. The numbers for 2006 are incomplete, as Thaddeus M. Baklinski reported for Lifesite last year. The numbers for BC, New Brunswick, and Manitoba were for one reason or another left out of the national total. (

In contrast, the United Nations in 2000 estimated the total number of honour killings per year to be around 5000.

Phyllis Chesler argues convincingly, in an article entitled “Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings” which can be found in the Spring 2010 issue of the Middle East Quarterly, that these numbers too, are far too low. However, even if we were to quadruple the UN’s numbers, the total number of honour killings in the world each year would still be less than a quarter of the total number of abortions in Canada alone.

Well, alright, but that’s just numbers, you may say. At least we aren’t barbarically killing the female members of our families to satisfy some outmoded sense of honour.

That is true. Instead of killing those who, however trivially, have done something to shame us, we murder our unborn children to satisfy our own selfishness. We have abandoned our traditional culture, values, and morality, which taught us to behave responsibly and with self-control, to honour the rules of our society, and to at least pretend to virtue even if we do not possess it. In the place of this traditional culture, we have adopted a modern liberal culture of individualistic self-indulgence. We are taught, not to control our sensual desires, but to give in to them, to let them dominate us. If doing so results in pregnancies that we are not willing to take responsibility for, we are told that the solution is abortion.

Who are the barbarians again?

Do not misunderstand me. Our crimes do not excuse the crimes of others, and killing a family member to preserve the families honour, is both a crime and a perversion of the concept of honour.

However, much of the commentary on these recent “honour killings”, even by many who call themselves “conservatives”, has taken the unfortunate form of “look how superior our modern, liberal culture is to these backwards traditional cultures who still believe in honour”.

Those holding such a viewpoint consider “honour” to be a thing of the past, something appropriate to feudal society, but which has been rendered obsolete by modern advancements in democracy, law, and recognition of human rights.

They are sorely mistaken. Society cannot outgrow the need for honour and its opposite which is shame. Human beings, being by nature social, do not live in isolation from each other, but in communities, in societies. To interact socially requires a common set of rules that is understood by everybody. Some of these rules are so important they are codified into law and enforced by the state. These are the rules against criminal behavior, i.e., behavior that harms others, their property, or society itself. Other rules do not properly fall within the jurisdiction of the state but are as essential to the functioning of society as laws. These rules, which include most traditional rules regarding modesty, sexuality, etc., are enforced by society through honour and shame.

Honour is notoriously difficult to define. It occupies the space between character and reputation. Character is the actual makeup of your heart and soul, your virtues and vices. Reputation is how your character is perceived by other people. Honour is related to both, but not quite identical with either. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle declares honour to be the reward society bestows upon virtue. A functional society will bestow honour upon individuals and families who display virtue, and will bestow shame upon those who display vice. Honour and shame affect standing in society and so people are encouraged to protect their, and their family’s, honour, by either cultivating, or at least pretending to virtue.

In the absence of honour, society’s only means of maintaining social control, is through the law. If the law seeks to enforce the rules that should be enforced through honour/shame you end up with an oppressive political and legal system. If the rules are abandoned altogether you get the kind of moral chaos that allows people to kill the unborn children who are inconvenient to their pursuit of sensual pleasure and consider themselves morally superior for doing so.

Traditionally, there is a time and a place, for wielding the sword in defense of honour. A soldier fighting for the honour of his country in warfare is one example. A man fighting a duel in defense of his own honour, or that of a lady, is another. In the one case the sword is used against the enemy’s of one’s country. In the other case it is used against one who has insulted one’s own, or a lady’s, honour.

The traditional culture we abandoned to embrace liberal modernism encouraged fathers and brothers to defend the honour of female family members by challenging those who insulted them, and forcing those who had wronged them to do right by them. It did not tell them to defend the family’s honour by turning the sword on female family members who shamed the family.

You do not wield the sword against your own family members to defend the family’s honour. To do so is murder, which is crime, rightly punishable under Law, by the Crown. Crime is a subcategory of vice, and the reward of vice is not honour, but shame.

So-called “honour killers” in murdering their family members, bring far more shame upon their families, than the women they kill did by the actions which provoked the “honour killing”. In this way “honour killing” is a perversion of honour.

Which, however, is the greater perversion? Honour killing? Or abandoning honour and virtue and morality altogether for a self-serving hedonism that allows one to murder one’s own unborn children in service of one’s selfish pursuit of pleasure?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Red Is Not the Color of Toryism

The June 2, 2010 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press contained a tribute to the late Duff Roblin entitled “His love for Manitoba marked the province”. The author of this piece was Frances Russell. Russell, classy as ever, used the opportunity this article afforded her, to politicize our province’s time of mourning over the loss of a beloved statesman.

Russell’s remarks, however, were not just tasteless and inappropriate. They were also false, promoting a favorite myth of the Canadian progressive left. Here are the remarks in question:

Roblin was a Progressive Conservative in the full meaning of that term. He embraced British Red Toryism, not the libertarian conservatism Canada recently imported from the U.S.

Today's Canadian Conservatives represent free market forces, rampant individualism and punitive intolerance towards what they regard as social and moral misbehaviour. Society is a jungle where the fittest survive; government merely sets the rules and gets out of the way. Too bad for those who can't make it. They're on their own.

Red Toryism, Roblin's conservatism, is the polar opposite, anchored in the belief that society is an organic entity. Government is the means for society to achieve the best outcome for all by working to achieve the best outcome for each one. The whole can't prosper if the many are in want and deprivation. All for one and one for all.

All error contains an element of truth. If it were not so, it would never deceive anyone. It is true that traditional Canadian conservatism is a version of British Toryism. It is also true that traditional conservatism is “anchored in the belief that society is an organic entity”.

Belief in an organic society, however, does not lead, either necessarily or logically, to the idea that the government's role in society should be expanded, that it should minutely regulate our everyday lives, or that it should manage the economy and redistribute wealth.

Russell identifies traditional British and Canadian Toryism with “Red Toryism” but they are not the same thing. “Red Toryism” is an abstract construction created by thinkers like Gad Horowitz and Dalton Camp. It is also a contradiction in terms and a clever ideological switch and bait. The basic idea of “Red Toryism” is that because Toryism regards society as an organic whole and historically and traditionally opposed liberalism, which prior to the 20th Century was individualistic and capitalistic, Toryism therefore, would, could, and should support the agenda of radical, progressive, and collectivist movements, because these too are opposed to individualistic and capitalistic liberalism.

Traditional British Toryism, however, was even more opposed to those things than it was to classical liberalism. Indeed, one of its primary objections to classical liberalism was that liberalism would open the door for all sorts of other radical movements.

The Tories defended the interests of Crown, Church, nobility, and landed gentry against the rising class of merchants and factories owners who sought to reshape society into their image, reducing it to what Thomas Carlyle would dismiss as a “cash nexus”. Edmund Burke, the converted Whig of the 18th Century whose ideas would inspire the Tories of the 19th Century, spoke in disgust of how the age of chivalry had been supplanted by that of “sophisters, economists, and calculators”.

Do those sound like the kind of people who would approve of the establishment of an army of government bureaucrats and inspectors who think their university degrees give them the ability and right to micromanage everybody else’s affairs for them, answerable only to elected politicians, supported by levels of taxation that were unheard of prior to the 20th Century, and charged with the task of intruding into the everyday life of society to make sure everybody is treated fairly, and that members of previously disadvantaged groups are treated more fairly than others?

“Red Tories” and their admirers on the progressive Left make much out of the fact that Benjamin Disraeli, who helped reshape the Conservative Party in the mid 19th Century, in his Premiership under Queen Victoria introduced a number of policies aimed at alleviating the conditions of the working class. Disraeli, prior to his career in the Tory Party, had been considered a Radical of sorts and those searching for a pedigree for a Toryism that is red, believe that he brought socialist sympathies into the Tory Party with him which manifested itself as “One Nation Conservatism”.

Disraeli, however, was clearly attempting to thwart radical causes and movements with his policies, not accomplish their goals for them. Whatever his ideas may have been in his youth, Disraeli the statesman was a Tory by sentiment. Radicals were attempting to form an army out of the working classes to wage war against traditional society – they had already attempted revolutions across continental Europe in 1848-9. Disraeli hoped, by his programs, which were quite modest in comparison to those that became part of the 20th Century welfare state, to nip this threat in the bud. The idea behind “One Nation Conservatism” was not to create a society in which the “have nots” have a claim on what belongs to the “haves”, but to ensure that all classes had a stake in maintaining the traditional social order so that none could be talked by demagogues into seeking to tear it down.

While it is difficult to define a Tory economic position precisely there are a great many parallels between traditional Tory economic policy and the view known as “economic nationalism”. Economic nationalism was adopted as official policy by the Conservative Party of Canada in 1878 and remained Tory policy for decades. The last true Tory Prime Minister of Canada, John G. Diefenbaker, was certainly a committed economic nationalist.

What is economic nationalism?

Economic nationalism is the belief that the proper role of the government in the economy is to ensure the country’s economic prosperity by protecting its productive capacity and by maintaining its transportation infrastructure. In economic nationalism, however, the government is not responsible for guaranteeing the economic well-being of any individual in particular let alone all individuals in society. In economic nationalism, as in Adam Smith’s economic liberalism, people are the best administrators of their own economic well-being. The government looks out for the country’s economic interests, families and individuals look out for their own economic interests, and those who are for one reason or another incapable of looking to their own interests are cared for by institutions intermediate between the individual and the state.

What exactly is this “organic society” that is at the heart of traditional Toryism?

It is best understood by contrasting it with the liberal vision of society. Liberalism believed that individuals were prior to society, that society was the creation of individuals, and that society was best organized along the principle of voluntary contract. The relationships of the business world and the marketplace they believed were ideal patterns for all human relationships. Nobody would be bound by anything to which they had not consented beforehand.

Toryism, on the other hand, maintains that most basic social unit, the family, is itself prior to the individual, and that society is not a contractual construction of individuals, but a natural outgrowth of the social life that begins in the family. Families live together in neighborhoods, worship together in churches, and out of their cooperation form communities, which generate the customs, traditions, and prescription that form the cultural and social foundation upon which the political and economic edifice which is the country is built.

Society is organic, because the institutions which comprise it, have their distinct functions which cooperate together to make the whole work, the way a body’s organs and systems work together. In the Tory view of society, the Queen and her ministers have their place and their role, the Church has its place and role, the upper, middle, and lower classes have their places and roles, the neighborhood, the school, the family, have their places and roles, and there is a time and place for business and the market as well.

St. Paul in the twelfth chapter of his First Epistle to the Church in Corinth, likens the spiritual community which is the Church, the Body of Christ, to an organic body in this manner. Each part belongs to the body as much as every other part, and should not envy the others their roles. St. Paul wrote:

If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

The same principle applies to the larger society as well.

Society, we are told by progressives and “Red Tories” has a responsibility to the widow and the orphan, to the poor, the sick and the infirm, and to the needy in general. They are correct in principle but err in their application. These societal responsibilities are traditionally met by institutions like the family, the church, and the neighborhood community. Government, which has its own place in society and its own role to play, is not well-suited for meeting these needs. The government exists to enforce the basic laws of society, to administer justice, punish crime, and to provide for the common security of the society. Other institutions would do poorly in these roles, just as government does poorly in the role of nurse, mother, and care provider.

Furthermore, when the government attempts to do these things which other institutions were designed to do, it undermines those institutions, weakening their authority and their role in society. To borrow from St. Paul again, it is as if the ear were saying to the hand “I have no need of thee”.

Toryism’s organic view of society is then, an argument against the welfare state, socialism, and the progressive, collectivist agenda in general and not an argument for these things. “Red Toryism” is a contradiction in terms.

The welfare-state is not an “organic society”. It is an attempt to re-create by government the organic society which liberalism had sought to destroy. Organic society, however, cannot be created by government fiat. It must grow naturally, out of the everyday communal life that is generated by the cooperative efforts of families, churches, and neighborhoods.

Robert Nisbet wrote, towards the end of the final chapter of his landmark The Quest For Community:

I cannot help thinking that what we need above all else in this age is a new philosophy of laissez-faire…We need a laissez faire that will hold fast to the ends of autonomy and freedom of choice, one that will begin not with the imaginary, abstract individual but with the personalities of human beings as they are actually given to us in association…What we need at the present time is the knowledge and administrative skill to create a laissez faire in which the basic unit will be the social group. (pp. 278-279).

Those words, originally written in 1953, come from a sociologist who spent his life as an advocate of both organic society rooted in local community and limited, non-intrusive, government. They express quite well the traditional Tory understanding of what society needs – even if they were written by one of the founders of American conservatism.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On Israel/Palestine and Minding Our Own Business

“Mind your own business” is generally good advice. It is good advice for individuals. It is even better advice for families and communities. It is especially good advice for countries. Unfortunately, it is advice that is seldom followed. It is part of our fallen human nature to wish to stick our nose into the concerns of others.

It is one thing to offer unsolicited advice and opinions and to pass moral judgment on the decisions of others concerning their own affairs that in no way, shape, or form, affect us. We all do that. I am doing that in writing this essay. We can pontificate all we like and others are free to ignore us. Unfortunately some people go beyond that. They get themselves all worked into a tizzy about something that is happening miles away, among people they have no connection to, and that has no discernible impact on their lives. Then they write or call their government representative, or stage a protest or boycott, or in some other way make known their demand that “something be done about it”.

It is the people who insist that “something be done about it” that you have to watch out for. They are the perpetual troublemakers in any society and governments, especially democratic governments, have an nasty tendency to listen to them.

Twenty years ago it was South Africa’s business that everybody else was trying to run from afar. The evils of apartheid were decried in our classrooms and from the pulpits of our churches. Protesters demanded that the South African government adopt one-person, one-vote democracy, end apartheid, and release Nelson Mandela from prison. These were not South African protesters demonstrating against the policies of their own government in the streets of Preoria or Johannesburg. This was going on in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and all over Europe.

You could try to reason with such people. You could point out that Mandela was not a prisoner of conscience but a terrorist thrown in prison for violent criminal acts. You could point out that South Africa was hardly the only country in Africa to practice racial discrimination and that her achievements were such that people were flocking into South Africa from all over the African continent in search of the prosperity no other country in Africa could offer them. You could point out that the African National Congress, which stood to take over the country if their demands were met, was an obvious Communist front supported by the Soviets. For your efforts you would be denounced as a racist.

South Africa was a country that was an established, loyal ally of Canada, the UK, the United States, and all the other Western countries that foolishly listened to their progressive, left-wing fringe elements, and conspired to destroy it. Mandela and the ANC were criminal terrorists allied with international Communism. Apartheid was an unjust system, to be sure, but it was not comparable to the crimes of the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, or for that matter of the ANC regime that replaced the nationalist government in South Africa in 1994. It was not any of our business.

Today it is Israel and the Palestinian situation that has got the knickers of the bleeding-heart protesters all twisted in a knot. Earlier this year left-wing academics and their gullible protégées on campuses all across North America treated us to the latest episode of “Israel Apartheid Week”, an annual orgy of self-righteousness in which anything and everything the Jewish state does in its struggle against terrorism is routinely denounced. The other week, when the Israeli navy took to high seas piracy against a supposedly humanitarian flotilla headed towards Gaza, the self-righteousness broke out again with renewed force.

What is different about the Israeli-Palestinian brouhaha however is that the self-righteousness is two-sided. On the one hand you have the protesters, who look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and see heavily armed, modern soldiers beating up on primitive, poor people, and, being more heart than brains, they naturally sympathize with the Palestinians. On the other hand, you have Israel’s defenders who angrily denounce all criticism of Israel’s actions as “The New Antisemitism”.

The pro-Palestinian protesters believe that we have a moral imperative to support the Palestinians because they are an oppressed, victim, group.

Israel’s defenders, on the other hand, believe that we have a moral imperative to support Israel.

The moral imperative, however, is to mind our own business!

What the two sides are really arguing over, is not the validity of the claims of the two sides in the Middle East conflict, but over what actions the governments of Canada, the United States, and other Western countries should take towards the two sides.

The pro-Palestinian protesters want our governments to boycott Israel and place other pressure on her to conform to how they feel she should run her internal affairs.

Conversely, the pro-Israel side want our governments to back Israel with money, and military and moral support.

Both sides are interfering busybodies who should be told to mind their own business.

When it comes to Israel and Palestine it is fairly obvious which side a sensible person, who supports civilization, order, and liberty should be rooting for. While I find Israel’s practice of collective punishment towards the Palestinians for the acts of a few terrorists to be repugnant, Israel is an established, civilized society, with a functioning government, fairly decent laws, and order. She has not been established long, but neither has any other country in the Middle East. To the extent any country in the Middle East can be said to have prescriptive authority hers does. Organizations like Hamas are criminal gangs who specialize in committing acts of violence against ordinary Israelis in ordinary situations in order to disrupt everyday life and create maximum terror among the populace. No sane person would ever side with Hamas against Israel.

It is not, however, the responsibility of Western countries to maintain Israel’s security and civilization for her. If she wishes to practice collective punishment that at times borders on state terrorism she can do so without our help.

Its not like she’s been such a great ally to us after all.

Prior to her achieving modern statehood she was not above stooping to terrorism herself. The Irgun and Stern Gang waged terrorist war in the 1940’s against the British government. The significance of this for us, fellow Canadians, is that the terrorism was directed against the British Crown – which is also our Crown. In 1977 Israel showed her contempt for us by electing Menachem Begin (who had headed the Irgun) Prime Minister. In 1986 she showed that contempt again by electing Yitzhak Shamir (who had headed the Stern Gang). Neither man had ever shown any remorse or repentance over their terrorist past. Of course the Israelis can elect whoever they want, that is their business not ours, but for them to elect men who had waged terrorism against our Sovereign while expecting us to support them in their fight with Palestinian terrorists is a bit presumptuous.

Since achieving statehood her biggest supporter has been the United States which she has managed to get away with betraying in a truly spectacular manner on countless occasions. In 1954 her spies botched an attempt to fake terrorist attacks against American holdings in Egypt in order to trick the Yanks into going to war with Egypt. Five years ago she honored the spies involved in the affair. Then in 1967 she attacked an American ship, the USS Liberty during the Six-Days War. The attack was almost certainly deliberate, despite her claims that it was a case of “mistaken identity”. In the 80’s she was caught spying on the United States. She falsely denied involvement at first, then refused to return all of the information Jonathan Pollard had stolen for her, while demanding that the Americans release Pollard. Eric Margolis, writing in the Toronto Sun in 1999, speculated that she may have bartered some of the information to the Soviets. She was certainly guilty of selling American nuclear secrets to the Chinese in the 1990’s.

Then there was the revelation that she was confiscating the passports of Jews making aliyah and handing them over to Mossad agents for use in covert ops, including assassinations. She was found using the passports of Britain, France, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand and Canada in this manner. This, of course, placed every citizen, Christian, Jewish or otherwise, from any of these countries in danger of being arrested as a Mossad assassin should they be traveling abroad in the Middle East. This is a matter that IS the business of our governments.

If Israel’s actions affect the safety of Canadians, the Canadian government has a responsibility to stand up for Canadians against Israel. If her actions don’t affect Canadians, they are none of the Canadian government’s business. Our government should be neither boycotting Israel nor subsidizing her.

A couple of decades ago, our government, the American government, and other Western governments, used their influence to destroy a country that was a far more loyal ally and friend than Israel, based solely on its internal affairs that did not affect us in any way.

If the moralizing twits on the campuses of our colleges and universities have their way, we will do the same to Israel, not because of her own demonstrable history of faithlessness, but because these gullible fools feel that morality and justice are on the side of criminal terrorists seeking the destruction of a civilized country rather than the other way around.

When will we learn to mind our own business?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Real Conservatism is Social Conservatism

Aldous Huxley, in a preface written for the 1948 re-issue of his best known book Brave New World, wrote:

As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends correspondingly to increase.

Huxley’s novel provides a literary example of this. Brave New World depicts a future where numerous progressive dreams of the ideal society have been fulfilled at the expense of a complete loss of political and economic freedom. Everybody’s life in this literary world, their career, their place in society, is planned for them in advance. To keep them from complaining or even being conscious of this lack of liberty they have complete freedom in the areas of sex, drugs, and pretty much everything that liberals and libertarians would call “personal lifestyle” matters today.

Huxley clearly was possessed of far greater insight than many who call themselves libertarians or even “conservatives” today.

Libertarians like to think of themselves as the only believers in political liberty, as an Aristotelian mean between two statist extremes, liberalism on the left, conservatism on the right. Liberals, they say, support freedom on lifestyle/social issues, but oppose economic freedom, whereas conservatives support freedom on economic issues, but oppose it for lifestyle issues. In contrast, they themselves support freedom across the board.

Huxley, however, was aware of something the libertarians appear to be blind to. Complete liberty in “personal lifestyle” matters is only possible through state intrusion into society and complete political control over our lives. In his novel, the sexual freedom that everyone possessed, was created by the elimination of the family. People enter this society, not as children born out of the love of their parents, but as fetuses created in a laboratory. They have no parents or siblings, they are conditioned for their role in society through technology that allows them to be programmed in their sleep in state-run institutions. Only thus can their ethic of “everybody belongs to everybody else” be achieved.

An objection might be made that this was, after all, just a novel, and that in real life we have more freedom in these matters today than 60 years ago without any of that happening.

Lets consider that a bit more closely. It is true that the state has not issued a decree saying that we are not allowed to live together as families any more, that all children are wards of the state, and that from now on all sex will be sterile and all reproduction will be done in a laboratory. It is also true, however, that a) the government is far more involved in our everyday lives than it used to be, and b) institutions like the family and the church are not as strong and influential as they used to be. These two things are directly related to each other and are the reason the sexual revolution was able to occur.

In Christian society the government was never the primary enforcer of sexual ethics. It was traditionally the role of parents to raise their sons to respect women and to raise their daughters to guard their virtue. Parents were supported in doing so by the traditional culture – the songs, stories, legends, and folklore passed down through the generations that transmit a society’s identity, and values from one generation to the next, and by the institution of the church which provided spiritual and moral guidance. Further support came from the system of honor and shame, which far more effectively than the police, enforced society’s understanding of right and wrong. If wrongdoing crossed over into the realm of the criminal – if, for example, a girl’s virtue was taken from her by force, then it was time for the law to step in.

The sexual revolution was not a revolution against government power. It was a revolution against the church, a revolution against the family, a revolution against tradition and against society. How was this revolution made possible?

Several changes that occurred in the period immediately preceding, during, and following World War II opened the door to the revolution.

There was the transformation in how popular culture is created and transmitted brought about by the creation of the mass media. Popular used to be something people participated in, the songs and stories and literature they learned at the hearth, the bedside, in the fields, churches and taverns. The birth of the apparatus of mass communication, dubbed “The Great Stereopticon” by Richard Weaver, changed this. Popular culture became something produced for commercial purposes which people consumed rather than participated in. As such, its ties to the institutions of society were broken, and it became an instrument in the hands of those who sought to undermine traditional moral and social values, rather than to uphold them.

Then there was the transformation of public education. The original public schools were established by churches or by the local governments of small communities. Teachers derived their authority from the fact that they stood in loco parentis in the classroom and they were directly answerable to the parents. In the name of standardization, however, the schools were brought under the control of government bureaucracies and in the 20th Century governments began to use the public schools as instruments to challenge the authority of parents, tradition, and churches.

Then there was the establishment of the welfare state. The welfare-state was a massive 20th Century expansion of government relief programs. Behind this expansion lay the idea that it is the role of the state to feed the hungry, care for the sick, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless. While society certainly has a responsibility to see to it that these things are done, the state, the defining function of which is to wield the sword in the upholding of law and civil order and in defense of the country, is hardly an appropriate institution to be used to fulfill these tasks. Furthermore, when it takes over these roles it usurps and undermines the other social institutions to whom these roles traditionally fall.

Finally, there was the development of new contraceptive and reproductive technology. Here the connection to Brave New World is most striking. The development of cheap, effective, birth control could serve no purpose other than to try and approximate the barren, purely recreational, sex of Huxley’s dystopia. In vitro fertilization and other artificial reproduction methods were developed, largely to meet a need created by the advancements in birth control, but note that they too bear a certain resemblance to the means of reproduction in the novel.

The development of these two technologies threaten civilization by undermining our respect for human life and for the sex which generates that life. To strip the latter of its reproductive potential and reduce it to mere recreation is to play with fire. The development of cheap birth control was followed by the demand for legal, government-subsidized, abortions, in which human lives are terminated, usually for no other reason than that they inconvenienced their parents (the hard cases, by which abortion-on-demand is sold to bleeding hearts, are a miniscule percentage of total abortions done). In vitro fertilization by its nature involves the deliberate creation of multiple human lives which will never be allowed to grow to their full human potential. Monstrous as that fact is, scientists are now reasoning, that because they are creating these human lives anyway, they should be allowed to take the unused embryos and use their stem cells for research.

This is what contemporary ethics has been reduced to. “You are creating the embryos anyway, we might as well be allowed to cut up and experiment on the ones you won’t be using, and besides, we might find a cure for all sorts of horrible ailments”. Consequentialism is never good ethics, and it is particularly not so when it is mixed with the reasoning that two wrongs somehow make a right.

The hand of government in most if not all of this should be apparent. Government schools now serve a government agenda which includes the undermining of the authority of parents and churches in the minds of children. Government social programs weaken the ties that bind families, churches, and communities together as a society, teaching people that they don’t need those institutions anymore because government is going to meet all their needs from cradle to grave. Government money pays for research into contraceptive and reproductive technology.

Progressives and libertarians think of social conservatives as theocrats seeking to leash the power of the state to a religious agenda and to impose their will on others through the force of law. While one or two people who meet that description might come to mind this is not what social conservatism is really about.

Social conservatism is the belief that society is an organic reality, that the most essential human relationships are those established by blood, kinship, and covenant rather than those established by contract in the marketplace, that the institutions of family, church, and community are more important than either the individual or the state, and that the spheres of the political and the economic are the secondary spheres of human existence, taking a backseat to what is really important, the spheres governed and defined by the family and the church.

This belief is consistent with a belief in political liberty and is even foundational to it. Political liberty cannot stand upon the foundation of the autonomy of the individual. Such a foundation leads only to anarchy, chaos, and moral nihilism, which lead in turn to tyranny. Political liberty must stand upon the foundation of life in society, as part of a social and moral order, transmitted from generation to generation, through the family and the church. Such a society, requires nothing from government other than it do its job and uphold the law, and otherwise mind its own business.