The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, November 20, 2015

Barbaric Cultural Practices

Earlier this year, and especially during the long federal election campaign, the Liberal and New Democrat parties, the liberal media, progressive bloggers, and other assorted lefties, were able to get a lot of mileage out of the phrase “barbaric cultural practices”. The previous government, led by Stephen Harper, had banned the wearing of the niqab during citizenship oath ceremonies in 2011, a ban which was struck down by a Federal Court.* Harper’s government vowed to take the matter to the Supreme Court and then, in the last month of the election campaign, promised to establish an RCMP tipline for reporting cases of “barbaric cultural practices”.

The progressives condemned this as racist and xenophobic. Harper, they maintained, was appealing to fear, negativity, and hatred, and this was “unCanadian” because Canada is the land of tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism. Actually, Canada was nothing of the sort prior to the premiership of Trudeau the Elder, which began in 1968. It was the Trudeau Liberals who created the new Canada of tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism – that is to say tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism that were imposed on the country from the top down, administered by arrogant bureaucrats, and protected by the suppression of dissent. The older, traditional, British Canada was a much superior country.

The merits of the older British Canada, and the rather odious nature of the kind of “tolerance” and “diversity” introduced by the Trudeau Liberals which make a mockery of the ordinary meaning of these terms are, of course, beyond the understanding of today’s progressives. Nor do they seem to be capable of grasping that it is one of their own chief ideals that Stephen Harper was fighting for in his campaign against “barbaric cultural practices”.

This is not intended to be laudatory of Stephen Harper. The ideal in question is that of the equality of the sexes, or, as the progressives now insist upon mislabelling it, “gender equality”, an ideal I do not share with Harper or the progressives and, indeed, regard as worthy only of ridicule. Auberon Waugh put it best, I think, years ago when he wrote:

I have never understood how equality can be said to apply, except in the most superficial sense. to any human relationship. By this I do not mean that we are all graded in some divinely-imposed pecking order, but that our essential differences make talk of equality meaningless. Study of the sexes is bound to identify the differing characteristics of each, and I cannot see how anything useful is achieved by asserting that chalk is equal to cheese, or should be equal to cheese and must be made equal.

I don’t believe in “gender equality” but the progressives all seem to believe in it and none of them more so than that vapid young twit who is our new Prime Minister and who has made a grand gesture of support for this ideal in the way he chose the Ministers for his new Cabinet.

These same progressives accused Stephen Harper of waging a “war on women”. Which, however, actually accomplishes more for the fairer sex – choosing your Cabinet Ministers on the basis of their sex so you can have an equal number of men and of women, or actively trying to keep such practices as honour killings and female circumcision from becoming prevalent in Canada? It is practices like these, which target the female sex, that the Harper government condemned as barbaric.

In 2011, the year the Harper Conservatives won a majority government, the federal government updated the “Discover Canada” brochure that is given to those who wish to immigrate to and become citizens of Canada. Among the changes was the addition of forced marriage to the following list: “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings,” female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence” and goes on to say that those who commit these things will all be severely punished under our criminal law. Now that last part may have been more a statement of wishful thinking than an accurate description of how our criminal justice system actually functions but that is beside the point. “Spousal abuse”, runs both ways, and in fact there is recent evidence that women are more likely to be abusive in relationships than men, which, of course, would have come as no surprise to Rudyard Kipling, but this too is beside the point as the government clearly had male-on-female abuse in mind when it put that into the pamphlet. For that is what all of these “barbaric cultural practices” have in common, they all target females. The title of the subsection of the brochure that this is found in, by the way, is “The Equality of Women and Men”.

At the time, Justin Trudeau, then Michael Ignatieff’s Liberal Shadow Minister for Immigration condemned the Harper government for the use of the word “barbaric”, even though it was not itself a new addition to the publication. He received so much negative feedback over this he was forced to make a retraction the next day.

Every time the Harper government spoke of “barbaric cultural practices” it was with regards to practices in which women are treated cruelly or unfairly. The niqab controversy was no exception to this although the face veil is obviously not on the same scale as murdering one’s daughter or sister because she shamed the family by having a boyfriend, dressing inappropriately, or being raped, or removing a young girl’s clitoris to prevent her from growing up to become promiscuous. While I may not think much of the “gender equality” Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau both believe in, unlike Mr. Trudeau four years ago, I have no problem agreeing that these practices are utterly barbaric. Indeed, one of the things most objectionable about the false ideal of equality, is that those who believe in it tend to make a big deal out of peccadilloes while letting major injustices like these slide.

Consider the example of feminism. “The women’s movement” is a modern phenomenon, whose raison d'être is to promote the rights of women. Yet it has never concentrated its efforts on fighting honour killings or cliterodectomy or anything of the like. Instead, it has focused on such things as the “glass ceiling” and the “77 cents on the dollar” and to combat these largely imaginary bogeys, has created a barbaric cultural practice of its own, i.e., abortion on demand. It could be argued that this is because feminism is a movement which began in, grew up in, and still mostly belongs to, the Western world where the former practices were mostly unknown until quite recently. That is the whole point, however. That a revolutionary movement seeking radical societal transformation in the name of women developed in the West, where it really only became a force after women had been given the vote and barriers to their education, owning property, and having professional careers had for the most part disappeared, and not in parts of the world where girls have their genitals mutilated and may be murdered by their relatives if they “shame” their family is because the modern Western mind has been thoroughly permeated and polluted by the false ideal of equality.

Ironically, feminism is part of the larger progressivism which is itself responsible for practices like female genital mutilation and honour killings, once unknown in countries like Canada, becoming more and more common in large Western cities. For progressivism is not just about the equality of the sexes, it is about the equality of races and cultures as well and for decades now, what this has meant, is that it has insisted that all cultures ought to be equally welcome in Canada and other Western countries. This is what the first Prime Minister Trudeau’s policy of “official multiculturalism” was all about and it is clearly the reason that the younger Trudeau, heir to this dogma in which he was undoubtedly indoctrinated from an early age, initially took a foolish offence to the description of forced marriages, female genital mutilation, and honour killings as barbaric a few years ago. To call these things barbaric is to say that all cultures are not equal after all, which, of course, they are not.

Trudeau and other progressives are no more capable of admitting this than they are of admitting that there is a fundamental contradiction in their ideology – that equality of the sexes and equality of cultures are mutually incompatible ideals. They can be rejected together with consistency – which is my own position – but they cannot be consistently affirmed together. Stephen Harper got this partially right, the Trudeaus have always gotten it completely wrong, and Canada has paid a heavy price for their error.

*It has been drawn to my attention that I was mistaken in thinking that the ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal was based on the Charter. The ban, which was an instruction from the Ministry to the judges administering the citizenship oath rather than a law, was overturned because it conflicted with an older rule that requires such judges to give maximum religious freedom in the swearing-in ceremony. Thank you to the person who noticed and notified me of this factual error.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Man of 2015

It is only just that we award credit to those to whom credit is due and a certain amount of credit is due to Justin Trudeau. It is less than a month since the Shiny Pony became Canada’s shiny new Prime Minister and he is already living down to our lowest expectations. It is too early, perhaps, to declare him to be our worst Prime Minister ever. It will take him longer than this to break his father’s record in that respect. He is well on the way to getting there, however.

On November 4th, David Johnson, who as Governor General is the Queen’s Canadian viceroy, swore in Trudeau and the thirty people selected to be the Crown Ministers who, along with the Prime Minister, will make up the Cabinet. Fifteen of these were men and fifteen were women because the new Prime Minister had decided it was important that the Cabinet have an equal number of penises and vaginas. “Gender balanced” was the way he described it. At one time it was understood that people have sexes and words have genders, but no longer.

Now, if a Prime Minister were to submit to the Crown a list of choices for Ministerial appointments that consisted entirely of men, he would, of course, be denounced as sexist. Let’s think about that for a moment. If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the word sexist actually means something and is not just a verbal weapon used by liberals, progressives, and social justice warriors – a rather dubious assumption - what is it about a list of appointees that consists solely of men that would make it sexist?

Those who are capable of intelligent and sane thought would answer that it is the fact that those on the list were chosen on the basis of their sex, or, to put it a bit more precisely, that sex was a criterion in the selecting of those who would be on the list. If this, however, is what makes a list that contains only men sexist, then Justin Trudeau’s “gender balanced” Cabinet is also sexist, because sex is just as much a criterion for selection in the one as it is in the other.

This conclusion can be avoided by saying that it is not the use of sex as a criterion of selection, per se, that would make an all-male Cabinet sexist, but rather the fact that it is men who are chosen, but to say this would be a more overt admission of misandry than most progressives, except perhaps the most radical of feminists, are usually comfortable with because they like to operate under the delusion that they are morally and intellectually superior to other people. Similarly, American anti-racist liberals are unlikely to admit that in the fall of 2008, Barack Obama became the first person to be elected President of the United States on the grounds of his skin colour, and that they were the ones to so choose him on those grounds.

When asked why he choose a “gender balanced” Cabinet, Justin Trudeau answered “because it’s 2015”. While it is good to know that our Prime Minister is capable of reading the date on a calendar, showing a level of intellectual achievement of which he had previously given no indication, what is implied in his answer is the idea that in 2015 we have attained some sort of enlightenment that previous generations lacked so that of course we now know that it is absolutely vital for the health of our country that half of its Cabinet Ministers – at least – be women. Almost a century ago Owen Barfield and C. S. Lewis coined a term for this way of thinking. They called it “chronological snobbery” and if there were an award for the most chronological snobbish remark of the year, “because it’s 2015” would certainly deserve to win it. Ironically, however, Mr. Trudeau’s chronological snobbery is itself clearly behind the times. It is indeed, 2015, the year in which the most recent quantum leap forward in the socially progressive enlightenment of mankind took place. I refer, of course, to the apogynosis of Bruce into Caitlyn Jenner. The earth-shattering consequences of this event are still unfolding in school divisions across North America as tough decisions have to be made about who should be allowed to enter which washroom or locker room, a question which was not a significant puzzler up until now. Even feminist icon Germaine Greer has come under the wrath of the next generation of more-enlightened-than-thou social justice warriors who recently circulated a petition to have her invitation to lecture at Cardiff University revoked on the grounds of her “transphobia”. Yet Mr. Trudeau’s choices for lady Cabinet Ministers are all cis female to the best of my knowledge. That is so 2014!

Now given the events of this weekend perhaps it is time we questioned whether the kind of attitude that comes out in expressions like “because it is 2015” is really what we want in our leaders. Friday, November 13th, proved to be a very unlucky day indeed for the residents of Paris when, on that evening, ISIS launched a multipronged terrorist attack on their city that has left 129 dead, so far, and almost 400 wounded. At least one of those who carried out this act of jihad on behalf of the Islamic State had entered Europe claiming to be a Syrian refugee.

One of the first things Justin Trudeau did after winning the federal election last month was to announce that he would be withdrawing our bombers from the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. This, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing, but Trudeau is doing it for all the wrong reasons. Throughout the entirety of his political career he has demonstrated a sappy and juvenile naivety about terrorism, Islam, geopolitics, war, and all things military. In a speech this March, explaining his opposition to the previous government’s intention of expanding Canada’s military efforts against ISIS into Syria, he gave as one of his reasons that such a mission “could very well result in Assad consolidating his grip on power in Syria.” As obnoxious as the previous government’s hawkishness could be, at times, at least Stephen Harper could tell the difference between an enemy of Canada and of all Western civilization, like ISIS, and a regime that, however unpleasant it may be, is no enemy. A month ago, just before the election, Trudeau said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “irresponsible and harmful” in the Middle East, when, in fact, Putin has demonstrated far better sense with regards to that region than any other world leader. In his election campaign Trudeau promised to bring 25, 000 “Syrian refugees” into Canada by the end of the year and a representative of his office told the press, this weekend, that the Paris attack has not altered his intention to follow through on this. Why let a small thing like a terrorist attack ruin a perfectly bad idea?

What the attack on Paris is telling us, if we have the ears to hear, is that if Justin Trudeau is a man of 2015, what the countries of the West do not need, is the leadership of men of 2015. What we rather need is the leadership of men of 732. Whether there are any of that vintage yet to be found remains to be seen.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Contemporary Compassion is not Christian Compassion

When you read or sing the Psalms you cannot help but notice how frequently God is described as being “full of compassion”. In the Authorized Version this expression occurs no less than five times in Psalms 78, 86, 111, 112, and 145. Furthermore, the Psalms are hardly the only place in the Bible where the word compassion is used as an attribute of God. The Synoptic Gospels frequently speak of Jesus being “moved with compassion” or “having compassion” on someone or some group of people.

These are verses which are very difficult for contemporary readers to understand for the reason that the word “compassion” has become completely and utterly debased in our day and age. It has been stripped of all that made “full of compassion” an expression of praise in the Psalms and reduced to a mere sentiment.

Something similar could be said about the word “charity”. In the Authorized Version of St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians charity is the greatest of what are traditionally known as the three theological virtues – the other two being faith and hope – of which a famous, extended description is given in the thirteenth chapter. The English word charity is derived, through the French, from the Latin word for this virtue, caritas, which in Latin versions of the Scriptures is frequently used to translate the Greek agape. Today, however, the first thought the English word suggests is that of “giving to the needy” and it seldom expresses anything beyond that. Organizations that provide help and relief to those who are poor, sick, or otherwise in need are called charities. No-one, unless he is reading the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians in the old AV, is likely to associate charity with long-suffering, seemliness, bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things, and all the other qualities listed in the fourth through seventh verses, and verse three which reads “ And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” would be incomprehensible to anyone reading it with the contemporary meaning of charity in mind.

It is for this reason that the translators of most of the more recent English versions of the Holy Scriptures use the word love instead. This can hardly be said to be an improvement, however, as the word love has been as debased as the words charity and compassion. In Greek and Latin, the basic word for love was closely related to the word for friend and Greek had several other words when a more precise concept of love was called for. In English today, the word love would almost never be used of friendships – at least male friendships – thanks mostly to the imposed new acceptance of homosexuality. Sexual love has eclipsed all other concepts of love – and not the exalted eros discussed in Plato’s Symposium, either, but a version of the latter that has been stripped of all of its higher connotations, and reduced to a romantic affection tacked on to animal lust. So substituting love for charity in translations of 1 Corinthians 13 produces no net gain in comprehensibility.

While the decay of the English language is obviously what I have been describing here, it is also the rot and ruin of Western ethical thought and, for that matter, Western thought in general. That thinking and language stand and fall together ought to go without saying. Language is the medium through which we communicate our thoughts and, what is more, words are the very building blocks out of which we build our thoughts in the first place, at least if we are talking about the kind of thinking necessary for a civilized life that goes beyond the merely animal and mechanical. The Cultural Marxists, who have been so effective over the last sixty years or so, in tearing down Western civilization from the inside out, clearly understand this, which is why there is so much emphasis on linguistic theory and literary criticism on the intellectual side of what was accurately called the New Left forty-five years ago, and why their most devastating instruments, such as the phenomenon of so-called “political correctness”, involve the manipulation of language.

Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish émigré who became a godfather of sorts to American neoconservatives, and George Grant, Canada’s greatest conservative thinker and patriot of the old British Canada as she was before the evil Trudeau gang first got their hands on her, were among those who a generation or two ago observed that Western ethical thought had taken a turn for the worse in the twentieth century, as modern Western man had come to think in terms of “values” rather than “virtues”, and traced this shift back to the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche in the nineteenth century. Virtues were central to the old, pre-modern, Western tradition of ethical thinking, with roots in both the ancient Athens of Plato and Aristotle and Jerusalem, birthplace of Christianity. Virtues, were praiseworthy habits of behaviour, that manifested themselves in praiseworthy acts or deed, and which presupposed the existence of an established, transcendent, hierarchical order of good, that was not created by man, but to which man must conform himself through the cultivation of virtue, to achieve happiness. Nietzsche believed that the ideas of the modern philosophers who had preceded him and the discoveries of modern science had rendered belief in this order impossible and had left man with two paths open to him, that of a “last man”, content to live out his mediocre existence as a cog in the great societal machine modernity is building, or that of an “overman” who will create a new set of values to fill the void left by the collapse of the old order. That we have come to speak of values rather than virtues, demonstrates how pervasive the Nietzschean version of modern thought has been. Virtues, point to an unchanging order beyond ourselves, values we create for ourselves.

This can clearly be seen in the “Canadian values” of the Trudeau Liberals. People have been driven from their careers, in Canada, for expressing ideas on immigration and multiculturalism that were no different from those held by Stephen Leacock, Conservative economist, social critic and humourist, W. L. Mackenzie King, Liberal Prime Minister, and J. S. Woodsworth, Methodist clergyman and founder of the CCF, the predecessor to today’s NDP, on the grounds that these ideas are contrary to “Canadian values”. “Canadian values”, therefore, have little to do with what real Canadians thought or think, but are rather what Pierre Trudeau decided and declared they would be.

Social conservatives, tend to express their opposition to abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and the like as a defence of “family values.” George Grant, himself an outspoken opponent of this kind of moral decay, argued that this was a mistake, because it is self-defeating to use the language by which the modern replacement for the old moral order has been effected, to defend the old order.

If the replacement of virtues, grounded in a transcendent order, with man-created values, was a step down the stairway of moral and ethical decay, their further replacement with sentiments, of the sorts represented by the current meanings of “compassion”, “charity” and “love”, was a slide down the bannister in comparison.

When the Psalmist says that God is “full of compassion” he is not singing about God’s feelings so much as about His actions. Similarly, whenever the Gospel writers speak of Jesus “having compassion” or being “moved by compassion” they are describing something He does, whether it be healing the sick (Matt. 14:14), casting out a demon (Mk. 5:19), or feeding the multitude (Mk. 8:2). Compassion in the Bible is that within God which motivates Him to act in a benevolent way towards people. It is far more, then, than a mere feeling. This is further evident in the way the Scriptures enjoin compassion upon men. They are clearly telling people how to act, not how to feel, because it would be pointless to do the latter, as feelings cannot be produced at will or in obedience to commands.

Today, however, the word compassion denotes a feeling. Worse, it is a feeling for which people demand and expect all of the praise and credit that is due to a virtue. Jesus in His earthly ministry condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. In His famous Sermon on the Mount, after going through three pairs of Old Testament verses and expounding them in such a way as to show that the righteousness God demands of people is an internal righteousness and not just an external adherence to His Commandments, Jesus warned those assembled to hear Him against practicing their alms “before men, to be seen of them”, as the hypocrites do, drawing an amusing hyperbolic picture of a hypocritical Pharisee walking into the synagogue blowing a trumpet to announce that he was giving alms, but to give their alms in secret, for “thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly.” What He was here condemning in the Pharisees, was doing something good – giving alms, for the wrong reason – to be praised by men. The Pharisee who was blowing his own horn, was at least doing the alms-giving for which he received the praise he wanted. Today, the “caring” and “compassionate” expect credit for shedding a few tears for the plight of the unfortunate and having warm fuzzy feelings towards them, whether or not they actually do anything to alleviate their condition. The Pharisees had nothing on them when it comes to hypocrisy.

Perhaps, however, I am being too hard on them. When you look at what has actually been done in the name of the huggy-feely type of compassion these days, you will find that much of it falls into two basic categories. One of these is harm done under the guise of helping, such as all the “poverty relief” money that was funnelled into the support of Third World Marxist guerillas in the twentieth century by the kind of churches who have reduced the “Christian” message to nothing but the debased, sentimental, kind of compassion by getting rid of more trivial aspects of the faith, such as the idea that the Son of the true and living God, came down to earth from heaven, was born a man by the Virgin Mary, died on the cross to take away the sins of the world and reconcile fallen man to God, descended to hell, shattering its gates and releasing the captive spirits of the saints, before rising in triumph from the grave and ascending back into heaven, to sit at His Father’s right hand. The other is to make other people pay the costs of your supposed “compassion” while you get all the credit. Most, if not all, government policies and programs that are labelled “compassionate” are examples of this.

If this is what modern “compassion” looks like in action, perhaps it were better that it be nothing more than a feeling after all.