The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Other War On Christmas

The war on Christmas, as that expression is usually understood, denotes the recent North American phenomenon in which progressive forces, in the name of diversity, tolerance, multiculturalism and all those other words which serve little other purpose than to hide the spirit of Stalinist totalitarianism behind a smiley face, have sought to re-brand Christmas into a generic “holiday season”. This war is conducted on many fronts and with varying degrees of intensity, ranging from the replacement of the traditional “Merry Christmas” greeting with “Happy Holidays” or something similar to the more heavy-handed attempts by lobby groups and civil liberties organizations to drive nativity scenes and any other Christmas imagery that has a direct and obvious connection to Christianity from the public square. Back in the 1990s, Peter Brimelow and John O’Sullivan began a war against Christmas contest in National Review, to see who could find the most outrageous example of an attempt to suppress the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and put a cheap generic imitation in its place and Brimelow has continued this tradition on his immigration reform website VDare. VDare has done an excellent job of documenting this sort of thing and so we will here turn to look at the other war on Christmas, i.e., that conducted by those who consider themselves to be the faithful, against Christmas, in the name of what they consider to be a sound interpretation of the Bible.

The roots of this other war on Christmas go back to the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. The Reformation began as a response to corruption in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Leo X had authorized a campaign in which indulgences would be offered in return for funds that would go to the reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica. This crass effort to sell the grace of God, offended Dr. Martin Luther of the University of Wittenberg, who challenged not only the vulgar indulgence peddling of Johann Tetzel, but the theology that lay behind the very idea of indulgences, on the grounds of the Pauline doctrine of justification by grace through faith, and, when summoned by the Church to defend himself against charges of heresy, insisted that it is to the Holy Scriptures, as the written Word of God, that the teachings and traditions of the Church must be held accountable.

Dr. Luther had nothing against Christmas, or against most of the traditions of the Church for that matter, but the ball he started rolling picked up momentum which carried it much further than he had ever intended. The Reformation divided Western Europe, in which nation-states had begun to develop in the earlier Renaissance period. Of these, for the most part those with a Latin-based language, like French, Italian, and Spanish, remained Roman Catholic while the national churches in the northern states, with German-based languages, tended to follow one or the other of the Protestant Reformers. There were Protestants, however, who were convinced that Luther, Calvin, and even Zwingle had not gone far enough, who condemned Christendom and its traditions and institutions as hopelessly corrupt, denouncing both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant national churches and who formed sects in which only those whom they considered to be pure in doctrine and lifestyle were welcome, regarding their own sects as God’s elect remnant, and everyone else as being corrupt.

Protestant sectarianism continued to develop further and further away from the mainstream of Christian tradition and in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, radical Protestant sects developed, like the Rutherfordian Russellites and the Armstrongists which went so far as to reject Nicene Trinitarian orthodoxy itself, generally reviving one or another of the ancient heresies in the process. Both the Russellites and the Armstrongists condemned Christmas as a pagan invention of the “Catholic Church” which in their view was a counterfeit church created by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century.

This same anti-Christmas view had developed in radical Protestantism much earlier than this, however, by individuals who did not go so far as to reject the Trinity. In the sixteenth century, many of the English Protestants who had introduced moderate reforms in the Church of England during the reign of Edward VI, fled to Switzerland during the reign of the Catholic Mary, and there became much more radical in their Calvinism. When these returned to England, during the reign of Elizabeth I, who had restored the Edwardian reforms, they found these did not go far enough to please them. They demanded that every practice and institution from the pre-Reformation tradition of the Church for which they could not find a text in the Holy Scriptures commanding or authorizing its use be removed from the Church as superstition and popery. Against these fanatics, who came to be known as Puritans, the theologian Richard Hooker, defended the Elizabethan Church of England in his eight volume Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity, arguing that the Church was at liberty to retain whatever traditional practices and institutions were not explicitly forbidden or condemned in the Holy Scriptures, a view far more compatible with the Pauline doctrine of Christian liberty than that of the Puritans, although the latter liked to think of themselves as the champions of Christian liberty against a “legalistic” Church. When neither Elizabeth I, nor her Stuart successors James I and Charles I, were willing to give in to their demands, they became increasingly seditious and in the 1640s their rebellion against King Charles I broke out into the English Civil War. They captured the king, had him put on trial before a Parliament from which all but their own supporters had been removed by military force, and executed him. They installed their general, Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector of Britain, whose tyrannical regime lasted until his death in 1658, shortly after which the crown was restored to Charles II.

During his mercifully brief dictatorship, Cromwell sought to remove everything that brought the slightest amount of colour, light, and earthly happiness into people's lives. He banned games and amusements on Sundays - the only day of the week people were not working from dawn to dusk, stripped the churches of ornamentation and beautiful organ music, forcing everyone to listen to horrible extra long sermons all Sunday morning, shut down theatres, and outlawed Christmas as pagan.

What was Cromwell's problem? Dr. Seuss once speculated concerning a fictional character who bore a remarkable resemblance to Cromwell "It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small." In the case of the real-life, seventeenth century Grinch, Cromwell, whatever role his head and shoes might have played, the problem was that his heart, soul, and spirit had been shrunk, frozen, and killed by a form of extreme Calvinism that combined a Pharisaical spirit regarding religion with a philistine attitude to culture in what was the most repulsive and vile, hell-spawned theology to claim the name of Christianity in vain, until theological modernism began to be spewed forth from the German schools of higher criticism and the North American "social gospel" movement in the nineteenth century.

Unfortunately, the spirit of Cromwellian Puritanism has survived in the misguided zealots who come out every year at this time to inform us that the first five verses of Jeremiah 10 condemn Christmas trees, even though anyone with an IQ over thirty can see that the reference to removing a tree from the forest and decking it with silver and gold is describing the construction of an idol, not something that is purely celebratory and decorative in purpose and function. They also like to remind us that December 25th was the day in which the Romans celebrated the birth of Sol Invictus at the conclusion of the pagan festival of lights, Saturnalia, concluding through some leap of reasoning that it was therefore pagan and idolatrous for the Church to have set the feast day celebrating the birth of the Son of the Living God on this same day. This sort of reasoning, however, would also condemn St. John the Apostle for introducing Jesus as the "Logos" in his Gospel. The idea of the Logos, the Divine Word or Reason, comes right out of pagan Greek philosophy. As the Hellenized first century Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria pointed out, there was a parallel concept in the "memra", the personalized Word or Wisdom of God of the Targum, the Aramaic rabbinic commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, and it is quite in keeping with the New Testament concept that Christ abolished the division between Jews and Gentiles in establishing His Covenant and His Church, to understand the Logos of the Gospel to draw from both the Greek and Jewish antecedents. Interestingly, the Jews then, as now, also celebrated a "Festival of Lights", around the winter solstice, commemorating the rededication of the Temple, after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabean revolt that ensued. Jesus, according to the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, went to Jerusalem for this festival, also called the Feast of the Dedication or Hanukkah, even though this feast would be regarded as extra-scriptural by Puritan theology which does not accept the First and Second books of Maccabees as Holy Scriptures. If there is nothing wrong with St. John synthesizing the Greek logos and the Jewish memra in his doctrine of the pre-incarnate Christ as the Word Who was in the beginning with God, and Who was God, and through Whom all things were made, then there is nothing wrong with the Church deciding to celebrate the birth of God's Son, at a time of year which coincides with both the Roman and the Jewish festivals of lights. Indeed, it seems most appropriate.

There is a connection between the two wars on Christmas in that Puritanism, as Eric Voegelin pointed out, was an early stage of the modern revival of Gnosticism, of which the progressive liberalism of the twentieth and now twenty-first centuries are later stages. You can read all about that in Voegelin's The New Science of Politics. The original Gnostics, I would note, were the anti-Christs that St. John referred to in his epistles, who denied the doctrine of Christ, specifically the Incarnation, which, of course, is the theological event commemorated in Christmas. The war on Christmas, in its Puritan and progressive liberal forms, is ultimately a war on the Apostolic doctrine of Christ as defended and articulated by the orthodox in the Trinitarian confession of the Council of Nicaea.

So, let me conclude by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Monday, December 14, 2015

"The Donald" Trumps Political Correctness

The results of our own federal election this year, in which the contemptible little empty headed pretty boy who is the son of our worst ever Prime Minister and who is better suited for a career in Hollywood or in the popular music recording industry than for running Her Majesty’s government in Ottawa, wrangled a majority of seats in the House of Commons out of a duped and gullible electorate, are so depressing that we must look outside our borders to see if there is anything going on in the rest of the world from which we can derive comfort. Mercifully, we don’t need to look very far. South of our border, in the American republic, a campaign is underway that is sufficient to bring the warmth of hope to any heart left cold by the return of the winter of Trudeaumania to our fair Dominion. I am referring to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

As a conservative in the original sense of the term, i.e., a royalist and a Christian traditionalist, I don’t, of course, approve of republics and presidential elections. I agree with all my heart and soul with Anthony Burgess who said “with a limited monarchy you have no president, and a president is one more corruptible element in government” whereas “a constitutional monarch is at least out of politics and can’t get dirty or corrupt.” If, like our southern neighbours, you are unfortunate enough to have a republic, you must try and find someone for the office of president who is unlikely to be corrupted.

If, ten, or even five years ago, you would have suggested to me that Donald Trump was that person, I would have assumed that you had been smoking some noxious, brain rotting, substance like cannabis and advised you to switch to good old wholesome tobacco. After all, this is Donald Trump of all people, the thrice married billionaire, who, having obtained money and fame in his first two incarnations as a real estate developer and a celebrity “reality” television host, has now set his sights on power, the fourth of the great corrupting temptations. Is he not the very embodiment of corruption?

Well, no, actually. There are influences out there which, although seldom recognized as such, are far more corrupting than sex, money, fame, and power. Among these, youth and strongly held ideals, stand out, neither of which is likely to have much sway over a man like Donald Trump. Furthermore, as we have seen in this very interesting campaign so far, Trump appears to be the first political hopeful in a very long time to be completely beyond the reach of the progressive narrative, the enforcement of which as orthodoxy, we call political correctness.

This is why the importance of the Trump candidacy extends far beyond the question of who becomes the next president of the United States of America. Donald Trump has been saying things that for a very long time we have all been told that nobody could say publicly without sinking his political career. So far, however, his political career has remained afloat. Moreover, he has come under heavy attack by the major media networks, by the Democrat party and by the leadership of his own Republican party, but none of these have succeeded in derailing him. His popularity continues to soar, not in spite of the things he has been saying, but because of them.

I am not suggesting that because what Donald Trump has been saying is popular it is therefore also right. Truth and justice are not matters that are decided by majority vote and, indeed, it is quite apparent that under ordinary circumstances, the majority is more likely to be wrong than right. In this case, however, the fact that statements by Trump which have shocked and appalled those whom the late Auberon Waugh called the chattering classes, have been well received by large numbers of ordinary Americans, is not due to the ignorance of the masses, real as that phenomenon is. Trump has been speaking on issues such as immigration which have a strong impact on the everyday lives of ordinary people and about which they can therefore be expected to be well informed. Furthermore, most of what he has been saying about these issues is self-evidently true.

For a long time now the United States has had a problem with mass illegal immigration across its southern border. Donald Trump has been accused of demagoguery for his populist rhetoric on this matter, but that mass migration poses an existential threat to the United States, even such a critic of populism as historian John Lukacs would agree with. Almost twenty years ago he wrote:

Two hundred years later the United States faces the danger of an enormous and uncontrolled flood of people coming largely from the south. It is not only that among these masses the earlier distinction between the purposes of a more-or-less orderly and lawful immigration and those of a more-or-less disorderly and unlawful migration are being washed away; but also that these dangers include a radical change in the composition of the American people as well as the meaning of civilized and traditional citizenship, together with a drastic weakening of the sovereignty and actual autonomy of the United States.

Lukacs concluded the essay from which I just quoted by suggesting that migration – not just illegal immigration – from the Third World posed a greater long term threat to the United States than the USSR and nuclear weapons.

The progressive leadership of the Democrats and the neoconservative leadership of the Republicans, to the extent that they acknowledge a problem here at all, insist that it is only illegal immigration that is a problem and that the solution to this problem is amnesty. One does not have to have a Ph.D. to realize that to offer amnesty to illegal aliens within your country’s borders, without first sealing those borders, is to increase the problem by inviting further illegal immigration in the future. It is also quite obvious that a country that gives up control of its borders will not remain a country for very long. Donald Trump’s proposed solution to the problem of illegal immigration – deporting the illegal aliens already in the United States and building a wall on the border over which they are sneaking – unlike amnesty, would actually deal with the problem rather than make it worse.

The same can be said for Trump’s proposed response to the early December mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. The shooting was an act of jihad and Trump called for a complete moratorium on Muslim entry into the United States until American representatives “can figure out what is going on.” The left, of course, and I include the neoconservatives in that, have been treating this proposal as if it were a greater atrocity than the actual shooting. You might recall, however, the old anecdote about the insane asylum that tested patients who claimed to have recovered their sanity, by putting them in a room with an overflowing bathtub, handing them a mop, and seeing if they had enough marbles to turn off the tap before mopping up. Donald Trump would appear to be the only American presidential candidate who would pass that test. The San Bernardino shooting is one of a long string of such attacks that took place around the world in the last month and a half, the largest of which was, of course, the attack in Paris on November 13th. While most Muslims are not terrorists, as the liberals never tire of reminding us, only Muslims commit jihad, and when faced with a worldwide explosion of incidents of jihad, from which even predominantly Muslim countries like Mali have not been spared, countries need to put the safety of their own people first, ahead of stupid concerns about hurting Muslim feelings.

The insane progressive narrative, that is enforced as political correctness, gets this completely wrong. For far too long, the self-appointed guardians of public moral and intellectual hygiene have gotten away with bossing everyone around and telling us that we cannot say this or that, no matter how true it might be, because to do so would be "racist", "sexist" or something of the like. The great thing about the Donald Trump campaign, which continues to march ahead despite all efforts to silence him, is that these have finally been told, as only Donald Trump could tell them, “You’re fired!”

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Climate Change or Control?

The idea of planetary climate control is one that readers and viewers of futuristic science fiction are likely to be familiar with. The idea is that at some point in the future technology will have advanced so far that we will be able to eliminate destructive weather such as hurricanes and tornadoes or even give ourselves year round ideal weather conditions.

The dream of being able to manipulate the weather, to make it rain when we need rain, and shine when we want sun, to be able to avoid extreme temperatures and unpleasant and dangerous storms, is nothing new. The same dream, on a more moderate scale, is reflected in the rain dances that have been part of certain tribal cultures for ages. What sci-fi writers have envisioned, is on a much more grandiose scale than this but it is also more realistic in that the method by which planetary climate control will be achieved, the development of science and technology, is more effective than magic.

In the sci-fi vision of planetary climate control we see a glimpse of the ultimate end to which modern science has been working for centuries. That end is man’s total control over himself and the world in which he lives. Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ asked “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Science, in the modern sense of the word, is what happens when man collectively ignores that question and recklessly seeks to gain the world at the expense of his soul.

Modern science is often thought of as being materialistic and atheistic and it has increasingly taken on these attitudes in the last two centuries but to truly grasp its nature it needs to be understood that it is Baconian in spirit. In New Atlantis, a brief and incomplete, posthumously published novel by Sir Francis Bacon, a ship gets lost in the Pacific Island and ends up on the island of Bensalem, home of a scientific research foundation known as Salomon’s House. The Father of Salomon’s House tells the visitors that the goal of this organization is “the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.” This is the purpose of science, as Bacon conceived it, and it is summarized well in the saying, often attributed to Bacon, “knowledge is power.”

Bacon thought of this as an entirely positive and worthy project but it has some darker implications that were pointed out by George Grant. Much of Grant’s writing was devoted to exploring the nature of technology, the modern synthesis of science and art, knowing and making/doing, and its impact on the modern world. Technology, as Grant saw it, was the instrument of dynamic change and was reshaping the world and radically uprooting old traditions and established institutions. Grant, holding this up to the light of ancient wisdom, found it to be of questionable goodness and so argued that the benefits man has reaped from technology are at best mixed blessings. It was the pursuit of Bacon’s goal of “the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible” that had brought about modern technology and behind this goal, Grant saw the Nietzschean “will to power”, arguing, as a Christian, that this was ultimately an attempt to build in the place of the “Kingdom of God” of Christian theology, a “Kingdom of Man”. To make the “Kingdom of Man” the end of history, rather than the “Kingdom of God” is to put man in the place of God – the height of human arrogance and folly.

If modern science is the accumulation of knowledge of the causes, effects, and processes of the natural world so as to be able to bend that world to our will through technology then the sci-fi vision of a future world in which science has harnessed and mastered the natural forces of climate and weather at whose mercy man has lived for millennia is a goal that it is to be logically expected that science will set for itself. Whether we see it as a benevolent attempt to serve mankind, an arrogant attempt to play God, or a strange mixture of both, “climate control” is clearly in keeping with the Baconian vision of science as power. The question, to which we now turn, is whether science as power, the extension of man’s will over all of nature, is also what is actually behind all of the talk coming from the scientific community about “climate change”.

We are not accustomed to thinking of it this way, because those warning about the dangers of climate change speak as if they were motivated purely by concern for the good of the planet and the welfare of all mankind and the drive to subject nature to the domination of man belonged solely to the industrialists, petroleum companies, and all others they have cast as the villains in their narrative of anthropogenic global warming. This narrative is utter nonsense, however, and this, together with the way climate change scientists have been shown to have fudged their data to manufacture “evidence” and the heavy handed way in which many of them have sought to suppress dissent to the narrative, gives us good cause to question the purity of their motives.

Virtually every detail of the anthropogenic global warming narrative is an insult to the intelligence of the people who are bullied into saying they believe it. We are told, for example, that the roughly one degree Celsius by which the average surface temperature of the earth rose between the last half of the nineteenth century and the twenty-first represents an alarming and unprecedented spike in global temperatures after they had remained more or less steady for a thousand years. This assessment, represented in the infamous “hockey stick” graph, can only be arrived by ignoring what history has to say and relying instead upon high tech witch doctoring to conjure up past temperatures out of tree rings and the like. History, as John Lukacs says, is the remembered past, and the past millennium, as remembered in the writings of those who actually lived through it, began with a period of considerable warmth which was followed, in the middle centuries, by one of significant cooling.

We are expected to believe that, while notoriously unreliable in predicting the next day’s weather, scientists and their computers are accurate when it comes to the much larger scale of global climate patterns. This one degree rise in global temperature, they tell us, is due to all the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from industrial smokestacks and automobile exhausts, and, unless we drastically cut our carbon dioxide emissions, we will be faced with imminent climactic disaster. In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted, and temperatures around the world dropped by approximately half a degree. This was caused by the release of ash and sulfur into the atmosphere, and while it was the opposite effect of that attributed to carbon dioxide, the point is that carbon dioxide is hardly the only substance that enters our atmosphere which affects global temperatures. The idea that out of all the factors that affect the global climate, carbon dioxide is primarily to blame for the rise in global temperature and the problems which may or may not afflict us as a result, comes out of the flip-side to the modern confidence in man’s ability through science and technology to subject nature to his will – the difficulty in accepting that forces greater than man and beyond his power to control may have a larger part to play in what happens.

Perhaps the “97%” of scientists, who we are told support the anthropogenic climate change narrative, actually do believe it, although the way the scientific community treats the narrative as a creed, dissent from which renders one either a heretic or an infidel, strongly suggests otherwise. They use the narrative to promote a certain set of actions – the governments of the world getting together and agreeing to pass taxes, regulations, fines, and whatever else is needed to reduce industrial carbon emissions. If we were to accept the narrative at face value, then these agreements would resemble an attempt to avert the imminent crash threatened by our racing towards a precipice, by decreasing the pressure on the accelerator.

It does not take a big stretch of the imagination to think that this is really all about power. Modern scientific knowledge is highly specialized, fully accessible only to “experts”. When the scientific community, therefore, presents the world with a doomsday scenario that can only be averted if its orders are followed, those with political power will do its bidding. If anyone outside the circle of expertise is skeptical of the claims, the scientific community can simply say he doesn’t understand the science. The only real threat would be from dissent from within the circle of expertise, creating the need for the scientific community to suppress and cover up such dissent and present a public façade of a universal consensus.

Power is highly addictive, which is why George Grant warned that the modern scientific project of subjecting all of nature to the will of man would inevitably lead to tyranny, in which man himself is subjected to the same will. Is this what we are seeing in all this hot air about climate change?

Climate change alarmism is built upon a correlation scientists have drawn between the rise of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere since the nineteenth century and a rise in average global temperature over the same period of time. Something else has expanded greatly in the same period and that is the population of the world. It was around 1830 that the world’s population first grew to one billion. Today it is over seven billion. If one considers how else, other than by burning fossil fuels, human beings produce carbon dioxide, i.e., by breathing, and how the same people warning us about manmade climate change are frequently also neo-Malthusians, i.e., people who think the world’s population has grown beyond the planet’s carrying capacity but who lack Malthus’s Christian scruples against abortion, euthanasia, and the like, one can see the door of climate change alarmism opening up onto a very dark path indeed. As Nicolás Gómez Dávila once put it “The so highly acclaimed ‘dominion of man over nature’ turned out to be merely an enormous capability to kill.”

Now, as the latest climate change summit in France has just drawn to a close, that is a rather sobering thought upon which to reflect.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Send Him Packing - The Absurdity of Inclusiveness Taken Too Far

Imagine that you are a Jew and one day you decide to make aliyah to Israel, your right according to the Israeli Law of Return. You arrive in the Holy Land, establish yourself in a major Israeli city like Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, and claim the rights and privileges of Israeli citizenship. What do you suppose Israel would do if, the day after you received your official Israeli citizenship, with your Israeli passport and all else that comes with it, you were to declare that you renounced your Judaism and were converting to the most militantly anti-Israeli version of Islam possible, that you were taking out membership in the National Socialist Party in the hopes of establishing an Israeli branch, put up a website promoting the doctrines of Adolf Hitler, ran a swastika flag up the pole outside your house, and declared that you could in no way be loyal to a Jewish ethnostate and that Israel must cease to be such in order to accommodate you? What do you suppose Israel would do if you told them in advance before submitting your application for citizenship that you would be doing this?

I think it is fair to say that the Israeli government would take a rather dim view of all of this, to put it mildly, and that you would not be enjoying your Israeli citizenship for very long – or, if you were foolish enough to tell them of your intentions in advance – at all.

Unfortunately, our government here in Canada, lacks both the sanity and the backbone of the Israeli government. This Monday, Dror Bar-Natan earned himself his five minutes of fame, by taking the Canadian citizenship oath, having announced in advance that he intended to renounce the oath of loyalty to the queen immediately after swearing it, which he did by handing Albert Wong, the citizenship judge who administered the oath, a letter containing his disavowal. Bar-Natan, who was born and raised in Israel, studied mathematics in the United States, and already has citizenship in both of these republics, has taught math at the University of Toronto since 2002. As Ezra Levant noted earlier this week, Mr. Bar-Natan obviously has no problem with taking Canadian money which bears the image of Her Majesty. You might recall that he was one of three would-be citizens who challenged the constitutionality of the loyalty oath in court a couple of years back. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled against the challenge last August and this February the Supreme Court announced that it would not hear an appeal of the Ontario Court’s ruling.

It has not been often, in the 33 years since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was added to our constitution in 1982, that our courts have upheld longstanding Canadian traditions, customs and ways of doing things when challenged. They have generally only given conservative rulings when the traditions and customs in question are enshrined in the constitution, as is the case here and in its ruling regarding the Senate last year. One of the nastiest things about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is that it is written in such a way as to turn an otherwise conservative court into an instrument of radical and revolutionary change if the tradition or custom targeted for change is not explicitly included in the constitution. In this case, because our constitution is that of a parliamentary monarchy, it is obviously in keeping with our constitution for the oath of loyalty to be sworn to Queen Elizabeth II, our head of state, in whose name all the branches of government, such as the elected legislature in Parliament and the courts, conduct their daily affairs.

Unfortunately, the court’s ruling was worded in such a way as to encourage the action Mr. Bar-Natan has taken. Part of his challenge of the constitutionality of the oath was that he thought it would violate his freedom of expression as a republican, who does not believe in royalty, and thinks it a relic of a bygone age. The court ruled that it would not violate his freedom of expression because he was free to disavow the oath after having sworn it. What the judges presumably were thinking was that we do not require Canadians to subscribe to a creed of political orthodoxy and excommunicate them if they commit heresy. This is a very questionable notion in post-1982 Canada for from that year onward the powers that be have not been kind to Canadians who dissent from the ideological positions that Pierre Trudeau decided were “Canadian values” and encoded in the Charter, no matter how true those Canadians may be to everything that was recognizably Canadian prior to 1963. Even if we were to grant, however, for the sake of argument, that the assumption is valid, it was still foolish and reckless for the court to say what it did for it was an invitation for people like Mr. Bar-Natan to commit perjury which is what the deliberately insincere swearing of an oath amounts to, a rather dubious foundation for good citizenship.

It would have been far better had the judges just said that if you don’t want to pledge your loyalty to the queen then you have business seeking to become a citizen of a Commonwealth parliamentary monarchy like Canada. Someone who comes here wanting Canada without the monarchy is like the person who moves to Israel wanting Israel without the Jewishness. The monarchy is more than just a symbol, it is the true foundation of Canadian national unity. When, in 1776, the Thirteen Colonies revolted against the British government in London and set out on the path that would end in the construction of the American republic, the French colony of Canada, ceded to the British Crown at the end of the Seven Years War in the previous decade, remained loyal to its new Sovereign. The Crown, just prior to the American Revolution, had given them a guarantee of their language, religion, and culture. After the American Revolution, those who had not gone along with the revolutionaries but remained loyal to the Crown, were persecuted by the new republican government and these, the United Empire Loyalists, moved north to Canada and to other colonies that had remained true to the Crown. The French Canadians and the United Empire Loyalists had different reasons for remaining loyal to the Crown but that loyalty united them and enabled them a century later, to build the Dominion of Canada out of British North America. Attempts by the Liberal Party, under the leadership of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, to shift Canadian national unity onto a different foundation of tolerance, diversity, multiculturalism, humanitarianism, and the like, failed miserably and almost tore the country apart in their utter divisiveness.

The problem with the judges is that they, like so many others in post-1982 Canada, are blindly committed to inclusiveness, one of those new “Canadian values” of Pierre Trudeau’s. Even in the act of rightly upholding our constitution and the oath of loyalty to our monarch, they were unwilling to say to a prospective new citizen who disagrees with our traditional monarchy “if you don’t like the way we do things here, you are not welcome, and you are free to go back to one of the two countries in which you already have citizenship, which have the republican form of government you desire.” Instead, they went out of their way to accommodate him and threw him a loophole, even though it meant inviting him to commit perjury, an invitation he has now taken them up on.

They should have shipped him back to Israel. That is, of course, assuming that Israel, with her own share of troublemakers to contend with, would be willing to take him back.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blaming Victims and Excusing Perpetrators

Imagine the following scenario. A young woman is walking down the side-walk one night when, as she moves through a darkened section of the street, all of a sudden she is set upon by a young thug who pulls her into an alley and forces himself upon her. After he finishes the rapist beats her and leaves her for dead but she is discovered in time, taken to the hospital, and survives.

After such a gruesome happening, the police, naturally, question her for as many details about her assailant as she can remember. Her friends and family help organize a neighbourhood watch in the hopes of preventing future such incidents and possibly helping the police catch the rapist.

Suppose that then someone were to come along and say that the police and the young lady’s family and friends all had a wrong attitude towards the whole situation. Rather than wanting the rapist to be tracked down, caught, and punished, this thoughtful individual suggests, the young lady should be looking at herself, peering deeply into the belly button showing in her bare midriff and asking what it is about her that invited this violent sexual assault.

Do you think that the person who were to offer this kind of suggestion would survive long and with all of his appendages still attached?

There is a phrase that has been widely used in recent decades which, taken at its literal meaning, would describe the malefaction of which our hypothetical Job’s comforter is guilty. That phrase is “blaming the victim” and when applied to a scenario like the one discussed it is quite clear what is wrong with it. You have two individuals, one of whom commits an atrocious crime against the other, and the victim is told that she and not the perpetrator bears the moral responsibility for what happened. Yet interestingly the expression is seldom used in this kind of context by those who use it the most often.

The people who use this expression the most are those who consider themselves to be the vanguard of moral and intellectual enlightenment, i.e., liberals, leftists, and other forward-thinking progressive types. Indeed, if I am not mistaken, they are the ones to have actually coined the phrase in the first place. Ordinarily, however, when they use it, the victims they have in mind are not individuals who have been the object of specific criminal acts but rather groups whom they have declared to have been the victims of society, and especially Western civilization, down through history. You know who I mean – all races except whites, all religions except Christianity, women, homosexuals, etc.

In a society dominated by the progressive way of thinking – and all Western societies, to one extent or another, usually a very large extent, are controlled by this way of thinking, even when a nominally “conservative” party is in power – these groups are “official victims” and their status as such is one of privilege. That privilege, progressives think, should include that of being above criticism and so, when anyone criticises one of these groups, or even select members of these groups, the progressive takes great offence and considers it the equivalent of holding the victim of a crime responsible for the act of its perpetrator. In the mouths of progressives, therefore, blaming the victim, is often simply a fancier way of saying “you’re a racist”, “you’re a sexist” or “you’re a homophobe”. Actually, pretty much everything progressives ever say can be reduced to these slurs which don’t really mean much more than “you disagree with me, and I can’t defend and articulate my position as well as you, so I’m going to call you a bad name”.

Thus, to a progressive, blaming the victim includes such things as making the observation that certain races in the United States have higher rates of illegitimacy, poverty, and crime than others or pointing out that the adherents of one particular religion are far more likely to strap bombs around themselves and blow up a shopping centre or hijack an air-plane and fly it into a building than any other. To speak the truth is to blame the victim to the progressive.

When normal people think of victims they think of those who have been on the receiving end of robbery, assault, murder, rape, kidnapping, or the like and not groups with social grievances of some sort or another. Normal people usually think “excusing the perpetrator” to be a worse problem than blaming the victim and, if you think about it, blaming the victim is best understood as being a form or aspect of excusing the perpetrator. The liberal’s preference for the former phrase is understandable, of course, in that they themselves are the chief practitioners of the latter. No matter how heinous and violent the crime you can always rely upon liberals to plead for leniency for the perpetrator, to argue that it is not really his fault and that society is to blame, and to condemn anyone who demands that the victim be given justice and a real sentence be handed down as atavistic vengeance seekers, out for blood.

Some might argue that when it comes to cases of rape, feminists, who are progressive and liberal, are more like normal people in their demands that perpetrators be brought to justice. A few years ago, there was an incident here in Manitoba which bears a certain resemblance to our hypothetical situation. Robert Dewar, then a Justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, came under heavy criticism from feminists after he handed down a conditional sentence in a rape case. A conditional sentence is a sentence that is served outside of prison in the community under certain restrictions – a rather light sentence for a crime as serious as rape. It was not the leniency of the sentence itself which drew the feminists’ ire, if you recall, but the fact that Justice Dewar chose that moment to lecture the victim on the imprudence and impropriety of her trashy attire. While the judge had clearly picked a bad time and place to make that speech, the point is that the feminists were far more outraged over his “slut shaming” than over the fact that he let a rapist off with a slap on the wrist. Anyone who pays attention to what feminists say knows that in recent years they have launched a campaign against slut shaming, i.e., criticism of the contemporary cultural trend for young women – and more than a few older women – to dress, talk, and act like cheap prostitutes and that they object to the counsel of modesty under any circumstances as a “patriarchal” attempt to restrict the freedom of female sexual expression. As for their demands that rapists be brought to justice, the observer of feminism will also be aware that in recent feminist lingo the meaning of “rapist” has been extended to include men who women are ashamed of having slept with and so allow themselves to be convinced after the fact that the sex was not truly consensual.

If progressive liberals are the chief practitioners of excusing the perpetrator when it comes to real crimes they are also no slouches when it comes to blaming the victim on a grandiose scale. Consider the liberal response to the terrorist attack in Paris a couple of weeks ago – or, for that matter, to any of the episodes of jihad that have kept the news media occupied for the last couple of decades. They wring their hands over the violence of it all, of course, but their primary concern always seems to be that the ordinary people of France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, the United States, or wherever the attack has taken place, might develop negative thoughts and feelings towards Muslims out of all of this. Their advice to Western Christians after one of these incidents is scarcely indistinguishable from that of the person in our scenario who advised the victim to think about what she had done to provoke the rape. Instead of thinking about military retaliation against ISIS, or even securing our borders and preventing the warriors of jihad from gaining access to our countries, they tell us we ought to be thinking about what is wrong with us to have provoked this kind of animosity.

I am not suggesting, of course, that we should ignore the problems with our own societies and civilization, of which there are plenty. To say that a rapist should not be excused for his crime on the grounds of his victim’s attire is not to say that skanky appearance and behaviour should never be criticized. Those who insist, however, that our response to a violent, murderous, attack upon our civilization ought to be to concentrate on our own faults and failings, do not in so doing take the high moral ground as they imagine. Instead, they sink into the same swamp as those who excuse rapists by saying “she was asking for it – look at the way she was dressed”.