The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Some Good Reads

All of my writing time for the past couple of weeks has been occupied with material for publication elsewhere. I anticipate this will be the case for a couple of more weeks as well.

In the meantime I have some reading recommendations.

Mark Moncrieff of the blog "Upon Hope" has posted an essay entitled "Homosexuality and Conservatism" which I highly recommend. In a succinct manner, he discusses the radical change in public attitudes towards homosexuality, how this has come about, how the past status quo has been misrepresented as have the consequences of the revolution, and what the appropriate conservative attitude towards all this is.

The "Alt-Right" has received much media attention lately, thanks to Hillary Clinton's attack on them earlier this week. There have been several excellent responses to this from the Alt-Right itself, an online assortment of right-wingers who, as their label would suggest, present an alternative to mainstream conservatism - or cuckservatism - that is actually right wing. The blog Alt-Right has posted a video entitled "We Are the Alt-Right" with a descriptive paragraph that I will reproduce in full here:

Equality is bullshit. Hierarchy is essential. The races are different. The sexes are different. Morality matters and degeneracy is real. All cultures are not equal and we are not obligated to think they are. Man is a fallen creature and there is more to life than hollow materialism. Finally, the white race matters, and civilisation is precious. This is the Alt-Right.

That seems to pretty much sum up what the Alt-Right - or at least the Christian segment of it - stands for and while progressives, liberals, and neoconservatives will no doubt be aghast that in the Current Year anyone would dare express, let alone hold, such beliefs, they seem to be pretty basic truths to me. Of course, to all of that I would add the even more important point that royal monarchy is the best form of government and that government by elected politicians ought only to be allowed when, as in the Westminster parliamentary system, the position the politicians are elected into is that of a servant - the literal meaning of the word "Minister" - of a royal master. The position of servant to a royal master is humbling, which elected politicians need the most. The position of servant of the people or the public, brings out all of their natural hubris.

Which leads me to my final recommendation. The royalist sentiments in my last paragraph are those of a Canadian High Tory, and while I am a representative of the right-wing of that species, there is a left-wing too. The best representative of it is Professor Ron Dart of the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbottsford, British Columbia. My essay, "High Tories, Left and Right" a couple of years ago was a review of an older book of his entitled The Canadian High Tory Tradition. The American Anglican Press has just released his The North American High Tory Tradition . I have reviewed this new volume for the upcoming issue of the Anglican Tradition and you can order the book which, despite its left-of-centre leanings at times is still well worth reading, directly from the publisher here.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Trump versus Clinton, Huntington versus Fukuyama

On the final day of the Democratic National Convention one of the speakers was Khizr Khan. Not the fifteenth century founder of the Sayyid dynasty in India, of course, but a Pakistani born immigrant to the United States. Khan condemned Republican candidate Donald Trump’s policies with regards to immigration as violating the American constitution. He talked about his son who had died as an American soldier in the Iraq War and asked what Trump had sacrificed.

Most of the discussion that this has generated over the last week or so has been long on emotion and short on fact. Although Khan had publicly attacked Trump, anything Trump said in response, no matter how reasonable, was condemned, because Khan was a grieving parent. One would think, from the propaganda that began appearing all over the progressive media, that Trump had been personally responsible for the death of Khan’s son. The irony is that Trump was against the Iraq War and has condemned it frequently throughout his campaign, while Khan’s own preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, as Senator for New York voted for the war and thus was in part responsible for his son’s death.

That did not come up very often in the media’s anti-Trump fest. It did not fit the narrative. Nor did the fact that Khan had a personal motive other than the death of his son for attacking Trump. He is a lawyer who specializes in helping Muslims immigrate to the United States. He is also an advocate of Shariah Law who has been accused of having connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic organization that is the parent organization of terrorist group Hamas and which - with the support of the Obama administration and especially his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – has fomented revolution against several secular Middle Eastern governments which, when successful, has resulted in those governments being replaced by jihadist theocracies.

What is most interesting in all of this is the way in which the American election this year is turning out to be a contest, not just between the two individuals Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but the alternate visions of post-Cold War geopolitics offered two decades ago by Francis Fukuyama and Samuel P. Huntington.

Fukuyama, who is currently a professor at Stanford University, was the author of a famous essay “The End of History?” which appeared in the September 1989 issue of The National Interest. He expanded the thesis of this essay into a book length treatise entitled The End of History and the Last Man, which was published in 1992. Fukuyama’s thesis was an update of the nineteenth century Whig Interpretation of History. He argued, that the triumph of the American-led free world over Communism in the Cold War, signalled, not just the end of that particular conflict, but the end of history itself in the sense that Western liberal democracy and free market capitalism would become universally accepted and the basis of a new, world order. Fukuyama saw this outcome as both inevitable and desirable, and his vision of a Pax Americana – a new world order of liberal, democratic capitalism, benevolently policed by the American military – has been the basis of the foreign policy of every American administration since.

The late political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard University, saw the post-Cold War world as shaping up in a different way, and responded to Fukuyama’s book with an essay “The Clash of Civilizations”, published in the Summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs. He too expanded his thesis into a book length treatise, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, which was published in 1996. He argued that conflicts between civilizations and cultures, however regrettable, were an inevitable recurrence in human history, which he viewed as being more cyclical, as opposed to the very linear understanding of history found in the original Whig Interpretation and Fukuyama’s thesis. The end of the Cold War, he believed, signalled the end of a particular kind of conflict, the ideological type that had characterized the Twentieth Century, but that other inter-civilizational conflicts would arise, and that the next one was likely to be between Western civilization and the non-Western world, especially the Islamic world.

Fukuyama’s thesis seems to me to be not just utter foolishness but dangerous utter foolishness. The Canadian conservative philosopher George Grant argued in Lament For a Nation (1965) that the world seemed to be headed towards a “universal and homogenous state” of American style liberalism, like the kind Fukuyama believed to be desirable, but observed that the ancients had believed that any such universal state would be a tyranny. If the ancients were right, as Grant believed as do I, then all the recent efforts to build a borderless, global, society, however well-intentioned they may be, are leading us down a path to darkness and misery.

Huntington’s thesis, by contrast, has been borne out by the events of the last two and a half decades. Western civilization is now in a clash with the non-Western, and especially the Islamic world, and those who believe in Fukuyama’s vision of universal, liberal, democracy are jeopardizing the West’s ability to survive, let alone win, this conflict. Observe, for example, the consequences of the attempts of the last two American presidential administrations to introduce liberal democracy to Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Libya, and Syria. The overthrow of the Hussein government in Iraq and the weakening of the Assad government in Syria has led to much of these countries being taken over by the Islamic State, the most formidable jihadist opponent the West has yet faced, while Hamas was voted in by the Palestinians, remaining in control of the Gaza Strip, and Islamic theocrats have come to power in Egypt and Libya. Meanwhile, as we have seen over the course of the last two years, the vision of a global liberal order in which borders do not hinder the free movement of either people or goods and the ensuing relaxed attitude on the part of most Western governments to migration and border security, has internalized the threat from the Islamic world. The conflict between Obama-backed rebels in Syria and the Assad government there, created the pretext whereby droves of invaders, claiming to be refugees from this crisis, have overrun Europe while the number of large scale terrorist attacks on Western soil has been rapidly multiplying.

Fukuyama’s theory has generated a losing strategy in the conflict against Islam, a conflict in which Western civilization was already handicapped by the victory of its own liberalism in the Twentieth Century. That victory was not so much over the twin evils of Communism and Nazism (1) as over the traditions and religion of Christendom, i.e., pre-modern, pre-liberal, Western Civilization. For a thousand years Christendom fought against Islam’s relentless attempts to conquer it. There were notable losses – such as the defeat of the kingdom of Serbia by the Ottomans in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 and the fall of Constantinople, the capital of Eastern Christendom, in the following century – but there were also major victories – such as when Charles Martel’s Franks defeated the Islamic hordes at Tours in 732 and when the Holy League turned away the invading Ottomans before the gates of the capital of the Holy Roman Empire in 1683. To Islam, the present conflict with the West is not something new but rather the renewal and continuation of its fourteen century long war of conquest against Christendom. The West, in which the Christendom that valiantly fought back against Islamic aggression has been replaced by a “Western Civilization” of modern, secular, liberalism, fails to understand this, and so is ill-equipped for the conflict.

The revival of Christendom would be the West’s best chance of surviving and winning this conflict. A Donald Trump presidency, in the American republic that is the centre of the modern liberal West, will not bring about a revival of Christendom. It would, however, be the second best thing, for it would mean the defeat of the Fukuyama inspired, idealistic, liberal triumphalism that, in its naïve belief that liberal democracy is destined to prevail over all its competitors, has been uniting the Islamic world, bringing it most fanatical proponents to power, and internalizing within the West, what was formerly an outside threat. Trump may be a crude, vulgar, egotist, with a tendency to speak before he thinks through what he is speaking about, but he is also a realist and a patriot, who understands that America and the West are in a war with Islam, in which open borders and unrestricted immigration can and will be exploited by the enemy for our own destruction. He is not ideologically committed to the idea that American liberal democracy is the only acceptable form of government and must become universal, and so has shown a willingness to get along with leaders like Russia’s Putin and Syria’s Assad who, while they may not govern in a way that American liberal democrats would approve of, have been fighting the jihadists and protecting the Christian communities in their own countries.

His opponent, by contrast, worked to destabilize the Assad government as Obama’s Secretary of State, which assisted the rise of ISIS at the expense of the safety of the ancient Christian communities in Syria, and has been rattling her sabre against Putin. Her assistance to rebel groups in Egypt against a government not pure enough by the standards of American democratic liberalism, brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt in the mercifully short-lived, presidency of Mohammed Morsi. The consequences of her similar actions in Libya are well known. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein in the Iraq War for which she voted as Senator also contributed to the rise of ISIS, and the wars her husband’s administration – in which she had an unprecedented amount of influence as First Lady - fought against Yugoslavian/Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic – recently exonerated of all the charges made against him at the time – benefited Muslim groups in Bosnia and Kosovo who were allied with Osama bin Laden.

The Trump vs. Clinton presidential contest this fall, therefore, is also, in a sense, a contest between a realism that has a degree of similarity to that of the late Samuel Huntington and the pure liberal idealism of Francis Fukuyama, with the survival of the West in its clash with Islam hanging on the outcome.

(1) Liberalism had largely been colonized by Communism by the time the Soviet Union collapsed. As Tomislav Sunic remarked, in Homo Americanus: Child of the Postmodern Age (2007) that “Some European authors observed that communism died in the East because it had already been implemented in the West”, an observation that seems rather justified when one compares the ten measures proposed in the second chapter of the Communist Manifesto with the accomplishments of which progressive liberalism is most proud in the United States and other Western countries. Historian John Lukacs has frequently made a similar observation about national socialism (of which Nazism is a contraction). Liberalism triumphed over these totalitarian enemies, in other words, at the expense of becoming the very thing it had defeated.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Mel Hurtig and Canadian Patriotism and Nationalism

I was sorry to read, a couple of days ago, about the death of Mel Hurtig. Hurtig, who was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, started out as a bookseller, then moved into the book publishing business. The Canadian Encyclopedia, which he originally published in three hardcover volumes in 1985, is undoubtedly the work for which he will be most remembered, although he went on to write several books himself after he sold his publishing company in 1992.

While Hurtig was a man with whose overall views – very progressive and left-wing – I largely and vehemently disagreed, I did agree with him on the issue which was most important to him, the theme that ran through all of his books and which was the basis of his electoral campaign in the 1993 federal election as the leader of the short-lived National Party. That was the election that saw the Progressive Conservatives, which had formed the government since winning a large majority in 1984, decimated, and the Liberals returned to power. The Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney, in betrayal of their own party’s traditional economic nationalism, had negotiated the US-Canada Free Trade deal with the American government in 1988, and Chretien’s Liberals, true to their own history as the party of continentalism and free trade, negotiated its expansion into NAFTA in 1994. Hurtig believed that this would lead inevitably to Canada’s economic, cultural, and political subjugation to and eventually absorption into the United States of America, a destiny he opposed with his whole heart and fought with the weapon in the use of which he was most skilled, that which is proverbially stronger than the sword, his pen.

On this matter – both that free trade would lead to Canada’s absorption into the United States, informally at least, if not formally – and that this is an outcome to be lamented and opposed – I fully agreed – and agree – with Hurtig. Having said that, I would like to make a comparison with an earlier generation of Canadian patriots who were concerned about the disappearance of the country they loved.

Hurtig’s fears that Canada was being pulled closer and closer into the American empire, expressed in such books as The Betrayal of Canada (1991) and The Vanishing Country (2002), were anticipated in 1965, by Lament For a Nation, by Canadian philosopher George Parkin Grant. The premise of Grant’s book was that the fall of the Diefenbaker government in 1963, in a Parliamentary confidence vote in which the Liberals, NDP, and Social Credit united against Diefenbaker on the matter of his refusal to allow Washington D. C. to dictate Canadian policy in the matter of the arming of the Bomarc missiles, spelled the end of a Canada that was sovereign and independent of American control. This, Grant argued, was to be lamented because the Canadian project – the establishment in North America of a country which, by retaining the British tradition that the United States had rejected in her Revolution as well as preserving the French Catholic tradition in Quebec, preserved links to the pre-modern heritage of Christendom and classical antiquity that the thoroughly modern, liberal, tradition of the United States did not – was a worthy project, something good to be treasured in itself.

The Canada that George Grant loved and lamented, in other words, was a different country from the Canada that Mel Hurtig loved and fought for. Grant, despite his irritating partial sympathy for ideas and movements that any intelligent person ought to be able to recognize as pure evil masquerading as naïve stupidity – socialism, pacifism, and feminism – was a conservative, and the Canada he loved was the Dominion of Canada, a Christian parliamentary monarchy, with a rural, small-town, society, and a Victorian morality.

John Diefenbaker, the Conservative Prime Minister whose defeat prompted the writing of Grant’s book, was also concerned about the future of the country he loved, which concerns were expressed both in These Things We Treasure (1972) and his three volume memoir One Canada, (1975) especially the third volume. In Diefenbaker’s case, the threat to Canada came not from the United States, but from Canadian Nationalists in the Liberal Party. These seemed determined to strip Canada of her heritage and replace it with one of their own manufacture, as when they replaced the Red Ensign, which had been baptized Canada’s flag in the blood of the soldiers who fought under it in World War II, against which move Diefenbaker led the Opposition in Parliament. It was more than just the replacement of symbols, however. Diefenbaker feared that the nationalists, in their contempt for the British heritage that is the source of our parliamentary monarchy and Common Law rights and freedoms, were undermining both the Crown and Parliament and moving Canada towards a dictatorship of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. These same concerns had been expressed about an earlier generation of Liberal nationalists, by John Farthing in his Freedom Wears a Crown, edited by Judith Robinson and published posthumously in 1957. History has proven these concerns to be well justified.

Mel Hurtig, who ran for the Liberals in Edmonton in the 1972 election, was a Trudeau Liberal. The Canada he loved was the New Canada, the result of the revolution-within-the-form carried out the by the Liberals under the leadership of Soviet dupes and traitors Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau in the 1960s and 1970s. The nationalists of the New Canada seem to think that by taking all the bad ideas of the American Hollywood Left to their absurd extremes and rebranding them as “Canadian values” they are somehow promoting a Canadian identity that is distinct and independent from the United States. To a Tory patriot like myself, it seems that the way to accomplish that goal is by rediscovering the heritage of the Old Canada, the Canada that appears in the novels of Mazo de la Roche and Robertson Davies, and which survives to a certain extent, mostly in our rural communities.

The goal itself, however, is one that both the patriots of the Old Canada and the nationalists of the New share against those who wish to see Canada further integrated into a new, America-dominated, global order, and for his faithfulness to that goal, Mel Hurtig well deserves to be honoured. May he rest in peace.