The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Solution to the Vaping Crisis

It appears that the new epidemic that has been popping up all over the United States where it has been linked to a number of deaths has arrived here in Canada. The disease affects the respiratory system and seems to be caused by the use of some new-fangled, technological, gizmos called e-cigarettes. Since the use of these contraptions is called vaping the epidemic has therefore been colloquially dubbed the vaping sickness or the vaping illness. Whether it has been given a more official, technical sounding, name or not, I am unaware. The lower House of Congress, with which the American republic, lacking a proper Parliament, is forced to make do, has just launched an inquiry into the epidemic. It has affected over five hundred people in almost forty states. The death toll, at last count, is sitting at nine. The first known instance of the disease in our Dominion landed a teenager in London, Upper Canada, on life-support from which he has since been taken off, one hopes due to recovery.

Health Canada, the branch of our civil service or bureaucracy (1) charged with looking into such matters, has vowed to get to the bottom of this. In the interest of saving them time and the taxpayer money I will point out a simple solution to this crisis. We can easily discourage people from endangering their health and lives by risking the unknown perils of experimenting with something that in all likelihood was whipped up by some mad scientist in his laboratory in the tower of an abandoned castle somewhere as lightning flashed all around him and he rubbed his hands together laughing and shrieking “Muah hah hah hah hah! Fools! I’ll destroy them all!” which I imagine to be the standard way in which technological inventions come about. All we need to do is encourage them to try a safer, natural alternative that has been around for centuries, bringing comfort and pleasure to countless generations, and which has stood the test of time. We can encourage them to take up smoking instead.

An important note of clarification - I am not talking about smoking the vile and noxious drug that comes from the flowers, fruit and leaves of cannabis sativa or hemp, as it is called in the vernacular, which Captain Airhead aka the Kokanee Groper aka Blackface the Two-Faced Hypocrite aka Justin “Baby Doc” Trudeau legalized last year, and which is notorious for turning its users into gibbering idiots and sometimes paranoid psychotics. I am talking about smoking nicotiana tabacum, tobacco in the common tongue, which in the good old days would have been automatically understood as the unstated object of the verb smoking with no need of such clarification. Alas those days are long gone.

Smoking had a well-established, respectable, place within the cultural life of our civilization, before the American health commissar (2) declared war on it in 1964, and the rest of the West followed the Americans’ bad example.

"Smoking", Fran Lebowitz once said, "is, as far as I am concerned, the entire point of being an adult." Smoking was an indispensable part of the lives of the humourists of yesteryear. Try to imagine Mark Twain, Groucho Marx or W. C. Fields without his cigar. It simply cannot be done. This undoubtedly goes a long way towards explaining why the comedians of our own age, the antismoking age, are just not funny anymore.

Granted, smoking had its naysayers in the old days as well. Usually these were nags of the Mrs. Grundy type, who all seemed to think that there was an eleventh commandment reading "thou shalt not smoke." Perhaps they found it in the pseudoapocryphal Book of Hezekiah. Stephen Leacock, the pipe and cigar smoking political scientist and economist - he was a traditional Canadian Tory of the old school - who is better remembered for his prolific output of humourous fiction, demonstrated how to deal with this sort. Early in his career Leacock taught modern languages at Upper Canada College, known as the "Canadian Eton." One of the headmasters he worked under was George Robert Parkin who one day said to him "Leacock, I wish I could break this pernicious habit of smoking and swearing in school", meaning, of course, among the scholars. Leacock replied "I know it's a difficult habit to break oneself of, Dr. Parkin, but if you will put all of your energy into breaking yourself of it, I am sure that grace will be given you."

Parkin's grandson, by the way, was George Grant, another traditional Tory. Grant was a smoker which presumably contributed to his becoming Canada's greatest philosopher. I have no idea if Parkin's great-grandson and Grant's nephew, Michael Ignatieff, smokes or not, but I rather suspect not. He is a Grit, after all.

The Mrs. Grundys who thought that smoking was sinful, did not represent the great tradition of Christian moral theology but rather a mutant strain that had found its way into non-conformist English Protestantism. The greatest Christian thinkers of the last century, G.K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien were all dedicated smokers. In Tolkien’s case, the heroes of his stories – the Hobbits, Gandalf the Grey, Aragorn, etc., with the possible exception of the elves, are all pipe-smokers as well. Chesterton expressed the view of orthodox Christian moral theology when he wrote:

To have a horror of tobacco is not to have an abstract standard of right; but exactly the opposite. It is to have no standard of right whatever; and to make certain local likes and dislikes as a substitute. Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar.

From 1939 to 1945, the British family of nations and their allies heroically and desperately fought against the most notorious anti-smoker and vegetarian in all of history who had launched a Second World War in his determination to conquer the world and force us all to stop smoking and eat tofu. For most of this period, the British government was led by a statesman who seemed to be John Bull himself, come to life in the flesh, Sir Winston Churchill. He was seldom seen without a huge cigar clamped firmly between his teeth, the kind of cigar that is now named after him. Our American “allies” were determined to undermine everything for which he stood. Thanks to a deal which their morally as well as physically handicapped president, FDR, had struck with Stalin, we were forced to leave Poland, the Nazi invasion of which had started the war, under Soviet slavery in 1945. Two decades later, when they set their War on Tobacco in motion it was as if Hitler had won after all.

Up to that point, smokers were notoriously long-lived and healthy. Everyone at the time had at least one relative who smoked heavily every day of his life and lived to be over one hundred. That they started getting emphysema and lung cancer after the Surgeon General’s warning would almost seem to suggest that the warning, rather than the smoking, was the cause of these diseases!

Was the antismoking crusade actually just one more Modern assault on Aristotelianism, this time on Aristotle’s understanding of causality?

More likely, the post-Surgeon General’s Warning skyrocketing of smoking-related health problems is yet another negative consequence of industrialism, mass-production, and the factory system. Cigarettes are the industrial form of tobacco. They are designed to be mass-produced in a factory. Unsurprisingly, they are also the least healthy way to smoke tobacco, and always have been. Over the course of the twentieth century, the percentage of smokers who opted for cigarettes rather than pipes or cigars went up, and the quality of cigarettes went down, as all factory-made products tend to do.

Indeed, what are e-cigarettes and vaping but the next phase in the technological industrialization of smoking?

It is clear, therefore, that our response to the present crisis ought to be to take a page out of the book of Colonel Sibthorp, denounce all of this technological humbuggery, and encourage everyone to turn back to the older, tested and true, ways of smoking tobacco. There is always the old, quiet and dignified method of packing the leaf into the bowl of a pipe and drawing the smoke through the stem. For those who prefer a more ostentatious smoke there is also the option of smoking cigars. Note that I do not mean the cheap machine-produced kind which are little better than cigarettes. I mean real cigars, in which wrapper leaf is stuffed with filler leaf, all of the finest, dried and fermented tobacco, hand-rolled on a virgin’s thigh, to the sound of classical music or the reading of great works of literature. Provided, of course, that anyone still makes them this way. One would like to think so, although with Cuba having suffered decades of Communist misrule under Castro, it is difficult to be certain.

A public campaign encouraging people to stop vaping and start smoking again will probably have to be directed towards adults. Some might say that this is regrettable, as young people seem to be the most affected by the vaping sickness, but we will have to leave it up to parents to lead by example and inform their teenagers about making wiser choices. Indeed, we would be much better off if the state left the education of children on a lot more matters up to their parents. Granted, there will always be the kind of parents who set a bad example for their children and lead them astray so that they end up doing something stupid like making fools of themselves in front of the entire planet by throwing a temper tantrum at the United Nations while lecturing world leaders about something of which they are ill-informed themselves, but these are the exception rather than the rule.

I urge you to contact Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the present Minister of Health, or her successor in this office if, as we all hope and pray, the Grits are turfed out in the next election, and urge her to direct Health Canada to take this wise and appropriate step and nip the coming vaping crisis in the bud.

(1) Civil service and bureaucracy mean the same thing. The choice of which to use depends largely upon whether you view those who do most of the leg-and-paper work of the ministers of the Crown as members of a long, dignified, tradition of dutiful and public-minded officials or as the arrogant apparatchiks of encroaching Leviathan. Both types are to be found and, of course, there are many who are to varying degrees, both. Bureaucracy is the more pejorative term.
(2) “Health Commissar” is a much more accurate description of the role of the American Surgeon General than “Health Czar” and I use it so as not sully the traditional hereditary title of the head of the Russian royal family which was deposed and murdered by the very revolutionary terrorists who inflicted commissars, among many other evils, upon the world.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Hoist With His Own Petard Yet Again

When last I had cause to borrow the famous Shakespearean line in the title of this essay and apply it to Justin Trudeau aka Captain Airhead it was in reference to the scandal known as the "Kokanee Grope." Airhead, as you may recall, had made feminism a key element of his carefully constructed personal image and accordingly had adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards "sexual harassment", insisting that when a woman makes an accusation of sexual harassment she must be believed. He mercilessly enforced this standard on his ministers and MPs and demanded that the leaders of other parties do the same. Then it was revealed that he himself, twenty years earlier, had been accused of making inappropriate sexual advances to a female reporter in British Columbia. The accusation, which had appeared in a BC newspaper within days of the incident and before Trudeau had a political career to sabotage was highly credible compared to many similar accusations that were being made against others at the same time. Although Trudeau had told the press, when he first announced his zero-tolerance policy, that he would hold himself to the same standard, when the time came for him to do so, he instead made an excuse of the sort that he would never have accepted from anyone else. He failed to hold himself to his own standard.

Neither then nor now do I accept as valid the phony standard Airhead was applying to others. It is utter foolishness to say that whenever a woman makes an accusation of sexual misbehaviour against a man she must be believed. I personally know of instances where women have made false accusations of this nature out of spite and vindictiveness and ruined someone's life. I doubt that there is anyone, with the slightest degree of experience in the real world, who, if honest, could not testify to personal knowledge of at least one such case. It is that common. Making this sort of false accusation is a feminine weapon of choice in the "war of the sexes." Anyone who says otherwise is either a liar, someone who has led an extremely sheltered existence, or a stultus damnatus. It is absolutely insane to suggest that women should always be believed when they make accusations of this sort. It is also a huge violation of a long-standing, rightly-venerated, principle of our legal and judicial system that someone accused of a crime has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a fair trial in a court of law.

Although I have no respect for Trudeau's absurd feminist standard of behaviour - and refuse to pretend otherwise - since Trudeau claimed to believe in it, and made a huge show out of believing it, and of requiring others to adhere to it, it is only right that he be held to his own standard. He ought to have been made to resign the office of Her Majesty's Canadian Prime Minister since he would have demanded the resignation of anyone else in that situation.

My response to the recent revelation of photographs and a video of Captain Airhead in blackface on three separate occasions is no different. I do not accept Justin Trudeau's progressive moral standards in which racism is ranked as the worst of all evils, nor do I accept the progressive idea of what does and does not constitute racism, and, unlike the Conservative Party, its present leader, and "conservative" commentators in the main-stream media I refuse to pretend that I do so. There is nothing inherently and necessarily insulting to the people of one race in a member of another race's dressing up like one of them and incorporating skin colour makeup into the costume. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a moron, a fool, an idiot, and just plain stupid. Perhaps next progressives will be demanding that the actress who plays Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in Stephen Schwartz’s hit Broadway musical version of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked owes Kermit the Frog an apology for wearing “greenface.”

Progressives, in maintaining that blackface is racist, point to the history of how it was used in the old minstrel shows in the days of slavery and segregation Suppose we concede that in these cases blackface was used to mock black people, kind of like how black comedians mock white people on a daily basis, and further concede that this mockery constituted racism. Note that these concessions are offered merely for the sake of making a point for to accept the progressive judgment that the mockery of blacks by whites is racist but the mockery of whites by blacks is okay requires that we accept progressivism’s application to race relations of Marxist theories that, in their original application to economic classes, have been thoroughly disproven, and are no more valid when re-applied to other areas of life. The concessions having been granted for the sake of argument, it in no way logically follows from blackface’s having been used in the past to mock black people in a racist way that each and every use of skin-darkening cosmetics in cosplay is therefore also racist. There is no way to connect the premise with the conclusion that does not involve a huge leap of invalid inductive reasoning. I defy you to find such a way. You cannot do it because it simply cannot be done. The progressives who insist that we accept the conclusion have never really tried to make the connection. They do not rely upon reason and argumentation but rather upon a form of bullying. "Either you agree with us or you are a racist too."

My point, in saying all of this, is not that Trudeau ought to be let off the hook in this latest scandal. I may not respect progressivism’s standards pertaining to racism but Trudeau certainly claims to do so. Indeed, antiracism has been as important an element of his constructed image as feminism, and he has not only professed to respect progressivism’s standards, but demanded that everyone else do so as well. He has been extremely, ahem, liberal in throwing the epithet “racist” at his critics on the right, and his campaign for re-election has largely been built upon the laughably ridiculous suggestion that Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party is some sort of front for neo-Nazism. If these photographs and video had involved a candidate of either the Conservative or People’s Party, no apology on the part of that candidate would have been good enough for Trudeau, he would have demanded that Scheer or Bernier throw the candidate under the bus, and then, after they had done so, would have continued to throw the photographs in their faces for the duration of the election campaign. I am neither guessing nor claiming access to divine middle knowledge here – it is a simple extrapolation from how Trudeau has always behaved in the past. Trudeau, who has been merciless in his judgement of others accused of racism, deserves no mercy now that these bizarre skeletons have been emerging from his own closet. My point is that Trudeau’s hypocrisy can be condemned without giving credit to progressivism’s absurd standards and rewarding its thuggish behaviour.

It would be most helpful here if we were to consider the nature of hypocrisy. Many think that hypocrisy is the failure to live up to one’s own moral standards. Hypocrisy is more than mere moral failure, however. Nobody perfectly lives up to his own moral standards – unless he has set the bar extremely low. Hypocrisy, as the term’s etymology suggests – it is derived from the Greek word for playing a role on stage – lies not in failing to live up to one’s standards but in pretending that one does so live up to them. It is putting on a big show about how superior and virtuous you are to all others. The word could almost have been coined just to describe Justin Trudeau and his “virtue-signaling.”

It follows, from what we have just seen, that hypocrisy is worse than mere moral failure because it magnifies moral failure by adding a layer of deception. This is not the only reason hypocrisy is worse than moral failure. Hypocrisy has been described as “the tribute vice pays to virtue” but the flip side to that is that fallen human nature being what it is, hypocrisy does not just bring discredit upon the hypocrite but upon moral standards themselves. As St. Paul put it in the second chapter of his epistle to the Romans:

Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. (vv. 23-24)

Consider the generation that brought about the Sexual Revolution, and indeed, the general Moral Revolution, after the Second World War. Their most frequent accusation against older generations was of “hypocrisy.” By making this accusation, however, it was not the failure of their parents to live up to the traditional moral standards that they had inherited and were trying to pass on that the younger generation was attacking but the standards themselves. By contrast, when Jesus Christ condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees He upheld the Mosaic moral standards that the Pharisees taught while condemning their sinful actions and self-righteous posturing: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” (Matt. 23:2-3). For an interesting extended discussion of this contrast between these two types of “anti-hypocrisy” see Jeremy Lott’s In Defense of Hypocrisy: Picking Sides in the War on Virtue (2006).

The traditional moral standards that the aforementioned generation used the hypocrisy of previous generations to attack were sound moral standards. They were for the most part the basic standards of Christendom, the rules which Christians and Jews both believe were handed down by God Himself at Mt. Sinai and which Christians believe were most fully explained in the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the teachings of Christianity these standards have the weight of divine authority behind them. They also – at least the commandments governing human interaction such as “thou shalt do no murder”, “thou shalt not commit adultery” and “thou shalt not steal” – are standards which in one form or another, have been a part of most if not all, moral codes in every society throughout human history. They also, therefore, carry the additional weight of a natural, moral, law testified to by near universal human recognition.

The progressive standards that Trudeau has been preaching in the most obnoxious way possible are not like this. “Thou shalt not be racist”, “thou shalt not be sexist”, “thou shalt not be homophobic”, etc. do not have the weight of divine authority. Nor do they, having been newly thought up within the last century, carry the weight of a natural law to which all human societies universally testify. Indeed, the exact opposite is the case. All human societies have historically promoted in-group loyalty, it being somewhat necessary for the cohesion apart from which no society could function. No human society has historically treated outsiders as having an equal claim on the benefits of membership with actual members and would have regarded anyone who suggested that they ought to be treated that way as being crazy.

The acceptance of progressivism’s new moral standards requires the belief that we have undergone some sort of massive, collective, quantum leap forward in moral understanding, starting about seven decades ago. Considering that these same decades have seen the desire to bring future generations into our world decrease dramatically, as indicated by decreasing fertility rates and the demand for contraceptive technology and abortion, the desire to leave this world increase, as indicated by rising suicide rates and the demand for euthanasia, and a huge increase in the use of substances that either induce an artificial euphoria or numb the senses as well as countless other ways of escaping reality, this seems highly unlikely. Leaving aside the consideration of these things as moral issues in their own right, collectively, they are all indicative of a major drop in happiness, which has been recognized since ancient times as the end to which morality is the means. This is hardly consistent with what would be expected from a quantum leap forward in moral thinking. The evidence rather suggests that we have been in a period of serious moral decay.

The progressive new morality is a poor substitute for the old, traditional, morality and not only because of its novelty and artificiality or for the reasons given in the last paragraph. The old rules – “thou shalt do no murder”, “thou shalt not commit adultery”, “thou shalt not steal”, etc. – forbade actions, specific actions, and were clear and unambiguous. While Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, taught that these commandments also forbid certain internal thoughts and attitudes, His point was that divine judgement is deeper and more thorough than human judgement. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7). Furthermore, to apply God’s commandments to the heart in the way of which He spoke simply means that when the commandment tells you that a particular act is wrong, it is as wrong to commit that act in your imagination as it is to commit it in actual deed. Anyone who knows the literal meaning of sins such as “adultery” and “murder”, can easily grasp what it means to commit these sins in one’s thoughts.

The exact opposite is the case for the progressive new morality. The sins this new morality prohibits – racism, sexism, homophobia, and the like, are first and foremost, thoughts and attitudes of the heart and mind. They are thought crimes. Since they cannot be seen by other human beings except through words and actions, they must be translated into rules governing words and actions. To make the prohibition of a thought crime your starting point, however, and from there extrapolate applications to words and deeds, is to give yourself license to forbid almost anything. In the 1960s the list of things considered to be “racist” was short, and the most prominent items on the list were various laws and other state policies believed to be unjust. Today, the list of things considered to be “racist” is encyclopedic in length, and the most prominent items are personal acts which, if they hurt others, hurt only their feelings. This is why totalitarian governments love to create thought crimes. This is why the prohibition of thought crime is bad morality.

Now, if someone is shown to be a hypocrite is his hypocrisy meliorated or worsened by the worthlessness of the moral standard he has violated?

The answer is that it is worsened. If that seems counterintuitive, remember the first point we made about hypocrisy – that it is not the same as mere moral failure. Mere moral failure may be meliorated if the standard one fails to live up to is not worth living up to in the first place. This is not true of hypocrisy because hypocrisy, the boasting of virtue one does not possess, the bald-faced contradiction of one’s projected image of oneself by one’s personal behaviour, is a composite evil that adds other layers of badness to moral failure, to which the badness of the professed moral standard becomes yet another layer. This is all the more true in this case because the bad moral standard in question exists for the very purpose of enabling progressives to get all puffed up over how much more morally enlightened they are than not only all living non-progressives but all past generations as well. In other words it exists to generate hypocrisy like that of Justin Trudeau.

It was refreshing last Wednesday and Thursday, to watch Captain Airhead finally make an apology for something he had done himself. He had avoided doing so in the Kokanee Grope scandal last year, and refused to do so in the SNC Lavalin scandal earlier this year. He much prefers to offer apologies on behalf of the country collectively for things done by previous generations, usually for things that don’t warrant an apology and to people who do not deserve one. The fact that he did not immediately resign his office and his leadership of the Liberal Party, withdraw from the election, and basically pay the same price he would have demanded of any of his subordinates in the same position, shows, however, that these apologies were as fake as any of the others and therefore, themselves, just further examples of his hypocrisy. When, on Friday morning, he gave a press conference in a desperate attempt to change the conversation, and announced his plan to fight gun crimes in Canada by banning weapons that have been used in high profile mass shootings elsewhere in the world but have not played a significant role in domestic gun violence, he came across as being as smug and self-righteous as ever.

Trudeau’s re-election campaign had, up to this point, largely consisted of throwing accusations of racism and white supremacy against the Conservatives. It is understandable, therefore, and was perhaps inevitable, that the response of the Conservative Party and small-c conservative commentators in the mainstream media to this scandal and the revelation of Trudeau’s hypocrisy could mostly be summarized in the words “Trudeau is bad because he is the real racist.” I firmly believe it to be a mistake to condemn Trudeau in such a way as to affirm the false progressive morality he preaches. The response of Maxime Bernier was the appropriate one. “I am not going to accuse @Justin Trudeau of being a racist”, the leader of the right-populist People’s Party tweeted out, “But he’s the master of identity politics and the Libs just spent months accusing everyone of being white supremacists. He definitely is the biggest hypocrite in the country.”

Quite right. For that reason, and for many others that need no further enumeration here, Trudeau is unfit for the position of Her Majesty’s Prime Minister in Canada. In the spirit of Evelyn Waugh let me add, that if the Liberals, who have been rallying behind the filius canis who is their disgraced leader, get elected again, the bulk of the populace of this, our fair Dominion, will have proven that they do not deserve the right to participate in the selection of Her Majesty’s Ministers.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Reactionary Tory Principles and the Present Day “Right”: Part One

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that in an isolated system, the universe as a whole being the largest example of such a system, the level of entropy will increase over time. While this is technically a statement about energy moving from an ordered and usable state to one that is disordered and unusable, the popular understanding of the Law as saying that everything eventually breaks down is not wrong. Translated into poetry, William Butler Yeats’ lines “Things fall apart/the centre cannot hold/mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” (1) is a decent approximation.

That this Law is valid when applied to history ought, with certain qualifications, to be considered a fundamental reactionary principle. By history, of course, I mean the history of human civilizations, and one qualification is that the Law must be applied in a particular rather than a general sense. Speaking of any given civilization, the creative energy that was put into building it eventually runs out and the civilization enters into a period of decline. Those who are familiar with Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West will recognize in his theory of the life-cycle of civilizations – although he called them cultures – what the history of human civilization in general looks like when the Law of entropy is applied to each civilization in particular. The other qualification, is that, as with any other application of this Law including its original usage in physics, it is a property of fallen Creation which in no way binds the Creator. The decline of a civilization can be and often has been retarded and even turned around by a religious revival. This is why there is no essential conflict between the reactionary’s anti-Whig understanding of history as moving in a downward direction towards decadence, decline, doom, and destruction and his call to “turn back the clock.” Whether the reactionary recognizes it or not, the latter is really a call for religious revival, a call to turn back to God.

The opposite of this reactionary principle is the idea that the history of human civilization, apart from any divine input, is an exception to the Second Law and is constantly moving towards a higher order, greater freedom, and maximal human potential. This is the idea of progress to which all forms of modern thought subscribe in one form or another. The nineteenth century Whig interpretation of history which treated all of past history as one long preparation for liberal democracy was one well known version of the idea of progress. The neoconservative Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man was an updated edition of this version. As Eric Voegelin (The New Science of Politics, 1952) and George Grant (Philosophy in the Mass Age, 1959) observed this idea was produced by inappropriately transferring to the history of human civilization the attributes of God’s redemptive history which transcends the history of human civilization and culminates in the Kingdom of God. The result of this transferal is the substitution of the Kingdom of Man for the Kingdom of God and Grant, who pointed this out in his first major book, devoted the writing side of his career to contemplating the consequences of this substitution in the modern, technological, age.

A quick glance at the mainstream “right” today will tell you that it has entirely abandoned the reactionary principle in favour of some form of the idea of progress. In Manitoba our most recent provincial election just took place a day prior to the request for the dissolution of Parliament launching the next Dominion election. Provincially, the status quo was more or less maintained, with the majority of seats held by Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives. Note the adjective in the party’s title. During the campaign Pallister’s PCs – the initials are even more appalling than the adjective by itself – used “Moving Manitoba Forward”, previously used by the socialists, as their slogan and ran ads urging voters not to let Wab Kinew’s New Democrats turn back the clock. In this context, of course, turning the clock back does not mean a religious revival, a recovery of worthy elements of the ancient and Christian traditions that were lost or damaged in the transition to modernity, or anything else a reactionary would mean by the phrase but rather a return to the policies of the previous Greg Selinger government – huge deficits, high taxes, long emergency room wait times, and general mismanagement of the public health care system. It speaks volumes of the mainstream “right” in this province, however, that it would rely so heavily on the language of progress to sell its platform to the public.

There is also a growing right outside of the mainstream. If we compare it to the mainstream right on an issue by issue basis we find that overall it is much to be preferred to the mainstream right. In Canada today any stronger position against abortion than “I am personally against it, but I believe it is a woman’s right to choose” has been almost completely pushed into the non-mainstream right. Any position on immigration stronger than “we need secure borders and to enforce our border laws” such as the suggestion that legal levels of immigration are way too high was pushed out of the mainstream right in all Western countries decades ago. To say that selection of immigrants is the prerogative of the country admitting the immigrants and that Western countries need more prudence in exercising that prerogative because not all cultures are equally compatible with our own, although common sense and until about sixty years ago non-controversial, is now regarded by the entire left and the mainstream right as beyond the pale. Speaking these truths about immigration has become the signature issue of most of the various forms of the non-mainstream right.

This “right” too, however, seems incapable of speaking its truths in any language other than that of the left. Take the movement behind Brexit in the United Kingdom, the Make America Great Again movement that put Donald Trump into the presidency of the United States, and the movement represented by Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party here in Canada. All three of these movements are populist. Populism is a style of politics in a democratic state that involves appealing directly to “the people” and vilifying the governing elites. A populist conceives of the policies he promotes in terms of “the will of the people” and prefers direct democracy over representative democracy. Each of these aspects of populism is an obvious characteristic of each of the three movements that I have specified – even though, ironically, it is due to representative democracy having been given the upper hand over direct democracy in the constitution of the American Republic that Donald Trump is now their president.

Indeed, the association between the non-mainstream right and populism is such that many people today think of populism as being naturally and inherently right-wing. It is not. Populism’s natural home is on the left. The idea of “the will of the people” is the very fiction upon which the left was historically based. It is what Jean-Jacques Rousseau called la volonté générale and was incorporated by the French Revolutionaries into the sixth Article of their Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Indeed, the very concept of “the people” is a fiction, for it has no consistent meaning. When a republican speaks of “the people” he means all citizens of the republic, governor and governed alike. A populist, by “the people”, excludes the elite. A lot of leftists use “the people” to mean “the poor” and exclude “the rich”. Hitler, by “the people” meant German-speaking Aryans. “The people” can mean whatever the person invoking the name of “the people” wants it to mean and therefore it means nothing at all. It is an expression, like so many others in the leftist lexicon, which is defined not by its designation of a corresponding reality, but by its usefulness as a tool for justifying violence and seizing and exercising power.

By contrast, kings and queens do not traditionally speak of “the people” but rather “my people” or “our people.” This wording is clear and definite – it means the monarch’s subjects – and expresses the traditional relationship between sovereign and subject in which feudal allegiance and familial ties are connected, kings and queens being both the liege-lords of their realms and the fathers and mothers of their large extended family of subjects. A true man of the right, a reactionary, is always a royalist.

To our list of reactionary principles we can add that pure democracy is the worst form of government, and that direct democracy as opposed to representative democracy, is the worst form of democracy. These principles are the opposite of all modern thinking, which is what makes them reactionary, but they are demonstrable.

Imagine a group of twenty people. One of them, Bob, puts forward to the rest of the group, the proposition that another of their members, Joe, should be beaten, tortured, mutilated, and killed for their amusement. The proposition is debated and they decide to settle it by taking a vote. Fifteen vote in favour, five against. The outcome is rather rough on poor Joe, but it was a democratic decision, fair and square, majority rules.

While that example is rather absurd and extreme, it illustrates what is wrong with the popular modern thought that democracy is the ideal form of government. If, however, you were to make one slight adjustment to the illustration and have Bob put forward the proposition that since Joe, who is quite wealthy, has so much property, and the rest of them, who are rather poor, have so little, it is only fair that they confiscate Joe’s wealth and distribute it equally among themselves, you would no longer have a situation that would be highly unlikely to arise in real life but a small-scale depiction of what is called economic democracy or socialism.

This problem with democracy has been recognized since it was first invented by the Greeks in ancient Athens and is one of the reasons why Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle condemned democracy as the worst form of government. Alexis de Tocqueville described the problem as “the tyranny of the majority.” Modern thinkers believed that the solution to the problem was to combine democracy with liberalism – the idea that government is itself subject to the law and that the law must recognize the natural, inalienable, rights of the individual. When men like John Locke and John Stuart Mill first proposed this doctrine they saw it as a restraint on the power of government to oppress. Today, centuries later, we are surrounded by an abundance of examples of how the doctrine of liberalism can be the basis and justification of state oppression. To give but one, we are now living in a day when someone can get in trouble with the law for using the pronoun “he” to refer to someone born with a penis on the grounds that it violates the individual’s inalienable “right” to choose his/her/its/whatever own gender.

What is also apparent in our day and age is that while “the tyranny of the majority” is a problem unique to democracy, the tyranny of the minority over the majority is just as much an element of democracy as of an outright oligarchy. Interestingly, the best example of this is the very issue which the non-mainstream right insists on framing in leftist, populist, terms. The populist, nationalist, “right” is not wrong in saying that Western countries have had too much of the wrong kind of immigration and placing the blame for this on “the elites.” What they don’t seem to grasp is that the guilty elites are democratic elites qua democratic elites.

Every organized society will always have an elite. There will always be a minority in any society that steers and directs it. This is what Robert Michels called “the iron law of oligarchy” (Political Parties, 1911) and it is true of all forms of society, no matter how democratic they might be in theory, and it does not make a difference if the democracy is direct or representative. In a true direct democracy, where every single question of public policy would be decided by a popular referendum, the ability to persuade the majority to vote its way most of the time, would be in the hands of a minority, and they would be the elite. The elite that actually wields power is not necessarily the same as those nominally in charge. Thus in a representative democracy the elite may be those who have gotten themselves elected into public office or it may be a hidden minority who have the ability to control elected officials. The nature of the society has as much of an effect on the nature of the elite as the nature of the elite has on the nature of the society.

Bertolt Brecht’s poem The Solution (1959) was intended as a criticism of the Communist government of East Germany’s suppression of the uprising of 1953. The poem’s ironic conclusion “Would it not in that case be simpler/for the government/To dissolve the people/and elect another” has frequently been borrowed as a critical description of the motives behind Western governments’ liberal mass immigration policies. The criticism is apt, but my point is that it is only a democratic society that provides its elites with an incentive for trying to “dissolve the people/and elect another”. An oft-heard argument for democracy is that it allows us to periodically “throw the rascals out.” One can see the appeal in this but the flipside is that it gives the political class a motive to “do unto them, before they do unto you.”

It is hardly a coincidence that radical, demographic transformation producing, mass immigration was introduced throughout the West in the 1960s – only a decade and a half after the end of the war in which the United States had emerged as the predominant power in the West. The United States, which had been led into the First World War by a President who wanted to “make the world safe for democracy” and who therefore insisted on driving the Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns from their thrones paving the way for the rise of Hitler, was able after the Second World War to introduce radical democratic changes throughout the West whether by forced re-education in the former Axis countries, the bribery of the Marshall Plan re-building assistance among the European Allies, or the dependence of both upon the American nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against the threat of Soviet invasion. The Americanization of the West led almost immediately to the spread of liberal mass immigration. Here in Canada, Tom Kent, an important Liberal Party strategist in the days of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau and one of the men who spearheaded the radical changes to our immigration policy in the late 1960s, as much as admitted to the Brechtian motive of maintaining the Liberal hold on power by dissolving the old electorate when he said that it was done to break up “Tory Toronto.”

If the radical immigration the West has been suffering from for decades is due to what Christopher Lasch called “The Revolt of the Elites” and that revolt in turn is the result of the triumphant ascendancy of American-style liberal democracy in the post-World War II Western world (2) then the insistence of the non-mainstream right on using the left-wing language of populism, democracy and “the will of the people” to combat this kind of immigration seems like a major strategic error.

I must point out, before concluding this essay, that the preceding strong criticism of democracy is not a criticism of the institution of parliament. As noted above, the true reactionary right is royalist, but no king or queen has ever governed without a council of advisors, and the institution of parliament has been a part of royal government in Christendom for over a thousand years. Parliament as an institution is democratic, but not completely democratic, and its virtue, historically, was that it incorporated a form of representative democracy into royal government in a way that strengthened the latter while diluting the many negative aspects of the former. While this virtue has been greatly lessened by the triumph of Whiggism the problem is with the Whig principle not with the institution. The Whig principle is that parliament is the democratic safeguard against royal tyranny. The Tory principle – the reactionary principle - is the exact opposite of this – that in parliament royal authority is the safeguard against democratic tyranny. The Tory principle is the true one.

In Part Two, I shall, Deus Vult, consider the reactionary principle that religion is the foundation of civilization in opposition to the liberal idea that the secular retreat from religion is the foundation of civilization and we shall weigh the mainstream, neoconservative, right in the balance of this principle and find it wanting.

(1) From The Second Coming (1919).
(2) Lasch would presumably disagree strongly with my explanation. The full title of his final, posthumously published, book was The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (1996).

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Blow It Out Your Ear, Bernie!

It would almost seem as if Bernie Farber is trying to set a world record. That would be the world record for the number of unrelated news stories in which someone who is neither a celebrity nor a world leader appears within a short period of time. In the last half of August he appeared in connection with three stories of which I am aware. Perhaps there are others that I have not seen. He appeared on television and was quoted in the newspapers in connection with the story about a member of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves who was accused of recruiting for a supposed neo-Nazi organization. He was also quoted in reference to the sentencing of Dr. James Sears who had been found guilty of the promotion of hatred in his satirical Your Ward News. I am sure that few of you will be surprised to learn that rather than lamenting and decrying this latest blow to freedom of thought and expression, as any decent Canadian would, Farber expressed an attitude that struck me as being smug, self-satisfied, cocky, hubristic, and downright arrogant.

The third story is the one that really takes the cake. Grant Hunter is a member of Alberta’s provincial Legislative Assembly and a minister in the province’s government. He holds the portfolio for red tape reduction. I have not checked, but I suspect that Alberta is the only province in the Dominion with such a ministry. Since red tape is generated by bureaucracy, expanding the bureaucracy for the purpose of reducing it seems slightly counterproductive to me, but apparently Mr. Hunter is of another opinion. He has come under criticism for a tweet that said the following:

Wernher von Braun said, “To conquer the universe you’d have to solve two problems: gravity and red tape.” We’ve made it clear that we are committed to reducing red tape in Alberta. Lots more to come.

It is not the part of the tweet in which he toots his own ministry’s horn for which he has been criticized, but for the opening quotation. He removed the tweet after a bunch of triggered snowflakes jumped down his throat. A more appropriate response would have been to tell them to stuff it.

The objection to the quotation is based not upon what it says but upon who said it. Wernher von Braun was a German aerospace engineer – in layman’s terms that means rocket scientist. He turned twenty-one shortly after Adolf Hitler became Germany’s Chancellor in 1933 and in 1937, like any other German in those days who valued his professional career – the philosopher Martin Heidegger and the industrialist Oskar Schindler are other famous examples that come to mind - he joined the Nazi Party. He served the Third Reich in his professional capacity as one of the leading scientists in their rocket development program, and yes, the rockets were designed for military purposes rather than space exploration. Then, following the Reich’s defeat in 1945, he and several others who had worked under him were drafted by the United States government to serve their military in basically the same capacity. It was undoubtedly von Braun who was foremost in legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s mind when he made fun of the American government’s recruitment of scientists, engineers, and other technical experts from Nazi Germany in his hilarious 1964 dark comedy Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned How to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. However, von Braun served the United States much longer than he served the Third Reich and was essentially the architect of the American space program.

Unlike Bernie Farber, Wernher von Braun was a brilliant scientist who achieved great things, and until very recently the idea that he was tainted with the crimes of the government he worked for at the beginning of his career and that quoting him is some sort of grave moral offense would not have been taken seriously and anyone silly enough to propose it would have found himself laughed to scorn. Sadly, those days are behind us and so we find CBC News reporting on Hunter’s tweet, the silly backlash, and its removal, and sure enough, there is Bernie waiting and ready to toss his two cents in:

“It was an unnecessary quote," said Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress.
"He's at best a controversial figure. He is for sure a Nazi and … it was silly to quote a man like him. Politicians have to know better," Farber said. "I just think it shows his [Hunter's] thoughtlessness."

Farber, whose organization monitors hate groups, said he doesn't think people's concerns about the quote's use are being overblown. It would have been easy to quote a Canadian economist or another figure on the topic of red tape, he said.
"I just think [Hunter] should acknowledge he should have made a better choice in terms of who to quote and apologize," Farber said. "That's always the way forward out of things like this to acknowledge your mistake and move forward."

Not a single one of these statements is accurate. Von Braun, at his best, was a genius, a pioneer in the field of rocket science, whose work laid the foundation of space exploration and gave subsequent generations a new heroic role model to add to policeman, soldier, and fireman – the astronaut. As for his being a Nazi, it would seem that English verb tenses are not Farber’s strong suit. The present tense is hardly appropriate for someone who has been dead for forty-two years and whose membership in the Nazi Party ended thirty-two years prior to his death. Perhaps Farber holds to a rather twisted version of Calvinism and believes “once a Nazi, always a Nazi.” It was not silly to quote von Braun, what is silly is Farber’s attitude about all of this. There is no indication here of any “thoughtlessness” on Hunter’s part, and there is absolutely no need for him to apologize. Indeed, there is a need for him, Hunter that is, not to apologize, because he is the victim of a form of bullying, and the true way forward in this situation is to refuse to apologize to people who do not deserve an apology and to tell them to take their manufactured offense and blow it out their ears.

If anyone should be apologizing over a quotation it ought to be the news media apologizing to the Canadian public for inflicting so many Bernie Farber quotes on us. By uncritically accepting him as the expert on hate and hate groups that he has appointed himself to be, much as the American media used to do with Morris Dees and his Southern Poverty Law Center [sic] before that organization's reputation finally collapsed under allegations of hypocrisy, shady fundraising, serial defamation, and the like, they have lent him a credibility that in my opinion he does not deserve. Incidentally – or perhaps not, I’ll let readers judge for themselves – when Farber and Evan Balgord founded the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, of which Farber is chairman, last year it was with a start-up grant from the SPLC, and the organization, in a letter to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security that was signed by Farber and Balgord, along with two of its board members, said of itself “The organization is modeled after, and supported by, the esteemed Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in the United States.”

I first remember hearing the name Bernie Farber around the turn of the millennium. At the time the Liberal Party, headed by Jean Chretien, had been governing the Dominion since 1993 and their Immigration ministers had been trying to strip several elderly men of their citizenship and deport them. These were men of German and Ukrainian ethnicity, who had fled to Canada as refugees following the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War. They had been teenagers during the war and had been forced by the Nazis to serve the German forces in various auxiliary capacities, usually as interpreters but in some cases also as guards. On February 2, 1997, CBS aired an episode of 60 Minutes in which the main segment was entitled “Canada’s Dark Secret.” In this segment Mike Wallace interviewed a private investigator named Steven Rambam who claimed that Canada was a haven for Nazi war criminals. The Liberal government, in response, was trying to project an image of clamping down on Nazi war criminals and since there were no Adolf Eichmanns or Klaus Barbies at hand to prosecute they decided to pick on these men instead. Cheering them on at every turn was the Canadian Jewish Congress, which had hired Rambam and for which Bernie Farber worked as Executive Director for the Ontario Region and National Director of Community Relations. Later Farber was promoted to Chief Executive of the entire organization before it was taken over by the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy which soon after renamed itself the Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs and dissolved the CJC. Farber had also been interviewed by Mike Wallace in the aforementioned 60 Minutes segment and in the controversy surrounding the attempted deportations was frequently quoted as supporting the government’s actions.

Peter Worthington, the late, great, founding editor of the Toronto Sun, went to bat for the elderly Ukrainians who were being so unjustly railroaded. He was particularly incensed over the cases of Wasyl Odynsky and Helmut Oberlander. Odynsky had been forced by the SS, during the German occupation of the Ukraine, to serve as a concentration camp guard. The Nazis told him they would kill him if he refused and would kill his family if he ran away. Oberlander, a Ukrainian of German ancestry, was forced by the Nazis to serve as a translator and supply guard for the Einsatzgruppe. Neither man served the Nazis voluntarily, nor was either of them an active participant in the war crimes of the Schutzstaffel. As Worthington put it in his column for April 29, 2001:

Men like Odynsky and Oberlander were victims, too - first of Sovietism which seized their country, then of the Nazis and now of a misguided quest for justice without discretion.

That column, entitled “Ukrainian Teens Were Nazi Victims” was written as a rebuttal of one by Bernie Farber that had appeared the previous day, itself in response to an earlier column by Worthington on the subject. Farber took the position that these men deserved to be deported, because even though they may not have tortured and murdered anyone themselves, their labour as translators and guards – forced labour, remember – enabled those who did commit these crimes. This is a particularly disgusting form of the fallacy of guilt by association and Worthington, quoting from Farber’s column, rightly, in my opinion, said “In my view, that statement by Farber is so wrong, mistaken and out of line, that it inadvertently demeans the Holocaust.”

This would not be the last time Worthington and Farber would lock horns on this subject and while Worthington always got the better of Farber the latter never retreated one iota from his position. In 2012, when Stephen Harper’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney stripped Oberlander of his citizenship – one of many reasons why I have nothing but contempt for the present premier of Alberta – Farber told the Globe and Mail “It matters not if he was a translator or a cook – they were all part of the pirate ship and they helped oil the wheels of genocide.” Earlier this year, when the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the 95 year old Oberlander’s motion to have the fourth (!) revocation of his citizenship overturned, Farber was again all over the news gloating and saying that he hoped the Liberal government would quickly deport him.

My point, if it is not obvious, is that someone who cannot tell the difference between the Nazi thugs who tortured and murdered civilians and kids who were forced by these same thugs to do their bidding, should not be taken seriously when he poses as an expert on Nazis and Nazism. Someone who for over twenty years acts as the head of the cheerleading squad while governments, Liberal and Conservative alike, try repeatedly to denaturalize and deport an elderly man, who has been a law-abiding subject of Her Majesty for his entire adult life, because the unit that he had been forced to serve by the invaders of his country of birth when he was still a teenager were responsible for war crimes, caring neither about the aforementioned difference nor the trauma being inflicted upon this man’s family, has absolutely no business whatsoever lecturing the rest of us about “hate.” When he throws a silly conniption about a government minister quoting the leading American aerospace engineer we should pay him no heed.

Good luck with the Nobel Prize, Bernie, but you can take your silly posturing and blow it out your ear!