In my last essay I discussed Nancy MacDonald’s recent cover article for MacLean’s which accuses my city, Winnipeg, of being the most racist city in Canada. I pointed out several holes in the conventional anti-racist narrative to which the MacLean’s article was uncritically faithful. I pointed out, for example, the double standard in the narrative’s definition of racism in that expressions of racial pride on the part of the group consistently identified as the villains in the narrative, i.e., white people are considered to be racist whereas expressions of such pride on the part of groups designated the victims, i.e., non-whites and in this case one specific none-white group, Indians, are not considered to be racist. I had observed that everywhere in the city one can see baseball caps reading “Native Pride.” This does not stir up the kind of indignation that a single instance of someone wearing a cap that read “White Pride” would.
In response to this, a friend argued that it was silly to compare “White Pride” with “Native Pride” because of all the sinister connotations the former phrase has due to its association with websites like Stormfront and organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. Now, at first glance this argument does indeed seem to be valid. Whatever else might be said about the “Native Pride” merchandise line it does not have any apparent connections with any sort of hard, zealous, racialist, ideology the way the phrase “white pride” does. Nevertheless, if we pursue this comparison further, I think that it ultimately supports my own argument.
Is there something inherently vicious and violent about racial pride on the part of white people but not on the part of the members of any other race? If yes, this suggests that there is something seriously defective in the collective character of white people but not in the collective character of other people groups. This, however, resembles nothing so much as the theories by which the National Socialists justified their mistreatment of Jews and other groups they considered to be defective. The logic of any argument that “white pride” is inherently vicious but “native pride” or other non-white racial pride is not, leads ultimately, therefore, to a conclusion that itself resembles Nazi theory, except that in it the Aryans have taken the place of the Jews. That this logic must inevitably lead to this conclusion has brought many to the realization that in many, if not most, cases, what is called “antiracist” is simply a euphemism for “antiwhite”.
Now, if the answer to the question is “no”, then either a) racial pride is dangerous and wrong on the part of all groups or b) racial pride is good or at least harmless on the part of all groups. If the latter is the case then the question that immediately arises is why something that is good or harmless only ever seems to be associated with fringe groups among white people. This is not a question for which we need to look far and wide for an answer. The prevailing political orthodoxy of the day defines white racial pride as being dangerous, radical, and beyond the pale. When a thought or sentiment is defined as being on the fringe outside the mainstream than only people and groups who are on the fringe and outside the mainstream will express that thought or sentiment and any person or group that attempts to express it in a reasonable, non-radical, moderate way will find him or itself branded as on the fringe and extreme.
I will provide an illustration of this last point that is relevant to our current discussion. Jared Taylor, a genteel, intelligent, and articulate man, who was raised in Japan as the son of missionaries, holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Yale University, has since 1990 been editor of a publication he founded entitled American Renaissance. This monthly publication features articles that deal with matters of race, intelligence, culture, and immigration, from an editorial perspective that is staunchly pro-white. The articles are well-written, do not use racial epithets or any other sort of vulgar abuse of other races, do not promote violence or other mistreatment of people, and tend to have a libertarian political slant. The contributors are journalists and academics, sometimes writing under pseudonyms to protect their identity. This is deemed to be prudent, if not necessary, because the organizations that have appointed themselves the watchdogs of public moral and intellectual hygiene on matters of race treat American Renaissance as being no different from some publication that uses a swastika for its logo, calls for the establishment of a Fourth Reich, and devotes every article to praising the ideals of Adolf Hitler and demonizing other races.
This, I might add, is typical of the “honesty” one can expect from social justice warriors of any stripe, but especially the antiracists. Dave Wheeler, of the Winnipeg radio station 92 CITI FM interviewed Nancy Macdonald. He demonstrated in the course of this devastating interview just how misleading her article had been. Violence against Indian women that is largely committed by Indian men, as statistics Macdonald herself referenced indicate, was nevertheless presented in such a way as to make it sound like it was the result of white racism. An incident of sexual harassment was discussed in which the information that the person making the offensive remarks was himself an Indian was omitted.
My point, before we get lost down this side trail, was that when a thought or sentiment, such as racial pride on the part of whites, is ruled to be beyond the pale, only those who are on the fringes will express that thought or sentiment. This means that the fact that expressions of “white pride” can for the most part only be found among groups that disturbingly revere Adolf Hitler cannot be taken as evidence that white racial pride is inherently Hitlerian.
Groups that admire Hitler and speak the language of racial violence are small and have no power and influence in our society. The amount of time, legislation, and effort spent in combating this virtually non-existent threat is simply unjustifiable. It is also counterproductive. What makes groups like this potentially dangerous is not so much that they are racial as that they are radical. The forbidding of racial pride to whites while allowing it to other groups will only have the effect of producing more of this radicalism both because it allows for no non-radical expression of such pride and because it will drive young whites angry at the injustice of this double standard into the fringes.
You will recall that we identified two possibilities if white racial pride is not inherently more dangerous than other racial pride. The first was that all kinds of racial pride are dangerous and wrong, the second that all kinds of racial pride are good and harmless. So far we have been pursuing the line of thought that opens up if the second of these possibilities is the correct one. Now it is time to consider the first possibility – that all kinds of racial pride are wrong.
There are grounds for considering this to be the right possibility that are firmly rooted in the ethical tradition of Western civilization. Just as the problem with Hitlerite groups is not so much that they are racial as that they are radical, so the basis for considering all racial pride to be wrong is not that it is racial but that it is pride. This, of course, runs contrary to the thinking of today’s social justice warriors who encourage pride on the part of part of groups that they regard as having been unfairly excluded from Western society throughout history – they have even adopted the term “pride” as the name for the movement for inclusion on the part of one of these groups – but social justice warriors are almost always wrong about everything so the fact that something runs contrary to their way of thinking is evidence in its favour.
The Greeks, as the saying goes, had a word for it. That word was hybris. Its connotations evolved from the deliberate humiliation of others to a defiance of the rule of the gods but beneath these connotations the general sense of a haughty, arrogant, pride remained consistent. The Greeks considered it to be the greatest of human failings. In Homer’s Iliad, the hybris displayed by Agamemnon towards the equally proud Achilles brings disaster upon the Achaeans assembled against Troy, as Zeus decrees that the war will swing against them until Achilles rejoins their ranks. At the end of the classic Western epic Achilles own hybris, displayed in his treatment of the body of the defeated Hector, brings the threat of divine retribution upon him. Hybris was the chief fatal flaw of Athenian tragedy and had even been criminalized in the reforms of the Athenian lawmaker Solon.
That pride was the greatest of human sins is also the judgement of the Christian Church, which built its moral theology upon foundations in both Greek thought and Hebrew Scriptures. The latter, of course, preached brokenness and humility – the opposite of pride –as the way to God’s favour. Psalm 51:17’s “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” and Micah 6:8’s “what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” are but two of the best known examples. The Hebrew Psalms and prophets frequently depict God as laying low the proud. In the New Testament this is taken further, as St. Paul tells Timothy that he who desires the office of a bishop must not be “a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6). The implication of this is that pride is the source of all sin – the sin that led to the devil’s fall from grace. This was stated explicitly in the book of Ecclesiasticus or Sirach: “For pride is the beginning of sin” (v. 10:13) and is a point that is repeatedly reiterated by St. Augustine of Hippo who identifies pride not only with the sin of the devil, but with the original sin of man as well, based upon the nature of the serpent’s deception (“ye shall be as gods”). St. Thomas Aquinas defended St. Augustine’s identification of pride with the first sin of man in the Summa Theologica (Article I of Question 163 of the Second Part of the Second Part). In the traditional order of the Seven Deadly Sins, superbia or pride, is listed as the worst.
If, on the basis of the long Western tradition of identifying pride, hybris, or superbia as the worst of all sins, we argue that racial pride is always dangerous and wrong, not because it is racial but because it is pride, this must apply to other forms of pride, one’s embraced and endorsed by political correctness such as “native pride” or “gay pride”, as much as those condemned by political correctness such as “white pride.”
There is a danger, however, that in making this particular judgement we will throw out the baby with the bathwater, or in this case the virtue of pietas with the vice of superbia. Pietas is the Latin word from which our English word piety is derived. It was the virtue that consisted of doing one’s duty, first to one’s parents, then, by extension, to one’s ancestors, kin in general, and to one’s country. It was regarded as one of the most important virtues by the Romans who associated it with one’s duty to the gods which is how the term piety came to be associated with the concept of being dutiful in religion. A similar association underlies the argument in Plato’s Euthyphro, in which Socrates challenges the title character’s assertion that piety required him, out of duty to the gods, to prosecute his father on a trumped up charge of murder.
What is the Christian view of pietas?
While Christianity makes it very clear that in the hierarchy of duties, one’s duties to God must come first – “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37), in other respects, as with pride, Christianity’s understanding of pietas was quite similar to the classical view. The association of one’s duty to one’s parents with one’s duty to God would seem to be present in the Ten Commandments. These include obligations to God alone (“thou shalt have no other gods before Me”, “thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”, etc.) and obligations to one’s fellow men (“thou shalt not steal”, “thou shalt not commit adultery”, etc.). The former are at the beginning of the list, the latter at the end. The commandment to “honour thy father and mother”, however, immediately follows the commandments that contain obligations to God. Indeed, if the commandments were thought to be divided equally in number between duties to God and duties to man, this one would have to be numbered with obligations to God. When the Lord Jesus challenged the Pharisees as to why they used their traditions to get out of obeying the commandments of God the commandment that He pointed to specifically was the commandment to “honour thy father and mother” (Mk. 7:6-13). This could hardly be coincidental. That we have special duties to our kin apart from our duties to mankind in general and that these duties are associated with our duties to God is clearly present in the thought of St. Paul when he wrote “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).
How does this pertain to the topic at hand?
Those who would deny racial pride to one race – white people – while affirming it in other races, usually require white people to adopt an attitude of impiety – the opposite of pietas – to their ancestors and in many cases even their parents. We are required to denounce our ancestors as the villains of history, to demonize them, to take the side of every other people group except our own, and if our own parents have ever used racial epithets, displayed politically incorrect racial attitudes, or otherwise offended against the current political orthodoxy, we are required to denounce them in order to prove that we ourselves are enlightened and pure, in a manner that is reminiscent of the way in which children were expected to behave in police states like, for example, the Third Reich.
It is time we think long and hard about what this tells us about antiracism and the politically correct orthodoxy of the present day.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
Saturday, January 24, 2015
The most recent issue of MacLean’s magazine features a story by the magazine’s associate editor Nancy Macdonald that suggests that Winnipeg, the capital of the province of Manitoba and the city in which I have lived for the last sixteen years, is or is becoming the most “racist” city in Canada. Now this is a very serious accusation against our city and after giving the matter much consideration I decided that there might be something to this. After all, everywhere in this city where you can expect to encounter a sizable number of people – malls, coffee shops, theatres, etc. - you are likely to find at least one person wearing a brazen declaration of a sense of racial pride. I refer, of course, to the ubiquitous baseball cap that reads “Native Pride”.
What’s that you say? That is not what MacDonald of MacLean's had in mind when she accused our city of racism?
Of course it isn’t. The MacLean’s cover story is very much in keeping with the conventional anti-racist narrative – the bad guys, the racists, are all white, and the good guys, the victims of racism, are all non-white. Indeed, in the case of this article the victims are one specific non-white group – the group whom MacDonald calls Aboriginals but whom I shall call Indians both because I refuse to obey the dictates of the sham pseudo morality that is political correctness and because as a dissenter from the conventional anti-racist narrative I will be called a racist anyway and one might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.
Any thinking person cannot help but dissent from the conventional anti-racist narrative because the holes in that narrative are large enough to drive tanks through.
Consider the question of the definition of racism. Does pride in one’s own race constitute racism? According to the conventional narrative it is racist for a white man to express pride in his race. If someone were to go around with the words “white pride” on prominent display anywhere on his clothing most people would assume that he adhered to some form of Hitlerian ideology. Yet the narrative never condemns similar expressions of pride on the part of people of other races. There are businesses in this province that display signs saying that they are proudly owned and operated by Indians. Imagine what would happen to a business that put up a sign saying that it was proudly owned and operated by white men.
It is more usual to define racism in terms of negative attitudes towards other races. The attitude of looking down upon, disliking, or wishing harm to another person because he is of a different race than one’s own or a member of a specific disliked race is what most of us think of when we hear the word racism. Here too, however, the conventional narrative does not apply the definition in a manner that is consistent. Outright expressions of racial hatred directed against whites by Indians are not condemned and treated as evidence of a dangerous, irrational, prejudice that requires re-programming in the way that much more qualified and moderate negative statements flowing in the opposite direction are.
In the course of her article, Macdonald accuses not just the city of Winnipeg, but the entire prairie region of being more racist than the rest of the country. In support of this accusation she points to polls conducted by such impartial, objective, and utterly reliable – yes, I am being sarcastic - organizations as the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Shockingly, it appears that nine in ten Manitobans reported “hearing a negative comment about an indigenous person” as compared to the six in ten in New Brunswick. If that isn’t evidence that the entire province ought to be put into re-education camps I don’t know what is. I wonder if they checked on whether for every ten people polled, nine separate negative comments were reported or one comment heard by nine people? For that matter, what does a negative comment about an indigenous person constitute? Twelve years ago people were saying a lot of things about Chief David Ahenakew after he made some interesting if unwise remarks about Hitler and the Jews in an interview with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. The things said about him could fairly be described as “negative comments about an indigenous person”. Were they also examples of racism? Somehow that doesn’t seem likely.
According to another poll Macdonald references one in three Prairie Canadians believes that “many racial stereotypes are accurate”. The problem with using this as evidence that we are all horribly racist out here in the sticks is that “many racial stereotypes are accurate” is a true statement. Stereotypes, whether positive or negative – they can be either – do not necessarily provide us with accurate information about an individual member of the group to which they apply. They can, however, often provide us with fairly accurate information about group averages. This is because, unlike the dogmas of antiracism, stereotypes arise out of experiential knowledge.
Sometimes an inaccurate negative stereotype is formed by unfairly extrapolating the bad impression a single individual has made to apply to his entire group. Usually, however, stereotypes, whether positive or negative, are formed out of multiple experiences with several individuals which the mind then averages out to form a kind of group picture. These tend to be more accurate. Most people who are not rigid adherents of an ideological dogma that declairs all stereotypes to be false and harmful, while recognizing the accuracy in these psychological group portaits, also realize that it would be unfair to judge individual members of the group by the portrait. This is because most people are not the cartoonish bigots of antiracist dogma.
The MacLean’s article is actually rather illuminating in a way it was not intended to be. It provides us with a picture of how removed from reality and the thinking of normal people antiracist doctrine actually is. Macdonald points to polls in which people express a degree of uncomfort with the idea of living next to Indians. She also talks about the high murder rate in Winnipeg’s North End. A normal person would conclude that the latter goes a long way towards explaining and even partly justifying the former. Macdonald, however, points to the poll as evidence of racism and blames racism for the murder rate and other problems afflicting the impoverished Indian neighborhoods in the North End.
This lack of contact with reality is why articles like this one will ultimately do more harm than good to the people on whose behalf they are ostensibly written. As long as the only explanation offered for the very real problems afflicting the Indian community is “racism” the only “solutions” that will be available will be more of what we have seen in the past. These will include apologies by grovelling politicans, “truth and reconcilliation” meetings that produce nothing but lies, bitterness, and division, harsh crackdowns on people who make racially offensive remarks, and basically nothing that could effectually help anyone. Winnipeg’s mayor, Brian Bowman, newly elected, possibly on the basis of his physical resemblence to television’s Jon Cryer, has already stepped up to the role of grovelling politician, increasing his resemblence to the weak and wishy-washy character played by Cryer on Three and a Half Men (maybe we should have offered Charlie Sheen the job instead). Things are already proceeding according to pattern – and will continue to do so, until we finally lay the tired old, long ago discredited, “white racism is to blame for everything”, narrative to rest once and for all.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
If you were to ask someone who believes strongly in an alternative form of medicine, especially one that markets itself as being natural and holistic, he will tell you that conventional treatments for cancer basically operate in the following way: you take something that is harmful to the body such as radiation or toxic chemicals and bombard the cancer with it in the hopes that it will kill the cancer before either it or the cancer kills the body. It occurs to me that this way of describing conventional anti-cancer treatment - one lethal enemy of the health of the body killing another – could also be used to explain what occurred in Paris on January the seventh.
You probably already know all about the event to which I refer. Media commentators have been talking about very little else for days now. On the morning of Wednesday, January the seventh, a pair of Algerian jihadists, wearing masks and screaming “Allahu Akbar”, invaded the office of the smutty French trash rag Charlie Hebdo and began shooting the place up. About 24 people were hurt, half of whom died. What had twisted the terrorists’ knickers into a knot was the newspaper’s publication of cartoons that depicted Mohammed in an unflattering manner, much like those published by the Danish Jyllands-Posten in 2005, against which riots broke out all over Europe.
Since then entertainers, politicians, newspaper columnists, television talking heads, bloggers, and countless other assorted people have jumped on the “Je Suis Charlie” bandwagon, either expressing their solidarity with the victims of the attack or, to paint their motives in a more cynical light, trying to capitalize on the public’s outrage over the massacre. Whatever their motives, people who would ordinarily agree on nothing have come together for a moment, however brief and fleeting, behind the besieged journal. To such people Charlie Hebdo has become more than just a lewd and irreverent publication. It has become a symbol of the highest values that are held dear by France and, more broadly, all Western societies. Thus, the terrorist attack in turn is seen as an attack on those French and Western values.
Now, should we inquire as to what specific Western values came under attack the answer we would inevitably receive would be freedom of speech. On the surface this makes a certain amount of sense. The newspaper printed something which was considered to be offensive to Muslims and for that they were punished and silenced with lethal force. If we pursue the matter further, however, by thinking a little about what freedom of speech actually entails, some inconsistencies in the Charlie Hebdo = free speech = Western values under attack from Islamic jihad position appear.
What we understand “freedom of speech” to mean, depends a great deal upon whether we relate it primarily to the power of government or to the rights of the individual. If we think of freedom of speech in terms of the power of government we think of it in negative terms, as a limitation upon government power, as the idea that it is an inappropriate abuse of the state’s coercive and legislative power, to tell people what they can and cannot think and say. If we think of freedom of speech in terms of the rights of the individual, we think of it as a positive right that each individual possesses to say whatever he wants.
Both understandings of freedom of speech can be either absolute or limited. If we think of freedom of speech as a limitation on state power, the absolute form of this concept is that the state must under no circumstances forbid or punish any speech whatsoever. A more limited version of this understanding would be that while the state should not outlawing thoughts or their spoken expression it is within the state’s rights to forbid words that incite other people to commit crimes, violence, and sedition. If we think of freedom of speech as a right belonging to the individual, the limited version would be that an individual has the right so say whatever he wants provided he is willing to pay the consequences of his speech, such as, perhaps, a punch in the nose for insulting someone’s mother. The absolute version of this understanding, however, is that the individual has the right to say whatever he wants under any circumstances and that this right should be protected by the state.
I should note, here, that to my mind, freedom of speech only make sense when thought of in the first sense, as a limitation on state power.
To accept, however, that the attack on Charlie Hebdo was an attack on Western values, and that the particular Western value that came under attack was freedom of speech, requires that we think of freedom of speech as an individual’s right to say whatever he thinks because whatever else the terrorists might have been, they were not representatives of the power of the state. It is not necessary to hold the absolute version of this because being murdered is not a reasonable consequence that anyone should expect to have to pay for freedom to speak. Nevertheless, a problem is apparent in that if freedom of speech is a right belonging to the individual, it is a right that Charlie Hebdo sought to deny to those who disagreed with them. Indeed, the far left newspaper attempted to have a popular right-wing political party banned and outlawed for their political views. Ironically, it was the party’s stance on immigration and multiculturalism to which the newspaper, now a victim of the consequences of their own liberal position on these matters, objected.
This brings me back to the illustration with which I started. If Charlie Hebdo must be seen as a symbol of anything, it is best seen as a symbol, not of France, the West, Western values in general, and especially not of the freedom of speech that the newspaper claimed for itself but would deny to its opponents, but rather as a symbol of the disease that has been eating away at Western civilization since the beginning of the Modern Age – liberalism. Like all illustrations this one breaks down if pushed too far. Whatever else might have been going through the minds of the Kouachi brothers as they plotted their murderous attack, they were certainly not trying to save Western civilization from its fatal disease and so only fit their assigned role in the allegory, in that what they represent is as deadly to the West as the liberalism represented by their victims.
Since its origins in Renaissance humanism, “Enlightenment” rationalism, and Scottish empiricism several centuries ago, liberalism has spread throughout the Western world and, in the last century triumphed completely over its competitors. Unlike a fine wine it has not improved with age and, as Tory journalist Sir Peregrine Worsthorne pointed out in an insightful speech to the Athenaeum Club about ten years ago, its principles and pieties have become degraded to the point where it now threatens the very freedoms it once championed. We do not need to look far for an explanation of this. In the days of John Locke and John Stuart Mill, liberalism was one of many competing doctrines and it operated in what was understood by all, liberals and non-liberals alike, to be a Christian cultural climate. While constrained by the context of this climate liberalism was at its best and was able to accomplish such reforms as are to its credit. At the same time, however, its ideas corroded that same cultural context. Around the time of the Second World War the corrosion reached the point where the Christian cultural climate could no longer provide a constraining context.
Liberalism, in other words, has undermined everything which made its own worthy accomplishments possible. In doing so, it has made Western civilization vulnerable to the kind of attacks liberalism itself fell pray to on January the seventh. The Christendom that understood itself as Christendom and produced such leaders as Charles Martel and Jan III Sobieski was not vulnerable in the way the postmodern, liberal, West is. Charlie Hebdo represents the worst form of liberalism possible – a smug, self-assured nihilism, that attacks the very idea of the sacred in any form that it might take. To identify ourselves and our countries with the representative symbol of this liberalism is to commit the very cultural and civilizational suicide that such enemies of the West as those who committed this atrocity wish for us.
Je ne suis pas Charlie!
Sunday, January 4, 2015
The old year has passed away, a new year is upon us, and that means that once again it is time for my traditional “where I stand” essay. This tradition did not begin with me but with one of my favourite opinion writers, the late Charley Reese, who retired from the Orlando Sentinel in 2001 and from his syndicated column in 2008. Reese believed writers owed it to their readers to make a full disclosure of their views, affiliations, and everything that gave them their particular slant once a year and encouraged other writers to do this by setting an example himself, devoting one column around New Years, sometimes the last of the old year, sometimes the first of the new, to doing this. I liked the idea and have kept this tradition myself every year since I started “Throne, Altar, Liberty”, beginning with the essay “Here I Stand” in 2011.
I am a Canadian. I am furthermore a Canadian nationalist, although I dislike this term and would prefer the older term patriot. In Canada, however, it is the custom for patriots to refer to themselves as nationalists, just as in the republic that is our neighbour to the south it is the custom for nationalists to refer to themselves as patriots. Patriotism consists of loyalty, attachment to, and love for, one’s country, its traditions, and its way of life. It is a feeling, a sentiment, and even, as Alasdair MacIntyre has argued convincingly, a virtue. It develops naturally as an outgrowth of the smaller attachment one feels to one’s family, home, and what Edmund Burke memorably called “little platoons”. Nationalism, by contrast, is an ideology. In nationalism one’s nation or country is not a beloved home to be defended when attacked but a cause around which to rally the masses. It does not develop naturally but requires indoctrination. When I say that I am a Canadian nationalist, in keeping with my country’s custom, what I really mean is that I am a Canadian patriot as I have just explained the term. I was born in Canada, raised in Canada, have lived in Canada all my life up until now, and intend to live in Canada for the remainder of my life. I feel about Canada the same way I feel about my family and friends, about the people and places I have always known and loved.
There is another kind of Canadian nationalism, one which actually is a form of nationalism rather than patriotism. Peter Brimelow aptly described this kind of Canadian nationalism as “one of the toadstools of history”. This is the kind of Canadian nationalism that was historically associated with the Liberal governments of Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien, with the new school of Canadian historians that was partial to these governments – think Peter C. Newman and Pierre Berton – and which seems to be the only kind of Canadian nationalism our public broadcaster, the CBC, is interested in. This is the kind of Canadian nationalism that John Farthing described as the “pure-Canada cult” in his excellent book Freedom Wears a Crown, which is among other things the classic rebuttal of this cult. This kind of Canadian nationalism sees the Canadian identity as something Canada needed to forge anew after WWII and from which everything our country inherited from Great Britain needed to be either excluded and eliminated or underplayed and ignored. I loathe and detest this kind of Canadian nationalism. The Canada of which I am a patriot, is the country confederated under its own Parliament based on the British model in 1867, which obtained full sovereignty over her own affairs through evolution rather than revolution, by growing up within the British family of nations under our shared monarch, rather than by severing family ties. I see our country’s heritage of Loyalism, not just as manifested in the American Revolution but when Canada stood by Britain from the beginning of the Second World War, as the top of the list of things for which Canadians can rightly take pride in our country.
I am a Christian, and while I look back upon my evangelical conversion when I was fifteen, when I knelt down to pray and told the Lord Jesus Christ I accepted Him as my Saviour, as the beginning of my Christian experience, I no longer use the word Christian in its evangelicalese sense of someone who has had such a conversion, but in the more traditional sense of someone who holds to the faith affirmed in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. I was baptized by immersion in a Baptist church when I was a teenager and more recently confirmed by a bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada. I am reformed in my understanding of justification – that salvation is a work in which God is the only actor, accomplished for us in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, freely given to the world by grace and received simply through faith, and catholic in my understanding of the Church as the body of Christ, established by Christ through His Apostles to continue His incarnational presence in the world after His Ascension back to the right hand of the Father in Heaven by the collective indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and commissioned by Him to bring His grace to the world through the ministry of Word and Sacrament.
Politically I am a Tory. By referring to myself as a Tory I do not mean to indicate my support for any political party but rather my holding to a set of political convictions. In Canada, like other countries with a Conservative Party, this distinction is often made by use of the expression “small c conservative”, but I prefer the term Tory, despite the potential for confusion, because my political convictions are closer to those of the Tory Party of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, than of the Conservative Party into which it was reorganized early.in the nineteenth century. I believe that human beings are by nature social beings who are born not as individuals but as members of pre-existing social groups, from their families up through their local communities to their nations, and that while it is good and natural for people to develop a sense of individuality within these groups as they mature it is bad for them to become alienated and isolated, and that these social groups from the family up to the nation, are best regarded as organic wholes in which past and future generations are included with those living in the present. I believe, therefore, that governments should rule with the good of their societies viewed as such organic wholes in mind. Therefore, our most important civil institution is the office of the monarch. The monarch can represent the organic whole of a society, including past and future generations, in a way no elected politician ever could, because the royal office is filled not by popular election but by a line of succession and so embodies the principle of continuity. For the same reason the office of monarch is vested with something far more valuable and important than the power politicians obtain through winning elections – sovereign authority. Power is the strength to compel obedience, authority is the right to command obedience. The man who wins an election, whether as representative of his constituency by obtaining the largest number of its votes or as leader of the government by obtaining the support of the largest number of representatives in the legislative assembly, obtains thereby a form of power – the strength of numbers. While power in this form can come from below, true authority can only come from above, from a source that transcends politics in the sense of the struggle for power. Whether that source is conceived of as constitutional order, prescription (long established custom), divine right, or a combination of these, the office of monarch is uniquely suited to be the representative of both the transcendental source of authority and the organic whole of society. The office of monarch is also the safeguard of our social and civil order against the threat of tyranny, a threat which when it arises, almost always comes from a demagogue who claims to be the voice of the “will of the people”. It is well that in our constitution the institutions of senate and elected assembly make up the state together with and under the monarch, joining, in Stephen Leacock’s words “the dignity of kingship with the power of democracy” so long as we remember that for a government to be truly civilized, authority must take precedence over power and power must support authority. These convictions are what I mean when I describe myself as being a Tory.
While it is obvious that holding to a royalism rooted in an organic view of society in which the community precedes the individual is incompatible with an acceptance of the individualism and contractual view of society that is the underlying philosophy of libertarianism, I nevertheless, with a few important qualifications and exceptions, usually agree with the libertarians on questions of whether the government should legislate or not. I fully agree with satirical novelist and High Tory Evelyn Waugh’s libertarian statement that while men cannot live together without rules these “should be kept at the bare minimum of safety.”
I do not share the libertarian’s faith in the ability of market forces, unimpeded by legislation, to bring about a perfectly just distribution of goods and wealth but I do share his contempt for socialism’s confidence in the ability of government planners to do a better job of it. I think that under ordinary circumstances people as individuals, families, and other groups and organizations, know and are better able to manage their own business than anyone else and that governments should let them do so without intrusion and interference. This does not mean pure laissez-faire because, while governments cannot possibly manage any person or group’s business better than that person or group, much less the business of every person and group in the country, government’s can and ought to be able to manage the business of the country as a whole. A farmer, for example, does not need the government to come in, boss him around, and tell him how to run his own farm. A country, however, which needs a healthy agricultural industry to ensure an uninterrupted food supply, may need government to protect the industry if it is threatened.
Social legislation that ensures that a basic standard of living is within the reach of every member of society so that nobody goes without food, clothing, shelter or health care due to old age, infirmity, economic recession or depression, or other factors beyond their control, but only through their own bad choices is a necessity in any civilized country today but this too ought to be kept at the bare minimum. Those who support a more expansive social safety net frequently accuse those of us who try to keep it minimal of a lack of generosity, compassion, and Christian charity but when governments can only pay for these programs with money they have obtained by taxing their people, generosity, compassion, and charity have nothing to do with it. It is not generous, compassionate, or charitable to give to one person what one must first take from another. There is no virtue in being liberal, let alone magnanimous, with other people’s money. Furthermore, the expansion of basic social legislation into a welfare state can hardly be described as compassionate and charitable when it clearly contributes to illegitimacy, the break-up of families, children growing up without fathers, high rates of violent crime, and intergenerational poverty and dependence among the poorest sectors of society. The proper end of social legislation is not to try and achieve the unattainable and false ideal of equality but to alleviate misery and so prevent the kind of dissatisfaction and unrest that could threaten the civil and social order.
Often libertarians will say that government should not pass laws pertaining to morality but this is nonsense which displays an appalling ignorance of the nature of both laws and morality. Morality is a system in which human behaviour is classified into the categories of right or wrong. Laws are always statements about morality. Every law says either a) a certain behaviour is wrong in itself and hence prohibited or b) that a certain behaviour is prohibited and therefore wrong. That having being said, governments ought not to pass laws against everything that is morally wrong but only against acts which cause injury to other people, the institutions of society, and the civil order. It is enough that the police maintain the Queen’s peace, they do not need to be Mrs. Grundy’s enforcer as well.
Many today go further than this and say that questions of morality, right and wrong, are private and personal, to be decided by the individual rather than the community or society. This too is nonsense. Yes, every man must make his own moral decisions, but this means choosing his own actions not creating his own personal system of morality. The morality of his community, society, and civilization, contained in its mores and folkways, customs and habits, stories and songs, religion and culture, is the indispensable instrument by which he learns to make moral decisions and to cultivate virtues and it is the role of his parents and priests, family and church, community and its elders, to provide him with this means. This is not the role of the State and the State ought not to usurp this role nor should it undermine the efforts of the institutions and authorities whose role it is.
There are many today who look upon the last several decades since the end of the Second World War as an unprecedented Golden Age of human enlightenment in which we have made great strides towards achieving freedom, prosperity, and racial, sexual, and social equality. I am not one of those. When I look at the same decades I see the moral, spiritual, social, and cultural disintegration of my country and the wider Western Civilization to which it belongs, often in the very things those progressives consider to be “advances” over which to pat themselves on the back. If the equality of the sexes, for example, is a laudable ideal then it follows that artificial contraception and abortion must be legal, affordable, and universally accessible, for as long as women are getting pregnant, bearing, giving birth to, and nursing children with their bodies, their choices as much as those of men will ensure that the roles of the sexes will be different and not fully interchangeable, hence not equal. Abortion is the deliberate termination of innocent human life by the will of the person upon whom that life is dependent and whose instinct and duty is to protect it. It is difficult to conceive of any greater evil. George Grant was quite right when he described the arguments made in favour of it as the fascist concept of the triumph of the will masquerading behind the language of liberalism.
These revolutionary moral, social, and cultural changes are always spoken of in the language of liberation by those who look positively upon them just as they depict us who take the negative view as being puritanical zealots who wish to impose a narrow morality upon society by force of law. I find it difficult to understand how the replacement of social and cultural taboos against sexual immorality which were deeply rooted in tradition and the wisdom of the ages with newly coined taboos against thoughts and words that are deemed to be “politically incorrect”, i.e., objectionable to the brutally inflexible ideology of egalitarianism, can possibly be regarded as being liberating. Surely telling a man what he can and cannot think and say is far more intrusive than telling him that if he gets a woman pregnant he should do right by her and the child. Furthermore, these changes did not just happen on their own due to forces outside our control. They happened because those who wished to bring them about obtained enough influence in the State so as to be able to use its power to tamper and experiment with the social and moral order.
An example of this is how the law has been used to change the fundamental nature of marriage. I do not mean the recent change to include same-sex couples – that is merely a superficial consequence of the real change, albeit one that is already proving to have its own deleterious consequences on what Roger Scruton calls “the autonomous institutions” of civil society, as pressure is being placed upon religious-based educational institutions like Trinity Western University and will eventually, as everyone who is not a complete moron can see, be placed upon clergy and churches as well, to change their teachings and practices so as to be in accord with the change made in the civil law. The real change to marriage was the introduction of no-fault, easy divorce. This transformed marriage from a permanent union, formed by solemn vows, to which both partners are expected to make sacrifices of self into a temporary arrangement of convenience between couples, easier to get out of than a business partnership, that comes with legal perks. By creating no-fault divorce, government divorced marriage from all the reasons for which the institution exists in the first place and undermined other social authorities. The church is robbed of its authority if, after the priest proclaims the words of Christ, “what God has joined together let no man put asunder”, a judge is able to sign the union out of existence the next day without any fuss or muss.
I would like, of course, as one who willingly accepts the label of reactionary, to see all these changes reversed, just as I would like to see the general decay in Western thought of which they merely the most recent manifestation reversed. We have gone from thinking of the Good, the True the Beautiful as transcendent realities, that are what they are, and which it is our duty to pursue and approach to the best of our imperfect ability to thinking that they are whatever we decide them to be for ourselves. It took all the centuries of the Modern Age to bring this about but now, in what is awkwardly and absurdly called the Postmodern era, we have in a few short decades done to such visible realities as sex, what we had previously done to the invisible, transcendental, realities. Where this process of decay and disintegration may lead us next if it continues much longer, I shudder to think.
On that cheery note it is time to bring this essay to a close.
Happy New Year,
God Save the Queen