New Book



$21.95 hardcover · 224 pages
9978-1594037641-January 2015


The theme of The Great Divide is that the populations of the democratic world, from Boston to Berlin, Vancouver to Venice, are becoming increasingly divided from within, due to a growing ideological incompatibility between modern liberalism and conservatism. This is partly due to a complex mutation in the concept of liberal democracy itself, and the resulting divide is now so wide that those holding to either philosophy on a whole range of topics: on democracy, on reason, on abortion, on human nature, on homosexuality and gay marriage, on freedom, on the role of courts … and much more, can barely speak with each other without outrage (the favorite emotional response from all sides). Clearly, civil conversation at the surface has been failing -- and that could mean democracy is failing.

This book is an effort to deepen the conversation. It is written for the non-specialist, and aims to reveal the less obvious underlying ideological forces and misconceptions that cause the conflict and outrage at the surface -- not with any expectation the clash of values will evaporate, but rather that a deeper understanding will generate a more intelligent and civil conversation.

As an aid to understanding, the book contains a handful of Tables directly comparing modern liberal and conservative views across a range of fundamental moral and political “issues” so that curious readers can answer the book’s main question: “Where Do You Stand?” An interesting result in testing this exercise has been the number of people who find they “think” one way, but “live” another.    


Good Reading

Thoughts on Islamism and Paris

Time to write a little on this topic. Visitors to this site may recall the piece posted here, "It's a War of the Gods," after the Charlie Hebdo murders last winter.  

You could just substitute names and places from the recent Paris terror event, and insert them in that article, and get an overview of the ideological tensions we need to understand.  

I don't believe we're ever going to come to grips with the clash between Islamism and the West, until we "get" where they are coming from in the ideological sense. I define an "ideology" as: "an autonomous system of interdependent ideas." You have to get the ideas and ideals sorted out, first, and then ask how they are interconnected and bolster each other as an entire system of thought and feeling.  

For those who haven't seen it before, here is a dot-connecting excerpt from Chapter 13, "Multiculturalsim, Immigration, and Terrorism, from The Trouble With Canada ... Still! (2010) that focuses on hard-core Islamism (as distinct from run of the mill, mushy, nominal Islam). 


"[Jihadists] say that they are committed to the destruction of the entire secular world because they believe this is a necessary first step to create an Islamic utopia on earth."

~  Professor Mary Habeck, School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University, from Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror[1]   

            An Environics poll of February 2007 gave this result: about 80% of Canada’s Muslims said they were satisfied with their new life in Canada, and 73% of them thought the 9/11 terrorist attacks were completely unjustified. But more sinister responses in the poll were buried. Namely, the fact that an alarming 12% of Canadian Muslims questioned in this poll thought the planned attacks for which “the Toronto 18” were arrested, were justified  (Licia Corbella, Calgary Sun, February 18, 2007).[2] In other words, by extrapolation, we may have anywhere from 50,000 to 85,000 Canadian Muslims who believe that blowing up our Parliament buildings (presumably with all MPs inside) and beheading the Canadian prime minister, is a great idea. They have lots of European company. Immediately after the 9/11 attack there was much Muslim dancing and cheering in Belgium and England. In Holland Contrast magazine found that 50 percent of Dutch Muslims were “in complete sympathy” with the attacks.[3] On the second “anniversary” of the 9/11 attack, radical British Muslims put up posters honouring the terrorists as “the Magnificent 19.” Who are these people? Why was there no public outcry? 

Why Are We the Enemy?

          The brand of Islam we ought to fear most, the one that is at the root of modern Islamic terrorism, is called Wahhabism. It is at the root of modern jihadism (a term that originally referred to personal spiritual struggle, but which for radicals now also means struggle against all non-believers: us). Wahhabism is the spiritual foundation of Al Qaeda [and now, of ISIS].

          Its main radical theorists, ancient and modern, have been three. Ibn Taymiyah (1263-1328), who told his followers, “prescribed to you is fighting;” Abdullah Azzam (1941-1989), who advocated “Jihad and the rifle alone. No negotiations, no conferences, and no dialogue;” and Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), the most cited, and most influential, who declared “It is the duty of Islam to annihilate all other systems.” Like Azzam, Qutb advocated global domination by Islam. All these theorist are united in the singular view that the decline of Islam is not due to the internal weaknesses of the faith, but “is the deliberate policy of an external religious enemy whom jihadis can –and do – blame for all the evils suffered by Muslims around the world.”[4] Hence, the term “blame culture.”

          Wahhabi Muslims (same for the West’s Reformation Christians) have been encouraged “to think for themselves,” and to reject the accumulated wisdom of Islam handed down by their clerics, and to favour instead a jihadist interpretation of Islamic teachings (the hadith) and of the Qur’an, and to disregard those parts that preach tolerance and peace, and ignore the peaceful Islamic mystics.[5] Their underlying conviction is that true human liberation comes from serving God alone, and that all man-made institutions rooted in beliefs such as democratic sovereignty and materialism are false beliefs that entrap and enslave us. Men must be slaves to God, but never to each other, or to false beliefs. For this reason, “jihadis today have made a critique of democracy the centerpiece of their ideology.”[6] Democracy is false because it teaches that we can arrive at truth by voting, whereas only God knows the truth. So we must strive to know and obey only God’s will. Democratic voting enslaves us to false human truth by majority rule and through a secularizing process of spiritual disarmament. Hence, all secular regimes must be either converted, or ended.  “Islamism,” a term created by the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s, describes the belief that Islam is “the complete, obligatory, and virtually non-negotiable guide to human existence,”[7] the foundation for which is Shari’a law. For radical Islamists, this means ending even Islamic regimes that are not truly Islamic: estimates are that 100,000 moderate Muslims have been slain by militant Islamists aiming for control of Algeria. It is a pattern repeated in many Muslim nations oppressed by their own radicals. Less than purely Islamic regimes are considered despicable “jahiliyya” – places of darkness and ignorance. They complain of modern Christians and Jews that once they secularized, they banished religion from public life and in so doing “destroyed the only source of ethics and morality, and therefore have no aim in life except to seek benefit and enjoyment.”[8]  So for true believers, the United States and the West (yes, Canada too) are regimes of darkness, modern jahiliyya. To see this belief in action in Canada, go to the website of The Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, which has an important office in Toronto, and which “publicly supports armed struggle against the unbelievers.”[9] Follow the threads. Although Wahhabist radical thinking has not found deep support in the world’s wider Muslim movements, it nevertheless exists as a powerful force devoted to the use of terrorism both within and against the West to achieve its utopia. After 9/11, Swiss police raided the Lugano, Switzerland home of a key Muslim Brotherhood organizer, Youseff Nada, and found a 14-page manifesto entitled “The Project,” written in Arabic in 1982 by Wahhabi luminaries. It outlines a twelve-point strategy to “establish an Islamic government on earth.”   



           Islamic Terrorism In Canada, Against Canada, and Against “The West”                     

 *  Fact: Canada is the only country left on Osama Bin-Laden’s seven-country hit list, still to be bombed.

* The bomb that killed or injured more than 1,400 people in Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo, in 1996 was paid for from a Canadian bank account (Source: Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion)

 * At a Terrorism Conference in May, 2004 the US Attorney General and the FBI revealed that Abderraouf  Jdey, found with a martyrdom video, and Amer El-Maati, a licenced pilot who wanted to crash a plane into a US building … were both Canadians.

* US Intelligence awoke to the fact that Canada nurtures and exports terrorism in 1997 when one Gazi Mezer crossed our border into the USA to blow up the Atlantic Avenue Subway in Brooklyn.

* One of Osama Bin-Laden’s confidants is nicknamed “El Kanadi” – the Canadian.

* The Mississauga-based Al Fauz Institute has featured Azzam Tamimi as a faculty member who has proclaimed: “I don’t believe in democracy anymore,” explicitly praises suicide bombers, and says he is willing to blow himself up in Israel.

* In March 2009 Canadian Momin Khawaja was sentenced for financing and building explosive detonators for use in terrorist attacks.

* In a 2009 Quebec case, Sid Namouth was pronounced guilty of planning terrorist attacks.

* Zakaria Amara, leader of the Toronto 18, who pleaded guilty on October 8, 2009, confessed that his plan for U-Haul trucks loaded with explosives (and metal chips to cause more civilian casualties) were meant “to cripple Canada” and to be detonated mid-November at the Toronto Stock Exchange, at the CSIS office, and at a military base between Toronto and Kingston. In January 2010 Amara was sentenced to life in prison.

* In February 2010, Said Namouth, a Moroccan man living in Canada since 2003 who spread hatred from his Montreal apartment, was sentenced to life in prison. On his blog he wrote: “Terrorism is in our blood, and with it we will drown the unjust.” 

* The ritual Islamic prayer, says Tarek Fatah (former head of the Muslim Canadian Congress, an anti-extremist Muslim group), “asking for the defeat of Christians and Jews, and the Victory of Islam, is not unique;” it is uttered by many Imams across Canada, and is “spreading hate instead of harmony.”

* In May of 2009 Canada’s CBC quoted an anonymous source who claimed that Al-Shabab, a Somali Taliban-style terrorist organization has recruited 20 to 30 young Canadian men.

* On March 8, 2010 Canada added Al-Shabab to its list of banned terrorist organizations.

* On January 3, 2009, Al Qaeda called on Muslims “to kill every Western diplomat on the Arabian Peninsula.” There are Canadian diplomats there.

* In December 2001 the National Post listed 16 Islamic terrorists who had been living in Canada, most of whom had been convicted of terrorism by other countries. They were never charged in Canada.

* Among defendants in the $1 Trillion dollar lawsuit against 9/11 attackers are Muslim groups such as The Benevolence International Fund, Islamic Relief Organization, Muslim World league, Int’l Islamic Relief Organization, and the SAAR Foundation – all of which have a presence in Canada, several with offices in Ottawa.

* As of 2006 Canada, acting on a British tip, laid its first charge of terrorism - against Mohammad Khawaja – for involvement in a London bombing plot.

* On his Saudi-based web-portal Islam Q & A, Muslim cleric Al-Munajjid, who has a large Canadian following has (quoting the supposed words of Muhammad) “urged Muslim youth not to live among the non-Muslims, unless the objective of living in the West was to convert the non-Muslim to Islam” (National Post, November 9, 2009).

* On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Abdulmutallab was prevented by passengers on a flight from Europe to Detroit from igniting explosives hidden in his underwear. In a speech reported in March 2009, warning the USA to think more pro-actively about terrorist possibilities, Israeli Agent Juval Aviv said he was now just “waiting for some suicidal maniac to pour liquid explosives on his underwear.” Prophetic, what?  

* Conversion from Islam to Christianity (or any other religion) is punishable by beheading.

* As of 2008, “Muslim countries or groups are either at war or in a hostile truce with every civilization that Islam abuts, from Nigeria too Xinjiang [China]” (Caldwell, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, p. 163)


                                          What Is To Be Done?



 Stop Funding “multiculturalism”  

      Ethnic groups lobbying for money from the State are like any other lobby group. They use the money to circumvent the political process. The government must stop funding all of them—left, right, business, radical, ethnic, all of them. Let them fight for what they want through their democratically elected representatives, or through privately funded groups. Canada’s government should reconstitute, publicize, and require schools to inculcate, the key symbols of Canada’s deep culture before they are totally forgotten


Require Instruction in Canada’s Deep Culture.  

      Immigrants to Canada should be instructed in the core heritage and culture of this nation, which is Judeo-Christian, Graeco-Roman, and Anglo-European. And they should be expected to assimilate to that culture. This does not mean losing their own, which they are free to promote and protect, using their own resources, if they so desire. But it does mean their own culture is secondary.

 End the Contradictions and Unrest of Multicultural Policy

      The government must recognize that its “multicultural” policy is self-contradictory and that it is currently funding long-term social unrest by rewarding the development of cultural differences within Canada. Unity cannot be derived from “diversity.”  Just as deep cultural differences lead to strife between nations, they lead, and have led, to strife between the “nations-within-Canada.”


 The People Must Set the Immigration Agenda

      Government must consult the people through a democratic referendum on immigration to find out what they want their country to become. That should set the government’s immigration agenda. During the period of the referendum discussion—say two years—all immigration should be halted: visitors’ permits only. If the country belongs to Canadians, then let them decide on their own future.

 Stimulate Home-Grown Population

        If there is concern over zero growth, Canada should aggressively examine ways to stimulate growth in the Canadian family before resorting to costly and culturally-dislocating immigration.

 Make Immigrants Sign a Vow of Citizenship

     All immigrants should be required to sign a Vow of Citizenship that among many other things would include a signed statement to the effect that in the case of a conflict or war with their country of origin, they would unhesitatingly defend and fight for Canada if required. This is expected of all citizens born here, and it ought to be explicitly required of all immigrants. 

 End Dual Citizenship

         Dual Citizenship should be banned. If you want the rights and freedoms of Canadian citizenship, you must surrender those of all other nationalities. No cherry-picking. You cannot defend or fight for Canada if in terms of patriotism you live in a divided house. Split national loyalties and “citizens of convenience” are not wanted in Canada.   


        A government that imposes a multicultural policy and non-traditional immigration on any nation in a calculated attempt to neutralize its deep culture is guilty of subverting the ethos of the nation. Such programs are a veneer disguising cynical vote-grabbing. They have had the effect of transforming Canada, in the space of two decades, into a nation that is eradicating its own historical deep culture. Unless we learn the lessons of history, this can end, at best, in long-term erosion of our civilizational greatness, and at worst in intra-ethnic strife and militancy on our own soil (such as we have seen already, and will likely see again, in Québec).


[1] Mary Habeck, Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror (New Haven, Conn,: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 7

[2] As reported in Daniel Stoffman, “Truths and Myths About Immigration,” in Immigration Policy and the Terrorist Threat (Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, 2008), p.14. The papers in this volume were gathered from a conference on Terrorism held in Toronto, June 2007.

[3] Christopher Caldwell, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe (New York: Doubleday, 2009), p.256.

[4] Habeck, Knowing the Enemy, p.12. Habeck explains that all Jihadists share five understandings: Islam is the one true faith that will dominate the world; Muslim rulers must govern by the Shari’a alone; that their Holy Books contain the whole truth for living a righteous life; that there can be no separation between religion and life; and … that all true Muslims are in a State of conflict with unbelievers (p.17). 

[5] On this note, a man I assume was my forbear, William Henry Temple Gairdner (1873-1928) a former British Anglican Canon of Cairo (referred to by his followers as “Temple Gairdner of Cairo” – which is also the title of the moving biography of his life by his secretary, Constance Padwick), published a then very successful book The Reproach of Islam (London: Church Missionary Society, 1909). That book sold over 20,000 copies, and was devoted to describing the contrast between Christianity and Islam. Gairdner’s main thesis was that Christianity had failed to do its job, and so Islam arose to fill the spiritual vacuum. He was also the founder of a very long-lived journal, “Occident and Orient,” which attempted to bring the two worlds together.

[6] Habeck, Knowing the Enemy, p.72.

[7] Andrew McCarthy, “Islam and the Left,” in The New Criterion, January, 2010, p.18.

[8] Habeck, Knowing the Enemy, p. 72

[9] Habeck, Knowing the Enemy, note 31, p.193.



TVO Interview on The Great Divide

Just over a week ago, TVO ran my interview with Steve Paikin, on The Great Divide

It is here:

      Steve is a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, with whom I have interviewed many times over the past 25 years. When he called me for what I assumed would be a one-on-one interview on The War Against the Family, in 1993, I got a surprise. I walked into his studio, and there were about twenty people lined up in chairs just waiting to take shots at me. That was a bit of a surprise, to say the least. But I enjoyed it, nonetheless. They were all leftists from various political groups. The only "conservatives" he had there were two in number. A Christian evangelist, and a very old lady from the local seniors home!

       Steve often seems to avoid the underlying ideological forces being examined in serious writing; or, perhaps he just isn't interested in them. In this interview, I found it a little frustrating that he didn't really accept the challenge of the book, which was to leave ordinary surface political views aside, and drill down to the foundational ideological differences between liberals and conservatives in the moral and politcal life of the western democracies. Too often, like most media folks, I guess, he looks for emotional shock value, and if he can't find it in the material at hand, he will manfacture it. Like: "Why have you always been on the losing side?", when he knew very well the entire book strives to contrast the two sides as fully a possible. 

Nevertheless, despite his liberal blinkers, he is a gentleman. I just wish there was a media format for really digging into these kinds of topics, in depth, instead of having to speak defensively throughout.

      But I guess that's what books are for!


Trudeau: Like Father, Like Son

       Well, I have finally got up off the floor after the election, and many readers have asked me to write a little something about what happened. And I will. Soon.
        But first, I want to review just a little of what happened to us as a nation in the decades prior to the Harper regime, and so, what I think he went into politics attempting to reverse, with partial success. 
        At my age - 75 two weeks ago! - re-writing a story already told is not so appealing. So I am re-publising here the Preface to The Trouble With Canada ... Still! (2010), because I can't say it any better now. It is about what Father Trudeau did to our country (or, to be more truthful, what we did to ourselves by failing to recognize what was happening, and stopping him). Forgive me for italicizing some of the key passages. I don't like to shout, but I am frustrated enough to want to raise my voice!.
In the coming days I will add comment on what Son Trudeau is up to. 
The First Warnings: When I Voted for Trudeau
        My first sense there was trouble with Canada began during the Trudeau era
(1968–1984) when I saw this fine country falling into the clutches of what I was
quite certain were sweet-sounding but inherently destructive political, economic,
and social policies. Until then, I was a completely non-political person who
had actually voted once for the bright-sounding man with the rose in his lapel. I
always admired Trudeau’s strength of character, political savvy, passion, and
decisiveness. In retrospect, I still do. But my instinct told me he was instigating a
one-man regime change for the worse in the country I knew and loved. In all the
most important political, economic, social, and legal aspects of Canadian life he
was turning the country upside down. And by what right? Political and legislative
change of the ordinary sort is one thing; that can be reversed by a free people.
But changes to the fundamental moral, legal, economic, and even linguistic foundations
and understandings of an entire people ought to require more than a
slim majority in Parliament.
         So, entirely new feelings began to arise, along with a pervasive sense of
helplessness. For how do you fight back when the political parties among which
we must choose are so identical in their thinking? No party back then was complaining—
or has since complained—about the sudden transformation of
Canada from a free, common law–based constitutional democracy in which the
will of the people as voiced in Parliament was “supreme,” into a new, constitutionally
mandated welfare state far too often directed by the rule of unelected
judges who cannot be removed by any power in the land. Trudeau plopped his
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on top of us in 1982, and it states
(sec. 52) that to the extent that any (existing or future) law of Canada is “inconsistent”
with the Charter, it is “of no force or effect.”
        As I saw it, with the stroke of his pen, the will of the Canadian people was subjected forevermore to an alien form of entrenched, judge-dictated Statism. The Trouble With Canada ... Still! is one man’s best
effort to lay bare the details of this regime change and to suggest ways to reverse
it and regain our true freedoms and rights.
         It is not a book about Trudeau. But I am very critical of Trudeau and his
socialist fellow-travellers of that time, for I saw him then, and still do, rather as
Tolstoy saw Napoleon. The dictator, he said, was an actor in the tide of time, a
man riding inside the carriage of history, holding ribbons that he thought were
the reins. In the same vein, and with lots of personal flourish, Trudeau was a
kind of flamboyant actor on the stage of Canadian history, reading his lines and
cues from a script written mostly by influential French social planners of the
seventeenth century and forward. So although Trudeau often comes under
attack in this book, its main thrust is not personal. Rather, it is a critique of an
entire style of continental rationalism of which his whole life (his lifelong
motto was “Reason before Passion”) was an expression. I argue that even
though this style of rational social planning gave rise to a politics alien to our
founding ideals and to our roots in British liberty, he nevertheless almost singlehandedly
managed to impose it on an entire nation, and for that we continue
to pay the price detailed in this book.
       In the twenty years since 1990, in many unexpected ways, Canada and the
world have changed a lot. As if in an impossible dream, we witnessed the astonishingly
rapid demise of international communism and the Soviet bloc, the
crumbling of the Berlin Wall, the end of “the Evil Empire.” Many of us hoped
this would be a final and definitive lesson to the West that socialism doesn’t
work, except in heaven where you don’t need it, and in hell where you already
have it. But we can see now that the Evil Empire served a beneficial purpose,
too. It was America’s—and the West’s—definitive ideological enemy, and by
dint of sheer opposition it provoked us to hang on to the fragments and tatters
of our founding belief in liberty. But there has not been a totalitarian “enemy
on the Left” for some time now against which to contrast and defend those
beliefs. And with the ascension of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency—an
office that a tyranny-fearing American founder, in a wonderfully memorable
expression, condemned as “the fetus of Monarchy”—we are at this very moment
watching our once freedom-loving neighbours charge full steam into the
arms of the State.
          This still feels rather strange to anyone who recalls that in the aftermath of
World War II, to call someone “a socialist”—let alone “a Red,” or “a communist,”
or “a pinko”—was tantamount to the worst of insults, both in Canada and the
United States. After all, people such as my godfather, who died at twenty-two
when his Bomber was shot down south of Paris with a 500-pound bomb on
board, were convinced they were fighting to prevent the spread of Statism,
whether national socialist (Nazism), or international socialist (communism).
But now the word “socialist” has come into common parlance as a normal and
acceptable descriptive term for . . . what we have become. I am certain if my godfather
could return to see what we have done with the freedoms for which he gave
his life, he would say he died in vain. [Note: in my latest book, The Great Divide: Why Liberals and Conservatives Will Never, Ever Agree (2015), I describe how this growth in public Statism, taxation, and control of so many aspects of life has been enabled by a parallel seduction of the people through a private and historically unprecedented sexual and bodily freedom].
        It was pretty clear that by 1990, a lot of citizens had fundamental objections to,
and felt tremendous frustration over, Canada’s regime change, primarily
because until the now-defunct Reform Party arose there was not a single
political party to which they could turn in protest. All were embracing some
form of Statism. The whole country seemed to have undergone a kind of historical
amnesia, forgetting our root beliefs in limited government, our many
safeguards—constitutional, legal, and cultural—against political tyranny, our
long, bloodied, and halting history from Magna Carta forward in defence of
British liberty. In the end, a single vote seemed useless as a protest. But might
the country be brought to its senses by a book explaining the trouble with
      The story I wanted to tell was, and still is, aimed at all concerned citizens
searching for answers to our troubles. Once empowered with a little knowledge
of the political and moral contradictions and paradoxes of the turn we had just
taken, would we, could we, reverse our course? In this respect I depart from the general
view that we are a calm, compromising, pragmatic people. I have always felt that this notion is a self-congratulation that to our national detriment might very well camouflage a spiritual dullness and a certain lack of intellectual and moral vigour. Perhaps a tell-it-like-it-is book—a cavalry charge
from an unexpected quarter—would stir us from our slumber?
      I remain convinced that any whole truth sincerely expressed will eventually
find its readers, despite how severely that truth is initially suppressed or
discouraged by those whom it makes uncomfortable. We still live in a free country.
But it is mostly books that keep it free.



The Meaning of Marriage

Our youngest of five children will be married tomorrow, and it will be a moving time for our family. We have had quite a bit of discussion about the meaning of marriage, and the assaults upon that meaning, and this reminded me of a column I wrote some years ago on this topic. So I am re-posting it here, as the institution needs defending more than ever.



Society: The Third Marriage Partner


                  In times past, if you wanted to understand the mysteries of human life it was sufficient to plunge both hands into the warm gut of a sacrificial goat and read the entrails.  Now we have to read the desiccated entrails of Supreme Court judgments.

                The Bracklow case of 1999 was one such, and it startled a lot of people by saying something everyone used to take for granted. Namely, that “when two spouses are married they owe each other a mutual duty of support,” a duty that (in some cases, at least) arises “from the marriage relationship itself.”

                 Unlike my more libertarian colleagues, I was cheered a bit by the idea that after decades of marriage-devaluation by the courts, here was a hint that marriage might have some reason and purpose greater than economics or than the sum of the two spouse’s intentions. The struggle to redefine marriage boils down to this: is it just a deal between two people, or between two people and society at large?

                 The marriage-lingo of courts and commentators across the country has pointed to the former notion for too long. It is mostly about “support” and “compensation” and “contract” and economic “factors,” or - yuck! - about “partners” in a “joint venture.” And through it all we are assured that the law wants to encourage “the self-sufficiency of each spouse” when “breakdown” happens to “happen.” Decoded, this means that spouses are not responsible, society could care less, and the last shred of nobility for the law is to ensure we are all eating well.   

                    Well it’s time to get a grip. Until very recently the natural family - a married mother and father living with their dependent children - was considered the very foundation and living model for a healthy and free society. Not the only way to live, of course, but the best social arrangement. The main aim of marriage was not primarily to please the “partners” but to ensure that society could provide a morally and economically stable private environment for the rearing of its millions of children, and a haven for the care and feeding of millions more citizens - such as aging parents and infirm spouses - who are no longer “self-sufficient.”

                    Originally, freedom-loving people in the West insisted on this moral idea of marriage as a religious, or at least a social sacrament, largely because they did not want human life secularized and controlled by the state. So in contrast to today’s pathetic notion, the promises made by bride and groom were understood as made not merely to each other, but to society as a whole, and not as a joke - a so-called “contract” subject to unilateral dissolution by the first disgruntled party - but as a serious compact with all of procreative society. Dissolution, if permitted at all, required the consent of both parties, of course, but also of society. It was a good method for keeping parents and their children out of the hands of the state, and a powerful warning to let society do the job of organizing itself. 

                      That’s why the radicals of Western civilization from Plato, to Rousseau, to Marx and modern feminists, have expressly hated this idea of marriage and the family. They know it engenders overwhelming loyalty to a free society, to home, hearth, and blood relations instead of to the state, and even worse for them, it diverts wealth to private purposes instead of public coffers. So Plato proposed removing all children from parents at birth to be raised in national daycare; Marx and Engels, ditto. The humanity-lover Rousseau, who styled himself “a child of Plato,” gave his five kids up to an orphanage where they all promptly died. And as for radical feminists … they have always wanted the rest of us to look after their children so they can duke it out with men in the marketplace.

                        So it was that the chief social challenge for the ideological juggernaut that rolled over the last century under the flag of collectivism (Marxism, Nazism, and Fascism in Europe, social “progressivism” in North America) was to get rid of all competition for loyalty: the State must be the only family. The social prestige of the private family would be ended by removing its traditional legal and tax privileges and scoffing the moral and religious appeal of marital union. Stripped of all sacramental or transcendent purpose, marriage would then be only a pragmatic, even a temporary sexual and economic deal between autonomous individuals, for mutual convenience. 

                         What is so disturbing about the bevy of redefinitions of marriage in our so-called liberal democracies in recent years, however, is the terrible irony that we are very busy bringing about the same social breakdown as did the collectivist states, but this time through our peculiar species of hyper-individualist “freedom” talk that reduces traditional social commitments to a toothless personal contract. The language of modern democracy, of rights, freedom, and choice are used everywhere to justify dissolving the bonds of traditional society in favour of individual claims and appetites, as if private human behaviour were without any public consequences. The freedom lovers never learned the lesson captured so well by Edmund Burke when he warned that “liberty, when men act in groups – is power.” Just so, our radical individualists have unwittingly joined the collectivists they purport to hate, as architects of social breakdown. They have played into the hands of the state because whenever marriage and the family are eroded in the name of a personal, a-social freedom, pathology skyrockets, and the state and its agencies step in to assume formerly private responsibilities with public funds; proactively under collectivism, retroactively in “free” societies.   

                           In commercial, and many other matters, the reality of contract is vital, of course. But to reduce something as important for society as procreative union to mere contractual considerations, to speak of a right to escape one’s marital and family commitments because of a spouse’s “inability to perform,” or to permit a louse of a spouse to abandon marital vows whenever he or she happens to see  a spouse’s illness coming (both of which were issues in the Bracklow case), is a great folly and sadly exposes every marriage, especially those of the old or infirm who are failing by nature, to a charge of non-performance. Try to imagine millions of aging, Nike-clad Don Juans on Viagra, hormonally-prompted to demand that because their wives can’t keep up now, they want out. They know that hot younger babes in search of support and a handsome Will, are waiting for them in the wings.

                          Sadly, however, we have sunk beneath even this bare notion of contract, for a “deal” such as modern marriage, dissolvable by either party, is in fact no contract at all. A true contract means two must agree to make it, and two to break it, or a stiff penalty must be paid by one of the spouses. But modern vows are just so much unenforceable pre-nuptial salesmanship.  In this respect, we can say that in contemporary “no-fault” marriage zones, it is now actually impossible to marry in any true contractual sense, for a deal that takes two (in my argument, three) to make, but only one to break, has no binding power at all.

               Alas, the institution of marriage has become a blatantly inadequate protection for the honourable partner upholding the marital vows, and for the children increasingly exposed to the home-smashing whims of unsatisfied spouses. Both must therefore be represented and protected by society and by laws holding the parties in marriage to a standard higher, broader, and deeper than simply their personal intent. It is a standard we can only recover by re-socializing marriage. That is, by restoring the marital union to a three-way contract between the couple and a marriage-respecting civil society determined to restore the original meaning of marriage.                           


Senatus et Majoris Tyrannide

Here is the latest version of my op-ed piece on the real purpose of a Senate in the Western tradition, as published in Canada's National Post, June 18th,


National Post's Robert Fulford on The Great Divide

Here is a very positive review of The Great Divide, published today by one of Canada's foremost culture critics: 


It is agreed by all liberals that everyone should worry about the widening gulf between rich and poor and that those who aren’t concerned about it are probably heartless.

It threatens “our way of life,” Barack Obama remarked. Still, he believes wise government measures can fix or alleviate this fault in the economy. “That’s our generation’s task,” he said. Justin Trudeau has taken on the same task in Canada. Since 1981, he says, the Canadian economy has enormously grown but average family income has increased only moderately. “Where did all the wealth go?” he asks, and answers: “To the wealthiest one per cent, whose income doubled, and to the wealthiest 0.1 per cent, whose income quintupled.” He says Liberals, if elected, will fight income inequality.

Before we drown in proposals for making incomes more equal, we should consider someone who says inequality doesn’t matter. Poverty matters, sure, but “People who worry about inequality either belong to a culture of jealousy and class hatred or they are confusing inequality with poverty.”

That’s the opinion of William D. Gairdner, expressed in his recent book, The Great Divide: Why Liberals and Conservatives Will Never, Ever Agree (Encounter Books). A conservative, he’s written an outrageous book. It will outrage all those who take for granted that “the conventional wisdom” (as J.K. Galbraith called it) should be treated with respect and automatic approval.

Gairdner dissents from the 2015 moral consensus in many areas, among them abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia. Whether one agrees with him or not, he writes with shrewdly deployed energy.

He feels no resentment when he reads of titanic incomes. He assumes that there is a reason, and the reason is freedom. He gives a conservative’s reaction to such news: “Three cheers for freedom, mobility and inequality.” He points out that “Oprah Winfrey, Wayne Gretzky and Bill Gates did not steal their fortunes. They were given to them voluntarily in little bits by millions of people willing to pay for what was offered. There was no hardship for the buyers, and no coercion by the sellers.”

The question of traditional ethics stands at the heart of the argument, the great moral principles that result from tradition and consensus

Gairdner is not in any way typical of writers on political philosophy. In his youth he was a notable athlete, representing Canada in the decathlon at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. After acquiring a PhD in English literature at Stanford University in 1970, he taught at York University in Toronto and then left teaching for business. He was a left-leaning university student but life experiences, his reading and his thinking took him to the conservative side. He founded The Fitness Institute in Toronto and ran it for 15 years. In 1988 he retired, to write books on subjects ranging from family life to democracy.

He explains why we can’t expect liberals and conservatives to agree. The question of traditional ethics stands at the heart of the argument, the great moral principles that result from tradition and consensus. Gairdner says we should always be asking “In what ways can I uphold those principles?” But that question seldom arises, because liberalism has backed away from it. Instead, as Gairdner puts it, “We judge the moral laws, instead of being judged by them.”

In our time liberalism has made values into a personal matter. We worry less about the rightness of an act than about how it makes us feel. “Values education,” as taught in some schools, has become empty and shallow because it’s widely assumed there are no right or wrong values, only personal and usually emotional responses to moral questions. The conservative believes “The truth of life is external to ourselves.” The liberal believes, “Life is a matter of relative values and personal choices; to liberals the truth of most things must be internal.”

Walt Whitman wrote “I celebrate myself.” Gairdner calls that “perfect individualism,” which he does not mean as praise. Whitman favoured “freedom from all laws or bonds except of one’s own being.” His liberal successors have accomplished “the privatization of morality.”

Gairdner writes with bracing honesty on these and other aspects of the split between left and right. He doesn’t claim that he can close the divide between them. He hopes instead to help his readers understand the sources and implications of their opinions, so that they can take part in a refreshed and articulate debate. Those who read his book may well learn, for the first time, the inner meaning of their strong views. That in itself will be an accomplishment. As he says at one point, the book’s main purpose is self-discovery.

National Post