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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
Essays (37)
Friday
Feb242017

The Diversity Death of the West

    

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote this piece today, after a pro and con discussion about multiculturalism with some close friends

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 The emphasis of  all civilizations until very recently has always been social and cultural cohesion: "university," not "diversity." The Latin word "universitas" referred to "a number of persons associated into one body, a society, company, or community," and was only recently restricted to institutions of higher learning. In short, until very recently, university always meant unity, and the unmistakable goal of every "nation" was to get citizens aligned with its core values. In that context, to preach diversity instead of unity was considered dangerous to the strength of the Nation (from the Latin Natus, "born together").

          That is why the American (and Canadian) goal for all immigrants, until about yesterday, was always "assimilation," a nation-building philosophy still summed up in the Latin phrase seen on US currency: "e Pluribus Unum" (from Many, One).

            Breakdown in support for cultural unity began with the influx of too many immigrants of non-European stock midway through the last century who did not share the same Euro-cultural history, and so who did not care to assimilate to the cultural ethos of the host nation. 

            But the desire for unity is natural and human. We are all generally more comfortable with people who look like us, with raising children who look like us, with neighbours who understand us and share our values, have the same background, morals, and tastes as us, etc.

             Immigrant groups naturally feel this way, too, and so as the core culture got more ethnically diluted, the demand for assimilation to the nation weakened. It was not always weakened by immigrants, mind you. Many immigrants wondered what the hell we were doing encouraging them to stick to the culture of their countries of origin? What were we doing?

             Well, beginning in the 1960s we were filling our "universities" with young people who learned from their radical profs how to hate their own culture. Hate their own unity. Protest eurocentricism, colonial oppression, past slavery, etc. We cranked out millions of little "oikophobes" (Oikos is Greek for "home") - people who hated their own national home. They came out preaching a one-world, anti-euro-cultural philosophy soon to be called "multiculturalism."

                Immigrants loved it. It meant they were no longer expected  to wok at assimilation. Didn't have to learn the language or literature. Didn't have to learn the culture or the political philosophy, etc. Quite the opposite. Suddenly - this really did happen almost overnight - they learned to cultivate even stronger attachment ‎to their own ethnic and cultural sub-groups, rather than to the host nation.  Nuts to Natus.

            Evidence for this alarming about-face abounds. In a 2006 Library of Parliament research report on Canadian Multiculturalism, to take just one example, the authors state: "As a fact, ‎'multiculturalism' in Canada refers to the presence and persistence of diverse racial and ethnic minorities who define themselves as different, and who wish to remain so."(Current Issue Review, March 16, 2006).  A similar sentiment is now to be found in all Western nations.

              A close friend who was part of this discussion said he prefers the term "interculturalism." Sounds nice. But that term was first coined by Quebecois culture-theorists who were striving to protect the unity and centrality (read: superiority) of their unique French culture in Canada against its erosion in the face of the Canada's national multicultural policy (formed earlier, but first promulgated as law, in 1988).

               I support them. Because multiculturalism, while enjoyable as a lightweight fact of life (sushi, French movies, Italian style, etc) is in its theoretical basis an attack on the uniqueness and centrality of Western civilization as a whole (and certainly on French culture, which was such a mainstay of Western Civ until about a century ago). So no wonder the French Canadians fought, and continue to fight back! I wish Anglophones were as proud of their own distinctive culture and would do the same.

               Broadly-speaking, multiculturalism is an attack on even the slightest hint that Western civilization may have been, may be still, superior to all other civilizations.  Remember the Stanford University cry: "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Western Civ has got to go!" I mean to say, multicultural policy was at bottom a rear-guard administrative action by culturally-crumbling modern states striving to create unity from the diversity they had brought - and continue to bring - upon themselves. For the past half century they have been fornicating themselves to death with the help of contraception and abortion , instead of procreating vigorously and, at the very least, replacing themselves with their own progeny.

                But negative birth-rates eventually mean aging and weak labour markets, and a need to import labour from countries foreign to our way of life. So all the bureaucratic-capitalist states, faced with empty cradles that have resulted from their own anti-procreative death-wish, simply invented a false conception of "culture" they called "multiculturalism" with which they imagined they could restore the failing cultural unity evaporating right before their eyes. No one  bothered to face the fact that as an abstract concept, multiculturalism is a fiction that kills its own host culture. A lie the legions of aging and frightened bureaucrats running the western democracies imagined would unite their fragmented citizens as One People again, but this time ... worldwide! Multiculturalists are all One Worlders. And they have been doing this, even while watching  hundreds of distinctive cultural groups within their own borders unite with their own real cultural groups, against the false-culture multicult. Which is to say, against the host nations themselves. "No-go" zones in Europe's major cities are plainly manifestations of this.

                 Well, Alexander the Great was the World's first multiculturalist. His dream fell apart about five minutes after he died. As "nations", the political regimes of the West are all suffering a slow, cancerous "diversity death" - even as, blinded by the centripetal evidence of its failure before their very eyes, they preach the healing balm of multiculturalism more desperately.

                  So I insist: you can enjoy diversity within unity. But you cannot derive unity from diversity. We need to recognize this truth before it is too late. 

Thursday
Feb232017

Our Great Philosophical, Literary, and Aesthetic Tradition

        Here, I beg indulgence. I was trained as a professor of English and Comparative Literature, and I enjoy most the study of the History of Ideas, as it is called. The contributions to human life, understanding, and enrichment by many other cultures have of course been impressive in their own right. But my preferences are clear. The cumulative human search for goodness, truth, and beauty in the Western tradition is unique, something to marvel at and defend, and the recent root and branch attack on it - mostly by egalitarian, post-modern radicals – to be energetically rebuffed.

For there simply is no other culture that has produced works of the mind and heart, of philosophy, literature, music and art, as grand and fruitful as those of the Western tradition. From Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, to Augustine and Aquinas; from the insight and beauty of the King James Bible to the soaring cathedrals – Westminster, Winchester, Chartres -  angelic choir voices descending; to the glorious music of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, Tchaikovsky - and countless others; to our great literature from Beowulf to the Canterbury Tales – and yes, all that very fine French and German and Spanish literature , old and new- to virtually all of Shakespeare, to the great tradition of the novel from Fielding to Dickens, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, to Joyce and Faulkner (I haven’t kept up with the moderns) to the ringing songs of our poets, and yes, all those gorgeous visual forms, and paintings  - the Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, all of Rembrandt, Turner, much of Van Gogh, almost all the French Impressionists, our own fine Group of Seven - whole continents of stunning modern painting and sculpture …Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, oh, my heart.       

           And of course our lofty English - of all languages, the most ample, most flexible, the most free and open to innovation – has, precisely because of this adaptive freedom become the new  lingua franca, as they say. Open and ample? A famous professor of French boasted to us in a Stanford lecture that he could find all or part of every word of the French language, somewhere in the English language. Flexible? Resourceful? No language has over the last millennium taken over and absorbed as its own so many words from other peoples. It is now the universal language. The Oxford English Dictionary is the still the largest and most astonishing glory of all the world’s dictionaries, the miraculous endeavour of its assembly after a century of labour a signal tribute to the English people’s love of their language.

 

Tuesday
Feb212017

Our Faltering, But Still Great Legal System

        It needs criticism and ongoing improvement (and I outline some improvemets in Chapter Fifteen of The Trouble With Canada ...Still!, on the Law and the Constitution). But compared to the legal systems of other cultures? - No contest. Down wiht the myth that other cultures offer legal systems as good!

To Mother England, once again, we owe most of the freedoms from Statism, and the common-law rights that we too often take for granted (tho to be truthful, they have been undermined recently even there).

Superior is the British-based right to private property we have known since the twelfth century. Superior are the individual freedoms and rights to protection from Statism that were enshrined in Magna Carta in 1215, and improved and defended ever since (well, until 1982 in Canada).

Superior is the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty before a jury of peers or an independent judge!

Superior are the rights of citizens to legal appeal to higher courts!

Superior is the right of the poor to free counsel!

Other than Rome at the height of her glory (from whence also we have drawn much in the way of legal practice) no other system has ever provided its people with such a cultural fabric of superior legal rights and freedoms.

Indeed one of the supporting ribs of The Trouble With Canada ... Still! is the nation-defining contrast between the British-based common-law system, and the French-based code-law system, arguing for the superiority of the former. The practical reality that all who have thrown in their lot with the English bottom-up common-law system are free to do anything that is not prohibited by the law, is an extraordinary inheritance of the English people. We are presumed free by birth and by inherited right. This stands in stark opposition to the dictates found in so many top-down nations of history, where citizens are permitted only to do what is specified and allowed – or altered by judges - in a written code.

There is a huge difference in principle and in reality between a regime where you are deemed free by nature to do anything that is not prohibited, and one in which you can only do what is permitted!     

Monday
Feb202017

Dollar Democracy

Much of the first part of my book The Trouble With Canada ...Still! (2010) explains and praises what I have called “the tools of freedom and wealth creation,” and the remarks apply to the US and all other free societies.

To confess, I do not like much of what raw capitalism has produced. Ugly commercial sprawl, grating and incessant advertising, the sexualization of all human life, pornography for sale even in the swankiest hotels, a population taught that the best man is the one who dies with the most toys, and so on. On the other hand, compared to all the other systems – communism, socialism, fascism, the various dictatorships, and the mixed and mixed up systems of most other nations  - ours is amazing.

It supplies the ordinary citizen with largely unrestricted free choice in daily commercial life with respect to how to spend the fruits of personal labour. It is indeed a form of democratic capitalism, or what I have called a “dollar democracy” under which ordinary people make or break those who serve them well or poorly. Okay, we are half slaves to the State because we are forced to surrender up to half our earnings every year. Nevertheless, what I have called our Freedom System is exactly that. It is a superior system of private property rights, contractual rights, legal justice, protection against force and fraud, and investment opportunities large and small that enable the vast majority of people freely to guide their own lives economically, to their own ends, by their own means, in a culture more or less free of normative corruption. That is a unique, superior, universally-duplicable system that we owe to our unique history. We forget this at our peril. 

Sunday
Feb192017

Canada's Great Political System

My next few blogs will describe some of the things that make Canada great - and better than most other countries and cultures ( hope I do not get arrested for writing something so politically-incorrect!)

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Our Great Political System

         I have many complaints about Canada, and out of love for my country have often aired these in writing. But I defend the historical fact that almost no other political system in history – and few for such a length of time – has produced such peace and prosperity combined, when it comes to influence over rulers, with the right of the people “to throw the bastards out.” That is a most lovely right, and a dear gift of our ancestors, to be venerated. Nor has any other system but ours defended to the death the most revolutionary idea of all: that all people everywhere have rights (and duties) that are independent of the culture in which they happen to find themselves. They are rights grounded, it is argued, in human nature, and not in any one culture. This was a claim and ideal of ancient Greek and Roman “natural law” as can be clearly seen in the works of such as Cicero. It was later a Christian claim and ideal spread by the Gospels (and most clearly articulated philosophically by Saint Thomas Aquinas), and it has found a vulnerable success wherever Western values have spread. Further, and despite all that may be reproached of our unique limited representative democratic system embedded in a constitutional monarchy, our right to express our individual views through elected Parliamentarians who in turn are checked by a loyal opposition, and a region-based Senate system (so as not to trample minority regions) – the whole jumble is a superior crowning glory! Included also are our many other inherited checks and balances on raw power. And so much of this we owe to Mother England. I defend all this as a superior system because no other people has ever produced anything as good. The oft-vaunted Greek and Roman democracies were slave-infested systems. Even the American republican system is not as good, as our founders well knew, because the Americans hold elections in which they castigate, vilify, and ridicule each other - we have just witnessed a feast of such frenzied abuse in the American 2016 election - and then, after all candidates have declared that all candidates are incompetent ... one of them is elected! Whereupon, all those who voted for the losers - sometimes more than half of all the people - find themselves unrepresented. But Canadians have a non-political Monarch who always represents and symbolizes them as one united people. Most Canadaisn are unaware that in this sense, the Prime Minister represents only the government of the people, not the people themselves. Only the Queen does that (or within Canada, the Governor-General). It is a superior and noble thing indeed to have a symbol of high decency representing all the people that cannot be touched by partisan politics! So do not pretend other systems are as good … or you may soon find yourself living under one of them!

 

 

Thursday
Feb162017

Romanticism & Multiculturalism: The Roots of Our Soft-Fascism

Romanticism – the Root of Fascism

            Romanticism began by favouring emotion over cold reason and particular local identity and experience over universal experience.  It was especially keen to repudiate the sort of French rationalism that was being imposed on most European nations as a political and even a snobbish cultural pattern. Napoleon had invaded the hundreds of loosely-allied principalities of what is now Germany and re-organized them politically and geographically along rationalist lines. Perhaps the most easily visible symbol of this trend, this rationalist domination, was imposed weights and measures and metrication. Rationalists hated the illogical local measuring systems of Europe – Pounds? Feet? Yards? Chains? Ells?They would eliminate them and impose the universal logical perfection of the metric system. But it was precisely this sort of rationalist homogenization, this threat to local identity that made people very angry. For what could be more human and organic, they said - more us! - than measurement by a foot, a thumb, an arm, a chain? They thought of culture as local, warm, organic, and human, in contrast to civilization which was rationalist, universalist, cold, and inhuman. Most of all, they correctly perceived metrication and all other such administrative tools as aids to State controls, taxation, and conscription.[1]

          In reaction to this homogenization, thinkers everywhere began repudiating all foreign models of universal human perfection that they had for too long been expected to mirror in their manners, thought, and arts. An entire generation of poets and artists began to adopt a more inward model, the metaphor for which was the lamp – the burning inner light of personal identity, and therefore of local, national, and above all, racially-authentic feeling. It was the European Romantic movement that set the tenor for all modern national fascist systems. It was there the distant die was cast even for Canada’s multicultural identity politics. Since the 1960s we have been enduring a Neo-Romantic age.    

           The German Johannes Herder (1744-1803) was Romanticism’s most notorious racial/cultural philosopher. Meditating upon the clash of cultures in the Baltic, he came to the conclusion “that every tribe and people was unfathomably and indestructibly unique.” What made them unique were mysterious “primary forces deep in the collective soul … each Nation represented a truth of its own, which was a compound of blood, soil, climate, environment, experience – in brief, race, geography and history. There was no universal criterion by which to judge nations … Men did not create a nation; a nation brought forth men.”[2] Implicit in this aspect and in all forms of socialism (whether national or international) is an attack on Western individualism and self-reliance, for socialism and fascism are one in conceiving of the individual as a product of unique social forces. Hence, all socialists and fascists attack the very notion of “individual rights,” believing that “if the culture is at the root of the individual’s identity and meaning, then the culture must acquire a mystical, even a God-like status.”[3]  

         Richard Wagner, the most notorious musician of this movement, invoked triumphalist German folk-life and warrior lore in his operatic extravaganzas. The most influential recent philosophical giant evoking this lore was the brooding philosopher from the Black Forest, Martin Heidegger. His wife sounded like one of our own multiculturalists when she said that fascists like herself and Martin had not committed “the fatal error” of believing in the equality of all human beings (for them, all races are uniquely different); rather, their whole struggle was “to recognize the diversity of peoples and races.”[4] These seekers of inner truth were arguing passionately that human identity burns with a profoundly local, racial, tribal, and national flame, and that the enemy of true identity is the philosophy of the French-type of universalism and internationalism. This, Herder had described as “the slime of the Seine.” This reaction was feeding the flames of national socialism and the Nazi program: Heidegger was for a time Rector of Freiberg University and the unofficial philosopher of the Nazi party. The party slogan intended to sum up “identity,” was Blut und Boden – “blood and soil.” I have developed arguments elsewhere that trace the course of this Romantic passion as it was shaped by the German philosophical reaction to Western thought, and how in politics it developed into fascism.[5]

               Without stretching the point, it seems clear that the recent, if now fading “post-modern” movement (which also repudiates all universal thought), and the moral and cultural relativism that accompanied it (which rejects all universal moral and cultural standards), found a confused - and confusing - home in Canada. In a 2006 Library of Parliament Research Report on “Canadian Multiculturalism,” the authors say that “As fact, ‘multiculturalism’ in Canada refers to the presence and persistence of diverse racial and ethnic minorities who define themselves as different and who wish to remain so.”[6] To this official extent, Canadian multiculturalism identifies and promotes separate racial and ethnic identities, and as such, it must be understood as a clearly-expressed nationalistic form of soft multi-fascism – a fascism not of a single race (as in War-time Germany) but of many races, or tribes. The history of classical political and moral liberalism in Canada is still, and will likely always be strong enough to inhibit any unitary fascism of the type seen in Europe. But if I am correct that soft multi-fascism is already present,  then we have begun a journey down  a potentially dangerous road.  At the least this means Canadian multiculturalism is an official racist doctrine.

           A recent social study by the University of Toronto confirms this predictable trend: compared with their parents, the second generation of visible minority immigrants now feels less, not more Canadian.[7] Professor Zheng Wu of the University of Victoria found that the higher the concentration of people from their own ethnic group in the neighbourhood, the less adult immigrants feel like they belong to Canada.[8] The prestigious Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam has vigorously underscored the fact that immigration and diversity are reducing social solidarity and social capital.”[9] In 2004 a Statistics Canada report revealed that whereas Canada had six “visible minority neighbourhoods” in 1981, by 2001 there were 254. Some time ago, the American Senator Huey Long warned, “When fascism comes to America, it will come in the name of democracy.” People will vote for it. Well, we voted, and it is here now, in a soft form. It is everywhere in the West under names like multiculturalism and diversity. Soft, but here, nonetheless.[10]               

 

 


[1] On this, see the fascinating work by James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998).

[2] J. L. Talmon, Romanticism and Revolt: Europe 1815-1848 (New York: W.W. Norton &Co., 1967), p.96 ff.

[3] Gene Edward Veith Jr., Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview (St. Louis: Concordia, 1993), p.37.

[4] Cited in Gene Edward Veith, Jr., Modern Fascism, p. 134 [emphasis added].

[5] William D. Gairdner, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals (Montreal-Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008), esp. Chap. 11, “German Philosophy and the Relativist Revolt Against Western Civilization.”

[6] See Michael Dewing, Marc Leman, Political and Social Affairs Division, Parliamentary Research Branch, Current Issue Review: “Canadian Multiculturalism, Revised March 16, 2006. This report is weakened by spurious assumptions with respect to Canada’s constitutional founding. For example, on p.2 the authors State that Canada’s English and French Founders “appointed themselves the official founders of Canada.”

[7] Jeffrey G. Reitz, Rupa Banerjee, Mai Phan, Jordan Thompson, “Race, Religion, and the Social Integration of New Immigrant Minorities in Canada” Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, September 2008 (contact: Jeffrey.reitz@utoronto.ca ).

[8] “Ethnic Enclaves Weak Link, Study Finds” (National Post, June 2, 2010).

[9] See Robert Putnam, E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century, cited in Herbert Grubel, The Effects of Mass Immigration on Canadian Living Standards and Society (Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, 2009)

[10] A fascinating treatment of this historical and political trend is Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (New York: Doubleday, 2007).  

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