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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)
Sunday
Mar052017

A Warming Message form an Old Friend

I just received a phone call my first true friend, who lives in Port Hope, and whom I met on my first day as a new-boy at boarding school at age 10.
In my graduating year, about 17 yrs old, I had begun training quite intensely for track and field, and he wanted to join me.
In the spring, one of our many workouts, was to run 15 x  the length of the 110yd football field as fast as we could manage. From time to time, over the years, we have both recalled fondly the many occasions on which, bending over and panting so hard trying to recover with just one more length to do, we would look at each other and without words, agree that we could do one more, though our legs were screaming with lactic acid by that time. There was a lifelong bond created in those moments.
In his call today, he told me that on this Feb 6th, in bitter cold, he had gone out on his forested property to walk his dog, leaving his sweet wife, who has been disabled with Multiple Sclerosis for fifteen years now, inside. 
Probably about the time he was turning around, and unknown to him, his poor wife took a bad fall down the last of the stairs to the kitchen, and in great pain, with some broken ribs, and bleeding head, but still conscious, she managed to get to the phone to call 911.
At about that same moment, now facing the bitter wind and whipping snow, My friend turned ... slipped on some ice, and fell very hard, breaking his leg very badly, just below the hip joint.
But, he's a gritty guy, and in shock and pain, and with no idea how he would manage, he began crawling toward the house, which he saw in the distance, about ... 110 yards away!
He said that with dog-leash in hand still, and on his elbows and his other knee, he dragged himself and his broken leg back to the house. But when he finally crawled thru the door and lay flat on his back and exhausted in the kitchen, he saw his dear wife all bloodied at the bottom of the stairs ...
Just then, the ambulance showed up to quite a scene, and carted both of them off to the hospital!
I asked Roger how in hell he managed to drag himself back home with (as it turned out) such a bad compound fracture of the hip and leg.
"Willy," he said, "You remember those interval runs we used to do at school, just hammering so hard, until the last one? Well, that is all I thought about: You can make it! I kept telling myself, over and over."
Some things don't change. After all these years, what I heard on the phone was the same cheerful voice as I heard 60 years ago on that green field!
Quite a fellow!
Husband and wife are both recovering well.

 

Saturday
Mar042017

Immigration and Democracy

             In the beginning, when Trudeau’s government turned toward multiculturalism as yet another Statist innovation, the question: Does it matter, or not, where immigrants come from? gave a sense of the tension between Canada’s smug elite opinion and the popular wisdom for which the former felt only scorn. The American situation was not much different, as evidenced in “Elite vs. Public Opinion,” a press release issued December 2002 by the U.S. Center for Immigration Studies[1] that spoke with some alarm of the “enormous gap” between American elites and the public on immigration. Sixty percent of the American public found their present levels of immigration (which proportionally are one-third of the Canadian level) “a critical threat to the vital interests of the United States.” But only fourteen per cent of the nation’s leadership – well-off, opinion-setters – agreed: a gap of 46%. Much of this difference had to do with working people being anxious about their jobs, whereas educated people are less vulnerable to immigrant job-seekers. Nevertheless, the analysis made it clear that politicians get their opinions on immigration policy from elites, not from ordinary people.

            This truth constitutes a sharp challenge to whatever democratic foundation may exist in Western nations, for given that any kind of immigration is either going to maintain, strengthen, or weaken a nation’s identifiable deep-culture profile – its historical identity (a reality distinct from race identity) - there are reasonable questions we ought to be asking. Such as: Do we want to maintain our national deep-culture profile (as described above), or change it? If we say change is okay, then we have to ask: What kind of change? And - Should we accept random change imposed externally by foreigners demanding a “right” to come to Canada? Or should we manage the direction of change ourselves, insisting that immigration to Canada is not a right, but a privilege to be controlled only by Canadians? If, having decided the latter, we want to manage future change ourselves, then we have to ask: Who in Canada – elites or the people – should make the decision to change, and in what direction?

            Clearly, any decision about the future cultural profile of Canada may turn out to be a good or a bad one, regardless of who makes it. However, I submit that on decisions of such importance that have the potential to alter the ethno-cultural fabric of an entire nation –especially in any nation with a meaningful degree of democracy - it is the people who ought to decide on their own future cultural profile, for better or worse. In other words, all nations have the right to defend themselves against demographic capture, or (if you prefer) against passive ethnic or cultural take-over. Either elected representatives should affirm what the ethos and fabric of society is to become after extensive and sincere consultation with all the people, or – my preference – after the same in-depth process, a question of such importance ought to be put directly to the people in a referendum, and subject to a special majority of, say, two-thirds.  Alas, by now, the entire subject of immigration has become so politicized, the average Canadian so frightened of expressing an honest opinion (such are only whispered), and our lop-sided-leftist media so ready to pounce with charges of bigotry (whereas they themselves ought to be charged with anti-Canadianism), that reasonable dialogue does seem impossible. This attests to the attitude-control powers of governments and elites, and the intellectual infantilization of the nation. But it does not reflect the appropriate responsibility and self-direction of a free people.

 


[1] The report was based on a national poll performed by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, May to July 2002. 

Thursday
Mar022017

On the Silliness of "Safe Spaces"

Visitors will enjoy this clip of Van Jones in discussion about "Safe Spaces" at the University of Chicago. My comments follow it

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zms3EqGbFOk&t=23s

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    In this brief and passionately expressed clip, Van Jones makes the time-honoured distinction between disagreeable words (which are non-physical acts), and disagreeable or abusive physical actions used against people with whom you may disagree.

               He was reinforcing the old jingle we learned as kids: "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." 

               However, the modern liberal dispensation has exerted itself to dissolve this important distinction, and with devices such as Human Rights Tribunals and anti-hate legislation, has blurred it completely, and has thus opened the door, once again, to the presence of thought-police in the ostensibly freedom-loving nations of the West. This signals an enormous historical shift in the political ideology of such nations, though for now it remains well-camouflaged by the language of ... rights and freedom.

               Anyone who has lived under an intentionally totalitarian system is quite familiar with how the loss of the words/actions distinction is the first signal that some power-group -- in our case the liberal left - has already gained control over the levers of public speech, and is already using the blurring of the important distinction between words, sticks, and stones - to argue that a word IS a stick or a stone. Inevitably, as night follows day, they then authorize themselves to argue that a word is an act of hate, intimidation, or violence, and use laws and punishments to stamp out resistance to their preferred progressive ideology. This conversion of words into stones, concepts into things, is already penetrating beyond the mouth and into the mind. The next target is thought control. There are legions of intellectual-sanitation officers already arguing that each one of us is a living engine of "micro-aggression."  Social damage is done every time we open our mouths. So, just a pitter-patter of deadly little dogmas away -- is thought-control and compulsory national re-education programs for all the people.

                Amidst the people themselves? There begins a moral and intellectual life of silence, or at the least, of inauthentic and dishonest social interactions with others who, it is feared,  may be policing them to judge if what they thought were just words are maybe, possibly, sticks and stones, and who seek to shut them up and punish accordingly.    

               I think Van Jones, an articulate leftist, came out in support of maintaining the words/actions distinction because his deepest instincts correctly informed him that otherwise, no one, left or right, is safe.

Wednesday
Mar012017

A Paradox: Deep Culture Must Always Be Illiberal

 

            For thousands of years, rulers, kingdoms, and States – governments large and small - have understood very well how human social-bonding works (affiliation to the maximum number of common cultural denominators). So they have strived to ensure their people share a common deep culture, and have struggled against all threats to the unity this produces. They have understood that you can enjoy lots of ethnic diversity within an existing deep cultural unity, but you cannot derive cultural unity from diversity. That’s why for most nations in history, assimilation has been the key to unity: get newcomers to forget their old ways, and adopt the new host culture.

          Arguably, the Roman Empire was the first, most successful, and most ethnically-diverse State in history. But it lasted so long mainly because it insisted on conformity to common linguistic, legal, political, and religious standards and symbols. You used Latin in all official discourse and documents (some Greek for high culture), if a citizen, you obeyed and were protected equally by Roman law, you shared common political rights in all Roman provinces, you worshiped whatever gods you wanted, but if you attacked the Gods of Rome you would be crucified. Above all, the rule was, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

          I am arguing that the most central logical and historical reality without which there can never be a “people” is the sense of inclusiveness that arises from bonding to the same deep culture, and this inclusiveness is necessarily and by definition also exclusive: you are either for us, or against us (and our culture), an insider or an outsider. That is what creates the bonds and privileges of membership in any social group. This is simply a fact of human history, the way the world has always worked, and this natural process of inclusion/exclusion is the only thing that produces social bonding in any group. Whether in sport teams, families, churches, or nations, all human social bonding – which is a universal cultural phenomenon - demands sacrifice to group ideals, subordination to group authority, commitment to group purposes, and then, and only then, members get group privileges. 

         For a very long time Canada offered its deep culture to all immigrants, and expected the social-bonding explained above to take place. In effect, the private property rights, rule of law, individual freedom, our many legal and political rights, and much more, comprised a real-world, practical, universalizing culture that worked very well to assimilate and unify foreigners. The trouble with almost all the modern democracies is that in embracing multiculturalism as an official policy – the absurd idea that differences unite - they have been turning their backs on what really unites: their own deep-culture inheritance (however filtered or enriched by other skin-deep cultural experiences of other peoples).

            In addition to these distortions of value and truth, these trivializations of deep culture, perhaps the most insidious effect of “diversity” is that it is no diversity at all. It has produced a strict and unrelenting, extremely narrow-minded and very radical anti-Western orthodoxy of a kind rarely seen before. The diversity in question is in fact a diversity of the like-minded, and the like-minded are primarily radical secular leftists of a bitterly anti-Western type operating in lock-step attitudinal conformity who employ all the techniques of modern Statism to shut down opposing views via what author Camille Paglia, herself a leftist, has called a “fascism of the left.” Another astute critic from the left who saw this scam long ago, was Christopher Lasch, who said that “in practice, diversity turns out to legitimize a new dogmatism in which rival minorities take shelter behind a set of beliefs impervious to rational discussion.”[1]

          So much is this true that one of the newly-rarefied meanings of “racism” includes a charge of failure to recognize racial differences, special racial identities, and the unique “perspectives’ of racial minorities (in the unique sensibilities of which you may be genetically-barred from sharing, due to your different race). Toronto already has one all-black school (a school especially for whites would be considered racially discriminatory). And authorities are now discussing the need for “all-aboriginal” schools.  There is nothing “diverse” about all this. It is our new orthodoxy.

 

 


[1] Cited in Robert Martin, The Most Dangerous Branch: How the Supreme Court of Canada Has Undermined Our Law and Our Democracy (Montreal-Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003), p.20. 

Tuesday
Feb282017

White Guilt, Self-Loathing, and the Therapeutic State

This is a continuation of free-thinking about the condition of western culture, and what Paul Gottfried, below, in a book of that name, calls The Menace of Multiculturalism.

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            Most dominant cultures do not end up in self-hate. They fight hard to maintain the authority and control that flow from their deep culture. That is what Rome did for a thousand years. One of the very large questions that historians will soon be trying to answer during what appears to be the clear and present decline of Western civilization, is "Why did the West turn against itself?" One plausible explanations is so-called “White guilt.”

            In an interesting treatment, author Paul Gottfried argues that we have recently traveled from the managerial Welfare State of the first half of the twentieth-century, to the behaviour-and-attitude-controlling Therapeutic State of the present. This may be seen as a secular expression of our earlier Christian-based search for purity of soul and atonement for original sin. Due to the pervasive psychological weight of the latter, some have described all Christian societies as “a guilt culture” (in contrast to the frequent description of Islamic societies as a “blame culture”).  

            The process began with the Protestant Reformation in the early Sixteenth  century. People often think the Reformation was a cry for release from religious authority and control. But it was the opposite. It was a puritanical protest against religious laxity and corruption. People began turning their backs on Church authority, because it wasn't strict enough! Too corrupt. They began turning away from their church-mediated relationship with God, and yearning for an individual relationship with god and for spiritual salvation.

              But  No sooner was this right won, than a call went out for individual political rights, too. In that sense, modern democracy has been recognized by many historians as “a child of the Reformation.”  For a as soon as it was realized that protestant religious fragmentation was producing a multiplicity of sects, a call for toleration arose, and it was not long before the right to an individual relationship with God was translated into an individual right to vote. People began to hear the phrase: "The voice of the people is the voice of God." Hmmm.

              Then over time, as Western society became more secular and religion weakened, the emphasis began to fall on various human-rights crusades. Our present stage of attitude control and “political correctness” is enabled by an increasingly therapeutic State complete with purity-of-behaviour and re-education courses, sensitivity-adjustment units such as Human Rights Commissions (which seek to control, purge, and punish even internal attitudes or impure private thought and speech), and a politicized judiciary that sees its role as the purification of democracy (see chapter Fifteen of The Trouble With Canada ... Still! for actual statements from Canadian judges to this effect).

                 In short, almost overnight the notion of sin as spiritual bad attitude, gave way to political and cultural insensitivity as bad attitude. The ancient search for religious purity and salvation slowly gave way to a yearning for psychic and even bodily purity, for “a mind cleansed of pathological thoughts.” Accompanying all this, we increasingly see an almost fanatical modern emphasis on bodily health, on pure “organic” foods, along with strident calls for environmental-recycling behaviour in all citizens! In no small way, the world-wide concern for cleaning up the garbage in the streets has replaced the prior need to clean up the garbage in the soul. 

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. 

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