Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reasons Canada is Not Ready for Self-Government #5: Justin Trudeau

Sieur Justin Trudeau


Although he was the scion of a wealthy Quebec family, and a well-known public intellectual in that province, in terms of federal electoral politics, Pierre Trudeau came pretty much out of nowhere in 1967, when he was appointed to Pearson’s cabinet, then elected Liberal leader the next year.

So what exactly, he was asked, were his political beliefs?

Trudeau claimed his ideology came from Plato’s Republic.

This seemed to please everyone; it dodged Marxism, and sounded impressively intellectual.

But what does that actually mean?

Plato’s republic was not a democracy. He called for an aristocracy in which leaders were trained from infancy for the role. He also held that there should be no private property, women and children should be held in common, and the lower classes should be kept ignorant and indeed lied to if this is in the interests of the state

Trudeau, in short, was an aristocrat, in all but title, and he was claiming his class privilege to rule.

Canadians thought this was great.

A generation later, the Liberal party has turned to Trudeau’s son to take up his mantle of leadership. Appropriately enough, Trudeau fils has no qualifications for the role whatsoever, except the traditional one of being to the manor born. As Liberal leader, he follows Bob Rae, who follows Michael Ignatieff, who follows Stephane Dion, who follows Paul Martin Jr. – all from well-established families, New World gentry. In Ignatieff’s case, Old World gentry as well. (Thomas Mulcair and Jack Layton are from the same mold, as was John Turner).

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being an aristocrat. And there is nothing wrong with electing an aristocrat. Winston Churchill and FDR were both blue of blood, and they did well enough for their respective countries.

But in the usual order of things, for an aristocrat to successfully contest an election for the Commons, he is expected to renounce his hereditary privileges and publicly declare himself a democrat at heart.



Pierre Trudeau, Compte d'Outremont.

In Canada, there seems to be no such need. Trudeau pere never bothered to conceal his respect and affection for Fidel Castro. Trudeau fils has recently openly expressed his admiration for dictatorship as a more efficient form of government. He still rides high in the polls, and the Liberals just did very well in four byelections.

Canadians would apparently be happy if relieved of the burden of thinking for themselves. They’d rather be ruled without consultation by a self-appointed, hereditary elite.

And democracy is just not the kind of thing you can force on a people.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Speaking of Kohlberg's Theories of Moral Development...

... Here we have what looks like scientific evidence of the reality of an inborn conscience:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/11/as-babies-we-knew-morality/281567/

Kohlberg and the Moral Value of Conformity

The moral beauty of conformity: Nazi Germany


A friend recently praised to me the theories of the psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg. I was not familiar with him; apparently he studies “moral development” along the lines of Piaget’s theories of intellectual development. Kohlberg posited that morality develops in six progressive stages:

1. Fear of punishment
2. Self-interest
3. Conformity to social norms
4. Deference to authority
5. Social contract
6. Universal ethical principles or conscience

While Piaget’s work was only with children, Kohlberg claimed that these stages of moral development can continue throughout a person’s life span.

I see lots of problems with this theory. Most obviously, since Kohlberg was presumably a human himself, how can he be scientifically certain that he has himself reached the highest possible stage of moral development, and can therefore judge how relatively backwards others might be?

Of course, if he wants to base it all on either a philosophical argument or an established moral code, that is fine. But then it is no longer psychology. It is either philosophy or religion, and must present itself for consideration in these terms.



The moral beauty of conformity: North Korea.

But for now I just want to deal with the implication that step 3, conformity, is more morally advanced than step 1, fear of punishment. That is, philosophically speaking, an abomination.

Fear of punishment is morally neutral. It is neither moral nor immoral to fear punishment. It is, on the other hand, simply good sense.

Conformity, on the other hand, is positively immoral. Given the choice either to conform or not to conform, nonconformity is intrinsically the more moral choice.

Don’t just take my word for it. Pope Francis spoke of it only the other day. As paraphrased:

Today it is thought that we have to be like everyone else, we have to be more normal, like everyone else, with this adolescent progressivism. And then what follows is history: the death sentences, human sacrifices.

Not satisfied? Check the Bible. Obviously, Jesus himself was an extreme non-conformist. So were the apostles, and so were all the prophets. Seriously, going out into the desert in animal skins and living on locusts and wild honey is not the obvious conformist option. Jesus says:
13"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Why is conformity evil? Because society is evil. It is the realm of Mammon, of Caesar, of Babylon and of “the nations.” It is the devil’s domain:
5And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6And the devil said to Him, "I will give you all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.…”
If society is evil, albeit a necessary evil, by its nature, then conforming to it beyond what is strictly required (perhaps, say, for fear of punishment) is evil. Yet even were it morally neutral, conforming to it would be evil, because it is a willful abdication of conscience.



The moral beauty of conformity: Jonestown, Guyana.

Hence we are supposed to be “in the world but not of it.”

Kohlberg's body was fished out of Boston Harbour in January, 1987. Apparently, he had parked his car, waded into he icy waters, and drowned himself. This, of course, proves nothing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Politics as Entertainment

More evidence that Canadians see politics largely as entertainment: Rob Ford's approval rating is higher now than before he admitted using cocaine, and higher than that of Barack Obama or the US Congress.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Reasons Canada is Not Ready for Self-Government #4: The United Farmers


Our parliamentary caucus. Photo by RCB.

In 1919, a group called the United Farmers of Ontario decided to contest the provincial election. To everyone’s surprise, they won. They then had two problems: first, they had no leader. The most prominent members of the party refused the post. Second, they had no platform. The elected members had no idea what they stood for, and could not agree on policies. Many members were against forming a government.

In 1921 a provincial election was called in Alberta. The United Farmers of Alberta decided to run candidates, and they won too. Despite the example of Ontario, again, they were unprepared. They had no leader, and could not agree on policy. They lobbied the sitting premier, a Liberal, to remain in power. He refused. So they were stuck.




Herbert Greenfield, reluctant UFA premier of Alberta.

In the same year, a federal election was called, and the hastily-formed federal version of the United Farmers, the Progressives, similarly surprised by pulling enough voted to form the opposition. They too had no leader, and, uncertain what their policy was, declined to serve as official opposition.

In 1922, the United Farmers of Manitoba also won the election--despite running candidates in only two thirds of the ridings.

The United Farmers apparently did not contest any other provinces. Which is no doubt a good thing, since they probably would have won there too.

Not exactly knowing why they were there, of course, the Progressives/United Farmers did not hold together very well in government. Within a few years, they had split into warring factions and variously merged with the Liberals, CCF, or the newly-minted “Progressive Conservatives.” In the end, the United Farmers of Alberta, finding politics less than profitable, regrouped themselves as a chain of feed stores and gas stations. No, really.

Now, it ought to be clear that a grown-up nation does not vote in staggering numbers for a new and unknown party without either leaders, a platform, or any kind of experience in government. That’s just perverse.

Adding self-insult to self-injury, we seem to have done it just because they called us a bunch of peasants, and were against government in any form. We liked the idea.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild



Salvador Dali, Crucifixion Hypercube, 1954
I have made the point here before that art unguided by religion is either useless or destructive. But it is equally true that religion without art is debilitated and debilitating. In a way, there is nothing worse: what is left is that saccharine “gentle Jesus” stuff.

This is what the artist fights. Sometimes it may look, to some, like an attack on religion itself:

My father upon the Abbey stage, before him a raging crowd:
'This Land of Saints,' and then as the applause died out,
'Of plaster Saints';

-W.B. Yeats, "Beautiful Lofty Things."

This is not an attack on the saints, but on “plaster saints.” One example of saccharine religion that I find particularly vomitous is the popular notion that a saint is someone who does not sin.

A falsified religion that is at peace with the world as it is is worse than no religion, because it comforts and justifies the Pharisees, and drives precisely the people who need and deserve religion away: those who know the bitterness of life. If organized religion is the Law, and the priests and judges of the Law, art and artists are the Prophets. There will always be false as well as true prophets, but we need prophets, channeling the live Spirit, to keep the priests in the Temple honest. In his own social context, Jesus himself was an itinerant artist, not a priest in the Temple. He was a storyteller, and a brilliant storyteller. He stood very far from the conventional sources of religious authority.

Art has kept the Catholic Church honest over the centuries, thanks to Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Beethoven, Cervantes, and the boys, along with a refusal to prettify the image of Jesus bleeding over the altar. It does not pretend the world is without blood, or semen, or sweat, or tears.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rob Ford


Rob Ford in chains.

By law, as I understand it, an Ontario mayor can only be stripped of office if he is convicted of a serious crime or if he is found guilty of a conflict of interest.

Rob Ford should remain in office unless and until one of these two conditions are met. They are currently not met.

Yes, the provincial government could amend the law to get him out. But this would set a terrible precedent: retroactive laws are an automatic violation of human rights, and could be used to take out anyone some future government finds inconvenient.

Removing an elected officeholder by non-democratic means is also a terrible precedent. It could be used in future by a ruling elite to end democracy for all practical purposes.

Rob Ford's personal life is, in principle, none of our business. He has the same right to privacy as a common citizen. He also has the same right to freedom of speech.

Of course, he also has the right to resign if he so chooses. His call.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Reasons Canada is Not Ready for Self-Government #3: Social Credit

Major C.H. Douglas, the inventor of Social Credit, visits Edmonton.

Social Credit is an economic theory dreamed up in England in the 1920s. Never heard of it? Then you’re not Canadian. It has been taken seriously in no other country. In Canada, however, it produced two longstanding provincial government dynasties, and the third-largest federal parliamentary delegation for five elections in a row. It held significant support from BC to Quebec.


"Bible Bill" Aberhart, longtime Socred premier of Alberta
Cut away the jargon, and the basic idea of Social Credit is quite simple: government prints more money, and hands it out in fistfuls to the general population.

Now, any grown-up country should realize that this is not the way it is done. The money has to be laundered through the bureaucracy first. There is something tasteless about being so direct about it. What kind of example does this set for the children?