|Statue of Tommy Douglas as "The Greatest Canadian."|
In a recent CBC poll, Tommy Douglas was voted the “Greatest Canadian.” Obviously, he is still popular with Canadians—indeed, apparently more popular than when he was actually running for office. I guess this is progress. It did not seem to matter that he once advocated eugenics—the forced sterilization of the infirm, mentally ill, or even immoral--for the betterment of the race. It was the same policy Hitler was advocating at the same time. Douglas later grew quiet about the idea, but it seems he never publicly renounced his former stand. Whether he still believed in it or not, by World War II he would surely have understood that the idea was no longer politically marketable.
|Racial theorist and minister J.S. Woodsworth. Opposed war with Germany.|
In believing in this method of eliminating the poor--by preventing them from breeding--was Douglas just one rogue NDPer/CCFer? No, this was a, perhaps the, common view among Canadian socialists of the time. The founder of the CCF, J.S. Woodsworth, was another public advocate of eugenics and forced sterilization; he worried about the effects of the floods of new immigrants on the “racial stock” (see his book Strangers within our Gates). Other promoters of eugenics included all five of the “Famous Five,” commonly honoured as Canadian feminist pioneers.
|Statue in downtown Calgary honouring the "Famous Five" eugenicists.|
You'd think this kind of callous dehumanization of the poor would delegitimize a party and a movement that claimed to represent their interests. In the end, it’s roughly the way “Ducks Unlimited” looks after the interests of ducks. Plainly, the CCF/NDP has never really been the party of the poor. It is the party of the petty bureaucrats, who wish to expand government in order to expand their personal power. Yet ordinary Canadians still vote for them in large numbers—large enough that they are currently the Official Opposition, the second-largest party in the House. Rather like turkeys voting for an earlier Thanksgiving; or lemmings voting for a field trip.
But enough of that; there is another problem here. The alert may have noticed that both Woodsworth and Douglas are ordained ministers. This is true also of an uncanny number of prominent NDPers: Bill Blaikie, Stanley Knowles, Lorne Calvert, Dan Heap, and on and on.
Granted, we see pastors in politics in other countries too. But in nowhere near this concentration in one party; and elsewhere there are usually extenuating reasons for it. For example, pastors have been prominent in the US because for many years this was virtually the only learned profession open to blacks.
There is a reason for the separation of church and state: it is very dangerous to mix politics up for religion. It is dangerous for politics, and it is dangerous for religion. On the religious side, it kills true spirituality. On the political side, it almost automatically invests the state, as here, with some or all of the prerogatives of God. This mix of politics with religion is the essence of the “true believer,” rightly defined: someone who makes their political beliefs into a religion. The original and classical example, for which the term “true believer” was coined, is Fascism. Other obvious examples are al Qaeda, Maoism, Marxism generally, and Jonestown/The People’s Temple.
|Trained for the Orthodox priesthood.|
The belief in the superhuman power of the state leads as well to crackpot notions like eugenics. It is simply a matter of choosing the correct government policy in order to achieve paradise on earth.
It is hard to believe grown adults could convince themselves of such a notion. Canadians, it seems, in large numbers, can.