Sunday, 11 May 2008

Of Pols and Molls

I’ve been quite clear about where I think Maxime Bernier fits amid the pied pageant of grinding mediocrity that is Stephen Harper’s cabinet, but I couldn’t help but smile at the pearl-clutching shock that greeted the discovery that Julie Couillard, Bernier’s former girlfriend, was once a biker’s moll.

Media and Opposition reaction seemed driven by the “security implications" of Bernier’s appalling taste in women (though, in my view, there really are none to speak of). Remarkably, nobody bothered to point out the obvious—that, far from being inappropriate, the now-defunct relationship represented a perfectly appropriate and perhaps even ideal match.

As you may know, Bernier is part of the “Conservative” Party’s libertarian wing and made his provincial reputation by flogging the usual neo-liberal horses as Vice-President of the Montreal Economic Institute, Quebec’s version of the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation. As a man who believes that the state is an inherently oppressive institution which deserves to be starved into impotence and that taxes need to be lowered to the point of virtual non-existence, Bernier is a natural ally of the Hells Angels (and of all criminal enterprises), who, despising the state, proudly and tirelessly work to destroy the law and order which are its fairest fruits and who do everything they can to keep their ill-gotten profits from official scrutiny and government imposts.

In effect, the Hells Angels are simply orthodox libertarians—radically asocial entities ruthlessly pursuing a self-interest premised upon the assumed ethical illegitimacy of all governments and of the “nanny-state collectivism” they administer. Naturally, Bernier’s girlfriend found it easy to flit between a biker guttersnipe and his own respectable self. Beyond the superficial, they are the same man. Add a gang patch or a pair of cufflinks, and the one becomes the other.

Bernier’s embarrassing dalliance is hardly a security concern per se, but, if we consider it within its proper dimensions, it should remind us of the unsettling fact that the fundamental weltanschauung espoused by senior members of our current government (which the ignorant are pleased to call "conservative") is also the ethical framework which shapes the operations of the criminal underworld. That is not just a "concern"; it is insanity.

22 comments:

Peter Burnet said...

Blah! You are a real Canadian romantic, aren't you, SF? Who else could turn a spicy romance with an air of forbidden danger into a buttress for his theory of the state?

Memo to Minister: Of course your private life is your own business, Minister, but this is Canada. We suggest you diffuse this potentially career-destroying attack on the part of the New Victorians by asking Elizabeth May out to dinner.

Sir Francis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aeneas the Younger said...

The analogy holds ...

... these things happen for a reason and they just happen to make sense.

Red Tory said...

There’s definitely an argument to be made that criminals are the ultimate proponents of self-regulating free markets — take those involved in various forms of illegal commerce such as drug cultivation and/or trafficking for example. There’s certainly a lot more sympathetic philosophical ground between them and various factions of the extreme right-wing that hold the state in contempt than either might care to admit.

Sir Francis said...

A "romantic" I am indubitably not. I'm a neo-Augustan Jacobite if I'm anything.

I should think the "neo-Victorians" are the dogmatic Malthusians and John Stuart Mill enthusiasts of the CPC.

And Bernier is smart enough, surely, to know that May is out of his league. She's the Class President, Head of Student Council and Debating Society Chair; he's the kid who plays truant from his Shop classes in order to steal hubcaps from BMW's

Peter Burnet said...

RT:

Quite right, and as Rumpole noted, they are for extremely low taxes and open shops--especially after dark.

SF:
You are right about the neo-Victorians, but I said New Victorians, the ones who get fits of the vapours when some hussy with a past puts on the come-hither look. Personally my taste in foxy ladies runs to Margaret Thatcher, but I know Elizabeth and will be happy to tell her about the dashing neo-Augustan Jacobite with his eye on her.

Ti-Guy said...

In effect, the Hells Angels are simply orthodox libertarians—radically asocial entities ruthlessly pursuing a self-interest premised upon the assumed ethical illegitimacy of all governments and of the “nanny-state collectivism” they administer.

How come, when I make this analogy, everyone looks at me like I'm crazy? Should I throw in words like Weltanschauung more?

The observation was driven home the day I was alerted to the fact that the Hell's Angels Toronto had a web site (since taken down when 'the heat' was turned up on them recently) and I remarked how very much it reminded me of not only Blogging Tory blogs, but a lot of their commenters discourse.

Sir Francis said...

Personally my taste in foxy ladies runs to Margaret Thatcher...

Well, you're in luck. With Dennis lone gone (and having concluded a decent period of mourning), Maggie must be in the market for a new companion.

I'm afraid conjugal intimacies are likely out of the question, and you would need to change her diapers and provide her with hourly reminders of the year, month and day of the week, but at least you'll have the honour of lovingly sending her off to Dreamland every night by reading aloud her favourite passages of Hayek whilst she sips her warm milk.

I know Elizabeth and will be happy to tell her about the dashing neo-Augustan Jacobite with his eye on her.

I'm taken--as disappointing to you both as that must be.

Anyways, we Jacobites are allowed only one passion: the King Across the Water is the only tenant of our hearts. Perhaps that's what makes us so intolerant of the romantic indiscipline of others... :)

Aeneas the Younger said...

Perhaps you can see appreciate why calling these neo-liberals "conservatives" drives me into fits of rage.

They're hardly conservative. Good Tories respect the grandeur that is the State.

Sir Francis said...

Should I throw in words like Weltanschauung more?

Couldn't hurt. But the most persuasive facet of my case is the undeniable reality that a CPC cabinet minister regularly banged a biker babe. QED, as it were.

Tomm said...

Sir Francis,

Good point, and missed by most that Bernier's girlfriend wasn't much of a stretch for him.

You said:

".. pied pageant of grinding mediocrity that is Stephen Harper’s cabinet.."

Perhaps, but truly, you need to advise your readers on what you consider "mediocre". It is clear to me that the top 10 of Harper's Cabinet match up pretty well with anything that Liberal government's have thrown at the Canadian people and certainly superior to what is the LPC Shadow Cabinet. What the Liberal's are passing off as the countries best and brightest, led by ol'Stephane hisself.

Harper has attracted some strong players and will attract more next election. I am hoping for better talent from Quebec particularly. Harper has strong people from the west that are sitting on their hands just because he has to balance representation.

That being said, there are some pretty weak members given cabinet and PS positions. Hopefully some of them will be have achieved their 15 minutes. Thankfully we don't need to keep seeing them poke their heads out of the Senate like the LPC hangers on.

Tomm

Ryan said...

"It is clear to me that the top 10 of Harper's Cabinet match up pretty well with anything that Liberal government's have thrown at the Canadian people and certainly superior to what is the LPC Shadow Cabinet."

Tomm--
I don't think SF said anything to the contrary. In fact, that wouldn't be saying much at all. The polar opposite of the CPC is not the LPC, in case you didn't know.

Just because members of Harper's cabinet are just as bad and/or pathetic as members of the formerly Liberal one doesn't prove the point you were trying to make, and it doesn't mean that the CPC cabinet is anywhere close to competent.

Peter Burnet said...

Aeneas:

Oh, puleeze! Good Tories respect the grandeur of the Crown with all the traditional, historical two-way obligations that implies. The grandeur of the State? Best take that up with your existentialist buddies on the Left Bank.

SF: I'm taken too and happily, so I'll have to leave the diapers and Hayek to others and content myself with occasional wicked fantasies of being disciplined sternly for being too "wet".

Aeneas the Younger said...

The Crown and the State are the same thing. This is pretty basic knowledge. "Head of State" is more than an implication.

Hayek has his place, along with all the other ideologists. Marx included ...

liberal supporter said...

Perhaps you can see appreciate why calling these neo-liberals "conservatives" drives me into fits of rage.
Though I vote Liberal these days, I have voted for the PC party before and I do sympathize.

It was a sad day when the PC party was "patched over" to the Conditos. Adding further insult, the Progressive Conservative name was cut in half and hastily stitched over the "Reform" part of the original emblem.

Sir Francis said...

Tomm & Ryan:


Ryan is correct. I would happily concede that the Liberal shadow cabinet is arguably as pedestrian as the CPC's active one. I'm not sure how I would rate the NDP team, though any cabinet that includes Bill Blaikie would win a high rating from me.

Frankly, I'm not sure we can honestly describe many post-War Canadian cabinets as having enjoyed an over-balance of talent. St. Laurent's two ministries were formidable, graced as they were by the redoubtable C.D. Howe and the resourceful Mike Pearson. They did a lot of damage, mind you--but they were damned sharp chaps.

I think intelligence, energy and ethical integrity were united most completely in Diefenbaker's first ministry--an accomplishment all the more impressive for the fact that none of Diefenbaker's personnel came in with the slightest experience in government.

Within a few short years, Diefenbaker advances towards the Charter era with his Bill of Rights and authors the West's first official rebuke of South African Apartheid; Davie Fulton completely re-engineers the federal penitentiary system and inaugurates the de facto abolition of the death penalty; Alvin Hamilton sells massive amounts of surplus wheat to China and brings unprecedented prosperity to the Prairies, defying the inertia of the Cold War in a act that unites humanitarianism with fiscal ingenuity; Howard Green (of External Affairs) stands alone as the West's only (yes, only) governmental advocate of global nuclear disarmament; meanwhile, Dief manages all kinds of progressive "firsts": the first woman in cabinet, the first Native senator, the first black candidate for federal office, and so on.

Not bad for a bunch of amateurs, I'd say.

Sir Francis said...

ATY:

The Crown and the State are the same thing.

I shall have to quibble with that. Surely we mean "Head of state" to refer to the sovereign part of an entity that, being constitutionally subordinate to the head, is thus different from it. A head of state cannot be the head of its own self; it must be the head of something that is at least somewhat apart from it--as a head is the controlling organ of, yet not identical to, the human body.

Thus, one cannot completely identify the Crown with the state, though, as an unrepentant Jacobite, I should like to be able to do so. :)

Aeneas the Younger said...

SF:

Sure, but no head, and thus no brain ... well, you know.

Dylan said...

"Who else could turn a spicy romance with an air of forbidden danger into a buttress for his theory of the state?"

I wouldn't read this blog otherwise!

After seeing how the CPC treated one of their own in Belinda Stronach after she dumped Peter MacKay, I think the questions Bernier was peppered with regarding his social life in QP is extremely mild. However, a tit-for-tat QP is hardly something I believe taxpayers should be paying for.

Peter Burnet said...

Aeneas, if I were asked to list the factors responsible for driving many Conservatives towards the libertarian right, even with doubts and trepidations, I would probably put Tories celebrating "the grandeur" of the state high up on the list. In the 21st century, the state is not some archaic notion of the "Lords Temporal". To most people it means dull, pervasive, unaccountable, meddlesome bureaucrats with their own agendas who can turn your life upside down when they get you in their sights. Organic conservatism is a beautiful theory, but unless its proponents start getting real about what the state actually means in the 21st century and spend as much time trying to articulate the limits of the modern state and the rights of the citizen in respect of it as they do railing against Yanks, invisible hands and neo-cons, etc., the Harperites have a good future. In the Anglosphere, the Reagans, Thatchers, etc. had their roads paved for them by the state addicts of the 70's.

I'm thinking about this a lot these days over the free speech wars. The extremism and harsh vulgarities of the free-speechers is not to my taste, and I doubt it is to the taste of most Canadians, but I can also easily understand why many folks would choose it over rule by Barbara Hall, whose outrages are giving human rights and hate-speech codes a very bad name.

Aeneas the Younger said...

Peter:

Your liberalism that begat the bureaucratic state has won. I don't think there is any going back to the Society I envisage.

What you don't get is that opposing liberalism with more liberalism does not offer anything different than what we have - all it does is shift focus and orientation over a very short term.

You rail against the idea of the HRCs, yet you neo-liberals would happily jettison some civil rights in the name of national security.

In the end, what is the difference? The New Right would use the bureaucracy for their own ends, just as the Liberals have. You all drink from the same trough.

You completely miss the point, and I don't have time today (I have a flight to catch this morning ...) to explain it to you, but suffice it to say, that the problem with Canada today is liberalism - both of the Left, Eight, and Centrist varieties.

As well, the overemphasis on ideology means that parties govern with an agenda - and that which their backers have paid handsomely for.

I remember a land where philosophy & policies - and not ideology - were the reason for parties. A land where parties could agree from time to time in the interests of the nation, and the common good.

Public Health Care was first advocated by Tommy Douglas of the Saskatchewan CCF/NDP, entered into as HIDS by the Diefenbaker PC Government, made the law of the land by Lester Pearson of the Liberal Party, and willingly supported by Leslie Frost & John Robarts of the Ontario PC Party.

Could you even imagine this happening today?

Peter Burnet said...

My, you folks do love your epithets, don't you? Neo-liberal, neo-conservative, Canada-hating continentalist, etc.? The only one who doesn't call me names is my old pal Ti-Guy, but I think that may be because he would rather diagnose my pathologies than argue with me.

Aeneas, no one loves the world of ideas and philosophy more than I. Indeed, I suspect we share much the same favourite bedtime reading. However, as delicious and important as they are, I have also come to believe that the genius and success of the Anglosphere rests in large part because the majority of the electorate has an empirically-grounded wariness to ideology and relies more on what their lyin' eyes tell them. This can make them maddeningly fickle and inconsistent, but it is also the basis of their decency and common sense and, perhaps most importanly, our resiliency and ability to change course for pragmatic reasons, especially when compared with continental Europe. Harper isn't popular because Canadians have embraced Hayek or the Americans or neo-conservatism anymore than they ever did. He is popular because of excesses and disasters in living memory. The state is no longer associated in their minds with CN, the CBC or Medicare, but with the NEP, the gun registry and botched megaprojects that put us into IMF bailout territory. Neither they nor I are opposed to human rights commissions, but they are very disturbed that a guy like Steyn would be put through the ringer and suspicious of the humid miasma of political correctness that has descended on them guided by humourless autocratic brights like Barbara Hall. They will oppose Islamophobic rants, but not be shouted down about Islamism, sharia, etc. They are no less patriotic or closer to the Americans than they ever were, they just don't like openly insulting them, trying to isolate them or condemning them on the world stage like Chretien did. They are no less compassionate than they ever were, but the social welfare they read about today is more likely to be the announcement of a grant to an urban transgender repertory theatre than to the hungry or homeless. They are in favour of free trade, not because of anything Freidman said, but because they know it brought them prosperity, they don't buy into most of the anti-globalization schtick and Budweiser didn't knock out Molson's. They are passionate about public healthcare but they aren't going to be satisifed with odes to Tommy Douglas when it gets creaky. And they aren't going to buy much more than a 5-10% economic differential with the Americans no matter how much social justice they are told it buys them, because they know it won't really.

They could go leftwards quite quickly, as Harper well knows, which is why fears about his hidden agenda are baseless. But it will be in response to excesses and disasters in return, not to inspirational musings from on high about the grandeur of the State or promises of a brand new (or very old) form of bureaucracy. It's true the system you envisage may be gone with the wind, but whence cometh your despair about that? "The Old Order Changeth...".

Time to put philosophical conservatism at the service of the pragmatic, muddled middle navigating the bizarre 21st century. You know, for the kids.
Is this a great country, or what?