Thursday, 30 April 2009

Some Phrases To Learn And Say

  • A "corporation" is most accurately defined as that which expends more energy in the mere maintenance of its existence than in the execution of its purpose. Yet most economists persist in using the word "efficiency" without irony.

  • "Freedom" is the process by which we choose the options our instincts render inevitable.

  • Nothing is more futile in a democracy than the virtuous pursuit of a political objective.

  • All people were created equal in the days when they were created. In the age of the Self-Made Man, however, our value is exactly what the market will bear. I am told this is different from slavery.

  • The collapse of the West will occur at the precise moment the term "middle class" ceases to be taken as an insult.

  • The genius of America was to marry the ethos of the criminal to the psyche of the victim and enrobe them both in the ermine mantle of the Eternal Law.

  • The "élitist" is he who understands the loneliness of the twelve who chose Christ whilst the hundreds chose Barabbas.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Mélange Adultère: Part Two

The older I get, the more tolerant I become with those who believe they can smell the aftershave on each of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The darkly glittering treasure hoard of human depravity seems, each day, to be newly enriched by gems more resplendently base than anything seen before, carried in the jaws of dragons to which we feed what is best in us, about us, and among us. To wit:

War, Disorder and Bad Government: The Canadian Way--Harper Style!

What does a boorish, lead-hearted partisan hack of a prime minister do? Abide by the carefully deliberated findings of a Canadian federal court on a matter that strikes at the core of our fundamental values, or prolong a disgraceful miscarriage of justice and deepen a young man's agony in order to pander to the worst, xenophobic instincts of the most verminous elements of his quadruped base?

You guessed it.

America Elects A President Who Knows How To Pronounce "Nuclear"; World Still In Deep Shit!

Don't get me wrong; there are many reasons to be worried at the sight of the Taliban patrolling Pakistani territory only sixty miles from the nation's capital as if they own the place (because they do own the place), eight long years after the invasion of Afghanistan.

I'm just saying that the main reason might be that Pakistan has an arsenal of deliverable nuclear weapons, gifted to them by the folks who hate to see violent Islamist regimes make nukes with their own money but who gladly invite violent Islamist regimes to make nukes with crisp U.S. greenbacks.

Mission As Accomplished As It Ever Will Be

So, let's see: Iraq's current "stability" consists of a religiously segregated, deeply corrupt society devoid of meaningful institutions and functioning infrastructure, scarred by daily suicide bombings and routine sectarian assassinations. After six years of occupation, Baghdad can hardly keep the lights on.

Thus, thousands of American dead and tens of thousands of Iraqi dead have fertilised the flowering of another Lebanon. I'm not sure this is what Wilson had in mind.

Canadian Values: They Suck, But They're Good Enough For Immigrants

Jason Kenney apparently wants immigrants to be more deeply imbued with "Canadian values" upon their entry to their new country. He failed to say whether this policy would apply to American emigrants, whose values Kenney clearly considers so much better than ours.

Really, being lectured on "Canadian" values by a senior member of one of our two officially Canada-hating parties is a bit like being yelled at by the madam of a dilapidated whorehouse for entering the vestibule with our shoes on: it's embarrassing, degrading, and symptomatic of something profoundly wrong about our lives.

Kenney seems comfortable expecting immigrants to know more about their new nation than their hosts care to know. One cannot expect a political and moral castrato to challenge Canadians on their own cultural ignorance and champion the kinds of radical institutional changes that would (finally) fully immerse us in our civic heritage. No. All Kenney can manage on his empty nutsack is a pathetic innuendo about the mongrelising influence of dark-skinned exotics on a people ruled by a clique of continentalist deracinés who take their cultural orientation from daily viewings of South Park.

As mascot for this imbecility, please take Susan Boyd. She was one of the prime agitators against principal Erik Millett after he decided to suspend the singing of "O, Canada" at Belleisle Elementary School in New Brunswick.

This CBC documentary on the controversy is fascinating. It includes an interview with Boyd, who lost a nephew in Afghanistan. Go to 4:10 in the documentary, and be amazed. Boyd says, "the Lord’s Prayer is gone, the Pledge of Allegiance is gone... because we don’t want to offend the minority, but what about the majority? Now our anthem is disappearing".

The Pledge of Allegiance is gone! This woman--not obviously an idiot by any means--believes that the Canadian majority mourns the loss of the Pledge of Allegiance. I've rarely seen a sadder, more lurid spectacle of cultural senility.

While it is inconceivable that a French woman would pine for the old days when class would begin with a stirring rendition of "Das Deutschlandlied", while one would not dream that a Swede would ever wonder why children are no longer required to start their school day with "La Marseillaise", we Canadians have learned to tolerate and even expect the absurd surreality this woman represents.

Boyd is in the heart of "Conservative" country (her M.P. is Greg Thompson, Harper's Minister of Veterans' Affairs), yet she's not sure what country she's in. She's precisely the kind of vain, vapid, pseudo-Canadian who thinks she needs protection from the alien, valueless "minorities" that Kenny seeks to "civilise". Kenny strokes her vanity: he keeps his power; she keeps her ignorance.

These "conservatives"--the Kenneys and Boyds--strain so hard for patriotism; they're like superannuated sopranos with laryngitis, attempting arias and emitting only rusty croaks. They've got the "Support the Troops" bumper stickers and the Maple Leaf lapel pins, but they're incapable of understanding how thoroughly compromised and worm-eaten their Canadianness has become. Their citizenship is a corpse in full rigor mortis that the "Conservatives" have embalmed and propped up against a wall in order to make it "stand up for Canada".

I Guess You’ll Not Be Needing Those Firewalls

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach seems to have decided that Ottawa can meddle in Alberta's affairs if it wants--as long as the "meddling" consists of a huge gift of 700 million dollars. The millions Alberta already receives through the Western Diversification Fund just aren't enough to buy baby his new shoes, apparently. It was inevitable that Alberta--that pious inculcator of fiscal thrift and high priest of anti-Ottawa individualism--would eventually find itself panhandling on Parliament Hill without a shred of shame.

Fatuously, Stelmach complained that Alberta "can't carry the country" through the recession, in a risible bid to sustain Albertans' painfully swollen self-concept during what must be a humiliating period for them. For the record, when Alberta's GDP grows beyond being a mere third of Ontario's, we shall talk about it "carrying the country". Right now, the only thing they're carrying is an ego full of helium and a bladder full of gall.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The Obama White House: Mange We Can Believe In!

The FOX network has long been rightfully derided for its umbilically intimate relationship with the Republican Party and America's broader right wing. Of those two hateful hemispheres of planetary idiocy, though, FOX has traditionally been the more thoughtful--the analytical foil to the feckless party on whose behalf it speaks. Throughout the Bush II era, the blithering cretins at FOX usually managed to be just barely close enough to the right side of sanity to seem downright moderate beside the cackling hysteria and stumblebum ineptitude of the Bush/Cheney misadministration. FOX's mere carrying of The Simpsons gave it a credibility the Bush White House could never hope to approximate.

Apparently, Team Obama considers this asymmetry to be too deeply embedded in the American psyche to be changed without massive systemic damage. Accordingly, soon after FOX releases a candid clip featuring some of its vulgarly anti-Canadian talking-heads sensibly denouncing Homeland Security for treating the Canada/U.S. border as a serious threat to American security, Obama's security doyenne Janet Napolitano repeats the odious slur--iterated across American right-wing talk-radio since literally days after 9/11--that many of the WTC terrorists had entered the U.S. through Canada and that Canada therefore needs vigilant surveillance.

In a heartwarming gesture of bi-partisan asininity, John McCain later gave his sclerotic endorsement to this preposterous urban myth. McCain, at least, has an excuse: he's clearly in the early stages of senile dementia. I suppose Napolitano's excuse is that she's an American (an excuse which, in its basic purport, is not unlike McCain's), but I do believe that her bottomless ignorance and its possible executive ramifications (she's in Obama's cabinet, remember) serve to prove that Americans' utter lack of understanding of and respect for Canada is not (as so many of us believe) a harmless eccentricity--a patronising nervous tick that we should simply ignore, laugh off, and learn to live with. It's a deeply worrying neurosis that chronically impedes the very continental security about which American official blowhards claim to be so preoccupied.

Former Mulroneyite Michael Wilson, Harper's ambassadorial appointee, appears to think that being "frustrated" by Napolitano's stark stupidity is somehow good enough. This extravagantly-paid stuffed cardigan was supposed to use his wide network of U.S. connections to change the reflexively anti-Canadian tone in Washington, made all the more urgent when the traditionally protectionist Democrats regained the White House late last year. If Ignatieff manages to kick Harper's well-marbled ass to the curb this year or next, I will enjoy watching him yank Wilson off of D.C.'s "exclusive" (i.e. all-white) golf courses and back into his rocking chair where he’s harmless. We need somebody who can bring the kind of balls Frank McKenna brought to the job before Harper's shabby partisan hackery brought his successful term to a premature end.

Until then, fellow Canucks, please enjoy your utterly unearned and quintessentially "American" reputation as the folks who helped bring down the Twin Towers--brought to you today by "Change We Can Believe In"!

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik: Dred Tory's First Annual Shameless "Pandering to Readership" Post

It should come as a surprise to no one that, since early childhood, I've been a devotee of what one could call "night music"--melodies that weave themselves seamlessly into the fabric of the abyssal darknesses of past-midnights. Fortuitously, Echo and the Bunnymen--one of my favourite purveyors of nachtmusic--also appears to be a favourite of loyal reader (and Loyalist), Aeneas the Younger.

Aeneas happens to be a Taurus (for so says his profile), the sign into which we entered just a few days ago. I've no idea of his exact birthday, but I shall take the liberty of observing it tonight by presenting him with the video below (audio, really) of a live version of "Ocean Rain", a raggedly beautiful tune from the identically titled album Ocean Rain, the band's 1984 creative peak. Will Sergeant's gorgeously understated electrified twelve-string mandolin is a wonder to behold on this track.

Happy birthday Aeneas. Keep the faith. I hope this little bit of Echo sweetens the gall of your Albertan exile.

All hands on deck at dawn...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Waterboardin' U.S.A.!*

* Thanks, guys.

If anybody had a notion,
Across the USA,
To tie scum like Dick Cheney,
Down to a board and say:
"We're going to pour some water
Down your throat 'till you die";
I think I'd laugh 'till I cried;
Waterboardin' USA.

Let's review, shall we? So far, the "Change You Can Believe In" dude has re-imposed duties on our softwood lumber, after we committed the unpardonable sin of offering it to American consumers more cheaply than their spoiled, candy-assed domestic industry cares to.

He has refused to remove Maher Arar from the U.S. no-fly list, presumably because Arar's exoneration by way of the conclusive findings of Canada's security services and a comprehensive House inquiry was the unholy work of Al-Qaeda front organisations.

Now, he's decided to offer a blanket amnesty to any and all U.S. national security personnel who tortured detainees during the Bush II phase of the "Global War On Terror" (or "GWOT", as it was called until Obama officially scrapped that preposterous catch-phrase; actually, I prefer George Grant's term, "orgasm at home and napalm abroad,"* as a ready-made phrase for America's current cultural disposition--not GWOT, but OAHANA).

So, are Canadians done with the degrading infatuation with this man that was so humiliating for those of us in the sane community to witness, or will Obama have to turn into a werewolf on live television before we get the message? Is this act of glibly pardoning torturers and killers proof enough of the man's moral vacancy? I say "killers", for we need to recall that, as of 2005 (when the Americans were still counting), one hundred and eight "terrorist" detainees had died violently in U.S. custody. Given that the former commander of Abu Ghraib once estimated that, shockingly, 90% of her inmates were innocent, one needs to assume that most of those dead were guilty of absolutely nothing--they were murdered, in effect.

In a way all too depressingly typical of our urge to privilege tactics over ethics, Obama is being congratulated for expertly negotiating the fine line between his new administration's need to exorcise the past and America's need to retain its messianic morale: he's releasing the notorious "torture memos" in order to provide transparency (so the narrative goes), yet he's ensuring that the operatives who executed what the memos mandated (in "good faith", of course) remain legally protected. Meanwhile, although Obama claims to be open to the possibility of prosecuting the men who actually wrote the memos, he knows very well that a Bush-era act of Congress ties his hands: his predecessors have already pardoned themselves. They self-Forded.

Unbelievably, Obama's latest mendacities are being hailed as a healthy "reckoning". If I were an American national security official, I would simply reckon that I need not fear being held accountable for anything I may do, as Obama considers me absolutely beyond prosecution: I'm safe as long as I'm taking orders. If the orders are vile, that's not my problem. We found this argument odious at Nuremberg; it's coming in bloody handy for our "best friends" now.

The facts are clear: through these memos, the responsible arm of the U.S. Department of Justice (the Office of Legal Counsel) allowed Americans to behave according to a definition of "torture" totally outside international norms and in violation of the Geneva and Hague protocols. The Nietzschean Superman allowed itself to effectively re-define those international norms. When a Western nation's high judiciary removes itself from the spiritual legal college of the international community, we need to worry; it bodes ill. When the chief executive of such a nation finds the removal pardonable, it bodes very ill.

Those who wish to peer into the moral worlds of the men who authored those repugnant memos may wish to consider the case of John Yoo, the brilliant former U.S. Attorney General official and advisor to G.W. Bush who acted as the éminence grise behind most of the key torture memos. Yoo once debated Notre Dame law professor Doug Cassel on human rights issues. They had a notorious exchange:

Cassel: "If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?"

Yoo: "No treaty".

Cassel: "Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...".

Yoo: "I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that".

Thus, on the question of whether it is legitimate to crush the testicles of a child in order to get information, Yoo says "it depends": sometimes, one needs to be an unconscionable savage. After all, we're protecting civilisation here--protecting it from violent, unscrupulous people.

Rest assured that hundreds of Yoo's underlings took his advice and that hundreds of innocents paid the price in dignity, sanity and in life itself for his ivory tower sadism. Nevertheless, John Yoo shall teach law at the best Ivy League schools; he shall become wealthy from lecture tours and books; he shall spend his middle years laved by the amniotic warmth of Establishment affirmation. He shall die, an old man, in his sleep.


* Here's where the term comes from:

The space programme, necessary imperial wars, and the struggle for recognition in the interlocking corporations can provide purpose only for a small minority. Purpose for the majority will be found in the subsidiary ethos of the "fun" culture. It will meet the demands of those who live in affluence but are removed from any directing of the society.

One is tempted to state that the North American ethos is "the orgasm at home and napalm abroad," but in the nervous mobile society, people have only so much capacity for orgasm, and the flickering messages of the performing arts will fill the interstices.

They provide the entertainment and release which technological society requires. The public purpose of art will not be to lead men to the meaning of things, but to titivate, cajole, and shock them into fitting into a world in which the question of meaning is not relevant. The humanities in the universities will become handmaidens in this task.

George Grant, "The University Curriculum"

Monday, 20 April 2009

Shut the FOX Up: You're Making It Far Too Easy For Me

There is nothing more frustrating for a professional anti-American like me than watching amateurs cutting in on my action--especially when they're American amateurs. Really, I am already painfully aware of the salient reasons to be richly sick of those petulant praetorians; I require no further data on the matter.

Nevertheless, those legendarily generous Yanks just keep on giving. A few weeks ago, we were reminded of the way Americans talk about Canada when they're being watched by millions of fellow xenophobes: with dismissive contempt. Today, we learn how Americans talk about us when they're just making chit-chat amongst themselves: with dismissive contempt.

FOX News saw fit to release a clip wherein a gaggle of anonymous FOX talking-head guests, apparently waiting for their segment to begin taping, discuss U.S. security matters. One of them complains that Homeland Security is spending too much time worrying about the Canadian border, when the Mexican border is much more porous. This aberrant and possibly treasonous outburst of rationality is soon smothered by a peal of condescending quips about Canadians "smoking snow" and threatening to attack the U.S. with maple syrup. Once the gales of laughter subside, the host feelingly, almost wistfully, recalls the time he went to the U.S./Canada border to chase a story: he remembers that there was "just a whole lot of wheat up there", in words carrying a faint trace of trauma. Heads nod in silent empathy.

At this point, a Canadian viewer is struggling to remind himself that he's not watching security-camera footage of a bunch of slow reform-school inmates serving a detention for smoking dope in the boy's room. He's watching the host and four guests on America's highest-rated cable news show display what passes for foreign affairs expertise down there. These people are among America's intellectual élite. God help us all.

Soon after, one of the guests, a writer for the right-wing National Review, recalls with fondness a story he once wrote entitled "Bomb Canada". He apparently argued that Canada needs "pin-prick assaults" to "slap" us out of our "EU-itis" (which refers, presumably, to our inadequate level of America worship). He is still clearly proud of having called us a "northern Puerto Rico with an EU sensibility". One of his colleagues jokes that his story was obviously an effective motivator, as Canada ended up co-invading Afghanistan: "They were afraid of being bombed!" she trills excitedly.

Another guest reminds the assembly that there was a U.S. plan to bomb Canada. He calls it "Plan Orange" (it was actually Plan Red, but America's élite tends to be as ignorant of American history as their proles are; it is one of the few authentically democratic features of their society). In fact, Plan Red was operative until 1939--twenty year after the end of World War I and sixteen years after the death of the “dangerous” alliance in response to which the plan was created (our own prime minister Arthur Meighen was instrumental in killing that alliance, for obvious reasons).

It thus occurs to me that the United States was still seriously meditating an invasion of Canada (and had appropriated funds through Congress for that purpose) when my mother was nine years old. I'll just add that incredible and sad fact to the vast body of evidence in support of the notion that hysterical, barking-mad paranoia is deeply inscribed in America's cultural DNA. Always has been; always will be.

I was most struck by the tone of this FOX discussion. It is classic. By "classic", I mean that it has a long and direct pedigree. While listening to their flippant talk of "assault", "slapping", and "bombing", I felt that I was hearing a group of senior British civil servants of the Raj--lounging in a late-19th-century Bombay tap room--chortle airily over the amusing pretensions of the simple wogs they rule over: their silly "dignity", their tedious insistence on being treated like equals, their slothful backwardness, and the unfortunately frequent need for their betters to slap them out of their languor--for their own good, of course--to get them to make something of themselves. Similar conversations could have been overheard near the quarters of royal governors during America's colonial era and near the tents of centurions during the Roman occupation of Albion. It's the language of the coloniser, the occupier, the slave-master, the overseer, the prefect, the procurator--the tyrant.

In other parts of the world, you don't get away with fantasizing about bombing people. You invite immediate and vituperate retaliatory rhetoric. Luckily for FOX vermin, Canada is widely, deeply ridden with self-loathing Vichyites. Here, Fox News insolence is not only tolerated but is actually granted a prime-ministerial charter; as one of Stephen Harper's networks of choice, FOX has been rewarded with exclusive interviews--of the kind Harper has consistently denied to domestic media.

Moreover, FOX News' favourite shrill viragoes are hero-worshipped by cringing Canadian right-wing autophobes, whose profound self-loathing is so corrosive as to make them joyfully genuflect before notorious Canada-haters and ask for their benediction (go to 2:00 in this video to hear a Canadian "conservative" ask Ann Coulter, "How can us[sic] Canadian Conservatives earn the love we have for you?”).

I suppose I can understand the American attitude. Why not kick people in the teeth when all you need to fear in return is a toothless, bleeding request (whispered politely--nay, reverently) for another…but harder this time?

The American formula seems to be that backwards, demoralised Third World countries get invaded; countries that behave like backwards, demoralised Third World countries just get insulted--relentlessly. In a way, it makes immaculate sense; we cannot blame an animal for behaving according to its nature.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

On "Civility", Again...

We've seen this movie before. I have already delivered my criteria for on-line civility, while noting that the virtue itself is somewhat overrated. I have come to believe nothing a year later that subtracts from the truth of that post. I still believe that a gentleman's only duty is to never offend anybody unintentionally and that the real challenge is to "retain the form of civility while in full process of being bloody offensive to someone on whom genuine civility would be wasted".

That said, I was moved today to leave a lengthy comment at Olaf's place which describes more discursively than does last year's post the way I approach civility and define its limits. Given that I've been invited to "take a shower" after my last post by the ever-ironically Puritanical Tomm, an importation of that comment might be both germane and timely. Apologies to those who've already read this at Olaf's.

Some context: Olaf mentioned that he's been "inspired" to try to moderate the partisanship of his critiques and to refrain from making sweeping, demonising generalisations about his ideological opponents (except "hippies" and "counter-cultural" types; they're still in his cross-hairs!). I told him not to try too hard. Here's a slightly edited version of my comment:


Would we still be reading Swift's A Modest Proposal if it were a clinical, respectful, "fair and balanced" review of British trade policy in Eighteenth-century Ireland? Fuck that. An hyperbolic rant about callous Whigs serving up Irish babies au jus? Now that's an instant classic.

We should keep in mind that not all generalisations are illegitimate. Some are defensible, while others require vigorous substantiation. For example, I would feel free to say that the vast majority of earnest, committed CPC supporters are economic and cultural continentalists. Now, this view may be contested as a generalisation (in fact, it is), but I doubt if I would be at a loss for relatively persuasive proof. The same could be said for the view that most committed Liberal supporters favour strong, bureaucratised gun control: I think the burden of proof would be on someone who controverted that assumption. Likewise, can we credibly suggest that most Taliban militants are misogynists? I think so. Generalisations must always be deployed carefully and honestly, but I'm not sure that one can or should place them under total proscription.

Ethical (rather than ideological) generalisations are more worrying, and perhaps these are what you specifically wish to target. If so, you're really pleading for what's known as "parliamentary language", one of the breaches of which is the attempt to "impute motives" to an opponent.

As a kid, I found this issue puzzling: I couldn't understand why it was unparliamentary to base an argument on your own (presumably honestly derived) assumption about what your opponent meant to accomplish through his words and deeds. I'm not sure I fully understand it even now, but I think the rule is a purely functional one, designed to keep debate focused: if you assume the guy is malicious, and if you persuade the House of your view, you then get to call the guy an "asshole" with impunity. If you're prevented from acting on your assumption (which may even be correct), you're limited to arguing that the guy is wrong, and that he needs to amend his policy.

Again, though, context is crucial. Is it credible to say that members of the CPC, NDP, BQ, or LPC actually wish to inflict harm on others? Of course not. Is it true that LPC and CPC government policies have hurt people? Of course it is.

The question becomes, then, is it valid to impute motives (and profanely, as I often do) to those government gestures that are definable not just in the abstract (e.g. tax rates, trade policy, Senate reform, etc.) but in their concrete, undeniable effects? Is it valid to call someone an "asshole" (or a party a "party of assholes") when he or they are indifferent or even gleeful before the catastrophic consequences of party policy? The answers are clear, in my view.

Take the case of Adelrazik, about which I'm passionate. In a parallel universe, I'm not sure I would feel compelled to impute motives to a government that brought in a bill making it illegal for Canadians placed on the U.N. no-fly list to return home if travelling abroad. Would I think the bill misguided? Yes. Draconian? Sure. I wouldn't call the party a bunch of "assholes", though--perhaps more a bunch of jurisprudential amateurs who need a crash course in constitutional law.

Now, in our universe, do I feel free to impute motives to two governments (Martin's and Harper's) who have effectively stripped a citizen of his dignity because of a situation either one could have changed at literally the stroke of a pen? You bet I do. This is one occasion when being wrong bleeds into being an asshole, and I feel not the slightest reservation about pointing that out.

Ultimately, those who are unwilling to impute motives under any circumstances are forgetting a key political distinction-- the difference between basically well-meaning legislators whose faults are grounded in incompetence and inexperience and venal hacks motivated by fear, ignorance and gratuitous misanthropy. It's a fundamental difference, and it's the only electorally meaningful one for political orphans like me. It's the difference between the tragi-comic but harmless Dion and the disciplined but odious Harper. The ethical implications of that difference explain why I could grumblingly tolerate the former and why I despise the latter.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Stumbling Towards Veronica on the Via Dolorosa: A Paschalogue

"Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and 'Hallelujah' is our song". (Pope John Paul II)

"This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw these things". (Ezekiel 16:46-50)

"For the sake of ten just men, I will not destroy [Sodom]". (Genesis 18:32)

During the early days of my evolution into one of the worst Catholics in the Western Hemisphere, as a child crawling through Quebec's post-Quiet Revolution Catholic school system, I felt fatally attracted to the angry, militant Christ--the one who whips the money-changers out of the Temple with a length of knotted hemp after busting up their tills into splinters, the Christ who snarls "Get thee behind me, Satan!" when his most loyal apostle tries to divert him from his mission. To a fundamentally angry, alienated kid with a taste for extreme states and a longing to see the exterminating power of divine wrath visited upon his enemies, that was totally cool.

What occurred to me much later was the clear thematic unity underlying the only outbursts of outrage the scriptures attribute to Christ. In both cases, sacrifice--our highest duty to God--is being thwarted by the venal and the weak. Peter cannot stand the idea of being without his charismatic leader; he sees the disciples as a gang, and he's terrified of the profound vulnerability Christ is demanding of himself and of his followers. He cannot yet accept that Christ's mission requires total surrender, a ruthless and reckless giving away of self, without hope of any return on investment.

In the Temple, unscrupulous brokers are charging the poorest of the poor extortionate rates for something without which they cannot offer sacrifices to their God, without which they cannot properly worship and, thus, cannot be fully human. The money-changers are essentially robbing their victims of their humanity and turning their lost dignity and violated souls into equity.

It appears that, for Christ, the most odious sin--the one sin vile enough to move even the Prince of Peace to acts of violence--is the sin of forcibly removing from the already wretched their means of being fully human. This was the sin of Sodom--not the orgiastic homosexuality that haunts the lurid fantasies of barking fundamentalist preachers, but that the city, in its "excess of food and prosperous ease...did not aid the poor and needy". From this it follows that those who pursue prosperous ease whilst failing to aid the poor and needy have earned a most notorious soubriquet by dint of prophetic proto-canonical fiat: they are "Sodomites".

To us, they may be "capitalists", or "classical liberals", or "laissez-faire", or "Chicago School", or "neoconservatives", or "libertarians", but, to God (and, incidentally, to the many Evangelical/Pentecostal Biblical literalists who sit in Stephen Harper's caucus), they are Sodomites. And it appears that the ten just men (if so many yet remain) who've managed to stave off divine annihilation on behalf of an ingrate nation have scriptural sanction to bludgeon Canada's money-changers out of our temples--literally.

Thus ask yourself "What would Jesus do?" when formulating an appropriate response to Stephen Harper's government only if you're prepared to wield a baseball bat in illegal ways; it's becoming increasingly difficult to be authentically Christian without risking arrest, and perhaps that's how it should be.

In Stephen Harper's Canada, every day is an anti-Easter--a paschal parody. Instead of an empty tomb and a risen Christ, we get a cultural sepulchre redolent of the stench of Canada's rotting heritage and a national morale plummeting to heretofore unplumbed depths. The latest stage in the descent is the Abousfian Abdelrazik fiasco, a revolting injustice ably documented by dauntless blogger Dr. Dawg and journalist Thomas Walkom (among a very few others).

Basically, Abdelrazik is being refused re-entry into Canada as a "security threat" even though every responsible agency (including the RCMP) says he is not a threat. Harper is keeping the man in a wretched Sudanese exile, where he's spent the last six years--away from his children. There are no charges against him; there's not a shred of evidence to suggest he's done or will do anything remotely harmful to Canadian security. There is only the implacable hatred, corrosive indifference and Stalinist, technocratic arrogance of Harper's External Affairs apparatchiks and Public Safety commissars. To them, Abdelrazik's just another brown-skinned loser of whom there are plenty more where he came from (unfortunately) and who never really belonged here anyway. Good riddance, and the law be damned.

If every injustice re-crucifies Christ (as the Sisters of Notre Dame taught me it did), then this Easter is not just the ritual, abstract memorialising of an event far distant from me in time and space. It is also the hour when faceless government cowards, paid by my wages, sit beneath the suspended bodies of the weak and the poor, not to weep nor offer a draught of vinegar, but to parcel out the sad pieces of their lacerated humanity and to throw dice for whatever about them cannot be ripped into shreds.

Have a chocolate bunny on me, Mr. Harper--you worthless, contemptible pile of ordure.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Accidental Tourist: Stephen Harper Abroad And At Large

Stephen Harper, debatably the first Commonwealth prime minister to head a cabinet boasting the collective legislative and executive acumen of plankton larvae, has been busy lately--and by "busy" I mean “struggling to seem relevant to foreigners after apparently giving up trying to seem relevant to Canadians”. It hasn't gone well.

It began well: on the eve of the G-20 summit, an official in the British Foreign Office was kind enough to leak an internal document proffering the extravagantly generous view that Canada had become merely a trivial global actor--a de facto U.S. protectorate whose views have all the integrity, independence and depth of Puerto Rico's. As the summit got underway, alas, Canadians discovered that we've become far less than trivial. Harper's vapid, irrelevant bragging about Canada's banking system (among the healthiest in the world despite his anti-regulatory party, not because of it) was virtually his only contribution to the proceedings.

Steve's most significant impact on the global scene has so far been his displacement of a quantity of air precisely equal to his volume whenever slowly towing his vast bulk from meaningless photo-op to meaningless photo-op. Speaking of which, I was rather disappointed to hear that G-20 leaders teased Harper for being on the toilet during the first official group photo: we Canadians have been gracefully waiting for Harper to get off his ass for three years; surely they could have been patient for a measly fifteen minutes.

The most interesting part of Steve's latest international junket was watching him provide Fox News with the kind of interview he insolently witholds from Canadian media. Presumably this gesture points to a new CPC information strategy, according to which access to the prime minister will be granted primarily to Canada-hating outlets, with domestic and friendly foreign networks left free to pick up whatever crumbs of availability are left over. With Fox News now safely pandered to, I suppose we can expect Harper to travel throughout what remains of the anti-Canadian media universe and chat with the good folks at Al-Jazeera, Al-Qaida Online, the Aryan Brotherhood Home Shopping Network, Ohio Militia Cable Access, and so on.

Yes, I know: Harper's goal is to announce to the hostile or indifferent audiences who consume those media that, contrary to the evidence daily provided by Harper's own government, Canada is not just a second-tier backwater. I just wish we had a spokesman who could say it as if he meant it.

At any rate, his Serene Hugeness is back home and spreading the pork around (fattening up the calves in preparation for the inevitable electoral feast). He's apparently planning a trip to China, where his God-fearing, evangelical Minister of Trade is already begging the godless Commie élite to send us more of their lovely money and give us more access to their beautifully cheap labour toiling under the boot heel of a ruthless dictatorial regime. Well, glory be! The crimson sins of tyrannical, Hell-bound reprobates aren't so terrible after all; in fact, our Gross Domestic Product can't seem to do without them. "Principled conservatism" has spoken. What a welcome change from those dark years of shabby, appeasing, cynical Liberal opportunism.

Now, shall we let Stockwell Day back into Canada? Things look doubtful. I wonder precisely what punitive sentence our border authorities plan to inflict upon the appeasing, thug-hugging wretch, given his flagrant vocal support for a murderous terrorist state. I think it would be only fair to confer intervenor status upon George Galloway during the deliberations, don’t you?