Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Ignatieff Ignited!

"In Canada, ideas are not needed to make parties, for those can live by heredity and...by memories of past combats". (James Bryce, Modern Democracies)



Last weekend, a not remarkable number of Canadians witnessed the conclusion of the desperate struggle for leadership of the Liberal Party between Michael Ignatieff and his only opponent, his Olympian ego.

The latter, though clearly the more organised, sophisticated and motivated of the two, acceded to a draw. Both creatures have agreed to co-rule their party, the Apollonian ego providing the spirit and the body providing its newly "folksy" corporeal form--liberalism with a human face, as it were (or Stephen Harper's "conservatism" with a pulse). They will likely form the next government, unless Stephen Harper has "Je me souviens" tattooed on both cheeks of his ass and performs a nude pole dance at Place-d'Armes to a dance mix of "Vive la Canadienne" sung by Pauline Marois.

The Liberals have thus re-connected with an important tradition, but not the one Ignatieff wishes to claim. He can invoke Trudeau all he likes; that Liberal icon would never have stooped to writing a loving paean to America's "Empire Lite", nor was he capable of committing the logical solecism of describing democracy and human rights as mere "grace notes" to something more significant, more beautiful, more awesome.

No. Ignatieff's paragon is that politically ingenious founder of modern Liberalism--William Lyon Mackenzie King. Their kinship is deep and abiding--unsurprisingly, given Ignatieff's rootedness in the soil of the mid-century technocratic Liberal élite King virtually invented.

King was Liberal royalty--the grandson of the Reform/Clear Grit rebel William Lyon Mackenzie. After the calamity of the 1911 election, King retreated to the States, where he made his fortune strike-breaking for J.D. Rockefeller, forging an admiring relationship with the magnate (and with America's capitalist leadership) that lasted a lifetime. Later, he published Industry and Humanity, a turgid tome of earnest Gladstonian bromides whose claims upon his conscience evaporated the minute he won his first ministry. This "serious" volume polished an already-shining intellectual reputation, secured through King's receipt of a Harvard PhD in 1909.

Upon his return to Canada and his 1919 leadership triumph, King began his sustained assault upon Canada's traditional moral, cultural and political anchors--relentlessly (and tediously) preaching the virtues of free-trade and continental integration. He found himself in substantial disagreement with American élite values only once--when, despite witnessing the evident dynamism of FDR's New Deal, he rabidly opposed even the slightest interventionist use of the state to remediate the Great Depression's disastrous effects, even going so far as to rejoice when the provisions of R.B. Bennett's modest New Deal-ish program were struck down by the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as ultra vires. King remained publicly undisturbed by the sight of a Canadian government hobbled by the irresponsible fiat of a British Star Chamber (yes, this knight errant of "anti-imperialist" Canadian nationalism was a confused man indeed).

All the while, King fatuously transvested himself as the "populist" champion of Parliament and of the people against the "arrogance" of the Crown. King pursued this sacred mission by running away from the House after trying to have it arbitrarily dissolved (by the "arrogant" Crown, of course) and, more notoriously, by calling a plebiscite in order to be released from an iron-clad pact he had made with Canadians during the last election, just two years before.

Thus, in his exalted Liberal lineage, in his return from a protracted sojourn through the American academic/corporate star system, in his establishment of a scholarly reputation that would precede his candidacy, and in his meek acceptance of America's claim to be the world's only significant force for good, Ignatieff has managed to resurrect and inhabit the body of the Liberals' most successful leader. For them, this can only be a good omen. For us, the situation is, of course, more complex.

In any event, we now have a real contest. Not a contest of fundamental political philosophies, necessarily (which, in any case, has been a rare thing in Canada since the mid-'60's). Rather, the contest between Ignatieff and Harper is a contest between Kings, for Harper--superficially scholarly, rabidly pro-American and pro-corporate--is, too, but a new incarnation of King.

Harper enters this contest holding an unfair advantage: he has had the privilege of being an executive King rather than just a rhetorical one: in his fraudulent populism, in his abdication of responsibility by devolving contentious decisions onto others, in his sabotage of Parliament and rape of the constitution for partisan advantage, and in his basically regionalist vision, Harper has channelled King so uncannily that he could have served as one of King's own mediums.

Whatever choice we make in the next election, then, we shall get a King. Some may rejoice at this prospect. As for me, I am reminded of Eugene Forsey's quip about the Liberals' 1935 campaign slogan: "It said, 'King or Chaos'. We got both".


61 comments:

Ti-Guy said...

I think you're picking and choosing from your knowledge of history to manufacture a narrative. It's an interesting and well-written story but it just doesn't resonate.

Ignatieff's ambitions are much more narrow, short-term and self-serving than what you're attributing to him. He's simply opportunistic and has spied a vacuum of leadership and idealism into which he has slipped rather easily. I don't see any of this grounded in the grand lines of Canadian Liberal tradition, or *any* tradition, for that matter. I don't believe it can be connected to Canadian history at all.

You're correct in concluding that Canadians are going to be forced to choose in the next election. What we are being forced to choose between, however, are two narratives being confected right now by two (or maybe three) thoroughly modern, panicked, technocratic sectaries of the Canadian courtier class whose civic consciousness was born on 11/9/2001 and ripened somewhat last November and who are currently competing to see who will get to write onto the tabula rasa of a distracted and insecure Canadian public a vision of the country that will serve for the next five years, at the most.

Catelli said...

Ignatieff's ambitions are much more narrow, short-term and self-serving than what you're attributing to him. He's simply opportunistic and has spied a vacuum of leadership and idealism into which he has slipped rather easily.Question: Is that any different than what King did?

Or are you stating that King had more noble intentions than Ignatieff does?

I don't have any notions either way myself. I'm just trying to find the distinction in the two views of history being presented here.

Aeneas the Younger said...

Mackenzie King's name was used an expletive by my family back in the day.

What people are missing here is your allusion to the false choice we are faced with now.

Harper or Ignatieff?

What is the difference?

Both are pro-American continentalists.

Both reject the vision of Canada as an autonomous mid-Atlantic nation & culture with deep ties to Europe and The Commonwealth. Both reject the idea that we can - and should - be united on an East-West axis and that our future should involve the re-invigoration of a Canada that is not a mere collection of individuals, but a collection of communities with a common allegiance and conscious desire to be "apart" from the United States and the OAS.

Choice? There is no choice.

Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee.

Ti-Guy said...

Is that any different than what King did?

It doesn't matter. We're not living in King's time, but in the here and now.

People who are well-versed in history see everything in historical terms. It's a rather elitist, over-intellectualising perspective from which to comment on current events. I've maintained, forever, that, when not only the general public, but also the "agents of change" are ignorant of history, then history has ceased to matter, insofar as it no longer informs people's behaviour.

I support efforts to educate people about history (given the current reality of our media, however, it is a lost cause for the foreseeable future), but when it comes to democracy and elections, the focus should be on an analysis of more recent events.

People my parents' age (mid 70's, above-average education for their demographic) wouldn't be able to tell you what effect King had on their lives, let alone place that in the context of Canada's evolution since WW2. For a younger generation, it's even less relevant and worse, risks giving them the impression that the decisions they are being asked to make have outcomes that have been pre-determined based on events they know nothing about and weren't around to affect themselves anyway. It is disempowering and contributes to their already criminal levels of nihilism, cynicism and sense of futility.

Catelli said...

Ti-guy.

The relevance of Sir Francis' point is different from the accuracy of it.

Is it really relevant for the next election? In that I agree with you 100% that it is not.

Is it somewhat accurate or illuminating for those that chose to read it? Yes No, why or why not? Your first comment was in the negative.

Was that only because you dismissed the relevance of the post?

Ti-Guy said...

Is it somewhat accurate or illuminating for those that chose to read it?

I am in no position to judge. I just find it odd that in order to continue to rant against the Liberals, SF has to reach as far back as King, when going back to their flip-flop on free trade should be sufficient. These trade agreements (which have very little to do with trade and more to do with the global corporate war against democracy and national sovereignty) are the biggest threats facing Canada.

Catelli said...

Heh. For a more recent reason to distrust Ignatieff's new-found policies I just have to read his book reviews. Maclean's two Andrews have been quite savage.

I agree with ATY, Igantieff is choosing Harper as his model. He's just trying to put a friendlier spin and a likeable personality on it. He's trying to take the ass out of the asshole, but he doesn't realize that makes him just an ass.

Ti-Guy said...

For a more recent reason to distrust Ignatieff's new-found policies I just have to read his book reviews. Maclean's two Andrews have been quite savage.Please. Those two mediocrities are no counterpoint to Ignatieff. Both of them are in fact just a manifestation of what's wrong with our news media and nothing else.

Andrew Potter's a supercilious asshole. His reaction to anyone with a novel thesis is to roll his eyes. Naomi Klein and Richard Florida are two of his favourites targets, off the top of my head. Frankly, I think he's a sellout whose price is getting lower by the year. The one good idea in Rebel Sell (that counter-culture will always be co-opted by market forces and is therefore no substitute for real activism) is about the best he'll ever do.

Neither one of them has had a real job in their entire lives. That says a lot.

Catelli said...

Your objections to the media are well known. ;)

But that doesn't make them wrong in this particular instance.

Ti-Guy said...

Your objections to the media are well known.

They're not *my* objections. They're pretty much standard for everyone who seriously critiques the media.

But that doesn't make them wrong in this particular instanceOh, yes it does. I've read their...er..."reviews." They've made unsubstantiated assertions and claims that are not supported by evidence.

Opinion is never wrong except when it's passed off as fact. Then it's always wrong.

If you really want to learn something about True Patriot Love, I suggest you read it. I wouldn't recommend it, because, like pretty much everything else Ignatieff has written, it's probably a waste of time. But I think it's the height of irresponsibility to base one's opinion on the claims of people who do not understand the difference between an assertion and an argument, or at best, pander to an audience who they know don't know the difference.

Sir Francis said...

I think you're picking and choosing from your knowledge of history to manufacture a narrative.

...which is what historians are required to do, since no narrative (and certainly no meta-narrative) is ever “complete”. Surely, amateurs cannot be expected to buck the fundamental law of historiographic history.

Perhaps you could tell me what it is about my choices that is dishonest or spurious...


He's simply opportunistic and has spied a vacuum of leadership and idealism into which he has slipped rather easily. I don't see any of this grounded in the grand lines of Canadian Liberal tradition...

My point is, of course, that spying a "vacuum of leadership and idealism" and filling it with "narrow, short-term and self-serving" interests is the Liberal tradition.

I don't believe it can be connected to Canadian history at all.

...well, perhaps only insofar as it has always happened and is happening now.


What we are being forced to choose between...are two narratives being confected right now by two (or maybe three) thoroughly modern, panicked, technocratic sectaries of the Canadian courtier class...

...a nice paraphrase of my post's thesis. I'm not sure how it contradicts my overall perspective.

It doesn't matter. We're not living in King's time, but in the here and now.

The socio-economic fundamentals haven't changed, and much of what has changed merely represents a deepening of sixty-year-old realities.

It's a rather elitist, over-intellectualising perspective from which to comment on current events.

Tomm, what have you done with Ti-Guy's body?

...when not only the general public, but also the "agents of change" are ignorant of history, then history has ceased to matter, insofar as it no longer informs people's behaviour.

I'm not saying Ignatieff and Harper are deliberately replicating old patterns; I'm saying the patterns are replicating themselves.

For a younger generation, it's even less relevant and worse, risks giving them the impression that the decisions they are being asked to make have outcomes that have been pre-determined...

Acknowledging that one's political behaviour occurs in an historically-generated context is, I think, not a "risky" thing, but a necessary thing. I think most people can handle that awareness. I think it's context-free nihilism that produces manias, paranoias and anomie.

I just find it odd that in order to continue to rant against the Liberals... "Continue to rant"? Heh. Out of over 100 posts, I've done about three on Liberalism. Yeah, I'm on a vendetta--totally out of control.

...going back to their flip-flop on free trade should be sufficient.

...sufficient, but done to death. I take that as read. Besides, the Liberals "flip-flopped" on Free Trade only to those who believed their anti-FTA blandishments. I never did. I believed Turner, but not Chrétien.

Ti-Guy said...

Don't fisk, SF...it'll just bring on more fisking. Choose my most egregious, irrational point and we'll go from there.

And that crack involving Tomm is low. I'm sure you are aware of my firm and long-standing opposition to vain intellectualism and a classist attitude towards education. On that note, I remembered recently that I learned that England had had a civil war at the same time I had to take Milton. I was 19 at the time. I had forgotten about it because those two vital components in the body of accumulated knowledge haven't come up since.

Ti-Guy said...

In the meantime, I'll continue by commenting on this:

"...sufficient, but done to death."

Not by a long shot, since the full ramifications of FTA/NAFTA have only recently become alarming enough to be noticed by the public, not just in Canada, but everywhere. And if you (as I) predicted its fallout accurately at the time Mulroney imposed the treaty on Canadians, why were you the only Tory in Canada who did?

Catelli said...

But I think it's the height of irresponsibility to base one's opinion on the claims of people who do not understand the difference between an assertion and an argument, or at best, pander to an audience who they know don't know the difference.Colour me irresponsible. That's how I roll.

Ti-Guy said...

This isn't about you. Not directly.

Sir Francis said...

And that crack involving Tomm is low.

You're right. Of course, any crack involving Tomm is low--a least on a Dred Tory thread. On many others, it would have a decent chance of being the comment that comes closest to yielding Talleyrandian insight.

I shall withdraw it, while serving notice that I shall re-assert it if ever again confronted with the proposition that locating current events within an historical context is élitist per se. I'm sorry, but that's a Tommist fallacy.

I'm sure you are aware of my firm and long-standing opposition to vain intellectualism and a classist attitude towards education.

I actually wasn't, but I am now, and I share your opposition. I'm just not sure what it is about what I posted that eventuates from a necessarily "vain" or "classist" approach. Given that the approach is mine, I would tend--perhaps over-subjectively--to see it as a bohemian approach, native to someone whose annual income barely reaches that of a heavily-tipped barrista working at a Glebe Starbucks. Please do restrain the class-war stuff: there's not a country club or golf course in the country I could afford to belong to, and I'm proud of it.

I had forgotten about [the Civil War and Milton] because those two vital components in the body of accumulated knowledge haven't come up since.

They came up during l'affaire Galloway, when Jason Kenny's EA used the Cromwellian word "infandous" to describe him.

I marvelled at the synchronicity of that, as I had recently described Harper as Cromwellian in my post about his anti-democratic December prorogation. So there you have two recent events the decoding of which required some knowledge of the Civil War.

Perhaps I'm not responding to your actual perspective on the way history, both as a lived phenomenon and as an object of knowledge, can figure (or should figure) in our political behaviour. I tend to think you object to any suggestion that current realities can be interpreted as the products of certain definable historical trajectories, but that may be a straw man (indeed, I hope it is). I'll just let you respond to that before arguing at more length.

I meant to use the forgoing points collectively, to serve as an integral discussion of the various components of a single issue, by the way. They are not intended as (though they might appear to be) a "fisking" approach.

...the full ramifications of FTA/NAFTA have only recently become alarming enough to be noticed by the public, not just in Canada, but everywhere.

Agreed, which is precisely why I take that issue as "read".

What is not so often discussed is the bedrock historicity of the issue. Globalisation comes from somewhere, and understanding its history is a huge part of understanding its nature, objectives, and effects. Quite frankly, there is hardly a major Canadian debate that is not a permutation of the old-fashioned tariff question; globalisation is an excellent example of that.

And if you...predicted its fallout accurately at the time Mulroney imposed the treaty on Canadians, why were you the only Tory in Canada who did?

Hey, that was my first election; I was nineteen, and I voted for Turner--as did many Tories (ever hear of David Orchard?). Mulroney made up for that haemorrhage by attracting Western Social Crediters.

The glory of "free trade" is a sacrosanct component of North America's élite consensus. That's true even within the Liberal Party. If you want confirmation of that, just watch the LPC leadership apparatchiks destroy Orchard when he runs for the leadership (which he will do someday), just like the PC Party did during its long, sad terminal agony.

Catelli said...

I know.

But it is in a way. I'm not as knowledgeable as I'd like to be, nor that inclined to do the heavy reading and researching required.

In that I am as much like the rest of the bourgeoise/proletarian masses/none elite class.

So no it wasn't about me, but those like me that can only afford superficial attention to the issue du jour.

Sir Francis doesn't strike me as elitist. Condescending as hell, yes. But that's part of his appeal.

Ti-Guy said...

I tend to think you object to any suggestion that current realities can be interpreted as the products of certain definable historical trajectories, but that may be a straw man (indeed, I hope it is). I'll just let you respond to that before arguing at more length.

It strikes me as historical determinism, which I object to. I object to all forms of determinism.

I really think your assertion that socio-economic realities have not change in 60 years needs to be examined more closely. I'm really not sure that 60 years ago, society was burdened with an abundance of thoroughly ignorant people who nonetheless think they're highly (or even adequately) educated and believe themselves to be sophisticated and worldly, nor a demographic so impoverished who nonetheless think they're doing quite well.

Sixty years ago, my parents (and everyone around them) knew they were poor. They also must have been aware that they couldn't know everything because they didn't have access to any information apart from what they could get from a radio and a newspaper.

I'm not sure that kind of clear-eyed realism exists anywhere today, except perhaps in the 3rd World.

I think we live in a very different World, the horrific nature of which we're only beginning to glimpse.

Sir Francis said...

I don't think my views are determinist in the least. They are "conditionalist", if anything--premised on the assumption that our history conditions us to a significant, though not exhaustive, degree.

History cannot make us do anything; it can, I think, predispose us to certain behaviours. The past offers a certain predictive utility. I think I can foretell what the 905's voting patterns will be in the next election, based on its demographic history and the way that history has given it a concrete ideological complexion. That's not determinist, necessarily--merely analytical. I still need to allow for human spontaneity, of course, and I realise that my approach offers merely a framework, but I do think the framework is defensible.

As to what you say about our current deluded sense of omniscience, I would agree but add that this syndrome well may have had slightly less obnoxious precursors even sixty years ago. I think that's precisely what allowed expert operators like King to seduce Canadian electors into voting against their interests so often: King had a way of giving bourgeois voters a sense that he shared some special knowledge with them, knowledge that the "imperialist" Tories--backwards Victorian fools as they were--could never grasp. He made the proles feel special, and they rewarded him. Sound familiar? It should: it's right out of Harper's playbook.

Ti-Guy said...

I think I can foretell what the 905's voting patterns will be in the next election, based on its demographic history and the way that history has given it a concrete ideological complexion.I'm sure a strategic propaganda campaign could change that in a heartbeat.

The speed at which stupid and dishonest can travel these days is truly alarming and that is a major difference from 60 years ago.

Even from 20 years ago. I was listening to an interview with Bill Clinton's first press secretary, Dee Dee Myers the other day and it was startling to be reminded that back then, she only had to worry about three television networks and the Washington press corps.

Ryan said...

Isn't this debate pretty much the fundamental difference between liberal and conservative readings of history?

While Ti-Guy clearly thinks we are in a unique period of time like no other, SF sees history as a long string of events decipherable in the sense that they directly predict and influence eachother?

Highly interesting.

Ti-Guy said...

While Ti-Guy clearly thinks we are in a unique period of time like no other...I don't know. This might be the onset of a new Dark Age; not exactly a time like no other, but a rare-ish massive decline in civilisation and a return to conditions that existed before the Enlightenment.

It might actually be fun. I just hope it happens quickly because I fear a long period of transition will be duller and dumber than it will be perilous.

Sir Francis said...

I don't know. This might be the onset of a new Dark Age...

Sebastian Ronin, what have you done with Ti-Guy's body, and did you loan it from Tomm or steal it? ;)

There are few more confident than I that we have entered a kind of Dark Age, which is precisely why I think our era is not unique: our ability to call it a Dark Age presupposes that it has happened before.

My certainty that it occurs with a discernible pattern leads me to see it not as a cataclysmic finality but as a conduit to something different, which we also will have seen before.

Yes, I will admit abjectly to not quite yet having abandoned all belief in the analytical usefulness of meta-narratives, post-Structuralist though I am in many other respects.

Sir Francis said...

SF sees history as a long string of events decipherable in the sense that they directly predict and influence each other...

Not quite. I don't think the events "directly predict" each other. "Influence" each other they certainly do, but they do not bear a relation of necessity to each other.

The predictive faculty is ours, not history's, and its proper use depends upon the expertise, insightfulness and, yes, intelligence (if you'll excuse the gauche élitism) of the interpreters.

To that extent, I’m with Augustine, though somewhat less dogmatic… ;)

Catelli said...

I'm really not sure that 60 years ago, society was burdened with an abundance of thoroughly ignorant people who nonetheless think they're highly (or even adequately) educated and believe themselves to be sophisticated and worldly, nor a demographic so impoverished who nonetheless think they're doing quite well.Balderdash, poppycock and other such terms used to deride such nonsense. I have had many conversations with many different people of different backgrounds, ages and experiences.

What is constant is that you cannot predict the political or social sophistication of the individual based on education. There are 30 year old plumbers who can discuss the intricacies of welfare reform with sensitivity and understanding, and 70 year old retired professors who believe all politicians are morally corrupt.

Also, the total sum of human understanding is constantly expanding, at an accelerating rate. Now maybe people are not learning the things you think they should, but individuals have a fundamental right to study astrophysics to the exclusion of political science, and also vice versa.

Especially here in the so called West, the one thing that binds us is our curiosity and our thirst to learn. Maybe there's too much of an emphasis on the hard sciences, but its still learning.

Ti-Guy said...

Sebastian Ronin, what have you done with Ti-Guy's body, and did you loan it from Tomm or steal it?

Actually, Pete Seeger from 2000 was channelling through me. Why do you always go for the...how do I put this charitably...derelicts when you attribute another persona to me?

With regard to how I take into account the relevance of historical continuity: democracies operate through processes that are governed by decisions; elections, parliamentary votes and judgements handed down by the judiciary that occur at precise points in time when certain conditions, likely the result of very recent history (although less so with respect to legal decisions), prevail. Those are the conditions that should interest the citizen, not the grand tides of history of which few people are aware of from moment to moment and which only become fully understandable in the fullness of time, anyway.

Ti-Guy said...

There are few more confident than I that we have entered a kind of Dark Age, which is precisely why I think our era is not unique: our ability to call it a Dark Age presupposes that it has happened before.It may not be unique, but it's certainly not identical. What should interest us is what's different. You're the historian...do you know?

Ti-Guy said...

Balderdash, poppycock and other such terms used to deride such nonsense. I have had many conversations with many different people of different backgrounds, ages and experiences.

I was thinking about our elite when I wrote that, Catelli. Not the general public, who I consider innocent victims abused by them.

Our elite is more diverse, diffuse and more numerous than it used to be, however. More difficult to frighten in other words, especially when we consider the arsenal of both actual weaponry and sophisticated technology for manipulating the masses (and deluding themselves) that they have at their disposal.

Sir Francis said...

Why do you always go for the...how do I put this charitably...derelicts when you attribute another persona to me?

If I really wanted to attribute dereliction to you, I'd twin you with people vastly more objectionable than Tomm--like female academics, or that churlish "Wandering" guy from the Maclean's blogs. ;)

What should interest us is what's different. You're the historian...do you know?

We're all historians, of course--some of us better ones than others.

I think the continuities are just as important as the differences, frankly. As to the latter, though, there are many salient ones.

I think the West's collective normalisation of Nietzschean metaphysics (or anti-metaphysics) is crucial, especially to the understanding of post-Modern utopianism.

Old-fashioned utopianism was fundamentally Christocentric, meaning that human fallibility was one of its key premises; this inscribed definite limits upon its agenda and opened its exponents up to a powerful critique made inevitable by that very premise: that agents of utopianism sought to play God and were thus guilty of near-sacrilegious hubris.

Our new utopianism is different. It operates not according to moral absolutes that transcend human decision (and which we must answer to) but rather to mere "values", which are understood as the spontaneous products of human ethical creativity whose validity requires only contractual ratification within a given community.

The operation of these values becomes, then, theoretically limitless--their lack of transcendence liberating them from the need to answer to anything but the requirements of the contracts which enacted them.

This is utopianism as pure materialism, which explains the "contradiction" whereby liberals and cultural materialists like Christopher Hitchens and Terry Glavin feel compelled to endorse utopian adventurism in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's no contradiction at all. They are replicating an imperialist pattern with Nietzschean "grace notes" [!].

Speaking of which, I'm rather disappointed that nobody saw fit to congratulate me for posting a fairly long piece about Ignatieff without once resorting to the over-used, vulgar and yawn-inducing domestication "Iggy". Surely, that's a blogospheric first.

Sir Francis said...

...the general public...I consider innocent victims abused by them.

You do realise, I trust, that the "innocent" general public includes the people who consistently vote for Rob Anders...

"Innocent" my ass. They need to be disenfranchised, stripped of their citizenship, and made to serve a term of hard labour at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Immediately.

Ti-Guy said...

I think the West's collective normalisation of Nietzschean metaphysics (or anti-metaphysics) is crucial, especially to the understanding of post-Modern utopianism.

I knew it wasn't going to be straightforward. Couldn't you have just said the Jacquard Loom?

Sir Francis said...

I knew it wasn't going to be straightforward.

Bloody determinist...

Aeneas the Younger said...

Grant's prophecy has been proven. English-Canadian Nationalism is dead.

It only lives on as a distant memory when Team Canada takes the ice in a Hockey Tournament.

We are a de facto American colony.

Ti-Guy said...

Ok, ATY: that's a given. Now we're doing the post mortem.

Anyway, I'm interested in milestones, tipping points, paradigm shifts, that kind of thing. Civilisation is no more inherently interesting than an ant colony, ultimately. What is interesting is discovering the point or points at which some event occurs that sets off a chain of reactions that leads to progress or collapse. In my lifetime, I consider the democratisation of the Internet to be one of those events. The development of the World Wide Web in the span of just a couple of years fundamentally changed the way people understand the world around them. On balance at this moment, I see it as an overwhelmingly negative development that sank the vital role of authority with respect to accumulated knowledge (or with respect to stasis or equilibrium in complex systems) in a sea of irrelevance (to put it charitably). Neoliberal utopians continue to assert that this is as it should be; that from this chaos progress and order emerge. I suspect that might be true in the long run, but it's a pointless fantasy when people can (and should) only really be concerned about lifetimes over three generations at the most.

That's an update to SF's previous comment with respect to Nietzschean metaphysics. I started getting lost when he brought up Hitchens and Glavin but then realised that the conditions that created, out of the moral disaster known as Christopher Hitchens (Glavin's a nobody, frankly) an authority is precisely what I'm talking about and need further examination. Hitchens has occupied the space he has in our discourse for reasons that are completely unrelated to the standards of excellence that are associated with knowledge, such as wisdom and authenticity.

On that last point: I caught a clip of Hitchens debating Dinesh D'Souza a couple of weeks ago and it stuck me how much these two psychotic frauds enjoyed each other's company. It was a revelation for me. Hitchens really only despises people who can challenge him persuasively. It's a morality I don't understand.

Peter Burnet said...

One of Canada's greatest published diarists is the late diplomat, Charles Ritchie. They (four volumes) span his youth in Halifax and Oxford in the 1920's to his posting in London during the Blitz to his stints as our ambassador to the UN and then Washington during the fifties and early sixties. He came from an old Conservative family of limited fortunes but much education, experience in Nova Scotia politics and accomplishment. His brother became a SCC Justice and R.B. Bennett was a family friend and his father's partner.

The early diaries are notable for numerous references to the strong, visceral anti-Americanism of his family and many in its Tory circle. The later diaries contain some deliciously pithy criticisms of the Americans that would warm SF's heart on a cold night. He experienced their bullying first hand and he was ambassador when Johnson assaulted Pearson. He didn't personally hate the Americans and could even have sharp words about perennial Canadian whining, but he was very insightful about them and evinced no jealousy or desire to join them or be a bum-boy to them. He was a decidedly proud Canadian and determined to remain one.

But what is completely absent is any statements or musings about a Canadian national purpose or any systematic or even non-systematic attempt to define a mission or even national character. One senses he would have responded to such in a spirit of wry and sceptical humour. He despised King for being lukewarm about the War, but says nothing about selling out birthrights or anything. He is silent on C.D. Howe's continentalism, even though he was obviously front and center in promoting trade at the time and knew more than almost anybody else what it meant. He was clearly loyal to Britain in both heart and mind while steaming regularly about insufferable toffs and putdowns of the colonies. Otherwise...well, there really isn't much otherwise.

Are you guys sure Grant's book shouldn't have been entitled "Lament for an Empire"?

Sir Francis said...

Ti:

I've just come across a gem written by one of the young people whose fragile consciousnesses we must keep impervious to "disempowering" historical awareness.

This is the first sentence of an essay about modern surveillance techniques:

"Back in the day before technology, people lived simple, private lives".

Isn't that wonderful? Back before technology--before the wheel, before fire, before the sharp stick, before the inclined plane, before cave painting--people were, like, totally simple...and private.

This is from one of our nation's élite "leaders of tomorrow". Is it to laugh or to cry, I wonder?

Sir Francis said...

Peter:

Always a pleasure to read from you, dear boy.

The later diaries contain some deliciously pithy criticisms of the Americans that would warm SF's heart on a cold night.

Got 'em, and read 'em. I've managed to get my hands on pretty much everything that's been written by and about our mid-century mandarinate. Ritchie's a very engaging memoirist.

But what is completely absent is any statements or musings about a Canadian national purpose or any systematic or even non-systematic attempt to define a mission or even national character.

Non-revolutionary states rarely de-sublimate their collective purposes, since they don't tend to see the nation primarily as an instrument--contractually established or otherwise--for the attainment of some definite goal.

Thus one will peruse the records of the Renaissance in vain for statements of "national mission" from notable Italians, Englishmen, Frenchmen, or Spaniards. Conservative societies tend to become conscious of a mission only when attacked.

He is silent on C.D. Howe's continentalism...

What was worth saying? Howe was an American magnate behaving predictably according to his nature. Ritchie was silent, also, on Howe's possession of two nostrils, etc.

Canadian conservatism's response to Howe's continentalism became somewhat louder during the Pipeline Debate, which destroyed Howe's career.

Are you guys sure Grant's book shouldn't have been entitled "Lament for an Empire"?

Ignatieff seems to think so, and, as reviewers of his new book have pointed out, Grant admitted as much in his preface to the book's second edition. That George Parkin was a clever chap, you know...

Peter Burnet said...

It only lives on as a distant memory when Team Canada takes the ice in a Hockey Tournament.

ATY, hockey arenas have replaced churches as the focus of community life in modern Canada and beggars can't be choosers. My completely apolitical 15 year old iPod-addicted son is having his first bout of national pride and consciousness over this. Are you going to oil up your suit of armour and help or should I just tell him the proud Canadians are all depressed fogeys who endlessly re-hash out-of-print books and dream about coup d'états by the Governor-General?

Aeneas the Younger said...

Peter:

That's all I have time for; I did my time on the Hill in the 1980's. We're too far gone as a people.

I tried. No one cares. They're all to busy consuming stuff.

Aeneas the Younger said...

It's not a coup when the prerogative is established by custom, convention, and law.

Ti-Guy said...

I've just come across a gem written by one of the young people whose fragile consciousnesses we must keep impervious to "disempowering" historical awarenessYou have ungentlemanly discarded the principle of charity by setting my previous comment in a context that mocks it. Where is my glove?

You're starting to remind me of those awful grad students who used to grade my work in undergrad by, apparently, examining it with an electron microscope. I'd get the paper handed back marked up beyond all recognition, yet with an A+ affixed to it by the prof, who, on noticing my puzzled look, would explain to me, in a somewhat embarrassed fashion, that his little elves may have been a bit over-zealous.

But don't lower your standards and keep up the struggle, SF. Remember that from that garden of weeds you face every day, exhilarating auteurs do emerge from time to time and gift us all with their beautiful prose. Right now, somewhere, there's another Hitchens preparing to bloom.

Peter Burnet said...

"Back in the day before technology, people lived simple, private lives".Did she get extra credit for noting that the modern world is, like, totally screwed up because we evolved to be hunters and gatherers?

Serious, SF, I do wish you would at least balance your diatribes against the rapacious Yankee trader with more of these kinds of observations. There is so much low-hanging fruit out there for a learned reactionary, especially on social and moral issues, but not many can withstand the rote secular psychobabble or pop-scientism that comes back in swift and pompous reply. I was heartened by your attack on misogynist porn on Olaf's site and noted no-one had the temerity to suggest it was clear you just hate freedom and are uncomfortable with your own sexuality.

Ti-Guy said...

I wonder what lured The Peter back here.

Peter Burnet said...

Oh, I'm just here for my semi-annual psychological assessment, Ti-Guy. Let me know when your diagnosis is ready, will you?

Ti-Guy said...

I believe several joint consultations since then have determined that your condition is irremediable.

Entire blog posts are being written about you, Peter. I'm not sure I'd be flattered.

SF: Just read this by James Laxer. Now that resonates.

Sir Francis said...

Peter:


...hockey arenas have replaced churches as the focus of community life in modern Canada.

...of mainstream, neo-pagan community life, yes. However, it is not the arena but the mall that has replaced the church.

...should I just tell him the proud Canadians are all depressed fogeys who endlessly re-hash out-of-print books and dream about coup d'états by the Governor-General?

He is likely to ask how one can be proud and depressed at the same time, or how our highest de facto constitutional authority can execute a "coup", if he's bright.

If you truly care about the lad and wish to see him live happily ever after, you'll advise him, most solemnly, to have nothing to do with books whatever.

...the rapacious Yankee trader ...

Heh. The rapacious Yankee hasn't traded (or made) anything of consequence in many decades. He lets the Chinese do that now. He's just rapacious.

There is so much low-hanging fruit out there for a learned reactionary...

...and it's all ripe and delicious. Sadly, there is much more rotting windfall. Fine for swine slop; not so good for me.

…no-one had the temerity to suggest it was clear you just hate freedom and are uncomfortable with your own sexuality.

Oh, but I do, and I am. That would hardly have been germane to the discussion, however.

Sir Francis said...

I'd get the paper handed back marked up beyond all recognition, yet with an A+ affixed to it by the prof...

Heh. Bird courses, eh?

My situation, though, is different from what you describe in your nostalgic excursus in several respects:

1) I'm the prof;

2) My TA would see nothing to "mark up" about the contention that we were, like, really simple and private "back before technology"; and

3) She will not be getting an A+...or an A...or a +.

...from that garden of weeds you face every day...somewhere, there's another Hitchens preparing to bloom .

The Hitchenses are the weeds.

You're right, though: I've come across plenty of budding auteurs--most of them from rural backgrounds and most of them utterly careless and indifferent about their talent.

Sir Francis said...

Ti-Guy:

Ah yes, James Laxer--my favourite Waffler. You should dip into his The Border, an excellent post-9/11 meditation on Canada/U.S. relations.

If by resonating you mean quadrupling my word-count today in the service of a point I made two days ago, then, yes, Laxer's piece does resonate--it echoes, even.

He rightly demolishes Ignatieff's attempt to ventriloquise Trudeau, as I did. Laxer also reaches back to Laurier, much farther than I would have (I'm not that historically obsessed).

Well, well, well. Laxer says this about old William Lyon:

"[Ignatieff] is following the old Mackenzie King play book...".

I couldn't have said it better myself, though I certainly would have tried.

Ti-Guy said...

The Hitchenses are the weedsNot in first year creative writing, I'll wager.

Sir Francis said...

In first-year Creative Writing, no. In first-year Analytical Writing, hell yes.

Ti-Guy said...

Oh, I'd love to teach that. Peter would be incensed.

Ryan said...

SF,

Since you've mentioned the mall as the new church, I suggest reading a Catholic theologian named William T. Cavanaugh. I think he's your style. He apprenticed under Stanley Hauerwas at Notre Dame, if that means anything to you.

http://www.catholicanarchy.org/cavanaugh/

Ryan said...

I especially suggest picking up a copy of Torture and Eucharist.

Sir Francis said...

Ryan:

Thanks for the recommendation. I shall be looking into him; he does indeed sound very appealing.

Ti-Guy said...

If I really wanted to attribute dereliction to you, I'd twin you with people vastly more objectionable than Tomm--like female academics.

Obviously, I haven't unnerved you enough. I'd dearly love to read how you'd insult me obliquely by cratfing a playlet in which I become Sunera Thobani.

Go for it, big boy! The measure of a man is how he can stand up to his...mother.

Sir Francis said...

I'd dearly love to read how you'd insult me obliquely by cratfing a playlet in which I become Sunera Thobani.

Thobani? Pfft. We're talking Camille Paglia, vieux...

I want it noted that I resisted a [sic]. Write that down.

Ti-Guy said...

I'm sure you meant to write mon vieux.

I want it noted that I resisted a [sic]. Write that down.

Done.

It's really kind of sad that this the best you can do when you're challenged. Oh well; that's the Tories for you, eh Jim?

Sir Francis said...

I'm sure you meant to write mon vieux.

No. I meant to suggest a conversational ellipsis. The "non" can be elided in that context.

It's really kind of sad that this the best you can do when you're challenged.

I was not aware of being challenged, and that was hardly my "best" in any event, as you know. I suspect I shall achieve my best whenever I finally try to do so. I shall let you know when that happens.

Who is "Jim", by that way? And what have you been drinking?

Ti-Guy said...

The "non" can be elided in that context.

No, it can't. Not the "mon" and most emphatically not a "non."

Analytical Writing, was it?

Sir Francis said...

Analytical Writing, was it?

Oh well, that's just the best I can do. Sad, isn't it?

I hereby retract my hasty (and initially facetious) pairing of you and Tomm. It was deeply unfair: he has never trolled.

Ti-Guy said...

Sorry, I was just teasing you. I was hoping to get one of those delightfully withering responses you're so good at.