A perfectly understandable murmur of bemusement has followed the announcement of the CPC's constitutionally illiterate and procedurally risible intention to "review" Canadian history--this, from a party led by a man who once placed the NDP in the 1930s.
This news summoned before me the spectre, more droll than dread, of an official "Harper History", as delivered by the "Harper Government". One cannot foretell all of what such a history would include, but I think it reasonable to assume that the overall canonical criterion would be...Stephen Harper, a man who has only to order that a 30-foot statue of himself be erected beside the Speaker's Chair to hit the Caligulan floor of bathetic conceit to which he has been falling since 2006.
I began to wonder what a typical multiple-choice pop quiz on a Grade 12 Harper History or Harper Civics unit might look like. I then fantasised about what I hoped it would look like. The quiz below represents a typically Canadian compromise between the two visions. Enjoy!
a) a time to gather
with loved ones and celebrate the nation’s history, cultures, and heritage;
b) an annual statutory
bore that requires him to mumble yet another bland, disingenuous, instantly
forgettable speech cribbed from the notes Mike Dufy used whilst barking above
the sound of rubber chicken being masticated during the last Port Elgin Rotary Club gala;
c) a brief spasm of
silly Trudeaupian nationalism that is harmless enough as long as we remember
that Americans are our moral superiors and continental overlords, while we are just can’t-do,
second-tier, socialist parasites.
2) Stephen Harper
believes Canada was founded
a) at Confederation;
b) by the Act of
c) on the day of Ronald
Reagan’s first Inauguration;
d) on the day Tom
Flanagan lost his virginity;
e) both c) and d).*
3)Stephen Harper believes himself to be proof
a) hard work and
thrift are always repaid with success;
b) knowing the date of
Jupiter’s next transit through Sagittarius is worth the relatively uninspired
haircuts and rouge jobs;
c) insane people are
not necessarily interesting;
d) even an
able-bodiedmiddle-class Caucasian male
from a Pearson-era suburb can overcome the inherent disadvantages of birth and
become prime minister one day.
4) Stephen Harper
believes that his greatest accomplishment is
a) evolving the weaselly King Gambit
by establishing the constitutional precedent whereby a prime minister may
licitly lock the doors of Parliament mere hours after a Thorne Speech solely in
order to hoist his sorry ass out of an arrogantly self-ignited bonfire;
b) standing before a
nation teeming with bright, hard-working, superbly educated potential
candidates and still managing to ensure that the beneficiary of virtually every
single patronage appointment was among the most breathtakingly
incompetent buffoons ever to dishonour the public service of an OECD nation,
thereby reinforcing for the masses the salutary message that a Harper government isn’t
the answer to their problem; it is the problem.
c) staying loyal to
the turncoat whose treachery gentrified his Reform Party rabble by continuing
to sustain MacKay’s promotion, galaxies beyond his competence level, even
though the gearbox-headed coxcomb has carefully overseen some of the most
Biblically catastrophic procurement fiascos of modern times;
d) being so synapse-meltingly
boring that not even widespread electoral fraud committed on his behalf seems
important enough to give a fuck about;
e) becoming so adept
at “re-building” Canada’s military by salvaging the rust-bucket hand-me-downs from other nations that plans are now afoot to excavate L’Anse Aux Meadows in
hopes of finding still-seaworthy Viking longboats that can be up-gunned with 20
mm Oerlikon autocannon and sent out as Canada’s contribution to NATO counter-piracy interdiction deployments;
f) providing a fiscal
maladministration so abject that it has sent Canada’s standard of living
plummeting at a speed unmatched since the fall of the Inca kingdoms, thus
helpfully depriving Canadians of what had been the chief pretext of their
g) establishing the
Office of Religious Freedom, thereby serving notice to all tyrants that they
had better stop being naughty to their religious minorities, or we’ll send a
sternly worded e-mail informing them that they must stop being naughty to their
religious minorities or else we’ll send another sternly worded e-mail telling
them that we really, really mean it this time.
5) As brilliant as
Stephen Harper is, he isn’t perfect. He believes that his greatest failure has
b) halting his
practice of ending speeches with the words “God bless Canada” and thus
giving the totally unfair impression that the courage of his religious convictions is so feeble as to be voidable merely by force of the
amused sniggering of agnostic Press Gallery hacks and his own salivating avidity for a majority government;
c) forgetting to
remind his ministers that they should Google the name of a protesting crowd
before rushing out onto Parliament Hill to send them the government’s fond greetings, lest it should turn out to be an Iranian terroristorganisation that
d) betraying his otherwise
iron-clad commitment to ineptitude by accidentally appointing a highly capable
officer of Parliament, thereby forcing his government to give the utterly
inaccurate impression that it is a vindictive, paranoid clutch of congenital
liars and innumerates;
e) missing the
deadline for Diamond Jubilee Medal nominations, thus being robbed of the chance to reward the deserving critters among the PMO staff's dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, goldfish, and chinchillas;
Several of the
past month’s news stories force us to derive a number of painful yet unsurprising
conclusions about Stephen Harper’s caucus, party, and supporters. I present
below a list that is, sadly, not exhaustive. To wit, our Harperoids
averse to watching the Museum of Civilization be bizarrely repurposed into a
museum for folks who hate museums (by the people who’ve been perfecting a government
for folks who hate government and a Canada for folks who hate Canada), which,
if past performance has any predictive relevance, will undoubtedly feature as its
centrepiece exhibit a gargantuan bronze statue of Christ in a “USA Kicks Ass”
t-shirt riding triumphantly into Jerusalem on the back of a triceratops flanked
by an honour guard of Navy SEALs;
when their “populist” prime minister abridges the rights and privileges of his MPs
merely because his party’s base is composed of people who expect their
representatives to bring onto the floor of the House precisely the kind of obnoxious-to-the-vast-majority-of-Canadians
motion Harper knows makes his caucus look like the cast of Porky’s II and is thus
desperate to suppress;
to see the protracted domestic detention of a Crown subject whose “confession”,
gleaned by American torturers conducting an illegal, unanimously discredited
sondergericht in a Cuban gulag, was extorted partly through the threat of being
repeatedly rectally raped, by “big black guys,” naturally (the carriers of what
the collective American imagination conceives as the most virulent genus of social
contamination). Moreover, they agree with Stephen Harper that the Canadian
people, though now paying the full cost of Khadr’s room and board, are too
fragile to withstand the apocalyptic impact of whatever he would wish to say from
to see their prime minister ornament the sombre dignity of Margaret Thatcher’s
funeral by pimping the event for the sake of a cheap, guttersnipe attack on
Justin Trudeau, insolently launched atop the still-warm corpses of the Boston
Marathon victims. Nor do they overmuch mind that their tax dollars are currently
funding a campaign of wretched defamation, the thrust of which is Trudeau’s alleged
faggotry, that is so odious that even hardened Harper-fellating hackslike Stephen Woodworthand Brent Rathgeber—who’ve spent the last half-decade
proving that they would queue up naked before the front door of 24 Sussex in a February
hailstorm to receive the honour of drinking overflowing bowls of the foetid,
maggot-speckled swill compounded of venality,
illegality, sophistry, and moral cowardice that perpetually sluices forth from
the dank cloaca of CPC HQ—find unacceptably repellent. It’s as if they’ve
finally realised that, after seven years of forcing his ward-heeling invertebrates
to prostitute every single principle they claim to hold, Harper has managed to
become the only maquereau in the history of the West too stupid to know how to
run a whorehouse at a profit.
primary, and perhaps only, utility Harper’s conservative lemmings can offer real conservatives is their service as a stark daily reminder that humankind is
irremediably unregenerate: the immutable fact of human fallibility is a
core conservative belief, and our justified awe before the myriad glories of
human compassion, magnanimity, and virtue must sometimes be tempered by an
acknowledgment that we have not crawled as far beyond the primeval slime as we think
we have, a fact that Canada’s branch of the global confederacy of idiocy argues
with irresistible eloquence.
Any attempt at a socio-political diagnosis of North America’s current condition that hopes to claim the slightest dram of explanatory validity must convincingly account for the undeniable fact that the “New World” is afflicted with at least one collective distemper utterly unprecedented in the cultural history of the West.
North Americans have fallen into a state of crushing torpor untold in the chronicles of Western civilisation. For proof, we need only acknowledge that we find nowhere described in any of the histories of the West a popular reaction to brazen elite criminality as mutely bovine as that which greeted Wall Street’s wanton years-long poaching of the global economy. Our cowardice in the face of this perpetually unpunished disgrace has no known ancestor. It is the Mitochondrial Eve of societal moral squalor.
Until 2008, the West had produced no society so thoroughly drained of its ethical haemoglobin as to be prepared to accept with a lobotomised half-smile that the already-obscenely rich perpetrators of the systemic rape of trillions of dollars of global assets shall not only waltz away from their felonies uncharged, unconvicted, and unjailed but shall also be pensioned off with bonuses hundreds of thousands of times larger than the yearly wages of most of those they robbed. Never in the course of human history, not even during the Viking sacks of Ireland’s gold- and silver-larded monasteries, had an act of such rapacious barbarity been committed with such lucrative impunity.
In a society healthier than ours, that of Caligula’s Rome or of France’s late ancien regime, for instance, such a laughing display of unconscionable rapine would have landed an emperor, festooned with innumerable gladius slashes, floating open-eyed amid the currents of the Tiber, or would have destined the powdered limbs of aristocrats to adorn pikes held aloft by garlanded girls dancing down wide, sunlit avenues bordered by their joyously weeping fathers and mothers. Mark that these executors of the natural law would not have been, as they are today, ragtag scratch militias of the marginal and the disenfranchised: it was the powerful Praetorian Guard, quintessential insiders, who obligingly delivered to the Palatine crowds the emperors they wished deposed; it was the most talented, ambitious, and bright-futured among the comfortable French bourgeoisie who led the toppling of the Bourbons.
Meanwhile, we Canadians, clearly aping Americans’ acquiescence before robbery, as we seem to insist on aping every species of American moral idiocy, watch the slow-motion shipwreck of the robocall fiasco unfold with the sullen, heavy-lidded indifference with which a fifteen-year-old Crip, returning to class after a spliff-puffing session enjoyed behind the school dumpster, settles in for a lecture on quadratic equations. Too many commentators have attempted to explain Canadians’ apparent unconcern before the troubling Roboscam facts as a symptom of the alleged “complexity” of the case. Those less afraid to wield Occam’s razor will simply add this supine unconcern to the mounting evidence of Canadians’ quadrennially shrinking inclination to vote for their choice of faceless party automaton and come to the necessary conclusion that a growing number of Canadians do not care whether their government is elected fairly and constitutionally, whether it slithers and slimes its way into the House of Commons via an I-Ching or Tarot reading superintended by one of the Trailer Park Boys, or whether a government is elected at all. Among the most glorious fruit of the harvest of freedom seeded by Stephen Harper’s overturning of the Chretien/Martin tyranny is the undeniable fact that most Canadians, in the year 2013, have as little thought of meaningfully interfering in their own political lives as had Yorkshire ploughmen under the Plantagenets.
Asking whether or not there is hope is not the right question to ask at the tail end of one of the two (formerly liturgical) seasons the most marked effect of which on me is the sad recollection that our culture has managed to degrade two narratives that had at least an iota of morally redeeming value into mere Pavlovian retail reflexes whose only function and practical effect are to goad children into abducting their parents’ superegos and forcing them to enrich China’s Politburo through gratuitous purchases the flamboyant uselessness of which would have caused the buyers to be thrust outside the moral borders of the society that founded this Dominion.
The right question to ask is whether there is a way to hope that does not have at its foundation the very urges that turn our hopes to ashes.
*In homage to one of Canada's most spectacularly, narcissistically, and tunelessly pretentious descents into abject mid-life crisis.
And, speaking of decadence, allow me a short intermission...
I wonder, to those few Canadians who have become accidentally aware of Warren Kinsella's modest and unearned celebrity within a small, dull circle of elite political trainspotters, which of Kinsella's achievements among his trove of gumball-machine trophies gathered during a dismal career of representing everything Canadians loathe about their vapid, cynical, focus-grouped, spin-doctored politics shine the brightest. Would it be
1) Kinsella's use of a Barney doll to ridicule the Leader of the Opposition's Pentecostalism in what became the first overtly sectarian attack ever launched in the course of a Canadian federal election?
2) Kinsella's key role in a legendarily arrogant Liberal administration that laid waste to the progressive Pearson/Trudeau social welfare legacy and superintended corruption so vast and flagrant that its exposure destroyed the party and guaranteed an indefinite, perhaps generations-long, even more deeply corrupt "Conservative" overlordship?
3) Kinsella's 1997 electoral loss, amid a crushing Liberal national victory, against a half-mad Western separatist incumbent languishing on Reform's farthest fringes?
4) Kinsella's bathetically unctuous attack of the vapours over an offhand remark that allegedly places a blogger he considers good enough to poach from in the ideological company of the "Far Right", broadcast in blithe disregard of his own protracted collaboration with the odious Sun Media Corp. (among whose vile notorieties is the 2010 Ottawa Suneditorial that advocated the mass murder of civilians, an outrage that went unprotested by Kinsella) and of the fact that a strict application of his logic would force him to declare Noam Chomsky an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier?
My guess is that most would choose number 4—chiefly because that event's diffusion has not had to rely on Kinsella's own negligible powers but has been driven by Dr. Dawg's superb systematic demolition of the pious fool's presumptuousness. I'll warrant you that, since last week, thousands of people have stumbled onto Warren Kinsella's existence for precisely the reason English Literature undergrads discover Thomas Shadwell. Enjoy your 15 minutes, Warren, to terminate when our laughter subsides and we return you to the scribbling, had-been* obscurity where, at no one's request, you regularly dole to a tiny, indifferent readership a clutch of limp, pedestrian lines, each one an ingenious rearrangement of the disarmingly candid sentence, "Yeah. I used to be a spin doctor; tough racket".
* Instead of the conventional "has-been", we use the past perfect here to indicate that Kinsella was a has-been before he lowered himself below the dignity of has-been by joining the execrable Sun chain of over-priced bog roll.
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
And there shall no torment touch them.
In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die,
And their departure is taken for misery,
And their going from us to be utter destruction,
But they are in peace.
For though they be punished in the sight of men,
Yet is their hope full of immortality.
And having been a little chastened, they shall be greatly rewarded,
For God proved them and found them worthy for Himself.
As gold in the furnace hath He tried them
And received them as a burnt offering.
And in the time of their visitation they shall shine…
My theme tonight is of the soul of a nation staggering through its banishment of Astraea, where the righteous are punished and seem to die at the hands of the unwise.
Of many thorns is made the crown of mundane injustice that spikes the head of the world. Chief among those is humankind’s ceaseless re-crucifixion of Christ; nevertheless, the fruits of the originary catastrophe were joyful. Last Sunday, a far lesser thorn, but one void of healing transcendence, embittered my Paschal meditations. I thought of how Canada has been led for six years by the political equivalent of the impenitent thief—an insolent rabble who daily abuse the nation they consider a trivial non-entity with the mocking demand that she remove herself from the cross fashioned and erected by the very corruption of which they are the most avid practitioners and who have, moreover—in a sick parody of Calvary—proclaimed themselves the authoritative canon by which we may measure our fitness to enter into their transvestite kingdom.
For “parody” is the most accurate characterisation of Canada’s current civilisational stage: we are become the burlesque—the satiric antithesis—of everything the Fathers of Confederation envisioned and of every article of the heritage of freedom and order we inherited from our founding Anglo-European tradition.
Perhaps we are wandering through a cultural winter made inevitable by our long and dismal thirst for every last dram of intoxicating gibberish distilled by the neighbouring southern tribe who, in elevating their rebarbative hybrid of irreverence and vulgarity to the dignity of a national ethos and in establishing irony as both the engine of their cultural discourse and the presiding genius of their every collective myth (where a vicious civil war, an event internally divisive enough to spark one of history’s largest mass emigrations, becomes a universally approved “revolution” against foreign domination, where legitimate defensive action against an unruly and violent mob far more provoking and dangerous than that which faced the National Guard at Kent State is called a “massacre”, and where naked expansionist aggression, the success of which would have re-imposed slavery on the first colonial jurisdiction to ban it, is called a “war of liberation”).
What else but the perverting influence of a nation that recently crowned two centuries of feverishly prosecuted domestic and foreign moral squalor by twice electorally self-inflicting the kind of Caligulan cretin that other peoples have had to suffer as a brute force imposition can explain Canada’s sudden decision to place the tin wreaths of federal office upon some of the most existentially worthless vessels of intellectual bankruptcy and moral debility to ever ooze out of the free exercise of a Western franchise?
Quite apart from the very real possibility that the last election was stolen, the fact that more than a handful of Canadians were willing to vote for what must be considered Canada’s first objectively degenerate national political organization is an index of the degree to which “decadence” is the only appropriate descriptor of our current cultural character. All that now remains is to enumerate the salient consequences of Canadians’ grant of the legislative keys to a canting racaille that hates commondecency, hates the truth, hates the constitution, hates democracy, hates the rule of law, hates Canadian sovereignty and national security—hates Canada, in effect. The fundamental meaning of the election and continued dominance of our first ideologically anti-Canadian (or at least anti-Confederation) national government shall be outlined over the course of the next few posts.
I hope you are enjoying as much as I am the civility dividends of Stephen Harper's glorious "law-and-order" crusade. Canada is so much the better for it.
Sure. Cranks may decry Canada's unprecedented gang violence and gun crime epidemic. Closer to home, obdurate Ottawa malcontents might be vexed at our record number of unsolved murders. Me, I see these events as character-building opportunities for Canadians to become the gleefully (and non-Northern European) self-slaughtering crypto-Americans our prime minister has always wanted us to be. Besides, even if this recent uptick in nihilist brutality were disagreeable, blaming the federal government for the national crime rates under its watch (when law enforcement and the administration of justice are provincial responsibilities) is precisely the kind of cheap irrational demagogy that a cheap irrational governing party would no doubt deplore after having deployed their cheap irrational demagogy against various Liberal governments, relentlessly and to not inconsiderable effect on the credulous, for a decade and a half. So, one mustn't do that.
A string of racist vandalism against a black man and his white partner has shocked a collegial Newmarket neighbourhood and pushed a couple to the brink.
The latest of three incidents happened sometime between Christmas Eve night and early Christmas morning, according to York Region police.
Rita Brown, who along with her partner, Seun Oyinsan, moved into a home this summer on quiet suburban Hodgson Dr., discovered the “N” word scratched on the hood of her car Christmas Day.
That came nearly 3 ½ months after two other attacks on their home and vehicles. During the first, on Sept. 10, swastikas were spray-painted on the couple’s garage and their SUV was defaced with the “N” word and acid thrown on the sides. Nails hammered into small pieces of wood were also left under their tires.
Most alarmingly, Brown said, police received a message. She was told it said the couple wasn’t wanted in the neighbourhood, called her a “whore” and threatened: “We will kill if necessary.”
Surely, this kind of thing has happened before--perhaps, say, ten years ago, in the days when we, almost despairing of succour, were crying out in vain to the heavens for an agent of blessed deliverance as mighty as the hand of Stephen Harper, that he might smite the evildoers and cleanse the land of their depredations. Surely, this is a recrudescence--a backslide into the Liberal Dark Age of scofflaw impunity, when the nation languished under the unrestrained twin flagrancies of murder and rapine. Or perhaps not:
Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen said he was “deeply disappointed and concerned that something like this could happen anywhere, let alone in my community.”
Van Bynen spoke with the couple earlier in the fall and said he would do so again this week. In the 30 years he’s lived in Newmarket, this is the first such incident, he said.
How fortunate for Stephen Harper that he and the other chief purveyors of facile attribution of criminal acts to the federal government became the federal government almost six years ago; the kind of slander once casually launched at Jean Chretien and Paul Martin would make for a silly and uncomfortable spectacle now, especially since a link that, in their hands, was so specious, seems so much more plausible in this case.
After all, no one outside of the barking kennel of Reform/Alliance berserkers really believed that there was something inherently crime inducing about the nature of a Liberal government, a claim always immediately empirically neutralised (to the satisfaction of the reality-based community, at least) by a couple of decades' worth of steeply declining crime rates. A party willing to hazard its credibility upon the ceaseless iteration of a connection so effortlessly disproved would be sorely tempted to wonder aloud why an unprecedented racist attack would occur on the watch of a party whose founder was mentored by and received key policy advice from virulently anti-Canadian white supremacists and neo-Nazis, that employed violent racists as "security" and riding personnel in its formative years in Ontario, and that once truculently announced its opposition to "any immigration based on race or creed or designed to radically or suddenly alter the ethnic makeup of Canada".
Yes, indeed. What a relief it must be to Harper to have been elevated to a dignity that makes the performance of that oft-rehearsed Reform/Alliance idiocy impracticable. It would be a relief to me, too, if what had occasioned the suppression of that species of idiocy had not also unleashed so many others.
In describing the pagan desecration of holy places, early medieval accounts such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle observe a euphemistic fastidiousness that, while acknowledging the Viking zeal to denude shrines of their relics and tabernacles of their gold and silver, leave implicit or entirely unuttered the grosser heathen habits of profanation, such as lustily evacuating or performing bloody sacrifices upon the altars of monasteries and abbeys.
I was reminded of the old monks’ proto-Canadian pudeur when imagining Canadians’ likely response to Stephen Harper’s Christmas message. My guess is that the few Canadians aware of the existence of the soporifically banal, annually hissed testaments to Stephen Harper’s utter inability to rise above vacuity even when inspired by one of the holiest days of the faith he pretends to profess will, generously, merely note that his vaporous flaccidities are bereft of the silver and gold with which his words might have been imbued were he capable of anything even touching the hem of a competently simulated sincerity, candor, or authentic commitment.
For myself, growing ever more impatient of polite euphemisms as I age, whenever I hear crypto-religious pieties from reptilian frauds such as Harper or any among the cowed, invertebrate caucus of castrati over whom he presides, my mind runs immediately to visions of Norseman emptying mead-filled bladders onto ciboria and squatting over the scattered bones of saints, for, though I am willing to assume that history’s vomitorium of rhetorical hypocrisy contains far viler blitherings than Harper’s, there is little in Canada’s history of prime ministerial conceit and pretension that offers impudence equal to that with which Harper consistently preens himself as a credit, rather than a disgrace, to the Christianity the key beliefs of which his core political and economic principles (and his executive proclivities) daily violate.
Ecco homo, this avid disciple of Pilate, boasting of how his government promotes “the things that unite us as Canadians” mere months after providing Jack Layton with state obsequies in order to pour bleach over his party's despicable “Taliban Jack” vilification program (inspired by Layton’s espousal of a common-sense view shared by the vast majority of Canadians and that has since become official NATO policy), not long after accusing the Liberals of being Taliban sympathizers, not long after sponsoring the gravest truncheon-wielding violation of civil liberties in post-war Canadian history in order to make Toronto safe for the scumbag emissaries of corrupt totalitarian regimes, and a mere handful of years after accusing a Canadian prime minister of enjoying the sight of children being raped.
Behold the verminous pork-barreling hack, luxuriating in his prime ministership after having spent decades dancing attendance upon corporate elites whilst managing to keep his threadbare CV untainted by the slightest evidence of volunteer (or even avocatory) service to his community, lecturing Canadians on the importance of “remember[ing] those who are less fortunate” not long after conspicuously failing to see any reason to get off his ass and personally assess the ongoing humanitarian disaster on a Native reserve and only a few years after unrepentantly cheerleading one of the half-century’s most disastrous, civilian-butchering military interventions, one whose Christmastide is a perpetual Massacre of the Innocents.
Note that Harper’s message is a smarmy exhortation to remember the less fortunate; it is not directed at the less fortunate. Harper does not deign to address the less fortunate: he prefers to speak over their heads. They are to be spoken about; they are not to be spoken to. The prime minister, as Harper conceives the office, must not stoop to a direct communication with the poor and marginalized, though he may sometimes, when decorum demands, acknowledge their existence when chatting to those who actually matter (he is a populist, after all). Prime ministers don’t talk to losers, and they confine all collateral reference to their humanity to a few smug, oblique shibboleths exchanged with their smug constituencies at this time of year, designed to reinforce each other’s high self-regard.
Christ stood with the poor, the outcast, the victimized. Harper stands with the hateful, the criminal, the cretinous. Harper’s is not really a Christmas message; it is an Easter message, graven with a nail, and delivered in much the same spirit as that which wrote and hoist atop a cross a sign reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.
I find it odd that our media have neglected to mention, if only in passing, that Canada has just undergone the most mortifying foreign affairs debacle of its diplomatic history, courtesy of a cabinet that, having spent five years mistaking squalid pork-barrel hackery and petty partisan larceny for statecraft, is still not anywhere near being ready for primetime, as evidenced by a Foreign Affairs minister who gives scant evidence of being able to locate Israel on a map, let alone offer a meaningful observation upon it.
As far as we can tell, Stephen Harper made clear that his vision of the Middle East “peace process” [*cough*] required that it evolve according to norms not only totally unacceptable to the Arab world but completely contrary to Canada’s traditional Middle East policy, to the 1967 UN resolution that has ever since stood as the framework for negotiations, and to President Obama’s explicitly stated position.
Thus, Harper managed, without having any realistic hope of pursuing the alternative and futile trajectory he was proposing, to destroy Canada’s credibility as a proponent of the two-state solution while simultaneously undermining the public solidarity of the G8 and the authority of the United States, the only nation with the clout to condition the Middle East’s negotiating environment and the hyper-power to which Harper otherwise pledges undying loyalty. I will challenge anybody to find a precedent wherein a Canadian prime minister’s contribution to a multilateral forum has had this blend of incoherence and brattish uselessness as its main ingredients.
Shortly thereafter, the Honourable John Baird staggers out, blinking and stammering, and announces that Canada has reconsidered its position and now fully supports Obama’s view. While reporters wonder whether it was a consultation with a ouija board, a realization of Canada’s fundamental geo-political irrelevance, or a belated awareness of the idiocy of Harper’s initial position that changed the government’s mind, Baird proceeds to give every indication of being utterly unaware of what “1967” actually means to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He then shuffles nervously like an awkward sixth-grader and mumbles that he had no idea that UN resolutions on Israel were so important for a Minister of Foreign Affairs to be aware of, presumably whilst engaging the rueful, silent rumination that a career of banging fists on desks and screaming spittle-drenched taking points ill prepares one for a grown-up’s job.
Meanwhile, as this cheap vaudeville act unfolds, our media blandly report events as if they are not helping Canada become even more completely to the G8 what Poland is to the EU—a parochial, unambitious, and slightly dim gaggle of slap-happy bumpkins who’ve become so deeply convinced of their abject inability to offer the world anything of value that their only significant cultural export is their own poltroonish collective persona.
Allow me to become nostalgic for a moment—not for Lloyd Axworthy, the last Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs to have an overall ministerial value greater than that of his cufflinks collection—but for a time when Canadians could get angry about being made to look ludicrous on the international stage. By my reckoning, that would be 1979, when Joe Clark was eviscerated in the press, and rightly, for promising to move Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. That misstep, seen as hugely embarrassing, was considered by many even in the Tory-friendly media to be enough to bring Clark’s fitness for office into question. Now, having grown inured to the self-abasing incompetence of their elites, Canadians appear immune to shame.
The Harper era has demonstrated a hard truth: a great nation cannot be long ruled by moral midgets without eventually being cut down to their size.
This may come as a surprise, but it truly pains me that a few of my casual readers appear to perceive a faint tinge of anti-Americanism in my writings. I find that odd, since the nation I love was largely founded by Americans—the good ones, that is.
Really, how can I dislike a country of intrepid pioneers who, by dint of technological explorations as relentless as they are selfless, continue to push the frontiers of human possibility closer to that glorious though yet unespied realm where we shall finally be emancipated from the dreary law of brute necessity that the non-American West—having offered nothing to the civilisation of the last millennium but the barren trivialities of its Dantes, Michelangelos, Da Vincis, Galileos, Voltaires, Shakespeares, Newtons, Mozarts, McLuhans and Einsteins—never managed to transcend?
What diabolical perversity could prevent me from heeding the natural urge to bow my head in reverent salutation to the inventors of so much of the life-enhancing infrastructure that undergirds our lofty standard of living? Take, for instance, the fast-food drive-thru, a classically American institution. I think Mr. Colin, a Californian unhappy with his town's decision to halt the construction of new drive-thrus, puts the case eloquently:
[N]ot everyone is happy with the ordinance.
"They ought to put in more drive-throughs, not stop them," said Isaac Colin immediately after ordering burgers and fries for himself and his wife, Christine, at the Baldwin Park In-N-Out. "It's a waste of time getting out of your car, finding a parking spot, going in, ordering your food."
Indeed. The process of sitting down to a meal in a restaurant—with its need for preparation, speaking to servers, conversing with one's table-mates, and countless other nuisances that have nothing whatever to do with the act of fork-lifting meat into one's gullet—is an utter waste of precious time and resources. The invention of (and national passion for) the drive-thru is a remarkable embodiment of the American belief that the environmental and unproductive contexts within which the satisfaction of human needs takes place, which benighted Europeans and Canadians tend to think of as "living", are really just needless excrescences that delay and frustrate the things that matter. Why complicate the act of chewing and swallowing with adventitious distractions that pull the actor out of the experience of eating and push him into the alleged "reality" of the space-time continuum and the existence of other human beings?
No. I'm really quite fond of America, especially of its desperate need to have others be fond of it—arguably its most adorable trait—and, to prove it, I hereby offer a list (not entirely exhaustive) of Americans I like. Here we go:
Americans I Like:
Described accurately by one of America's first serious military historians as the most brilliant soldier of the Continental army, Arnold has been vilified as a "traitor" by American chauvinists ever since he surrendered West Point to Crown forces in 1780, despite the fact that there was not, at the time, a constitutionally embodied American nation to be a traitor to (and would not be until the formal adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1787). Ironically, it was Arnold who found himself victimised by treachery after masterminding and executing some of the colonists' most glorious victories, being made the target of innumerable fraudulent allegations by jealous co-colonists (and consequently repeatedly passed over by Congress for well-earned promotions). So far from being a traitor, Arnold has always seemed to me to be the one colonial general (who just happened to be also the best) who came, too late, to his senses.
Shortly before finding sanctuary in British North America, Arnold led a disastrous assault upon it during the first American invasion of Canada, a generation before the War of 1812. He was defeated by Sir Guy Carleton, later to become British North America's first governor.
Webster is one of a handful of truly great American statesmen. Known widely as the co-author of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty that fixed our eastern border, he is rather less widely known as the inspiration for Abraham Lincoln's famous aspirational definition of the U.S. executive as a "government of the people, by the people, for the people."
His doomed effort to prevent Southern secession late in his career has unfortunately overshadowed his far nobler struggle against James Madison's ruinous war against British North America. So passionate was his opposition to the war and so determined was his view that it violated justice, common sense, and the constitutional rights of the New England states whose economies were brought to the verge of collapse as a consequence of it, he risked reputation and career by joining the Rockingham Convention and drafting a report to the president on its behalf that warned of Northern secession from the union if the war continued.
Webster is one of the few American statesmen (perhaps the only one) who managed to gain national reknown and prestige through a principled opposition to an unjust war, a feat unthinkable in America today, where grovelling assent to the unconstitutional outrage of presidential wars of choice has become a normative ethos.
Webster's Rockingham Convention and the related Hartford Convention represented the first serious secessionist movement in American history. The Federalist Party, the de facto political sponsor of the conventions, was destroyed at the conclusion of the war because of its "treasonous" anti-war initiatives. The destruction of the party occurred under mainly Southern pressure, as Jeffersonian principles were strongest there. Ironically, those same Jeffersonian principles would lead Southerners to initiate their own secessionist movement forty-five years later.
You'll never see Spielberg or Michael Bay direct a movie about John Brown. Americans love freedom fighters and noble martyrs, as long as they're killing Europeans, Commies or Arabs. I guess the story of an American being hanged by his government for trying to liberate fellow human beings from bondage and thus help drag the U.S. into a state of civilisation that had been reached by the rest of the West for generations just isn't going to sell much popcorn in Midwestern Cineplexes.
That's a shame, because Brown is one of the most fascinating men America has ever produced. He was an abolitionist, but attacking an American armoury would have been enough to assure Brown a spot on this list, quite regardless of his cause. Given the virulence of America's belligerent attitude towards Canada during the mid-1800's, Brown's act of reducing America's capacity to wage war (however slightly) should make him a Canadian hero.
Brown often visited Canada while recruiting and fundraising. The fateful raid on Harpers Ferry was planned and financed in Canada, and a Canadian convention organised by Brown shortly before the mission capped its deliberations by composing an alternative American constitution.
Of all the American presidents who've presided over an increasingly messianic populace, an inveterately imperialist military establishment, and an avaricious financial elite, only one has had enough integrity and intestinal fortitude to refuse the gift of a new colony delivered on a silver platter by U.S. expansionists.
In 1893, a clutch of American adventurers and businessmen overthrew Hawaii's last monarch, Queen Liliʻuokalani, and demanded that her realm be immediately annexed to the United States. Cleveland refused to ratify this sham and reminded an astonished nation that there was not a shred of evidence that the native Hawaiians actually wanted to become Americans, in a remarkable, unprecedented and never-to-be-repeated gesture of presidential respect for the opinions and interests of those tragically bereft of American citizenship. His decision would later be reversed, as history records, by a president more thoroughly versed in the American understanding of "freedom".
Fated to relative obscurity for his refusal to espouse the Modernist aesthetic of the Eliot-Pound school (thus, fated to remain obscure for his refusal to be obscure), Jeffers is nevertheless the quintessential American writer, no less for his commitment to the ethos of the wilderness than for his hauntingly beautiful meditations on the desolation wrought by the pressure of colossal impersonal forces upon the 20th-century soul.
Just as his reputation began to blossom in the 1920's, at which time he was California's unofficial poet laureate, Jeffers made the fatal mistake of sounding like he took his nation's founding values seriously and publicly denounced the causes and consequences of American expansionism. At first considered merely crankish, these views cost him dearly during America's involvement in the Second War World, which Jeffers believed to be ethically indistinguishable from U.S. imperialist adventures throughout the preceding century. His reputation never recovered.
The nature of American reaction to Jeffers may be understood through a glance at some of his work, very little of which, I can assure you, has found a comfy niche in American high-school anthologies. You don't find your way onto Hummer-borne bumper stickers by opining that "America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire," though his assertion that "corruption never has been compulsory" seems like a keeper to me.
Widely regarded as the world's most important living intellectual (a perhaps deceptively modest achievement when your competition includes meretricious charlatans like Christopher Hitchens), Chomsky is undoubtedly the closest the Anglo-American world as come to producing someone of Bertrand Russell's stature since, well...the death of Bertrand Russell.
For close to five decades, Chomsky has been an unyielding expounder of the blindingly obvious—that America, while in many ways the freest nation in the world, is also among the most violent and corrupt, with a foreign policy that traduces America's announced principles in virtually every detail. For this, Chomsky and his exhaustively researched perspectives have been unofficially banned from mainstream American media, while the imbecile Ann Coulter gleefully carries the lip marks of America's network elite on her buttocks whenever she wishes to spew her delusional rantings over the airwaves.
Manufacturing Consent, the movie that threatened to make Chomsky a household name among the literate bourgeoisie in the early '90s, was a Canadian production. It's still the most successful Canadian documentary ever made. Chomsky, ever the uncompromising critic, naturally considers the film a failure, largely because it threatened to make Chomsky a household name among the literate bourgeoisie.
David Lee Roth:
Arguably the most decadent of the L.A. party-metal bands that came of age in the Eighties, Van Halen spent its Roth-led years cutting a swath of deflowered virgins, annihilated hotel rooms, and nouveau riche cocaine dealers that ripped through every major city in North America.
The Roth of the mid-80's was perhaps the most completely realized icon of the American dream, insofar as he managed to embody the features (even the contradictory ones) that serve to make America a unique civilisation. Jewish (thus an outsider) yet blond (thus an insider), self-destructive (thus lawless) yet beautiful and athletic (thus resilient and powerful), Roth captured the nihilism of America's love of the misfit rebel with a hedonistic clarity unmatched by any rock star before or since. True, we had already seen Jim Morrisson and Iggy Pop, but there had always been something rather too European about them, a slight bookishness, an undisguised appeal to the highbrow: one actually had to have some scope of literary allusion to know where Morrisson got the name of his band or where Pop stole the title of an album.
With Roth, one never got anything more than the sharp outline of a tumescent cock snaking in bas relief across a painfully tight pair of spandex leotards. Roth's appeal was purely bestial, without the pretension to hippie chic that, in the likes of Mick Jagger, Robert Plant and David Bowie, risked introducing just a soupçon of the intellectual into the sex.
Van Halen eschewed the ornamental tangents, such as Mötley Crüe's toy Satanism, that conferred extra dimensions to their contemporaries' personae, keeping the focus on the hard dick, a key American totem. David Lee Roth wasn't about serving Lucifer or rebelling against authority or feeding starving Africans. He was all about chugging a case of Bud before banging Betty in the backseat of the Mustang, which Americans wisely suspect is far ahead of the Bill of Rights and reliable access to Walmart on the list of things the typical young Third-World male covets when he dreams about America.
In contrast to his bubble-headed image, Roth is actually whip-smart and has authored what is considered one of the best autobiographies in its sub-genre, Crazy from the Heat. I've read it and can attest to its page-turningness.
Just for fun, here are the boys in their prime, playing an excellent version of "Unchained" whilst touring their criminally underrated Fair Warning album in 1981. C'mon. Everybody up!
Harper makes this case far more persuasively than I ever could.
1) Play on the adjective "Red" (i.e. "Red Tory"), indicating espousal of Disraelian/ Churchillian Tory democracy;
2) Pun on "to dread" (i.e. "to stand aghast at"), the author's disposition towards the current "Conservative" Party;
3) Pun on "dreads" (i.e. "dreadlocks"), referring to the Caribbean half of the author's ethnic heritage.