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The Tory tradition in Canada from the 1980s to today – Part Three

By Mark Wegierski
web posted June 11, 2007

The notion of Canada ever being a more conservative society than America has largely disappeared from the perception of both the general public and the media and intellectual elites of Canada. Yet, until the 1960s, it could be argued that Canada was indeed a more substantively conservative society. In contrast to the United States, however, Canada was almost always in its history characterized by a far greater degree of "niceness" and politeness than America, mostly avoiding such aspects of American society as racism and excessive commercialism. It is not too popular today to say that the roots of Canadian politeness may actually lie in an earlier social conservatism. The attempts by the current-day "politically correct" to "demonize" Canada's past and even some current-day realities would be outrightly ridiculous if they were not so deeply entrenched now among the Canadian intellectual and media elites. One would want to laugh at "politically correct" persons who claim to be Canadian nationalists, while characterizing Canada historically, and to some extent even today, as a presumed nexus of "white evil." Nothing confident, socially healthy, or truly tolerant can be built on the ground of ever more pronounced self-hatred.

It should also be considered that Canadians have been typified as being deferential to authority. In the pre-1960s, when the "traditionalist-centrist consensus" was in place, this contributed to making Canada more socially-conservative. However, once the ruling paradigm was changed from the top, this has meant that many Canadians have become among the most ardent exponents of "political-correctness" in the world. [1]

It should be remembered that, insofar as America remained more liberal than Canada, the Liberal Party pushed for "Free Trade", increased contacts with the United States, and advocated continentalism (typified by Frank Underhill and, to some extent, Mackenzie King). Now, when America appears to be more conservative than Canada (owing to a variety of reasons), the Liberal Party has suddenly discovered what it calls Canadian nationalism (what is called "the unique socially-compassionate political culture of Canada").

What is also somewhat ironic is that there has apparently occurred a similar dialectical "flip" between the United States and Europe, as the United States and Canada. It has been argued that America today (frequently characterized by its willingness to exercise power) is a considerably more conservative society than those seen in Europe, and especially in the Western European countries (characterized as a so-called "postmodern paradise"). [2]

However, it could be argued that Canada, America, and the European Union are today, to a large extent, just three "super-states" of somewhat different forms of the "managerial-therapeutic regime."  What appears to have occurred is the near-total reconstruction of what it means to be a "European", an "American", and a "Canadian" today.

It is an interesting question which of those societies is best equipped to weather the coming storm of the conflict with Islamic extremists, the challenge of such powers as China and India, and the burgeoning rise of what was during the Cold War named the Third World. It's possible to argue that what remains of Western civilization will mostly become localized in Eastern Europe [3] and Russia. Considering that possible context, the reconciliation of the Western, Eastern, and Southern Slavic nations may become a matter of world-historical importance.

Canadian nationalism has historically manifested itself though two main communal identities, the British and the French. It could be argued that what is found today in the Liberal and New Democratic Parties is an advanced and elaborate form of "doublethink" -- simultaneously embracing Canadian "nationalism" (defined in an almost entirely liberal and left-wing way), and the excesses of multiculturalism, which tend to vitiate any sense of real Canadian identity.

What is nationalism? One of the more usual definitions of the goals of nationalism is in terms of an effective foreign policy; a large and well-equipped military; and evocative traditional state-symbols and institutions, which strongly bind the nation together. One might well ask what sort of nationalism have the Liberals given Canada since the 1960s? It could be seen as gutless neutralism, practical disarmament, and the undermining of almost all traditional symbols and institutions.

It may not be a good sign for the condition of Canada or Quebec that considerable numbers of Quebecois nationalists think they can separate from Canada  – and leave the military under Canadian jurisdiction! It is one of most elementary concepts in politics that an independent state must maintain the monopoly on the use of force within its boundaries. If that degree of "postmodern" ambiguity is possible today on the part of some Quebecois nationalists, surely there can be prospects for various other, far less drastic, conditions of ambiguity that will allow Quebec to remain part of Canada. This seems to be what Mario Dumont and the ADQ are working towards.

A corollary of a more robust nationalism is what has been mentioned in an earlier article: cultural sovereignty. The absurdity of those who typically call themselves Canadian nationalists today, is highlighted by their definition of the term "cultural sovereignty" --  which they still sometimes use. They mean to refer to almost any thing produced by what have been called Canada's "cultural industries." Yet the arbiters of current-day Canadian culture have almost entirely cut themselves off from Canada's more authentic roots. It could be argued that the current-day Canadian so-called "high culture" – as far as its natively English-speaking Canadian component -- has virtually no authentic existence outside of a few, narrow, mostly Toronto- and Vancouver-based "art cliques." Precisely because it has cut itself off from its roots, this inauthentic culture simply has to be heavily subsidized by all levels of government.

At the same time, it could be argued that there is now virtually one unified "North American" (U.S. and Canada) pop-culture, driven mostly by Hollywood. The mavens of Canadian culture today usually think that "the response" to Hollywood – insofar as they feel the need to differentiate themselves from America -- is to be even more antinomian, even more "edgy", even more "politically-correct", than Hollywood. Thus, today's typical Canadian books, visual and plastic art, public architecture, plays, popular music, television shows, and news programs could be characterized as quite similar to America's – only worse (from the standpoint of a more traditional view of Canadian culture).

The CBC has made a prominent television special celebrating Louis Riel (whom it is rather difficult to see as a real Canadian hero), yet there has never been a major epic movie or television special made about Sir Isaac Brock, who died saving this country from an American invasion. It is currently little known that the campaigns of Sir Isaac Brock and his Indian ally, Tecumseh [4] are studied to this day as examples of military achievement. (Ironically, it's possible that those achievements are better known to Americans, especially those studying military history, than to Canadians.) And then they wonder at the CBC why Canadian culture is on the verge of disappearing. ESR

Footnotes:

[1] A similar point has been made in a recent column of Ted Byfield in Western Standard ("A Society of Yes Men." June 4, 2007, p.14). He also makes the point that the current-day elites in Canada are still mostly WASPs. Presumably the WASP elites still remain prominent because they are the most ultra-politically-correct grouping.
 
[2] This argument was probably most prominently made by Robert Kagan, in his book Of  Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.

[3] The term "Eastern Europe", although disliked by considerable numbers of people living in those countries, continues to persist to a large extent. The dividing line between Western and Eastern Europe is said, according to some historians, to run roughly from Szczecin on the Baltic Sea to Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. It can be seen that many of the Eastern European countries are resisting the trends to de-nationalization today. Thus, what is considered the supposed "backwardness" and "parochialism" of those countries (from the standpoint of "politically correct" left-liberalism) may indeed be their greatest strength for the future. Why should they adopt the worst aspects of such Western European societies as Holland? 

[4] The extent to which many of the Aboriginal peoples were once friendly to the British Crown has now been almost entirely forgotten.

To be continued next week.

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.

 

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