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

By Mark Wegierski
web posted July 9, 2007

Is there a future for conservatism in Canada – or elsewhere?

One might well ask today what the future role of "true toryism" -- as a grouping within the broader Conservative Party, or simply as a residual tendency among considerable numbers of the Canadian population -- is to be? Perhaps it can function as a helpful signpost. Looking at it just from the standpoint of party strategy, it could perhaps help the Conservative Party avoid the many mistakes of Brian Mulroney, of imitating the worst tendencies of the current-day Liberal and New Democratic parties.

It can also endeavour to point out more generally to Canadian society, the perils attending the creation of a late capitalist economy driven by consumption and "irrational exuberance" -- rather than hard work, honesty, thrift and sobriety [1]. The late capitalist economy is like that frequently seen in big-city America, with all of its attendant social disintegration and decay. Do Canadians really want Toronto to fully become "New York North"? Indeed, how long can the multidimensional undermining of "peace, order, and good government" go on in Canada, before our big cities become "just like those in America." [2]
 
In a more hopeful mode, the future role of genuine conservatism in Canada could be seen as nothing less than a restoration of a truly meaningful social and cultural existence to Canada. When one is confronted today by the sometimes hysterical left-liberal and left-wing responses to the slightest, supposed "move to the right", one would do well to remember what conservatism at its best really stands for and believes -- what might be called conservatism properly understood.

As one contemplates the spiralling crime-rates in the cities; the enormous plague of illicit drugs; the attenuation of real family life; the rape of the environment for the sake of ever more superfluous material luxuries; the near-destruction of all real religion and culture; and the high degree of anomie and meaninglessness of most people's existence in much of both Canada and America -- as well as the million or so unsolved world problems, each of which could be potentially disastrous to humankind as a whole -- one should try to keep in mind the real message and hope of genuine conservatism, of the wasteland redeemed.

It may be that the entire modern age is a huge trial for all humanity, a descent into a vast abyss, yet another form of the primordial battle between Order and Chaos, which we can emerge out of only after utmost struggle, but on a higher and better plane, in which Humanity and Technology, as well as the Individual and Society, will be in balanced harmony.

Solzhenitsyn writes:

"If the world has not approached its end, it has reached a major watershed in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will demand from us a spiritual blaze; we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life, where our physical nature will not be cursed, as in the Middle Ages, but even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon, as in the Modern Era.

The ascension is similar to climbing onto the next anthropological stage. No one on Earth has any other way left but -- upward."

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, A World Split Apart: Commencement Address Delivered at Harvard University, June 8, 1978, (New York: Harper & Row), p. 61.

Canada's preeminent traditionalist thinker, George Parkin Grant, echoes Solzhenitsyn:

"What I am saying is that the great job in Canada does not lie in further economic expansion and economic progress, but in trying to bring quality and beauty of existence into that technological world -- to try and make it a place where richness of life may be discovered."

Canadian Political Thought, H.D. Forbes (ed.); George Parkin Grant, "The Minds of Men in the Atomic Age." (Address to Couchiching Conference, 1955), p. 289.

It remains to be seen whether these noble ideals could serve as the core of a social and political movement that would fight for the national, cultural, and social survival of Canada, in the context of a broader political coalition, in an increasingly dystopic climate.

As patriotic Canadians and simply as human beings, such persons would hope to lead the way into a better world than that predicted in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Ridley Scott's haunting dark-future movie, Blade Runner (loosely based on Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange (filmed audaciously by Stanley Kubrick), George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, or Jean Raspail's Camp of the Saints.

Canada, which could be seen as a "tory-touched fragment" trapped in the late-modern world, could perhaps play some role in the evolution to the saving, truly "post-modern" -- rather than merely "hyper-modern" – path of world-historical development [3].

If it is true, as Robertson Davies has said, that "the numinous has gone out of Canada" -- that Canada really is only a country of petty bureaucrats, whining social workers, and branch-plant managers -- then it is up to serious, committed traditionalists to fight for at least one chance to restore and revive the once-great Dominion of Canada --- from sea even unto sea -- the true North, strong and free! ESR

Footnotes:

[1] Habits of diligence and good work can be applied -- with positive results accruing to the society and the individual -- to any honest occupation or activity. For the average person today, the main punishment for the lack of thrift is the quick falling into unmanageable debt, especially credit card debt – when one simply cannot resist all those consumerist satisfactions. It should also be added that, with all due respect to the dignity of hard physical labour, seriously and conscientiously undertaken art and writing endeavours, for example, also impose high demands on their practitioners. Even in earlier times, it can be seen that many aristocrats in Europe did not typically abandon themselves over to complete ease, self-indulgence, and decadence. It's also obvious that the real entrepreneur does do serious, demanding work. (The aristocratic man of commerce is frequently seen in Ayn Rand's writing.) But one must still wonder about the origins of some of today's truly vast business fortunes that appear as being utterly beyond any human being's capability to achieve without previously having very high-level contacts, or possibly trampling over a long series of colleagues, competitors, subordinates, and workers, or possibly requiring some activities of considerably to very highly questionable honesty and legality. It can also be seen that the financial rewards of many celebrity figures (which are frequently far greater than those of the more average corporate CEO) appear wildly incommensurate to the frequently deconstructive social impact and frequently hyper-decadent lifestyles of typical celebrities.

[2] Ironically, it is claimed by some observers that there has in recent years been a considerable "renaissance" in certain American cities, especially New York – but many large Canadian cities today appear to be moving along a seemingly ineluctable trajectory that may combine multifarious aspects of some of the very worst features of various American cities. Despite its vast hinterland regions, Canada is more comparatively urbanized than the United States – and has basically three huge megalopolises  – Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. So the texture of social and cultural life in those cities can have considerably more impact on the country as a whole. To make the argument in its most drastic form, it could be said that the values and lifestyles of a few hyper-trendy and/or "grungy" neighbourhoods in Toronto are imposed on the country as a whole. As had been noted earlier, the destruction of the so-called "Tory Toronto" was one of the foremost goals of the post-Sixties' Liberal Party.

[3] It should be well noted that the distinction between "post-modern" and "hyper-modern" used here is a highly eclectic terminology. The term "post-modern" or "postmodern" today usually signifies the piling onto Western societies of ever more extreme forms of social liberalism and the exaltation of the allegedly unlimited plasticity of human life, society, and existence. One would like to nevertheless note the just recently released book, provocatively titled, The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk, by Gerald J. Russello (University of Missouri Press) – Russell Kirk being one of the leading American traditionalist thinkers. So there are clearly various interpretations of the term possible. The use of the term "hyper-modern" is meant to accentuate the notion that most of the social, cultural, and intellectual excesses of the post-Sixties' period are largely a continuation of what could be seen as the worst tendencies of modernity itself. Traditionalist conservatism has identified this as the unceasing, unrelenting urge to tear down, to destroy, to deconstruct, to smash to bits any notions of what conservatism considers as the normative, the decent, and the natural. The idea of the "post-modern" -- as specifically deployed here -- recognizes that there are of course better aspects of modernity such as the unquestionable benefits of science and technology, and the classical liberal freedoms, that cannot be discarded on the path to the hoped-for social and cultural renewal. The idea of the "post-modern" – as specifically deployed here -- acknowledges that society is continuing to evolve, but must eventually begin to move to the new synthesis so eloquently suggested by Solzhenitsyn. The dangers of slipping into various apocalyptic-dystopic situations – whether under the impact of increasing "soft totalitarianism" combined with "the new illiteracy" – or because of the possible collapse of most Western societies as a result of various challenges from outside the West – are very great. It shall indeed be a very perilous passageway to a better world – if it can at all be made.

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.

 

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