In Canada, We’ve Succumbed to Make-Believe

Commentary Supporters of the COVID convoys are given to overheated claims that Canada has become despotic, even fascist. But the actual course of the protest suggests a very different danger, namely anarchy. Despite their excessive ambitions and meddlings, governments in Canada are not strong. They can barely lift anything. What is striking about the so-called “siege” of Ottawa isn’t a Nazi riot overpowering authority. It’s that the police were incapable of acting or even realizing it. And once politicians decided to crack down, all we got for days was thunderous rhetorical volleys. One journalist I rarely agree with tweeted Feb. 14: “Just as hope is not a strategy, a meeting isn’t a plan. I am desperate to hear something from all governments today that is more than another (I took the swear word out) meeting.” Now Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act. But it too falls into the category of empty gesture because there is no “emergency” anywhere in the country, or indeed a situation of any sort that could not have been dealt with easily using the powers and resources already available to various governments. There’s a strange “legacy media” taboo about mentioning colleagues’ work even favourably, let alone critically. But since this column was prompted by fellow National Post writer Matt Gurney’s ideas, I might as well pinch his words too: “The protests/blockades are doing to our police, domestic security agencies and our politicians generally what COVID did to our hospitals and LTCs: revealed them as the sitting duck paper tigers a lot of people knew they were but ignored because fixes were hard and costly.” Yes, Canadian governments get away with imposing endless foolish and irritating rules on us, from deck railings to COVID. But not because they are jack-booted. Because the way to get 23 Canadians out of a swimming pool is to say “Hey, you Canadians, out of the swimming pool.” It calls to mind, or would if people hadn’t attended government schools, Tocqueville’s warning about a state that “covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; … it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies …” The Battle of the Ambassador Bridge was no battle at all, despite upper-crust former Ontario Premier Bob Rae hallucinating a “well armed assault.” But how did it take so long to impose order? We barely seem to have real governments at all. Or media. Most journalists have gone from questioning authority to cheerleading for it, from climate to gender to COVID, and when a handful of agitated protesters denounced Canada as fascist, they blared as one that the protesters wanted fascism, not because there were any grounds for thinking so but because it made them feel and sound virtuous. So how did we get into a situation where both sides call each other Nazis but neither can throw a punch? For decades now history, geography, and circumstance have allowed the West generally and Canada in particular to live in a fantasy world. It’s not just politicians banging on about imaginary days of this or that while refusing to say “Christmas.” It’s “critical race theory” storming castles of savage oppression in the most open, tolerant societies the world has ever seen. G.K. Chesterton warned 101 years ago: “We must see these things objectively, as we do a tree; and understand that they exist whether we like them or not. We must not try and turn them into something different by the mere exercise of our own minds, as if we were witches.” Instead, we say budgets balance themselves, and when they don’t we print money and call it wealth. Commentators on Twitter defend decency without making any effort to be civil or informed. The prime minister spews about “the antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, homophobia, and transphobia that we’ve seen on display in Ottawa over the past number of days” then immediately adds, “Together, let’s keep working to make Canada more inclusive.” It’s not surprising after decades of deconstructionist academics scoffing “What is truth?” that we no longer believe in it. We conjure 63 new genders into existence by going “xi,” and dissolve the two original ones. We hose back aggressors with “diplomatic pressure” but move troops away from threatened Ukraine, not toward it, to “ensure the safety of Canadian personnel,” as if armies existed to protect themselves, not civilians. Let me be clear that the idea of Canada as repressive wasn’t invented by some guy in a truck. Uberpundit Jeffrey Simpson wrote “The Friendly Dictatorship” about Jean Chrétien back in 2001. And fascist symbols at protests are old news. What do you think the Occupy movement said about the authorities? Or all those folks going on about a “settler state”? But it used to be a fringe view that hallucinations were real. Now it’s mainstream.

In Canada, We’ve Succumbed to Make-Believe

Commentary

Supporters of the COVID convoys are given to overheated claims that Canada has become despotic, even fascist. But the actual course of the protest suggests a very different danger, namely anarchy. Despite their excessive ambitions and meddlings, governments in Canada are not strong. They can barely lift anything.

What is striking about the so-called “siege” of Ottawa isn’t a Nazi riot overpowering authority. It’s that the police were incapable of acting or even realizing it. And once politicians decided to crack down, all we got for days was thunderous rhetorical volleys. One journalist I rarely agree with tweeted Feb. 14: “Just as hope is not a strategy, a meeting isn’t a plan. I am desperate to hear something from all governments today that is more than another (I took the swear word out) meeting.”

Now Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act. But it too falls into the category of empty gesture because there is no “emergency” anywhere in the country, or indeed a situation of any sort that could not have been dealt with easily using the powers and resources already available to various governments.

There’s a strange “legacy media” taboo about mentioning colleagues’ work even favourably, let alone critically. But since this column was prompted by fellow National Post writer Matt Gurney’s ideas, I might as well pinch his words too: “The protests/blockades are doing to our police, domestic security agencies and our politicians generally what COVID did to our hospitals and LTCs: revealed them as the sitting duck paper tigers a lot of people knew they were but ignored because fixes were hard and costly.”

Yes, Canadian governments get away with imposing endless foolish and irritating rules on us, from deck railings to COVID. But not because they are jack-booted. Because the way to get 23 Canadians out of a swimming pool is to say “Hey, you Canadians, out of the swimming pool.”

It calls to mind, or would if people hadn’t attended government schools, Tocqueville’s warning about a state that “covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; … it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies …”

The Battle of the Ambassador Bridge was no battle at all, despite upper-crust former Ontario Premier Bob Rae hallucinating a “well armed assault.” But how did it take so long to impose order? We barely seem to have real governments at all. Or media. Most journalists have gone from questioning authority to cheerleading for it, from climate to gender to COVID, and when a handful of agitated protesters denounced Canada as fascist, they blared as one that the protesters wanted fascism, not because there were any grounds for thinking so but because it made them feel and sound virtuous.

So how did we get into a situation where both sides call each other Nazis but neither can throw a punch?

For decades now history, geography, and circumstance have allowed the West generally and Canada in particular to live in a fantasy world. It’s not just politicians banging on about imaginary days of this or that while refusing to say “Christmas.” It’s “critical race theory” storming castles of savage oppression in the most open, tolerant societies the world has ever seen.

G.K. Chesterton warned 101 years ago: “We must see these things objectively, as we do a tree; and understand that they exist whether we like them or not. We must not try and turn them into something different by the mere exercise of our own minds, as if we were witches.” Instead, we say budgets balance themselves, and when they don’t we print money and call it wealth. Commentators on Twitter defend decency without making any effort to be civil or informed. The prime minister spews about “the antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, homophobia, and transphobia that we’ve seen on display in Ottawa over the past number of days” then immediately adds, “Together, let’s keep working to make Canada more inclusive.”

It’s not surprising after decades of deconstructionist academics scoffing “What is truth?” that we no longer believe in it. We conjure 63 new genders into existence by going “xi,” and dissolve the two original ones. We hose back aggressors with “diplomatic pressure” but move troops away from threatened Ukraine, not toward it, to “ensure the safety of Canadian personnel,” as if armies existed to protect themselves, not civilians.

Let me be clear that the idea of Canada as repressive wasn’t invented by some guy in a truck. Uberpundit Jeffrey Simpson wrote “The Friendly Dictatorship” about Jean Chrétien back in 2001. And fascist symbols at protests are old news. What do you think the Occupy movement said about the authorities? Or all those folks going on about a “settler state”? But it used to be a fringe view that hallucinations were real. Now it’s mainstream. And it’s not good, especially when Kipling’s “Gods of the Copybook Headings” return.

As Chesterton also warned, anarchy in the intellect brings anarchy in the Commonwealth. And we’re perilously close.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”