Revanchist Review

Friday, July 30, 2004

Gertrude Himmelfarb on Religion as a Public Good

This thought provoking piece is from the November 2003 issue of First Things, p.83

I believe she makes an important point that "the separation of church and state does not require a comparable separation of religion and society"

John Richard Neuhaus writes: "After the 1968 election, Milton Himmelfarb wrote that Jews live like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans. Thirty-two years later, in the election of 2000, Jews were still a little ahead of Hispanics in their support for the Democrats. But September 11, 2002 changed many things, says Milton’s formidable sister, Gertrude Himmelfarb, in an essay in an important new book, Religion as a Public Good: Jews and Other Americans on Religion in the Public Square (Rowan & Littlefield).

She writes: “This is the lesson that all of us, Jews and non-Jews, may learn from recent history: that religion is, by and large, a force for good, and that it does not become less good when it emerges from the home and temple and assumes its rightful place in society. Jews in particular have learned a great deal from the Bush Administration and from the President himself. We are no longer so fearful of the rhetoric of religion, which comes naturally to a benign and tolerant President, or, for that matter, of the rhetoric of morality (the ‘axis of evil’), which was so appropriate a response to the events of 9/11. Nor are we so fearful of the conservatives, who have understood, as many liberals have not, the intimate relationship between America’s War against Terrorism and Israel’s. Nor are we so fearful of the evangelicals who have been among Israel’s staunchest defenders. The nature of public discourse has changed, and it will inevitably affect our attitudes toward such issues as faith-based initiatives, or prayers in schools, or school vouchers. There are difficult administrative and constitutional problems to address in all of these cases. But however they are resolved, we are already, in a sense, ahead of the game. The Jewish religion is no longer bound by the liberal credo. More and more Jews have begun to recognize that the separation of church and state does not require a comparable separation of religion and society. There may even come a time when Jewish women will no longer feel that the ‘right of choice’ (that is, the unrestricted right of abortion) is their principle article of religious faith. 9/11 has called into question a good many of the old verities and taboos, not only about foreign policy but about domestic and cultural affairs as well.” Gertrude Himmelfarb concludes her essay by admitting that she is writing in one of “my more optimistic moments.”

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Intellectuals and Scholars

Intellectuals and Scholars

Bertrand Russell defined an intellectual as “a person who pretends to have more intellect than he has”.

Orestes Brownson defined a scholar as “as serious, robust, full grown man who feels that life is a serious affair and that he has a serious part to act in its eventful drama; and must therefore do his best to act well his part, so as to leave behind him, in the good he has done, a grateful remembrance of having been.”

Who would want to be an intellectual as opposed to a scholar using these definitions? A scholar is a reflective person and I long for the day when our university faculties will again be dominated by scholars and not by intellectuals.

I long for the day when scholars will be attracted to public service, where their reflections will translate into public policy.

I long for a judiciary dominated by scholars who would reflect upon the application of our laws from a perspective of scholarship rather than intellect.

When one discusses serious social thought in recent decades, one rarely turns to those who hold high political office.

Lionel Trilling describes the scholar politician I hope to see emerge from the current wasteland of Canadian and Western politics as: “One who does not have contempt, but love for the people—love which commands him to live and labour, and if need be to suffer for their redemption, but he never forgets that he is their instructor, their guide, their chief, not their echo, their slave, their tool."

This seems to me to be an eminently wise model to hold up; the reflective, loving scholar who commands respect and who is wise enough to be a ruler. With such men and women as leaders in our academies, our corporations, our political organizations, our governments, our church organizations, our families, our courts we might begin to reverse the slide brought on by our society’s il-considered embracement of humanitarianism.

This doyen of all “isms” has expunged individual responsibility from social theory and replaced it with sympathy and victim hood.

Let us raise up more scholars!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

A permanent feature of democracy, always and everywhere,is a tendency to suppress the claims of any kind of superiority, conventional or natural, essentially by denying that there is superiority, particularly with respect to ruling.– Allan Bloom – The Closing of the American Mind

I have recently been engaged in an exchange of emails with two friends – first initiated by me, I have no else to blame – concerning the blockbuster and critically acclaimed Palme D’Or winning movie, Fahrenheit 9/11. I have not seen the movie, but I have read at least a dozen reviews of the film from a cross section of both conservative and liberal publications, which in combination have touched upon every major episode in the movie. I have also discussed many details of the movie with some who have seen it including one of my correspondents.

It seems clear that ever since the November 2000 US election Michael Moore has been burning with a special indignation against the claims of George W. Bush to be the legitimate head of state. His latest movie is the product of that indignation and he has an unbridled hatred for his political rulers. As a friend put it “Moore is the typical aggressive liberal, restless and driven in his search for conservative hate objects of his own colour and culture – when they don’t adequately exist it is necessary for him to invent them.”

I have concluded it is not necessary for me to see the movie to have a valid, intellectually sound opinion with regard to its merits as a political and social commentary. My criticisms of the movie have nothing to do with its technical merits and I offer no commentary on those aspects of the movie. I have no quarrel with Moore the artist, only with Moore the propagandist masquerading as artist.

In defense of my right to have a valid and strongly held negative opinion of the movie and its maker without benefit of having viewed it, I offer these arguments:

• My principal objection to the movie concerns the many factual distortions and inaccuracies presented by Moore in order to score his politically motivated points, which if accepted by viewers would lead them to conclude that George Bush is ignorant (the many clips of his garbled syntax), corrupt (he stole the election from Al Gore, his links to Saudi oil money), incompetent (his 7 minute hiatus during the reading of My Pet Goat) , surrounded by incompetents (Wolfwitz’s spit job on his comb and Tom Ridge’s singing); perhaps even treasonous (the innuendo regarding the Bin-Laden family ties), and morally bankrupt (all of the above and more).

• The most likely result of Moore’s movie is to foster contempt and even hatred for George Bush, and his administration and even toward those like me who think Bush is badly and unfairly maligned for everything from his supposed low intellect to his faith. The agitated anti-Bush reaction of movie goers has been well documented.

• In a free country such as the US, Michael Moore enjoys the privilege of being able to hold and express a personal opinion concerning his President, which if held concerning an ordinary citizen would likely subject him to a libel and slander suit. Those who disagree with Moore need to exercise their same freedoms just as vigourously.

• I am confident that if I did see the movie I would indeed laugh at some of the comedic moments – the above ground bomb shelter, the parachute for people in tall buildings. I just don’t feel the need to spend $12 for the comic relief. I would also be moved by the scenes of death and maiming and the horrors of war. I hate war and have no need to be reminded of the terrible consequences of it in the form of human suffering, whether on the part of the soldiers, the innocent civilians or the anguished mothers and fathers of the victims.

• I am certain I would also feel anger at the skillful and manipulative manner in which Moore presents his argument using factual distortions, unfair innuendo, and outright lies; and I don’t need any anger in my life.

• To ask me to see this film in order to be able to justify my criticism of it as a propaganda piece, is like telling me I need to see a pornographic film in order to have an opinion of how degrading and damaging pornography is to both viewers and participants.

One of my correspondents offers that in Fahrenheit 9/11“Moore takes a set of serious issues and, by adding humor, makes them more accessible to people who do not get their news from the NY Times, 60 Minutes, or Meet the Press.”

Surely this proposition would be more believable if the serious issues were conveyed to the otherwise uninformed in a more even-handed, less mendacious way, thus encouraging them to think for themselves about these “serious issues”. Instead, Moore feeds on the already rampant bias of the popular press and Hollywood against George Bush and his administration, and presents a port-a-pret solution for them – Bush is a fool, a crook and he led his country into a terrible war for his own benefit. This hardly engenders serious discussion about such an important issue as how to respond to a clear and present threat by terrorist fanatics against the United States and its democratic allies, or how to bring to a conclusion an armed conflict that may well have been initiated too precipitously and based on flawed intelligence.

Of course serious issues should be made more accessible to the public, particularly during an election year. Fresh food and medication also should be accessible to all Americans, but if you deliver them open in the back of a filthy garbage truck in 90 degree heat, you should expect to be questioned about the efficacy of your assistance.

Rather than nurture a reflective response to what I concede to be serious issues, Moore’s approach sows the seeds of further ignorance and prejudice. Moore’s movies and his books are even more highly subscribed to in Europe than in the US. Studies are showing that the opinions of many European’s toward the United States are being shaped by Moore’s propaganda. Surely this is hardly a laughing matter.

My correspondent may be right. The dumbing-down of America may have made humour and satire the only means by which to get the attention of large numbers of Americans and Moore is tapping into his knowledge of current culture for serious purposes. I am less than sanguine about that proposition since Moore does not appear to offer any alternative solutions to the serious issues, which raises doubt as to his credibility as a satirist. He must not be a pacifist since he endorsed General Clark in his attempt to gain the Democratic nomination, and he criticizes the Bush administration for not sending enough troops into Afghanistan.

So I am left convinced that Moore is no more than a propagandist and a dangerous one because he hides behind his artistic licence to avoid criticism and he seeks to have his propaganda affect the outcome of a national election. This appears to me to be not unlike Albert Speer arguing he was merely exercising his architectural talents when he designed the elaborate settings for the Nuremberg rallies.

If those of us who are in the unpopular position of being voices of conservative reason remain silent – the product of the commercial and artistic success of Fahrenheit 9/11will not be reasoned debate but rather a miasma of ignorance, hatred, and prejudice.

And finally, in response to the comment from my correspondents that the vehemence of my opposition to what I call the Mooreing of America is disproportionate to the offence – after all no one will die as a result of Moore’s mendacity - I can only remind my readers of the slippery slope of accommodation and appeasement on the part of our intellectual elites beginning in the 1960’s with their capitulation to the anarchist incited student movements. Operating under the cover of legitimate protests against an unpopular war the anarchists succeeded in opening a fault line in much of the academic integrity of US and subsequently Canadian universities. Thus began the slide into the bondage of moral nihilism which is our present reality in Canada as well as the US. (Read Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind if you won’t take my word for it.)

Moore seems to me to be a new incarnation of the 60’s campus radical and I for one would rather stand up, resist him and tear down his Potemkin village of political propaganda posing as art, than stand idly by.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Letter to Vancouver Sun Editor

Barbara Yaffe is the national political columnist for the Vancouver Sun. She occasionally appears in the National Post. Today she wrote a particularly execrable piece, purportedly as an advisory column to Stephen Harper - as though she cares for his well-being.

I reproduce her column below, followed by my letter to the editor.

If you feel as I do why don't you dash off a letter to the Sun editor telling her not all Christians wild eyed zealots from Alberta!
Send it to:

The Christians are coming to 'help' Harper

Barbara Yaffe
Vancouver Sun

July 22, 2004

"An Alberta-based Christian group keen to become more involved in the political process could be the helpers-from-hell for the Conservative party.

At a time when Conservatives are hoping to foster a more mainstream image, Concerned Christians Canada Inc. is preparing to step up efforts to make its influence felt on the national scene.

The group (battle cry: Take Back Canada!) has just hired a public relations director.

The organization's CEO is Craig Chandler. In 2003, Mr. Chandler unsuccessfully sought the PC leadership, ultimately won by Peter MacKay, now deputy Conservative leader.

In a news release, Concerned Christians takes credit for helping Stephen Harper get elected as Conservative leader and calls its adherents to action.

"Christians have spent years on the sidelines, and take a look around. We must get off the pews and into public policy!" Mr. Chandler writes.

He describes CCC as "a political lobby group that was formed as a result of the moral decay in Canada." It was incorporated in 2001 with headquarters in Calgary.

"Our country is being ripped apart at its foundations . . . . We as Christians may not be of the world, but we live in the world and we must uphold God's laws and fight evil and injustice."

The release says a large war chest will be needed to "help get social conservatives elected to all levels of government. We need funds because, unlike the militant left, we do not feed at the public trough."

A prime goal of the group, with 400 members, is "to insure (sic) that the new Conservative party does not become another mushy middle Liberal party.

"Getting the [Alliance and PC] parties united and purging anti-Christians like Joe Clark, Andre Bachand, Brock Easton and Scott Brison among others was only a first step."

The next challenge, Mr. Chandler says, is to influence Conservative policies.

His group wants action that will strengthen the family, end taxpayer-supported abortion and lower taxes for families. Predictably, the group opposes gay marriage and gay adoption as well as Bill C-250, aimed at protecting gays from hate crimes.

CCC has been conducting "Scrap Bill C-250" town hall meetings across Canada, targeting the legislation introduced in 2002 by then-MP Svend Robinson, whom they describe as an "ultra left wing, socialist, homosexual NDP MP."

The group calls the bill "a moral gag law." It's organizing a petition on its website and hopes to present it to MPs this fall.

CCC pledges to get social conservatives elected to boards of local constituency associations and raise money so that socially conservative delegates can be sent to next year's Conservative policy convention.

This has to be the worst news the party has received since MP Randy White's outrageous diatribe against the courts surfaced the weekend before the June 28 election.

For Mr. Harper and his team, CCC is a disaster waiting to happen. Its rants will reinforce every fear non-believers from coast to coast hold about the freshly merged party.

Mr. Harper should agree to donate money to this group on condition they do not come within 1,000 km. of his MPs.

Mr. Chandler's organization does not represent Main Street. It appears stuck at 100 Huntley Street.

And it is disconcerting to hear a Christian group using language so intolerant of those who hold different views. Calling Joe Clark anti-Christian? Or Svend Robinson an ultra left-wing homosexual?

These family-values diehards aren't the voters Mr. Harper needs. He has their support and they have nowhere else to go. Rather, he must reach out to those who fear he's taking policy advice from the Christian right.

Trouble is, if this group is determined to infiltrate the party, there's not much he can do to stop them.

Best he get down on his knees and start praying to the Lord Almighty that these folks don't show up in droves at next year's policy convention."

My Letter:

Barbara Yaffe today launched another of her predictable obloquies at Christians and Conservatives. Laden with scare quotes – where would a liberal columnist be without scare quotes? – Ms. Yaffe constructs another distorted, rebarbative image of Canadian Christians as “family-values diehards” from 100 Huntley Street. Surely there are worse principles Canadians could be diehard about.

Ms. Yaffe is either ignorant of or simply ignores the reality that according to a November 2003 Ipsos-Reid poll “Canada is fundamentally a nation that believes in God. In fact, eight in ten (78%) Canadians say they believe in God, two-thirds (64%) definitely believe in God, and 66% of Canadians identify themselves as Christian. It seems Mr. Chandler has much to say that the majority of Canadians would not find repellent. Whether he might be less controversial in how he speaks his mind is a separate issue. Ms. Yaffe does not attack his tone, but the content of his speech all of which may well be true. For example would Svend Robinson ever deny being a left wing, socialist, homosexual, NDP MP who introduced Bill C-250? Do not many non-Christian Canadians also believe this is bad legislation and in fact a "moral gag law"?

Ms. Yaffe’s latest column is but another example of the failure of liberalism’s putative commitment to liberty since she seems incapable of tolerating the intolerant – that is those who make absolute claims for their beliefs – while freely touting her own secular code of belief.

Ben Buan
Vancouver, BC

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Picture Explained

There is no gilding the lily, I was fiddling about trying to figure out how I could post pictures to this site - the instructions say one can. I had no success yesterday and tried again today, when to my surprise hitting the send button worked. Now I need to figure out if I can do it again!

In the faint possibility that someone beyond my immediate family and my few friends might actually log on to this site, I thought a picture would at least dispel some misconceptions about me which my words may convey.

No stetson, no pot belly, no mullet,no big silver cross hanging round my neck, just reading glasses. One reader of my earlier emails thought I was an very angry Fillipino man. I detected a certain amount of relief when I met him in person by pure chance.

My hope is the photo will help readers who don't know me from forming any opinions of me based on anything other than my words; and that they would take the time to challenge me with regard to where they think I am in error.

Sitting in Honfleur
Ben in Honfleur

Oh, Canada - Chapter Two

A thoughtful correspondent in his early 20's had some interesting comments on my chapter on tolerance. First he observed the Canada depicted in the Ipsos-Reid poll bore no resemblance to the Canada he knows. He is right to the extent the Canada he knows is dominated by those of his age, and the demographic breakdown of the Ipsos-Reid poll shows that Canadians in his cohort are less likely to answer in the affirmative the various questions I reported on.

He remarked that he was amazed at the extent to which I believed faith in God and religious beliefs should play such a role in how I think and view certain issues.

"What people believed before Darwin's studies, electricity and the internet is all outdated don't you think? People and ideas change and grow", he added.

In a politely gentle way he was admonishing me to get with it old man, the world is evolving around you and you are standing still.

It caused me to reflect on the perspectives I had when I was in my early 20's, (after Darwin and electricity, but before the internet), and they weren't that much different from my young friend. As I told him, he should not think I stopped evolving when I turned 40. I was a liberal as recently as then so I have hardly stood still.

Youth seems naturally more attracted to the secular than the religious. We presently live in the era of the ascendancy of liberal secularism, where secular society can be proud of its different cultures and religions, but it makes it clear there must be a separation between the spiritual and the material, as between the private and the public.

What this liberal secularism is most interested in is the cultivation of tolerance, where everyone is free to pursue whatever he or she happens to believe. It results in a form of liberal neutrality where there is little real meaning to anything - what underlies the concept of justice or peace or liberty if there is no historic content, no definite end and no particular measure except tolerance?

Douglas Farrow, an Associate Professor at McGill has a thoughtul essay on this topic which I recommend to you and to which I am indebted for helping me put a face to the secularism confronting us in Canada and the West (the worldwide West not just Alberta and BC).

Farrow concludes that liberal secularism has taken on a religious nature of its own. "Its pluralism is a cover for hegemony. It has taken to heart that intolerance is the one thing which must not be tolerated--and learned to deploy this article against those with firm convictions about the good that differ from its own. This helps explain the fervour and ease with which liberal secularists attack those with strong religious convictions.

As for youth, it struggles more with its passion for individualism and its natural attitude of irreverence that sees little value in old ways. To the young 1982 is indeed a lifetime away, so what does it matter that our legislators made reference to the supremacy of God in the preamble to the Charter of Rights. We know better now.

I am less troubled by the attitudes of our youth, some of which will naturally change with time. Of greater concern is the powerful grip which this liberal secularism has put hold on Canada as a nation, and particularly upon the Liberals and the NDP. Paul Martin is 65 years old and ought to know better!

I close with this quote from John Derbyshire, a plain speaking British born and educated, naturalized American who has this to say on the issue of reverence:

"Reverence for the Flag, the Country, the Church, the School, the Family? But these are just human institutions staffed by ordinary fallible human beings, who frequently behave in ridiculous ways. What's to reverence? We seem to have actually lost some conceptual power, the power to see past individual persons to the institutions they represent. Perhaps this is the final triumph of individualism. There is of course, a case to be made for this great transformation. Those old folkways were not all benign. To an intelligent and imaginative young person-the weight of custom and tradition can be intolerably suffocating, the urge to kick against it, or escape from it, irresistible.

Still, when we escaped from all that, we at least understood that we had lost something, and this is a thing that the following generations do not know. "Why should I have to....? No reason, really, none that stands up to vigorous logical scrutiny. So don't if you don't feel like it. Those who know and care about nothing at all that is old, traditional or customary are adrift and aimless in a blank, nihilistic, hedonistic world, in which nothing matters much because everything is permitted."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Oh, Canada

A recent effort of mine to challenge the received wisdom of our bureaucrats and oligarchs.


“There are times when toleration becomes a vice, because it exceeds its proper sphere of mitigating struggle and, growing excessive, aims at the complete suppression of those contests which provide the stimulus to life.” Russell Kirk - The Conservative Mind

Tolerance: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own b : the act of allowing something

The capacity of Canadians to live with ambiguity if not pure contradiction leads me to examine the state of our collective national conscience. One of the few positive by-products of a federal election, dominated as it is by the distortions of the media, is the occasion it provides for Canadians to think about what it means to them to be Canadian. I leave to another time, the examination of the apparent shallowness of that thinking process. For the moment I wish only to examine one aspect of our Canadian persona which was a popular topic of discussion during the last election - our professed pride in and desire to be a tolerant nation.

The accepted definitions of tolerance emphasize its inherent passivity. To tolerate something is to allow it to exist even though you disagree with it. In the context of a state and its laws, one can characterize tolerance as the conscious decision to allow certain things which the state has the power to prevent.

In the context of our immigration policy, tolerance takes the form of the acceptance of a certain degree of “otherness” which immigrants bring with them in the paraphernalia of language, religion, and cultural practices. In 1982 Canada enshrined certain fundamental freedoms which we as a nation agreed we would preserve and protect. By so doing it was intended that citizens and immigrants alike would know what core values all Canadians present and future could confidently expect to be protected and tolerated.

Tolerance is something I demonstrate to another. It is not an inwardly directed device. I regulate myself by the use of self-control, not by being tolerant of myself. Similarly, Canada as a nation must know itself and regulate itself through the implementation and enforcement of laws. Canada as a nation exhibits tolerance outwardly to other nations, and internally to its citizens and those who seek to become citizens. How that tolerance is exercised is the responsibility of our legal institutions – our parliament and our judiciary - and they in turn must operate under the supremacy of those founding principles which define us.

These fundamental freedoms contained in the Charter of Rights are a) freedom of conscience and religion; b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and d) freedom of association.

I am convinced that most Canadians have forgotten or are simply ignorant of, the foundational principles and traditions which pre-date the Charter of Rights and which I argue are at the core of Canada’s identity as a nation. Those principles don’t need to be tolerated by us as Canadians, they are who we are, they define us, and without them we are not Canadian.

The core founding principle of our nation as set out in the preamble to the Charter of Rights reads: Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.

Canada is a nation founded upon principles that recognize a supreme God. We are a nation founded in the belief in the existence and supremacy of the transcendent, the immanent, that which is greater than us and even beyond our comprehension. These are powerful, radical and even controversial words in the context of the secular society we have allowed to develop. These words fly in the face of the relativists and moral nihilists who say there is no Truth, only individual truths. Nonetheless they are true.

As to the nature of the God under whose supremacy we declare ourselves to be, there can be no question but that it is the Christian God. An Ipsos-Reid survey conducted in 2000 revealed that sixty-nine percent of Canadians agree that “through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God provided the way for the forgiveness of my sins”. Seventy percent of Canadians believe Jesus is the divine Son of God, eighty-four percent of Canadians believe in God, and sixty-seven percent say their religious faith is important in their day to day life.

Despite this overwhelming evidence that the vast majority of Canadians believe in a supreme God, Canadians have permitted our desire to have a tolerant secular civil society lead to outcomes which are not only inconsistent with but repugnant to our foundational belief in that same supremacy.

Let me cite but one recent example, there are many others. Just last week, the Canadian Bible Society was told that it will no longer be permitted to make available to new Canadians at their citizenship ceremonies, bibles containing the Psalms and the New Testament. The practice is "inconsistent with Canada's promotion of multiculturalism" says a senior citizenship judge writing on behalf of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

This judge should be set straight. To deny the right of the Bible Society to distribute these Bibles is to deny these new immigrants the opportunity to understand the foundational principle upon which our nation and its laws exist. No one is forcing the new immigrants to take a Bible, but surely we must as a nation demonstrate enough confidence in our founding principle of being a nation under the supremacy of God, not only to declare that fact in our national anthem, but to offer a written record of the source of that belief to every new immigrant.

Tolerance has become a vice in Canada. Canada’s bureaucracy, its judiciary, its Liberal government, and certainly its press all seem intent on suppressing and even outright denying our core beliefs as Canadians. And it is all done under the guise of tolerance and protecting the “fundamental freedoms” of our minorities.

Tolerance has taken on the mantle of the superficial notion of the freedom to choose, and to choose again and again. This runs the danger of becoming unrecognizable from mere drift, a notion that seems well suited as a description of present day Canada.

Slow News Day at the Globe and Mail

I am no fan of the Globe and Mail for reasons too long to list in this posting. For those loyal to the self proclaimed "national newspaper", my comments on two of the columns in recent editions (the property manager for our building is kind enough to provide copies to its tenants) are not meant to be definitive of the level of journalism, only instructive.

Perhaps it was a slow summer day in the corridors of power but both Lysiane Gagnon (today) and Jeffrey Simpson (Saturday) had particularly fluffy excuses for commentaries befitting the esteemed positions they enjoy amongst the popular liberal intelligentsia.

Gagnon devoted an entire column to why an avowed BQ supporter friend of hers was turned off by Stephen Harper's answers or non-answers to one of those vapid surveys. You know the one - what is your favourite food, author, city, drink - as though any intelligent voter would allow the answers to dictate how she cast her vote. It seems the flippant answer Harper gave to the question, what is your favourite drink - grape juice - particularly incensed Ms. Gagnon's imbiber friend. Harper just didn't stack up to campari sipping Jack Layton.

After all this verbiage, delivered with no sense of irony, Gagnon concludes: "Stephen Harper didn't lose my friend's vote because of this. She's been voting routinely for the Bloc Québécois in all federal elections since 1993. But the way Mr. Harper handled the quiz put her off completely. She will never take a second look at what he might offer in terms of policies."

Would anyone so shallow know a policy if she saw one?

As for the cerebral Mr. Simpson, he could come up with nothing better for his Saturday column than a comedic attempt better suited for amateur hour in a church basement in St. Brieux, Saskatchewan
(I have starred in one, so I speak from painful experience).

You know the schtick. Uncle Fred from Gabriola calls nephew Jeff in Toronto the Great and chortles his grand idea for Ralph Klein and Alberta to buy BC so Ralph could golf all year round. Believe me it doesn't get any better, guns, grizzlies, stetson hats, lotus-eaters, he hardly omits any Western Canadian negative stereotype sure to get a laugh from his urbane Toronto readers.

Reading this makes one think Jeffrey must have been hunkered down with his Golden Sayings of Epictetus before he penned this risible effort. "Laughter should not be much, nor frequent, nor unrestrained" perfectly describes the reaction most Albertans and British Columbians would have to Simpson's column. Well perhaps not the arrivistes to Eastern culture,Ujjal Dosanjh and David Emerson as they try on their new trained seal suits and practice the subtle deferential tilt of the head expected of us westerners once on the hallowed grounds of Outaouais.

Simpson would have served his metier and his readership much better had he rather reflected on a more serious question posed by the first century Greek stoic: “The question at stake”, said Epictetus is no common one; it is this: “Are we in our senses, or are we not?”

Revanchism Revisited

I am poised for the inquiries concerning the title for the site of my commentaries. Those who don't know me well - most of you - may question my choice of moniker and put me in their rolodex under angry, white, redneck, probably evangelical Christian.

Some will put me there anyway,and of course two of the four accurately describe me; but I thought I should confess to having done only a modest amount of research before settling on the title. I still like it, but want to assure you I am a kinder, gentler, more moderate form of revanchist than you might find with a cursory google search.

As first mentioned I have a natural affinity for things Gallic and the contrariness of General Boulanger was instantly appealing to my rebellious side, to say little of the genealogical intrigue.

My revanchism is not of the revengeful type, but rather the more wistful variety. As I have grown more aware of my conservative instincts - their appearance roughly coinciding with that of hair between my shoulder blades in place of between my ears - I have begun to gain a greater appreciation for the value of tradition, and the importance of being wise when it comes to embracing change.

More on this later.

Welcome to Revanchist Review

My attraction to alliteration accounts (see what I mean) for part of the origin of the title of this site.  The inelegance of the word blog leads me to avoid it at all cost.
My Gallic blood led me to select revanchist for the eponymous portion of the title.  A revanchist is one who advocates a policy of revanche. In a political context this is a policy to recover lost ground. As a conservative in an ever more liberal country and Western culture, I am a restless revanchist, and there is much ground to be recovered.
In one of those Sebald-like segues I embarked upon as I ruminated on a possible title,  I discovered one noteworthy proponent of revanchism was General George Ernest Jean Marie Boulanger (1837-1891).  He was born in Rennes, Bretagne, France.  My maternal grandmother was a Boulanger and along with all my grandparents was born in Bretagne.
General Boulanger had a distinguished military career and served in Algeria, Italy and Cochin-China.  Both my father and father-in-law served in the Italian campaign of WWII.  My father in-law entered the Italian campaign through North Africa.   My paternal grandfather was a cabin boy in the French navy and merchant marine and was in Shanghai harbour during the Boxer Rebellion.  These struck me as interesting threads in a tiny swatch of the great tapestry of history.  The photo I plan to attach of myself was taken on a stone bench in a little courtyard in Honfleur, Normandie.  It was from here Samuel de Champlain left on his three voyages to the New World.
I will share more of the old General's life with you in later postings.  Suffice it to say he was a character who fought for reform as part of the Radical party under Clemenceau.  His single-mindedness found him out of favour with his political bosses, but tremendously popular with the general public.  His name became the theme for a popular Parisian song  "C'est Boulanger qu'il nous faut".  He was too politically incorrect to succeed to the role of President, but he was elected to the chamber for Cote du Nord and his political programme consisted of a demand for reforms to the Constitution. He came to a bloody and untimely end in exile. 
I dedicate this site to the open exchange of ideas.  My goal is to stimulate thought, and to encourage intelligent discussion, debate and argument concerning matters which I believe are important to us as Canadians.
Your are welcome to participate.
Ben Buan
July 20, 2004