Revanchist Review

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

All We Need is Love

It took less than 24 hours for the press to seize upon what it thought to be a defining moment in this campaign, and for the Liberal spin-meisters to wear out their thumbs text messaging the world that Stephen Harper doesn’t love Canada.

Of course they know Paul Martin loves Canada because he tells you so on every occasion he can. And he wraps himself in the flag of Canada which Liberals conveniently adopted as their symbol, the better to convince everyone that to be Canadian is to be Liberal and vice versa. The world of journalism is a world of words and images and there is too little discernment amongst journalists and their readers. Discernment would quickly show that the Liberal Party’s love for Canada is narcissistic. It is a love for power and privilege that the reins of government give to the Liberals.

I admit Mr. Harper could have avoided all the hoopla by responding more directly to the question than he did. That he chooses his words carefully, is to many a fine quality and one much preferable to the glib rhetoric we get from most politicians in the unreal world of the 2 second sound bite.

It would have been wonderful to hear Mr. Harper respond to the question like this:

"It is interesting that you should ask me that question. I hope you are willing to listen carefully to my answer. I was brought up to believe that it is much more important to be judged by what you do than by what you say. It is easy to say you love someone or something; it is much more difficult to prove that your love is genuine. So I do not use the word love frivolously.

I believe love that does not include a sacrificial attitude, a servant attitude, toward the object of love, is not real love. True love is marked by an acceptance of responsibility and accountability toward the object of affection. True love is marked by a commitment to tell the truth and not to deceive the object of affection.

It is in that sense I love Canada. I have chosen to commit myself to the public service because I believe I have ideas and skills that can be used to the benefit of all Canadians. I want to serve Canadians and to help them make Canada an even greater nation than it already is. I want that greatness to be expressed in tangible actions, not in empty rhetoric.

I do not want to take from Canada; I want to give to Canada. But no volume of words spoken by me or any other politician professing love for country should be accepted by any Canadian as proof of that love. Proof is in the actions and attitudes we display, not in our words.

In the next two months, I will ask Canadians to listen carefully to the policies my party will be advocating during this campaign. Are those policies consistent with a desire to make Canada a better place? Do the policies contain strong measures to hold me and my government accountable to Canadians for our actions? Do the policies provide mechanisms to eliminate the culture of entitlement which has so obviously been shown to exist in Canada in these times? I believe they do, and I am asking the people of Canada to give me and the other Conservative members of parliament they elect to the House of Commons, the chance to prove our love by our actions.

One can only hope!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Price of Living a Lie

Theodore Dalrymple’s book of essays, Our Culture, What’s Left of It, contains an essay entitled, How to Read A Society. In it he references the Marquis de Custine, a Frenchman who traveled to Russia and published a series of letters in 1843 under the title, La Russie en 1839. In it, Custine did a remarkable job of shedding light on the heart of what lead to the spread of communism throughout the world.

Dalrymple writes: “Custine grasped that the propensity to deceive and to be (or pretend to be) deceived lay at the heart of Russia’s evident malaise. The maintenance of despotism depended upon this universal vocation for untruth, because without the fiction that the despotism was necessary, that it conduced to the happiness and well-being of all, and that any alternative would be disastrous, the subject population would cease to be controllable.”

As my reading of history expands, I am continuously amazed at how apropos to our circumstances today in Canada, are the observations of our predecessors. Like an old suit that has been kept locked away for decades, it still fits and is fashionable.

The reason for this timelessness can only be the unchangeableness of the heart of man. It is in our nature to deceive and to be deceived and our lives are a constant struggle against our inner nature. As Dalrymple puts it, “the need always to lie and always to avoid the truth strip(s) everyone of what Custine called ‘the two greatest gifs of God – the soul and the speech which communicates it’. If Custine were among us now, he would recognize the evil of political correctness at once, because of the violence that it does to people’s souls by forcing them to say or imply what they do not believe but must not question. Custine would demonstrate to us that, without an external despot to explain our pusillanimity, we have willingly adopted the mental habits of people who live under a totalitarian dictatorship.”

I urge us all to keep the words of Custine near our hearts as we listen to Paul Martin lead the chorus of Liberals into an election in which we will be told that only the Liberals can represent all Canadians, that the Liberal Way is the Canadian Way and that entrusting the leadership of government to the Conservatives would be disastrous.

Think about Custine when you listen to Ralph Goodale tell us how terrible it will be if all the tax concessions he has announced, all the support for students and aboriginals and new immigrants, are wiped away by an angry and power hungry Opposition led by the scary Stephen Harper. Think about Custine when you hear Ujjal Dosanjh tell us the Conservatives want to destroy Medicare.

That is all well and good you say, but Custine was writing about Czarist Russia and we live in a democracy. You can’t possibly argue that the hearts and souls of Canadians have devolved to that of a Russian serf? If you have trouble with the comparison (which I don’t) then consider what Custine’s contemporary, Toqueville, had to say about the risks inherent in democracy.

In his essay, Dalrymple looks to Toqueville who “described the future soul of man under a seemingly benevolent and democratic government that willingly laboured for the happiness of the people ‘but chose to be the sole agent and only arbiter of that happiness.’ Such a government would ‘supply [the people] with their necessities, facilitate their pleasures, manage their principal concerns’. [This sounds familiar to us in 2005, does it not?] What would remain but to ‘spare them of all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?’ When this came to pass, ‘the will of man will not be shattered, but softened, bent and guided.’ Men would not be forced from acting; the government would not destroy but prevent a full human existence. It would not tyrannize but ‘enervate, extinguish and stupefy a people.’”

I urge you to consider how like the citizens of Toqueville’s essay, we Canadians have allowed ourselves to become. We have been “bent and guided”, and when it comes to making decisions that affect our culture, we too often leave it to our governments to make the decision for us. Consider that despite all the differences between Canada in 2005 and Russia or England in 1835, our society today does share with those of the past a fundamental human nature.

Ultimately, in a free democracy, our government will reflect that human nature. So consider what it says about that nature if we continue to consent to being lied to, if we do nothing to hold elected officials accountable for their lies.

If we re-elect a Liberal government we will be exactly like the Russian of 1833 who accepted the edict not to look at the palace in which the czar’s father, the emperor Paul, was murdered. The official position of the government of the day was that it was forbidden to recount the story of the death of the emperor.

Every Russian who walked past the palace and knowingly averted his eyes had to know the emperor had been killed there, had to demonstrate his public ignorance of the murder and thus not only assert a lie but also deny he knew it was a lie.

There is today a palace on the banks of the Ottawa River ruled by the modern day emperor Paul, and we know of all the misdeeds that have been perpetrated there over the decades by this Paul and his predecessor the emperor P’tit Jean.

Only you can choose whether to look at the palace with contempt, or to avert your eyes and enjoy the lovely monuments of the halcyon days of the past that grace the grounds of the palace. If you choose the latter, don’t forget to spend a moment in silence at the War Memorial and give thanks to those who died to give you the freedom to make the choice.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Judging A Man by the Company He Keeps

The title of my essay came to me as I watched Mr. Martin in his news conference and again during question period on Tuesday. During his press conference Mr. Martin was flanked on the podium by the oleaginous defectors, Scott Brison and Jean Lapierre. In question period, after responding to the first couple of questions from Stephen Harper – the government never answers questions in question period by the way, ministers merely stand up and mouth some pre-packaged obfuscation – Martin turned the job over to Brison and Lapierre.

Why did Martin have Brison at his side during the news conference? Brison was mute during the entire proceeding, and merely gazed fawningly upon Mr. Martin during his prepared statement, no doubt cued by the light on the camera telling him when he was on screen. For his part Lapierre responded to a question or two from a French-speaking reporter. Is this the best of the Liberal caucus Mr. Martin could muster, or could Martin find no one else who would consent to join him?

What does it say about this “new Liberalism” that Mr. Martin brings two turncoats along as his acolytes for this important event? Why is it he turns to these two to serve as his Charlie McCarthy during question period?

I am told Stephen Owen’s brochure is appearing in mailboxes in Vancouver Quadra, and the word Liberal is nowhere to be found in his literature. Owen for the most part is nowhere to be found in Ottawa these days, which tells me this decent man may well be troubled by the cloud of corruption that surrounds his party.

The Liberal Party must transform itself from a decadent den of self-serving, self-perpetuating, self-aggrandizing lightweights and opportunists, into a party of honest, servant-minded, forward-thinking public servants. The transformation will only happen when decent men like Stephen Owen and David Emerson and Ken Dryden step forward to say ‘we have had enough, we can no longer abide the mendacity that suffocates discourse and anaesthetizes the intellect’.

At present, the benches of parliament, particularly those of the Liberals are filled with the half and half men (and women) Orestes Brownson spoke of when he said: “Nothing is more nauseating than lukewarm. Give us, we say, open, energetic uncompromising enemies, or firm, staunch friends, who will take their stand for the truth, to live with it or die with it, and not your half and half men.”

Mr. Martin could find no better example of half and half men than the vain and opportunistic duo of Brison and Lapierre, one a disgruntled loser in the Conservative leadership race, the other a reclaimed separatist – strange company indeed for a recently “exonerated” Prime Minister.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Classic Chretien

“His truthfulness lies in his exaggeration. Whenever he does not exaggerate, he lies.”

Elias Canetti’s aphorism perfectly captures the essence of Jean Chretien the politician. His press conference was vintage Chretien - combative, humourous, irreverent and blunt. Were it not for the seriousness of the underlying reason for his return to the Ottawa press gallery theatre, one could almost regret his absence from the political scene.

A confident Chretien first apologized for any wrongdoing that occurred while he was Prime Minister. He told us the sponsorship program was created for a good cause; unbeknownst to him some dishonest people in his administration perverted it to satisfy their greed; as soon as he learned of problems he called in the police. He had to make a lot of decisions as P.M. and he was never afraid to make them, even if there was the potential for fallout. He even claims to have received a call from a worried Pierre Trudeau concerning the Clarity Act. Are you sure about this Jean, Trudeau asked. No, but I am going to do it anyway he claims he responded. If I am wrong I can come and practice law with you.

Chretien says Justice Gomery was biased against him from the beginning as evidenced by his hiring of Brian Mulroney’s former chief of staff Bernard Roy to be counsel to the commission. And don’t forget Gomery’s daughter works for the same law firm as does M. Roy. Gomery only called witnesses who would have bad things to say about Chretien, leaving it to him to call those who would support his contention that their was no political interference in the administration of the sponsorship program, or at least interference that would reach to the PMO. This sums up Chretien’s position.

The culture of entitlement Gomery speaks to in his report is evident in M. Chretien as is the arrogance of the Liberal Party and its presumption that it is indeed the natural governing party in Canada. This culture long ago created within its members an understanding that deniability at the PMO level must always be maintained. The creation of the sponsorship program and the granting to Alfonso Gagliano of spending powers would have been a clear enough message to those below the PMO that Chretien’s only concern was in results.

Chretien feels so entitled that he is genuinely puzzled at why Gomery would hold him accountable but exonerate Martin of any responsibility beyond that borne by all members of the Chretien cabinet.

Chretien continues to have many friends in the Liberal ranks, in the press gallery and throughout the country. One is reminded of another Canetti aphorism, which says: “Friends are people whom one presents with splendid accounts of oneself, and it doesn’t matter that these accounts never come true.

Oh, Canada – Chapter 12 - Canadians As Happy Subjects of Imperialism

The question of leadership is not primarily biological, but moral. Leaders may vary in quality from the man so loyal to sound standards that he inspires right conduct in others by the sheer rightness of his example, to the man who stands for nothing higher than the law of cunning and the law of force, and so is…imperialistic.

One’s choice may be, not between a democracy that is properly led and a democracy that hopes to find the equivalent of standards and leadership in the appeal to a numerical majority…but between a democracy that is properly led and a decadent imperialism.

If democracy means simply the attempt to eliminate the qualitative and selective principle in favour of some general may prove to be only a form of the vertigo of the abyss
. Democracy and Leadership – Irving Babbitt

How fitting that Mr. Justice Gomery’s first report should be released on a dreary, rainy day (both in Ottawa and where I sit here in B.C.) and on the eve of All Soul’s Day – the Day of the Dead. If there is any remainder of morality in the collective soul of this nation we call Canada, today will mark the death of the Liberal Party as it existed.

If, as I fear, we as a nation have completely lost our way when it comes to the realm of making moral decisions, this day rather will mark the point where we tipped further into the abyss of which Irving Babbitt wrote over 80 years ago.

Canadians would do well to reflect upon what they really express when they cast a vote. Are they truly concerned about electing good leaders, in the moral sense, or do they simply assume that leadership elected by a majority of the electorate, will stumble upon a set of policies and standards of conduct, which will be satisfactory to the majority.

During Paul Martin’s press conference this morning there were two questions and answers that stood out for me. The first was whether Mr. Martin felt proud to be a Liberal as he read Mr. Justice Gomery’s report this morning. Mr. Martin pulled back his shoulders and puffed out his chest and declared that indeed he was proud to be a Liberal, since after all it was the Liberal Party he leads which has taken all the initiatives to clean up the mess.

How sad that Mr. Martin has so little sense of responsibility and remorse that he should continue to speak with pride and even self-congratulation over his role in cleaning up the mess of his own party. Instead he should have said: “I am deeply ashamed of the actions of my party, I am deeply regretful of my own lack of vigilance in allowing these activities to go on while I was the Finance Minister and the senior Cabinet Minister from Quebec, and I have this morning asked the Governor General to dissolve this parliament so that the people of Canada can determine whether I and my party are to be entrusted with the ongoing governance of the nation’s affairs.”

During Question Period Martin refused to express any sense of shame or remorse, even ducking his responsibility as a member of the Cabinet that Gomery found shared collective blame for establishing an illegitimate program, and as Vice-Chair of the Treasury Board which Gomery found did not exercise its responsibilities of oversight.

The situation might be laughable if the picture was only one of Martin as the personification of the 3 monkey triumvirate – see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. The picture is rather one of the member of a gang of thieves that had carefully planned a bank heist, and who having slept in and missed the van when it left to carry out the deed, and the gang now having been caught, emerges as head of a citizen’s coalition dedicated to the cleaning up crime.

The other question asked of Mr. Martin was this: “Mr. Martin how did you feel in your heart this morning as you read the Gomery Report?” Finally, here was a perceptive question, the answer to which could give us a glimpse into the heart of a leader. What kind of man is Mr. Martin – “a man so loyal to sound standards that he inspires right conduct in others by the sheer rightness of his example”, or “a man who stands for nothing higher than the law of cunning and the law of force”.

Martin answered by saying he wished it (the scandal) had never happened. What kind of heart does this tell us beats within that chest? Is it the heart of a man who can inspire right conduct by the rightness of his example? Or is this is the heart of a man who clings to power, a man who talks but who does not act, a man who leads a party that we now know has for decades operated on the principles of entitlement and decadent self-service?

Are enough Canadians so blind to what has gone on here that they do not see the implications in Mr. Martin's responses? If as a parent you confronted your child with the fact you now knew he or she had been involved, if only marginally, with others in a scheme to steal from their schoolmates funds raised for a field trip; would you be satisfied if the child said that all it felt in its heart was regret the incident had happened? Surely you would demand that the child express some remorse and experience a sense of shame for having participated. Why would you hold your politicians to a lower standard, considering how many of your hard earned dollars you entrust to them?

Martin is the master of the art of willful blindness and if in the next election sufficient numbers of Canadians continue to vote for Liberals to re-elect them, Canada will prove itself to be a nation of the blind, deceived into believing they are governed by a democracy when in fact they are nothing more than the subjects of a “decadent imperialism.”