Christmas 2006 marked the 60th anniversary of Alan Paton's completion of his masterwork "Cry, the Beloved Country". Events in our country this past week command that we reflect on Paton's message and metaphor. While the novel was a stirring and poignant condemnation of South African racism published one year before the legislation of official apartheid, its underlying message was much broader and more timeless. By focusing the plot on the murder of a white social reformer who conceived that the foundation of social justice lay in uniting a country -- any country -- as a cohesive whole around principles of universal commonality rather than pandering to the parochial particularities of disparate ethnic and cultural groups, Paton speaks across the decades to us today. For he believed, as reflected in his character of Arthur Jarvis, that national submission to the low limitations of narrow circumstance results inevitably in national surrender to the institutionalization of narcissistic prejudice. And that is what we have seen, from fictional televised Prairies to the real rock at Perce, in Canada this week. And if we don't rouse ourselves from our lethargic slumber, the epitaph for our "true north strong and free" may one day be "Scorn, A Deluded People".
Protecting French ...Again
The week in Quebec started with the continuation of another battle in the never-ending language and culture war. Gasoline giant Esso, and its majority shareholder, Exxon Mobil, were attacked by the usual alliance of Francophone xenophobes because the company wanted to use its corporate name "On the Run" instead of "Marché Express" on their stores attached to their gas stations. Esso was denounced as a "cultural predator," and caved in to threats of a smear campaign and calls for a boycott.
In Quebec almost everyone caves in to the menace of the guardian thugs of "Ein Volk, Ein Kultur", "One People, One Culture". Kudos have to be given to Chris Karidogiannis, citizen soldier, the independent businessman who has collected almost 50,000 names on a petition to stop Montreal's Mayor Tremblay from renaming Avenue du Parc, which runs through the heart of the largest ethnic neighborhood in the city, Avenue Robert Bourassa. It was stunning when Mr. Karidogiannis mentioned on my radio program that the reason Park Ave. was chosen instead of the Bourassa family's preference for renaming Boulevard St.-Joseph was that the latter street runs into separatist areas and separatist leaders told Tremblay that they wouldn't stand for the name of a provincial Liberal leader in their areas. Tremblay buckled. Thuggery makes no cultural distinctions. Thugs will eat their own.
The sad part of the whole "Quebec" question is in the remembrance of things past. When Pierre Elliot Trudeau affirmed official bilingualism in Canada it was an inclusive expansion of rights meant to demonstrate to the country that neither of the two founding European cultures had superior rights and that there was place in this land for all. But in Quebec, the "protection" of the French language has resulted in restrictive exclusion of rights. Nothing can justify the draconian laws used here over the past three decades. The police-state inspectors' tactics measuring the size of English letters on signs and the political propaganda that perpetuates the big lie that some great injustice was done to a native Francophone people in its native land is unacceptable in a free society. But as Stalin said, "The broad mass of the people will accept a big lie rather than a small one if repeated often enough."
It is time to say to Quebec "sa suffit!" "It's enough!" The French came to this land as imperialists killing the aboriginals. The English followed for their King killing French and aboriginals and giving a third of the country to the Hudson's Bay Company. Canada is not a federal state in the European tradition where its component parts had centuries of history and decided to confederate. When Canada became a nation most of the country was wilderness. There is no moral basis for slowly eroding Federal powers in order to keep Quebec happy. Quebec has no moral basis for any more sovereignty than any other province. If separatists want their own country let them ask a straight question of Quebecers...all Quebecers. "Do you want Quebec to be an independent nation?" Not the convoluted ramblings about sovereignty and association.
There has been a sad acceptance, by federalist Francophones and Anglophones alike that it is better to sacrifice some rights in order to avoid a separatist Quebec. Except it has never worked. The more powers have been devolved to Quebec, the more all Quebec Premiers of whatever political stripe have demanded. Including the sharing of Federal powers of taxation and immigration among others. Perhaps in the current debate about transfer payments, Quebec should be reminded that the 1954 Provincial election was won by Duplessis on the issue of Quebec collecting its own taxes and crediting back a share to Ottawa. Those credits never happened in 52 years. So who owes what to whom between Ottawa and Quebec? The Francophone imperialists may not like the answer.
Even a staunch federalist like Stephane Dion, the father of the Clarity Act, succumbed to the argument that Quebec's retrograde language law, Bill 101, was vital to keeping Quebec in Canada. That argument holds no water. Because since 101 more and more Federal powers have devolved to Quebec because of Quebec's ever-growing demands, while this jurisdiction blithely goes along suppressing basic rights. Quebec is getting everything it wants in terms of independence while still keeping the benefit of Canadian passports and pensions and paying as little of its share of the national debt as possible. Not a bad deal all around. So why quit the union? And what of federal consequence? Reduced to nothing more than "ribbon-cutting" as Trudeau predicted almost two generations ago if the national government was going to emasculate itself and become impotent. Who will speak for Canada today in Trudeau's voice from the early 90's when he said that the Charlottetown Accord deserved "A big fat no!" That is what Quebec deserves today. You can't build a country on the back of injustice and inequity.
"Little Mosques" and Multiculturalism
But you can't say that in Canada. No sir! No ma'am! This is the land where any group that whines loud enough and carps long enough will get a handout for its votes. This is the land where every culture has an equal "right to be wrong" and we the people will not only patiently condone it, but even pay for the privilege of being lulled into a false sense of security about it. We won't even demand the basic fidelity due to the principles of secular, liberal, pluralism that are the bedrock of any free society.
So this past week saw the debut on Canada's national broadcaster, the CBC, of a new series called "Little Mosque on the Prairie" - no I'm not kidding about the title for you foreign readers - that seeks to make light of the tension within Islam and put it on the same level as the war between Archie and "Meathead" in "All in the Family". The fact that radical Islam is the greatest existential threat to the free west in decades apparently had no bearing on the decision of our national broadcaster -- that still calls homicide bombers "militants" -- to fund it.
And that's the danger. If the promoters of this series raised private money to make it, and got a network to buy it, that would be one thing. But for public funds to be used to help make a television sitcom marginalizing and trivializing the problems within the Canadian Muslim community just one year after the Toronto 17 terrorist plot was uncovered, just goes beyond the pale. It feeds into Canada's desired Pollyannish view of the world and through the subliminal seduction of our contorted multiculturalism policies fuels the delusional worldview of most Canadians that makes this country truly unprepared to meet the challenges of a very dangerous world.
Our glasses aren't rose-colored...they're completely-black tinted. Two million people watched this! Followed soon by the CBC's National newscast that consistently portrays democratic Israel as the "root cause" of everything from Palestinian terror to Iran's stated objectives of a second Jewish Holocaust and subjugation of the west under an Islamic Caliphate.
As Barbara Kay wrote in the National Post, one of the thrusts of the show seems to be to convince "the non-Muslim residents of Mercy, Saskatchewan that they, the Muslims, are just regular chaps and not 'Johnny Jihads'. " Yet at the same time the show portrayed one of its main characters, a young Imam who had spent several years in Afghanistan and Egypt, as being shocked, shocked, I say, at Police who question him for loudly using the words "bomb" and "suicide" while speaking on a cell phone at an airport lineup.
What's the subliminal message in this surreal nonsense? That the Muslims -- all Muslims, really have got their heads together while the rest of us -- the others, or in Quebec "Les Autres" -- are really paranoid prejudiced rednecks. Will isn't that a tidy package. Part of it is true. Muslims do get to keep their heads, at least as long as they don't break Sharia law, while the rest of us get to lose ours to Islamo-Fascists just for being us and living free. As for the paranoia part, I'll leave that to Freud to answer. "Some people are paranoid...but with reason" he wrote.
The bottom line here is that a troubling precedent has been set. As bad as multicultural policies are, they certainly were not established to fund witty insouciance in a time of war. Why don't we see television series about Muslims protesting the unprecedented sectarian slaughter of other Muslims by Islamo-Fascists -- not just in Iraq -- but across the Muslim world? Where are the examinations of the tensions within Islam over acid being thrown in the face of girls who had the temerity to attend school? Where are the programs showing debate among Muslims over beheadings of women who have sex outside of marriage? Where are the voices of Muslims denouncing the aggression of Islamic hegemony? Even if we wanted to fund these types of programs we couldn't. Why? Because Muslims aren't marching, and except for a few brave souls aren't even speaking out, against Islamic totalitarianism.
In 1995 Pierre Trudeau bemoaned what had happened to his multicultural vision. He had viewed his initiatives as measures meant simply to aid every immigrant group in making easier the transition into the liberal values of individualistic humanism that is the heart of this land. Instead he had to admit that our multicultural policies had become nothing but a pig-trough for vote-buying schemes that was eroding the legacy of a once proud nation. And if Canadians are going to be taken in by all the other cultural "Little Mosques" that abound then, to paraphrase Pamela Geller, " While western civilization hangs in the balance our heads will remain in the sand and instead of being part of the solution we will be part of the problem by becoming our own worst enemy within."
Race, Creed & Alienation
The past week ended with the release of a compelling study from the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy -- a study of almost unprecedented size of 40,000 respondents -- that demonstrated that visible-minority immigrants are slower to integrate into Canadian society than their white, European counterparts, and feel less Canadian. The study suggested not only that multiculturalism policies don't work, but that the second generation -- the children of visible-minority immigrants - exhibited a more profound sense of exclusion and discrimination than even their parents, and were more likely to identify themselves less as Canadians; trust their fellow citizens less and were even less likely to vote, the basic responsibility of any citizen in a liberal, pluralistic, democracy.
All this however should not come as a surprise. For as Cassius said, the "fault dear Brutus lays not in the stars but in ourselves." The seeds of our current malaise were planted in that very same politically-correct ethos of multiculturalism that Canada has insisted on celebrating despite all evidence to the contrary. It is our grandest self-delusion and, next to our policies of Quebec appeasement, our greatest disaster as even Mr. Trudeau admitted in his comments quoted above.
This nation is not the good and gentle land of John Porter's "Vertical Mosaic". That construct could not work for any country. It is the antithesis to nation-building. Our best progress, our proudest boasts, have always occurred when we threw ourselves as full and passionate partners into mankind's transcendent struggles for redemptive change. When Wilfrid Laurier said in 1905 that "Canada answers to a higher destiny" that destiny, and our maturity, did not come from compromises forged in council rooms apart nor from behind the closed doors of parliamentary committees and corporate boardrooms nor from the petty concerns of focus groups.
Our national identity was galvanized in the bloody trenches of Vimy Ridge; scaling the harrowing cliffs of Dieppe; conquering the bullet-riddled sands of Normandy; commanding the stormy seas of the Atlantic; serving under the burning sun of the Sinai; defending the ramparts of the free in cold-war Germany; peace-making in the corpse-riddled fields of the Balkans and liberating a people in Afghanistan. That is the Canadian identity. That is our patrimony and ethos. And that is the legacy that we betray when we fail to teach our citizens, new and old, that Canada, and Canadians, stand for something greater than the sum of our parts.
If new Canadians don't see themselves as Canadians maybe it's because they have not been shown what that means. Maybe it is because they see a people that does not stand for something and will fall for anything. For to move a nation requires leadership. A leadership that lionizes service and sacrifice. A leadership that perpetuates our commitment to the vision that the fight for social justice does not stop at our borders. A leadership that is bold enough to raise high the standard of our story and remind us that a just society can only be built in a common cause that overcomes tribal nationalisms and imbues in its people loyalty to liberty, opportunity and responsibility.
But until the election of Stephen Harper, these words were anathema in our body politic. Their mere mention was considered not only politically incorrect, but those who used them became instant "enemies of the people" to the chattering-class salon liberals who dominate our media and academe sitting smugly in safe harbours perpetuating myths based on the bankrupt and foolish notions of moral relativism and political equivalency.
The reality is that our national will has been hijacked over the past several decades. We created a society of panhandlers demanding rights without responsibilities. A people accepting of the most outlandishly biased orthodoxies in return for "more please" from the state. "Inheritors of fear" in Alan Paton's words. And a political class that used state money and power to lull Canadians into a false sense of security and devised divide and conquer strategies that resulted in a nation hamstrung by deception, duplicity and deceipt.
In a world at war, Canadians remain unable to grapple with the alienation and apathy that afflicts us. It was telling that this sad week ended with two of the largest papers in the country running stories examining the issues of race and creed. The Globe and Mail put the IRPP study as its page one lead, while Quebec's largest circulation tabloid, le Journal de Montreal, announced on page four that it was beginning a survey on "Êtes-vous raciste?" "Are you racist?" What was interesting however were the photo illustrations that accompanied these stories.
The Globe featured pictures of visible minorities since that was the focus of the IRPP study. Race after all means "racial", physical, characteristics. But the Journal's picture featured two men in Jewish Hasidic garb and a woman in a Muslim Chador. What has that to do with "race"? Unless the "multiculturalism" coming out of Quebec is that faith, belief, creed, are now to be lumped in with "race". Words matter. Images matter. They matter because millions of readers get subliminal messages from them. Messages that even if distorted take on the patina of great truth simply by their imprint. Sadly, Quebec is still sliding down the slippery slope from the great mountaintop where Wilfrid Laurier stood and proclaimed that "It has been the great pride of my life to be excommunicated by Roman priests and denounced by Protestant parsons." It was a declaration of the sovereignty of individual conscience over conformity to collective enslavement. That's the prescription for the ailment of alienation.
To Be Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts
What then lies ahead? Can we overcome our tremulous national psyche and truly be greater than the sum of our parts? Can we end the paralysis of analysis over our "community of communities"? Can we "Go bold" as General Lewis MacKenzie is fond of saying. I think we can. Here's how.
Let people alone!
Stop the social experimentation. End the political correctness. Kill the nanny-state. Celebrate the potential of individual consequence and end the paternalism of group think. Politicians will actually have to get votes with principles not paycheques. But though they might lose the votes of the tens of thousands of bureaucrats who'll be unemployed once the statocratic programs are terminated, they'll win hundreds of thousands of votes by showing courage and demonstrating a faith in the people tempered only by prudence rather than a fear of the people driven only by avarice. Courage is the cardinal human virtue. And people recognize it. They recognize authenticity.
I was speculating this week with Mark Persaud, former multicultural Chair of the Liberal Party who has switched to the Conservatives, as to why so many ethnics are moving from their traditional party base. Mark said that there was a feeling that the Harper government doesn't talk down to them as both large-L and small-l liberals do. And that's the point. The day of what Ben Wattenberg called "The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics" has arrived. And guess what? They can stand on their own feet. They don't want to be dictated to. And they don't need to be guided.
I see Stephen Harper's approach at home as being as bold as the renewed pride and purpose he has given Canada abroad. While the Liberals still go on about multiculturalism and women's programs, Harper has had the courage to close "Status of Women" offices and rein in the social engineers and multicultural mandarins. He has demonstrated that he sees Canadian ethnics and minorities as Canadians. No hyphenation please. And no state fiats necessary. They are free people in a free land fully able to conduct their own lives and not be imprisoned by government notions of the perfectibility of the human being. Stephen Harper gives people R-E-S-P-E-C-T. For the sake of our own futures we should have the courage to live up to the challenge and accept the responsibilities of expanded personal liberty. It is fresh air we haven't breathed in a long time.
Prof. Jeffrey Reitz, co-author of the IRPP study on race and Canadian identity, said that, "We need to address the racial divide; otherwise there is a danger of social breakdown. Multiculturalism doesn't have specific goals and objectives. The majority population thinks too much is being done already, while minorities think the policy lacks credibility."
He's absolutely right. The divide has already turned into a chasm. But we don't need any more studies and reports to find the solution. The answer was given to us at the founding of this country and has been neglected as so much of our history has been. Though he was assassinated for his vision and for the truth he spoke, the words of Thomas D'Arcy McGee ring down to us today as a clarion call from the ages.
"There is room in this Northern Dominion -- under one flag and one set of laws -- for one great people. There is no possibility for that greatness -- under that same flag and those same laws -- if we submit to a hundred squabbling particularities."
Beryl Wajsman is president of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal www.iapm.ca
publisher of BARRICADES Magazine www.barricades.ca
and host o Montreal 940AM’s "The Last Angry Man".
He can be reached at: email@example.com. And firstname.lastname@example.org