Some Thoughts About the Left

Never has there been an example in history where an ideology (or a group of ideologues) say to themselves: we’ve gone far enough, no further, e.g. identity politics, political correctness, etc. just like National Socialism or communism in the 20th century have a certain grim logic to them that seems to escape its adherents, e.g. when I use the phrase “Boy, it sure is hot out here” and feminists consider the usage of the word “boy” a form of micro-aggression, I think it’s safe to say we are living in a society that has more in common with Orwell’s “1984” than the Canada Baldwin/Lafontaine’s envisioned or the America Jefferson/Lincoln envisioned.

Watch the video below before continuing on.

I suppose this is what Hegel alluded to when he observed history is composed of paradigm pendulum swings where conservatism is ascendant for a time, then the paradigm swings the other way and liberalism becomes fashionable, and so on and so forth. This new “liberalism” isn’t liberalism though; it’s a pseudo-liberalism that smells more like a secular religion than a political philosophy, e.g. if you go back centuries the Catholic Church tried to engineer society by controlling what thoughts and ideas and expressions its adherents used to help save them from hellfire. The politically correct crowd is equally well-intentioned when it comes to “saving” people from oppression it seems; it is something if not ironic that in an effort to combat oppression the political left has become oppressive itself. I abandoned the left primarily for this reason and gladly occupy the center. I’m hoping more people will join me there going forward.

Take heart: maybe liberals will be reminded that everyone is entitled to intellectual freedom, expression, etc….even those they disagree with or the ones who promote unpopular views. You don’t fight terrible ideas by turning your back and not listening or outlawing them from being expressed; you fight lousy ideas by coming up with better ones and communicating them rationally.

The Problem With Refugees

We are a nation of immigrants; it’s a fact: go back far enough every single one of us—European, African, Asian, even First Nations and Inuit—can trace their origins to somewhere other than Canada. Humanity explores, it puts down roots and calls wherever it happens to end up home. People attach a lot of importance to their home; this is where they raise their families, form their worldview, worship, work, play and build a life for themselves. Thus, it isn’t terribly surprising when we encounter strangers living among us one of our first instincts is to become defensive as opposed to open.

Canadians might be awfully polite but they certainly aren’t immune to xenophobia or fear. There were three major waves of Irish immigration to British North America: the first came around the time of the American Revolution in the 1780s; the second took place during the 1840s when a potato famine drove approximately 1.5 million Irish Catholics to Canada. My ancestors on my father’s side arrived in the United States during the third wave in the 1890s; they established a farm somewhere in the American Midwest eventually moving north to Canada to take advantage of free land on offer in the Canadian West. In all three cases, the Irish were not generally well-received: in the context of both Canada and the United States, English Protestants felt threatened by the sudden influx of non-English Catholics to their countries.

The Irish were thankful for the opportunities afforded to them by their adoptive countries; nevertheless, inevitably their presence elicited negative reactions among Americans and Canadians alike. Newcomers always force us into uncomfortable spaces by challenging us to re-evaluate ourselves and our priorities; they compel us to ask questions around what it means to be a people and a nation. In the present day, some of us are responding as well as can be expected to Syrian refugees (and, more recently, to others groups escaping to Canada because of an uncertain future in the United States). Most of our problems when it comes to dealing constructively with one another is the result of a certain inability to empathize with one another. The people best responding to the recent influx of refugees are those capable of seeing something of themselves in these new immigrants—people displaced by famine, war, and repression in their home countries; yet, there are others of us who aren’t responding so well: ironically, some Canadians on social media are using the self-same arguments against Syrians that previous generations used against their own Irish, Norwegian, Swedish, German and Ukrainian ancestors, e.g. these people aren’t like us; they didn’t work for what we have; we owe them nothing; they’re wrecking the country; everything was so much better before they came; they’re stealing our jobs; they’re lazy, smell, speak funny, and don’t look like us real Canadians.

The idea of a real Canadian versus a fake one is a strange concept to me; it’s not like we can freeze time and say there, back in the 1820s (November to be exact) during the colonial period, that is what Canadians should strive to be, we should all be white, English Protestant United Empire Loyalists; or wait it’s 1867 and Canadians can be French Catholic now, just not too French, but it’s tolerated; or it’s 1945 and the end of World War II, England is less important to us and out of compassion we’re welcoming Hungarians and other dispossessed persons to Canada because they need our help, we didn’t like them so much in 1905 but times have changed; or it’s 1965 and we have a new flag and First Nations peoples are no longer willing to be second-class citizens and the majority of Canada’s immigrants are from Africa and Asia and, without us even realizing it, we’ve moved from biculturalism to multiculturalism. We didn’t even notice the change (and certainly didn’t plan it). But we are, and will continue to be, a multicultural society whether critics like it or not.

Friedrich Nietzsche observed humanity is in essentially a continuous state of revolution (or paradigm change); we don’t recognize these changes because what once appeared as revolutionary eventually becomes the basis of a new normal. Thus, a Canadian born in 1840 naturally answers the question “What is a Canadian?” differently than say one born in 1867, 1919, 1945, 1965, 1995, or 2017. If there’s a standard definition of what constitutes a true Canadian, it’s a floating one and it definitely isn’t as simple as saying it is someone who is white, English-speaking, and Christian. With that said, the recent wave of Syrian immigration to Canada is taking place during a time of significant stress: the recovery of the global economy from the shock it received during the Great Recession (2009) is still in doubt and we continue living with its legacy, e.g. wealth continues to become increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, Canadians and Americans are becoming more and more desperate because of a sense of financial insecurity, and where the economy goes so too goes our seeming capacity to practice tolerance and pluralism; also, we are also confronted by the specter of climate change and an inability to deal with it effectively or its secondary effects, e.g. 21.5 million people are currently displaced worldwide and considered climate change refugees (some of whom are seeking refuge in North America and Europe); this number is bound to grow as climate change’s effects become increasingly severe and ubiquitous; and right wing political movements—secular and religious—are growing in popularity as though we’re taking part in some sort of macabre replay or dress rehearsal for World War III; given all that’s going on it’s little wonder so many people have such mixed feelings about helping strange Syrian refugees when existing Canadians themselves don’t feel secure enough about their own or their children’s futures.[1]

So where does this leave us? I suppose at one of those revolutionary periods Nietzsche mentioned. The great irony is we possess all the knowledge and understanding to solve every single one of our problems; yet, it seems we’re doomed to repeat past mistakes instead of learning from them because of a fundamental lack of collective character or imagination to conceive of new ways of living with and treating one another. There’s not much historical precedent when it comes to nations or societies becoming selfless or other-centered in times of significant economic downturn, political upheaval or when confronted by an existential crisis as significant as climate change. However, I would argue we can use how we eventually decide to treat refugees and immigrants as a litmus test for our future prospects. Some political theorists argue history is on the side of democracy. I like the sentiment but I would add the following caveat: history is on the side of those who want to survive. The great irony is most people think survival means circling our wagons, siding with the tribe and pushing strangers out. The truth is the world is a much smaller place in 2017 than it was in 1917. For this reason, I believe, if we’re going to survive we’re going to have to find ways to do it together; it’ll be cooperation not competition that’ll determine humankind’s direction and whether there’ll be a Canada or a United States for future generations to immigrate to.

 

Notes
[1]
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/syrian-refugees-poll-trump-1.3988716

Westminster: Governing Through Reason, Not Tradition

The Westminster system of parliamentary democracy was established on the basis of reason and not traditional authority: after years of civil war (1642-51) between the middle and upper classes in England forced the Crown to eventually submit to the authority of a written constitution called the Bill of Rights (1688). England became a constitutional monarchy effectively ending the problems associated with either a king or queen changing their mind or a law at a whim. With the Bill of Rights in place, the Crown now governed with the consent of the governed while being limited by the law (reason).

The establishment of constitutional law in England introduced an era of unparalleled stability continuing into the present day. Prior to the Bill of Rights authority was exercised more or less on an appeal to either tradition or power, e.g. family dynasties, etc. and an appeal to God’s will, e.g. Divine Right of Kings. The problem with kings or queens is some of them aren’t particularly bright or well-suited to rule. With the establishment of a functional and well-organized parliamentary system, rulers became accountable no longer to something abstract like a good but to something concrete like the law. No one was above the law any longer.  Not even the king.

Since President Donald Trump assumed the presidency this past January, he has been an executive order writing machine. The executive branch of the United States Federal government has been gradually growing in power since the end of World War II. Although federalists like John Adams and George Washington believed in the need for a strong central government, it is unlikely that they would have approved of any president governing essentially by decree; however, these revolutionary brothers occupied a simpler time when factionalism was only beginning in the new republic known as the United States. In 2017, and with the Congress and American polity so divided, it has become more and more common for presidents to govern less by consent and more by fiat.

The Americans do not have parliamentary democracy; rather, they utilize a republican system that nonetheless possesses certain qualities in common with a parliamentary system, e.g. there are three branches (legislative, executive, judiciary), the government governs on the basis of the rule of law, and the law (and separation of the various branches) ensures no single branch oversteps its power. On January 27th, President Trump signed an executive order effectively banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries traveling to the United States. A federal judge, however, took issue with the constitutionality of Trump’s order and blocked it. Specifically, the judge argued the executive order violated the “establishment clause” of the Constitution (1783). The argument, so far as I understand it, is that the Federal government could not show preferential treatment for Christians seeking asylum over Muslims. The United States, despite assertions to the contrary, is not a “Christian” nation but a “secular” one in which Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. are allowed the freedom of worship and equally secure under the law. President Trump argued the courts had failed the United States. In reality the courts (or judiciary) worked precisely how they’re supposed to by preventing the executive branch from overstepping its authority, i.e. when you become president you don’t become “king of the world”. Your powers are limited (and wisely so).

* * * * *

As early as the 17th Century, democratic ideas like equality and liberty had grown in popularity and acceptance among the peoples of the Old and New Worlds. The Age of Reason (also called the Enlightenment) placed into doubt the wisdom of blindly accepting the authority of either the Church or the Crown. The Enlightenment created a fertile environment for philosophers and politicians to dissent and criticize traditional authority; and with every passing year in France of the 18th century, it became harder and harder for a tiny aristocracy to justify its lavish lifestyle while tens of millions of farmers, laborers, artisans and merchants, etc. all tried to eke out an existence.

Across the Channel in England (1685), King James II attempted to make himself something of an absolute monarch. He believed in and appealed to others to believe in the Doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings. According to this superstition, God had made James II king; therefore, if the people wanted to obey God then they would have to obey James. The middle and upper classes of England were not convinced (and disliked the trend of absolute monarchs appearing on the Continent). During the Glorious Revolution (1688), the English people rose up overthrowing James II.  James’ successor was his nephew William of Orange (later known as William III).

King William III accepted the Westminster System of parliamentary democracy when he acknowledged the supremacy of the English Constitution (Bill of Rights (1689)).  Instead of an absolute monarchy, England established the world’s first constitutional monarchy.  Responsible government had arrived as the king could no longer suspend laws, levy taxes, make royal appointments, or maintain a standing army during peacetime without Parliament’s permission. The King was effectively limited by the law. According to the Westminster System, parliament was divided into an upper house representing the aristocracy (House of Lords) and a lower house representing the merchant class and basically everybody else (House of Commons). The wisdom behind the division is obvious: each house represented the interests of their particular class and new laws (taxes) would have to be approved by both houses (ensuring no clique or segment of society could unilaterally rule the nation). This meant that in theory no one segment in society would have more power than another. For a new law to be passed it had to be demonstrated that it was reasonable, fair and did not violate the Constitution. Gone were the days when the king made up the rules as they went along. Arrived now were the days of responsible government whereby the king and Parliament were held accountable for their actions or inaction.

* * * * *

Canadians living in British North America rightly believed England’s political institutions to be some of the most “enlightened” on Earth; however, the colonies of British North America had the misfortune of inheriting not the Westminster but a colonial system of government with the passage of the Constitution Act (1791). The Constitution Act actually increased rather than decreased the power and privilege of the aristocratic and business elite in the Canada, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The power of the colonial government was so complete that the governor of Lower Canada could be said to possess more power than even the English king exercised in Westminster. The fundamental reason responsible government was not established in Canada was to prevent another American-style revolution. Westminster reasoned that America had rebelled because it had been given too much freedom; therefore, the logical response (to the English at least) was a reduction of freedoms, a turning back of the clock so to speak to less “progressive” times.

Absolute power was therefore given to the aristocracy of Upper (Family Compact) and Lower Canada (Chateau Clique). The reason the British chose to side with the aristocracy was because they were predictable: they could always be counted on to pursue their own self-interest at the expense of the greater population. (Not much has changed to be honest.) To the British Government the elite were “our kind of guys” (so to speak). The masses, unlike the aristocracy, were supposedly incapable of being reasoned with. They had to be controlled. Members of the upper classes argued the poor simply didn’t know what was good for them. Whenever any segment of society possesses privileges not enjoyed by all a condition of class struggle exists; and Canadians in the 1830s no less than the English (1688), Americans (1776) or French (1789) before them desired liberty and responsible government.  Politicians like Louis Joseph Papineau, William Lyon Mackenzie and Joseph Howe, though differing in their means, all wanted the same thing: they wanted the citizens of British North America to enjoy the self-same democratic rights enjoyed by the people of England itself.

In every society (regardless of the century), there is an ongoing struggle between two classes of people: there are those that “have,” e.g. aristocrats, priests, wealthy businessmen, etc. and those that “have not,” e.g. serfs, slaves, plebeians, and industrial workers. The 19th century political philosopher and economist Karl Marx called this condition a class struggle. To him class struggle was a permanent state of affairs; it could only be destroyed by destroying class itself. Further still, Marx argued it was natural for the upper class to try to maintain its privileges. After all, if you were rich, wouldn’t you seek to maintain your standard of living? And it was just as understandable for the lower classes to want to improve their own material and legal situation. Marx argued that the workers and laborers would one day rise up, cast off their chains, and overthrow the ruling class. He further argued that the working class (whom he called the Proletariat) would establish an ideal society where class no longer existed.  Marx of course was completely wrong. There were Marxist or communist revolutions in the 19th and 20th centuries; however, a new ruling class always emerged following each revolution that was successful, e.g. the Bolsheviks formed the basis of an economic elite in the Soviet Union while the inaptly named Communist Party (in contemporary fascist) China likewise forms the basis of an elite.

The colonial system in British North America established through the passing of the Constitution Act (1791) was by its very nature unfair; that is, it placed all the decision-making power into the hands of the few (oligarchy) while completely ignoring the needs of the many. For example, the common person had the privilege of paying taxes but no say on how those taxes might be spent. In such a situation, it was inevitable that the lower classes would regard violence as preferable to the status-quo. The rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada (1837-38) were a catalyst for such change. The rebellions woke the British up to the fact that maintaining “peace, order, and good government” in Canada did not depend upon building an alliance with the wealthy elite. Instead, good government depended upon the reverse: establishing relevant democratic political institutions that empowered everyone—regardless of class—giving everyone a voice in their own government. The English learned this very same lesson in the 1600s when they removed a would-be absolute monarch in James II.  For some reason the British lacked the foresight to apply the same wisdom to the American colonies in the 1770s or its Canadian possessions in the 1830s.

Society, when governed by laws, runs smoothly; it might be counter-intuitive to people in positions of great power but laws are supposed to be inconvenient; they’re supposed to be limiting, i.e. we cannot rely upon the good character or judgement of men or women occupying positions of influence. Instead, we rely upon a combination of a leader’s prerogative while balancing their decisions against constitutional standards of what is lawful and what is not. While I doubt President Trump is much of a student of history (especially legal history), I suspect he learned a valuable lesson when he attempted to push the ill-advised executive order banning Muslims from traveling to the United States through. Specifically, he is not the “boss” of the United States; he’s the “president” and there things he can do and things, constitutionally speaking, he cannot do.

Canada: A 21st Century Nation

“Canadians often point out that while the American constitution promises “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the constitution of Canada–written in the 1860s in England–sets a more modest goal: “Peace, order, and good government.” This difference reaches into every corner of the two nations. My favorite example is a book of medical advice. It was written by a Canadian, Judylaine Fine, and published in Toronto under an extremely modest title, Your Guide to Coping with Back Pain. Later, American rights were acquired by New York publishers; they brought out precisely the same book under a new title, Conquering Back Pain. And there, in a grain of sand, to borrow from William Blake, we can see a world of differing attitudes. Our language reveals how we think, and what we are capable of thinking. Canadians cope. Americans conquer. Canadian readers of that book will assume that back pain will always be with them. Americans will assume that it can be destroyed, annihilated, abolished, conquered. Americans expect life, liberty, happiness, and total freedom from back pain. Canadians can only imagine peace, order, good government, and moderate back pain.”– Robert Fulford

Canada shouldn’t even exist because we’ve broken virtually every rule where it applies to nation building. Countries are normally fairly simple and straight-forward things—one language, one history, one people. By contrast Canada isn’t one people but many; it is arguably the only genuinely multicultural nation state in history. Yet, appearances are deceiving: according to a 2016 Angus Reid poll Canadians are becoming less and less tolerant of Muslims compared to Americans.[1] The United States breaks a number of rules when it comes to nation building, too; they are a nation of immigrants and just as culturally diverse as Canada. However, Canada is officially multicultural whereas America typically encourages new immigrants to assimilate. This is why the Angus Reid poll is so intriguing: Americans are comparatively more supportive of new immigrants keeping their customs, language, etc. than Canadians are.

Pinpointing when modern nations first appear is difficult. Some scholars assert England was the first nation state by drawing our attention to the year 1689. In this year, England adopted the Bill of Rights which effectively limited the power of the king while centralizing authority around the English people themselves through a constitution. Some scholars suggest the French Revolution (1789) brought into existence the first truly national identity: people residing in Republican France no longer identified first and foremost with their province but with their nation as a whole. This view is not without its challenges; that is, only 50% of France’s people actually spoke French in 1789.[2] If one of the hallmarks of a nation is linguistic unity then France fails this test. No country is without contradictions like France’s: Canadians don’t have one official language, they have two…and counting. Canada’s history is not a single narrative; it’s a shared collection of stories.

Despite Canadian’s living as a patchwork of cultures, Canada has a rich history of intolerance. In shades of Plato’s “one and the many”[3] dichotomy, there are numerous examples in Canada’s history where the English majority (the “one”) attempted to push out or assimilate minorities (the “many”). In 1837 and 1838, rebellions broke out in both French and English Canada. Once the English authorities quelled the revolts, Queen Victoria sent Lord Durham to investigate the causes of the discontent in British North America. Durham, an Englishman, argued English Canadians rebelled because they were tired of being dominated by an unresponsive, selfish governor and ruling oligarchy. So Durham recommended England grant English Canadians more decision-making power and responsible government. However, when it came to the French they didn’t rebel for the same reasons as the English; rather, the French were, according to Durham, simply incapable of loyalty because of their race. Durham recommended the French be assimilated as soon as possible. The rebellions led to a lot of property damage in both English and French Canada. To help English Canadians pay for the damage a bill was passed by the United Assembly of Canada approving the appropriate funds. The French were denied similar compensation (because they were French). In 1848 the Canadian Government experienced some reform under the leadership of an Englishman named Robert Baldwin (1804-1858) and a Frenchman, Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine (1807-1864). The two men worked to end the French-English tension by passing the Rebellion Losses Bill into law. The bill granted French Canadians compensation for damage caused by England’s army during the 1838 uprising. English Canada didn’t respond well to the bill—a hoard of them responded to the bill’s passing by burning the colony’s assembly to the ground.

French Canada has at times acted a little on the tribal side, as well. The Quebec nationalist cleric and writer Lionel Groulx (1878-1967) romanticized France and emphasized the racial purity of the people of Quebec; he asserted the French were victims of English Canada. Although there was some truth to Groulx’s claim, e.g. during the Manitoba Schools crisis in the 1890s English Canadians successfully limited French language and education rights outside of Quebec, etc. the cleric was somewhat paranoid. Later French historians from the so-called “Montreal School”, and even the Parti Quebecois,[4] used Groulx’s thinking to justify Quebec’s separation from Canada. John Raulston Saul, author of Reflections of a Siamese Twin, described Groulx’s influence in the following way:

All [the Montreal School] took from Groulx was the negative. The result was a victim psychosis in the extreme. It is now somehow assumed that the Montreal School is just the past. No longer relevant. But in fact their selecting reworking of Groulx became the intellectual foundation of the current separatist/sovereigntist school…This movement—indeed, the Parti Quebecois itself—has within it two very different, often contradictory, parts. One is social democratic and reform oriented. The other comes from the Montreal School, which was conservative, in many ways reactionary, and was tied to the old clerical nationalism…[sic] anchored their catastrophic view firmly in a highly selective editing and interpretation of the past.[5]

Lionel Groulx argued the racial differences between French and English Canadians was insurmountable.[6] These differences continued to play a role through two world wars, the Quiet Revolution[7] of the 1960s, and during two referendums on separation from Canada (held in 1980 and 1995 respectively). Yet, Baldwin and Lafontaine’s example of cooperation at least suggested Groulx’s pessimism wasn’t entirely justified: when there’s a willingness to compromise and work together people—even ones belonging to different ethnic or religious groups—can live and flourish together.

Following the 1995 referendum a separatist politician named Lucien Bouchard (1938 to present) was elected premier of Quebec. He ruffled a lot of Canadian feathers when he observed “Canada wasn’t a real country”.[8]  In a sense, Bouchard was right: Canada was too complicated a creature to constitute a nation as defined.[9] He was of course appealing to 19th century standards about nationhood. Bouchard didn’t view diversity as a strength so much as a watering down of the French Canadian culture and identity. In the 2001, Prime Minister Paul Martin (1938 to present) argued the opposite observing in an interview “Canada is the world’s only truly post-modernist nation”. Ultimately, he was saying there wasn’t one right way to go about building a country:

I think it is that individuals can actually control their own destiny. That you just don’t simply have to [lie] back and be rolled over by the huge forces of globalization that you can’t control. That it is possible for nation states acting collectively to, in fact, deal with the problems they face. I also have to say something else that really didn’t come out of this meeting, but that this meeting certainly confirmed, and that is that Canada is really, I think, the world’s first 21st century country. We have a very post-modern view. Not only is our economy open, but in fact the waves of immigrants have changed the way Canadians look at the world. I think that we are by far a more modern country than almost any other, and that there is a huge opportunity for Canada to play a leadership role. We are not a dominant power such as the United States. We are not narcissistic as are so many Europeans in the process of building Europe…And we have this much more progressive view of the way in which the world ought to evolve.[10]

Canadian nationalism, with its focus on openness, was the opposite of the nationalism that pushed the great powers of Europe to destroy one another in two world wars during the 20th century.[11] Diversity, tolerance, pluralism, openness, etc. should all be considered strengths; and despite the Angus Reid poll Canada is a multicultural society. We have our challenges (as do all nations, even ones with homogeneous populations). But I’m confident, invoking Abraham Lincoln, that the better angels of our nature will eventually win out and the irrational fear some Canadians have of Muslims will abate. Yet, optimism notwithstanding, tolerance is almost always tied to how well the economy is doing. People aren’t rational but emotional by nature: so when we are personally doing well financially we project a sense of wellness on to others; however, when we aren’t doing well we are more likely to blame others for our own misfortune.

Ultimately, nations are not created simply by passing legislation limiting the power of the King (England) or by lopping off his head (France). Nations are multi-headed and complex creatures. In the Canadian context, Canada breaks the rules and is successful primarily because, to quote John Raulston Saul, “[Canadians] accept their non-conformity with some ease. They live it and so it makes sense”.[12] So, while not every Canadian is necessarily on-board with multiculturalism, at some level most Canadians appreciate why it’s so important that it succeeds: with the rise of racism and nationalist movements in the 21st century in both Europe and North America, Canada is one of the few countries capable of acting as an example of what peace can accomplish when there’s such a huge temptation to go to war with our neighbors.

 

[1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/poll-canadians-multiculturalism-immigrants-1.3784194

[2] William T. Cavanaugh, Migrations of the Holy, p.4.

[3] In philosophy, the question of the “one” and the “many” concerns whether or not reality can be accurately described as a “single, united whole” or as a something that is “multiple, divisible”. For example, the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (1942 to present), just like Albert Einstein (1879-1955) before him, attempted to establish a single so-called “theory of everything” to describe reality; however, all attempts so far to describe physical reality through a single formula (or theory) has proven impossible. Instead, scientists are forced to describe reality through many different models.

[4] The Parti Quebecois was a French separatist political party founded by the journalist Rene Levesque (1922-1987) in 1968.

[5] John Raulston Saul, Reflections of a Siamese Twin, p. 19.

[6] The French and English do not belong to separate races as defined. Instead, they belong to different ethnic groups within the same race.

[7] The Quiet Revolution was a period of intense socio-political and socio-cultural change in Quebec characterized by the effective secularization of society, the creation of a welfare state, and realignment of politics into federalist and sovereigntist factions.

[8] Steven Jay Schneider and Tony Williams, Horror International, p.239.

[9] Nations are supposed to be simple things. Canada is far from simple. According to 19th century standards, nations consist of one ethnic group speaking the same language, worshiping the same God (in the same way), and sharing a common history. For example, Germans and Japanese nationalists insisted their respective countries were the greatest in the world in the 1930s. Around the same time Italians under Mussolini reminded the world his country was once the seat of Roman power. In some respects deserved and in others not so much, France has persisted insisting it possesses a certain je ne sais quoi which sets itself apart from other nations. Turning our attention to China, the Chinese historically have referred to their country as the “Middle Kingdom” (a place existing mystically between Heaven and earth) while Americans are notorious for thinking themselves exceptional in absolutely every way. Canadians are different (or at least they think they are); they love their country while not holding themselves up as the standard by which all other countries are measured. Canadians admit they do some things well while acknowledging other countries do, too.

[10] Interview of Paul Martin by Candida Tamar Paltiel (G8 Research Group), November 18, 2001, Ottawa. http://www.g8.utoronto.ca/g20/interviews/Martin011118.pdf

[11] Wars make nationalists and nationalists make nations. In the case of the United States, it took two major wars—the American Revolution (1776-1783) and the Civil War (1861-1865)—for it to become a modern nation state. In the case of the Dominion of Canada, it became a country in form with the passage of the British North America Act in 1867; however, Canada did not become a nation in fact until its success at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France (1917) during World War I. The shared sacrifice of Canada’s soldiers (French, English, German, Jewish, First Nation, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) gave Canadians a shared sense of pride resulting in a shared sense of identity. Although war is not the only way to build a nation, it seems to play a huge part in the development of national identity.

[12] John Raulston Saul, p.9.

Podcast Episode 19: America like…WTF?

In episode 19, the Hooligans discuss the significance and meaning of Donald Trump’s recent (and surprising) victory in the American presidential election. The cast considers the impact of Trump’s stated policies for Canada, the United States, and how the controversial figure’s rise in the United States is increasing popular support for ultra-right wing political parties in Western Europe (a trend not seen since the 1920s).

Episode 19: America like…WTF?

Click on the hyperlink above to download and listen to the podcast. Feel free to leave a comment or question in the comments section below. One of the cast members will respond.

Thanks in advance for listening and check back regularly for updates to the site and podcast. Also, if you like what you hear please follow us on Word Press to receive notifications on when the blog or podcast is updated.

Notes & Clarifications
1). On the night of the election, Mark Halpern (one of the hosts of Showtime’s Circus) was interviewed on Stephen Colbert’s Election Night Special on November 8th.  Halpern is one of the managing editors of Bloomberg Politics and a senior political analyst for MSNBC. He and co-host John Heilemann followed both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. Halpern argued that Trump’s election was one of the three most disastrous events to befall the United States, e.g. World War II, 9/11 and of course November 9th, 2016.

2). On November 8th Donald Trump won the presidency by winning the electoral college; however, for what it’s worth Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, e.g. As of November 11th Clinton had received 60,467,245 votes (or 47.7%) while Trump received 60,071,650 (47.4%).

Source: http://www.ibtimes.com/latest-popular-vote-results-2016-hillary-clinton-has-almost-400000-more-votes-winner-2445216

Three other candidates won the electoral college but received less of the popular vote, e.g. Clinton had more than Trump (2016), Al Gore had more than George W. Bush (2000), Grover Cleveland received more support than Benjamin Harrison (1888), and Samuel Tilden received more than Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876.

3). Rick made reference to John Cruickshank during the show. Cruickshank is a former contributor to the Toronto Globe and Mail who, during a recent interview on CBC’s The Investigators, discussed the reasons why media’s predictions were wrong. Also, Cruickshank provided some interesting insight as to the significance of Trump’s unexpected victory. Specifically he said the campaign was covered “as if it were a plebiscite on the character of Donald Trump, but it wasn’t, really. It had a lot more to do with the fact that for almost all of the American population, they haven’t had a raise in 40 years.” You can watch the interview by clicking on the link below:

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/americans-vote-out-media-1.3846307

4). During the show Rick made reference to the stagnation of African-American wages since the 1960s, i.e. as a cohort this group actually made more money in the middle of the 20th century than they do in 2016. The site linked below presents information from a report published in 1965 called “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.”

Source: http://yourblackworld.net/2013/03/02/the-black-family-is-worse-off-today-than-in-the-1960s-report-shows/

5). There are a series of important elections coming in Europe in 2016 and 2017. The election of Donald Trump, and specifically the way he won, has emboldened and increased support for right-wing political parties in France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Belgium and Italy. The BBC article linked below provides a context for understanding the paradigm shift currently taking place in Western Europe.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36150807

6). During the podcast, Rick couldn’t recall the name of President John F. Kennedy gave to his administration’s time in office. Kennedy called it the “New Frontier.” Kennedy pursued a domestic policy which carried on with liberal social reforms enacted under the President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. In terms of foreign policy, Kennedy encouraged Americans to make a difference in the world by joining the recently formed Peace Corps and to land a man on the moon before the Russians (during the so-called Space Race).

Podcast Episode 18: Remembrance Day With Captain Troy Grant

In episode 18, Rick talks with Major Troy Grant about his experiences in the Canadian armed forces. Over the course of a 25 year career with the army, he served with the 8th Canadian Hussars, 3rd Bn Royal Canadian Regiment, 2nd Bn Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and the 1st Service Bn. Additionally, he served with the 416 Tactical Fighter Squadron. Major Grant completed tours in both Haiti and Afghanistan (among other places). He received a special distinction following his work in Afghanistan for coordinating the efforts of government and non-government players during Canada’s time in Kandahar. In this interview, Major Grant gives the audience the benefit of his experiences serving Canada and actively working to preserve our institutions.

Episode 18: Remembrance Day With Major Troy Grant

Click on the hyperlink above to download and listen to the podcast. Feel free to leave a comment or question in the comments section below. One of the cast members will respond.

Thanks in advance for listening and check back regularly for updates to the site and podcast. Also, if you like what you hear please follow us on Word Press to receive notifications on when the blog or podcast is updated.

 

Episode 17: Freedom Fooders: Building Stronger Communities

Peasants & Emperors is a podcast presenting topics related to democracy, science, culture, women’s issues, current events and critical thinking. A new podcast is produced and available for listening/download approximately every two weeks.

In episode 17, Jess and Rick interview Kirby Criddle. Criddle is one of three founding members of the Freedom Fooders—a grass roots initiative attempting to address the problem of food insecurity in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The Freedom Fooders build food boxes placing them in various neighborhoods where need is perceived to be the greatest. The initiative has inspired similar actions in cities throughout Western Canada.

Episode 17: Freedom Fooders: Building Stronger Communities

Click on the hyperlink above to download and listen to the podcast. Feel free to leave a comment or question in the comments section below. One of the cast members will respond.

Thanks in advance for listening and check back regularly for updates to the site and podcast. Also, if you like what you hear please follow us on Word Press to receive notifications on when the blog or podcast is updated.

Notes & Clarifications
1). During the podcast, the topic of safe injection sites were discussed. These sites are controversial because they offer a counter-intuitive solution to the problem of illicit drug use. The previous Conservative government opposed safe injection sites partly for economic reasons and partly ethical reasons. Specifically, Rona Ambrose, the former federal Minister of Health, argued essential resources were being diverted from treatment and prevention while drug use was being legitimated by Insite (the name of the safe injection program in Vancouver).

Conventional treatment and prevention services are essential; however, by adding safe injection sites people already addicted are provided safe needles (preventing HIV and hepatitis infections) and access to emergency services otherwise unavailable to people who struggle with addictions. According to a Maclean’s article published on July 20, 2015, Vancouver was in the midst of a health crisis that Dr. Thomas Kerr of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS called “the most explosive epidemic of HIV infection that had been observed outside of sub-Saharan Africa.” Since Insite (the name of the safe injection program) was established in 2003, British Columbia has gone from having the highest infection rate in Canada to among the lowest. Dr. Kerr observed, “In the immediate area around Insite, the 40-block area around the facility, there’s been a 35% decline in overdose deaths. And people who use Insite on a regular basis are 30% more likely to enter addiction treatment.”

Source: http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-scientists-are-in-insite-works.

 
2). Additionally, during the podcast the topic of how Medicine Hat is dealing with homelessness was discussed. Instead of just ignoring the homeless, the municipality of Medicine Hat is dealing with the issue head on. Mayor Ted Clugson led an initiative to provide homes (not just shelter) for people. He argued that it made “financial sense…You can actually save money by giving somebody some dignity and giving them a place to live.” During the initiative, Medicine Hat has provided living spaces for at least 885 people (nearly 1,000 people out of a city population of 61,000).

According to a paper published by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness called The State of Homelessness in Canada (2014), finding housing for homeless people in the short-term will cost municipal, provincial and federal level governments a lot of money; however, in the long-term instead of spending 7 billion a year on emergency shelters, social services, health care, and law enforcement and judicial costs, ending homelessness through a “comprehensive housing strategy would cost much less: 3.75 billion in 2015-16 and 44 billion over a decade [rather than 70 billion].”

Source: http://o.canada.com/news/national/ending-homelessness-in-canada-581832.