Thursday, August 10, 2006

To the Barricades

Barricades, the journal of Beryl P. Wajsman's Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal, is now available online. It is definitely worth a look.

My heart fails to bleed by George Jonas is an especially good read.

On democracy, Jonas writes:
Contrary to how most Western political leaders, academics, or editorialists use the word, "democracy" doesn’t mean peace, freedom, equality, prosperity, secularism, security, or justice. The D-word simply means a method of governmental succession. It denotes a system in which governments succeed each other by being elected, usually for a fixed term, by a majority of qualified voters. That's all.

On freedom…
Are Western societies still freer than outright theocracies or dictatorships, like Cuba or North Korea? Unquestionably, yes. Are they FREE, though? No, not really. They aren't free, not just compared with some mythical absolute, but with their own past.

The world had a one-night stand with freedom. She came in the late 19th century and went in the early 20th. Even the citizens of semi-constitutional monarchies, such as Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany, were freer in the pre-World War I era than the income- and consumption-taxed inhabitants of the European Union are today. They were certainly freer in terms of individual expression, enterprise, and mobility than the photo-ID'd, hate-crime-muzzled, gun-registered, dog-tail-length-regulated, smoke-freed and body-searched citizens of the interventionist democracies are our times, Canada included.

The modern liberal state has its own dogmas, sacrileges, holy things, taboos, which it guards as jealously and enforces almost as rigidly as the Taliban used to guard and enforce its version of Islam.

Exaggeration? You decide. In the year 1300, in what we call the Dark Ages, a pig was tried for blasphemy in France. In the year 2000, two hundred years into the Age of Enlightenment, on the eve of the 21st century, in the United States, when a six-year-old boy kissed a six-year-old girl, the authorities charged him with sexual harassment.

With the past to guide us, Canada's future is bright...
I came to Canada 50 years ago. It wasn't a perfect society perhaps, but compared to the rest of the world, it was a society of prosperity, liberty, and sanity. To me it seemed magical. When people disapproved of something, they shrugged and said: "Well, it's a free country." When was the last time you've heard that expression?

My heart bleeds for that free country of 1956. I suppose that makes me a bleeding-heart conservative. I'm not a pessimist, though. I think Canada's future is bright, but it's accessible to us only through the yellow brick road of Canada's past. The rest are blind alleys.