Like a flash, the election is over and we have turned from a Conservative government to a Liberal. I guess that’s my excuse for reminiscing about political journeys, for countries, for movements and for individuals. For example, we all voted for our choice of MP, but we both knew and were told we were voting for PM.
I doubt I will ever “get it.” My MP, both by choice and by majority vote, is David Tilson. I like Tilson, both personally and for the job he does for our riding in Ottawa. On the other hand, by voting for Tilson, I knew I was also voting for Stephen Harper. I’ll leave Harper alone, since others seem to be taking care of the second-guessing and Tuesday-morning quarterbacking. But the fact is, once your MP gets to Ottawa, he or she may vote the straight party line, he or she might push back a bit on certain issues, but by and large, that MP will obey the PM or suffer. And, for the record, it appears the same may apply to senators. So we can drop the pretenses. The idea we are voting for our own interests is a lie. We are voting for power, and the MP is just a fee at the toll gate. Not very democratic, actually. We can elect a PM quite easily, but it’s quite another thing to unelect one. We don’t have a vote.
As you can see, I am a nominal Conservative. That is, I am known as a Conservative, I am cursed and blessed as a Conservative and I vote Conservative.
But that has not always been so. I graduated high school in 1970, so I listened to Neil Young when he was still trying. Hitchhiking was popular back then, and I did some of that. I had long hair. And I was a Liberal: called, known, cursed, blessed and vote. So what changed?
Sometimes I think a better question is to look at why I was a liberal (we’ll go to small-l and small-c for now).
I believed the government should stay out of our lives. Back then, the arguments were over safety, adulteration of food and water, foreign policy, education and so on…. Pretty much the same conversation as today, including “rights” that seemed to get invented by the day.
I believed in equal pay for equal work. Today, that phrase, when used, means the opposite. It means superior pay and more time off for more things for fewer people. If I’m feeling quippy, I change the order to say equal work for equal pay, but I have to be careful of my audience. I think I could get arrested.
Which brings me to my belief in freedom of speech. In the ’60s, we meant it. I recall in journalism school studying about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in The American Nazi Party vs. Skokie. Like the rest of my generation, we knew to hate and despise Nazis, so it fascinated me that the Court held that it was necessary to protect the vilest speech in order to protect the intended speech — that is, political speech designed to advance the majority interests in the country.
Even back then, I knew, and I think everybody knew, that the intended protection was for political speech. Who could have imagined that political arguments in 2015 could be actionable as “hate crimes” and the only speech that is purely protected is pornography? There is absolutely nothing so lewd or obscene that the government won’t fund it as art. As a liberal, I was against pornography, but I watched the world go haywire, stumbling over itself to promote indecency and stifle tradition.
As a liberal, I believed in freedom of religion, but I never imagined that the government would recognize the antithesis of religion as religion, give the antithesis of religion rights superior to religion and then enforce the rights of anti-theists, a-theists, occultists and just plain stoners to suppress any act or symbol of religion anywhere they see it.
As a liberal, I was forced a few times to join unions, and I saw there what I knew from history — that unions keep bad company. In the 1800s, the unions held the hand of anarchy with their left hand and organized crime with their right, working their magic on politics in the middle. In the mid-1900s, the unions held the hand of communism with their left and and organized crime with their right, working their magic on politics in the middle. In the early 2000s, I see … oh, you look at it yourself. Try going to www.canadiandimension.com, and see your tax dollars at work. Here is a current article as an example.
As a liberal, I believed in society’s duty to care for its least capable members. However, four years working as a welfare intake and fraud worker taught me two things. First, the people we most want cared for are incapable of navigating the bureaucracy, so they lose again. Second, for every dollar that goes to the needy, at least 100 dollars go to the bureaucracy and, irritatingly, to self-styled advocacy groups that are predatory limpets on the body politic and have never produced anything positive in their lives.
As a liberal, I could not then, and cannot now, imagine the foolishness of judging somebody by sex or skin colour. I have seen it; you have seen it. I just can’t rationalize it. I understand all the Cleopatras did well for themselves and their country, and they were neither white nor male. I believed as a liberal that everybody has value and everybody has talents and everybody has a raison d’être: a reason to be. I never expected that advocates, often having no direct linkage to a visible minority group, would persecute those minorities with the subtle racism of low expectations, force minorities into governmental dependency and demand control. To me, slavery is slavery, no matter who holds the dinner bell, and I opposed slavery. And do.
You get the gist. I will grant that I have changed my perspective over time. Those of us that are lucky, do. However, my core beliefs remain. I want everybody to have the opportunities I have had, the fun I have had and the education, formal or not, that I have had. Why shouldn’t they?
But part of my education was driving too fast on ice, and the consequences. Part was in making bad decisions and the consequences. Part was backing the wrong side in a fight and the consequences.
Part was leaving my traditions behind while I tried to find something new. Something better. Something more smart. It didn’t work for me, so I have returned to my roots. I believe in free speech for everybody (and my right to argue). I believe in my freedom to profess my religion, not see my beliefs squatted upon by what I know to be not religions, but anti-religions. I believe in equal pay for equal work and equal opportunity for anybody that wants to pick up a hammer instead of a benefits cheque.
I have the advantage of having received nothing free. I did not start off being a publisher. I paid off my student loans by working in an abattoir, selling cars, building fence, cutting timber, collecting bills, and, yes, being a welfare bureaucrat. Many of my choices were ill-advised, but I thank God nobody stepped in front to make them for me.
As a liberal, I am happy to yield to the majority and give Justin Trudeau his day on the throne. I will confess from the start I am prejudiced. He looks like a vain kid to me that has never had the harsh hand of reality smack him on the ear, never had to choose between paying a bill or feeding his kids (my kids ate) and has never had to do the self-examination that happens the night after you get fired. For what it’s worth, I don’t see an election as a job offer. I see it as a popularity contest. Losing a pageant is not equivalent to losing a job.
But most of all, I am just curious as hell about what makes Justin a Liberal and me a Conservative, when my experience, my intelligence and my morals say the roles are flipped. We somehow ended up down the rabbit hole and we have lost track of time and proportion.
Oh, well. Five years and we can do it all over again. As an experiment, I will just keep on being called a Conservative, while looking at controversies from time to time in terms of history and mores instead of red and blue. I may as well. The field seems wide open.
From time to time a reader asks why a little trade magazine writes about politics. In a few short hours it will be Remembrance Day. The name of the day has developed its own pathos, because a day created to remember is celebrated largely by people that won’t.
What is it we should remember? In 1914, an archduke of Austria was assassinated by a Moslem activist, resulting in millions of men lining up across blood and mud rivers from each other. On the one side were the Allies: France, England, Russia and later, the U.S. On the other side, the Axis: Germany, Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. It was called World War I, and was responsible for the deaths of more than nine million combatants and seven million civilians, including deaths by new technologies, to include machine guns, tanks, mines and gas.
Politics. Take a minute tomorrow at 11:00. It is time.