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					           The 2nd Annual International
            Free Thinking Film Festival
               November 11-13, 2011
                 Ottawa, Ontario




“The Free Thinking Film Society is about great films and speakers that
you won't find elsewhere. But it's also a statement in itself: that freedom,
and dissent, and contrary views, are still alive and well in Canada. When
the FTFS stared down the thugs at the Iranian Embassy to show Iranium,
it wasn't just the film that mattered. It was the right to see it -- a right
strengthened through regular use. Bravo and thanks from all Canadians.”
      Ezra Levant




                          Celebrating Films on Democracy and Freedom!
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                              E-mail: info@freethinkingfilms.com
  Observer
                        C A N A D I A N


   Vol. 1 No. 1 Summer 2011        Culture, Politics & Public Affairs

Future Topics:                                                           www.canadianobservermag.ca
                                      Feature Article:
 Rule of Law
 Family                               Faith, family and good government 5
 Health                               A primer on faith-based conservatism




                                                                                                              Agreement 42192028
 International                        –Richard Bastien




                                                                                          Publications Mail
 Economic Development
 Environment
                                      Feminism is dead... only whining remains   14
 Government
                                      – Barbara Kay
 Biographies
 Ideas & Books                        Christopher Dawson and the Age of Dante 17
 Notable Events                       – Dominic Manganiello
 Polls & Data
                                      How I Discovered my Canadianness 22
 Q&A
                                      – Andrea Mrozek
 Letters
                                      Islamist Extremists – Is Canada too Smug? 24
Book Reviews in This Issue:           –Rory Leishman
Conversion Stories 40
                                      Interview     28
By John Gay
                                      Man Does Not Live By Reason Alone          28
Book Review:                          An Interview with Leszek Kolakowski
The Emptiness of Plenty       41
                                      Fiction Tells a Greater Truth 35
By Janice Fiamengo
                                      –Salim Mansur
Book Review:
                                      Here and There and Nowhere         56
True Leadership Revealed      44
                                      Politically incorrect observations
By Bruce Wilson
                                      – Richard Bastien, Observer Editor
Book Review:
                                      A Man’s Place is Home        62
Why School Children Fail      46
                                      – David Beresford
By Jeffrey Asher
Book Review:
New Applications For An
Ancient Art 49
By Jeffrey Asher
Book Review:
The Christian Invention Of The
Human         51
– John Bryson
Canadian Centre for Policy Studies
Canada’s independent conservative
public policy think-tank.
For more information or to support
the Centre, visit our website at
www.policystudies.ca             Our guiding principles:
                                      ❑	 Limited, constitutional
                                         government.
                                      ❑	 Free markets, free enter-
                                         prise, private property.
                                      ❑	 A justice system that
                                         holds everyone equally
                                         accountable, that pun-
                                         ishes criminal offenders
                                         and that protects the law-
                                         abiding.
                                      ❑	 A foreign policy that ad-
                                         vances and supports
                                         freedom and democracy
                                         around the world.
                                      ❑	 Responsible, fact-based
                                         stewardship of the envi-
                                         ronment.
                                      ❑	 Respect for the natural
                                         family as the essential
                                         building blocks of a free,
                                         prosperous and demo-
                                         cratic society.
                                      ❑	 Respect for the intrinsic
                                         value of all human life,
                                         from conception to natural
                                         death.
                                           Contents
The Canadian Observer is a quarterly
                                           Faith, family and good government 5
magazine of Canada First Media.
                                           A primer on faith-based conservatism           FEATURE
The Canadian Observer                      –Richard Bastien
P. O. Box 30001
                                           Feminism is dead.. only whining remains   14
Greenbank North RPO
Ottawa ON K2H 1A3                          – Barbara Kay
Tel: 613.800.0837                          Photo credits 12
Fax: 613.800.0713
www.canadianobservermag.ca                 Christopher Dawson and the Age of Dante 17
ISSN    1925-6760 (Print edition)          – Dominic Manganiello
ISSN    1925-6779 (Online editions)        How I Discovered my Canadianness 22
                                           – Andrea Mrozek
The purpose of the magazine is to raise
the quality of the debate on public        Islamist Extremists – Is Canada too Smug? 24
policy, politics and law. We wish to       –Rory Leishman
present the need for a renewal based
on traditional Canadian values. We are     Interview
open to other rationally-argued views.     Man Does Not Live By Reason Alone         28
We encourage free speech and public
                                           An Interview with Leszek Kolakowski
debate. Therefore the ideas presented in
this magazine are those of the writers     Fiction Tells a Greater Truth 35
and authors.                               –Salim Mansur
Readers are invited to offer their views   Book Review:
to the Editor in letters to the editor.    Conversion Stories    40
                                           By John Gay
We also welcome your support as a
subscriber, member, donor and attendee     Book Review:
at our events.                             The Emptiness of Plenty      41
www.canadianobservermag.ca/subscribe       By Janice Fiamengo
Speakers are available from us to cover    Book Review:
the topics presented.                      True Leadership Revealed     44
                                           By Bruce Wilson
Advertisers are also welcome. Our
audience is literate, upper income,        Book Review:
involved Canadians.                        Why School Children Fail     46
www.canadianobservermag.ca/advertise       By Jeffrey Asher
Circulation: Approximately 5000.           Book Review:
                                           New Applications For An Ancient Art 49
Publisher: Joseph Ben-Ami                  By Jeffrey Asher
publisher@canadianobservermag.ca
                                           Book Review:
Editor-in-Chief: Richard Bastien           The Christian Invention Of The Human 51
editor@canadianobservermag.ca              – John Bryson
Managing Editor: Bruce Wilson              Here and There and Nowhere         56
info@canadianobservermag.ca                Politically incorrect observations
                                           – Richard Bastien, Observer Editor
                                           A Man’s Place is Home        62
                                           – David Beresford
           Editorial: The Aims and Values behind Canadian Observer
              In 1950 a relatively unknown group of political              larizing’ and thus in violation of the First Principle of
           thinkers and activists in Quebec led by Pierre Trudeau          Political Punditry: Thou Shalt Hug the Middle” which,
           founded the magazine Cité Libre. The goal was to pro-           according to Coyne, leads to the Second Principle,
           vide a platform for the development and dissemina-              Thou Shalt Not Change Things Much, If At All.
           tion of left-wing ideas that were not in vogue at that              Although made in jest, Coyne’s comment has an
           time in Quebec and that were difficult to get into              element of truth to it. Conservatives do have a pen-
           print due to the political and social climate that ex-          chant for doing nothing significantly conservative
           isted in that province.                                         during their infrequent terms in office, which may
              Between its inception in 1950 and its (original)             help explain why their terms in office have been so
           closing in 1966, Cité Libre served this purpose well.           infrequent. If, after all, conservatives themselves are
           Never a popular journal in the traditional sense, it            unwilling to explain and defend conservative princi-
           nevertheless quickly became the principal source of             ples, why should anyone expect the public to embrace
           intellectual capital for what became known as the               them?
           Quiet Revolution, playing an important role in both                 Our aim at Canadian Observer is to show that con-
           the resurgence of the Quebec Liberal Party and the              servatism is a sound and moral political philosophy
           subsequent conversion of the federal Liberal Party to           and to present sensible conservative solutions to the
           the quasi-socialist policies of Trudeau and his succes-         issues of the day. More specifically, we seek to be a
           sors.                                                           source of conservative intellectual capital to be drawn
              Our goal in creating Canadian Observer magazine              upon and spent in pursuit of a better, freer Canada. It
           is to provide a similar platform for the development            is to counter the anesthetizing effect of contemporary
           and dissemination of conservative ideas in the areas of         liberalism and to point to the possibilities and benefits
           culture, politics and public affairs.                           of change.
              The timing of such a project could not be more                   Although we will, of necessity, touch on matters
           propitious.                                                     of public policy, Canadian Observer is not primarily
              The recent election of a majority Conservative               a policy journal. It is a journal of ideas; a place to dis-
           federal government presents Canadian conservatives              cover and discuss the principles that form the founda-
           with opportunity and risk – opportunity to demon-               tion of a strong and healthy society. To the degree that
           strate the benefit of applying conservative principles          public policy impacts or is impacted by those prin-
           to government, and risk that they will fail to seize that       ciples, we discuss it.
           opportunity, reverting instead to the “me-too” liberal-             We invite you to join in the Canadian Observer
           ism of past conservative governments. No one who                discussions. Send us your comments, letters, articles
           has followed Canadian politics these past few decades           and ideas. Subscribe. Link to our website: www.ca-
           can be certain which path they will choose. As An-              nadianobservermag.ca and ensure that the Canada of
           drew Coyne put it in a recent column in Maclean’s,              our future reflects your values.
           “…God forbid (the conservatives) should do anything             Joseph Ben-Ami is publisher of Canadian Observer and
           with the power they now possess. That would be ‘po-             founder of Canadian Centre for Policy Studies.

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Faith, family and good government
A primer on faith-based conservatism
–Richard Bastien




S
       ome hold that the fundamental division in Ca-        are as human beings. The divide reflects a philosophi-
       nadian society is between French-speaking and        cal and religious division which runs through virtually
       English speaking people, others between well-        all Western countries. There is no longer any cultural
to-do and poorer people, and others still between           unity within individual countries. The current state of
males and females. Yet, as real as they may be, these       Western culture is perhaps best defined by this fun-
divisions pale beside those having arisen in recent de-     damental opposition between belief in autonomous
cades on matters of morality and religion.                  reason, which is the essence of liberalism, and belief in
    Throughout most of the past 150 years, Canadi-          the symbiotic relationship between faith and reason,
ans have experienced tensions and conflicts of various      which is the essence of conservatism.
kinds, but somehow always managed to remain unit-               This being said, one need not adhere to a particular
ed as a result of their Judeo-Christian heritage, which     religious faith to be a conservative. All that conser-
translated into a generally shared respect                                vatism requires is acknowledgement of a
for the dignity of the human person and                                   natural law founded solely in reason. Nat-
a broad sense of fairness. The Christian                                  ural law provides an objective standard of
faith was essentially the default position                                right and wrong for both individuals and
of Canadian society. It was the source of                                 governments. It distinguishes the objec-
our unity and enabled us to accomplish                                    tive wrongness of an act from the subjec-
great things, both politically and eco-                                   tive culpability of its author. It was first
nomically, as attested by Canada’s resilient                              developed, not by Christian scholars, but
political stability, its role in the two World                            by Greek and Roman philosophers several
Wars and active involvement in interna-                                   centuries before Jesus Christ. Aristotle
tional affairs, its rapid economic growth,                                noted that “one part of what is politically
its ability to integrate vast numbers of im-                              just is natural, and the other part legal.
migrants and its top ranking in the UN’s human de-          What is natural has the same validity everywhere
velopment index.                                            alike, independent of its seeming so or not.” Cicero
    All this was made possible because Canadians            described “Law” as “the highest reason, implanted in
shared Christian beliefs that superseded their linguis-     Nature, which commands what ought to be done and
tic, economic or political differences. Over the past       forbids the opposite.” Not all conservatives are reli-
50 years, however, those beliefs have suffered slow but     gious, but all have faith in an objective moral order,
constant erosion. As a result, most Canadians can now       often called natural law.
be classified as being either conservative or liberal, it       In this paper, the word conservatism thus refers to
being understood that these categories are primarily        something akin to the liberalism of Edmund Burke,
philosophical and moral and only secondarily politi-        Alexis de Tocqueville or G.K. Chesterton, i.e. to clas-
cal.                                                        sical liberalism. As for the word liberalism, it is under-
    The words conservatism and liberalism may be de-        stood as an ideology, often referred to in common par-
fined without reference to political parties. Indeed,       lance as modern liberalism, i.e. the political expression
each designates primarily a certain world view or,          of secular humanism.
more specifically, a particular understanding of man
and his universe. Both of these world views claim to
                                                            The culture of modern liberalism
be universal and rational. The division between liber-        The culture of modern liberalism flows from 18th
als and conservatives is based on beliefs about who we      and 19th century writers such as David Hume, Jer-

                         Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1                5
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 6    Canadian Observer       Spring 2011   Vol. 1. No. 1
emy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, who consistently mathematical relationships and the material world.
argued that the cause of rationality is best served by          Today’s liberals define moral reason in terms of the
materialist philosophies that must eventually over-          maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain.
come the fantasies of religion.                              They draw their inspiration largely from the writ-
    Materialism is a doctrine according to which each ings of John Stuart Mill who, in a book titled Utili-
of us is no more than his body, understood as an ag- tarianism, argued that happiness must be judged “by
gregate of chemical particles assembled together by those who in their opportunities of experience, to
an evolutionary process. Man is                                                  which must be added their habits
essentially a biological machine “The word conservatism of self-consciousness and self-ob-
devoid of any spiritual nature.                   ... thus refers to             servation, are best furnished with
Nothing distinguishes him from                something akin to the              the means of comparison.” This,
other animals except the chemical             liberalism of Edmund               of course, is simply elaborate ver-
complexity of his brain.                          Burke, Alexis de               biage meant to convince people
    People in the academic world                Tocqueville or G.K.              that only those with the “right”
try to give materialism a scientific               Chesterton, i.e.              credentials, i.e. utilitarian philoso-
spin by calling it positivism, which         to classical liberalism”       .    phers and politicians, are able to
says that reality is made up solely                                              judge and rank various pleasures,
of what can be measured. Any-                                                    and hence determine how society
thing that is not measurable is deemed not to exist.         might best achieve the greatest happiness.
Love may exist, but only because it can be reduced              However, given the utilitarian assumption about
to some chemical action in the brain. In An Enquiry          the absence of moral commands written into nature,
Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume put the only way for liberals to judge morally is by the
it as follows:                                               actual experience of pleasure and pain. A moral judge
                                                             will have to compare the delights of marital fidelity
    If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or
                                                             and those of adultery, of gluttony and sobriety, of
    school metaphysics…let us ask, Does it contain any
                                                             reading philosophy and pornographic novels. Mill
    abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?
                                                             himself admitted to this when he wrote: “On a ques-
    No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning
                                                             tion which is the best worth having of two pleasures...
    concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Com-
                                                             the judgment of those who are qualified by knowledge
    mit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing
                                                             of both, or, if they differ, that of the majority among
    but sophistry and illusion.
                                                             them, must be admitted as final.”
    What this means is that any proposition outside             And as if this were not already irrational enough,
the realm of logic, mathematics and empirical sciences       Mill went on to extend the principle of utility “so far
should be considered subjective – a matter of opin- as the nature of things admits, to the whole sentient
ion. It can never claim to be truthful in the sense we creation,” i.e. to the entire animal kingdom, a posi-
generally understand that word. Thus, positivists view tion now upheld by philosopher Peter Singer and ani-
faith as utterly irrational and all religions as so many mal rights activists. In taking this view, Mill, Singer
superstitions.                                               and their disciples are being both logical and illogical.
    Positivism denies that we are a unity of body and Logical because, if morality is but a matter of com-
soul and that we are endowed with a free will that puting pleasure and pain, any being capable of plea-
makes us in some respects unpredictable. It holds sure and pain must enter into the moral computation.
that our perception of ourselves as imperfect beings Illogical because, once you add the entire sentient
inclined to do well but tempted to do evil is illuso- population of every mosquito, rodent, fish, serpent,
ry, as are the categories of good and evil. The basic etc., evaluating and comparing pleasures and pains
claim of the positivist /materialist in the management becomes impossible.
of human affairs is that a mature humanity must rely            But there is more to the irrationality of modern
on reason alone, the scope of reason being limited to        liberalism. Again in Utilitarianism, Mill writes: “Yet

                          Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1                7
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    Canadian Observer     Spring 2011      Vol. 1. No. 1
no one whose opinion deserves a moment’s consider- dience and devotion in the secular order as Christi-
ation can doubt that most of the great positive evils anity does in the religious order. Every ideology is a
of the world are in themselves removable, and will, if promise of social salvation in that it seeks a heavenly
human affairs continue to improve, be in the end re- kingdom on earth.
duced within narrow limits...All the grand sources...of       In the case of liberalism, this promise is to be
human suffering are in a great degree, many of them achieved by an endless enlargement of the role of the
entirely, conquerable by human care and effort.”           State, which acts more or less as a new divine Provi-
   What this implies is that it should be possible to dence. This “divinized” State is meant to usher in a
eradicate virtually all forms of evil and suffering. More new order based on science and technology that will
importantly, it implies that once people become rich, achieve in this life what Christianity promises for the
they will be invariably virtuous, and once diseases afterlife. The new order is to be engineered and man-
and illnesses are eliminated through medical progress, aged by an army of “experts” serving an all encom-
there will no longer be any risk of people indulging in passing, omnipotent, secular state capable of provid-
various abuses or vices. More generally, the chances of ing any and all good and eliminating any and all evil.
crimes and wars occurring will necessarily diminish
in proportion to the spread and growth of economic The culture of conservatism
prosperity and the eradication of various diseases. If        Conservatives believe there is no such thing as “rea-
Mill had been right, then there would have been fewer son alone” and that there is a necessary relationship
crimes and wars in the 20th century than in any previ- between faith and reason. To those who insist on radi-
ous century. Yet, the opposite is true.                                     cally separating the two, they point
   Mill’s utilitarianism, which drives        ... most Canadians            out, in the words of G.K. Chester-
the political thinking of modern lib-       can now be classified ton, that “reason is itself a matter of
erals, denies that man is inclined to            as being either            faith. It is an act of faith to assert that
selfishness and wickedness. It simply            conservative or            our thoughts have any relation to re-
assumes that, given the proper en-               liberal, it being          ality at all.” Indeed, even the materi-
vironment and education, all men                understood that             alism of liberals is a matter of faith:
will be happy and models of virtue.                                         their deep held belief that there ex-
                                             these categories are
As every parent and educator knows,                                         ists nothing other than physical and
this is a case of utopian thinking run primarily philosophical measurable reality is an improbable
amok.                                         and moral and only            assumption that is more intellectu-
   The lesson that we can draw from          secondarily political. ally gratuitous than the Christian
the past two centuries is that all                                          faith based on the testimony of hun-
philosophical systems claiming to be based on reason dreds of people who interacted with Christ before and
alone have turned out to be utterly irrational. More- after his Resurrection, i.e. on compelling historical
over, they have led to unspeakable misery and carnage, evidence.
as attested by the death toll of the French, Russian          Reason raises questions that it cannot answer on
and Chinese revolutions, the genocides committed in its own and to which faith provides answers that be-
their aftermath and the current abortion holocaust. come intelligible only with the help of reason. Thus
Over the past 100 years, the liberal dogma of reason faith and reason are, in the words of Tracey Rowland,
alone has caused more blood to be shed than all the “symbiotically, and not extrinsically, related.” Accord-
religious wars of the past millennium.                     ing to the Oxford English Dictionary, a symbiosis is
   What all these systems have in common is a com- “an interaction between two different organisms liv-
mitment to judge everything according to some par- ing in close physical association, especially to the ad-
ticular abstract idea, i.e. an ideological construct. An vantage of both.” Thus, to say that faith and reason
ideology is a secular religion or, more specifically, a are symbiotically related means not only that they are
political faith that commands virtually as much obe- essential to one another, but also that they grow or

                          Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1                9
perish together.                                             properly the domain of moral reason. But given that
    This symbiosis can be explained from the point of        liberals and conservatives understand the role of rea-
view of reason and from that of faith. From the stand-       son very differently, they are bound to disagree on
point of the former, we know that reason raises ques-        what political action is required in particular circum-
tions that it cannot answer on its own. There is, for        stances.
example, the question of where do we come from and               Liberals are adverse to any reference to God in the
where are we going? This is the question about our           public square: they see Him as a kind of rival who
origin and our destiny: each of us is bound to raise         seeks to deprive people of their autonomy and power.
it at some point or other, and rather earlier than later     Religion, in their mind, involves a zero sum game be-
in life. We cannot help asking it because it has to do       tween personal autonomy and divine authority.
with the very meaning of our existence. Even young               Moreover, liberals believe that empirical sciences
children ask it without ever having been prompted to         will eventually provide answers to all questions tradi-
do so.                                                       tionally associated with philosophy. The separation of
    A philosophy based on reason alone, cannot answer        physics and metaphysics achieved by Christian phi-
the question and declares it to be irrelevant. But faith     losophers many centuries ago is gradually being over-
proposes an answer, from which reason can then draw          taken by the “physics of man” prophesied by Auguste
out some implications. The same may be said about            Comte in the 19th century. Darwin’s grand theory of
the most radical philosophical question that can ever        evolution (not to be confused with the scientifically
be asked: why is there something rather than noth-           demonstrated biological evolution within species) and
ing? This is another question that simply cannot be          Stephen Hawking’s “Grand Design” of the physical
ignored because, whether we like it or not, the way we       universe both claim to explain the origin of life solely
live necessarily implies a response. To ignore the ques-     through chemical processes and to render the “God
tion usually leads to unwittingly adopting the default       hypothesis” superfluous. Some of the “new atheists”
stance of the time in which one is living. Today, that       even claim that science will soon be able to answer
stance is materialistic and utilitarian liberalism.          questions of good and evil, right and wrong, thus
    If we take the standpoint of faith rather than rea-      opening up the way to an empirical science of moral-
son, the necessity of a symbiotic link between the           ity. This is consistent with the concept of positivism
two appears equally obvious. For example, by affirm-         (scientism) according to which the scientific method
ing the existence of God, faith automatically adopts         is the sole approach to systematic and rational knowl-
                                                             edge.
a philosophical position about what constitutes the
                                                                 Conservatives assume that the concepts of nature,
whole of reality and about its origin. By affirming the
                                                             man, God, ethics and religion are closely intertwined
existence of one God who is Logos, Christian faith af-       and cannot be reduced to mere objects of empirical
firms the existence of a creative Intelligence and of a      investigation. Like liberals, they believe that man is a
certain understanding of man as a spiritual being ca-        rational animal. But unlike liberals, they believe that
pable of knowing the truth.                                  he is endowed with free will, which means that he may
    We may thus conclude that reason is distinct from        as often be unreasonable as reasonable. His behaviour
faith as is philosophy from theology. However, the ex-       is often predictable, but may also be unpredictable,
ercise of reason is inseparable from faith. There is no      even to himself.
such thing as a Christian reason, but there is a Chris-          Conservatives also do not view happiness as the ul-
tian exercise of reason or, more specifically, an exercise   timate objective of life. As American philosopher Rus-
of reason enlightened by faith. And if things are so, it     sell Kirk wrote more than 50 years ago:
is because the great problems to which our minds are           Now, the conservative, the thinking conservative,
confronted belong both to the order of reason, i.e.,           never has agreed that happiness, per se, is the object
philosophy, and to that of faith, i.e., theology.              of human existence.… Not that conservatives be-
    Because politics is geared primarily to the achieve-       lieve men ought to be unhappy; conservatives seek
ment of moral objectives like peace and justice, it is         with all their power to alleviate the injustice and

10      Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
  misery of this world; but they know that, in plain         cost, produces greater inner joy than would have been
  fact, man is a creature fallen from grace, and that        possible without it. The family is the school where we
  he never will be perfectly happy here below, and that      learn that we have obligations we never anticipated,
  if we pursue happiness directly, we never will find        and needs that cannot always be satisfied. It is where
  it. Happiness comes only as a by-product of duty           we experience that life is bigger than ourselves and
  done and higher ends sought, in odd moments, most          learn to put the interests of others ahead of our own.
  often in retrospect. The conservative knows that the       That’s why conservatives believe the family has prior-
  object of life, and of society, is something else alto-    ity over society and the state.
  gether. The conservative does not believe that the             As a result, conservatives believe in a natural, moral
  end or aim of life is competition; or success; or en-      order inherent in human nature. We want to do good,
  joyment; or longevity; or power; or possessions. He        but because of our inclination to wickedness – what
  believes, instead, that the object of life is Love. …      Christians call original sin – we do not always act in a
  Men are put into this world, he realizes, to struggle,     moral manner. There is thus a need for moral educa-
  to suffer, to contend against the evil that is in their    tion. However, far from filling an inner moral void,
  neighbours and in themselves, and to aspire toward         moral education is meant to make us more aware
  triumph of Love.                                                               of what we vaguely discern in our
                                             Conservatives believe heart.
   The reason conservatives view
                                                                                    Liberalism argues that the words
love rather than happiness as the ob- there is no such thing
                                                as “reason alone”                “good” and “evil” are merely expres-
ject of human existence is based on
                                               and that there is a               sions of our own personal preferenc-
their belief that man was created to
                                                                                 es or desires. Being a mere product of
love God and his neighbours, a belief necessary relationship
                                                                                 evolution, man has no fundamental
that is confirmed naturally by their           between faith and                 nature – there is nothing permanent
humble experience of life. They see reason. To those who
                                                                                 about him. His nature is to be unde-
themselves as having been born into           insist on separating               termined, open to various forms of
a network of intimate relationships, radically the two, they
                                                                                 biological, psychological or cultural
groomed and protected by consid-
erations which they never chose nor
                                            point out, in the words engineering. He is malleable – like
                                               of G.K. Chesterton,               clay or plastic. Consequently, the
even intended. Far from perceiving
                                                                                 idea that there is a moral truth writ-
themselves as autonomous beings that “reason is itself a
                                                                                 ten on the heart of man makes little
free to roam over the earth as they matter of faith. It is an
                                                                                 sense to the liberal mind, which sim-
please, they sense that they carry a          act of faith to assert             ply assumes that truth must evolve
debt of love and gratitude that en- that our thoughts have
                                                                                 over time, as everything else. Moral
tails certain duties and obligations any relation to reality
                                                                                 truth must be made to correspond
towards family, immediate commu-                         at all.”                to whatever values are supposedly
nity and country – in that particular
                                                                                 embodied in the ever evolving social
order. They understand by instinct
                                                             contract. Thus, there are no absolute values and every-
as well as by intellect that human bonds are integral
                                                             thing is a priori negotiable.
to human development and that living up to those
                                                                 This is what underlies moral relativism. If human
bonds trumps everything else.
                                                             nature is but a by-product of evolution, then there
   This explains the importance conservatives attach
                                                             can be nothing to prevent liberalism from leading us
to the family. As they see it, the family is an institution
                                                             to a technological utopia managed by a centralized
where each person is treated “as an end and never as a
                                                             government bureaucracy. Political power can then be
means.” The purpose of the family is not only to beget
                                                             used as a means to transform the world and human
children, it is to give a moral and spiritual formation
                                                             nature according to the preferences of those in posi-
that will maintain and enrich the intellectual and cul-
                                                             tions of power.
tural capital of civilization. Raising a family requires
                                                                 This is precisely what C.S. Lewis sought to alert us
that parents sacrifice some of their own personal de-
                                                             to in a small book titled The Abolition of Man. “The
sires or preferences for the sake of their children and
                                                             final stage,” says Lewis, “is come when Man by eu-
such self-sacrifice, although not without some real
                                                             genics, by prenatal conditioning, and by an education

                          Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1               11
and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychol-            above the crowd; it does not break wills but it soft-
ogy, has obtained full control over himself. Human            ens them, bends them, and directs them; it rarely
nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to        forces men to act, but it constantly opposes itself to
Man.” The winners will be “the man-moulders of the            men’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things
new age…armed with the powers of an omnicompe-                from coming into being; it does not tyrannize, it
tent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we       hinders, it presses down upon men, it enervates, it
shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can       extinguishes, it stupefies, and it finally reduces each
cut out all posterity in what shape they please.”             nation to no longer being anything but a herd of
    Our anxious and aging society has embraced ad-            timid and industrious animals, whose shepherd is
vances in science, technology, and especially biotech-        the government.
nology—from abortion and embryonic stem cell re-
search to psychopharmacology, cosmetic surgery and          The role of conservatives in a
neurology, genetic manipulation, and the detachment
of sex from reproduction. Anything that is doable is        society saturated by liberalism
deemed legitimate. Yet, all these technical advances            Because liberalism pervades modern culture and
entail a loss of man’s natural dignity.                     most of our educational and political institutions,
    We are told that all bioethical conflicts can be re-    now is not a particularly good time to be a conserva-
solved by consensus amongst scientific experts. Yet,        tive, if ever there was one. Conservatives are often de-
there can be no scientific consensus about what is hu-      picted as reactionaries or traditionally-minded people.
man nature, let alone on human dignity. And if there        “The Stupid Party” is how John Stuart Mill described
is no agreement about what human dignity signifies,         them. Today’s liberal thinkers claim that conservatism
there can be no true agreement about human rights,          is best defined in terms of authoritarianism and con-
or more generally, on what philosophers and pastors         ventionalism.
of an earlier age used to call the natural law.                 In the words of Roger Scruton, conservatism essen-
    Ironically, the idea that we should move beyond         tially involves “loving the world as it is,” being sensi-
our traditional moral norms was first put forth explic-     tive to what has been handed over by our forefathers.
itly by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche          It is based on a sense of amity towards the community,
who, in the late 19th century, wrote a book titled Be-      rather than a desire to remake it according to purely
yond Good and Evil, in which he argued that the real        intellectual constructs. This attitude of receptivity to-
implications of atheism were a world without good           wards the experience of earlier generations reflects the
and evil, based solely on the will to power. In his last    view that there is a “hard core” human nature that
letters, he spoke of the launching of the “greatest deci-   cannot be tampered with and by which cultures, in
sive war in history” where “we shall have convulsions       spite of their diversity and constant evolution, can
on the earth such as have never been seen,” announc-        be judged. While recognizing that our common un-
ing that “the old god is abolished, and that I myself       derstanding of human nature evolves over time, con-
will henceforth rule the world,” and signing himself        servatives thus acknowledge that there is something
“Nietzsche Caesar.” Nietzsche was also the philosopher      unchanging in that nature.
which German Nazis revered most.                                The role of conservatives today is to challenge the
    The absence of consensus on the true nature of man      prevailing culture of liberalism. It is to proclaim that
leads to a gradual erosion of human rights and the          there are moral limits that are natural in that they are
emergence of an all-encompassing paternalistic state.       written on our heart. These limits must be preserved
This is what we are witnessing today. Ironically it was     so as to prevent the manipulation, degradation and
foreseen more than 150 years ago by Alexis de Toc-          destruction of human nature. Conservatives must de-
queville who, in Democracy in America, warned about         nounce the attempts of liberals to go beyond natural
the risk of “democratic despotism”:                         human limits, beyond good and evil, and redefine our
                                                            traditional moral standards on the basis of whatever
     The sovereign extends his arms over the whole so-
                                                            recent technological innovations makes possible. It
     ciety; he covers its surface with a web of small,
                                                            must promote and defend what is sustainable and hu-
     complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through
                                                            man against what is fashionable and subhuman. 3
     which the most original minds and the most vig-
     orous souls are unable to emerge in order to rise      Richard Bastien is the Editor of the Canadian Observer

12        Canadian Observer                Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
Feminism is dead... only whining remains
– Barbara Kay
  The following text is a lightly-edited
  version of a talk given by Barbara Kay
  last February 10th at a reception held
  in Ottawa to celebrate the fifth Anni-
  versary of the foundation of the Insti-
  tute of Marriage and Family Canada.
  We thank the IMFC for permission to
  reproduce the text.



W
             hen I began my weekly
             sojourn with the National
             Post in 2003, I had no
particular niche subjects. My general
curiosity lay in social trends, and the
factors that contribute to building and
maintaining a healthy, stable society.
    But so many of the negative cultural
trends I was drawn to for column fod-
der kept leading me back to the same
source. The Marxist political theorist
Antonio Gramsci famously spoke of
“the long march through the institu-
tions” as the path to cultural hegemony.                    ences live on. Fault-free divorce, transient, common
As I began to look at the institutions that instruct our    law partnership accorded the same respect and ben-
children, mould our lawyers and social workers and          efits as marriage, gay unions anointed as marriage, the
psychologists, sensitize our judiciary, shape the views     exaltation of single motherhood and the discrediting
of our journalists and inspire our future politicians,      of fatherhood, guilt-free and convenience-motivated
it became clear to me that the custodians of these in-      abortion on a mass scale, transgressive sexuality cel-
stitutions were all drinking from the same ideological      ebrated for its own sake, and the early sexualization of
well: Marxism-imbued feminism.                              children: all this can in part or in whole be attributed
    Feminism was the best organized and militant of         to feminism which, like most ideologies, is essentially
the new “isms” that were considered de rigeur amongst       a conspiracy theory meant to inspire militancy in its
the culture’s bien pensants, but it has been powerless to   recruits by scapegoating (heterosexual) men. Indeed,
compensate for the unhappiness it has been the pri-         it is the only conspiracy theory that is accorded re-
mary culprit in creating. As the respected gender wars      spectable status in our society.
critic Christina Hoff Summers argues in an essay on            In the last 10 or 15 years we have seen downward
feminism in a new book titled Liberty and Civiliza-         rates of divorce, illegitimacy, drug and alcohol abuse
tion: the Western heritage and edited by Roger Scruton,     and early sexual activity. Our culture has shifted nota-
radical feminists produced a form of women’s libera-        bly rightward. Bourgeois values are in vogue and fami-
tion that has “little to do with liberty” since “it aims    lies have once again become the centre of our cultural
not to free women to pursue their own interests and         focus. People sense that too many babies were thrown
inclinations, but rather to reeducate them to attitudes     out with the bath water of women’s real grievances. The
often profoundly contrary to their natures.”                yearning for a collaborative union and children is in-
    The revolution is over, but its effects and influ-      herent to our nature. No theory on earth can suppress


                         Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1              13
it for long. As longtime Commentary Magazine editor pair the damage that has been done to them by elites
Norman Podhoretz once wrote to his son: “There can who believed that theory can trump human nature. In
be no more radical refusal of self-acceptance than the 1965, 25% of African-American babies were born to
repudiation of one’s own biological nature.”                unwed mothers. Today it is 70%. But amongst highly
    So there is reason for optimism. Today, forty years educated people, only 6% of babies are born to unwed
on, even though our institutions are dominated by mothers. There is also reason to worry about a mid-
their graduates, Women’s Studies classes are empty- dle group – somewhat educated people who used to
ing out. Few women today identify                                             be conservative in their marrying
themselves as feminists. Educated,            “People sense that              habits; their commitment, statisti-
middle-class women, once the                too many babies were              cally, is wavering. Only the cultur-
mainstay of the feminist move- thrown out with the bath al elites can be said to be rock solid
ment, realize that they have been          water of women’s real on the “life script.”)
somewhat bamboozled: they actu-                                                   As to the West’s famously de-
                                          grievances. The yearning
ally want husbands and children,                                              clining birth rate, it is thanks to
and don’t want to feel guilty about for a collaborative union feminism that infertility clinics are
it. And as a recent survey makes and children is inherent doing such a landslide business. I
crystal clear, women, given the                  to our nature.”              gave a talk a few years ago to the
choice, would stay home with their                                            McGill Women’s Alumnae Associ-
children in their earliest years. As the ecologists like to ation on feminism and its effects. Some young women
say, “nature bats last.”                                    were in the audience, and I noticed that one was vis-
    I see the re-bourgeoisification in my own milieu. ibly startled when I mentioned the statistics around
My own daughter works for the federal government. the optimal breeding years for women. I said that
She could easily have moved up to a higher echelon, women are most fertile between the ages of 15-25,
but it would have meant giving up her coveted clas- that the odds of a successful pregnancy and uncompli-
sification of tele-worker, which permits her to work cated birth declined markedly after the age of 30 and
out of her Montreal home office. The nanny looks af- that, by 35, one was really gambling. By 40 the chanc-
ter her two young children, but knowing that she is es of an easy conception and healthy full-term birth
available when necessary is far more important to her are the gestational equivalent of Russian roulette. But
than more money or higher status – at least while the this young woman told me that, although she was in
kids are young. I think a generation ago women like Women’s Studies, where theoretically one learns a lot
her would have felt very guilty for stepping off the about, you know, women, nobody had ever told her
treadmill.                                                  that she might have trouble having children if she de-
    According to Kay Hymowitz, North America’s pre- layed in starting a family. Teachers don’t tell them and
mier observer of mores and cultural values around the doctors are afraid to do so lest they appear sexist. Con-
institution of marriage, this is “a moment of tremen- sequently, young women have come to believe that
dous promise” for Americans. Or at least for those getting pregnant at a late stage may simply require a
with the cultural memory to benefit from following little technological help – but hey, look at all the Hol-
what she calls the “life script” that leads out of poverty lywood stars getting pregnant at 40, so no big deal!
and into mature, successful adulthood: finish school,          Except of course it is, because even IVF has less
get a job that leads somewhere, and only then marry,        than a 30% chance of success. I have seen enough an-
and only after that have children.                          guish amongst my children’s friends’ late onset first
    (Unfortunately there is a whole underclass so many pregnancy: the failure to conceive, the failure to car-
generations removed from the formula that they have ry, the dependence on drugs and technical aids, the
lost even the memory, let alone the motivation, to re- years of obsession that strip the joy from life in their


14      Canadian Observer                 Spring 2011              Vol. 1. No. 1
best years, to know that a whole generation of young           It doesn’t bode well for the future. You can’t go
women have been sold a bill of goods that can be            home again. Even if the ideology of feminism were
traced directly to one ideological source.                  to disappear tomorrow, our culture has been irrevers-
   Feminism’s great triumph is the trickle-down ef-         ibly changed, and not altogether for the bad. Still, our
fect of its most damaging notions. The entire liberal       concern today is marriage and family. A few months
establishment, notably the media, treat feminism’s          ago, I was speaking to a group of Catholic students
antisocial nostrums as received wisdom. A year or so        at Ryerson University. Afterward a young woman ap-
ago, I wrote a column castigating Katrina Onstad, at        proached me seeking advice. She is a devout Catho-
the time a columnist for Chatelaine, the most read          lic who has high career ambitions but is also eager to
Women’s magazine in Canada, because she blithely            marry and have a large family. She is already 25 years
informed us in one of her monthly op-eds that she           old. As I wrote in a column, this conversation sparked:
wanted her daughter to taste life to the full before set-
tling down and, therefore, would advise her not to            What advice can I give [Andrea]? Stop studying,
even think of getting pregnant (no mention of mar-            find Mr. Right and start procreating? After all,
riage) before she was 35. (Thanks mom. Glad you               Canada needs lots more loved children, and her
had kids? How about ensuring we get                           children will be blessed. On the other hand this
our best shot at it too.) Never before                                       young woman is a winner and I want
historically have we lived in a society                                      to see her succeed. Unusually for me, I
where not only women’s best interests,                                       have no advice to offer Andrea. Gal-
but women’s physical pleasures have                                          lup Research has been polling Ameri-
been privileged over the interests of                                        cans for decades on their “aspirational
children and family.                                                         fertility”– how many kids people say
   The failure of ideologues to pay                                          they want – because it is the best pre-
nature its due, to recognize that bi-                                        dictor of how many children they will
ology is to a great extent destiny, has                                      have. The bright line between want-
entrenched fear and suspicion of men                                         ing three kids maximum and want-
in many young women, and has alien-                                          ing more than three is active religious
ated men. As conservative writer Midge Decter wrote           participation, i.e. regular church attendance. An-
at the height of the feminist revolution: “...relations       drea validates that profile. Her aspirational fertility
between men and women are ghastly...the men feel              is five children and she is a committed Catholic.
downgraded and sapped and rendered impotent by
the women. Young women today are suffering very               But how many Andreas are out there? I look back
much from the absence of men who have faith in                at my own choices, made a half-century ago when
themselves.”                                                  women were beginning to be highly educated, and I
   Men’s faith in themselves has been further un-             concede that no rational, collective argument could
dermined by a family law system that systematically           have persuaded me not to have any children, and
downgrades their importance to children, and reflex-          no rational, collective argument could have per-
ively privileges, sometimes demonstrably, unfit moth-         suaded me to have many children.
ers’ rights to their children as inherent, but regards         Autocratic governments can make people have few-
fathers’ rights to their children as contingent on their    er children, but they can’t make people have more.
worthiness to be parent, such worthiness to be deter-       Singapore tried. While modernizing in the 1960s after
mined by the state. As former justice minister Martin       gaining independence from the British, Singapore’s
Cauchon once said: “Men have no rights, only re-            newly minted Family Planning and Population Board
sponsibilities.”                                            launched a billboard campaign, messaging “Stop at


                         Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1                    15
Two” and “Small Families Brighter Future.” Abortion          fertility rate in 1960 was 5.45. Today it is 1.1.
and sterilization were encouraged at the government’s            Canada’s total fertility rate is presently 1.6, far be-
expense. Maternity leave was denied after two chil-          low replacement. I have a feeling Andrea will realize
dren.                                                        her difficult hybrid goal, whatever the obstacles, but
    It worked. Singapore reached its fertility rate target   in our secularized society Andreas are few and far be-
of 2.1 in 1976, a 53% plunge over a decade. But it           tween these days. So it seems mass immigration from
didn’t stop declining, as women’s education rates went       countries where women are not yet highly educated
up. A reverse strategy was implemented. Abortion             must be our portion for the foreseeable future. And
wasn’t banned, but pre-op counseling is now required         when they are educated, what then? 3
for women with three or fewer children. The billboard
and media messaging was changed to “Have Three or              Barbara Kay is a columnist with the National Post.
More Children If You Can.” But no dice. Singapore’s




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16      Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
Christopher Dawson and the Age of Dante
– Dominic Manganiello




D
           ante represents a centerpiece in Christopher       uted instead to the integrity of his historical vision.
           Dawson’s project of restoring Christian cul-       He set out, in the first place, to “exorcise the ghost
           ture. The historian’s keen, lifelong interest in   of...[an] ancient error” that had haunted historical
the medieval poet, his first hero, began in the family        scholarship for centuries. This longstanding cultural
library. There, as a young boy, he pored over the three       prejudice had originated in the idealization of classi-
big volumes of Botticelli’s illustrations to The Divine       cal antiquity by Renaissance humanists, was passed on
Comedy, encouraged to do so by his Anglican father’s          to the Enlightenment philosophers, and from them
catholic literary tastes: “My father’s admiration for         gradually filtered into modern secularist ideologies.
Dante knew no limit, he rated him far above Shake-               The immense influence this prejudice exerted on
speare and Milton as the world’s one perfect poet”.           the popular imagination fostered a negative attitude
   This unbounded enthusiasm reflected the over-              towards the European past that has prevented a proper
whelming Victorian response to                                                  historical appreciation of the Middle
the Italian genius. John Ruskin,                                                Ages. PostRenaissance scholars, Daw-
for example, had celebrated                                                     son noted, tended to ignore even the
Dante as “the central man of all                                                existence of a Christian culture, let
the world,” while Thomas Carlyle                                                alone its positive accomplishments.
had declared him to be the chief                                                They had coined the term “Middle
“spokesman of the Middle Ages”.                                                 Ages” to mean originally a kind of
The full force of Dante’s impact                                                “cultural vacuum” between two ages
on the modern literary imagina-                                                 of progress –the ancient civilization
tion could still be felt even at the                                            of Greece and Rome and the civili-
close of the twentieth century.                                                 zation of modern Europe. Voltaire’s
Jorge Luis Borges perhaps said                                                  curt dismissal of the medieval period
it best when he eulogized “those                                                as “a thousand years of stupidity and
maligned and complex Middle                                                     barbarism” was a notorious case in
Ages...that gave us, above all, the                                             point.
Commedia, which we continue to                                                     Dawson provided the necessary
read, and which continues to as-                                                corrective to this gravely erroneous
tonish us; which will last beyond                                               view of cultural history. While indi-
our lives; far beyond our waking lives, and will be en-       cating clearly that Christian culture cannot be simply
riched by each generation of readers”.                        equated with medieval culture, since it existed before
   Christopher Dawson’s own tribute was equally               the Middle Ages began and flourished well after they
glowing: “The greatest literary genius of the Middle          had come to a close, he nevertheless insisted on view-
Ages,” he wrote, produced a masterpiece that symbol-          ing Christian culture as an “intelligible historical uni-
ized the most “perfect expression of the power and the        ty” that gave rise to the actual sociological entity we
glory of the medieval cultural achievement”. If West-         now call Europe:
ern civilization reached the peak of its formative pro-
cess in the Middle Ages, then reading Dante, Dawson             “If, as I believe, religion is the key of history and
believed, provided a key to understanding the main              it is impossible to understand a culture unless we
stream of Christian culture.                                    understand its religious roots, then the Middle Ages
   Dawson’s return to the Middle Ages was not                   are not a kind of waitingroom between two differ-
prompted by nostalgia for the old order of Western              ent worlds, but the age which made a new world,
Christendom. His advocacy of Dante must be attrib-              the world from which we come and to which in a

                          Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1                   17
     sense we still belong.”                              phy, and Christian mysticism in The Divine Comedy.
                                                          In that “great synthesis”, Virgil replaces the lady of the
   A knowledge of the great cultural traditions that are
                                                          Convivio as the representative of human reason and
epitomized in the work of Dante, and of those Chris-
                                                          the classical tradition, while Beatrice becomes a genu-
tian elements that still abide in Western culture enable
                                                          ine figure of Christian charity which impels the poet
an educated person of today to interpret to others the
                                                          to gaze upon the Trinitarian Love that moves the sun
relevance of this rich heritage for understanding who
                                                          and the other stars. Though Paolo and Francesca, the
we are and where we are headed.
                                                          lovers of romance, find themselves in Hell, the Trou-
   A turning point in the rediscovery of the Middle
                                                          badour tradition is purified and transformed through
Ages occurred in the nineteenth century. Dawson de-
                                                          the beautiful words of the Provençal tongue Arnaut
scribed it as “an event of no less importance in the
                                                          Daniel utters to lament his past folly in canto 26 of
history of European thought than the rediscovery of
                                                          Purgatory. Dawson claimed that the final reconcilia-
Hellenism by the Humanists.” The Romantics, who
                                                          tion of “the two great currents of European literature,
were responsible for this fresh impetus, widened our
                                                          the Troubadour with the classical and Christian, be-
intellectual horizon considerably because they did not
                                                          fore they had even attained to selfconsciousness”
see the Middle Ages simply as a gap in the history of
                                                                              constitutes one of Dante’s greatest
culture, but found in them “some-
                                                                              achievements.
thing utterly different from the ... medieval man lived
                                                                                  If The Divine Comedy synthesizes
world that they knew – the revela- precariously between
                                                                              all the vital features of medieval cul-
tion of a new kind of beauty.” They two abysses with hell
                                                                              ture, it also paradoxically mirrors the
located the quintessence of the me-        beneath his feet and developing crisis that later destroyed
dieval spirit in the age of the Trouba- the heavens filled with
                                                                              the unity of Western Christendom.
dours from Provence, such as Arnaut          the mysteries of a               Dante’s great poem not only assimi-
Daniel, who fashioned the new ide-
                                          succession of spiritual lates Christian theology and mysti-
als of courtesy, chivalry, and roman-
tic love that were later transmitted     worlds above his head. cism, the science and philosophy of
                                                                              the Arabs, the knightly ideals of the
to the other countries of Western
                                                                              troubadours and the classical tradi-
Europe, and eventually inspired the
                                                          tion of Virgil, but also finds place in its organic struc-
French chivalric romances as well as the dolce stil nu-
                                                          ture for the Franciscan reform movement, the Roman
ovo (“sweet new style”) of Dante and the Italian poets
                                                          order, Italian nationalism and Christian universalism.
of the thirteenth century.
                                                          The integrative power of the poet’s imagination reveals
   Nothing in the previous history of medieval soci-
                                                          that in its greatest period, medieval Christendom, un-
ety, Dawson argued, could explain the Provençal cult
                                                          like the civilizations of the ancient East, was not a
of woman and the service of the beloved. The sources
                                                          static, hierarchic order. Modern readers often fail to
of this new development existed in Arabic literature
                                                          notice its dynamic quality, according to Dawson, be-
and Spanish Moslem culture. Dante absorbed these
                                                          cause they focus solely on the logical completeness of
disparate influences in his youthful writing, especially
                                                          the Comedy. Bertrand Russell typifies this tendency
in his depiction of the lady of the Convivio on whom
                                                          by describing Dante’s universe as “tidy and small”:
“every supernal intelligence gazes” and her “beauty
                                                          “Everything is contrived in relation to man: to pun-
rains down flames of fire, made living by a gentle spirit
                                                          ish sin and reward virtue. There are no mysteries, no
which is the creator of every good thought.”
                                                          abysses, no secrets; the whole thing is like a child’s
   Such a conception betrayed the fundamental in-
                                                          dolls’ house, with people as the dolls. But although
consistency of the romantic ideal. Dante overcame
                                                          the people were dolls they were important, because
this unsuccessful attempt to combine the dissimilar
                                                          they interested the Owner of the dolls’ house.”
elements of Troubadour love poetry, Oriental philoso-

18         Canadian Observer               Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
    In response Dawson emphasizes instead the range          in the Papacy, which had compromised itself in his
and depth of the medieval world captured in Dante’s          eyes by its secularism and by its political ties to the
verses: “In reality medieval man lived precariously          French monarchy. His call for a messianic prince who
between two abysses with hell beneath his feet and           would save Italy and reform the increasingly corrupt
the heavens filled with the mysteries of a succession of     human face of the Church fell on deaf ears. This imag-
spiritual worlds above his head. And in the same way         inary apocalyptic figure bore no relation to historical
medieval civilization itself was a precarious achieve-       reality. The Prince who actually did come carried with
ment like a great arch thrown over the abyss of barba-       him a very different profile from the one Dante had
rism.” By the fourteenth century, this balance proved        sketched: his name was Machiavelli. The drive for raw
to be so fragile that the arch finally broke. The Divine     political power, along with the conflicts of opposing
Comedy incorporates both the traditions that held the        religious traditions, ultimately proved too strong for
medieval synthesis together and those which led to its       the center of Christian unity to hold.
eventual collapse. In effect, Dante looked both ways,            Although Dante’s thought contains “the religious
back to the perfection of the old culture and forward        world view of the Middle Ages and the humanist
to the beginning of the new.                                 structure of the Renaissance”, the first element in
    How does The Divine Comedy dramatize the cen-            The Divine Comedy alone has stood the test of time.
trifugal forces that ruptured the cultural unity of the      The secular element, with its scientific and political
Middle Ages? The answer lies in Dante’s philosophy           dimensions, is responsible for the main difficulties
of history, which was based on the medieval apoca-           the ordinary modern reader encounters in trying to
lyptism of Joachim of Flora and the Franciscans, on          understand and appreciate the medieval masterpiece.
Thomistic ethics, and on the political ideals of Ar-         Dante’s view of the Empire, for example, though in
istotle and Virgil. These building blocks – above all        keeping with messianic expectations that were com-
St. Thomas’s demonstration of “the independent and           mon in the fourteenth century, opposes the more fa-
autonomous existence of the natural order, of the dis-       miliar portrait of the institution painted by St. Au-
tinction between reason and faith, nature and grace,         gustine, another of Dawson’s heroes. This might be
yet of their harmony in difference” – rendered pos-          because Augustine failed, as far as Dante was con-
sible Dante’s conception of a mysterious parallelism         cerned, to take the world of immanence seriously. By
between the worlds of Christianity and pagan antiq-          exercising justice and establishing peace, the Empire,
uity, between the Church and the Roman Empire. His           on this account, would enable citizens and their rulers
vision of the political unification of humanity in a sin-    to discern at least the tower of the true city. Or per-
gle worldgovernment marks the first time in Christian        haps, as Dawson would have it, Dante did not carry
thought that the earthly and temporal city is regarded       Thomistic principles far enough to serve as the basis
as having its own supreme end.                               of his interpretation of history, for if he had “it might
    This new yet old interpretation of history recalls the   well have developed with the growth of historical
medieval tradition of the Holy Roman Empire and              knowledge into a really catholic philosophy of history
the Augustinian concept of the City of God, but, at          in which the different national traditions were shown,
the same time, it anticipates the humanism of the Re-        on the analogy of that of Rome, as contributing to
naissance and “the modern liberal ideal of universal         its own mission and its natural aptitudes towards the
peace as well as the modern nationalist ideal of the         building up of a Christian civilization”.
historical mission of a particular people and state”.            As a result, Dante’s philosophy constituted an idio-
Although Dante still embraces the ideal of Christian         syncratic witness to Christian universalism. However,
universalism against the territorial and ecclesiastical      the “distinctively Christian character” of his secular-
ambitions of the new national monarchies, he places          ism and his humanism set them utterly apart from
his hope in the Empire for its realization rather than       those of classical antiquity. The enduring legacy of The


                          Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1               19
Divine Comedy remains its spiritual realism: “There is tion with the Middle Ages shows no sign of abating.
nothing subjective or ideal in his world, everything As Umberto Eco points out, “modern ages have revis-
has its profound ontological basis in an objective spiri- ited the Middle Ages from the moment when, accord-
tual order. The intelligible and the real are one”. The ing to historical handbooks, they came to an end”.
religious element in his poem, therefore, represents This phenomenon of a continuous return has taken
not simply an allegory, but the fundamental structure various forms. However, most returnees refer to the
of reality.                                               Middle Ages as the site of an “ironical revisitation,” of
   Despite the major political and religious upheavals barbarism, of decadence, or of the so-called Tradition
that would punctuate European history from the four- of occult philosophy. These have dominated contem-
teenth to the sixteenth centuries, the inheritance be- porary neo-medievalism. The picture Dawson draws
queathed by the great age of medieval culture Dante’s of the period restores its full historical context and
work exemplifies was still preserved.                                       rectifies misrepresentations based on
   The new national cultures that           “The great cultural             unhistorical attitudes. He alerts the
emerged from the universities and            traditions that are            openminded reader, for example,
the cities were built on the ruins epitomized in the work to the literary excesses of the Ro-
of the old, especially the quest for
                                         of Dante, and of those mantics, even while acknowledging
spiritual perfection and the spirit                                         their genuine attempt to revive the
of Church reform. William Lang-
                                             Christian elements             medieval spirit in art. It’s a pity, in
land captured the conflicting forces         that still abide in            Dawson’s view, that Dante found no
that operated in the later Middle        Western culture enable worthy successors to carry on his feat
Ages in his profound vision of Piers an educated person of of reconciling diverse literary tradi-
Plowman. Whereas Dante expressed           today to interpret to tions, for otherwise “we might have
“the last forlorn hope” of universal others the relevance of been saved alike from the narrow
imperialism and Geoffrey Chaucer             this rich heritage.”           rationalism of eighteenth-century
took heart in the rise of a common                                          classicism and from the emotional
national kingdom, Langland acted as                                         debauches of nineteenth-century
“the spokesman of the people as the ultimate social Romanticism”. Dawson’s balanced analysis of The
reality”. His poem focuses the historian’s gaze on the Divine Comedy offers an antidote to neo-Romantic,
daily life of the common people and on the success- Gnostic readings of Dante’s poem. Those who wish
ful fusion of the new vernacular culture with medieval to engage in the present “culture wars,” then, in an
religion. Because of this emphasis on the grass roots informed and charitable manner will find in Dawson’s
level of existence, there is no room for social dualism work an indispensable guide for doing so.
or political opposition between Church and State in          Especially instructive is Dawson’s view of the thir-
Piers Plowman. Langland upholds the medieval no-          teenth century as a unique period in European his-
tion of the One Society “whose members are differen- tory: “Europe has seen no greater Christian hero than
tiated by rank and authority, but are all alike children St. Francis, no greater Christian philosopher than St.
of one father and servant of one master.”                 Thomas, no greater Christian poet than Dante, per-
   The Church is the community of love, the “House haps even no greater Christian ruler than St. Louis”.
Unity,” into which the spiritual labours of each person Christianity had attained its most complete cultural
are gathered. In Piers Plowman, the humble figure of expression in the Middle Ages. T.S. Eliot, another
the new spiritual humanity, Langland affirms the pe- great admirer of Dante, agreed. A fruitful examina-
rennial vitality of Christian culture.                    tion of medieval traditions of art, philosophy, theol-
   Why are Dawson’s observations about the Age of ogy, and of social organization offered, in his view, the
Dante still relevant today? First, the current fascina- best possible training for the contemporary mind. The


20      Canadian Observer                 Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
history of the 14th century contained valuable “les-        dark wood that leads to hell; gradually he learns that
sons for the present time”. Among these one in par-         the whole of Western civilization finds itself there too.
ticular may be of decisive importance for the cultural      From the outset, then, Dante realizes that he must
survival of the West:                                       change himself before he can change the world. The
                                                            divine agent of this transformation alone can lead
  It is against a background of Christianity that all
                                                            fallen humanity out of the darkness and into the light
  our thought has significance. An individual Euro-
                                                            of paradise. Dante’s recourse to the community of the
  pean may not believe that the Christian Faith is
                                                            blessed corroborates a central insight of Dawson: “The
  true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does,
                                                            relation between faith and life is completely realized
  will all spring out of his heritage of Christian cul-
                                                            only in the life of the saint”. That is why Beatrice de-
  ture and depend upon that culture for its meaning.
                                                            clares that the Church on earth has no son more “full
  Only a Christian culture could have produced a
                                                            of hope” than Dante. Despite his sharp critique of hu-
  Voltaire or a Nietzsche... If Christianity goes, the
                                                            man corruption within the Church, Dante remained
  whole of our culture goes.
                                                            convinced that the Church was the only true spiritual
    The iconoclast necessarily depends on the Chris-        and moral guide.
tian cultural tradition he seeks to demolish in order to       The call to seek personal holiness remains as urgent
make sense of his own act of rebellion. Like Dawson,        as it was at the time of the first Christians and in the
Eliot believed that the future of our culture depends       age of Dante. In the words of Dawson, “Christian cul-
on preserving its Christian roots.                          ture is the periphery of the circle which has its center
    Becoming conversant with the mindset of the             in the Incarnation and the faith of the Church and the
Middle Ages, however, will not, by itself, get rid of       lives of the saints”. 3
our present cultural preoccupations in the West.
                                                            Dominic Manganiello is professor of English literature at
Dawson reminds his readers “the Christian ideal most
                                                            the University of Ottawa
of all tends to transcend all cultural forms”. Medi-
eval Christendom is worthy of study not merely as
an intellectual exercise for the detached observer, but      Get on our events list for free*
because it offers “the outstanding example of the ap-
plication of Faith to Life”. We can learn both from          Sign up for your invitation...
its achievements as well as from its failures. Medieval      • Interested in politics?
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                                                             • Public policy?
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    Dante understood this truth very well. In the midst        Fax: 613.800.0713
of local and world crises that signalled the waning           www.policystudies.ca
of the Middle Ages, he turned to the saints – Peter,          Or contact us:
James, John, Dominic, Francis, Thomas Aquinas, Bo-
                                                              Canadian Centre for Policy Studies
naventure, and Bernard – to help him make a per-
sonal examination of conscience. At the beginning              .O.
                                                              P Box 1318, Station B
of the Comedy the pilgrim-poet finds himself in the           Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5R4


                         Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1               21
How I Discovered my Canadianness
– Andrea Mrozek




I
      t was the summer of 1989 when my family would lines when, on rare occasions my parents would call
      visit Poland for the first time since my parents left our grandparents at the cost of four dollars a minute.
      Czechoslovakia in 1969. The thawing of Com- The line would fail and my parents would call back,
munist regimes at that time meant my parents could asking again and again if they could be heard. Some-
travel to Poland, but not Czechoslovakia, their home. times the line would hold and we would shout sto lat
Going there would have meant arrest.                        into the phone, the Polish version of Happy Birthday.
   This was my first physical encounter with Commu-             My dad told us how, as a little boy, he was taken
nism. I saw the heavily guarded Czech/Polish border, before a commission with his parents for whispering
two apparently allied Warsaw Pact countries. When I something negative under his breath when Commu-
approached the border too closely on a hike we took nist propaganda played prior to a feature movie in a
(I actually sat on a border marker for a break) I re- movie theatre. He was so young that he cried in the
member an armed soldier approaching me; he did not interrogation room. As a young adult, my dad was
need to tell me to move. I saw empty                                           told he had to do physical labour
shelves in grocery stores, ancient            Every immigrant is               at a steel foundry, to overcome
Trabants and Ladas and grey, tired           caught between two nabožensky zatižen. Directly trans-
stucco in various stages of disrepair.       worlds, and in some               lated this meant my dad was “reli-
I was left with an impression of grey         respects, neither is             giously burdened,” which work in a
streets, grey buildings, grey cars.                                            steel foundry would apparently rec-
                                               fully home. When I
   This may have been my first time                                            tify before going to university. My
                                               would later live in             mom told us about how her dad’s
in a Communist country; it was not
by a long shot my first experience
                                             Czech Republic after business was seized and nationalized.
with Communism. Growing up, my               university, it did not            When my mom’s beloved grand-
sister and I were well aware of why           feel like home and I             mother passed away, she was not al-
my parents left their homes, fami- was glad to come back lowed to go to her funeral. Both my
lies, and country. The word “Com-                   to Canada.                 parents were branded as traitors for
munist” loomed large and was on                                                leaving and were tried and sentenced
par with “Nazi.”                                                               in absentia.
   My dad is ethnically Polish but grew up within               We would send packages. Dried apricots and vita-
the Czechoslovak state, in Silesia. His town is divided     mins and medicines my grandparents couldn’t get. I
through the middle by the Czech/Polish border. My sent over my entire Smurf collection to my cousin at
mom is Czech (Bohemian) and grew up in a small one point, a generous gesture, which as an eight-year-
town called Hronov, north east of Prague.                   old I later deeply regretted. I could have played with
   One simple experience – the result of their emigra- the Smurfs. I’d never see my cousin.
tion – is that I grew up without any extended family.           My grandparents sent packages too. One standout
We didn’t really know our grandparents, in spite of         to this very day is a marionette theatre, complete with
short visits on intervals throughout the years. None of curtains and different stage backdrops and beautiful
our aunts or uncles emigrated.                              little puppets: A princess, a prince, a witch, the devil,
   Though I don’t speak Czech, the one phrase I will among others. Another was a stuffed “Vodnik” (wa-
always remember is slyšiš mĕ. It means “can you hear ter monster) from the old tale meant to scare children
me?” This was the refrain, shouted over the phone away from swimming when parents aren’t watching.

22      Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
My Vodnik was friendly, however, with a big felt smile                                                                                                     Canada.
and dapper top hat sewn on.                                                                                                                                   These are some of the experiences of a daughter of
    I was already 13 when Communism fell. I had                                                                                                            parents who fled Communism —a second hand ex-
prayed for it to end in my bed as a girl. My parents                                                                                                       perience from a very comfortable life growing up in
did not tell me to pray for this. But Communism rep-                                                                                                       midtown Toronto. I am proud of my parents. I am
resented oppression and distance and in my little soul,                                                                                                    grateful that I don’t actually have any firsthand experi-
it seemed like something to take to God.                                                                                                                   ence with Communism. My parents left so I didn’t
    When it was clear the Berlin Wall would not be                                                                                                         have to. 3
rebuilt, there were many more visits to Czech Repub-
lic. The intent of these visits was that my sister and I                                                                                                   Andrea Mrozek is a first generation Canadian, born to a
would become familiar with our roots and know our                                                                                                          Polish father and a Czech mother who left Czechoslova-
family. But the feeling we had as visiting teenagers,                                                                                                      kia in 1969, arriving in Canada in 1970. She works at
and even later as adults, was one of being far away,                                                                                                       a public policy think tank in Ottawa.
even while standing in our grandparent’s living room.
I remember going for a jog once in my father’s small
town. (Incidentally, there is no better way to identify
yourself as an outsider, than by going jogging in small
town Czech Republic.) I decided on my way home                                                                                                                                               Are we riding the don-
                                                                                                                    Political Thoughts of an Ordinary Canadian




                                                                                                                                                                 Political
                              Are we riding the donkey of Can-         BERNARD EMILE POIRIER, a
                              ada’s constitution backwards?            native Ottawan, was born into the
                                                                       military and raised in the shadows of

that I would drop in to see my grandfather, with
                              Are élites, politicians and activist
                              judges building us a constitutional
                                                                       Québec City’s historic Citadel. He
                                                                       holds degrees in the liberal arts, politi-                                                                            key of Canada’s consti-
                                                                                                                                                                 Thoughts of an
                              jackass based on Trudeau’s vision        cal science and law as well as a com-

whom I communicated in German. I rang the bell; he                                                                                                                                           tution backwards? Are
                              of centralized, big government           mission in the military.
                              control, while ordinary Canadians            He applied logistics and legal re-
                              want to ride the path                                search serving two Minis-
                                                                                   ters of the Federal Crown

answered the door. He looked at me and said “Your                                                                                                                Ordinary                    élites, politicians and
                              to smaller, more lo-
                                                                                   as Executive Assistant and
                              cal governments, re-                                 then as Special Advisor on
                              gionalism and social                                 Privacy and Special Inves-


dad isn’t here.” I know, I told him. “Your cousin isn’t                                                                                                                                      activist judges building
                              union? Where did                                     tigations with the Solicitor



                                                                                                                                                                 Canadian
                              our constitutional                                   General’s Office.
                              impasse come from?                                        Bernard spent twelve


                                                                                                                                                                                             us a constitutional jack-
                                                                                   years with the Canadian
                              Where is Canada
here either,” he said. What he could not understand
                              going? Will Canada
                              break-up?
                                                                                   Construction Association
                                                                                   as Legal Advisor and was
                                                                                   the first Executive Direc-

                                                                                                                                                                                             ass based on Trudeau’s
                              In this insightful                                   tor of the Canadian Asso-

was that I had come to see him. His granddaughter
                              muse on Canada’s
                              problems, “distinct society” is deftly
                                                                                   ciation of Chiefs of Police.
                                                                       He provided training logistics to the


                                                                                                                                                                                             vision of centralized,
                                                                       Canadian Astronaut Program and con-
                              skewered, the Charlottetown and

had never dropped in for a visit before and it was too
                                                                       cluded his active career as Emergency
                              Meech Lake accords are explained,        Preparedness Officer for the National
                                                                                                                    Bernard Poirier




                              warts and all, and politicians from      Research Council.


late to start now.
                              Diefenbaker to Trudeau and Mul-
                              roney get richly deserved drubbings.
                              Many Canadians are fed up with
                                                                           Spare time during those forty-two
                                                                       years was devoted to the pursuit of fine
                                                                       arts, more academic degrees, teaching
                                                                                                                                                                                             big government control,
                                                                                                                                                                                             while ordinary Canadi-
                                                                       sailing and coastal piloting as well as
                              elitist “experts” and politicians who
                                                                       writing. He has published articles on

    The distance created by emigration cannot be over-
                              have less and less in common with
                              ordinary Canadians. It is time to
                                                                       legal matters related to his various oc-
                                                                       cupations.
                              hear from ordinary Canadians.                A semi-retired “professional” vol-
                                                                                                                                                                                             ans want to ride the path
come; particularly if you don’t speak the same lan-
                                                                       unteer in the fields of aquatics and
                                    Canadian Politics
                                                                                                                    Commoners’/Men’s Press




                                                                       emergency preparedness, he now con-

                                                                                                                                                                                             to smaller, more local
                                  Men’s History and Issues             centrates his efforts with the Canadian
                                                                       Red Cross. He and his wife Carmen

guage. My grandfather on my mother’s side always                       live in Ottawa as do their three children



                                                                                                                                                                     Bernard Poirier governments, regional-
                                                                       and their families. He is the author of
                                                                       “Boating Emergencies”, also by Com-


wanted to speak to my sister and me. He’d try and
                                                                       moners’.


                                                                                                                                                                                             ism and social union?
try and keep trying in different ways, sometimes get-                                                                                                                                        Where did our constitu-
ting frustrated when we didn’t understand. Still, there                                                                                                          tional impasse come from?
are some good memories too. We toured the Sudeten-                                                                                                               Where is Canada going? Will Canada break-up?
land World War II defenses with him; bunkers hid-                                                                                                                In this insightful muse on Canada’s problems, “dis-
den in the Czech landscape, meant to defend against                                                                                                              tinct society” is deftly skewered, the Charlottetown
the Germans. My grandfather had helped build them;                                                                                                               and Meech Lake accords are explained, warts and
they were never used. Without him there to point                                                                                                                 all, and politicians from Diefenbaker to Trudeau
them out, you would not have been able to see them.                                                                                                              and Mulroney get richly deserved drubbings. Many
I remember him standing atop one, telling us about it,                                                                                                           Canadians are fed up with elitist “experts” and
through my mom’s translation.                                                                                                                                    politicians who have less and less in common with
    Every immigrant is caught between two worlds,                                                                                                                ordinary Canadians. It is time to hear from ordi-
and in some respects, neither is fully home. When I                                                                                                              nary Canadians.
would later live in Czech Republic after university, it                                                                                                          Paperback from Commoners $16.95
did not feel like home and I was glad to come back to                                                                                                            www.commonerspublishing.com


                         Canadian Observer                                                                                                                       Spring 2011             Vol. 1. No. 1              23
Islamist Extremists – Is Canada too Smug?
–Rory Leishman



I
     n recent months, the leaders of Britain, France,       terrorism here in the United States. For a long time,
     Germany and several other European countries           many in the U.S. thought that our unique melting
     have spoken out about the urgent need to combat        pot meant we were immune from this threat – this
homebased, Islamist extremism. In the United States,        despite the history of violent extremists of all kinds in
the issue has also become a topic of lively political de-   the United States. That was false hope, and false com-
bate as a result of hearings by the House Committee         fort. This threat is real, and it is serious.” As evidence
on Homeland Security into the extent of radicalization      of this threat, McDonough noted that, over the past
in the American Muslim Community. While some on             two years, dozens of American citizens had been ar-
the left have denounced the hearings as comparable          rested and charged with terrorism counts.
“to overly zealous investigations of communism in              Meanwhile, on 16 October 2010, German Chan-
the 1950s that led to false accusations that destroyed      cellor Angela Merkel addressed the dangers posed
careers,” others have defended the                                                by unassimilated Muslims in her
inquiry as vital to combating the                                                 country. Speaking to the youth
escalating threat of homegrown Is-                                                wing of her party, the centre-right
lamist terrorism.                                                                 Christian Democratic Union
   Peter King, the Republican                                                     (CDU), she derided “multikilti”
Chairman of the Committee on                                                      as a failure. Alluding to the mil-
Homeland Security, expressed his                                                  lions of Muslims who have emi-
determination in opening the hear-                                                grated to Germany over the past
ings to continue the investigation,                                               50 years, she said: “Of course, the
despite “the paroxysms of rage and                                                tendency had been to say, ‘let’s
hysteria” from special interest groups and the media.       adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side
He said: “To back down would be a craven surrender          by side, and be happy to be living with each other. But
to political correctness and an abdication of what I        this concept has failed, and failed utterly.”
believe to be the main responsibility of this committee        To enthusiastic applause from her young audience,
to protect America from a terrorist attack.”                Merkel insisted that immigrants must be made to un-
   King recalled that last December, United States          derstand that alien practices like forced marriages will
Attorney General Eric Holder confided in a televi-          not be tolerated in Germany. “We feel bound to the
sion interview that the danger of homegrown terror          Christian image of humanity,” she said. “That is what
“keeps me up at night.” Holder added: “The threat           defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the
has changed from simply worrying about foreigners           wrong place here.”
coming here, to worrying about people in the United            In an address to the Munich Security Conference
States, American citizens raised here, born here, and       on February 5, British Prime Minister David Cam-
who for whatever reason, have decided that they are         eron focused on the growing threat of homegrown Is-
going to become radicalized and take up arms against        lamist terrorism. He noted: “Some young men find it
the nation in which they were born.”                        hard to identify with the traditional Islam practiced at
   In an address on 6 March 2011, Denis Mc-                 home by their parents, whose customs can seem staid
Donough, Deputy National Security Advisor to the            when transplanted to modern Western countries. But
President, likewise warned that “al Qaeda and its ad-       these young men also find it hard to identify with
herents have increasingly turned to another troubling       Britain too, because we have allowed the weakening
tactic: attempting to recruit and radicalize people to      of our collective identity. Under the doctrine of state

24      Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cul- sis, which may be revoked in the event of a conviction
tures to live separate lives, apart from each other and for a serious offence.”
apart from the mainstream. We’ve failed to provide a               Rutte acknowledged that the package of immigra-
vision of society to which they feel they want to be- tion reforms proposed by his government “will lead
long. We’ve even tolerated these segregated communi- to a very substantial decline in the number of immi-
ties behaving in ways that run completely counter to grants entering the Netherlands.” He added: “This
our values.”                                                    will enable us to ensure full participation in society by
   Cameron observed that a “passively tolerant soci- the people who have come lawfully to this country.”
ety” leaves people alone so long as they obey the law,             In Sweden, a hitherto marginal faction, the Swe-
but “a genuinely liberal country does much more; it den Democrats, shocked many Swedes by winning 20
believes in certain values and actively promotes them: seats in a general election last September. Party leader
freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, Jimmie Akesson has described growth in Sweden’s
the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or Muslim population as the greatest threat to the coun-
sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as try since the Second World War. During the election
a society: To belong here is to believe in these things. campaign, he called for a 90 per cent cut in immigra-
Now, each of us in our own countries,                                               tion for family reunification.
I believe, must be unambiguous and                 “al Qaeda and its                   In Denmark, the ruling Liberal-
hard-nosed about this defense of our                 adherents have                 Conservative coalition has already
liberty.”                                         increasingly turned               imposed tough restrictions on fam-
   Five days later, French President             to another troubling ily reunification. Included in a set
Nicolas Sarkozy joined the chorus                tactic: attempting to of new regulations that came into
of European leaders in declaring that            recruit and radicalize effect on 15 November 2010 is an
multiculturalism has failed. Speaking                                               outright ban on the immigration of
                                                  people to terrorism
on national television, he said: “In all                                            spouses in forced marriages. Dan-
democracies, we have been too pre-
                                                             here.”                 ish residents who wish to sponsor
occupied with the identity of every-                                                the immigration of a lawful spouse
one who arrives and not enough with the identity of must now pass an “immigration test (testing your
the welcoming country. We do not want a society in Danish language skills and your knowledge about
which communities coexist side by side. If you come Denmark and Danish society).” In addition, immi-
to France, you integrate into one community, the na- grating spouses must post 63,413 Kronors (about
tional community. If that is not acceptable, then don’t $11,430) of bank-backed collateral to cover the cost
come to France. If we accept everyone, our immigra- of any public assistance they might receive after relo-
tion system will explode.”                                      cating to Denmark.
   Correspondingly, in a policy statement on 26 Oc-                While leading politicians in Europe and the United
tober 2010, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of The Neth- States have spoken out about the urgent need to ad-
erlands stated his government’s belief that “people dress the failures of multiculturalism and the grow-
who choose to become Dutch citizens can be expected ing dangers of homegrown Islamist terrorism, their
to adapt to Dutch society. After all, Dutch nationality counterparts in Canada have remained silent. What
entails responsibilities.”                                      accounts for such complacency?
   Specifically, Rutte made clear that immigrants to               Some Canadian might suppose that there is little
The Netherlands will have to learn Dutch and “pay cause for concern in Canada, because Canada’s Mus-
for their own civic integration courses.” He pledged: lim population is relatively small. But that supposi-
“We will set higher requirements for naturalization, tion is not altogether true. Currently, there are about
and introduce Dutch nationality on a provisional ba- 940,000 Muslims residing in Canada. That is more


                          Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1                25
than there are in The Netherlands (914,000); twice multiculturalism in Germany, the Montreal Gazette
as many as in Sweden (451,000); and more than four published a smug editorial headlined: “Multicultural-
times as many as in Denmark (226,000). While the ism hasn’t failed here.” That’s typical of both elite and
proportion of Muslims in the total population is much popular opinion in Canada. But is it warranted? Do
lower in Canada (just 2.8 per cent) than in France (7.5 Canadians really have no reasons for concern about
per cent), The Netherlands (5.5 per cent) or Britain the prospect that within 20 years, Metropolitan To-
(4.6 per cent), the Canadian ratio is far higher than ronto could include 1.5 million Muslims?
the proportion in the United States, where there are          That, to say the least, is debatable. In a poll con-
2,595,000 Muslims constituting only 0.8 per cent of ducted for the Policy Research Initiative of the Gov-
the entire population.                                     ernment of Canada in 2007, the Environics Research
   Moreover, for the past 20 years, Canada’s Muslim Group found that 75 per cent of a representative
population has been growing with extraordinary ra- national sample of Canadian Muslims claimed to be
pidity. The present total of close to 940,000 is up from aware that 18 Muslim men and boys in Metropolitan
579,640 in 2001 and just 253,265 in 1991. Accord- Toronto had been arrested the year before on terror-
ing to a recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion ism charges. Within this Muslim sub-sample, no few-
and Public Life, Canada’s Muslim population will er than 13 per cent (that works out to 10 per cent of
continue to grow much more rapidly over the next all Muslim respondents) said the attacks would have
20 years than the Muslim populations of France, Ger- been either completely or at least somewhat justified.
many, Britain and the United States.                                            In a report to the Government of
                                             Angela Merkel: “We
   Statistics Canada projects that                                           Canada, Michael Adams, President
by 2031, Canada could have 2.5 to               feel bound to the
                                                                             of the Environics Research Group,
3.3 million Muslims comprising 6.8             Christian image of            observed: “10 per cent of a represen-
to 7.3 per cent of the total popula-         humanity,” she said.            tative national sample of Canadian
tion. That is remarkable. These fig- “That is what defines Muslims said the Islamist terrorists
ures indicate that in 2031, Canada us. Those who do not among the Toronto 18 who were ar-
will have a larger number of Mus-           accept this are in the rested in the spring of 2006 were at
lims relative to total population than        wrong place here.”             least somewhat justified in planning
now exists in any Western European                                           to set off three massive, death-deal-
country, except France.                                    ing bombs.”
   The projected growth in the Muslim population              Surely, that finding is alarming. It suggests that
of Canada’s major metropolitan areas is even more close to 94,000 Canadian Muslims believed there was
striking. For Metropolitan Toronto, Statistics Canada some justification for a potentially catastrophic Is-
estimates that in 2031, the region will have 1.1 to lamist attack on Canada. One can only wonder how
1.5 million Muslims. That is far higher than the esti- many more Muslims agreed, but did not dare to admit
mated present number of Muslims in Berlin (around as much to a pollster.
200,000), the Amsterdam region (190,500) and the               Clearly, Canada has a serious problem with im-
Rotterdam region (138,000).                                ported and homegrown Islamist extremism. For years,
   Even if all Canadians were aware of the exception- David Harris, the Ottawa-based security consultant
ally rapid growth projected for Canada’s Muslim pop- and former Director of Strategic Planning for CISIS,
ulation, many, if not most, Canadians would probably has been warning of the danger. In an appearance be-
remain little, if at all, concerned. There is a deep root- fore a subcommittee of the United States Congress on
ed conviction in this country that Canada can suc- immigration and border security in 2006, he recalled
ceed, where the United States and Europe have failed, that the deputy director of CSIS had testified to a
in integrating vast numbers of Muslim immigrants. committee of the Canadian Senate that numerous Ca-
After Angela Merkel pronounced the utter failure of nadian citizens and residents have been implicated in

26      Canadian Observer                 Spring 2011              Vol. 1. No. 1
terrorist plots directed at targets not only in Canada,    screening for extremist views?
but also in the United States, Britain, Lebanon, Saudi        Harris has advanced a compelling explanation:
Arabia, Israel, Pakistan and other countries.              “Sober minds regard the [Canadian] immigration sys-
   Harris said: “Canada’s immigration and refugee sys-     tem as largely a corrupt vote importing scheme.” 3
tem has been a big part of the problem. In per capita
                                                              (Editor’s Note: Endnotes supporting assertions
terms, Canada takes in double the number of immi-
                                                           made by the author in this article are with the ecopy
grants and three or four times the number of refugees
                                                           at the website: www.policystudies.ca )
as the United States. Canada cannot effectively, in my
                                                              Rory Leishman is a Policy Fellow with the
respectful view, screen and integrate such numbers,
                                                              Canadian Center for Policy Studies (CCPS).
and we have seen the proof.”
   James Bissett, former Executive Director of the Ca-
nadian Immigration Service, agrees. Writing earlier
this year in C2C: Canada’s Journal of Ideas, he main-
tained that, in dealing with applicants from Muslim
countries, Canada’s visa officers make “no attempt to
find out if the prospective Canadian citizen will be
comfortable and happy living in a secular society.          Start a REAL discussion...
There are no questions asked about women’s rights,
about the applicant’s views about freedom of expres-        Get an Observer author as speaker...
sion or tolerance of other religions. In other words, we
have not the slightest idea if the Muslim we are invit-
ing into our country is an extremist or a moderate or       • Interesting writers
something in between.”
   In 2009, Canada admitted close to 50,000 more            • Provocative points of view
Muslim immigrants. Last year, the estimated inflow
                                                            • Pundits, politicians
of Muslim immigrants was 22,000 to Germany, just
3,000 to The Netherlands and less than 1,000 to Den-
mark.                                                       Tel: 613.695.2176
   No one doubts that most, if not the great majority,
of Muslims in Canada, the United States and Europe,         Fax: 613.800.0713
are peaceful. They would never aid or abet a terror-
ist attack. But it is also true that Europe and North
America are menaced by a substantial minority of Is-        www.policystudies.ca
lamist terrorists and sympathizers lurking within their
                                                            Or contact us:
borders.
   To deal with this threat, Denmark and the Neth-          Canadian Centre for Policy Studies
erlands have slashed the inflow of all Muslim immi-
grants. Why will the Parliament of Canada not dis-           .O.
                                                            P Box 1318, Station B
cuss, let alone adopt, effective measures to stem the       Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5R4
flow of Islamist extremists into Canada? Why will
none of our leading politicians in Canada undertake
to safeguard the peace, order and good government of
Canadians, by insisting that all applicants for a resi-
dency permit in Canada at least undergo a thorough


                         Canadian Observer                 Spring 2011             Vol. 1. No. 1             27
Interview
Man Does Not Live By Reason Alone
An Interview with Leszek Kolakowski

    Leszek Kolakowski, who died in 2009, was professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago and a fel-
low of All Souls College at Oxford University. His critical, magisterial study of the history of Marxism and his
perpetual doubt and self-questioning, which led to a preoccupation with “the revenge of the sacred” in secular
life, earned him a reputation as modern Europe’s Erasmus.
    Just after he published Modernity on Endless Trial in 1991, Kolakowski sat down with Nathan Gardels, editor
of the New Perspectives Quarterly (NPQ), in his study at All Souls College. The following conversation, initially
published in Kolakowski’s last book, My Correct Views on Everything, also appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of
NPQ. We thank the NPQ for authorizing us to reproduce the interview.

Interviewer: | The title of your recent book is Modernity     of religion or the death of God. Secularization hasn’t
on Endless Trial. But isn’t the trial over, the verdict in?   eradicated religious needs.
With the resurgence of religious fundamentalism and               Of course, it is true that secularization spread with
ethnic strife across the globe—in effect the revenge of the   the process of rural uprootedness and urbanization,
sacred and the soil against modernity—aren’t we living        general education and technological advance. But
out the waning days of the last modern century?               there is no strict connection. After all, the most mo-
Leszek Kolakowski | We are living through the real-           bile, technologically developed country in the world,
ization that many rationally constructed predictions          the United States, is by no means the most secular-
made in the 19th century are more wrong than the              ized. Not only is the traditional Christian church alive
so-called illusions they were trying to dispel.               and very well there—more than half the American
   Both secular liberals and socialists expected that na-     people go to church very regularly—but there is also
tional, or tribal, passions would gradually disappear,        a flowering of Oriental cults, sects and so-called “New
while improved means of communication and a better            Age spirituality.”
scientific understanding of the universe would take its           To be sure, Christianity has been enfeebled. But as
place. But it turned out not to be so.                        it adjusts to the civilization of the next millennium, it
   The need to belong to a tribe, so to speak, is as          might experience a renewal. However wrenching the
strong as ever. National conflicts don’t appear to be         process might be, as we can witness today on the is-
disappearing. Indeed, in the Soviet Union and some            sue of abortion, conflict and adjustment of just this
countries recently liberated from communism, the              nature has occurred several times over the centuries.
“return of the repressed” may take a particularly nasty           After confrontations such as that with Galileo,
form.                                                         Christianity accepted the autonomy of reason and
   There is, of course, always a potential for conflicts      gave up trying to control science. Hostile to the no-
to erupt into bloody wars of global consequence, or           tion of human rights after the French Revolution,
massacres, as has happened time and again in the              Christianity now accepts and promotes them. Theo-
course of European history. But, in principle, there          cratic pretensions have been given up altogether in
is nothing wrong with people trying to define them-           Christianity.
selves or identify themselves with a particular culture.          So, far from secularization inexorably leading to
For Europeans, it is almost impossible to be a cosmo-         the death of religion, it has instead given birth to the
pole in good faith. Each of us belongs to a national          search for new forms of religious life. The imminent
community.                                                    victory of the Kingdom of Reason has never material-
   Moreover, the rationalist predictions about religion       ized.
also turned out to be wrong. I don’t expect the death             As a whole, mankind can never get rid of the need


28      Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1
for religious self-identification: who am I, where did          come from history and religion, any attempt to limit
I come from, where do I fit in, why am I responsible,           our wants will result in terrible frustration and aggres-
what does my life mean, how will I face death? Reli-            sion that could take on catastrophic proportions. The
gion is a paramount aspect of human culture. Reli-              amount of frustration and aggression doesn’t depend
gious need cannot be excommunicated from culture                on the absolute level of satisfaction, but on the gap
by rationalist incantation. Man does not live by reason         between wants and their effective satisfaction.
alone.                                                             Religious tradition has taught us to limit ourselves,
Interviewer: | Speaking about the collapse of communism         to place a distance between our needs and our wants.
in Europe last year, your compatriot, the Polish poet Cz-       All the great religious traditions have taught us for
eslaw Milosz, said: “What is surprising in the present          centuries not to become solely bound up in one di-
moment are those beautiful and deeply moving words              mension—the accumulation of wealth and the exclu-
spoken in Prague and Warsaw, words which pertain to             sive preoccupation with our present material life.
the old repertoire of honesty of the dignity of the person. I      It will be a cultural catastrophe if we lose the abil-
wonder at this phenomenon because maybe underneath              ity to maintain this distance between our wants and
there is an abyss. After all, those ideas have their foun-      needs. The survival of our religious heritage is the con-
dation in religion. And I am not over-optimistic about          dition for the survival of civilization.
the survival of religion in a scientific-                                           Interviewer: | The cultural catastro-
technological civilization. How long                                                phe being that without a set of rules
can such notions stay afloat if the bot-                                            that comes from religious tradition
tom is taken out?”                                                                  there are no moral brakes on man,
Kolakowski | I hope Milosz is                                                       particularly on the gluttony of homo
wrong, but I can’t be sure. If we                                                   consumptus?
imagine a technologically advanced                                                  Kolakowski | Yes, no moral brakes.
Brave New World in which man-                                                       When culture loses its sacred sense,
kind has forgotten his religious                                                    it loses all sense. With the disap-
heritage and historical tradition—and therefore has             pearance of the sacred, which imposes limits on the
no basis for interpreting his own life in moral terms—          perfection that can be attained by secular society, one
that would be the end of mankind. It is most unlikely           of the most dangerous illusions of our civilization aris-
that mankind, deprived of its historical consciousness          es—the illusion that there are no limits to the changes
and religious tradition because they are technologi-            we can undergo, that society is an endlessly flexible
cally useless, would be able to live peacefully, satisfied      thing subject to the arbitrary whims of our creative
with his achievements.                                          capacities.
   In fact, I would expect the opposite, since it is in            In the end, as I have written in the essay “The Re-
the very constitution of humanity that our wants have           venge of the Sacred in Secular Culture,” this illusion
no definite limits. They can grow indefinitely in an            sows disastrous despair. The modern chimera, which
endless spiral of greed.                                        would grant man total freedom from tradition or all
   During the last few decades of rapid economic                preexisting sense, far from opening before him the
growth, we got used to the idea that all of us moderns          perspective of divine self-creation, suspends him in a
could have everything and, indeed, that we deserved             darkness where all things are regarded with equal in-
everything.                                                     difference.
   But that is simply not true. Since there are natu-              To be totally free from religious heritage or histori-
ral limits on our planet—ecological and demographic             cal tradition is to situate oneself in a void and thus to
limits—we will be compelled to limit our wants.                 disintegrate. The utopian faith in man’s self-inventive
   Without a consciousness of limits, which can only            capabilities, the utopian hope of unlimited perfection,


                           Canadian Observer                    Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1               29
may be the most efficient instrument of suicide hu-           it. Such meaning can only be established by historical
man culture has ever invented.                                explanation, by paying homage to origins and founda-
    To reject the sacred, which means also to reject sin,     tional events. In this sense, there can be no such thing
imperfection and evil, is to reject our own limits. To        as a religion that is not conservative.
say that evil is contingent, as Sartre did, is to say that        Thus, no religion can survive without a certain
there is no evil, and therefore that we have no need of       wealth of tradition, which inevitably brings it into
a sense given to us by tradition, fixed and imposed on        conflict with the trend of civilization toward constant
us whether we will it or not.                                 change—everything casting off origins and over-
    As you put it, there are thus no moral brakes on the      throwing all form and structure.
will to power. In the end, the ideal of total liberation          The tension between past and future is bound to
is the sanctioning of greed, force and violence, and          be with us. Life is tension and suffering. That is the
thus of despotism, the destruction of culture and the         human condition and mankind cannot be liberated
degradation of the earth.                                     from it.
    The only way to ensure the endurance of civili-           Interviewer: | Can’t the religious imagination not only be
zation is to ensure that there are always people who          rooted in origins but in hope and belief in a destination;
think of the price paid for every step of what we call        for example, in a world that survives ecologically?
“progress.” The order of the sacred is also a sensitivity     Kolakowski | Certainly, religious belief can limit
to evil—the only system of reference that allows us to        human ambition and conserve the future. But one
contemplate that price and forces us to ask whether it        should be as careful about believing in a green utopia
is exorbitant.                                                as in a red one.
    The values whose vigor is so vital to culture can-            It is obvious that some elements of the German
not survive without being rooted in the realm of the          Green Party, for example, are hostile to freedom and
sacred. This is true not only of the values of which          are totalitarian in nature. As with the communist
Milosz spoke —honesty and personal dignity— but               movement, there is a danger in some of the more ab-
others as well.                                               surd and grotesque forms of the environmental move-
Interviewer: | This emphasis on pre-existing sense, or tra-   ment which would sacrifice everything now for some
dition, has led you to ask whether society can survive in     distant salvation.
the absence of the conservative forces that resist the up-        In any event, we don’t need religion to worry about
heaval of endlessly changing modernity that perpetually       ecological catastrophe. Religion cannot replace what
undermines its foundations.                                   science and technology can cope with; it can only give
    Without conservative structures, unbounded develop-       us the belief that the world is not self-explanatory, that
ment explodes; yet without dynamic development, society       there is a meaning that cannot be directly perceived
stagnates and dies. Each alone entails destruction; the       and established as a scientific fact. Religion is of an-
tension between the two creates balance.                      other dimension that enables us to cope with an exis-
    Trying to maintain this appropriate tension is the per-   tence of frustration, failure, suffering and death.
spective, you say, of a “conditional conservative.”               In this sense, religion is not about survival, but
    With the ecological imperative so pressing, why can’t     about NOT surviving. It is man’s way of accepting
a new set of conserving values, which seek to preserve the    inevitable defeat. For mankind, there is no such thing
future, instead of conservative values, which preserve the    as ultimate victory. In the end, we die.
past, constitute a new realm of the sacred?                   Interviewer: | We’ve talked about the illusions of moder-
    Why not look toward the greening of religious heritage    nity. But the Reformation and the Enlightenment have
instead of looking back toward orthodoxy?                     also brought modern acquisitions of civilization to the
Kolakowski | Religion is about the meaning of being,          West that we don’t want to discard—individual con-
about the meaning of the universe and our place in            science and freedom, human rights, the autonomy of rea-


30      Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1
son, the separation of church and state, pluralism and panies the tolerance of contradiction—a mentality that
tolerance. Yet, as we’ve discussed, the West not only has lacks absolute notions of good and evil and that does not
weakened itself through the loss of tradition, moral indif- make room for the sacred; what we call nihilism in the
ference and bad faith; but also it has engendered a reac- West—has been the Japanese condition for millennia. It
tion to the inadequacies of modernity that now threatens is perhaps rooted in the polytheism of Shinto, which has
many of its positive contributions.                         its origins in the ancient forest culture of Jomon.
As the modern West weakens, it faces two challenges in Kolakowski | I have been told that if you tally the
the next century: the absolutism of Islamic fundamen- membership of the Japanese in the various religious
talism and the absolute relativism some say characterizes groups in Japan, you end up with a number greater
polytheistic Japan.                                         than the entire population of the country. It is not
Kolakowski | I quite agree. The West faces these two unusual for the same people to go to a Shinto shrine,
challenges in the future and, as you say, it challenges a Buddhist temple and a Christian church, depend-
itself.                                                     ing on the need and the circumstance. Of course, this
   One has the feeling that Japan is really an alien phenomenon is very different from the monotheistic
civilization. The Japanese way of seeing reality is very cultures, where exclusivity is the basis of any religion
different from ours. We can feel this                                           or sect.
strangeness in the films of Akira Ku-         In principle, there is            Interviewer: | In the 16th century,
rosawa, for example. His film Ran             nothing wrong with                the writer Fukian Fabian polemi-
is an aesthetic masterpiece, visually people trying to define cized against what was already then a
beautiful and technically exquisite.
                                            themselves or identify secularized Buddhism, asking “where
So much so, in fact, that one greets                                            is the lord who punishes the evil and
with indifference the bloody battles
                                               themselves with a                thus preserves morality?” That seems to
where heads are being chopped off particular culture. For be your question about modernity at
and bodies mangled.                        Europeans, it is almost the end of the 20th century.
   While Japan’s way of seeing the             impossible to be a                   What is the difference between the
world certainly is a challenge to ours,        cosmopole in good                tolerance of contradiction, or religious
it at the same time lacks the menac-            faith. Each of us               inclusivity, in Japan and the indiffer-
ing messianic impulse of America or                belongs to a                 ence you so scorn in the West?
Russia.                                      national community. Kolakowski | Of course, indifference
   When visiting Tokyo, I once                                                  is the main form of tolerance in the
asked a Japanese intellectual, “Aren’t                                          West. Our tolerant attitude is often
you destined to conquer the world? After all, you are little more than lack of interest or disbelief; we are as
the only industrial society in existence that has kept indifferent to our own beliefs as to those of others.
its social hierarchy and social structures intact. You          But the intolerance of the church is not the only
are quickly able to assimilate scientific knowledge and alternative to such a nihilistic attitude in the West.
technical skills, you are relatively healthy, and you are After the religious wars of the 16th century a certain
terribly crowded on your islands.”                          tolerance, combined with commitment to a set of be-
   He was not astonished at my question. “No, I don’t liefs, took root in Christian culture.
think so,” he said, “because we Japanese don’t feel that        Individuals and groups can be strongly committed
we have a cultural mission to impose our ways on the        to their religious values and at the same time prac-
rest of the world. Our imperialist adventures, both tice tolerance toward others. The Catholic Church is
in the Middle Ages and in this century, ended disas- preaching something like this now.
trously.”                                                   Interviewer: | For example, in Pope John Paul II’s en-
Interviewer: | The mentality of indifference that accom- cyclical Redemptoris Missio, he claims the superiority of


                          Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1                31
Christianity.                                                  is a renaissance of religious fanaticism and aggressiv-
   One might say then that Redemptoris Missio is an at-        ity, is not clear. It may be more related to the rise of
tempt by Pope John Paul II to distinguish between “plu-        petro-power, and the resultant economic imbalances
ralistic tolerance” and what we might call “indifferent        and resentments in the Islamic world, than to reli-
tolerance.”                                                    gious invigoration.
Kolakowski | Yes, I think so. Christianity cannot re-              In any event, this occult fundamentalism has prov-
nounce its claims to superiority, of course. It is bound       en an efficient device to channel the frustration and
to make claims to truth, but there is no reason in prin-       aggressivity of nationalism.
ciple why Christianity cannot accept a plurality of re-            The central point of conflict with Western civiliza-
ligions without renouncing its own claims to truth.            tion, the point of departure between our two cultures,
One cannot say with consistency that this is my reli-          is the institutional separation of the secular and the
gion, and it is as good as any other. That is absurd. In       sacred. Theocratic nationalism confronts the secular
what sense, then, is it mine?                                  states of the West in international relations. As long as
   Despite the miserable record of repressions and             there are theocratic states, there will be conflict with
persecutions, there is in Christianity a history of tol-       the West. That is inevitable.
eration that was preached for the sake of preserving           Interviewer: | If these two civilizations must battle it out
Christian values.                                              in one interdependent world, where will that lead?
Interviewer: | Islam, the other evangelizing monotheis-        Kolakowski | We cannot predict how the so-called
tic religion besides Christianity, hasn’t accommodated         modernization of Islamic countries will affect religious
to the European experiences of the Reformation and the         life. In Iran, modernization engendered the theocratic
Enlightenment. Islamic culture thus lacks the modern in-       counterrevolution of Khomeini and led to his desper-
difference characteristic of the West, leading the French      ate attempt to medievalize the country. Although he
social critic Jean Baudrillard to remark that Islam offers     once said that all traditional religions—Islam, Juda-
the only resistance to the radical indifference sweeping the   ism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity—should be tol-
world. As a result, might not the renaissance of religion      erated, he ruthlessly persecuted and killed Bahais.
worldwide also mean the renaissance of religious conflict,         But since the rest of the world doesn’t live in the
of conflict between civilizations?                             12th century, such religious totalitarianism must
Kolakowski | Medieval Islamic culture produced great           sooner or later be exhausted. Indeed, the clash with
achievements in the history of civilization, in philoso-       the demands of technical modernization will lead to a
phy, poetry, architecture, mathematics and medicine.           loosening of rigid theocracy.
   To be sure, there were pogroms against the Jews                 Islamic theocracy can no more ultimately resist the
and genocide during the First World War in the Otto-           autonomy of reason required by technological prog-
man Empire. But it is wrong to think that the history          ress than could Christian theocracy. Islam cannot have
of Islam, whether in the Ottoman period or earlier             both. A medieval religious regime will mean medieval
in Spain to take two examples, is the history of the           material and technical conditions; economic modern-
systematic persecution and extermination of religious          ization means the end of theocracy.
minorities. One cannot say with any certainty that it              For now, oil resources cushion the clash. But when
is the destiny of Islam to be bellicose, aggressive and        the wells run dry, so too, I suspect, will this kind of
repressive.                                                    fanaticism.
   Nonetheless, for reasons I cannot explain, at a cer-            Still, of this we can’t be sure. The only certainty in
tain moment Islamic civilization fell into a slumber.          history is its utter unpredictability and incoherence.
Culturally speaking, Islam has not been very fertile in        Interviewer: | At the end of the last modern century, can
recent times.                                                  secular man reintroduce the sacred? Can we base ethical
   The meaning of today’s Islamic renaissance, which           values on reason instead of revolution? Must personal re-


32       Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1
sponsibility be rooted in transcendent beliefs?                    Thus, we need instruments of human solidarity
Kolakowski | It is obviously possible for individuals to        that are not based on our own instincts, self-interest
keep high moral standards and be irreligious. I strong-         or on force. The communist attempt to institutional-
ly doubt whether it is possible for civilizations. Absent       ize solidarity ended in disaster. 
religious tradition, what reason is there for a society to
respect human rights and the dignity of man? What is
human dignity, scientifically speaking? A superstition?
    Empirically, men are demonstrably unequal. How
can we justify equality? Human rights is an unscien-
tific idea. As Milosz says, these values are rooted in a          You can become a supporter of:
transcendent dimension.
Interviewer: | It strikes me that totalitarianism of a dif-       Canadian Centre for
ferent kind could emerge from the new global capitalist
order—a totalitarianism of immediate gratification in
                                                                  Policy Studies
which reason is conditional to self-interest.                     Do you believe in Canada’s founding
    What is to defend dignity and human rights from total
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commercialization?
Kolakowski | The absence of a transcendent dimen-                 renew those values in public policy
sion in secular society weakens this social contract in
which each supposedly limits his or her freedom in                and in law.
order to live in peace with others.                               Target your donation:
    Such universalism of interest is another aspect of
the modern illusion. There is no such thing as scien-            • Research & Publish Policy Papers
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                           Canadian Observer                    Spring 2011              Vol. 1. No. 1             33
Fiction Tells a Greater Truth
–Salim Mansur




I
     n Xanadu, wrote the English poet Samuel Tay-            Today Samarkand in contemporary Uzbekistan is a
     lor Coleridge (1772-1834), “Kubla Khan” built        UNESCO World Heritage site rescued from obscurity
     a grandiose palace for himself. Coleridge’s cele-    into which it had fallen. I visited Timur’s capital sev-
brated poem about Kublai Khan’s pleasure dome was         eral years ago, spent an afternoon at his ornate mauso-
an act of poetic imagination taking flight on his read-   leum where the great conqueror lies buried at the foot
ing some references made to the grandson of Geng-         of his Sufi master, and was moved as strongly by the
his Khan, the greatest Mongol                                                   sight of beautiful buildings that
warrior-king and empire builder                                                 still retain some of the original
from the twelfth century. But                                                   lustre as were Marlowe and Poe
Samarkand, unlike the fictional                                                 on hearing stories about Samar-
Xanadu, was a great capital built                                               kand. Amin Maalouf, the bril-
by Timur, or Tamerlane, the four-                                               liantly imaginative and graceful
teenth century warrior-king and                                                 storyteller of Lebanese-Catholic
empire builder from Central Asia.                                               origin – and author of such splen-
Christopher Marlowe (1564-93),                                                  did novels as Leo The African, The
Shakespeare’s contemporary and                                                  Gardens of Light, Balthasar’s Odys-
rival, celebrated the builder of                                                sey, and The Rock of Tanios which
Samarkand in his dramatic play                                                  won the 1993 Prix Goncourt, the
Tamburlaine the Great in two                                                    prestigious French literary award
parts. Marlowe’s hero in speaking                                               – made Timur’s beloved city the
of his capital glowingly declaims,                                              setting for his 1989 novel Samar-
   Then shall my native city, Samarcanda...               kand.
   Be famous through the furthest continents,                Poetry and novels, especially great ones we treasure
   For there my palace-royal shall be placed,             are beautiful and give us endless joy generation after
   Whose shining turrets shall dismay the heavens,        generation. They take us into the ringside of events as
   And cast the fame of lion’s tower to hell.             in the struggle of the old fisherman to bring home the
   Much later the American poet Edgar Allan Poe           biggest catch of his life in Hemingway’s The Old Man
(1809-49) wrote an epic poem in praise of “Tamer-         and the Sea, or feel the anguish of losing a beloved and
lane.” In recalling the famed city located on the an-     heroic leader as in Whitman’s “O Captain! My Cap-
cient Silk Road to China, Poe eulogized,                  tain!” This power of great art to inspire and instruct
   Look ‘round thee now on Samarcand,                     through telling of stories about heroes from long ago,
   Is she not queen of earth? her pride                   such as Kublai Khan and Tamerlane, or imagined
   Above all cities? in her hand                          events in distant Samarkand, has been discussed in a
   Their destinies? with all beside                       recent book of much merit. In Grand Strategies: Litera-
   Of glory, which the world hath known?                  ture, Statecraft, and World Order (Yale, 2010), Charles
   Stands she not proudly and alone?                      Hill set out to illustrate how great works of fiction
   And who her sovereign? Timur he                        provide a richer understanding of politics than the
   Whom th’ astonish’d earth has seen,                    arid tomes of social sciences, in particular political sci-
   With victory, on victory,                              ence. “The great matters of high politics,” Hill writes,
   Redoubling age!                                        “statecraft, and grand strategy are essential to the hu-
                                                          man condition and so necessarily are within the pur-


34      Canadian Observer                Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
view of great literature. Tolstoy’s War and Peace treats cluded the works of Salman Rushdie. Rushdie’s Mid-
them directly. What has not been much recognized is night’s Children earned him the 1981 Booker Prize.
that many literary works read and praised for insights His novel The Satanic Verses published in 1988 pro-
on personal feelings, such as Jane Austen’s Emma, pos- voked a furor among Muslims worldwide and brought
sess a dimension wholly apt for statecraft – in Emma’s upon Rushdie a death sentence pronounced by Iran’s
case, the gathering and misanalysis of intelligence.”     Ayatollah Khomeini. V.S. Naipaul, the winner of the
   Hill’s own rich experience in politics, intelligence, 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature, sardonically observed
and diplomacy as a Foreign Service professional in the Khomeini’s pronouncement was “an extreme form of
U.S. State Department and in the office of the U.N. literary criticism.”
secretary-general, combined with his long love affair        Midnight’s Children is about the birth of modern
with literature, makes Grand Strategies a rare kind of India, narrated through the lives of two boys born
book. It is also one of those books that should be a at the midnight hour when the moment of indepen-
required reading in our time, that could well be de- dence from British rule occurred, as well as the parti-
scribed as the age of cultural conflicts or The Clash of tion of the subcontinent into the two successor states
Civilizations – the title of the much discussed 1996 of India and Pakistan. In Rushdie’s storytelling about
book by the late Samuel Huntington. Hill’s career the main character named Saleem Sinai – born at the
exposed him to the diversity of cul-                                        midnight hour with the vagaries of
tures and, through travel and study,       “The great matters of his life linked to the high and low
he found that the most penetrating high politics, statecraft, dramas of his country –, the whole
and worthy insights into the human and grand strategy are panorama of India’s diverse cultural
condition were to be found in the essential to the human and religious traditions is laid bare.
classics of world literature. Thucy-          condition and so              Similarly, in The Satanic Verses Rush-
dides account of the Peloponnesian necessarily are within die deconstructs the mythic history
War of 431-404 B.C. is a classic text
                                            the purview of great of early Islam, exposing the vulner-
monarchs, statesmen, diplomats,                                             abilities of Muslims in the modern
military commanders and students
                                                   literature.”             world of globalization and, as Hill
of statecraft have studied over the                                         comments, “of migration, rootless-
centuries to learn about politics and                                       ness, multiple identities and frac-
players involved in times of war and in securing of tured entities, of post-modernity’s shattering effect on
peace. But Thucydides account of that ancient war traditional cultures and national bonds.”
is not a rigorous and documented piece of historical         Rushdie’s writings, as that of V.S. Naipaul, explore
writing in the modern sense. Instead, as Hill points the broken realities and existential despair in post-
out, Thucydides narrative “is literature, and literature colonial societies of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
does not restrict itself. It can say anything that needs The promise of independence for people in these con-
to be said.”                                              tinents turned sour, and migration offered an exit for
   Among the many authors and books Hill discusses the ambitious, and the bitterly disappointed, to move
for their relevance to decoding the subtleties of high from former colonies in the southern hemisphere
politics of state – from Homer’s Iliad, Shakespeare’s or the tropics to the northern climates and richer
plays, Machiavelli’s epistles, Cervantes Don Quixote, economies of former imperial powers. Both Rushdie
Swift’s satire, Gibbon’s history, Kant’s philosophy, and Naipaul have plumbed the highly unstable and
Rousseau’s Confessions, poetry of Milton, Whitman, volatile cultural reality of Muslim societies contend-
Tennyson and Eliot, novels by Dickens, Dostoevsky, ing with a modernization that has undermined their
Conrad, Kafka, Mann, Malraux and Kipling, to the traditional values. The public burning of The Satanic
memoirs of Lawrence and Lee Kuan Yew –, he in- Verses in Bradford, England, by Muslim immigrants


                         Canadian Observer                 Spring 2011              Vol. 1. No. 1              35
from South Asia – ahead of Khomeini demanding                was well expressed in a rubaiyaat that Maalouf places
Rushdie be killed and made an example of what is to          at the beginning of his story:
be expected should anyone violate Muslim sensibilities          Pray tell, who has not transgressed Your Law?
by insulting Islam and its prophet – was a foretelling          Pray tell the purpose of a sinless life
of events to come. Their works have offered a much              If with evil You punish the evil I have done
richer, intricate and layered understanding of Islam            Pray tell, what is the difference between You and me?
and the Muslim world than all of the stolid output
                                                                In Samarkand Khayyam found bliss as a young
from most academic experts, thinktank gurus, media
                                                             man. Here he worked as an astronomer-mathemati-
pundits, and policy wizards in government bureaucra-
                                                             cian during the day and went home to recline in the
cies or non-governmental organizations in the West.
                                                             evenings with his beloved wife, drink wine, listen to
    This brings me back to Amin Maalouf and his nov-
                                                             music and write poetry. Into this blissful world arrived
el Samarkand. The English translation of the original
                                                             one day unannounced Hassan Sabbah, a marked man
in French was first published in 1992, some nine years
                                                             wanted by the authorities for his threats against Nizam
before Arab-Muslim terrorists of al Qaeda struck New
                                                             al-Mulk, the vizier or chief minister to the Seljuk Turk
York and Washington on September 11, 2001. It was
                                                             ruler. In Maalouf ’s historical fiction, the three men
as if through this work of historical fiction the au-
                                                             were known to each other from the time they were
thor subconsciously was sending out a warning signal
                                                             students together. Later they would go their different
to his alert readers that the quarrels of the eleventh
                                                             ways until fate brought them together again in a world
century Muslim world were not so remote, and that
                                                             of strife and sectarian violence. But Khayyam’s bliss-
understanding the nature of those quarrels would be
                                                             ful life was torn apart when he discovered Hassan was
helpful in contending with the effects of the deeply
                                                             the secret and disguised leader of a band of assassins
unsettling changes in the lands of Islam.
                                                             that had spread fear, and his intended prey was Nizam
    Maalouf in Samarkand, as Rushdie in The Satanic
                                                             al-Mulk.
Verses, gives full flight to his literary imagination in
                                                                The kernel of the story from which Maalouf spun
spinning a tale of love, rivalry, intrigue, betrayal, mur-
                                                             his tale was discussed briefly by Bernard Lewis in The
der and loss among erstwhile friends turned enemies.
                                                             Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam. Lewis’s history of
Maalouf ’s three principal characters – Omar Khayy-
                                                             Hassan Sabbah and his men, based on documented
am, Hassan Sabbah, and Nizam al-Mulk – brought to-
                                                             sources, was first published in 1967. A second edi-
gether in eleventh century Samarkand are real histori-
                                                             tion was released in 2001, in the aftermath of the ter-
cal personalities. Omar Khayyam is the best known in
                                                             rorist attacks in New York and Washington. Here is
the West of the three, his Persian quatrains or Rubai-
                                                             the passage from Lewis about the three personalities
yaat translated into English by Edward Fitzgerald and
                                                             in Maalouf ’s novel: it begins with reference to Has-
first published in 1859. Fitzgerald is most responsible
                                                             san Sabah leaving for Cairo to present himself at the
for rescuing Khayyam’s name from anonymity, and
                                                             court of the Fatimid Ismaili rulers of Egypt, who were
making the Persian’s verses as rendered by him into a
                                                             rivals of the Seljuk Turk rulers of Syria and Persia, and
treasured possession for any home library in the Eng-
                                                             defenders of orthodox Sunni Islam:
lish-speaking world where poetry is loved.
    Khayyam is the hero of Maalouf ’s Samarkand. He            A story related by several Persian authors, and in-
is the astronomer and mathematician who calculates a           troduced to European readers by Edward Fitzger-
new calendar for the Seljuk Turk ruler in whose realm          ald in the preface to his translation of the Rubaiyat,
Samarkand is located. But in an age when politics was          purports to give an account of the events leading
shaped by religion and religious strife was an expres-         to [Sabbah’s] departure. According to this tale,
sion of politics, Khayyam was a skeptic, if not entirely       Hasan-i-Sabbah, the poet Omar Khayyam, and
a committed agnostic. His view of God and religion             the vizier Nizam al-Mulk, had all been fellow-


36      Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
  students of the same teacher. The three made a pact       en and his band of terrorists taking shelter in the high
  that whichever of them first achieved success and         mountains of the Hindu Kush between Afghanistan
  fortune in the world would help the other two.            and Pakistan is most interesting.
  Nizam al-Mulk in due course became the vizier of             Eventually, however, Hassan Sabah and his fol-
  the Sultan, and his schoolmates put forward their         lowers were routed. Similarly, Osama bin Laden was
  claims. Both were offered governorships, which they       bombed out of his mountain retreats and recently
  both refused, though for different reasons. Omar          killed by U.S. navy Seals. Of the earlier episode, Lewis
  Khayyam shunned the responsibilities of office, and       writes,
  preferred a pension and the enjoyment of leisure;
                                                              Considering the place of the Assassins in the history
  Hasan refused to be fobbed off with a provincial
                                                              of Islam, four things may be said with reasonable
  post, and sought high office at court. Given his
                                                              assurance. The first is that their movement, what-
  wish, he soon became a candidate for the vizierate
                                                              ever its driving force may have been, was regarded
  and a dangerous rival to Nizam al-Mulk himself.
                                                              as a profound threat to the existing order, politi-
  The vizier therefore plotted against him, and by a
                                                              cal, social and religious; the second is that they are
  trick managed to disgrace him in the eyes of the Sul-
                                                              no isolated phenomenon, but one of a long series of
  tan. Shamed and resentful, Hasan-i-Sabbah fled to
                                                              messianic movements, at once popular and obscure,
  Egypt, where he prepared his revenge.
                                                              impelled by deep-rooted anxieties, and from time
    Lewis points out that the story Edward Fitzgerald         to time exploding in outbreaks of revolutionary
reports is improbable, since Nizam al-Mulk was at a           violence; the third is that Hasan-i-Sabbah and his
minimum thirty years older than both Omar Khayy-              followers succeeded in reshaping and redirecting the
am and Hassan Sabbah. Given this discrepancy in the           vague desires, wild beliefs and aimless rage of the
respective ages of the three men in Maalouf ’s novel,         discontented into an ideology and an organization
they could not have been friends from an early age at
school. Yet the three men were contemporaries and
Nizam al-Mulk was assassinated in 1092, as Lewis dis-          Get a friend a gift subscription to:
cusses in his study, by an assassin disguised as a Sufi
and sent by Hassan Sabbah for the purpose.
    Maalouf, however, fully exploits the literary license
of a fiction writer and pulls together in Samarkand a
gripping story that has lessons for our time, when the
West finds itself drawn into a war against terrorism           Four issues (1 year) only $29.
waged by religious fanatics of the Muslim world. In            (includes tax and postage)
the fictional Hassan Sabbah of Maalouf ’s novel, there         Name: _____________________________
is to be found an uncanny resemblance to the wealthy           Address: ___________________________
Saudi businessman, Osama bin Laden, who turns into             City: _______________ Province:_______
a fanatical organizer and leader of the al Qaeda net-
                                                               Postal code: __________
work of Arab-Muslim terrorists. Hassan Sabbah ruled
from the mountain fortress Alamut, located in the
                                                               Credit card: ________________________
high peaks of the Elburz Mountains, along the south-           Expiry date: ______/_____
ern shores of the Caspian Sea in Iran. He came to be           Signature: ____________________
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struck terror in the hearts of his opponents, primarily        To manage or order a subscription:
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treat. Again, the similarity here with Osama bin Lad-

                         Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1                   37
     which, in cohesion, discipline and purposive vio-            erwise it would be as a place of oppressive boredom
     lence, have no parallel in earlier or later times. The       resulting from an absence of diversity.
     fourth, and perhaps ultimately the most significant              Amin Maalouf ’s novels, as those of Salman Rush-
     point, is their final and total failure. They did not        die and others that Hill draws upon in his study of
     overthrow the existing order; they did not even suc-         literature and politics, were not written for pedagogi-
     ceed in holding a single city of any size. Even their        cal purposes. They tell perennial stories about us as
     castle domains became no more than petty princi-             men and women. Their novels, when held up as mir-
     palities, which in time were overwhelmed by con-             rors for us to gaze into, lead to the discovery that we
     quest, and their followers have become small and             remain behind our masks much the same, despite the
     peaceful communities of peasants and merchants –             changes of seasons and years, as characters from the
     one sectarian minority among many.                           past. This is the marvel of classics, as Hill explains,
                                                                  that “each generation reads in its own way to fill its
   It might be hoped that the current crop of Muslims
                                                                  particular need, each finds something new in it.” And
terrorists, be they Arabs, Afghans, Pakistanis, Somalis
                                                                  so did Marlowe, then Poe, and lastly Maalouf find in
or any other ethnicity belonging to the widely diverse
                                                                  the tales of Samarkand the thread to spin their stories
world of Islam, is similarly routed and crushed for the
                                                                  that connect us so vividly to a past revealing so much
sake of civilization’s order and amity among cultures
                                                                  more about our present world. 3
in our highly shrunken world of instant global com-
munications. It might also be hoped that the cultural
                                                                  Salim Mansur is an associate professor of Political Science
strains of our time eventually get relieved as we come
                                                                  at the University of Western Ontario and a columnist for
to understand and respect each other for our com-
                                                                  the London Free Press.
monalities while acknowledging differences in faiths
and languages, which save our world from what oth-


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38         Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011                 Vol. 1. No. 1
Book Review:
Conversion Stories
By John Gay

Canadian Converts –                     are able to express themselves in       manageable; she succumbed to the
                                        written English is quite another        plea that her story would do much
The Path to Rome,                       matter, consequent upon the melt-       good. And so it has: at least two
Justin Press, Ottawa                    down in Canadian educational            people have been led toward the
2009                                    standards, so that the winnowing        Church through reading it.



S
                                                                                    All of that notwithstanding, the
       idney Smith, the founder of
                                                                                stories in this book are well, some
       the Edinburgh Review, once
                                                                                superbly well, written and bear
       said: “I never read a book be-
                                                                                comparison with anything in the
fore reviewing it; it prejudices one
                                                                                literature of their kind. Many of
so.” This being irrefutably true, I
                                                                                them are haunted by a powerful
am constrained to confess that I
                                                                                sense of the supernatural just be-
am prejudiced in favour of “Cana-
                                                                                low, and occasionally piercing, the
dian Converts,” not only because
                                                                                veil of the ordinary.
I have read it, but because I have
                                                                                    At the same time, many manage
helped to publish it.
                                                                                to be funny; Ian Hunter’s abortive
   Collections of conversion stories
                                                                                encounters with an RCIA course
are common in the English-speak-
                                                                                given by a fatuous laywoman with
ing world, and particularly, in re-
                                                                                the vocabulary of an early adoles-
cent years, in the United States,
                                                                                cent and modeled on a prekin-
where Joseph Pearce’s excellent
                                                                                dergarten class are comedy of a
“Literary Converts” and a host of
                                                                                high order. The reaction of David
other works have described, so far
                                                                                Warren’s agnostic mother to his
as human language can, the var-
                                        process was quite extensive.            announced intention to become
ied steps that lead to the Catholic
                                           Canadian political correctness,      Catholic, “But they eat protestant
Church. “Canadian Converts” is
                                        which is the liturgical expression of   babies!” is instantly trumped by
the first book to attempt this for
                                        our secular state, was another ob-      “Only at Easter, mama.”
Englishspeaking Canadian con-
                                        stacle. A judge who initially agreed        Common to all of them is the
verts; it was also one of the first
                                        to contribute her story withdrew        sense that the apparently ordinary
three books published by Justin
                                        after she was advised by a colleague    occurrences of our daily lives are in
Press.
                                        that to do so would end her chanc-      fact nothing of the kind; rather, as
   There are eleven conversion sto-
                                        es of career advancement. Those         Francis Thompson put it, “’tis you,
ries in “Canadian Converts,” all
                                        who did contribute were either          ’tis your estranged faces that miss
of them written by living Cana-
                                        courageous or past caring: Con-         the manysplendored thing: turn
dians except that by Richard John
                                        rad Black, for example wrote from       but a stone and start a wing.” 3
Neuhaus, who died just before the
book was published. Recruitment         his prison cell, while some others
of these authors was an illuminat-      were safely retired. The mother of a    John Gay is President of Justin Press,
ing experience. Converts to the         large family excused herself on the     an Ottawa-based publishing house
Catholic Church are, thank God,         very reasonable ground that the         dedicated to the publication of works
easy to find. Finding eleven who        time and energy demands were not        of Catholic culture and apologetics.

                         Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1                39
Book Review:
The Emptiness of Plenty
– Janice Fiamengo

Theodore Dalrymple,                     preoccupation with the cultural            zation is worth preserving. Though
                                        decline of Britain: family break-          smug about its high standard of
The New Vichy                           down, welfare dependency, and an           living and social security, it is yet
Syndrome: Why                           attitude of self-pitying entitlement       anxious about its inability to keep
European Intellectuals                  come under his acerbic gaze. Here          pace with more robust and creative
                                        he has measured and deplored the           economies. Competitors such as
Surrender to
                                        loss of the self-restraint and per-        China and India increasingly out-
Barbarism.                              sonal responsibility that character-       strip its production levels and inge-
                                        ized the generation of British who         nuity. A profound aversion to war
New York: Encounter                     defeated Hitler. In The New Vichy          has left it unable to defend itself
Books, 2010.                                                                       while dependent on the energy re-
    My only reservation about this                                                 serves of unstable or hostile foreign
book is that the catastrophizing                                                   powers. Drastically declining birth
title seems overstated: there is less                                              rates paired with increasing life ex-
here about barbarism per se than                                                   pectancy imperil the security of the
about Europe’s muddy slide into                                                    elderly while mass immigration has
weakness and decadence, with bar-                                                  made foreigners likely to dominate
barism a real possibility but not yet                                              the cultures they have little incen-
a reality. One might even say that in                                              tive to join or understand.
this book, the notoriously cranky                                                      It is on this last point, about the
Theodore Dalrymple is somewhat                                                     potential threat of Islamism in Eu-
less pessimistic than usual about                                                  rope, that Dalrymple is less alarm-
current affairs. The title quibble                                                 ist than his title might lead one to
aside, The New Vichy Syndrome                                                      expect. While never prone to sac-
is a gripping and rewarding book                                                   charine pieties, he gives full weight
that should strengthen Dalrymple’s                                                 to the likelihood that Muslim im-
reputation as one of the most pun-                                                 migrants’ disproportionately high
gent conservative commentators of       Syndrome, Dalrymple extends his            birthrate and tolerance for reli-
our time.                               scope to consider the malaise grip-        gious extremism will moderate in
    Theodore Dalrymple is the           ping Europe as a whole, analyz-            the European context; predictions
pseudonym, suggestive of his as-        ing the European Union as both             of racial and religious takeover, he
tringent British viewpoint, of a        a symptom and a futile attempt             believes, are far from certain. The
retired physician and psychiatrist      to assuage the continent’s collapse        problems with Islam, he avers,
who has published a series of essay     into moral lethargy and self-be-           “are as much to do with ourselves
collections with such downbeat ti-      trayal. It is a bracing analysis.          as with Islam itself, which is not
tles as Our Culture, What’s Left of        In Dalrymple’s reading, Europe          to say that there are no problems
It (2005) and Not with a Bang But       has come to a condition of lassi-          with Islam”. The problem has been
a Whimper (2008). His subjects          tude in which it has lost the abil-        that when Muslim girls in Britain
have been diverse, ranging from         ity to defend itself from internal or      are kept away from school by fun-
literary criticism to social analy-     external threats, unable even to ar-       damentalist parents, the response
sis, but they are unified by their      ticulate to its citizens why its civili-   of the school authorities is not to


40      Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011                 Vol. 1. No. 1
                                                                                 Even decent self-regard came to
                                                                                 be felt to be a form of complic-
                                                                                 ity. In the decades since the war,
                                                                                 European intellectuals increas-
                                                                                 ingly interpreted their history as
                                                                                 one of unmitigated slaughter and
                                                                                 oppression; even the British, who
                                                                                 had behaved admirably in the fight
                                                                                 against Hitler and should have had
                                                                                 grounds for satisfaction, were mor-
                                                                                 ally defeated by the messy after-
                                                                                 math of empire and a vigorous his-
                                                                                 toriographic emphasis on colonial
                                                                                 guilt. The European Union, that
                                                                                 vast superstate formed to protect
                                                                                 peace and prosperity amongst for-
                                                                                 merly hostile nation states, prom-
                                                                                 ised in response a new form of col-
                                                                                 lective identity and power. More
intervene. When, after the Danish        about the equality of cultures, has     importantly, perhaps, it promised
cartoon affair, the Danish embassy       been exacerbated by the policy and      escape from a past that many had
was attacked with the blessing of        lived experience of multicultural-      come to believe contained “noth-
the Syrian government, Europe            ism. Real cultural diversity is on      ing worth preserving”, little more
could not muster a response. “The        the rise at the same time that criti-   than a record of “crime and folly”.
quiet life was clearly preferred to      cism of non-European cultures has           The question of why any coun-
the costs of securing a free one”.       become deeply unfashionable and         try, let alone an entire continent,
Europe’s fundamental failure is its      skepticism about western culture        would choose to construct such a
lack of belief in itself, in the value   often a badge of righteousness. The     history for itself forms one of the
of the culture it developed over         result is that “Choice as a good in     most fascinating aspects of Dal-
the centuries, and even in the pos-      itself, even as the only good in it-    rymple’s analysis. The disillusion-
sibility of there being any values       self, is now almost an unthinking       ment and loss of moral confidence
worth preserving and defending.          orthodoxy in the West”.                 that followed the Second World
How Europe, which for centuries             The problems of moral discern-       War were significant challenges to
flourished as the cradle of science      ment fostered by epistemological        Europe, but their end result was
and art, arrived at such an impasse      skepticism have been coupled to         not inevitable. Dalrymple empha-
is the central process Dalrymple         the European response to its past.      sizes the forms of satisfaction and
seeks to trace.                          The Second World War dealt to           strategic opportunism to be found
   The answers, he believes, are         European self-confidence a crip-        in the “miserabilist history” Euro-
rooted in both European philoso-         pling blow from which succeed-          peans embraced. Limitless guilt,
phy and Europe’s response to its         ing generations failed to recover.      after all, creates its own mode of
history. A widespread epistemolog-       Revelations of German atrocities        righteousness, even its own “form
ical skepticism, influenced by at-       and of other countries’ willing col-    of grandiosity”. A country that
tacks on the truth claims of science     laboration led to a general disillu-    can no longer take credit for great
and anthropological assertions           sionment and refusal of patriotism.     achievement can take credit for


                          Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1             41
great evil, which explains why, in      process by which its peoples came               triguingly drawn. As a teacher who
a few decades, “we can go from          to give up on themselves touches                has long felt uneasy about Canada’s
believing that everything we have       upon many interrelated issues, in-              own version of historical miserabi-
done and do is the best, that we are    cluding the loss of the transcen-               lism, I was compelled by Dalrym-
civilizing the world, to the belief     dent, the self-indulgence of mod-               ple’s warning.
that we have ruined the world and       ern life, and the effects of moral                 Dalrymple’s prose is always lu-
that everything that is bad in it is    relativism. One of the most inter-              cid, witty, and incisive. Because
ultimately traceable to us”. Such       esting is Dalrymple’s emphasis on               the discussion here is necessarily
a miserabilist history is also use-     the role of miserabilist historiog-             sweeping and impressionistic, it
ful to those seeking to consolidate     raphy (his coinage, I believe) in               is more striking for its clarity and
power. It provides a rationale for      Europe’s decline. He shows how                  acuteness than for a step-by-step
the urgency of their claims and for     the now widely accepted view of                 marshalling of evidence, and thus
the sweeping transformations they       the First World War as a meaning-               unlikely to convince someone not
propose, even a powerful warrant        less slaughter was an interpretation            already inclined to Dalrymple’s
for messianic promises of hope and      imposed retrospectively by elites               way of thinking. It may be that the
change.                                 rather than the felt experience of              subject is too large for the sketchy,
   The result is that few Europeans,    the majority who lived through                  at times almost aphoristic, ap-
at present, believe in themselves       the war, and how self-loathing af-              proach. Still, it is hard not to be
or in their ability to contribute       ter the Second World War came to                impressed by the penetrating intel-
to their society. Even expressions      be accepted even by nations such                ligence everywhere evident, and a
of affection for or pride in one’s      as Britain that had cause for pride.            reader will find much to ponder on
country are liable to be taken as       The link between “nothing but-                  every page. 3
evidence of incipient xenophobia.       ism” (the conviction that one’s his-
The only thing to be prized is peace    tory is nothing but atrocity), loss             Janice Fiamengo is professor of Eng-
and material comfort: a social se-      of cultural identity, and the rise of           lish literature at the University of
curity based on fear of the future      ever-larger state bureaucracy is in-            Ottawa
and a commitment to collective
ease above all, even when the com-        Invenire
mitment saps worthy initiative and         Books
necessary risk. Nothing—not prin-
ciples, truth, or even the bearing                     “Gilles Paquet is the Marshall
of children—is worth jeopardizing                      McLuhan of governance.”
one’s present security, which seems       “Scheming virtuously is an invitation to subversion, but
unlikely to last long given the eco-      also a somewhat personal account of the displacement
nomic burdens of the welfare state.       of the dominant governing regime (Big-G centralized
One must enjoy oneself and take           government) by small-g collaborative governance, in
                                          a world where power & resources are shared. In this
as much as one can in the present.        new world, the citizen’s burden of office is clear: to
Thus do once-great nations collude        be a producer of governance. Scheming virtuously is
in their own decline. Dalrymple           the order of the day – active engagement, imaginative
ends by considering the factors           problem-reframing, astute organizational design, and
that might, but likely will not, save     effective action Quality paperback,
America from the same fate.               300 pp, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9813931-0-0 $27.95
   Dalrymple’s discussion of the
current state of Europe and the                        Order from www.commonerspublishing.com or your local bookstore

42      Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011                     Vol. 1. No. 1
Book Review:
True Leadership Revealed
– Bruce Wilson

                                       The author adds magnanimity and        aspiring to leadership.
                                       humility, and goes on to explain           The very worthiness of these vir-
Virtuous Leadership                    how these six virtues are mutually     tues makes one wonder why they
                                       interdependent in the formation of     are not at the center of debate more
An Agenda for                          true leaders.                          often. There is little discussion of
Personal Excellence                       Havard’s book convinced this        ethics or prudence when the media
                                                                              considers proposals from our lead-
By Alexandre Havard,                                                          ers. But perhaps this is inevitable
Scepter Publishers,                                                           because leadership virtues are not
                                                                              mentioned in business school or
2007, 174 pgs.
                                                                              journalism and political science
                                                                              class either. Instead, organizations


T
         he opening pages of this                                             attempt to be purely “empirical”;
         book declares “leadership                                            applying market analysis, polling,
         is character”, and that                                              focus group research and other
leaders need to be “virtuous”. Most                                           tools to target voters or consum-
readers would surely consider these                                           ers. This essentially manipulative
to be old-fashioned ideas irrelevant                                          approach filters out real truth and
to how our modern society actu-                                               understanding. Surely, it is the
ally works. Instead, Alexandre Ha-                                            leader with a magnanimous vision
vard gives us a powerful explana-                                             that we would rather follow.
tion about how leadership should                                                  The organizational sciences
be understood, learned and prac-                                              taught today cannot easily inte-
ticed today. His explanation helps                                            grate the leadership virtue of hu-
us understand the financial and                                               mility because humility requires
political turbulence of these times,   reader that mastering these six vir-   science to acknowledge we are
wrought by our supposed leaders.       tues are essential to achieving per-   creatio ex nihilo, or created out of
It also provides some tools we can     sonal excellence. He argues that       nothing. The virtue of humility
use to measure our leaders and our-    prudence helps leaders make the        helps leaders in their struggle with
selves.                                right decisions; courage resists in-   self-importance. Though the con-
   Remarkably, Alexandre Havard        appropriate pressures of all kinds;    cept of our origin ‘out of nothing’
turns to an eclectic mix of Plato,     self-control subordinates one’s pas-   can be inferred by natural reason, it
Peter Drucker, Warren Bennis, the      sions to the mission; justice gives    is also a gift of the Judeo-Christian
Book of Wisdom and others – an-        everyone their due; magnanimity        tradition. Havard says strong lead-
cient and contemporary – to offer      strives for great and worthy things;   ers are “aware of the gap between
principles to guide our behaviour.     and humility overcomes selfishness     the grandeur of their vision (mag-
Plato and the Old Testament speak      in order to serve others. Clearly,     nanimity) and their own inability
of prudence, justice, courage and      this is a formidable prescription      to bring it about (humility)”. Such
self-control as marks of leadership.   worthy of consideration by anyone      leaders become the productive ser-


                         Canadian Observer                 Spring 2011              Vol. 1. No. 1               43
vant of the team and the mission.         women we become. If we choose                 The maturity gained is threefold:
   Havard then leads us to con-           virtue, we will be men and wom-               maturity of judgment, emotional
sider whether a leader’s vision is        en of character, if we choose vice,           maturity, and behavioural matu-
prudent – the third virtue. He            we will lead lives of sin; if we split        rity. Along this path, Havard ex-
explains how prudent decision-            the difference, as many do, we will           plains such matters as the meaning
making is composed of three steps:        simply be mediocre”. We must also             of happiness, and the pitfalls of
deliberation, judgement, and mak-         bear in mind that “we are free to             ethics based solely on rules.
ing a decision. He emphasizes the         decide the extent to which we will               Part V offers a methodology to
importance to leaders of avoiding         allow the culture to affect us”.              achieve the interior growth that
rationalizations and prejudices in            Thomas Aquinas said that vir-             busy professionals may employ
order to fully understand a situa-        tues grow together like the five              to become leaders. It emphasizes
tion. He astutely points out the ne-      fingers of the hand. They are all             Christian principles, but may be
cessity of distinguishing between         connected. Havard also points out             adapted to non-Christian ways of
what we are and what we see, to           that virtue abhors individualism.             thinking and being. We leave it to
find what is the truth of a situa-        There is not much to courage if               the reader to uncover and follow
tion. True leaders are able to see        it is practiced alone. This explains          Harvard’s approach.
what really is, not what they want        why there is no separation between               Virtuous Leadership – An Agenda
something to be.                          public and private virtue. Confus-            for Personal Excellence is recom-
   An examination of the three            ing public and private life seems to          mended reading for us all. How-
remaining leadership virtues of           be an occupational hazard of poli-            ever, it may be especially useful to
justice, courage and self-control         ticians.                                      our society if we can get young pro-
continues in a similarly convincing           The next lesson in Havard’s               fessionals with aspirations to lead-
manner.                                   leadership training concerns how              ership to read it. If they embrace
   Part III of Havard’s book can give     reason, will and the heart blend              the virtues eloquently described by
encouragement to all who aspire to        seamlessly in the human person. It            Havard, the world will be a better
leadership. It asserts that leaders are   is another convincing chapter.                place. 3
not born, they are trained. Again,            Part IV describes how our train-
Havard reaches back to the Greeks         ing in virtues leads not merely to            Bruce Wilson is Managing Editor
who founded aretology – the sci-          self-improvement, but rather to               of The Canadian Observer and a
ence of virtue. These philosophers        our maturity and self-realization.            CCPS Policy Fellow and Director.
spoke of intellectual virtues related
to human knowledge, and of ethi-           The story of the woman who, as deputy
cal virtues (prudence, justice, cour-      minister at Canada Revenue, implemented
age, self-control) related to human        Canada’s Goods & Services Tax (the GST).
behaviour.                                 This book sets out a former deputy minister’s take
   With this understanding, lead-          on the “burden of office” of the role and on the
ers can begin their training. Aris-        difficulties of staying out of one ditch – excessive
                                           concern with safeguarding a few key principles –
totle said that virtue comes about
                                           without sliding into another – being too anxious to
as the result of habit – and Havard        please or too tempted to put personal interests first.
says we are what we habitually do.         The story emphasizes the constructive contribution
“If we repeatedly act courageously,        of experience and imagination, especially when it is
we will eventually do so habitu-           enriched by on-the-job reflection., 6x9, 138pp, ISBN
ally.” He goes on to say “we freely        978-0-88970-130-4 • $17.95
choose to be the kind of men and
                                           Order from www.commonerspublishing.com or your local bookstore

44       Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011                    Vol. 1. No. 1
Book Review:
Why School Children Fail
– Jeffrey Asher

Bad Students Not                        an instructional format which            Linda S. Gottfredson in The Gen-
                                        makes the material accessible to         eral Intelligence Factor (Scientific
Bad Schools, by
                                        their ability and teachers properly      American, Winter 1998) as fol-
Robert Weissberg,                       explicate lessons.”                      lows:
Transaction Publishers,                    The statistical truism that half of
New Brunswick, New                      the population is below the mean           [Intelligence] also predicts
                                        also applies to education. Like eye        many … aspects of well-being,
Jersey, 2010                            colour or height, IQ is largely in-        including a person’s chances of


T
         his book begins with a la-     herited and unalterable. Therefore,        divorcing, dropping out of high
         ment for our age: “Schools     education is very unlikely to trans-       school, being unemployed or
         are filled with millions of    form the half of the population be-        having illegitimate children.
youngsters … many struggling with                                                  … Although subsequent ex-
English… of mediocre intellectual                                                  perience shapes this potential,
ability disdaining academic achieve-                                               no amount of social engineer-
ment.” Its thesis is that the below-                                               ing can make individuals with
average intellectual performance                                                   widely divergent mental apti-
of these children is caused by their                                               tudes into intellectual equals.
inadequate mental aptitudes and
that, consequently, attempts at                                                     (…) People are born with dif-
improving it through reform pre-                                                   ferent hereditary potentials for
scriptions is utterly useless.                                                     intelligence and these genetic
    Weissberg offers a formula for                                                 endowments are responsible for
educational progress: Achievement                                                  much of the variation in men-
= 8 x Intelligence x 4 Motivation                                                  tal ability among individuals.
x 1 Resources x 1 Pedagogy x 1                                                     … in school settings, the ratio
Instruction, where the coefficients                                                of learning rates between “fast”
8, 4 and 1 represent the relative                                                  and “slow” students is typically
weight of each term. The formula                                                   five to one … no other single
coefficients are multiplied so that     low the mean into achievers, or el-        trait or circumstance yet stud-
if the value of any term is “0,” the    evate students who cannot master           ied is so deeply implicated in
final result is “0.” For example, if    basic grammar or arithmetic into           the nexus of bad social out-
intelligence, or cognitive capacity     college graduates.                         comes– poverty, welfare, ille-
– roughly measured as IQ scores            The views expressed by Weiss-           gitimacy and educational fail-
(or SAT, etc.) – falls well below the   berg are consistent with those of          ure– that entraps many low-IQ
norm, then any expected educa-          some scholars who have tried to            individuals and families.
tion result is limited.                 make certain generalizations about
    “Students achieve academically      the distribution of intelligence            (…) The differences in mental
if they are sufficiently smart, moti-   across various populations. For ex-        ability among individuals re-
vated, possess decent work habits,      ample, the pervasive lifetime conse-       main, and the conflict between
have books or whatever else is re-      quences of intelligence – measured         equal opportunity and politics
quired for mastering the subjects,      as IQ – have been summarized by            advocating equal outcomes per-

                          Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1                  45
     sists. Only by accepting these       lars squandered on a technological       nist politics by drawing from the
     hard truths about intelligence       school palace.”                          findings of Linda Gottfredson and
     will society find humane solu-           Weissberg notes that the Marx-       Helmuth Nyborg.
     tions to the problems posed by       ist-lite thinking of educational re-        For example, Linda Gottfredson
     the variations in general men-       formists is best summarized in the       estimates that a minimum of IQ
     tal ability.                         following sentence: “Children can-       120 is needed to be competitive
                                          not learn in a bad school… make          in high-level jobs. Furthermore,
    According to Weissberg, “most
                                          schools good and youngsters will blos-   Helmuth Nyborg has shown that
of America’s educational woes would
                                          som.” He views this as “counterpro-      only 37% of the workforce at that
vanish if these indifferent, trouble-
                                          ductive anthropomorphic thinking,        level will be female. At IQ 130
some students left when they had ab-
                                          as if tables and chairs or the street,   (+2SD), males comprise 82% of
sorbed as much as they were going to
                                          not students, flunk tests.”              the workforce; at IQ 145 (+3SD),
learn and were replaced with learn-
                                              In education the great taboos are    males comprise 88% of the work-
ing-hungry students from Korea, Ja-
                                          sex and racial differences in cogni-     force, and at IQ 160 (+4SD), asso-
pan, Vietnam, India, Russia, Africa
                                          tive ability. The race taboo forbids     ciated with genius, the percentage
and the Caribbean. In an instant,
                                          mention that Asians are generally        is 97%. (See: Nyborg, “Sex-Re-
all the clamour for … smaller classes,
                                          slightly smarter than whites, and        lated Differences in general in-
… social services, teaching the test,
                                          those two groups, smarter than           telligence g, brain size and social
innovative pedagogy, recruiting bet-
                                          US blacks, who typically score one       status - http://eugenik.dk/static/
ter teachers, accountability and all
                                          standard deviation (15 IQ points)        bilag009.pdf )
the rest, would seem antiquated,
                                          below the mean. Male Ashkenazi              Weissberg does not flinch from
perhaps akin to the once popular la-
                                          Jews typically score at IQ 109.          revealing painful truths about stu-
ment over America’s youngsters being
                                              Weissberg explains that “all at-     dents enrolling in teachers colleg-
undernourished.” The near certain-
                                          tempts to equalize those intellectu-     es: “It is an open secret in today’s
ty that failing students find most
                                          al scores have failed. Even IQ tests     research-oriented universities that
school lessons beyond their com-
                                          that do not rely on vocabulary or        their Schools of Education attract
prehension and that their aversion
                                          culture uncover the overall racial       the least talented faculty, the least
to schooling is beyond remediation
                                          pattern … Differences across racial      proficient students… Among edu-
remains politically unacceptable.
                                          groups are ubiquitous and inequal-       cators, shoddy science is not only
    Weissberg also argues that what-
                                          ity across demographic groups is         tolerated, it is often venerated…
ever current education bureaucra-
                                          just a fact of life.” This is consis-    Absolutely nothing can impede
cies advocate, it is not education.
                                          tent with the views expressed by         the deplorable proliferation of
The explanation for the persistence
                                          Thomas Sowell in a recent article        education nonsense…Add to the
of so-called educational reforms is
                                          titled “Race, IQ, black crime, and       confusing mayhem economic self-
that educational failure is generally
                                          facts liberals ignore” (available at     interest.”
more profitable, financially and
                                          http://www.sullivan-county.com/             Weissberg offers sixteen pages
otherwise, than success. “Failing
                                          id5/sowell.htm).                         of works cited, in addition to a
test scores only beget more money,
                                              While Weissberg does examine         considerable number of research,
more jobs, and more lucrative fool-
                                          the depressing effect on academic        government and media reports.
ishness to keep the failed educational
                                          and professional standards of femi-      He states clearly: “Bad schools are
complex afloat. If junior can’t read,
                                          nist politics, he does not provide as    blameless.” Absolving students,
somebody else is to blame, the gov-
                                          much documentation on this issue         complicit teachers and education
ernment should fix the problem. The
                                          as he does for race. He could have       managers may sustain widespread
typical result is yet another education
                                          substantiated his point about femi-      employment, but will not result in
gimmick, or tens of millions of dol-

46        Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1
Johnny or Jane learning grammar
or fractions.
   Quoting Weissberg again:
   “Something else is the problem in
the official orthodoxy and it is so per-
vasive that opinion polls on curing
educational woes avoid citing stu-
dents themselves …To be blunt, it’s
the stupid, stupid.”
   As for how to motivate students,
Weissberg explains: “Family life, as
stereotypically exemplified by hard-
nosed, education-obsessed Jewish and
Asian parents, undoubtedly far out-
ranks schools and not even teachers
belittling knowledge can subvert this
home-based pressure.”
   Weissberg also condemns “the
feminization of motivational psy-
chology, the aversion towards aggres-
sion and competition, the emphasis
on sharing and all else striking boys
as girlie. The next generation of en-
gineers, scientists, researchers and all
of the leading edge of technological
advance will derive, almost entirely,
from motivated boys.”                      ing to close race-related gaps and pro-   maintains the social peace. “Para-
   Weissberg offers a telling com-         moting academic excellence are ad-        doxically, expensive ‘reform as peace-
parison between high school and            ministratively incompatible and…          keeping’ may be wealth-producing,
college sports teams, where train-         serve no useful purpose other than to     fiscal waste aside. ‘Excess’ school em-
ing is ruthless, failure leads to ex-      placate a few egalitarian ideologues.”    ployees are also avid consumers.”
pulsion and performance standards             Weissberg encourages paren-                In his concluding chapter,
are pushed ever higher.                    tal free choice, including char-          Weissberg emphasizes the need for
   For the state and parents, cogni-       ter schools, vouchers and home            “An Honest Political Platform.” For
tive talent and motivation are the         schooling, which all work to              those concerned about their chil-
places to invest. Politics aimed at           “insulate instruction from the         dren’s realizable potential in educa-
eliminating race-related gaps in           liberal (if not radical) ideological      tion and the fate of our nation in
education attainment cannot suc-           domination imposed by today’s left-       an increasingly competitive world,
ceed. Such gaps are “ubiquitous and        leaning education establishment.”         Bad Students, Not Bad Schools is re-
enduring,…have resisted countless          He encourages breaking the gov-           quired reading. 3
expensive remediation efforts, …           ernment’s education monopoly.
dumb down learning and corrupt ef-            Weissberg concedes that trans-         Jeffrey Asher is a retired professor of
forts to find genuine solutions.” The      forming schools into social wel-          sociology
time has come to realize that “try-        fare is not necessarily mistaken – it

                            Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011                 Vol. 1. No. 1                47
Book Review:
New Applications For An Ancient Art
By Jeffrey Asher
A Guide to the Good
Life: The Ancient Art of                     Irvine suggests many Stoic in-         someday be lost to us. (…)
Stoic Joy, by William                     tellectual techniques to eventually       More generally, we should keep
                                          attain tranquility. Readers are ad-       in mind that any human ac-
B. Irvine, Oxford                         vised to avoid the enticements of         tivity that cannot be carried on
University Press, New                     fame and fortune; to use negative         indefinitely must have a final
York, 2009                                visualization – imagining how your        occurrence. (…) There will be a



W
              illiam B. Irvine’s book                                               last time you hear the sound of
              resuscitates Stoicism                                                 snow falling, watch the moon
              from      abandonment                                                 rise, feel the warmth of a child
over 2000 years ago. The book                                                       falling asleep in your arms, or
is intended for non-philosophic                                                     make love … thereafter your
readers, who will likely be grateful.                                               last breath.”
He writes clearly, including a lively                                                Irvine encourages readers to be-
wit. Irvine offers ancient guides for                                             come thoughtful observers of their
a life inspired by tolerance, dignity,                                            own life, so they can better identify
tranquility, virtue and possibly joy.                                             the sources of distress and eventu-
    The engulfing mass media dis-                                                 ally avoid many sources of pain.
tract our reason, warning of un-                                                  If we could see ourselves as others
controllable imminent disasters,                                                  see us, we might never leave home.
local and global. We are beset with                                               The Stoics hope that, through ra-
offers of illusory rescue, with con-                                              tional perspective and restraint, we
sumption, pop psychology, con-                                                    can attain a fulfilling life.
spiracy theories and unfocused                                                       Citing Marcus Aurelius, Irvine
                                          life could be worse; to accept fatal-
rage. As ever, a functional philoso-                                              talks of the importance of prizing
                                          ism about the past and present, but
phy of life is welcome.                                                           only things of true value. From
                                          not the future; to put off pleasure
    Stoicism offers a direction to                                                Epictetus, he draws guidance on
                                          so as to appreciate it more; to en-
life based on tranquility and ful-                                                how to be more content with what
                                          gage usefully with others and ful-
fillment. “The Stoics’ interest in                                                we have, to prepare for loss of trea-
                                          fill the responsibilities we owe; to
logic is a natural consequence of                                                 sure, comforts, health, affection
                                          dismiss insults; to rise above anger,
their belief that man’s distinguish-                                              and to plan in dignity for the end
                                          preferably with humour; to mini-
ing feature is his rationality.” Irvine                                           of life.
                                          mize worry, to focus effort on the
explains ancient Stoic wisdom as                                                     Irvine concedes that some peo-
                                          problems that can be controlled; to
a valuable tool to deal with mod-                                                 ple seem ‘congenital’ Stoics. Some
                                          adapt to the increasing disabilities
ern life’s problems, crises and trag-                                             readers may find that they intuited
                                          of old age and to rise above over-
edies. He warns that a life lacking                                               Stoic principles by which they al-
                                          whelming grief.
a coherent philosophy will be be-                                                 ready direct their lives. As a high
deviled with daily dissatisfactions,        “We need to keep firmly in            school student, this reviewer wel-
which may amount, in retrospect,            mind that everything we value         comed Bertrand Russell’s recom-
to a misguided life.                        and the people we love may            mendation to vanquish fear: “Ask

48       Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
yourself the worst outcome from a        practice abandonment of our            Insults, On Putting Up With Put –
crisis, plan for the worst, then any-    goods, to experience poverty. Sure-    Downs. The best response to an in-
thing less – even still alive - may be   ly that is a self-serving illusion,    sult is not vindictive repartee, but
welcomed as a partial rescue.” Hu-       since the game is temporary. The       self-deprecating humour. “We im-
mility, praised by Jewish sages, also    imaginer knows he may determine        ply that we don’t take the insulter
prevents the pride that precedes a       when he should return to a pleas-      and his insults seriously. Nor do we
fall.                                    ant home, food and comforts. The       take ourselves too seriously.”
   Stoicism provides an explana-         billions of people who have noth-         Irvine credits Stoic discipline
tion for almost all the ills that may    ing to offer but their bodies do not   for allowing “fewer negative emo-
befall your life: yourself. The Stoic    need Stoicism to imagine depriva-      tions… We will find that we enjoy
will look “for all benefit and harm      tion. For them, too often, death is    things as they are … we will ex-
to come from himself. … We have          a welcome release from misery.         perience a degree of tranquility…
it entirely within our power to             A few contradictions seem evad-     The reward for doing one’s duty is
prevent viciousness and cupidity         ed: Seneca advised the psychopath      a good life.”
from finding a home in our soul.         Nero, who ordered Seneca’s death          For those guides alone, Irvine’s
(…) We will blame ourselves, not         at age 65. What virtue could Sen-      “The Good Life” is well worth
external circumstances, when our         eca have seen in serving Nero? Per-    reading. 3
desires are thwarted.” If we had         haps not even a Stoic could evade
chosen wisely, acted prudently,          a tyrant.                              Jeffrey Asher is a retired professor of
reconsidered, life might be better.         Irvine offers a chapter titled On   sociology.
The Stoic day for transformation
by virtue is today.
  “What Stoics discover … is               Invenire                       Selected ideas from Who do we
  that willpower is like muscle             Books                         think we are? – What accounts for
  power … Stoics can transform                                            Canada’s apparent success at peaceful
  themselves into individuals re-                                         co-existence in this country of
  markable for their courage and                                          such remarkable human diversity?
  self-control.”                                                          Is there a unique Canadian modus
   There are some sections of the                                         vivendi which keeps us talking and
book that appear unconvincing.                                            accommodating rather than ruling,
Irvine frequently claims that evo-                                        deciding and excluding? And
lutionary analysis confirms Sto-                                          what about social cohesion? Is the
icism. Such retrospective pseudo-                                         Canadian model sustainable? Can we
science typically imposes current                                         keep it all together when there is so
politics on the past. Half a century                                      little to bind citizens of such diverse
ago, early humans were claimed as                                         backgrounds and interests? Is it even
primitive communists, reinterpret-                                        a good idea to talk about it? Quality
ed later as nascent entrepreneurs,                                        paperback, 162 pp, 2009,
subsequently claimed as directed
                                                                          ISBN 978-0-9813931-1-7 $19.95
by wise women and goddesses.
Such ‘scientific’ justification claims    Also as an e-book: www.commonerspublishing.com/ebooks
inevitably amount to humbug.
   Irvine recommends that we             Order from www.commonerspublishing.com or your local bookstore


                          Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1                49
Book Review:
The Christian Invention Of The Human
– John Bryson
Atheist Delusions: The                    Roman culture, “[t]his massive          talism, the most splendid achieve-
Christian Revolution                      and epochal revision of humanity’s      ments of which were infused by
                                          vision of reality was so improbable     what Hart calls a “glorious sad-
and its Fashionable                       as to strain the limits of our under-   ness.” The early imperial age was
Enemies, by David                         standing of historical causality.”      also marked by the flourishing of
Bentley Hart, Yale                           For Hart, this revolution, at its    Gnostic philosophies and cults
                                          most fundamental, was no less than      of escape from the conditions of
University Press, 2009
                                                                                  earthly life, “a twilit world of per-


T
          he title of this book is mis-                                           vasive spiritual despondency and
          leading. Hart deals only                                                religious yearning.” It was into this
          tangentially with the “new                                              tenebrous world that Christianity
atheists” whom he dismisses as                                                    suddenly appeared “like a meteor
theologically ignorant lightweights                                               in a clear sky.”
and examples of a secular “funda-                                                    Christianity’s ultimate triumph
mentalism” which, like its religious                                              was by no means inevitable, at
counterpart, makes no effort to                                                   least from a historico-critical per-
understand the beliefs and tradi-                                                 spective. Given the intellectual, so-
tions that it so savagely dismisses.                                              cial and political norms of the day,
   The real value of this book lies                                               Christian claims that all the gods,
in Hart’s rendering of what he                                                    spirits and lesser beings of pagan
calls the “Christian Revolution,”                                                 cosmology were somehow subject
an arresting term normally associ-                                                to a crucified criminal from Pal-
ated with rapid, usually violent,                                                 estine was considered outrageous.
change. In this case, it is intended                                              Indeed, under Roman law, Christ
to emphasize the radical nature of                                                was accorded the status of a slave,
the enormous transformation of            the “Christian invention of the hu-     that is to say, a non-person, with
“thought, sensibility, culture, mo-       man.” The pagan world, for all its      no charter rights whatsoever. The
rality and spiritual imagination”         cultural accomplishments, reflect-      fact that early Christians delighted
that Christianity wrought within a        ed most strikingly in the “Greek        in this designation ( Phillipians
pagan world dominated by Rome.            miracle,” was a self-enclosed sacral    2:7) while extending full humanity
   Christian beliefs and values,          order based on a hierarchy of pow-      to persons of every class and con-
whether celebrated or deplored, are       er, atop which sat, impervious, im-     dition was viewed by the Roman
now so much a part of our intellec-       perturbable, a “Great God” served       authorities as subversive. And they
tual baggage that Christianity’s rise     by lesser, often capricious and bru-    were right.
in the middle centuries of the Ro-        tal gods and spirits. Below them           The theological disputes of the
man Empire is accepted with a cer-        were the kings, nobles, priests and     early Church are frequently dis-
tain degree of inevitability. Hart, a     prophets to whom the mass of so-        missed by contemporary critics as
classicist by training and philoso-       ciety was in thrall.                    incomprehensible, not to say bi-
pher/ theologian by profession,               It was a culture governed, as the   zarre. And it is true that they are
argues on the contrary that, from         great 19th century historian Jacob      certainly foreign to modern preoc-
the perspective of pre-Christian          Burkhardt showed, by a sense of fa-     cupations. But as Hart points out,

50       Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
they were central to the develop-        antique culture from its “glorious      survive the waning of Christian be-
ment of the Christian concept not        sadness” while positing a theology      liefs and culture.
only of God but of the human per-        of salvation centered on individual         This brings us to Hart’s second
son. The Council of Nicea (326),         personality, which is both the im-      major theme, what he calls the
over which the Emperor Constan-          age of God and the place where          “ideology of modernism” and its
tine presided, served to define the      God meets us. No other Western          centuries-long counter offensive
nature of Christ’s divinity, while       vision of the human person re-          against the Christian Revolution.
the Council of Chalcedon (451)           motely resembles this one, and it       Central to his argument is what he
clarified his human nature. Hart         opened the way to the most search-      calls the “myth of the Enlighten-
notes that it is impossible to exag-     ing metaphysics of the self ever un-    ment,” the modern age’s grand nar-
gerate the cultural significance of      dertaken to that point in Western       rative about itself, “the triumph of
these doctrines which, indirectly,       thought. As Hart notes, “what it is     critical reason over irrational faith,
confirmed the indwelling of the di-      to be human had been irrevocably        of the progress of social morality
vine image in each living soul and       altered.”                               towards greater justice and free-
elevated each human person to a             Christianity’s effects were trans-   dom, of the tolerance of the secular
heretofore unimaginable dignity.         formational, both individually and      state and of the unquestioned ethi-
   Likewise, the doctrine of cre-        socially. Christian communities         cal primacy of either individualism
ation ex nihilo (pagan culture as-       exhibited a hitherto unseen opti-       or collectivism (as the case might
sumed the material universe to be        mism despite the cruel treatment        be).” Note the drollery.
infinite in time) raised the princi-     meted out to them in periodic               Under such chapter headings
ple of divine transcendence to an        persecutions. Secondly, it led to       as The Night of Reason, Destruction
insurmountable height. “It pro-          the creation of a vast and unprece-     of the Past, The Death and Rebirth
duced a vision of this world as the      dented network of charitable insti-     of Science, Intolerance and Persecu-
gratuitous gift of divine love, good     tutions, particularly hospitals and     tion, Hart meticulously dismantles
in itself, not merely, (as Plato held)   shelters for the poor and orphaned.     the components of the modernist
the defective reflection of a higher,    Indeed, the Emperor Julian the          case against Christian culture. For
truer world. History now acquired        Apostate (331-363) sought, unsuc-       example, progress in science was
not only meaning but absolute            cessfully, to revive pagan culture      stalled prior to the 16th century
significance, as it was within time      by imitating the philanthropy of        not by religious obscurantism, as
that the entire drama of the fall,       the “Galileans.” The new religion       modern critics claim, but by the
incarnation and salvation had been       was also particularly attractive to     enormous sway that Greek natural
and was being worked out. The ab-        women, in part for the enhanced         philosophy continued to have over
solute partition between temporal        dignity it accorded them.               scientific thinking in both East and
and eternal truth (characteristic           More broadly, this radical vision    West. Indeed, it was Christian phi-
of paganism) had been not only           of man born free to choose or re-       losophers, mostly clerics, who laid
breached but annihilated.” Or in         ject the good, of the great value and   the theoretical and mathemati-
a phrase favored by the Fathers of       equal worth of every person regard-     cal groundwork for Copernicus’
the early Church, “God became            less of social or physical condition    theory of a heliocentric universe
man so that man might become             or sex, continues to form the intel-    and for Newton’s laws of motion.
God.”                                    lectual and spiritual substratum of     Their cosmology, based as it was on
   This vision of things made an         Western political and social life.      the premise that the universe, be-
enormous difference at a purely          However, Hart questions whether         ing created, had a beginning, and
personal and psychological level.        the secular values and ideals which     developed through a rigorous log-
It freed the spiritual longing of        have their roots in Christianity can    ic, were not so removed from the


                          Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1                51
modern scientific method as critics    dispersed many such fabrications,       because it was good; rather it was
would have us believe.                 they still maintain a strong hold on    good because he willed it. Taken
   Hart acknowledges that the          the popular imagination and pro-        to its logical conclusion, this line
Church’s role in the Inquisition,      vide useful weapons for the propo-      of thinking implies that God’s es-
which, along with the Crusades         nents of a rigorous secularism. One     sence is not his goodness but his
and the treatment of Galileo,          such figure is former French Presi-     will. And if the will to power is
form a trinity of secularist charges   dent Valery Giscard d’Estaing who,      what freedom is for God, then it
against Christianity, was not al-      in 2002, headed up the committee        must be the same for us.
ways as astute as it might have        designated to draft the Constitu-           This concept of freedom was
been. That said, the more egregious    tion of the European Union which,       highly compatible with the devel-
expressions of the Inquisition were    in recounting the historical roots      opments and spirit of the times –
largely, as in Spain, the work of      of modern Europe’s political and        the rise of the middle class, early
secular rulers for purposes of their   social values, skipped directly from    capitalism, the advent of a new
own, in this case, the enforcement     the Greeks and Roman experience         “individualism” – which in turn
of national unity following the        to the Enlightenment, completely        helped to inform the theological
expulsion of the Moors. Recent         ignoring the central role of Chris-     concept of voluntarism. Filtered
scholarship has shredded much          tianity. One cannot blame such a        through Descartes, father of mod-
of the “black legend” mounted in       travesty on ignorance, even cul-        ern philosophy, this idea of free-
the 16th century by anti-Catholic      pable ignorance, but rather on a        dom blossomed in the 18th and
forces in England and the Nether-      view of Europe’s future that leaves     19th centuries, putting Christian-
lands regarding the Church’s role      no place for religion other than as a   ity on the defensive.
in that operation.                     private and personal interest.              Hart is particularly caustic in
   Similarly, the so-called “wars of      Hart launches his own counter        his treatment of the “myth of the
religion” in 16th and 17th century     attack in the concluding section        Enlightenment,” that grand narra-
France and Germany were largely        of his book entitled Reaction and       tive whereby an Age of Faith was
dynastic conflicts with no doc-        Retreat: Modernity and the Eclipse      displaced by an Age of Reason. Its
trinal motivations, wars in which      of the Human. According to him,         first and most blatant misrepresen-
Catholic kings and princes allied      the seeds of modernism’s eventual       tation was the claim that there is
themselves with Protestant kings       triumph were planted in 14th cen-       some sort of inherent opposition
and princes against other Catho-       tury scholasticism and founded in       between faith and reason, and that
lic kings and princes. Hart ob-        the idea of “voluntarism,” which        the modern period is distinguished
serves that the Peace of Westphalia    undermined the traditional con-         by a unique devotion to reason.
(1648) which brought an end to         cept of freedom, a concept rooted       This claim is based on the assertion
the Thirty Years War, the last and     in rational virtue, in choosing the     that faith is mere credulous assent
most devastating of the “wars of       good. While fallen man could, by        to unfounded premises, while rea-
religion,” ushered in a new age of     choosing evil, abuse his God-giv-       son consists of obedience to em-
terrestrial and eventually ideologi-   en freedom, God, being perfectly        pirical fact.
cal wars, the brutality and destruc-   good, was, by his nature, bound             One need only point to the long
tiveness of which were never before    in principle to choose the good.        tradition of Christian philosophy
seen, certainly not in pre-modern      Philosophers of the day suggested       to refute the first claim. As for the
Europe                                 that this idea of freedom infringed     second, it is obvious to anyone
   Thus has history been abused to     another quality of God – his om-        with experience of disinterested
support the ideology of modern-        nipotence. They went on to argue        rational thought that it is based
ism. While scholarship may have        that God did not will something         on a considerable element of faith.


52      Canadian Observer                 Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
What distinguishes the modern                It should therefore not be sur-      time that the Church was being
age from the age of Christendom is       prising that “religion,” which pos-      officially recognized by the Roman
that rationality serves different pri-   its a quite different concept of         state. It was, he argues, a reminder
mary commitments, for example,           freedom, is coming under such            that the Kingdom of God is not of
material and scientific progress,        intense pressure. Nor should it be       this world, and a call for the pres-
versus knowledge of God and the          surprising that modern society ap-       ervation of the Church’s spiritual
soul’s eternal salvation.                pears impermeable to any counter         aspirations in the face of tempta-
   Hart argues that, far from be-        claims based on rational, moral          tions arising from newly acquired
ing an “Age of Reason,” our times        and historical arguments, since its      temporal power. This suggestion
reflect in many ways “the eclipse        position is based not on reason,         calls to mind earlier musings by
of reason’s authority as a cultural      but rather on a collective “cultural     then Cardinal Ratzinger (Salt of
value. The modern age is notable,        will.” The noted American politi-        the Earth, 1996) that, perhaps,
in large measure, for the triumph        cal philosopher, Fr James Schall,        the future of Christianity will be
of inflexible and unthinking dog-        has long argued that, while the          characterized by small, seemingly
matism in every sphere of human          Church’s intellectual position in        insignificant, groups that live in an
endeavor, including the sciences,        society has never been stronger, its     intensive struggle against evil and
and for a flight from rationality to     cultural position has never been         bring good – that is to say, God –
any number of fundamentalisms,           weaker. Hart’s account of modern-        to the world.
religious and secular.” Indeed, for      ism helps to explain why.                    What is one to make of this ex-
Hart, the 18th century apotheosis            Modern popular culture appears       traordinarily learned, highly enter-
of reason was au fond a way of plac-     increasingly to reflect Nietzsche’s      taining and occasionally provoca-
ing an attractive “frame” around         gravest concern about what “god-         tive polemic? Napoleon is said to
the idea of freedom, so as to por-       less man” would in fact be like,         have expressed great admiration
tray it as the rational autonomy         not the heroic Ubermensch of his         for Islam, since it was able to con-
and moral independence that lay          dreams, but his antithesis, the “last    quer a good part of Asia and the
beyond the intellectual infancy of       man” (letzte Mensch) of his fears, a     Mediterranean world in less than
“irrational” belief, an idea that has    pusillanimous individual, tired of       a century. By comparison, it took
achieved full public expression two      life, who takes no risks and seeks       almost 300 years for Christian-
centuries later.                         only comfort and security, and for       ity to secure official recognition.
   Hart links this modern concept        whom nothing great is possible. It       By Hart’s account, Christianity’s
of freedom to Nietzsche’s “will to       is difficult to see the Christian call   hard won achievement was by far
power.” As that most prescient of        to heroic virtue making much of          the more impressive since it first
19th century thinker anticipated,        an impression on such a creature.        involved a cultural transformation
having passed beyond good and                What of the future? Can Chris-       of Roman society, a transformation
evil, modern philosophy has ele-         tianity make a comeback, experi-         that affected all aspects of life and
vated choice itself to greatest good,    ence a second spring? Hart is not        one that proved irreversible. Hart
whether it be choice in entertain-       particularly encouraging. The            is, therefore, fully justified in call-
ment or lifestyle or the termination     prospect of a general revival in the     ing it a Revolution.
of innocent life in the womb. With       West appears at best remote. He              Hart’s attack on the “ideology
no external points of moral refer-       points instead to a possible mod-        of modernism” is somewhat more
ence, principles, or beliefs, modern     ern equivalent of the third century      tendentious – although he is quick
man lives in a world void of mean-       desert fathers whose movement of         to point out that he does not in-
ing or value, save what he wishes to     cultivating charity through prayer       clude modern medicine and other
bring to it himself.                     and fasting took root just at the        scientific achievements, nor even


                          Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1                53
modern philosophical method, so-       damentalism.”                          of being, the modern mind seems
cial ideology or political thought.       The validity of any theory,         determined to ignore the collective
His account of how the current         whether scientific or social, rests    wisdom of the species as reflected
“dictatorship of relativism” arose     on its explanatory power. Hart’s       in our cultural and intellectual
inexorably from the Enlighten-         account of how the modern idea of      heritage. King Oedipus, on learn-
ment concept of freedom is too         freedom came to be grounded on a       ing the truth about his past, put
Hegelian for my taste, but it is       wholly subjective notion of choice     out his own eyes. Modern society
instructive that the greatest cham-    has a number of points in its fa-      seems to have blinded itself for fear
pion of reason in our so-called Age    vor, notably modernity’s refusal to    of learning the truth about itself.
of Reason has been the head of the     acknowledge certain self-evident       3
Roman Catholic Church, that bas-       truths, such as the personhood
                                                                              John Bryson is a retired diplomat
tion of so-called “irrational” faith   of the child in the womb and the
                                                                              who divides his time between his li-
– this at a time when most of our      centrality of a virtuous life to the
                                                                              brary and his garden.
institutions of higher learning have   pursuit of happiness. In its search
become centers of a mindless intel-    for more practical, not to say more
lectual conformity, not to say “fun-   technical fixes, to the “problem”


  “The notion of less litigation and more direct in-
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  resolution of child rearing issues is a human, not
  a gender issue. ...this book is a welcome primer
  for divorce laws based upon love of children...”
  —Roger Gallaway, co-chair, Joint Senate-
  Commons Committee on Child Custody and
  Access.
     “Loving Law” is a book about reform of family law.
     Author Lagha Fananian, Ph.D. is an Ottawa family law lawyer and a former
     professor of law. Some of the content of his book is based on his spiritual
     beliefs and some is based on his experiences in family law courts. He is
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     128 pages, 51/2x81/2” $16.95 Also available as an ebook.

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54      Canadian Observer                 Spring 2011              Vol. 1. No. 1
Here and There and Nowhere
Politically incorrect observations                               – Richard Bastien, Observer Editor
OBSERVATION: About the Middle Ages



I
                                                                                Locke and Thomas Jefferson, but
     n an essay titled Culture and       of the Protestant Reformation,         from the Catholic legal tradition.
     The Light of Faith, published       the Enlightenment, 19th century        And while some will concede that
     in the February issue of First      liberalism and 20th century secu-      medieval monks copied books and
Things, Robert Louis Wilken peers        larism. While there are some dif-      preserved literacy, very few know
into how Christianity embraced           ferences of views between these        they taught medieval Europeans
and transformed classical culture.       various movements, they all share      agriculture, metallurgy, the brew-
He begins by noting that, thanks to      in the belief that the Middle Ages     ing of beer, and much more be-
the Enlightenment, it has become         were dominated by the Catholic         sides.
fashionable to sneer at Christians       Church and that the latter acted as       History is written by the victors
for debasing the legacy of classi-       a major impediment to truth, free-     and the victors often succeed in
cal culture. He quotes in particular     dom and progress in the West.          controlling popular language.
18th century British historian Ed-           Fortunately, modern scholar-
ward Gibbon who, in his History of       ship, often the result of secular      OBSERVATION:
the Decline and Fall of the Roman        historians like Edward Peters, Jon-
Empire, disparaged Christians for
                                                                                The Cheerfulness of
                                         athan Riley-Smith and Jeffrey Bur-
having “vitiated the faculties of        ton Russell, has exposed many of       Chesterton
the mind” and “extinguished the          these distortions and lies for what       G.K. Chesterton had many vir-
hostile light of philosophy and sci-     they are. However, this revisionist    tues and cheerfulness was perhaps
ence” that shone in the Greco-Ro-        state of mind has not filtered down    the most prominent. It transpires
man world. Wilken then dutifully         into popular culture, the result be-   from several passages of his work,
notes that, had it not been for the      ing that most college students are     but in none more than in his Au-
work of medieval monks who cop-          still being thought that the Middle    tobiography, where he recounts an
ied and transmitted to later genera-     Ages were an age of “darkness” and     unexpected encounter between his
tions the works of the Greeks and        priestly wickedness. Indeed, very      friend Hilaire Belloc – a French
Romans, “thereby preserving the          few university professors are even     born Catholic British subject and
wisdom and learning of antique           aware that it was “Dark Age” Eu-       Member of Parliament – on the
culture largely intact,” Gibbon          rope that gave the West the univer-    one hand, and another very fa-
would never have had a basis for         sity system – a system developed       mous and distinguished author on
his attacks on Christendom.              by the Catholic Church under the       the other. The encounter, described
   Foolish as it is, Gibbon’s view has   patronage of the papacy –, or that     as a “rather ridiculous private inci-
become the conventional wisdom           Western law itself is very largely a   dent,” took place in Rye, on the
about the Middle Ages, at least in       gift of the Church – derived from      Sussex coast, where Chesterton
the English-speaking world. The          Canon Law, the first modern legal      was vacationing. The other author
Oxford English Dictionary gives          system in Europe. Similarly, very      was the novelist and literary critic
two meanings for the word medi-          few people with university educa-      Henry James, an American who
eval: “relating to the Middle Ages”      tion are aware that we owe it to       “had reacted against America and
and “resembling or likened to the        Catholic churchmen to have in-         steeped his sensitive psychology in
Middle Ages, especially in being         troduced rational trial procedures     everything that seemed most anti-
cruel, uncivilized or primitive.”        and sophisticated legal concepts       quatedly and aristocratically Eng-
While in French, in Italian and          in place of the superstition-based     lish.”
in Spanish, the word is used only        trials by ordeal that had character-      James lived next door and, hav-
in the former sense, in English it       ized the Germanic legal order, or      ing learned of Chesterton’s arrival,
is used more often than not in the       that the ideal of universal human      decided to pay him a visit. Ches-
latter, due mainly to the influence      “rights” comes, not from John          terton notes that he “was in point

                          Canadian Observer                  Spring 2011              Vol. 1. No. 1               55
of fact a very stately and courteous      try, the gallantry, the tradition    and Baring were a rather riotous
old gentleman...But in all relations      of lineage and locality, the life    trio. One evening in 1907, Belloc
of life he erred, if he erred, on the     that had been lived beneath          and Chesterton attended a party
side of solemnity and slowness.”          old portraits in oak-panelled        in Soho, organized by the Liberal
Having introduced themselves to           rooms. And there, on the other       MP Charles Masterman. Accord-
each other, the two began talking         side of the tea-table, was Eu-       ing to Ward’s account, “at dinner
“about the best literature of the         rope, was the old thing that         they all abandoned themselves to
day,” when their conversation was         made France and England, the         childish enjoyment…They wore
suddenly shattered by a “loud bel-        posterity of the English squires     paper caps. They romped round
lowing noise resembling that of an        and the French soldiers; ragged,     the table. At midnight they were
impatient foghorn.” It was Belloc         unshaven, shouting for beer,         thrown out. Then up rose Belloc
“shouting for bacon and beer.” His        shameless above all shades of        with the remark: ‘I have antici-
arrival came as a total surprise to       poverty and wealth; sprawling,       pated this moment and am ready
Chesterton because he had reason          indifferent, secure. And what        for it.’” At his instigation, the wild
to believe that Belloc was in France      looked across at it was still the    bunch took off to Maurice Baring’s
“walking with a friend of his in the      Puritan refinement of Boston;        home “where a stupendous supper
Foreign Office, a co-religionist of       and the space it looked across       awaited them.” In the early hours
one of the old Catholic families.”        was wider than the Atlantic.         of the morning, Belloc and Ches-
The two travellers had, however,                                               terton were each standing on a
“by some miscalculation…found             It is only fair to say that my two   chair, passionately debating in the
themselves in the middle of their         friends were at the moment so        mock-manner of soapbox speak-
travels entirely without money.”          disreputable that even an Eng-       ers in Hyde Park, while the rest of
                                          lish innkeeper was faintly at        the crowd shouted or applauded to
     Their clothes collapsed and                                               their hearts’ delight.
                                          fault in his unfailing nose for
     they managed to get into some                                                Perhaps the greatest testimony
                                          gentlemen. He knew they were
     workmen’s slops. They had no                                              to Chesterton’s heroic virtues came
                                          not tramps; but he had to rally
     razors and could not afford a                                             from Belloc, who wrote the follow-
                                          his powers of belief to become
     shave. They must have saved                                               ing: “All men one may say, or very
                                          completely convinced that they
     their last penny to recross the                                           nearly all men, have one leading
                                          were a Member of Parliament
     sea…they arrived roaring for                                              moral defect. Few have one leading
                                          and an official at the Foreign
     food and drink and derisively                                             Christian virtue. That of Gilbert
                                          Office. But, though he was a
     accusing each other of having                                             Chesterton was unmistakably the
                                          simple and even stupid man,
     secretly washed, in violation of                                          virtue of Christian charity: a virtue
                                          I am not sure that he did not
     an implied contract between                                               especially rare in writing men, and
                                          know more about it than Hen-
     tramps. In this fashion they                                              rarest of all in such of them as have
                                          ry James. The fact that one of
     burst in upon the balanced tea-                                           a pursuing appetite for controversy
                                          my friends insisted on having
     cup and tentative sentence of                                             – that is, for bolting out the truth.”
                                          a bottle of port decanted and
     Mr Henry James.                                                              Faith, friendship and laughter
                                          carrying it through the streets
                                          of Rye, like a part of a religious   somehow bind together in some
     Henry James had a name for                                                unfathomable way. A few years
                                          procession, completely restored
     being subtle; but I think that                                            ago, there was some talk about
                                          his confidence in the class to
     situation was too subtle for                                              initiating a procedure to have the
                                          which such lunatics belonged.
     him. I doubt to this day wheth-                                           Catholic Church proclaim Ches-
     er he, of all men, did not miss       The official of the Foreign Of-     terton a Saint. If this were ever
     the irony of the best comedy in    fice was Maurice Baring, of the        to happen, he could rightly be
     which he ever played a part. He    Baring banking family and also         called the “cheerful Saint” or, bet-
     left America because he loved      a distinguished man of letters. In     ter still, the “apostle of cheerful-
     Europe, and all that was meant     Return to Chesterton, Maisie Ward      ness.” This would make eminent
     by England or France; the gen-     explains that Chesterton, Belloc       sense as many saints are known to


56        Canadian Observer                Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1
have been generally joyful, even in      did. Obviously, a society where re-         the population.
quite painful circumstances. The         ligiosity is widespread will display      • Almost half of all Americans say
best example is undoubtedly Saint        a greater sense of community and            grace before meals, while the
Thomas More who, on the day of           solidarity than one where secular-          other half almost never does.
his execution, as he was mounting        ism pervades the culture.                   Saying grace is a strong predic-
the steps to the scaffold, declared                                                  tor of political and social views,
to the officials: “I pray you, I pray    The data from the authors’ 2006             including how people vote.
you, Mr. Lieutenant, see me safe         and 2007 surveys are truly myth-          • Compared to their secular
up and for my coming down, I             shattering. For example:                    counterparts, religious Ameri-
can shift for myself.” While on the      • While there is a “God gap” in             cans volunteer at much higher
scaffold, he commented to the ex-           American politics between the            rates for both religious and
ecutioner that his beard was com-           devout, who generally support            secular causes, give more money
pletely innocent of any crime, and          the Republican Party, and the            to religious and secular chari-
did not deserve the axe. He then            less devout, who generally sup-          ties, and are roughly twice as
positioned his beard so that it not         port the Democrats, there is             engaged in their communities.
be harmed. Chesterton was not ex-           relatively little explicit politick-     They are also more likely to do-
ecuted for his faith, but he testified      ing in American congregations.           nate blood, help someone find a
both in his life and in his writings        Moreover, to the extent that the         job and give money to a home-
to the joy that inhabits the faithful.      pulpit is politically involved, the      less person. The reason for this
His wit was nourished by his faith.         involvement is more common               is not their theology, but the
                                                                                     friendship they make through
OBSERVATION:                                                                         their congregations.
Religion in American
                                                                                      Perhaps the most worrying part
and Canadian society                                                               of Putnam and Campbell’s find-
   A book titled American Grace,                                                   ings is the emergence of religious
co-written by Harvard’s Robert                                                     polarization in American culture.
Putnam and Notre Dame’s Da-                                                        As the backgrounder issued by
vid Campbell, has recently been                                                    the publisher (Simon & Schuster)
getting quite a bit of attention,                                                  notes, “Americans are increasingly
and for good reasons. Its thesis is                                                concentrated at two opposite ends
                                           in liberal congregations than in        of the religious spectrum – the
that religion procures substantial         conservative ones.
net benefits to American society.                                                  highly religious of many faiths at
                                         • Americans are switching their           one pole, and the avowedly secular
Churchgoing makes Americans                religion to match their poli-
more sensitive to their neighbours’                                                at the other. The moderate, essen-
                                           tics, rather than the other way         tially non-political religious middle
needs, more engaged with their             around. Among the politically
communities and more generous                                                      that dominated America’s religious
                                           committed, the conservatives            landscape in the decades following
towards secular and religious chari-       have rallied the most religious-
ties than they would otherwise be.                                                 World War II is shrinking.” This
                                           ly conservative congregations,          being said, there does not seem
As evidence for this, Putnam and           while liberals have become less
Campbell report on a survey where                                                  to be any immediate prospect of a
                                           religious and more secular.             religious war, as only a small per-
people were asked whether they           • The third largest “religious”
agreed with the following state-                                                   centage of those who claim no re-
                                           group in the U.S. is now made           ligious affiliation define themselves
ment: “These days, people need to          up of the 17% of the population
look after themselves and not over-                                                as atheists, all others considering
                                           that has no religious affiliation       themselves “spiritual.”
ly worry about others.” Surprising-        at all. The “no religion” types are
ly, 48% of secular people agreed,                                                     The extent to which these vari-
                                           ahead of mainline Protestants,          ous trends are replicated in Canada
whereas only 26% of people with a          who now represent only 14% of
high degree of religious conviction                                                is difficult to gage. Canadians are

                          Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011                Vol. 1. No. 1               57
58   Canadian Observer   Spring 2011   Vol. 1. No. 1
generally considered as being more       cultural, social and political terms        These were not just words, but
secular than their neighbours to the     remains to be seen. But one can’t        a real test case of manhood: men
South, a view supported by studies       help wondering about the impli-          were effectively called upon to step
showing that 43% of Americans at-        cations this trend might have on         aside so as to allow women and
tend a religious service at least once   the expansion of Islam. Secularists      children to board lifeboats first.
a week whereas only about 20% of         would have us believe that their            It was also a testimony to the
Canadians do so. In the case of          agnosticism/atheism is the way of        fact that a person’s beliefs and
teenagers, the difference is starker:    the future. They will even claim         worldview matter – and a testimo-
while 50% of American teens at-          that secularization reflects a “com-     ny to the cultural and moral impli-
tend church on a weekly basis, only      ing of age” of the human spirit and      cations of the Christian faith.
21% of their Canadian equivalent         a freeing from all religious myths          The Japanese Ambassador in
does so. And there are other sig-        and superstitious dogmas. In do-         Washington at the time is said
nificant differences. According to       ing so, they deny that the “desire       to have written to the American
Reginald Bibby, a University of Le-      for God is written in the human          President and to have told him
thbridge sociologist and author of       heart.” While grudgingly admit-          that, had the Titanic been a Japa-
a soon-to-be published Beyond the        ting that man has behaved as a           nese ship, the gender composition
Gods and Back, while one third of        religious being throughout history       of those who survived would likely
the U.S. population identifies itself    down to the present, they associ-        have been quite different. Why?
with evangelical Christianity, only      ate such behaviour to an immature        Because, explained the Ambassa-
8% does so in Canada.                                                             dor, in Japanese culture, men are
    Yet there are also some similari-                                             most important, followed by chil-
ties between U.S. and Canadian                                                    dren, and then women.
trends, the most important be-                                                       One can’t help wondering what
ing the growth in the number of                                                   an ambassador from a Muslim
Canadians who “don’t believe in                                                   country would have said. One also
God or a higher power,” a category                                                has to wonder what contemporary
which, presumably, approximates                                                   radical feminist would have to say
the 17% of the American popula-                                                   on the subject.
tion characterized by Putnam and         stage of humanity, a stage from             Whether the Japanese Ambas-
Campbell as having “no religious         which it must now emancipate             sador actually wrote such a letter
affiliation at all.” According to Bib-   itself. What these new atheist mis-      probably will never be ascertained.
by’s surveys, the percentage of the      sionaries fail to recognize is that      But at least one thing is clear:
Canadian adult population who            they are creating a “spiritual void”     Christian faith and the Christian
don’t believe in God or a higher         which Islamists stand ready to fill      religion entail unique real-world
power grew from 16% in 1985 to           and may well succeed in filling. In      consequences for justice and other
18% in 2005. More importantly,           the language of old-style Marxism,       virtues.
the percentage of Canadian teen-         one could say that the new athe-
agers who think likewise grew from       ists are “objective” allies of the Is-   OBSERVATION:
15% in 1984 to 33% in 2008. Bib-         lamists. Yikes!                          Secular Humanism
by also released a survey in 2007                                                 vs. Christianity
that found believers more likely         OBSERVATION:
than atheists to place a higher value    Sinking of the Titanic                      An old friend, who is a disciple
on “love, patience and friendship,”                                               of Christopher Hitchens, Richard
                                            April 14th is the anniversary of      Dawkins & Co., recently sent me
a finding consistent with those of       the sinking of the Titanic.
Putnam and Campbell.                                                              the following e-mail:
                                            As most people who have seen
    The upshot of all this seems to      the movie Titanic (1997) will re-           Dear Richard,
be that atheism/secularism is the        member, one of the most well-               As events all over the world in-
trendiest and fastest-growing “be-       known phrases associated with the        dicate, love of God is the root of
lief system,” at least in the Western    event is “Women and Children             all evil. And that’s why secular
“village.” How that will play out in     First”.                                  humanism is Homo Sapiens’ only

                          Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1              59
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER

                                                                                                 June 2011


 Dear Prime Minister Harper,                                                                                   with
                                                                          you have been given a majority
 Canadian voters have made       a clear choice in this election and
 a strong mandate to govern.                                                                                   has
                                                                            the National Citizens Coalition
                                      ctive government – something
 Canadians want a stable produ
 championed for over 40 years.
                                                                           to voters.
                                      ure and to keep your promises
 Now it is time to look to the fut                                                   tax cuts create jobs.
                                                  s. The country needs jobs and
  Do not ba    ck down from planned tax cut                                                                should
                                                                        cessary government programs
                                  soaring out of control, all unne                                                  res
  With government spending                                                     poration disclose their expenditu
                                      nm   ent department and crown cor
  be cut. Ensure that every Gover                                     privatize those we can like the
                                                                                                         CBC.
  through a clear and tra    nsparent accounting system, and
                                                                                                    ians choice in
                                                                 care system and to allow Canad
  We urge the gover     nment to reform our ailing health
  their healthcare.                                                                                     line with
                                                                    MP pension plan , bringing it in
   There should be an im     mediate end to the gold- plated
   the private sector.                                                                                     ent must
                                                                      t protected by law. This governm
   It is unacceptable that Ca   nadians’ property rights are no                  Freedoms. The government can
                                          ined in the Charter of Rights and
   ensure property rights are enshr                            ting choice in selling their crops
                                                                                                    by ending the
    now nally give We     stern Canadian farmers marke
    Wheat Board monopoly.                                                                               dollar
                                                                     quickly to eliminate the billion
    With a majority, we exp    ect the Conservatives to move
    Long-Gun Registry.                                                                                         and
                                                                           a mockery of our justice system
    Human Rights Commission        s should be abolished. They are
                                           llars.
     an appalling waste of our tax do                                                       ced to join a union
                                                       work. No one should ever be for
     The gover   nment must protect the right to
                                          hold a job.
     and pay union dues in order to                                                            sidies for political
                                                            bold action to end welfare sub
     The new major    ity government must also take                              cted Senate.
                                              out an equal, e ective and ele
      pa rties and persevere to bring ab                                                           money,
                                                                ing your government for more
                           ry day there will be groups ask                                                   g
      We realize that eve                                                ns Coalition will be there, holdin
      higher taxes and more ba     il outs, but The National Citize                            ing Canadians.
                                                          g the best interests of hard-work
      the governm    ent accountable and protectin                                                              lly
                                                                             for Canada” in which we carefu
       We hope you will take the op     portunity to read our “Agenda
                                              of Canadians.
       address the needs and concerns                                                          izens Coalition,
                                                            s who support the National Cit
       On behalf of  the thousands of loyal Canadian

    Peter C oleman
    President and CEO
       Canadian ns Coalition
 60 National CitizeObserver                    Spring nationalcitizens.ca No. 1
                                                   w. 2011         Vol. 1.
                                               ww w.nationa
hope! So there are only two op-
                                                 Justin Press
tions: Destroy the competing reli-
gion or scrap faith.                       A new independent Canadian Catholic publishing house.
My response:
   Dear friend,
                                                          OUR LATEST TITLES
   As regards your basic contention
that love of God is the root of all
evil, I can only note that you pro-
vide no evidence to support it and
that, indeed, there is considerable
evidence to the contrary. But let’s
leave that aside for the moment
and focus rather on your sugges-
tion that Christians really ought to
convert to secular humanism.
   Using strictly utilitarian consid-
erations, your proposal seems rath-
er unattractive. Secular humanism         A collection of four stories     Eleven Canadians who         Ian Hunter is our best
is on the wane. It’s been taken over         from the many worlds        converted to Catholicism observer in the legal and
by postmodernism – the exaltation             of Michael O’Brien’s       tell their amazing stories quasi-legal dimensions of
                                          imagination. The fault line     in their words. Includes Canada’s descent into ‘the
of the will and the rejection of both      of good and evil runs not        former media baron       tyranny of the fatuous.’ He
faith and reason.                          only through the tales but        Conrad Black, First       has a memorable prose
   Denis Diderot, one of the great         through the hearts of the       Things founder Father     voice, and a sharp poetical
                                                                                                      mind. His commentaries
figures of the Enlightenment and a            O’Brien’s characters.        Richard Neuhaus and
                                                                                                    embody the best qualities to
father of secular humanism, once               Includes four of his            columnist David
                                                                                                    which the ‘politically correct’
                                          haunting paintings. $9.95           Warren. $19.95
said that “the philosopher thinks of                                                                     are allergic. $24.95
posterity as the believer thinks of
the other world.” Yet, less than 250
years later, posterity does not look
                                           613-729-2247 www.justinpress.ca
promising at all for secular human-
ism – secular humanists aren’t re-      Around 1770, the French began to                is for the birds!
producing themselves and are fast       limit births and this is one of the                 The response of religious believ-
heading toward extinction.              major reasons why English is the                ers to atheism is equally simple:
   As for believers, whether Ortho-     dominant language in the world                  Without transcendence, there is
dox Jews, Orthodox Christians or        today.                                          no life!
Muslims, they have relatively high         Why do secular humanists have                    The latter view is both philo-
birth rates and are bound to inherit    so few children and religious be-               sophical and scientific, i.e. it’s
the earth when the secular human-       lievers so many? I suspect that it’s            borne out by demographic trends.
ists are extinct. Outside the West,     because believers are convinced                     Conclusion: Scientific evidence
the Christian faith is thriving,        that life is good in itself. It is an           suggests I’m on the winning team
particularly in China and Africa.       absolute good, not only for the liv-            and you on the losing team.
So why should I become a secular        ing, but also for those who are not                 This being said, one should
humanist when secular human-            yet among the living. This means                never forget that, in this game, it’s
ism itself is going to the dogs and     high birth rates are based on some              never too late to join the winning
the Christian faith continues to        kind of metaphysical anchoring.                 team. 3
spread?                                    I know the response of new
                                                                                        Richard Bastien is editor of Cana-
   Birth rates are important.           atheism to all this: Transcendence
                                                                                        dian Observer.

                         Canadian Observer                      Spring 2011                     Vol. 1. No. 1                     61
A Man’s Place is Home
– David Beresford



I
     was once asked by a poll-           stead of a living room; so in my        into a crying room for you, and
     ster whether I believed that a      house I have just that, and carve       serve you right for being fruitful
     woman’s place was the home.         duck decoys in my living room.          and multiplying.
    “Of course!”, I answered, and        In a socialist house I could not do        At the end of the 19th century,
waited for the next question to          that; in a condominium I could          Pope Leo 13th published a defense
come, whether I believed a man’s         not do that; but in my own home         of private property in his encyclical
place is the home. It was never          I can.                                  letter Rerum Novarum. He wrote:
                                                                                    “If a workman’s wages be suffi-
asked. I do not know why.
                                                                                 cient to enable him comfortably to
    Most people believe a man’s
                                                                                 support himself, his wife, and his
place is home whether they admit it                                              children, he will find it easy, if he
or not. Home is often slandered as                                               be a sensible man, to practice thrift,
being a dull place where we watch                                                and … thus secure a modest source
100’s of channels on the television                                              of income…Men always work
and play computer games. In spite                                                harder and more readily when they
of this, we know instinctively that                                              work on that which belongs to
a man’s place is home. The proof?                                                them…The right to possess private
In death, our best men, our sol-                                                 property is derived from nature,
diers, are brought home.                     This is what distinguishes con-     not from man…The State would
    The writer G. K. Chesterton ar-      servatives from Puritans. We can        therefore be unjust and cruel if un-
gued that the adventure of life is       define a Puritan as one who thinks      der the name of taxation it were to
                                         that any enjoyment we experience        deprive the private owner of more
most evident in the freedom that
                                         in life is bad. There are many Pu-      than is fair.”
exists in our homes, a freedom
                                         ritans in our midst: Puritans who          It is important to recognize that
that approaches anarchy. You may
                                         insist that having a cigar on Christ-   this, the foundation document of
earn some money, and then you
                                         mas day is bad, or having a glass       modern Catholic teaching on so-
can purchase whatever house you
                                         of beer at an outdoor picnic, or        cial justice, begins with this first
want. In so doing you are free to
                                         children, or a tomato garden in the     principle of ownership and private
eat breakfast at midnight, or even
                                         front yard instead of a lawn – the      property, tantamount to a defense
keep a chicken in your toolshed if
                                         list of Puritan don’ts is endless.      of conservative first principles.
the neighbors do not find out. But
                                             Do not let the fact that many          To deny private property, to tax
you cannot have all the houses.
                                         modern Puritans claim to be athe-       away the chance of a job stops Ca-
Socialists want to be able to live in
                                         ists fool you. Their belief that en-    nadians from having the chance of
all the houses and pay for none of
                                         joying life is bad gives them away      earning their own homes. To do
them: the avaricious want to own
                                         for what they are. In an earlier age,   this, to replace the opportunity of
all the houses, and so have no time
                                         our recycling zealots would have        ownership with paternal govern-
to live in any.
                                         condemned exchanging presents           ment subsidies is to force families
    We are free to choose one house,
                                         on Christmas Day. Did you drink         to live without freedom or even the
one wife or husband, and then
                                         a pop? Then you must pay for your       hope of freedom. This is unjust.
break whatever conventions we
                                         pleasure, sort your garbage and            This is a sacrilege.   
please so long as it is not a crime. I
                                         find the right coloured bin. Enjoy      David Beresford is a writer and car-
have never understood why I could
                                         the blessings of a new baby? Then       toonist living in Barry’s Bay, On-
not have a woodworking shop in-
                                                                                 tario.

62      Canadian Observer                   Spring 2011               Vol. 1. No. 1
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