Человек и час

Who could have imagined a television comedian elected in a fit of humour would prove to be a great statesman?  (Although you say the same of Boris Johnson.) Vladimir Zelenskiy has proven to be the hero his country needs in its greatest distress: head and shoulders above any politician.

He seemed an odd choice for the mantle of ‘statesman’: he has been known for prancing about the stage in knock-about sketches on the box, and starring in comedy programmes. Stuck in a political office, one would think him a pushover, and maybe the other Vladimir thought so so. Instead we have a ‘servant of the people’ in amongst the people, shunning offers to help him flee, as any politician in circumstances would, but appearing on the streets, encouraging resistance to the dictator to the north.

There is a bit more to the man than his slapstick television clown persona: this an entrepreneur, creator and mainstay of a media business. It is not like dragging someone from TOWIE and sticking them in the chair. That depth may have been missed by his opponent.

The Black Earth of the Ukraine, the open steppes and the once lawless Zaparozhe lands tug at the hearts of those who live there. It was from here that a Cossack tradition grew which drove east and south to conquer  and settle Russia’s vast empire, and this was inseparably a tradition of freedom from outside control and all the promises of endless frontier lands. This was also a land once filled with little, distinct Jewish villages scattered across the steppe in their own form of independence – they are no more since the SS swept over the land exterminating them, and Zelenskiy will feel that too, as his family were lost to it. The dictator’s boot is unwelcome here.

At the same time, the Ukraine is a part of wider Russian culture. It was in attempts to break it away that Moscow’s wrath was kindled. Here it meets a contradiction in the soul of the Rus’ though: the freedom of the frontier against the autocracy of the ruler. Here too is a paradox that will cause the campaign to fail: if the Ukrainian and the Russian are all one people, then how can one fight the other?

This land at the edge of empire is a threat to the autocracy of the centre because it has shown, with whatever imperfections, that those of Russian culture can have a democracy and freedom to speak and work.  If that is allowed to continue, it gives the lie to the nature of the Muscovite norm of autocracy. Previous Ukrainian presidents have played the same game as their neighbours, crushing opponents, playing an oppressive Sprachpolitik  and allowing corruption to run riot.  In Zelenskiy, a Russian-speaker himself, but an outsider to all sides, it has been possible to imagine another way – people are free to live, to speak and to work. It is work in progress. Local nationalism is nihilistic and artificial, but freedom; that is worth defending.

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From Diffidence Warre

And from this diffidence of one another, there is no way for any man to secure himselfe, so reasonable, as Anticipation; that is, by force, or wiles, to master the persons of all men he can, so long, till he see no other power great enough to endanger him: And this is no more than his own conservation requireth, and is generally allowed. Also because there be some, that taking pleasure in contemplating their own power in the acts of conquest, which they pursue farther than their security requires; if others, that otherwise would be glad to be at ease within modest bounds, should not by invasion increase their power, they would not be able, long time, by standing only on their defence, to subsist. And by consequence, such augmentation of dominion over men, being necessary to a mans conservation, it ought to be allowed him.

Againe, men have no pleasure, (but on the contrary a great deale of griefe) in keeping company, where there is no power able to over-awe them all. For every man looketh that his companion should value him, at the same rate he sets upon himselfe: And upon all signes of contempt, or undervaluing, naturally endeavours, as far as he dares (which amongst them that have no common power, to keep them in quiet, is far enough to make them destroy each other,) to extort a greater value from his contemners, by dommage; and from others, by the example.

So that in the nature of man, we find three principall causes of quarrel. First, Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory.

The first, maketh men invade for Gain; the second, for Safety; and the third, for Reputation. The first use Violence, to make themselves Masters of other mens persons, wives, children, and cattell; the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other signe of undervalue, either direct in their Persons, or by reflexion in their Kindred, their Friends, their Nation, their Profession, or their Name.

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Prey to Kings and Desperate Men

It gets worse. Canada is falling, torn by unwonted divisions stoked  out of malice by Justin Trudeau, demagogue-in-chief. The state at his direction punishes dissent without trial and thugs terrify their neighbours for speaking for the dissenters. How could this be Canada? How can Canada survive it?

It is familiar from the international news, but in the United States, and now we have seen the deliberate importation of American hate-based politics into once innocent ground, without the American systems which moderate it. The certainties of Canadian life which allowed society to thrive and  which encouraged enterprise to take root and trade have vanished.  How can anyone build for their future if the government can seize property and bank accounts at will?

In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building..

I need hardly recite the familiar idiocies of the pseudo-philosophical movements in the United States; Marxism given new flesh in concepts of race theory which promote racial conflict. In a land which had a system of slavery for centuries, followed by a hundred years of legal discrimination that lasted until living memory, and a legacy of ill-treatment long after, there is a well of mistrust to be turned into hatred. Canada though did not have any of this: this is all imported, and it should not be welcomed.  It is as if Trudeau and those he has attracted around him have forgotten which country they are in.

If it were just the government of one man acting tyrannically, directing the Mounties against his opponents, that would be bad enough, but it is far deeper. Society is being destroyed with internal hatred. That is at the rotten heart of politics, as has been written here before, but hitherto it has been resisted in the True North, or so we thought. We heard of a store-owner besieged and terrorised by thugs who called her a terrorist and a Nazi-supporter, who threated violence, even murder against her an her family; just for donating a small sum to keep a trucker from freezing in the Ottawa night.  How would these chilling tormentors have got such an idea about a neighbour? How could anyone with any sense believe the protesting truckers  could be described in such repulsive terms?  The finger points to one man.

It is an evil doctrine which Trudeau has adopted, a foreign interloper, and he nurtured it. In its homeland, the United States, the doctrine is tempered by the endless levels of power across that country which can resist if they are so minded, or in adopting it form a lesson to show others what to avoid, In Canada there is no such dispersed network of power, and no guardian angel to resist the abuse of destructive power.

The truckers are annoying, certainly, but he made insane accusations which others have taken up in a mob, and every threat, every punch, every brick through the window, every nervous breakdown, is his personal responsibility. The collapse of Canada’s settled society falls upon his shoulders too.

Canadians can only look out to be told that a once settled, understood life is no more, as Donne put it in another context:

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell.

The outlook is grim, recession looms as investment teeters, and with three years before the next election, there is a long time yet for society to be destroyed all the more. Canada is facing dark days, and I wish heartily it were not so.

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The problem of peace

Why is there any civil peace? Starry-eyed reformers ask why crime happens, but the real question is why anyone obeys the law.

Hobbes knew the problem well, from ‘Warre Of Every One Against Every One’ to peaceful society takes more than simply the existence of a common power to keep them in awe: there is not a policeman sitting in your parlour directing you when to rise and whither to go, or perhaps there is in China or Canada but not in the free world. There must be a constant influence for civic virtue, working against the natural love of immediate advantage and of personal power. Hobbes looked at these:

Love Of Contention From Competition

Competition of Riches, Honour, command, or other power, enclineth to Contention, Enmity, and War: because the way of one Competitor, to the attaining of his desire, is to kill, subdue, supplant, or repell the other. Particularly, competition of praise, enclineth to a reverence of Antiquity. For men contend with the living, not with the dead; to these ascribing more than due, that they may obscure the glory of the other.

Civil Obedience From Love Of Ease

Desire of Ease, and sensuall Delight, disposeth men to obey a common Power: because by such Desires, a man doth abandon the protection might be hoped for from his own Industry, and labour.

From Feare Of Death Or Wounds

Fear of Death, and Wounds, disposeth to the same; and for the same reason. On the contrary, needy men, and hardy, not contented with their present condition; as also, all men that are ambitious of Military command, are enclined to continue the causes of warre; and to stirre up trouble and sedition: for there is no honour Military but by warre; nor any such hope to mend an ill game, as by causing a new shuffle.

And From Love Of Arts

Desire of Knowledge, and Arts of Peace, enclineth men to obey a common Power: For such Desire, containeth a desire of leasure; and consequently protection from some other Power than their own.

Love Of Vertue, From Love Of Praise

Desire of Praise, disposeth to laudable actions, such as please them whose judgement they value; for of these men whom we contemn, we contemn also the Praises. Desire of Fame after death does the same. And though after death, there be no sense of the praise given us on Earth, as being joyes, that are either swallowed up in the unspeakable joyes of Heaven, or extinguished in the extreme torments of Hell: yet is not such Fame vain; because men have a present delight therein, from the foresight of it, and of the benefit that may rebound thereby to their posterity: which though they now see not, yet they imagine; and any thing that is pleasure in the sense, the same also is pleasure in the imagination.

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What has happened to Canada?

The worst things about the response to the truckers’ protest in Canada are the tyrannical reaction, and that Justin Trudeau has forgotten which country he is entrusted with. He seems to think he is in the United States, because he describes what has happened there in its weird troubles as if it were at home. Ottawa is not Washington DC, and no one has stormed Parliament with buffalo horns on, so the rhetoric is utterly inappropriate.

I have no doubt it can be hellish in later winter in Ottawa with air-horns blaring below and no escape on gridlocked streets. It is messy and disruptive, and cheerful; like a diesel-guzzling Extinction Rebellion but without the vandalism and interpretive dance. It is hard to know how many support the protest, probably fewer than half, or how many support its aims; somewhat more than that. That is not really the point though: it is on the limits of peaceful protest and the government’s reaction. Monsieur Trudeau’s reaction has been disgusting, and American.

The right to protest is a part of the common culture we share with Canada and the whole Anglosphere. The distinction between protest and riot has always been an unhappy one, and the one may easily turn into the other. Extinction Rebellion were left to protest in London, until their blockage of roads became intolerable. When they smashed windows attacked trains, we were outraged that the police were too slow to react. In Ottawa, there seems to have been no vandalism, no attacks on people – just the blocking of the Queen’s highway.

The rhetoric is what shocks me – not from the protesters but from the Prime Minister and his poodles. (Really, the CBC makes the BBC look like Nigel Farage.) It is familiar rhetoric though, because it is American.

The Trudeau rhetoric accuses the multi-ethnic convoy of being white supremacists, insurrectionists, and talks of them waving Confederate flags and swastikas, none of which is remotely true.  (Apparently a visiting  pedestrian, presumably American, waved a flag of the slave states at one point and was hauled down by the truckers. All you actually see are the Maple Leaf Flag and a few provincial flags.)

Some of this all be right as a description of the mob who broke into the American Capitol in 2021, and it is word for word the rhetoric used by race-bating politicians in the United States. One can only assume that Justin Trudeau has forgotten which country he is in. Mr Trudeau is presumably not so daft as to think that the Truckers’ slogans of “Freedom” and “Liberté” indicate Nazi tendencies which is his accusation: National Socialists were emphatically and vocally against freedom and democracy.

Apparently Mr Trudeau is now against freedom. At least he can admit it now. Across the aisle, Pierre Poilievre (who may become the Leader of the Opposition) says he wants to make “Canadians the freest people on earth”.  They are certainly not now. It is shocking that the establishment finds this  proposal shocking.

How does a government react to a disruptive protest? Perhaps by talking to the protestors? You cannot do that though if you have demonised them to such an extent that you have portrayed them as barely human. Only confrontation is left. He will not now step back, and has even unleash emergency powers; powers only previously used by his father, against an actual terrorist threat. He will seize property and remove the protestors’ rights as citizens, and starve their families. Even before then he threatened to revoke driving licences and so abandon their children to destitution.

How did he ever get to this position? Is he such a man so convinced of his own rightness that he cannot believe their is goodness in other, contrary ideas?  That is the logic of the appalling American politics he has imbibed to the full. Let him move to the United States if that is his preferred substrate, and leave Canada. The once settled government of a free nation is looking like a tinpot dictator trying desperately to clamp down to cling on to his ebbing authority, or like a stropping child.

Canada has come a long way since it was considered one of the freest nations in the world. It passed a Charter of Rights and set up Human Rights Tribunals in each province, then set the latter to clamp down on speech. That is Orwellian. Even before then, Canadian bureaucrats had long learnt the worst excessive of their Americans cousins in  terms of regulation and zoning (hence the bland and barren suburbs around the towns). Canada can only rescue itself by becoming more Canadian.

There is no election due until 2025, and until then little hope of reform of liberation, even if Trudeau is dumped by his party as surely they must be plotting.

O Canada, with aching hearts we see thee fall: the True North cowed and unfree.

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