Canada’s Soft Totalitarianism (Really)

  At a breakfast meeting in Toronto a few years ago with the late George Jonas –  an author of keen insight and perspicacity – I asked him what it was like to live under totalitarian rule, as he had done under Communism in his native Hungary before escaping to Canada in 1956. I will never forget what he said:

           “I felt like I was fleeing a disease. But … it followed me!”

           I almost wept for my country to hear such words. I have always loved Canada. For most of my life it has been a relatively trouble-free nation of plain-spoken, sensible people who seem politically and morally a little sheepish, not easily roused, not terribly impressed by the successes of their fellows, more prone to obey than to revolt, but who long before, and certainly since Confederation, have enjoyed a remarkable tradition of freedom.

           This freedom – of speech, action, and thought – limited only by traditional bounds of criminal or civil law and custom, was at its high point during the colonial period, when settlers hardly ever saw an agent of government, and was lauded most poignantly in 1896 by Canada’s 7th Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, in words that rang throughout the land – and throughout the unfree world – like a proud and resounding gong: “Canada is free, and freedom is its nationality!”

           And that is why I almost wept. For we simply cannot speak those words today, because Canada is no longer a truly free country. And I shall say why, in a moment.

           Meanwhile I remember, when reading Life magazine in the mid-60’s, staring in disbelief at a large center-fold photo of a million Chinese students in Beijing’s Tiananmen square, each dressed in a severe copy-cat black uniform and hat, all waving Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book over their heads in an apparently genuine delirium of admiration for his orientalized version of Marxism.

        I felt a deep pity for those robotic students, because it was clear they were brainwashed and quite frightened to raise an original idea, or to discuss individual freedom. And there was I, sitting in Canada in such full-enjoyment of my manifest liberties that I silently gave thanks for my country.

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Libertarian-Socialism: How Liberal-Democracy Overcame Its Own Contradictions

              The totalitarian states of the Twentieth century, whether of national socialist (Nazi and Fascist) or international socialist (Communist) ambitions, were aiming to control almost every aspect of life from the top down; to bring about by force of law and government what I describe in The Great Divide as “the triumph of the Will over Nature.” The Germans called this process Gleichschaltung, or “bringing into line.” In other words, they wanted to organize, or bring into line by force the naturally different lives of millions of different private citizens according to a single totalizing vision of the good society. The great irony of the political history of the West is that whether as expressed by Nazism, Communism, or Fascism, all these totalitarian movements, as the late political philosopher Michael Oakeshott put it, were the “ungracious children” of modern democracy. Caesar, as have all dictators since, waited breathlessly for the roar of the crowd, as do modern democratic leaders for the roar of the polls.

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The Future Is (Almost) Now

This was an interesting talk about some futuristic changes to modern life by the Managing Director of Daimler Benz (Mercedes Benz), who began by saying their competitors are no longer other car companies but Tesla (obvious), Google, Apple, Amazon. Then, he continued to speculate. Even if half of what he believes comes true, it will be a revolution of sorts in how we live: (more…)