Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Canadian progressive escapes Anti-American catch-22

Author and critic Linda McQuaig proves that you can be a trouble-maker and very funny—and not think like Anne Coulter. McQuaig is divisive and not a bully. She fights for long shots, not for those who have already won the lottery.
This week, McQuaig actually used the United States to make Canadians feel uncomfortable—a stunning tactical change for a Canadian reformer. But then again, these days, Canadian reformers need every weapon they can get their hands on.
In a column in the Toronto Star with the headline “The Great Northern Tax Haven,” she casts her complaint in familiar Canadian terms.
“While Canada’s reputation as a leading peacekeeping nation has taken a nosedive, we’re punching above our weight on the international scene on a new front — as a tax haven for the rich.”
This is an unsurprising progressive angle. Comparisons with others automatically make Canadians nervous. But what followed had nothing to do with Scandinavia.
“Barack Obama’s vow last week that he’d veto any debt reduction plan that didn’t include higher taxes on the rich — so that millionaires wouldn’t pay lower rates than their secretaries — apparently stirred no interest in Ottawa.
McQuaig concluded by teasing Canada’s federal social democrats without shifting her ground:
“Is it too much to hope that our most progressive party [NDP] would take a stand as progressive as the president of the United States and America’s second richest man [Warren Buffett]?”
This is a refreshing departure in left rhetoric.
Since the publication of “Lament for A Nation” by the eloquent conservative George Grant and the invention of the phrase “red Tory” by the Marxist tactician Gad Horowitz, progressives in Canada have steadily taken on as faith: that the United States is irredeemable and that the way to widen the left’s appeal in Canada was by being positive nationalists.
The British connection, the flag, home-grown capitalists and good old Tory families with their quaint affectations, magically, would be on the same side of history—benign kitsch in the noble struggle to resist the American empire. Private and public Canadian businesses and flag-waving would open up a space across the northern half of the continent for a more progressive and just society.
Nearly 50 years later, it’s clear that this strategy entailed an enfeebling catch-22. By propagating the defeatist idea that progressive change in our civilization’s dominant political culture and economy is impossible, the Canadian left has made it easier for Canadians to become smug trimmers—a Canada exquisitely alert to America’s shortcomings and infinitely forgiving about its own.
Reactionaries in Canada are not savaged by the left for what they’ve done to Canada but for hints of vulgar American imitation.
Linda McQuaig and the Canadian left should set aside the silken poetry of a Tory reactionary and recall one of the sturdy convictions of those reformers like America's William Jennings Bryan and Canada's JS Woodsworth who campaigned in harsher times. Nationalism, along with religion, makes people feel better about themselves, but it doesn’t inspire change. 
The American Dream came before American Exceptionalism, and it rallied reformers and changed—for the better—how people treat each other and set their goals for the future.
In finding grounds for hope in America, surely it would be easier to generate hope in Canada.

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