Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's 1955 Again

Jane Taber writes in this morning's Globe and Mail that the Harper government "is working to recast the Canadian identity, undoing 40 years of a Liberal narrative and instead creating a new patriotism viewed through a conservative lens."

And what is the thrust of this "new" patriotism?  It sounds remarkably old. The Tories are channelling John Diefenbaker:

Now, the Harper Tories are pursuing symbols and areas ignored by the Grits – the Arctic, the military, national sports and especially the monarchy, according to senior Tories.

Like all fundamentalists -- the people who, Garrison Keillor likes to say, put the "fun" in fundamentalism -- the Harperites want to turn back the clock -- to 1955, when the word "royal" was everywhere -- from the Navy and the Air Force to the mail. Such a strategy, says Harper's former eminence gris, Tom Flanagan, could turn the country into "a Conservative utopia."

But we have lived in that utopia before. In today's Ottawa Citizen, Janice Kennedy takes a walk down memory lane, where a number of things we take for granted simply didn't exist. She starts with:

welfare - that inducement to laziness that has its roots in the Depression of the 1930s. Without it, people will be better motivated to find jobs, rediscovering in themselves the self-reliant moral fibre that once characterized the nation. Ditto (Un) Employment Insurance, tragically cast in legislative stone in 1971.

It goes without saying that medicare (1966) should also be dismantled. This country was built on strong Tory values, and socialized medicine is simply not one of them.

Nor is the absurd notion of women voting, which has been happening federally since 1919, the year Parliament repudiated Canada's proud male exclusivity at the polls and allowed gals into the club. Curiously, that happened under the mostly conservative rule of Sir Robert Borden.

Yes, those were the good old days. But even in the good old days -- of Robert Borden and R.B. Bennett -- women voted and Canadians had welfare.

What does that tell you about this crop of "conservatives?"


thwap said...

Tragically, the greedy and the stupid make a strong coalition of voters in this country.

We'll be treated to much of the vile nastiness on her list.

Owen Gray said...

I'm afraid you may be right, thwap. Unfortunately, the Conservatives are convinced that their values are Canadian values.

That's not surprising. But polls suggest that they were placed in government on the narrow promise of "economic stability."

If they try to implement a "conservative utopia" people may take to the streets.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I have no problem with reusing the "Royal" designation. We are after all a Monarchy. I also generally support better support for the military so it is adequate to meet the demands we put upon it. I would like to see it return to "peace keeping" and not the trying to play among the worlds military big boys.

So far the Conservatives have tinkered with Canadian values. They admit they are to the right of the Canadian cultural norms. So far they have not sought to bring about the social agenda of the far right of it's party. They are not seeking the death penalty, elimination of universal health care, gay marriage, reversing rights etc. They will have harsh criminal laws past and continue to neglact the environment. They prevent challenges to progressives.

Owen Gray said...

"Royal," after all, is only a word.

What bothers me is the Conservatives linking of patriotism and hard power -- as if "soft" power has no value in this brave new world.

It reminds me of Samuel Johnson's definition of patriotism. It is, he wrote, "the last refuge of a scoundrel."