The biggest injury to that “Great Leap Forward” towards an open, egalitarian, universalist society (to borrow Mao’s phrase and put it to much better use) was actually the shattering of Christendom. This came via the triple hammer blows of (1) the Black Death and the tremendous socio-economic upheaval it produced [now there was the pandemic of pandemics!], (2) the Reformation followed by the Wars of Religion, and (3) the Enlightenment, which, despite all its protestations to be the Age of the coming of the great light of emancipation from superstition, opened the doors wide to the tsunami called the French Revolution.
We do not need more religious judgmentalism and sectarianism. This discussion is not even about Christianity being superior to Enlightenment principles for building a just and compassionate society. I suspect we need both. It seems that when the two shun and despise each other, we end up in a terrible place. What we are both aiming for, so we say, is rediscovering the real sources of our ideals of freedom, and finding a sure foundation upon which to renew them.
All of us, and all things, are subject to the rule of law. Such is the created order, or “Natural Law” in the old parlance. Even despots with a nuclear arsenal are finally subject to the rule of law. The greatest lawgiver of all once said, “If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.” That’s a primary law in the way of human behaviour and natural consequences. In the Old West, there was always a faster gunslinger somewhere who would eventually put you into Book Hill.
Freedom is never an isolated thing. And it is never an absolute thing. Even hermits are not totally free – as the ancient and medieval (and even modern) Christian hermits have said over and over again. Their bodily needs constrain them. Their minds imprison them. No matter where they take refuge, other people keep coming along to bug them and make demands on them. Buddhist monks, Hindu gurus, and Muslim dervishes all say the same thing. How have we in the West somehow bought into a completely delusional notion that freedom is all about me and what I “need” (when the real word is want) and to hell with you? As the Beatles once aptly phrased it “All through the years, I-me-my, I-me-my, I-me-my!” What a lie!
Fascism is adaptable to the particular milieu in which its proponents operate. It has taken on a distinct Russian tinge with by adopting Russia’s historic self-identification as the lords and guardians of all Slavdom. The collapse of the Soviet Empire has never been truly accepted by Mr. Putin and the hardliners who held sway there. They are on a quest to reassert Panslavism, bit by bit. Hitler’s playbook of making piece by piece claims while disavowing the true agenda of total annexation has so far worked well …
Screamers and Yellers of both Right and Left are guilty of the same offences and of equally undermining democracy. Pushed to their logical ends (as Mr. Spock would have it), both roads end up in the darkness of tyranny and slaughter of all who stand in their way. As Spock tells us, “It is illogical to say that an illegal occupation by the forces of the Right is better or worse than an equally illegal occupation by the forces of the Left.”
The discussion of Fascism current today in the social and mainstream media usually ignores and is largely ignorant of the real, historical experience of Fascism. This is deplorable when these examples are still within living memory of our oldest citizens, many of whom are survivors of the terror of having lived under real fascist governments and persecution.
That evening in mid-June 1864, George senses that a once-in-a-lifetime moment has come. It is time to set aside personal hostility and old grudges for the greater good, for the country, for the future of all British North America. He doesn’t call together advisors whom he knows will try to argue him out of his conviction. He calls in a member of Macdonald’s party he respects and asks him to tell Mr. Macdonald that he wants to offer him a way forward. He tells him he must bring M. Cartier of Canada East into it from the get-go to make it work. Brown already knows, respects, and likes Cartier, contrary to his supposed firm dislike of French Catholics. Cartier likes Brown. Thet became fast friends for life. Throughout the sleepless night, the messages go back and forth until the two rivals finally meet and agree to work together. They exchange their first handshake in fifteen years.
In our new enlightenment about the sins of our forefathers and foremothers, we accept our (as the children and heirs of their actions) guilt and shame. We profess the need and duty to somehow compensate the descendants of the victims, somehow find a road to reconciliation. Here in Canada this means most especially finding resolution with our indigenous peoples while not forgetting the descendants of Africans transported as slaves from their homes.
The observations we are looking for do not concern Britain’s status as a world super-power or economic prowess. From end to end of those hundred years, Britain was the acknowledged world super-power and a financial and economic powerhouse. What we are really looking for is a sea-change, a paradigm shift, in society itself – its general tenor and temperament.