The first two words give it away, "Pity Canada."
Chris Hedges looks at Canada and sees us succumbing to the U.S. contagion only behind the mask of moderation. On reading this you may think he goes too far, is too harsh. Perhaps, but not entirely. And, yes, it is harsh in challenging us to take a fresh look at how we're governed in Canada today and what that portends for the future. We must come to grips with this.
Pity Canada. Its citizens watch the stages of U.S. decline and then, a few years later, inflict on themselves the same cruelties. It is as if the snuffing out of democracy across the globe and the rise of authoritarian regimes are a preordained Greek tragedy and all of us, in spite of our yearning for liberty, must ominously play an assigned part.
Canada is currently in the Barack Obama phase of self-immolation. Its prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is—as Obama was—a fresh face with no real political past or established beliefs, a brand. Trudeau excels, like Obama, French President Emmanuel Macron, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in empty symbolism. These “moderates” spew progressive and inclusive rhetoric while facilitating social inequality, a loss of rights and the degradation of the environment by global corporations. They are actors in skillfully crafted corporate advertisements.
“Liberal democracy is bifurcating, giving rise to two new regime forms: ‘illiberal democracy,’ or democracy without rights, and ‘undemocratic liberalism,’ or rights without democracy,” writes political theorist Yascha Mounk.
Trudeau, Macron, Turnbull, Merkel and Obama, because they appear to champion liberal ideals, discredit not only political “moderates” but also the core values of a liberal democracy. When the public rejects feckless politicians it also rejects the supposed values they represent. Fascism rises out of failed democracies where elites mouth the feel-your-pain language of liberalism while selling out the public. This was true in 1917 Russia, in Weimar Germany and in the former Yugoslavia.
Canada, like France, Australia and Germany, will never descend to the levels of nihilistic violence and mass shootings that plague the United States. There is enough of a residue of its socialist programs, such as universal health care and public education, to prevent it from becoming as cruel and heartless—although there will be efforts to steadily defund and destroy these programs. Canada, France, Australia and Germany will not crash their economies trying to maintain an empire they can no longer afford. But they are, nevertheless, steadily marching toward the new authoritarianism, toward joining the despotisms rising up in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe. The model for the future is not Liberté, égalité, fraternité—it is China’s ruthless corporate totalitarianism. Where is Tommy Douglas, the great Canadian socialist who once described the free enterprise system as giving elephants the right to dance among chickens, when you need him?
The “moderates,” like those on the far right, refuse to acknowledge reality. They speak and act as if we live in a democracy rather than a system defined by Sheldon Wolin as “inverted totalitarianism,” one where the consent of the governed is a joke, elections are legalized bribery and public policy is determined not by popular will but by corporate lobbyists. It does not matter, as illustrated by the Republican tax plan now before the U.S. Senate, what is just or what the public supports. There are no institutions left in the United States that can authentically be called democratic....
The novelist and social critic James Baldwin wrote, “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”