Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Election Day Blogburst: Sign off for Freedom

I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledege to uphold for myself and for all mankind.
-Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker, from the House of Commons, Debates (on the Canadian Bill of Rights), July 1, 1960.

Today is Election Day in Canada. To mark the occasion, some bloggers, led by Nick and Kathy, are doing a blogburst featuring the above quotation. See:

Small Dead Animals
Right Girl
Time Immortal
Ghost of a Flea
Halls of Macadamia
Chris Reid
Dust My Broom
Blazing Cat Fur
Wonder Woman
Political Staples
Uncommon Sense
Jack of Hearts
Deborah Gyapong
At Home in Hespeler
Because No One Asked
Free Canuckistan (formerly Free Mark Steyn)
Sleepy Old Bear
Big Blue Wave
The Great Pumpkin
No Libs
Cruel But Fair
The Screaming Pages
Nice Comfy Fur
Right to know Coalition of Nova Scotia
Just Right
The Daily Bayonet
Alice The Camel
Denyse O'Leary
Nova Scotia Scott
Island Breezes
The Black Kettle
Stubble Jumping Redneck
Alice the Camel
The Sheep Cat
The Nexus of Assholery
J.D. Carriere
A Dog Named Kyoto
Hello Birdy
The Phantom Observer
Blue Like You

It seems to me that the preamble to the 1960 Bill of Rights is also worth remembering these days amidst confusion as to the nature or origin of human rights:
The Parliament of Canada, affirming that the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions;

Affirming also that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law;

And being desirous of enshrining these principles and the human rights and fundamental freedoms derived from them, in a Bill of Rights which shall reflect the respect of Parliament for its constitutional authority and which shall ensure the protection of these rights and freedoms in Canada:
To fill out this post I thought I would offer some further quotations on freedom, collected in Robert M. Hamilton and Dorothy Shields, eds. The Dictionary of Canadian Quotations and Phrases (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1979):
We will enjoy here that which is the great test of constitutional freedom - we will have the rights of the minority respected
- Sir John A. Macdonald, Confederation Debates, Feb. 6, 1865
I believe you realize the value in the interests of true liberty of a free utterance before his fellow countrymen, of the distinctive opinions held by a public man.
- Edward Blake, speech at Aurora, Ont., Oct. 3, 1874
It is to our own convictions, right or wrong, that we must after all be true. To put forward opinions we do not hold, or ignore difficulties we cannot solve, or deny or conceal the tendencies and results of policies we undertake to propound, would be dishonest and unworthy.
- Edward Blake, to the Members of the West Durham Reform Convention, Feb. 9, 1891
Parliament itself could not abrogate this right of discussion and debate.
- Justice Douglas Abbott, Dominion Law Reports (2d), 1957, Vol. 7, 371.
Free institutions will not make free natures, and small is the number of those who are by nature free. Most of us crave for a sheepfold and a shibboleth.
- Goldwin Smith, The Bystander, N.S., Jan., 1890
Who wooed the west to win the east,/ And named the stars of North and South,/ And felt the zest of Freedom's feast/ Familiar in his mouth
- Charles G.D. Roberts, "Epitaph for a sailor buried ashore", 1893
Freedom breeds loyalty. Coercion always was the mother of rebellion
- Sir Wilfid Laurier; attributed
It is our proud boast that Canada is the freest country in the world. It is our boast that in this country liberty of all kinds, civil and religious liberty, flourish to the highest degree
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier, addess at Tercentenary Celebration, Quebec, 1908
Praise for faith in freedom/ Our fighting fathers' stay,/ Born of dreams and daring,/ Bred above dismay
- Bliss Carman, "In the day of battle", 1916
Since you who walked in freedom/ And the ways of reason fought on our front,/ We foresee the plot is solvable, the duel worthy.
- Earle Birney, "For Steve", 1945
To be indifferent to one's own fate and to be absorbed in another's, to forget the shrinking of the body of flesh and nerves as completely as if that body were already in the grave and as if the ghost that had driven and been driven by it were already free of it - this was to know freedom
- Philip Child, Day of Wrath, 1945
Freedom has nothing to do with lack of training; it can only be the product of training. You're not free to move unless you've learned to walk, and not free to play the piano unless you practice. Nobody is capable of free speech unless he knows how to use language, and such a knowledge is not a gift: it has to be learned and worked at.
- Northrop Frye, The educated imagination (1962)
Only the tiniest fraction of mankind wants freedom. All the rest want someone to tell them they are free.
- Irving Layton, "Some observations and aphorisms", Tamarack rev., (1968)
Freedom and justice do not depend on the goodness of the people up top, but on the courage of the people down below.
- Richard J. Needham, A friend in Needham (1969)
Men are entitled to as much freedom as they can get - no more and no less.
- Irving Layton, "Aphs", The whole bloody bird, 1969
Vote for those who promise reasonably to help institutionalize a greater degree of freedom for our nation...

Or who will help set the scene for a greater degree of human self-understanding in our nation...

That we citizens may better recognize the shared necessity and responsibility from which our performance of new freedoms will emerge...
- Covenant Zone, Oct. 14, 2008


Steve said...

Thanks for listing me. I hope to post an autographed copy of Diefenbaker's Canadian Bill of Rights and the accompanying quote once I figure out how to fit it on the scanner.

Dag said...

I fear that we have made a terrible mistake in not being aggressively active. Now we'll have to pay for that mistake. Perhaps we can learn from it and repair some of the coming damage.

This is no longer the time to sit around being Canadians. It's time to start acting like men and women who truly work toward personal and political freedom. Our efforts to date have lead to this. It's not success. We must act for the hope of victory.

Anonymous said...

Dag: I wonder if sometimes it's better to simply watch things collapse from the inside out, and pick up the pieces afterward.

truepeers said...

You guys are too morose. Significant cultural shifts don't and can't happen overnight. We can't change quickly from the postmodern victimary mulitulturalist world view that has been on the ascendant since WWII. But if you know we're right, if you know a free society cannot continue down a road towards greater reliance on irrational worship of victims, down a road towards less freedom and more primitive understandings of the sacred, and still function with a healthy economy, science, etc., then you know that sooner or later reality will exact its punishments and more and more people will bury faith in the magic that once creeped into minds in hopes that Gnostic magic could mediate the perennial existential problems of a humanity beset by conflict, uncertainty as to the meaning and purpose of life, and an ever less than perfect world.

The last stand of the old Western left for Utopia is now playing out through victim worship. People today put their hopes in even the vaguest Utopian gestures - salvation through redemption of all the victims - instead of welcoming a society simply open to its conflicts and uncertainties; they do this because so much of our cultural past, for millennia, has prepared people to accept Utopian and/or apocalyptic thinking unquestioningly. But at the end of the day people also want to live in reasonably open and successful societies. Since the two kinds of desire are not very compatible, things will change. It's just a matter of time and just because our lives are short we cannot get too impatient, and hence depressed, because our national history is working out on an altogether different time scale. It may be that the greatest virtues are patience and perseverance, along with courage. Just keep living as freely as you can and when necessary know when to engage intelligently in civil disobedience to maintain that freedom. Our tyrants are cowards too.

Dag said...

History isn't the dead pages of what happened, some old dusty stories of men and times long ago or even of yesterday. History is what we do right now, our making the future.

History is Will.

Patrick Ross said...

I don't believe political freedom is currently at risk in this country, nor do I believe it's likely to be soon.

But inaction and complacency are nails in the coffin of any democracy. To pretend that our freedoms are by any means assured would be the height of folly.

truepeers said...

Yes I think that's right Patrick. I'm not arguing for complacency but only for a realistic faith that will sustain itself through inevitable short term disappointments, like tonight.

History is will?

Well, that's what Lenin and Hitler thought - so it's true up to a point: bad guys do make a lot of history, but look where it got their countries.

It seems to me we don't want to make it all about our will, as in hoping for some revolutionary elite who can make everything right. If will is going to be a useful concept it has to be related to some large cultural understanding that we share with others, more than a few people who know what lines need to be defended and renewed in the name of freedom.

Real progress happens not because some guy thinks it would be a good idea but because the need for it is evident across a wide range of people in society, though it need not be a majority if people in responsible positions sign on. This will happen because people will see the old ways are eroding fast, things are falling apart, too many people are believing in fantasies, conflicts don't get well deferred or transcended but just end up in the same old stalemates again and again. Or worse, people find they've been immersed in a deadly regime and millions are dropping like flies. But hopefully we don't have to fall that low.

In this kind of situation new signs, anticipating, representing, new and greater forms of exchange that enough people will sign on to will at some point have to emerge. And yes, someone has to go first in trying something new out, in offering an idea, a sign. But it is my understanding of history that if that guy is fond of understanding what has to happen in terms of his "will" and not, say, his "love" for our civilization he is more likely to be a Hitler than a Lincoln.

I think we can't get too frustrated by the fact is evident in history that people don't change much when things are more or less alright: they only change when they really have to, usually because of the competition coming from a more free system, but sometimes because their own system has simply imploded from internal rivalries that were never creatively addressed. We can't get too frantic about avoiding all the evil we rightly see coming down the road; we have to accept a tragic sensibility, to a degree: we are going to have to wait until we can show enough other, responsible, people that evil, in a convincing manner.

After all Dag, you and I are not people with any significant economic or political capital to spend.

Dag said...

Patrick, I understand that many people don't see a waning of personal politicl liberty in Canada, life going on for most people no differently from its normal course over the years and decades; but consider, if you will, the rampages behind the headlines carried out by the Human Rights Commissions, as but a small example, to see the real demolition of freedom here.

I don't know the techniques for making links here, but please look through the archives for Human Rights Commissions and Human Rights Tribunals, Mark Steyn and Macleans Magazine. It makes for disturbing reading. It is the show of dictatorship, Canadian style, of course.

Eowyn said...

Truepeers, yet another one hit out of the park.

Of course, I'm in on the blogburst (assuming all I have to do is repost Mr. Diefenbaker's inspirational words?).

The quote I loved best, that you shared, was this -- after my own Ockham's Razor, cut-to-the-chase heart:

- Richard J. Needham, A friend in Needham (1969)

"Men are entitled to as much freedom as they can get - no more and no less."

Freedom isn't owed. It's earned.

Believe me, all of Canada will be in my thoughts tomorrow. I do believe that a sleeping giant is awakening -- he may still be in that twilight zone between dream and real, but Canada is ~getting it.~ Long, hard road still ahead. But somehow, I'm absolutely certain that newfound pair of well, fortitude, Canadians are discovering will serve you well ;)

truepeers said...

Thanks Eowyn,

That quote you like is from Irving Layton; i should have formatted the text better to remove that ambiguity. Layton was one of Canada's greatest poets.

Dag said...

Yes, we can see Hitler and Lenin as examples of world-historical figures; but as easily we can see Napoleon and Zapata. To be fair, we could also look at Martin Luther and John Wesley, making your further point; and we could look at JFK and MLK in the same light.

World-historical figures needn't be gnostic maniac: they can be the people. That's what Leftists hate: the populist movements they cannot control. They hate Sarah Palin and they hate the average man on the street-- she and they aren't "smart enough." We needn't find a Huey Long to lead us. The people will come to the fore from meetings at libraries. That's where the power of the people is to be found. Those are the people who will change the world for the better. Not elitists. Just folks.