Campaign Against Political Corruption in Canada

Tomorrow, Sunday 11. March, marks the beginning of a nation-wide rally and campaign against political corruption in Canada. It seems strange that this is even happening here. But in fact it’s happening everywhere, and raises some disturbing questions about the future of democracy in the post-modern era.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with this controversy, I’ll go over briefly what we know so far.

Massive irregularities in last May’s 41st general election in Canada — now generally referred to as “the robocall scandal” — have raised questions about its legitimacy, and whether the ruling party of present Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were legitimately, however narrowly, elected with their coveted majority after years of being constrained in the exercise of power with a minority government. Having won a majority government with a bare 39.6% of votes in the 41st general election is itself controversial, and afterwards spawned a number of organisations now devoted to reforming the present inadequate system of governance selection, such as Fair Vote Canada. During the election, someone or (more likely) some secretive group either within the Conservative Party or affiliated with the Conservative Party engaged in an organised and systematic vote suppression campaign in upwards of 70 ridings. The tactic involved illegally impersonating Elections Canada officials misdirecting largely opposition supporters to false voting stations, interfering in the exercise of fundamental political rights, or rudely impersonating opposition candidates over the phone in order to harass, alienate, and estrange voters identified as likely supporters of the parliamentary political opposition. More recently, questions have arisen about the identity of thousands of voters illegally registered to vote on election day in some closely contested ridings.

I’ve been following the national outrage and ensuing debate pretty closely on social media and in the press. Some of the commentary is deplorable and highlights the baleful state of ignorance about constitutionalism, political rights, and how a parliamentary democracy actually functions. Some of it is, on the other hand, quite good and well-reasoned. Unfortunately, much of it resembles factional street-brawling using other means, which does not bode well for the future health and vitality of the democracy, and whether this isn’t also an expected symptom of the general decadence of the age.

It’s certainly not what Mr. Fukuyama’s triumphalist thesis about “the end of history” anticipated. But, then, we’ve covered the more ironic and ambiguous characteristics of this “end of history” in other posts and other blogs. Mr. Fukuyama wanted to highlight the definitive historical triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism after the fall of the USSR in 1989, leading to the ideological conceit of a “unipolar” world as the terminus of the political dialectic of Capital and Labour. Instead, it looks more like the collapse of dialectical “universal” reason and, necessarily in consequence, of liberal democracy itself. Such a “unipolarity”, being an revealing illogicism and contradiction-in-terms in any case, could be nothing else but a form of suffocating autarchy, despotism, or outright totalitarianism — the realised theme of a great number of bleak dystopian science fiction novels and films, as well as now evidently prescient warnings from a number of social observers: Jacques Barzun, Jean Gebser, Morris Berman, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Jane Jacobs, Bertram Gross, Arthur Selwyn Miller (who wrote on “Democratic Dictatorship”), just to name a few.

The late Dark Age Blog (which many of you will recall) also anticipated much of this, having been started as a re-interpretation and re-evaluation of Fukuyama’s deficient thesis on the end of history, teasing out the covert “Mr. Hyde” contradiction in its own paradoxical ambiguity and logic that was all too evident, also and alas, in the insurgent political ideologies of the troika of neo-conservatism, neo-liberalism, and neo-socialism — all “post-modern” political configurations despite their posturings. In effect, “post-modern” in this context is really a reactionary reversion to anti-modernity, rather than a transcendentalism or as an attempted outrunning of the collapse of the Modern Era and the breakdown of the mental-rational structure of consciousness which defined it, and which breakdown alone was the true, if mystified, significance of the “end of history”.

Perhaps it was too much to expect that my own country might escape the ravages of epochal degeneracy, decay, and corruption — the “two centuries of nihilism” that Nietzsche once foresaw as a general and terrible fate for the Earth. It’s what I called “The Big Ugly” in The Dark Age Blog, tracing the outlines of those manifestations of the demonic that heralded the onset of nihilism and mapping how and in what sense “all higher values devalue themselves”, being ground into dust between the millstones of lipservice and hypocrisy; or, duplicity. I named, then, our own Four Riders of the Apocalypse (and nihilism) by their current names as Double-Talk, Double-Think, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind. “By their fruits ye shall know them”, and we know their fruits as the general loss of integrity of the Era, and not just of the individual man or woman who it is the misfortune to serve merely as symptom, omen, sign, and agency — perhaps as cynic or as narcissist.

Where cynicism meets apathy” was a blog by The Star’s senior political commenter, Susan Delacourt. Reading it and weighing her comments on our situation convinced me that we need to move beyond a conception of democracy as mass-based politics without sacrificing hard-won political rights and constitutionalism. After all, even Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels’ could insist that fascism was “ideal democracy”, too — an anti-liberal democracy.

Mr. Harper’s earlier attempt to rebrand the Government of Canada as “the Harper Government” on official correspondence was a egregious affront to constitutionalism and the rule of law, descending into a “strong man”, extra-legal — even narcissistic — cult of personality politics that was alarming for being not much different from Putin’s Russia. He suffered no penalty for this demonstration of hybris except to receive a tongue-lashing from some constitutional experts. Cynicism meets apathy, indeed, and that is nihilism all around.

“Creative destruction” and “noble lie” conservatism, the foundational “principles” of neo-conservatism, does not belong to the conservatism of your ancestors, although many have been duped about this (part of the “noble lie” itself). Hypocrisy may have been the inevitable fateful disease for a conservatism that failed to account for time and change as history, but duplicity and obscurantism was never made the “ethic” of conservatism itself. That came about for those who eschewed Edmund Burke as conservative authority for the upstart Leo Strauss apparently (marking the caesura between “paleo-conservative” and “neo-conservative”).

For many people, “corruption” has meanings of graft or extortion, something involving money. But it really means to “rupture” — to break faith — and that means “perfidy”, meaning to speak and act in bad faith. This is now even given honourable and acceptable status as the “noble lie”. “Creative destruction” has no other meaning than permanent revolution, and “noble lie” nothing but lipservice. Combine these two principles into a “conservative” and you have only a cesspool of reactionary nihilism, a fully compromised conservatism which is nothing other than how Hermann Rauschning, decades ago, described fascism — “the revolution of nihilism”.

There is no doubt that “New Right” conservatism flirts with the same hard “tough-guy” edges of neo-fascism and, in some telling instances, consciously crosses the frontier into full blown fascism, as in controversial neo-con American Enterprize Institute scholar Michael Ledeen’s praise of “Universal Fascism” or in Robert D. Kaplan’s reactionary Warrior Politics, following his conclusion that “democracy was just a moment” (and apparently good riddance to it). It follows the Straussian mood and line. Fascism is also a mass-based politics that emerged from widespread resentment and antipathy towards the dysfunctional liberal democracy of the German Weimar Republic. Late Modern history definitively demonstrates that mass democracy is extremely, and perhaps fatefully, vulnerable to corruption and self-negation.

That’s what Nietzsche was trying to convey when he noted that the triumph of liberal democratic insititutions would be simultaneously their negation, and that it would terminate in the “herd animalisation” of mass society and mass politics. Until lately I had my doubts about that. I had my doubts about his corrective for that, too, through his “aristocratic radicalism”. I have my doubts about that, too, as corrective to herd animalisation, or what Jean Gebser warned also as a degeneracy into “the inhuman” of mass sheep-and-shepherd politics.

All I suspect, presently, is that we need to move beyond mass politics, and that only a transformation of consciousness and a new “enlightenment” illuminating the darkness of our time, may ultimately provide us with clear answers to these troubling questions.

But then again, the rise of the “new superpower” — global civil society — that shattered the uncivil and impolitic barbarism of the “unipolar” moment called “end of history” may yet prove stronger and more resilient than the surrounding gloom of nihilism.

Nihil ex nihilo; mundus creavit ex nihilo might be the happy sign that the living Earth and its creatures might still have a happy and exalted future.

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One response to “Campaign Against Political Corruption in Canada”

  1. Scott says :

    Elizam Escobar’s piece on nihilism as it is addressed in Marx and Nietzsche might require more familiarity with Marx and Nietzsche than I initially presumed. Still an interesting piece, though, for those interested in trying to trace contemporary nihilism.

    The piece I linked to above (on anti-liberalism) from the website “rationalrevolution” has some quirkiness, but otherwise presents some of the more salient issues on the rise of fascism in the 20th c. that more scholarly works often overlook or ignore. Of particular interest to me in citing that piece is how Canada’s present Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has been compared to Mussolini in his sentiments and style, and which has also resulted in the dismissal (understandable, in my view) of Mr. Harper as “the devil incarnate” or “Dr. Evil”. That simply arises from the sense that many people have that Mr. Harper is a shameless prevaricator. As the record shows, however, it is substantially true. Mr. Harper, despite his great public displays of moral erectitude and pious self-righteousness, is ethically challenged in many ways, and especially in truth-telling. It is not so much his policies that offend, but his duplicitous conduct that inspires comparisons between himself and the split-tongued snake in the Garden of Eden.

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