The typically polite, mild-mannered, and often painfully apologetic Canadians found out that peaceful protests against “good thinking” are much less politically palatable than even violent protests against “bad thinking”. Anyone who read Fahrenheit 451 or 1984, or watched Star Wars in their youth, is only too familiar with the story line, but it’s an altogether different kettle of fish to experience such historical events first-hand, even if this “first-hand” consists of reading tweets from thousands of miles away on the other side of this enormous “nation.”i
So what’s all the commotion about? Basically some truckers, farmers, and other concerned citizens tired of excessively intrusive and largely politically-motivated COVID-related mandates decided to drive across the country to install themselves in Ottawa as a thorn in the side of dim-but-pretty Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau and his bureaucratic apparatus, paralysed and embarrassed by this multi-week display of civil disobedience, seized the opportunity to double-down on their political and legal over-reach, arresting opposition leaders, trampling protestors with horses,ii “cancelling” those who donated as little as $25 to their political cause of choice, and perhaps most interestingly to long-time readers of this blog, freezing financial assets of protest supporters.
This last measure is particularly important for a country that doesn’t have much a standing army to speak of, and for which financial tools and “emergency” legal powers are therefore pretty damned attractive as a means of enacting violence without the unsightliness of explicit bloodshed. While there’s been plenty of libertarian and “freedom”-oriented opposition to such measures, particularly from our friends to the south, there’s a huge amount of support too, particularly at home,iii and from a younger audience than you might think.iv
All of which brings us neatly to a recent conversation I had with my man Jiran vis-a-vis passions, all of which feel only-too-relevant to the situation in Canada right now:
Jiran: Vent brooo. It’s great.
Pete: I did when I was your age! Lol just read old Contravex… I was like just the most arrogant fuck. Hard to find the balance! Too much…not enough… too much… not enough…
Jiran: You need to be bro. Like looking at my old trades my worst all where I listened to others It’s like subconsciously training yourself to say. Nah I’m the shit I’m right I believe in myself.
Pete: Confidence is super important obviously but doesn’t require negativity, kinda separate from it IMO. In my particular case in my late 20s/early 30s, it was trying to imitate even bigger assholes that was my problem. I was trying to force out bile that wasn’t even there because it seemed “cool”. I have my moments, as we all do, but I’m not really that angry of a guy generally. Passionate, sure, but tending more towards optimism, opportunism, and creativity. But it’s a pendulum! And she swings back and forth.
Jiran: Ohh I see haha. I wouldn’t say I’m angry just passionate.
Pete: The desert sands flowing through our veins are known to make people from our part of the world particularly passionate…
Indeed, western society – at least in its presently dilapidated form and at this point in its own swing of the pendulum – is exceedingly poor at productively channeling passions, as evidenced not only by its efforts to channel such passions towards broken software and a remarkably narrow range of decadent luxuries, but also by these recent and quite striking over-reactions from Ottawa.v
But isn’t that just what old farts do? Like, have you ever watched a 70-year-old man try to play physically with his 6-year-old grandson? It… doesn’t work. The old man’s solution is therefore to placate the young boy with sugary sweets, distracting toys, sedentary games, or other devices that allow for the levelling of playing fields where in fact a massive inequality of energy and vigour exists. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s exactly how our life-support-enabled western nation states deal with its youngest and most energetic citizens. All of which is just to say that everything and everyone – with exceedingly few exceptions – gets more authoritarian with age. That’s what age does. That’s what it means: to ossify, to fear death, to grasp life. To grasp past the point of diminishing returns. To grasp to the point of choking, suffocating the next generation. At least that’s true in the age where God is dead. So here we be, stranded; adrift as holier-than-thou “moderns,” trendishly tattooing “amor fati” and “momento mori” onto our forearms, biceps, and chests as reminders of our feeble mortality, and in doing so demonstrating just how wickedly contrarian such a position is within the larger cultural context of grasping, grasping, and more grasping.
So can it be any wonder that we seem headed towards a cultural context that’s more and more repressivevi more inclined towards censorship,vii more capital controls, and reduced freedom. It will be a tumultuous transitional period, to be sure, but what’s the alternative for large western nation states, other than to be old and graspy? Grow the pie like those “dictators” who don’t understand how the world works?viii
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- This week witnessed only the fourth time that this young country‘s government has ever invoked emergency powers: WW1, WW2, the FLQ Crisis in 1970 when Papa Trudeau (Justin’s dad) invoked emergency measures after the kidnapping of provincial Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte and British diplomat James Cross by Quebecois separatists/freedom fighters, and now in 2022 against the peaceful and frankly fairly wholesome Freedom Convoy. May you live in interesting times indeed! How fitting for our little fourth turning… ↩
- Of course the “fact checkers” were quickly out in force to deny the horse trampling but that just means that it’s literally what happened beyond any possible shadow of a doubt. ↩
- The Pravda-esque “fact checkers” will tell you that “69% of Canadians support PM Trudeau in his use of extra-judicial powers to end the Freedom Convoy” but given that only 40% of eligible voters voted in the last election at all and only about 40% of that for his Liberal Party, it’s probably safer to guess that 69% of THAT tiny minority support these latest actions, which is 11%. This might still be a very influential, savvy, and well-connected 11%, or it might just be a bunch of scared old grandmas, but the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. ↩
- To quote Eric Kaufmann:
This fear, however, doesn’t appear to lead young people to oppose cancel culture. Most millennials and members of Generation Z are not cultural liberals too scared to say what they truly believe. Instead, many privilege cultural equality over freedom. By a 48–27 margin, respondents under 30 agree that “My fear of losing my job or reputation due to something I said or posted online is a justified price to pay to protect historically disadvantaged groups.” Those over 50, by contrast, disagree by a 51–17 margin. Younger age brackets are both more fearful of cancel culture and more supportive of it than are older age groups.
Revealing, no? And you still don’t think that the western world is secretly hankering for a new hot war (preferably within the confines of “the west”), with the shared sense of purpose and community that comes with it? Sure, you go with that. ↩
- What does it look like for society to channel passionate energies effectively? I mean, it’s not like the East Mediterranean today is some paragon of virtuous civility, even if the productive output of Israel is pretty fucking miraculous. It’s a great question, arguably one that China (ie. America v1.5) is grappling with most effectively at the moment, but such questions still need the right context. And indeed, per Tyler Cowen, context is that which is scarce! ↩
- Crypto wallet service provider Nunchuk hit a grand slam here when responding to Canada’s most recent attempt at financial repression. Tip ‘o the cap!
- Social media blackhole anyone? Who could’ve predicted this shit 5.5 years ago!!!!?!?! ↩
- With the Olympics over, Russia is taking back Ukraine. All hail the new Tsar! Same as the old one. ↩