Sunday, October 07, 2007

What's The Difference?

As we cruise to the finish line in the Ontario provincial election, and McGuinty seems poised for an easy majority win, I find myself thinking less and less about the minutiae of this policy or that policy, and more and more about something deeper and more fundamental.

In the time that I've been blogging and in turn reading many other people's excellent blogs, something has been nagging at me. In a nutshell, it's this: I would consider myself to be a fairly liberal and tolerant individual, and far from being a 'social conservative' in the North American sense of that phrase. However, on issue after issue, I have found myself more in agreement with the so-cons than with the liberals, and in particular I have been deeply uncomfortable with the tone of virtually all debates involving matters of morals, ethics, religion and personal freedom in which I have been involved.

These thoughts have been crystallized of late by the faith-based school funding debate. I am on record as being opposed to Mr. Tory's plan, and yet, time and again I have been drawn to its defence, or at least to the defence of those who have been mercilessly attacked by the McGuinty campaign machine around this issue.

What I think has been revealed in this election campaign is something very deep within our society and that is the level of discomfort that still exists in Ontario for anything 'different'. Supposedly, we are a multicultural society, in which all members are treated equally and fairly without discrimination on the basis of race, creed, colour, ethnicity, birthplace, sexuality, etc., etc. Such a society is, of course, utopian. Human nature being what it is, there will always be conflict between different groups, different faiths, people of different cultures, and people from nations with historic emnities. In practice, therefore, there are essentially two ways in which one can build a peaceful, multicultural society: either people are assimilated into a common group, with common values and beliefs, thus removing the sources of conflict, or people are allowed to remain true to their own identities while learning true respect for those of different backgrounds.

And here we come to the problem. I incline to the latter view. I would like to think that I can exist peacefully alongside anyone of any background and any belief system, respecting them and avoiding conflict as far as possible. And if I can, then so can most other people. This doesn't mean I compromise my values or my beliefs; on the contrary, strong values are the great strength of a society built on this model. But I am a true liberal in the sense that I respect other people's right to hold different values, practice different faiths, to be different. Rather than hide differences, we hold them out in the open where they can be discussed, debated, and dealt with.

This is the model of multiculturalism that I always thought was supposed to be the Canadian model. However, what this latest election campaign has shown me is that in fact, it's not. The multicultural model which has taken hold in this country is actually not multiculturalism at all, but simple socialism. In this model, difference is not something to be celebrated, but to be feared. We must minimize our differences, and sweep them under the rug. We must appear to be tolerant, liberal, progressive and open-minded, but all the time we must marginalize those who differ too much from our comfortable middle ground.

In this Ontario, it's OK to be different, but not too different. You can be Catholic, but not too Catholic, like actually letting your faith guide your daily decision making. You can be a rural leader, standing up for the rights of a whole class of Ontarians neglected by their government, but you can't be too obviously rural. Step over that line, defined by the ruling class, and you're mocked, spat upon, and effectively run out of town. The examples are endless.

There are two major problems with this approach. One is that the very fabric of government and society is built upon lies. Day after day, socialist politicians, of which McGuinty is but a archetypal example, stage events to show how tolerant they are; they appear with different folks of different colours, of different faiths... McGuinty hands over $1m to a cricket club, for example, as if he actually knows square leg from silly mid off. But it's all a flimsy, thin veneer. The Leader doesn't actually know anything about the people, and respects them still less. It's a carefully controlled display of difference - but not too much difference.

The real differences are minimized and buried under the surface, where they fester. Instead of being out in the open to be addressed, they are suppressed and caged, to emerge in gangland violence, terrorism, school bullying, discrimination on the job, and a million other ways every single day. Socialism cannot in the end allow differences to exist; they must be controlled in this way in order for politicians of Mr. McGuinty's ilk to build the socialist society and economy they wish to see.

I believe there are very many Ontarians, however, who are like me. Who really would like to see our differences being celebrated and not hidden. Who really are capable of treating everyone with respect and listening to alternative points of view. Who see openness and discussion not as racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other -isms or -phobias, but as the means by which those things can be reduced and even eliminated. I believe John Tory is one of the rarest of those people in that he is both a true man of such integrity and a politician.

For me, this is the saddest thing I have learned in the last two months. That the country I have chosen to make my home is not really what I thought it was. That those who should be leading the fight for equality, freedom, justice, peace and respect for all Canadians are in fact doing the opposite.

This is why I have instinctively sided with so-cons on so many issues - not because I necessarily agree with them but because they, along with everyone else, deserve to be heard and deserve equal respect. I cannot stomach a ruling elite that uses mockery, fearmongering, spin and carefully controlled TV appearances to run away from the hard debates.

With four more years of Ontario Liberal rule, we will see more and more of the socialist stripes of McGuinty. There will be less and less tolerance for difference. There will be more and more control over our daily lives and the tiny details of our existence. The socialist grip will tighten and freedom will be eroded. I only hope that one day enough eyes will be opened to what is happening that enough people, from enough different backgrounds will say 'enough is enough.' and the socialists can finally be stopped.

For now, however, I expect that Wednesday will simply be a very very sad day for Ontario and for Canada.