We will hear about Stephen Harper until the end of time
To our delight or dismay, we’ve been seeing and hearing about former Prime Minister Stephen Harper an awful lot lately. He has been making the rounds to promote his timely book on the rising tide of populism in our midst.
During his travels, Harper sat down with the noteworthy American conservative pundit, Ben Shapiro. The exchange between the experienced politician and the prominent thinker was insightful, covering such topics like the difference between Canadian and American conservatism, the ethics of trade wars, the merits of populism, and the reasons for the Left’s backward views on foreign affairs.
Viewers certainly came out of the one-hour long conversation more enlightened.
Harper’s lingering impact on politics
What can also be taken away from this is Harper’s lingering impact on international politics—an area in which he left an endearing legacy. Between his stance against the Iranian regime and Putin’s actions in Ukraine, along with his unwavering support for Israel in a time when such an allegiance isn’t so fashionable, it’d be hard for his most fervid opponents to argue that he wasn’t tenaciously effective for Canada on the world stage.
It ‘s also a sign of the nostalgia some feel for the time when he led the Conservatives.
As J.J. Mccullough writes in the Washington Post, there is a “crisis in Canadian conservatism” where “Harperite Conservatives still have an active interest in promoting a controlled narrative of Canada” that despite Trudeau’s follies, positive outcomes of Harper’s policies are still evident. Thereby maintaining the favorability of the Conservatives going into the 2019 election.
In a sense, he has been turned into an icon and a rallying device for the Conservative movement.
He’s a frequent target of the Trudeau Liberals
Contrarily, his name is frequently brought up by the Liberals to stifle any criticism of their conduct in office.
When it comes to all the blunders, all the mishaps, the misguided initiatives, the origins of Trudeau’s flawed enterprise lie at the feet of one man whose initials are SH.
Strange as this is since he hasn’t held the reins of power in over three years, Harper’s name is weaponized almost every time the Conservatives show their temerity to second-guess the wisdom of the Trudeau government on whatever the problem of the day might be.
The latest display of this sort of deflection was on Tuesday during Question Period when the discussion turned to energy projects.
Trudeau blames Harper for his own failures
Andrew Scheer asked the Prime Minister if he would “throw a lifeline” to the Northern Gateway Project to help with the ongoing situation in Alberta. Trudeau ostentatiously rebutted with charges that Harper’s government is the one responsible for “the oil patch hurting” by failing to sustain access to markets.
But this doesn’t hold up to scrutiny since there is a tangible connection between the plight of Albertans and a contentious decision by the Federal Court of Appeals that earnestly criticized the way in which the Trudeau government had consulted with indigenous groups, delaying pipeline construction in the process.
Nevertheless, Liberal ministers deliver frivolous monologues that denigrate Harper and his band of malefactors to divert from questions with which honest engagement could inflict major political harm.
For instance, when catechized by Conservative Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre about the cost of the carbon tax, Liberal MP Catherine McKenna chastised him and subjected Parliament to a homily about the “costs of pollution,” denouncing the Harper government as one who had “no plan on climate change.”
The validity of the claim aside, the actual cost of the tax—which Poilievre had been seeking—was still difficult to identify after about the sixth time McKenna reiterated the point.
When Scheer took him to task for his affrighting proposition to allow ISIS fighters to return home, Trudeau erupted a paroxysm of condemnations stating that Conservatives hadn’t learned from Harper’s campaign of “snitch lines against Muslims” and “Islamophobia.”
Substantive explanations of Trudeau’s practices, however, are still nonexistent. But yes, the culture that was supposedly cultivated by his predecessor is to blame for the wariness of Islam and the trepidation about the return of people who were members of an organization from which some of the most brutal radicalism has emanated.
He is likely to come up during the elections
As 2019 approaches, the different ways Harper should have a looming presence will be interesting. Scheer’s campaign will surely be his best possible rendition of one Harper would have run, albeit lacking the same discipline that made Harper successful for so many years.
On the other hand, it will be hard not to watch with the expectation that Trudeau will use Harper as an antagonistic character, loosely dropping his name in a debate to avoid responsibility for his own policies. It may help him stumble his way through Question Period, but it will showcase a brazen lack of character on that debate stage, and Canadians shall respond accordingly.
What is it that made Western civilization great?
It’s symptomatic of the neurosis currently afflicting the Western mind that we even have to ask ourselves this question. It’s become increasingly difficult for some to discern where our civilization came from or know why— or if— it’s deserving of praise.
For this, those who’ve defiled liberal education should receive a good portion of the blame. Since academia has turned into a haven for the radical Left, the history of Western civilization has been reduced to a tale of oppression and racism. Students are often only taught the reasons why they should despise their civilization instead of how they can understand what it means, why it emerged, and why it’s successful. And most importantly, why it should be preserved. There is a gratuitous effort by radicals to delegitimize the Western canon to destroy and replace it with a social justice template. Sadly, they have somewhat achieved their goals as the anti-Western, social justice bacillus spreads like wildfire.
Fortunately, there have been numerous books published within the last few years aiming to rediscover the West during a time of what Douglas Murray calls “tiredness.” Some of the works are sanguine; some are lamentations. Niall Ferguson’s Civilization examined the great divergence between the West and the East, explaining the West’s greatness by exploring its adoption of six unique “killer apps.” Jonah Goldberg’s The Suicide of the West attributes the greatness of the West to the “Miracle” of liberal democratic capitalism. In The Strange Death of Europe, Murray argues that Europe is “committing suicide” as a result of mass immigration happening at the same time Europe is tyrannizing itself with guilt. What these works all have in common is that they seek to show what made the West great, and why we need to revisit our roots.
Ben Shapiro’s The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great is a worthy contribution to this body of literature. Shapiro discusses the reasons why in a time of unprecedented freedom, opportunity, and prosperity, depression has skyrocketed, and vicious acrimony is poisoning our social interactions. We’ve reverted to intense tribalism that is tearing us asunder. Data indicates that modernity is succeeding more than ever, so why are we so angry? And why are people losing faith in liberal democracy, and the values of free speech, shared morality, and economic freedom?
Shapiro diagnoses this distress as a crisis of meaning. He observes that our civilization is collapsing “into an old-age tribalism, individualistic hedonism, and moral subjectivism.” He argues that “Western civilization, including our modern notions of values and reasons and science, was built on deep foundations.” Moreover, “we’re tossing away what’s best about our civilization” because we’ve forgotten about these foundations.
To help us rediscover our inheritance, Shapiro delivers a brilliantly concise intellectual history of the West, packing almost 3000 years into 256 pages. He frames the narrative around four elements he believes are crucial for a healthy civilization: individual moral purpose, individual capacity to pursue that purpose, communal moral purpose, and communal capacity to pursue that purpose.
He reminds us that what allows these elements to prevail alongside each other is the marriage between Jerusalem (Divine meaning or Judeo-Christian values) and Athens (Greek thought and reason), of which Western civilization is the offspring. Such a fusion allowed our forebears to develop our systems of government and maintain order within them by applying established notions of natural law.
To set up his analysis of the crisis before us, Shapiro spends three chapters documenting the emergence of Judeo-Christian values, Greek thought, and how they finally converged to lay the foundation for the Western-style of governance.
Shapiro describes how the Bible promotes the idea of individual capacity and purpose as it states that we are all humans created as “free agents with the capacity” to choose between right and wrong. Thinkers in Athens such as Plato and Aristotle put forth the idea that we could “discover our purpose in life” by using our reason to study the world around us and understand the nature of being. The convergence between these two prompted the creation of a system of government that emphasized checks-and-balances. Solidifying this was John Locke’s conception of individual rights derived from natural law and the understanding that the primary function of the state was to protect these rights.
Of course, this all inspired the Founding Fathers and the resultant American Constitution. According to Shapiro, the founding philosophy is the perfect synthesis of the four elements. It emphasizes individual purpose and capacity that’s provided by Judeo-Christian values and the freedom of the individual to reason. While communal purpose is the duty to “spread liberty to all.” And the idea of communal capacity focuses on social institutions like the family that help citizens in their pursuits of virtue.
For civilization to thrive, we must strike a balance between Jerusalem and Athens. One of the essential lessons in Shapiro’s book is that if revelation overpowers reason, the outcome is a theocracy. While if society is totally defined by its allegiance to science and reason, it may be “freed from moral responsibility.” One must be tempered with the other, to keep it in check.
Evidence for this necessity is found when you compare streams of Enlightenment thought and their outcomes. I’m as fervid a defender of the Enlightenment as the next person, but it wasn’t infallible. There’s a reason why the American Enlightenment triumphed, and the French Enlightenment descended into a tyrannical catastrophe and bloodshed. The Americans still appreciated the wisdom of the ancients and believed in human nature, while the French Enlightenment thinkers rebuked them and attempted to create a new morality guided by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea of the “general will.” Such a morality was to be defined by the state. Rights were also to be defined by the state. In essence, the goal was the perfected Man and society. Reinforcing this endeavour was a new secular religion —the Cult of Reason— that fostered a new type of virtue that favoured the collective over the individual. The efforts to make these visions a reality resulted in the deaths of 40,000 people.
The continued repudiation of Jerusalem, Athens, and the Lockean conception of individual rights gave rise to new philosophies like romantic nationalism and collective redistributionism that dictated that individuals were “only valuable as members of the collective.” In turn, this resulted in six million Jews dead at the hands of Hitler’s Nazis and about 100 million dead at the hands of Marxists who attempted a nefarious experiment to bring “heaven on earth.” Naturally, this is a consequence of what political philosopher Frank Meyer called “ the Utopian temptation,” which flourishes when Man “degrades transcendence by trying to set up as perfect what is by nature of reality imperfect.”
As a nonbeliever, some of what Shapiro writes would have irritated me a few years ago, but since politics has become a pseudo-religion, I’ve come to agree with him. “Politics is about working to build the framework for the pursuit of happiness, not the achievement of it,” Shapiro writes. In the absence of moral purpose or individual self-worth, many of our fellow citizens think otherwise. The pursuit of happiness has been replaced by a pursuit of superficial causes. It’s no wonder that perilous ideologies like Marxism are fashionable again.
The popularity of intersectionality and postmodernism encapsulates what Shapiro calls the “Return to Paganism.” He defines this as “ a belief in subjectivity over objectivity” and “ a belief that reason itself is merely a reflection of power dynamics.” Thus, explaining the reversion to tribalism and racial solidarity amongst those who preach the victimhood gospel on the radical Left, and those in the Alt-Right who see the world similarly but in reverse. The former believe that Western civilization has only offered the world white supremacy; the latter affirms this and celebrates it since it believes that the West’s greatness lies in the white race instead of ideas. Both are distorted interpretations, and both share the same goal: Destruction of the existing social order.
All of this should cause disquiet, and we must confront it. However, this relies on the reunification of what Shapiro calls “the new scientific Athenians”—a group that includes people like Sam Harris — and “devotees of Jerusalem” who are preoccupied with quarrels over the tension between religion and reason.
As the book demonstrates, we are the legatees of a great tradition, and we must preserve it for future generations. Echoing Edmund Burke’s aphorism that civilization is a pact between the dead, the living, and the unborn, Shapiro closes on a hopeful note: “ I think the history of Western civilization shows that our parents live on in us— that when we accept our past, when we learn the lessons they teach us, when we recognize their wisdom even as we develop our own, we become a link in the chain of history.”
Overall, Shapiro has an optimistic outlook on a future that often looks bleak as duelling radicalisms threaten to dismantle what makes the United States— the truest amalgamation of Jerusalem and Athens— exceptional.
For if the vestiges of the Founding continue to wither as America succumbs to its amnesia, our contiguous cousin will cease to be that “shining city on a hill” for the rest of us and any hope for the West’s survival may be lost.
The annual March For Life took place in Washington yesterday, bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the nation’s capital to gather in protest against the legality of abortion in the United States.
While the event has been going on for 46 years now, this year’s march was given increased mainstream coverage due to the appearance of popular conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.
Shapiro kicked off the day’s events by doing a live, pro-life themed version of his immensely popular daily podcast (15 million downloads per month) in which he examined what he believes to be the top ten most common pro-choice arguments.
For those who missed it or prefer to consume their news in a written format, allow me to briefly summarize the arguments Shapiro made against each of these pro-choice positions.
Number 1: It’s not a human being
Shapiro launched his argument against this position by referring to a tweet from Romper editor Danielle Campoamor claiming that pre-born children are simply “fetal tissue.”
Shapiro countered this point by saying that it was “anti-scientific” and that by using that standard, “human flesh is not a person.”
He proceeded to go through the science of the pro-life position showing images of the human fetus at the various stages of the pregnancy and pointing out that if we found a a fertilized egg “on another planet, it would be considered a life.”
He continued on saying “The question as to whether this is a baby is an irrelevant one because the bottom line is that this will become a full grown human being if left unimpeded in the natural course of things.”
Summary argument: Whether or not you call it a baby at the early stages of development does not matter. Science shows us that this is a unique, human life that, already in the first trimester, has begun to develop its own heart, brain, and circulatory system.
Number 2: It’s not a viable life
Shapiro countered this point by showing that the viability argument can be extended well past the point of birth, as babies and toddlers, left to their own devices, would not be able to survive for very long.
He also pointed out that this line of reasoning would see elderly folks in need of assisted living care as not viable, thus making their lives dispensable as well.
He went on to quote Princeton ethics professor Peter Singer who, though pro-choice himself, acknowledged the inevitable conclusion of this argument is that infanticide should be legal because infants do not meet the viability standards of self consciousness, autonomy or rationality.
Summary argument: Saying the fetus is not a life because it is not viable outside of the womb is a immoral argument that leads to the infanticide and forced euthanasia.
Number 3: Abortion is the responsible choice
Shapiro slammed this argument as saying “There is nothing moral about the idea that you think you’re going to be a bad parent so you get to kill the child. It’s an insane argument.”
He also pointed out that this argument also holds true after birth. Using the example of a four year old child, Shapiro said said this same logic of not being a capable parent would allow you to go drown you child in a river.
Summary argument: “Your failures as a parent do not allow you to kill another human being.”
Number 4: Abortion makes life better for women
Shapiro kicked off this segment by reading parts of a Guardian article entitled “An abortion at the age of 23 gave me freedom.” Shapiro strongly criticized this piece saying it was a “dismissive view” that devalued motherhood.
While proclaiming his support for working women, citing the examples of his mother and wife (she’s a doctor), Shapiro criticized society’s devaluing of motherhood saying that “We have suggested that freedom itself is tied into work and not into mothering. That is just not true, that is just a lie.”
Summary argument: “If your freedom comes at the expense of another human being than it’s not your freedom that is the top priority.”
Number 5: Abortion is necessary in all cases because of rape and incest
Shapiro called this a “red herring” used by the pro-choice movement “on a regular basis” to justify abortion in all circumstances. Shapiro accused pro-abortion advocates of “using an exception to destroy the rule.”
Shapiro then went on to quotes statistics from PolitiFact showing that an average of 7,000 pregnancies result from rape and incest in the U.S. every year. Comparing this to the roughly one million abortions that take place every year, Shapiro said this argument was not “in good faith.”
Addressing the specific morality of rape and incest, Shapiro condemned those who commit such heinous acts saying they “should be castrated or killed.”
As far as the baby is concerned, he said “one evil crime against one human being doesn’t not necessitate the morality of committing a crime against another human being.”
Summary argument: “We can all be sympathetic and still realize that it is an illogical argument that the baby should pay the price for the crime of the father.”
Number 6A: My body, my choice
Shapiro’s problem with this argument is the simple fact that it is not just the women’s body being talked about here.
He isn’t interested in the woman’s esophagus, kidneys or circulatory system but rather in protecting “the living human being” that is inside the woman.
Summary argument: This is a nonsensical slogan because it does not take into consideration the “living human being” inside the woman’s body.
Number 6B: The violinist problem
Shapiro addressed the libertarian position here by tackling the famous Judith Jarvis Thomson violinist in a coma argument.
Essentially, you wake from a coma and find that a famous violinist’s circulatory system is plugged into yours, keeping him alive. If you unplug and walk away, he will die but, if you stay in bed for nine months, he will wake up and you will both live.
Thomson argues that the violinist doesn’t have a right to your body so therefore you are morally right in unplugging.
Shapiro’s first point against this argument is that if the violinist, like a pre-born child, will turn into a “fully-fledged human being” after nine months, that’s “a dicey proposition.”
Secondly, he points out that, unless you were a victim of rape or incest, you had a choice to engage in consensual sex and create that baby. In the violinist example, no such choice was granted.
Shapiro’s third point against this argument is the equation of the violent act of abortion and the pulling of a plug is a false one.
Even if you did not consent to becoming pregnant, the act of aborting a child would be equivalent to having to chop the violinist “in the face with an axe” in order to disconnect yourself.
Finally, Shapiro concluded with the point that regardless of your consent in the matter, that child is still your child, whereas the violinist bears no relationship to you.
Summary argument: Abortion is a “violent act” done to a child who belongs to the mother and is not comparable to simply pulling the plug on a unrelated violinist.
Number 7: The safety of the mother
Shapiro called this argument that abortion is needed to protect the health of the mother “simply untrue” saying there is “no science to back this whatsoever.” Addressing the point that abortion is safer that pregnancy, Shapiro said this is true of many things in life.
Using the example of never leaving one’s home, Shapiro pointed out that we would never let women commit the crime of identity theft in order that they could steal someone’s credit card and never have to leave their home.
However, Shapiro still admitted that “virtually everyone in the pro-life movement” supports the option of abortion if the mother’s life is truly in danger. The key distinction for Shapiro was the “health of the mother” versus the “life of the mother.”
Summary argument: “Once we’re in the business of letting some people’s right to health overcome other people’s right to life, we’re in seriously dangerous territory.”
Number 8: The slippery slope of control
This crux of this argument is that if women are not allowed to abort their children, men will start to use them as surrogates by force, a la The Handmaids Tale.
Shapiro pointed out that if proponents of this line of argumentation were seriously concerned about this as a real possibility, they should be busy locking up anyone who disagrees with them politically because they are all “incipient threats” to their honour.
Additionally, Shapiro pointed out that while surrogacy can be of benefit for “rich Hollywood Leftists”, it is not a practice widely used across the country.
Summary argument: “The idea that this is a widespread problem is just not true.” This is an irrational and baseless fear.
Number 9: The overpopulation problem
Shapiro called the problem of overpopulation “simply not true” saying that with “additional people comes additional creativity and resources.”
Citing the example of the overpopulation wager between economist Julian Simon and environmentalist Paul Ehrlich back in the 1980’s, Shapiro pointed out that despite the increase in population (and subsequently demand), commodity prices have actually decreased thanks to increased creativity and production drawn from a larger population base.
Shapiro also pointed out that even if the need for a population decrease were real, it would make more sense to kill of those who currently contribute less rather than the unproven next generation.
Summary argument: Overpopulation is not a problem and even if it was, why kill off the youngest instead of those who have already shown to be a drain on resources.
Number 10: Abortion lowers the crime rate
Shapiro directly confronted the logic of this position saying “I’m not sure who’s comfortable with the pre-crime version of humanity where we get to decide before you are born whether you’re going to be a criminal and abort you based upon criminal activity in which you have not participated.”
Using the example of “baby Hitler”, Shapiro made the case that “no pro-life person on earth would kill baby Hitler.” Rather, the pro life solution would be to remove the baby from the home and place him in a home where he would not grow up to become “baby Hitler.”
Summary argument: Killing babies for crimes which they have not committed is immoral and wrong. This goes directly against the principle of innocent until proven guilty.
After outlining his counter arguments to ten of the most common pro-choice arguments, Shapiro concluded that underlying all of these of course, was the assumption that every human being is “made in the image of God.”
This “fundamental” belief serves as the cornerstone of Western civilization and thought and under-girds the decision making in every area of policy.
“Once you accept that every human being has value you can no longer be ‘pro-choice’, you must be pro life. If every human being has value, that means every human being deserves to be protected no matter how small, no matter how early.”
“All of them deserve to be protected because they are innately valuable.”