by Beryl Wajsman, Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal
Sunday, January 15, 2006
I was born in the former Soviet Union. Among my earliest memories was the sight of police and soldiers in long heavy brown coats, chests covered by criss-crossed bullet holsters standing at what seemed every street corner, holding formidable rifles. Another memory was of an old, gnarled woman bent over a small desk at the end of our apartment hallway making notes on who came and went and when. When we moved to Poland, I remember my mother always telling me to be quiet when we went to the park. "People," she said, "might be listening."
As I grew, and studied, and read, the explanations became clear. The statocratic tyrants of eastern Europe said that the policemen, the watchers and the listeners were all for our own good. All for the greater good. It would make us better citizens to surrender our natural birthrights of free speech, free assembly, free association and free choice for the greater benefit of society.
That "society", it turned out was not the people writ large, but the petty little world of state social engineers who "knew what was best for us". What they knew was how to imprison us in suffocating oversight the better to control us for the "leaders", who were the living embodiment of our "values". Some leaders. Some values.
My parents made the decision to leave the tyranny of the mindless. We waited almost two years for the proper papers to come to Canada. No que jumping. No refugee claims. Well-educated, between the two of them they had a modest grasp of French and English and spent those years improving it. After some time in Paris we flew into Montreal in the summer of 1959. They felt very much at home. To them Montreal was a "European" city and they loved it. Seeing this, I asked, in the innocent way children do, why we went through the bother of moving. Their answer is instructive to all Canadians who will go vote on January 23rd. "To be free", they said. "To be free."
Not just to be free from fear. But to be free to choose. To make their own decisions about how to live, where to work, and what to strive for. Free even to make mistakes. But most of all, free from the great all-seeing eye of the state and the suffocating dictates it sent out in the name of the "collective good".
Things were not easy in the first years. But I never saw either of them resort to any agencies of government for aid. That was what they ran away from. The object lesson in life they taught me was that for everything you take from the state, you give up a piece of yourself. And bit by bit you are no longer free. Bit by bit you mouth the platitudes of big brother in return for the crumbs he offers to "care" for you from cradle to grave.
But they knew that you aren't really cared for. You are just given enough to have hope for more so that you toe the line. You are given just enough so that you convince yourself that you don't really matter. You convince yourself that politicians who barely know what's good for themselves, know what's good for you. And saddest of all, you rationalize wrongs being right and drive yourself so senseless that you can no longer even recognize what's true.
The Liberals have run this campaign on what they call Canadian "values". If these be values, than what be treason? Treason in the only definition that really matters. The abridgment and abrogation of freedom and truth. The Liberals would have us believe that their cornucopia of nanny-state policies represent our values. The fact is that if we have to live our lives weighing every action, every communication, every human contact, wondering what agents of the state might find out about it, how they would analyze it, judge it, tamper with it, and somehow use it to our detriment, we are not truly free. And that is the mindless intervention the Liberals demand we stand for in return for the "generosity" of their cheap pork-barrel vote-grabbing schemes.
Their recent attack ads tell the whole story of their hypocrisy. They attack Stephen Harper for lacking compassion. Was it compassionate of Paul Martin to cut $30 billion out of health care and rip-off the unemployment insurance surpluses? They accuse Stephen Harper of already running a financial deficit. What about the democratic deficit in the conduct of party and public affairs of this Prime Minister who runs roughshod over every aspect of due process and just consideration?
They accuse Stephen Harper's support of aspects of American foreign policies as being against Canadian values. Is it "Canadian" to call Muammar Khaddafi, the "butcher of Lockerbie", a man with a "...philosophical bent of mind..." as Prime Minister Martin did when he went to Libya to pander for oil leases? They attack Stephen Harper for saying that America has been a "...light and an inspiration..." to people around the world. Is Canada inspiring anyone by its cowardly failure to recognize, and expand, our own responsibilities in the fight against tyranny and terror and let others carry the burden?
They scare Canadians into believing that "You won't recognize Canada when Harper gets through with it." Do we recognize the Canada of today upon which the Martin Liberals have imposed laws that would overturn the presumption of innocence in certain criminal cases; give state security agents open access to our e-mails; the power of "preventive control measures" against unindicted "enemies of the state"; and the right of random search of cars for drugs, all without any protection of probable cause?
They denounce Harper for being uncaring while declaring "Paul Martin cares very much." What does he care for? $167,000,000 in contracts to CSL and retroactive off-shore tax haven rules that allowed him to have CSL companies transferred to Barbados to avoid Canadian taxes. Canadians don't have to worry about the scurrilous military ad the Liberals pulled that suggested soldiers would be in our cities. We already have the Liberals gagging and pillaging the commonweal all by themselves.
Canadians don't need lessons in values. We have them embodied in our boldness, our vision, our conscience, our blood, our voice and our courage. The boldness of Papineau. The vision of Lafontaine, Baldwin, MacDonald and Cartier. The conscience of D'Arcy McGee and Laurier. The blood of Vimy Ridge, Dieppe, Normandy, Sinai, Rwanda and the Balkans. Labour's voice from Winnipeg to Lac Megantic. Political courage from Marchand to Douglas to Lesage to Levesque to Trudeau.
The golden thread of Canadian values has not been dollars or daycare. It has been the resolve to base radical transformations on the foundational principles of freedom, truth and the sovereignty of each and every individual. The determination to give each one of us the opportunity to realize our full potential. An opportunity that every human life deserves without debasement to state dictate.
Over the past 20 years, Canada has become a place where merely speaking truth to power is considered a revolutionary act. Over the past 20 years, our people have come to dread liberty because it demands responsibility. When you go into the voting both on January 23rd it may well be the last, best hope to take our country back. All you have to do is remember that a nation of sheep will always produce governments of wolves.
Beryl P. Wajsman is the president of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal