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ANDERSON: The past is dead. Long live the past

Image Credit: Contributed by author
November 29, 2016 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


 

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slowest now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
Cause the times they are a-changing

~ Bob Dylan

In the 1640s Charles I of England was arrested by Parliament for crimes real and fancied,  ushering in what history calls the "Interregnum," a time popularly known for its dark religious repression.  The period is popularly characterized by oppressive laws like the "Draconick Ordinance" of 1648, which forbade "Prophaneness, Wickedness, and Superstition," and the Blasphemy Act of 1650, which made adultery a capital offence.  It was the age of the Puritans or, more exactly, the decade and a half in which the Puritans dominated society in England. 

But oddly enough there was very little actual repression by the Puritan government, or even enforcement of the laws, dire as they were.  The laws were more a reflection of current social mores than they were a top down imposition, mores that had come into being after the Elizabethan Age through a social dialectic years in the making.  It was not that everyone supported what Gramsci would have called the consciousness of the age, but enough people did that for a while it was the way of the land. The cast of society, enforced not by Taliban-like thugs or Parliamentary courts but by the example of the elites, was somber, structured, self-denying.

But the thing about the dialectic is that it doesn't stop.  It brings one thing to fruition and in doing so sows the seeds of the next.  The next few years saw the rise of fringe groups in a backlash against Puritanical codes of behaviour, groups like the "Raunters" (Ranters), who rejected the Law of Moses and spent their days, often naked, running around being everything the Puritans were not.  This backlash was on the fringes of society, at first, until it was not.  The Ranters faded into history, but the backlash they represented crept quietly into the mainstream until it burst into the open in the late 1650s, overthrowing the Puritan regime and demanding the monarchy back. 

By 1660 the monarchy had returned, welcomed back with dancing in the streets, and Charles II was on the throne living a famously florid love life and behaving with all the licentiousness the Restoration is known for.  Society, seemingly overnight, underwent a change from sober censure to public bawdiness so pronounced that it spawned an entirely new culture in the arts and sciences, and arguably lay the foundations of the English Enlightenment.  It shocked everyone when it came, because it seemed to come out of the blue, like a Black Swan, but enough people were ready and welcomed it because somehow it spoke to what they were thinking, down deep, but dared not say. And those who didn't like it learned to live with it, or set sail for the new world.

It's trite to claim that history repeats itself.  It doesn't.  But as Mark Twain is alleged to have said, "history may not repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes."  And this is especially true of western social history, which impels its way through phases, not like the proverbial pendulum, but rather like an inchworm, stretching in the Elizabethan Age, gathering itself in the Interregnum, stretching forward again in the Restoration, and beginning the dialectical process all over again, always moving forward.  And so here we are again, rhyming with our ancestors in the Restoration, and with our ancestors in the libertinism of the late 18th century, and with our grandparents and great grandparents in the roaring 20s that followed the Puritanism of the high Victorian period. 

Our own interregnum has been 30 years in the making, a time of Ivory Tower activism that grew into the cloying, stifling political correctness whose last sad gasps are filling the media today.  At its height in Canada our puritanically oppressive phase was ruled by federal and provincial "human rights" courts, smacking more of the Spanish Inquisition than of rule of law, held in place by the acquiescence of a large swath of the public.  But rebellions have become more frequent and more mainstream, beginning perhaps with Ezra Levant's masterful attack on the Alberta Human Rights Commission in 2008 and Mark Steyn's hilariously public romp through the kangaroo courts of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

And now it's over.  We're ready to stretch again. The insanity over sexual identity and who can use whose bathroom, the removal of the national flag from campuses lest it offend someone, safe spaces, crying rooms and the latest silliness, the infamous costume party at Queens University are the rearguard battles of a dying era, even though most don't yet realize it's dying.  Certainly not the CBC, feverishly searching as it is under every rock for the "hate groups" it is convinced have been enthusiastically clambering over the Canadian body politic since the election of Trump. But the social justice thought police, beating back the proles they fear so much with  accusatory isms and phobias that used to work so well, sense a tide change.  Their shield wall has been swaying, and cracking in places, and they feel it, and are afraid. The election of Trump is perhaps the first real rupture in the line, and they know what happens when a shield wall ruptures.

The election of Trump is a profound shift in North American society. It doesn't mean that hordes of goose stepping Nazis are going to appear in the streets, or that men will suddenly start disrespecting women, or that gay bashing is the next big thing.  Those fears are the breathless exhortations of the old progressive order as it rushes to find the worst possible imaginings and wave them around in hysteria lest we unwashed lose our collective mind and revert to barbarism or, worse yet, find our minds and realize the profound damage that's been done to our society and our culture by well meaning, misguided people.  The tens of millions of men and women who voted for Trump know he can be a lout and very few have any intention of acting like him. But they are fed up with Ivory Tower Puritanism and because of that Trump's election has a cathartic feel to it.  Like biting ones thumb at the lily white Dons and Doñas of the Academe to whom the personal has become the political, and education has become indoctrination. Like a breath of fresh air in a stagnant room.  Like dancing in the streets.

Trump's election shocked everyone, because it seemed to come out of the blue, like a Black Swan, but enough people are ready and welcome it because now they feel like they can say what they are really thinking, and dared not before. And those who don't like it will learn to live with it, or set sail for Canada, I suppose.

But we are next.  Just watch.

— Scott Anderson is an educated redneck from Vernon. His academic background is in International Relations, Strategic Studies, Counterterrorism, and poking progressives with rhetorical sticks until they explode. Not surprisingly, he is also an unashamed knuckle-dragging conservative, or so he's told all the time.


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