By George Jonas.
I was multitasking: rummaging in old notebooks, while listening to the news. That’s how I discovered that I had commented on last week’s news events 20 years ago.
Prescience? Time warp? No, just serendipity.
News item #1 A student defends himself against a racially motivated assault in school –and he’s suspended. Not only that, but the authorities threaten him with expulsion. Yes, the victim, not the bully. Apparently, the victim defended himself too successfully and the bully got the worst of the fight.
Victims aren’t supposed to do this. If they do, they lose their victim-status. They risk being hauled before the Unvictimlike Activities Committee.
News item #2 A mob shuts down a main thoroughfare in downtown Toronto for days to demonstrate in support of a separatist movement at the other end of the Earth. Some wave the banners of a terrorist group outlawed in Canada. No, it’s not Palestinians for Hamas this time; it’s Tamils for Tigers. The police bravely disperse — who, the obstreperous obstacles? No, rush-hour motorists trying to get to their jobs.
At this point serendipity strikes. I come across some lines in an old notebook.
“A visitor from outer space describing our place and times (I wrote in 1989) would say that our society is split into two groups: A vast, passive, compliant majority and a tiny, vociferous, militant minority.
“In contemporary Western countries most people are law abiding, civilized and mature to an extent unknown, and perhaps even unimagined, on other planets or periods. They’re civilized and mature to a fault; to the point of parody.
“Their tolerance of crime is a dramatic illustration, but they tolerate intrusions and indignities of other kinds, too. The extent to which Western citizens allow themselves to be bullied, intimidated, expropriated and regimented — internationally, nationally and even municipally — is almost without precedent.
“Even tyrannies imposed limits on themselves. The modern state imposes none. Mediaeval rulers allowed serfs some sovereignty within their own households. Subjects of contemporary serfdoms trying to assert sovereignty at home would have restraining orders slapped on them before they could say, “Father knows best!” An intruder into a serf’s hut used to be confronted with the best technology available to the serf — probably a pitchfork. If a Canadian householder confronted a burglar with the best technology available to him, chances are he’d be hauled away in handcuffs — the householder, not the burglar.
“In the Dark Ages a tenant farmer paid no more than a tithe of his income–10% — to the ecclesiastical authorities or to his liege lord. On his own land, he could build a shack or a pigsty with no reference to higher authorities. Try to build a tool shed without a permit on your own land today.
“Tyrants raiding a citizen’s home could seldom count on his ‘mature’ or ‘civilized’ compliance when robbing him of his property — to say nothing of taking control of his wife or his children. Today our tax authorities, social agencies, family courts, municipal officials, environmental, labour or ‘human rights’ boards, house-or home-breakers, muggers, rapists and other terrorists can safely rely on our quiet compliance when they hand us their hold-up notes.
“In the past, bandits, dictators, officials or seducers had to fight, at some risk to themselves, for what they can now take from our mature and civilized citizenry with a flick of a pen. Today a person who isn’t ready to hand over 50% of his income to social engineers, runs the risk, in addition to being fined or jailed, of being viewed as anti-social. And if he threatens to look askance at someone who is after his wife, or keeps a shotgun in his bedroom to make things a little tougher for the uninvited, he’ll be considered a Neanderthal.
“It’s not surprising that street crime flourishes in a climate where people run almost as great a risk of a criminal charge if they defend their property as they do if they try to take somebody else’s. Where a man is less likely to find himself before a tribunal for snatching a woman’s purse than for ‘ogling’ — that is, taking a prolonged look at her.
“The same climate that has ensured the general wimpification of the West has simultaneously given rise to a miniscule minority of hardened militants. These desperadoes, whether they’re muggers, house-invaders or political-religious-environmental-feminist-animal-rights terrorists, think nothing of stopping traffic. They’ll disrupt, threaten or mob individuals, institutions, businesses or cities to extort their demands — and the authorities give in to them.
“Our society has split into two distinct groups: A placid majority, conditioned or intimidated into believing that giving up their property, opinions, traditions or habits is a sign of maturity and civilization and a vicious minority that thinks disrupting and terrorizing peaceful citizens is a sign of commitment and justice. We’re truly reaping what we have sown.”
Ronald Reagan was still president when I jotted down these notes (Brian Mulroney ran Canada). If Reagan’s America was like this, imagine what Barack Obama’s will be like.