Lament for a Nation

Fascinating discussion from TVO’s Agenda program about the current state of Canadian nationalism within the framework of political philosopher George Grant’s ideas and particularly his seminal essay Lament for a Nation, written in the wake of the 1963 election that toppled the Diefenbaker government.

Just as an irrelevant aside, I had no idea that David Warren was once editor of The Idler… That was such a wonderful magazine! I must have been one of its (evidently too) few subscribers back in the day.

32 Replies to “Lament for a Nation”

  1. “Can you imagine what life would be like in this Country if the Radical Right got its way and shit-canned TVO and the CBC ?”


  2. Christ but Warren is a slime ball. Nothing bothers me more than this brand of conservative that wraps themselves in old Canadian nationalism while being against any policy that lines up with it. Watch how he tries to worm himself (or, rather, worm Grant) into Grant’s conservative camp.

    AEY, being in London, I learn more on any one night from BBC4 than I ever picked up from private North American television. Just last night I watched (back-to-back) a show on the Baroque period in England, a look at the life and death of Caravaggio, and then a fascinating summary of modern developments in psychology. But no market for shows like these, so screw ’em!

    Welcome back Red!

  3. BTW, anyone catch how Warren goes from praising the Americans for their reliance on the Constitution as a sort of national manifesto to sneering at Canadians for their “unedifying” conversation on Canadian identity?

  4. You obviously did not get my point. My first comment was on David Warren in general, not on anything he said during the broadcast. I stand by my second comment. The notion that the identity of a country can only exist as an extension of its founding is absurd… heck the American founding father would be the first to agree with that, their most interesting discussions concerned the paradox of a written constitution and liberalism. As one of the panelists suggested, there’s nothing unedifying about having a conversation about what kind of country we want to have given the fact that it stopped being British a long time ago.

  5. The British flavour & institutions of Canada were the only way to combat our dissolution into the American Empire. As Grant said about them: “maybe they weren’t perfect, but they were all we had.”

    Canada is not a country anymore. It is place where people consume things amongst a wonderful natural bounty and horizon.

    I love Hockey. I still play it. I coach the game. But cheering for Team Canada once every four years is nothing on which to base civitas.

    The point was made in the dialogue that Canadian Politics has come to weakly mirror US Politics. The notion that Canadian Conservatism was once Nationalistically anti-American for most of our history strikes the young as absurd. But from the perspective of British North American/Canadian Tories between 1776 and 1983, it made perfect sense.

    That Canada is gone.

  6. I’ve often had a nostalgic yearning to read one again. I’m not sure why, but it struck a chord with me at the time that has faintly resonated since, I guess.

    More on topic, I thought it was a salient point made (can’t recall by whom) that our politics has become a pale reflection of our U.S. counterparts. It’s not at all difficult to make corollaries between the Republicans and Conservatives or the Liberals and Democrats as their ideologies now dovetail quite neatly with one another.

    That would certainly help to explain the avid interest of junkies (myself included) who see our issues being acted out in tandem south of the border, only on a broader more vividly dramatic scale. We vicariously channel our interest through our American counterparts what is lacking here. Where we have “palid” they have “Palin”…

  7. Splendid. One of Canada’s most stridently continentalist neo-con hacks, the ignoble David Warren, is trotted out to opine upon Lament for a Nation. I look forward to TVO’s Agenda segment on the significance and legacy of the Diary of Anne Frank. I understand they’ve got David Irving lined up.

    To some, the words “David Warren” may conjure a dignified and creditable editorship of The Idler. To me, they invoke the claim (made during one of Warren’s typical rants against Jean Chretien’s allegedly “Petain-like” refusal to join Dubya’s Mesopotamian morass) that the people of Iran are “Arabs”. Man’s a cretin, with less cultural literacy and grasp of demographic geography than one has a right to expect of an expectorated puddle of spermicidal foam.

    The real pity is that so few Canadians are equipped to subject the kind of critical sloppiness exhibited in this segment to effective meta-critical critique. The notion that our politics is a “pale imitation” of America’s, for instance, while it trips truism-like off the tongue, is both a drastic overestimation and a drastic underestimation.

    As to the former, ask yourself which American socialist party received over 18% of the national vote in 2008. Or how many socialists sit in Congress. Or how many angry crowds packing .45 automatics show up at Canadian townhalls. In the last century, how many Canadian heads of government have been assassinated, and how many Canadian riots have destroyed entire cities? Is the number higher than zero? These political and civic differences are not differences of shade or nuance: they are differences of essence, no matter how many of the Canada-hating neo-con hacks who infest our trivial chattering classes may want us to think otherwise.

    As to the underestimation, America’s politics and ideological roilings have always had Canadian blowback effects. The delusional 1837 rebels were explicitly animated by American republicanism and enjoyed considerable American moral and financial support. Canada’s first significant annexationist movement was actually Tory-led: enraged by the Rebellion Losses Bill, Tories threatened to force the newly united Canadian Provinces to join the United States and actually formed a militia that rioted through Montreal and burned down the provincial legislature before troops could restore order (unsurprisingly, the capital was later moved to Toronto). Seen in that context, even the most roach-like of our current Quislings seem fairly harmless, though no less roach-like for all that, of course.

  8. Sir Francis …. none of this is to say that there are not vestiges of Olde Canada still in extant – but you well know that they are fading fast. Our more orderly political culture and laws can continue for some time, but they are being eroded from within. Take the Long-Gun Registry as an example. It will be “done for” if the CPC ever acquires a majority.

    The end of Canada does not occur on the guillotine – rather, it fades away from benign neglect and disinterest. Wait until Gen Y takes over. That is when this thing speeds up.

    That is not to say that the old Lion wakes-up and yawns from time-to-time …

    What I found particularly distressing in the clip is the fact that the group was generally acquainted with Grant’s work, none of them were particularly avid about preservation of Canada. Much of the talk kept focus on technology and how “Grant would have been fascinated by it.” Probably he would have been as an observer, but I am cocksure that he would have felt vindicated in his life’s thesis.

  9. And oh yes, one more thing …. the two US Parties are the last two true Western brokerage parties. There are Social Democrats in the Democratic Party as much as there are Neo-Fascists in the Republican Party.

    Very big money keeps this system going. We shall see what happens as the United States enters a period of devaluation and deflation – which began about three years ago.

  10. Grant laid-out the end-game that would become known as “Globalism.” What final crisis arises from this replacement of Religion with Technology remains to be seen. As he said, Canada can remain a political entity for some time, but does it really matter ? We are part of the Western Technological Empire that is centered in the United States. And we have people who still want to pull us more formally into that Empire.

    Security Perimeter anyone ?

  11. SF – You’re in fine form. To wit:

    “less cultural literacy and grasp of demographic geography than one has a right to expect of an expectorated puddle of spermicidal foam.”


    As to what you regard as the badly estimated observation to which I concurred, well of course, American and Canadian politics aren’t perfectly analogous, but nonetheless direct comparisons are routinely made by those who strongly identify with what they deem to be their ideological counterparts south of the border (or in other countries like Britain, for example).

    My point was simply that, viewed as a spectator sport, the daily level of drama and action (not to mention the bizarre and engaging cast of characters involved), is vastly more pronounced and riveting in America than is the case in Canada. In that sense, our politics is a “pale imitation”…

  12. …viewed as a spectator sport, the daily level of drama and action…is vastly more pronounced and riveting in America than is the case in Canada….

    On that, we can agree. Mind you, watching the slow putrefaction of a gangrenous leg would be more “riveting” than the sight of this dreary Harperoid hackery and the invertebrate sedulousness of their Liberal/BQ enablers. Why do you think I haven’t been able to force myself to post anything since July? Just thinking about the state of our national affairs triggers my gag reflex.

  13. It’s beyond dull.

    I think the CBC should add a question mark to the title of their news feature “At Issue”…

    “invertebrate sedulousness” LOL Ah, you crack me up. Thanks for that.

  14. …the Long-Gun Registry…will be “done for” if the CPC ever acquires a majority.

    …and good riddance. It’s a useless and extortionate piece of junk law that delegitimised the worthy pursuit of sane gun control in the minds of many thoughtful Canadians. Even David Orchard, once reviled by Harper as a “socialist” in Tory clothing, thinks it’s insane. The LGR is a perfect example of Liberal ineptitude sabotaging a potentially beneficial initiative whilst holding up progressives to national ridicule in the process.

    The end of Canada does not occur on the guillotine – rather, it fades away from benign neglect and disinterest.

    When and if Canada does “end”, it will happen long after the end of America: Americans had driven a stake through the heart of just about every one of their founders’ precepts by 1865. By 1900, America had assumed a form that would have been described by Jefferson and Hamilton as the vilest possible incarnation of imperialist decadence.

    Wait until Gen Y takes over.

    I disagree, and I happen to teach hundreds of those people every year. Many of them have a profound Canadian consciousness, one that is arguably even stronger than that of my own generation. Yes, they are avid consumers of American culture (as I was, and still am, perforce), but something tells me that their distaste for core U.S. values might actually be proportional to their exposure to them. That fact is, I think, a powerful weapon in the nationalist arsenal. Do you really think our nationalist upsurge of the late ’60s and early ’70s would have occurred without our daily dose of the American news that brought Vietnam, Watts, and Watergate into our living rooms? I don’t think so. Do you have any idea how valuable George W. Bush and Fox News have been to Canadian cultural protectionism? You must.

    …the Montreal Manifesto had the support of about 300 people.

    …which is many more than joined the rabble that W.L. Mackenzie scratched together at Montgomery’s Tavern. Those 300 idiots, many of them wealthy and influential, were a non-trivial menace to Canada.

    What I found particularly distressing in the clip is the fact that the group was generally acquainted with Grant’s work…

    What I found even more distressing is that, though there are legitimate Grant scholars out there (Christian, Drury, inter alia), TVO lazily chose two of our punditocracy’s usual suspects, neither of whom appears be authentically informed by Grant’s thinking. I believe Warren did a piece on Lament during his Idler days. Paiken probably came across it during a Google search. He’s usually better than that; I’m disappointed.

  15. To be honest, ATY, I really haven’t a horse in this race, as what has become my civic ideal—an enlightened Family Compact-ish oligarchy inspired by the Tudor/Stewart autocracies, with a heavy emphasis on the patronage of learning and of the arts and backed up by the infrequent but ruthless extirpation of disloyalty through the application of brute force—is unlikely to come to pass, especially given that fact that (as last summer’s G20 disgrace demonstrated) we are currently languishing on the nether pole of that ideal, one where brute force is applied by the disloyal racaille upon the heads of the loyal, the learned, and the enlightened.

  16. Sir Francis, wonderful to read your musing again after all this time, and especially on this topic. Between you and Martin starting up this blog again, we just need Ti-guy back to make things complete.

    As for this interview, am I the only one to come away from this thinking all of the panelists corrupted Grant’s work in different ways? Some way more than others of course. Even Warren to a point, though he was the closest to espousing Grant’s ideals and opinions.

  17. …we just need Ti-guy back…

    I’ll second that. I quite miss the pithy acerbities of the old battleaxe, who served as my only excuse to haul out my high-school French on occasion. He’s likely commenting under a different identity—a teenaged Marxist Lithuanian Starbucks barrista, perhaps.

    …am I the only one to come away from this thinking all of the panelists corrupted Grant’s work in different ways?

    Nope. And by “corrupting”, we mean the kind of degrading transition that would remove the Sistine Chapel frescoes from the Apostolic Palace and Crazy Glue them onto the men’ room of a Thunder Bay biker bar.

    On the bright side, many people who had never heard of Grant may go and read him after watching the show, which would be a good thing.

  18. Back to the Glory Days of Blogging 2004-5…!

    Hmmm. You mean the “Glory Days of Blogging” ended three years before I started?

    I rather like to think I inaugurated the Glory Days of Blogging. At all events, a medium’s Golden Age occurs when it reaches a peak of taste. Let us acknowledge, then, that the Days of Blogging shall not truly enter their glory until sites like Red’s attract the readership they deserve and until the vast, amorphous Canadian twit-a-verse finally begins to see unaccountably popular blogs like Shaidle’s and McMillan’s for the squalid semantic latrines they are.

  19. I recently approached Stephen Taylor to ask, out of curiosity if nothing else, why this blog couldn’t be included on the BT aggregator; after all, it does frequently advance fairly conservative points of view (albeit not necessarily ones that are in step with the ideology of the current ruling party). Needless to say, I haven’t received any response.

  20. …after all, [my blog] does frequently advance fairly conservative points of view…

    That’s precisely the problem. You’re practically a Stanfield conservative. You expected to be accepted by the BTs? Might as well have applied to the Blogging Talibs.

    “Tory” is a party, not a school of thought, to hacks like Taylor. In fact, when he hears the words “school” and “thought”, he releases the safety on his copy of Atlas Shrugged.

  21. “…after all, it does frequently advance fairly conservative points of view (albeit not necessarily ones that are in step with the ideology of the current ruling party).”

    You answered your own question within the parenthesis Red. The flogging bories only accept the harping of obedient seals, and nothing but the regurgitation of the PMO’s talking points. Though one is free to skewer the Liberals in any way they see fit.

    Your latest post comparing the latest CPC and LPC pre-budget attacks ads is a perfect example. Regardless of pointing out the hypocrisy found within the Grit’s ads, you went on to show the utter lies contained within the CPC’s ads.

    This type of critical thinking and independent thought when used against the ruling party are thoroughly dismissed and rebuked by the BT-types. Regardless of you harbouring what were once classical positions of Anglo-Canadian conservatism within this blog, the fact that you now mock Harper’s latest ads (let alone your past posts which are in disagreement with his policies and rule of the CPC) are enough to put you in the BT’s proverbial dog house for at least the next decade.

    That said, I will give some credit to Stephen Taylor for a post he did a few months back that was in disagreement with Harper government over their blocking the sale of Sask Potash Corp to BHP. Ironically, Harper’s move to protect Canada’s natural resources and industrial sovereignty was, as we all know, the traditional Tory thing to do (though his actions were purely for populist and political reasons). Regardless, Harper’s actions in this matter ran counter to Taylor’s neo-liberal, laissez-faire view of capitalism. Never the less, it was a rare, fleeting moment of independent thought expressed by a leading member of the Blogging Tories.

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