Recently, a good friend of my mine made rather deprecating remark regarding the existence of Canada, namely that Canada no longer existed. Initially, I was taken aback. Of course Canada exists: I live in it, after all. But upon further reflection I began to see a degree of truth in what he said.
The concept of the ‘nation-state’ is a new innovation, wherein the ‘state’, (an entity with a monopoly on violence in a designated space according to Max Weber) is joined with the nation (a people with a shared history, ancestry and origin).In speaking of the ‘nation-state’ I do not refer to the historical phenomenon wherein a people are led by a sovereign, but rather the specific linguistic and theoretical concept developed during the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe for the purpose of centralizing political power. As the various states of Europe developed, centralization became a necessary response to the evolving conditions of warfare spurred by technological changes. The development of firearms demanded mass mobilization, rendering aristocratic forms of warfare obsolete. Mass mobilization demanded that the people being mobilized believed the new wars of unprecedented scale were worth fighting, to the point of death.
Power and wealth had to be centralized in quantities and scales not seen since the pre-medieval period. A textbook example of the centralizing process occurring during the enlightenment would be France; wherein under the auspices of modernization, the central government suppressed via education and government sanction, the various minority dialects such as Norman, Occitan and Brythonic. By centralizing and subsequently erasing the particularities of various federated peoples, namely their language, culture, and traditions, these peoples were homogenized into one larger nation, albeit a large nation slightly alienated from the roots and culture of their grandparents.
For the last few centuries, the Enlightenment model of ‘nation-state’ has mediated various human interactions and conflicts in the face of exponentially increasing civilizational complexity. The 21st century brought with it a new model of statehood. In 2015 Justin Trudeau made the following observation in reference to Canada.
There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada. There are shared values—openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice. Those qualities are what make us the first post-national state.
It is a harsh reality to face, but Trudeau is right—though not in the way he thinks. Canada as a state is divorced from any singular nation. However, ‘post-national’ may not be the correct label for Canada. Canada is a nationless-state. The distinction may at first appear pedantic but the framing here is critical. The premise suggested by ‘post-national’ is an enlightened one wherein it is taken for granted that given sufficient resources, time, and development, the state will ascend beyond the nation. To presume the state can progress beyond the nation is a deeply flawed assumption. In truth, a state divorced from the nation has little from which to derive its legitimacy, and nothing from which to draw its virtue.
Virtue in human life does not begin at the macrocosmic level and recede to the individual level. As Grant notes in Lament for a Nation, for one to love as they are called to by Christ it is important to first love the family, then the village, then the region, nation, humanity, etcetera. For the state to be virtuous, it must be rooted in the nation. A nationless-state is at best the manager of an arbitrary economic zone with no real obligations upon its governors to promote the good. Unshackled from obligation, governors of nationless-states are free to loot the state at their leisure.
In the classical world, a nationless state would be known as a tyranny. A nation of men bore rights, and a state which denied the nation its rights—let alone its very existence—was a corrupt and vicious government. The great thinkers of the classical world pointed to the foreigners and mercenaries employed by tyrants. Fearing the people’s reprisal, the tyrant would surround himself with foreigners with no connection to the nation. Classic examples of elite foreign troops would be the Janissary Corps of the Ottoman Empire, or the Scythian mercenaries of Athens. The ranks of the Janissaries were drawn from the various subjugated Christian families of the conquered Balkans and trained from boyhood to be fanatically loyal to the Sultan. The Tyrant is a state, a governor with no ties to the nation he rules. Thus, tyranny is intrinsic to the nationless state.
Canadians are placated by short term handouts at the cost of the country’s future. But who can blame them for accepting these handouts? The average Canadian’s life is made measurably worse year over year. Housing costs continue to rise with no sign of stopping, with house ownership being well out of reach of the vast majority of young people. Wages continue to stagnate while the cost of living increases and the vicious fangs of inflation begin to bite. Canadians are suffering. This country is getting worse. Yet nothing is being done, nor will anything be done, by those who claim to represent the people.
It is best not to downplay the degree to which the modern state and its elites maliciously impose upon the day-to-day affairs of the citizen. The decline of the average citizen’s quality of life is not simply the unstoppable advance of a historical dialectic but often the conscious act or decision of a government elite. Not only is the state not cracking down on the proliferation of illegal opioids in Canada, but the state and its agents are actively furnishing this toxin directly to the most powerless. In Vancouver the city council distributed three and a half grams of heroin, meth and cocaine for free to any who wanted it. The state now provides poison directly to addicts. The telos of the modern Canadian state is suffering and misery for its people, for the enrichment or amusement of its elites.
Canada is a nationless-state, but does that mean there are no nations contained within the confines of Canada? Certainly not. Canada in its founding was a confederation of distinct nations: the Anglophones, the French, the Metis, the various Native peoples, the Scottish and Irish Gaelophones of the east coast—all unified in mutual opposition to America. Why did they oppose America? Because America then, as America is now, was a radically progressive nation whose end was always the subversion of hierarchy, tradition, and order. America is to this day the avatar of leftism, and the only reason this is not obvious to most North Americans is because of the strange distortions of the truth produced by our political culture. Around the world, the United States is more clearly understood for what it is. An oft-ignored aspect of America’s Middle Eastern conflicts is the desire of oppositional groups such as the Taliban to oppose cultural liberalism, or more succinctly, Americanism. America and its subsidiary institutional bodies in both the UN and the IMF demand radical ideological conformity in exchange for support, whereas fledgling empires such as China merely demand material goods. For the everyday men and women who live under American occupation, there is no difference between the star-spangled banner and the pride flag. Both are the conquering pennant of imperial progressivism.
The nation, as I stated earlier, is a collection of people who share history, ancestry and language. However, we live in a deeply atomized age and it is difficult for one to speak of nation without speaking of one’s family. Yet, in this era of aimless consumption, what can be said of the family? Across the board we see declining rates of marriage and fertility, and increasing rates of divorce. The extended family is non-existent, while the nuclear family is a burnt-out husk that once comprised the foundation of our society. Although we live amongst the ruins of a greater age, some semblance of meaning and belonging can still be found in the wreckage.
There is however a tendency to lionize the concept of the nation. As is the tendency with a great deal of political theorizing, the instinct is to speak of lofty principles far removed from the immediacy of human life. The Nation is ‘over there’ in some imagined far off distance or in some storied historical period. This is an error.
In the same way that leftists advocate for global environmental policies that proceed from the macro scale, the political right glorifies the national scale while often deriding the local. But the nation, much like nature, is immediately present in our lives. It is where we are.
The nation begins at and extends from the family. In essence, it can be found wherever Grandpa is. My Grandfather and Great Grandfather are buried in a hill just an hour’s drive from where I write this piece. They are now as much part of the land as any tree, stone or bird on that hill. Many a cold winter’s chill was warded off by a warm draught of moose stew, fortified with vegetables from my grandparents’ gardens. This is my nation—my Canada. My family, and by extension, I, are a result of the labours of my forefathers making a life from the land, which they themselves eventually joined.
Perhaps these seem like trivial things, disconnected from the serious business of politics. But why then do we engage with politics if not to ensure that our loved ones are thereby rendered healthier, wealthier and safer? For that matter, does engagement with modern politics substantively achieve any of these ends? Does your engagement with the daily political theatre fulfill you? Did your favourite politician of the month materially affect your life? Did they make your community safer? Did they increase your wages? Did they help your sick family member? In most cases, the answer is no.
In short, ‘patriotism’, and even ‘nationalism’, are today for the most part empty terms. Much in the same fashion that the definition of love has been distorted from its original Christian meaning of willing good for another to its modern sense of pursuing pleasure at any cost, nationalism and patriotism have come to mean posting on the internet so that others will acknowledge your dedication to an old flag representing something that has been lost and will not be regained in our lifetime. The nation and the corporate state have reached a point of diverging interests. As such, the modern agents of the corporate state, those countless malicious bureaucrats and politicians, wield their authority to impoverish the nation, expand the authority of the state, and enrich themselves.
In the same manner that the ‘nation-state’ demanded the homogenization of the various nations within a state into a singular entity, the post-modern state is engaged in an even larger homogenizing project that seeks to unify whole continents. Power and finance have outgrown the nation-state, and this has rendered the nations upon which industrial capitalism was initially built redundant.
Proper engagement with the political sphere must understand the essential nature of each side of the political dialectic and what they can realistically achieve.
The Liberals will clearly continue to impoverish the Canadian middle class and ravage small businesses in order to fund the gifts and rewards they lavish upon their various political clients and voting banks.
The Conservatives will continue to protest about fiscal issues, and cede ground on all other issues while getting railroaded by the liberals in every election. It would be a different story if the Conservatives could meaningfully restrict government expenditure and, more significantly, government taxation to safeguard the dwindling wealth of one of Canada’s emaciated estates—the small business owners and small holding middle class. But they do not, and more importantly, cannot achieve any of this. Therefore, they are not only useless, but actively detrimental to any attempts to solve this country’s problems.
Perhaps even worse than the Conservatives is the People’s Party of Canada. Staffed by an array of incompetents, the People’s Party channel the dissidence manifesting within sections of Canada’s right wing, particularly those who dissent against the Conservatives, and redirect it into directionless outrage with no political utility.
If Canada is to be saved from the economic, social and national hollowing to which she has been subjected, then it must come from an entirely new form of politics, freed from the shackles of anemic libertarianism and delusional liberalism that has plagued our country. It must come from a party that exists not merely as a negation but rather as the standard-bearer of its own forceful ideology. A successful right-wing party must base itself on essentialism as a response to relativism, rather than on promoting a watered-down version of liberalism. But it is not enough to merely assert truths. These truths must be translated into meaningful policy that improves the livelihoods of the people while also reducing the harm inflicted upon them.
For example, the modern Liberals believe the solution to our streets being flooded with narcotic poisons is to distribute “clean” versions of these drugs and to provide safe injection sites. Ultimately, we are our brother's keeper; it is in cases such as these that tolerance is cowardly, if not explicitly evil. True love is to will the good for another, and in such cases tough love is not only necessary but demanded. In contrast to modern conservatives who whine that the solution to the plague of narcotics in our society is to not do them in the first place, those who truly root themselves in the essential understand that society will always have those who are dysfunctional. Rather than whine about government size and overreach the appropriately right-wing solution would look something like arresting every drug user and putting them in a mandatory one year locked down rehabilitation facility. Drug dealers that are consciously distributing poison onto our society should be imprisoned or executed for the large-scale manslaughter in which they are participating.
Rather than continuing to hollow out our nation and reward the parasite while punishing the producer, a political party interested in meaningfully restoring this nation should endeavour to address the root of the disease rather than merely treating symptoms. In the case of our increasing economic disparity and impoverishment this means addressing the offshoring of Canadian jobs, protecting the economic security of the Canadian middle class and small business owners. Canadian industries should be protected by tariffs and import restrictions in order to ensure quality and Canadian jobs.
What does all of this mean for the little guy, the individual with no connections in politics or high business? It means disengaging from our current political regime. The country will not improve under the governance of either the liberals or the conservatives as they are now. Rather than placing hope in their antics, it is a far better use of your time to focus on establishing networks with your family and friends, to attain stable employment that cannot be off-shored, and to prepare for the economic hardship that will inevitably accompany the coming inflationary periods and recessions we are entering. In essence, the individual must distance himself from the national stage and return his focus and loyalty to his family and local community. That is where he will find his nation, his history, and his future.