Sprit Quest on October 19 vote

Spirit Quest

Friendly fascist – Stephen Harper is more than a pain in the butt

Image: Photo of Steven Harper leaving the Netherlands on August 6, 2015, by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper departs Eindhoven, Netherlands on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.  Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick.

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

Image: Carricature of Hanns Skoutajan, by the author.“Sciatica” is a pain in the butt, one with which I have some familiarity. The pain originates at the “sciatic notch” which is located near the hip joint of the human anatomy. From there it fans down the leg all the way to the foot and makes life miserable along the way.

The condition does not seem to be related to age nor is there any known reason for it. It is treated more or less successfully by physiotherapy, chiropractic and acupuncture. Mostly the pain is suppressed by medications such as tylenol and other similar medications that suppress pain with the hope that the source will go away on its own, sometimes, unfortunately, to return.

This pain in the butt has some political affinity especially in times of electioneering when the citizenry is badgered endlessly for funds and votes. The party with the most funds, it is believed, has the best chance of winning most votes, we are told.

But hopefully democracy is not dependent on the purchase of votes, that voters are more intelligent than to be swayed by a plethora of lawn signs and attack ads on the media. Surely leadership debates as we have recently witnessed the first one, when party leaders must clarify their policies and give account of themselves to the voting public, is pivotal to the democratic system. Let us not succumb to cheap electioneering. There are many serious issues at stake, issues that have to do with our way of life and our relationship to the world.

I grew up in a very political family. My father, as well as my mother, to a lesser extent, campaigned hard against fascism and for that reason we had to flee the country when the Nazi party with the help of Chamberlain of Britain, Mussolini of Italy and Daladier of France won against democracy. Much of the German population of Czechoslovakia in the fall of 1938 welcomed Hitler’s forces into my homeland. My family and others like us had to flee but were welcomed to Britain and Sweden.

I have no sympathy for fascism. The term is mostly associated with prewar Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal but in fact has its supporters in our time, in right wing dictatorships as it was in Chile a few decades ago.

Bertram Gross has written a most interesting and revealing book with the intriguing title Friendly Fascism. It related to the Reagan era  in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in Britain.

Fascism is a nasty term and no one in our time aspires to that designation. Fascism is a dirty word but according to Gross there is a friendly form of it. He exposes and warns Americans about this creeping ideology, now more than just creeping , that is influencing the population and can best be seen in the Tea Party movement. As the American election campaign heats up a year ahead of time the candidates such as Donald Trump with seemingly unlimited funds stand out as  an example of modern day friendly fascism and not even so friendly at that.

It goes by the name of “populism”, convincing voters that government is the problem, that the smaller the government the better. Friendly Fascism is usually against labour, public ownership of health and education and for a strong military, lower taxes for the rich and corporations, bigger prisons and harsher punishment. It thrives on fear of terrorism. The book is worth reading again in our time.

Recently Canadians mourned the death of Flora MacDonald, minister of external affairs in the short lived Joe Clarke government. She was by no means a fascist. She was a Progressive Conservative. The term “progressive” was dropped by the Harper government. But “Red Tories” as they came to be known  were a truly Canadian form of conservatism. You need not be a fascist to be conservative.

Her’s was a time when parliamentarians of decidedly different ideology and agenda were nevertheless allowed to communicate with one another in constructive and even a friendly manner. Today it is sciatica from butt to heel, all the way.

In the electioneering that is now in progress, in the longest and most expensive campaign ever, it behooves Canadian voters to look carefully into the policies of the political parties and to discover “friendly fascism” for what it really is. It is only too easy to be swayed by promises of freedom, security and wealth.

After October 19  friendly fascism may not be merely a pain in the butt but  a full blown terminal disease of democracy for which there is little effective remedy. I believe that what we do on that ominous day fast approaching is the most important decision Canadians will ever make.