Last week in Canada, Bill C-16 received Royal assent. The bill amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination against "gender identity or expression"; and, more controversially, amends the infamous hate-speech provisions of the Criminal Code to criminalize speech critical of "gender identity or expression".
Make no mistake: the following is no hand-wringing lament over the erosion of "muh free speech". I leave it to Libertarian deontologists to uncover, in the abstract formal concept of the juridical subject, a right of that subject to speak freely on all matters, and on that basis explicate whatever categorical wrongs may inhere in legislation that restricts the exercise of the putative right. Nor is it a neurotic Jeremiad, a la Rod Dreher, reading the legislation as so much writing on the wall, an omen of certain and imminent apocalyptic destruction of all Christendom and all order at the hands of new barbarians.
My concerns here are of an altogether different order. As a loyal subject of the Crown in right of Canada, I am concerned that the Crown is being misled by foolish, feckless, and unfit advisors in the form of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party government in Parliament. More solicitous of their own immediate partisan advantage than of the health of the State in its permanence, these imprudent advisors are grandstanding and pandering to the passing flux of fads, fashions, and sectarian interests of the moment at the expense of the honour, the dignity, and the very authority of the State, which the new legislation exposes to contempt.
I contend that this legislation makes a travesty of the State. I choose the term, "travesty", with care: its French and Italian etymological roots literally signify cross-dressing (cf. "transvestite"), and grotesque and parody more generally. It is fitting in its own perverse way that the sectarian interests of men masquerading as women, and their advocates, should be advanced by a legislative instrument masquerading as prudence and good government, enacted by a public-relations spokesmodel masquerading as Prime Minister in an unserious bouncy-castle masquerading as a Parliament, all in the name of the Crown and what used to be one of Canada's historic and serious governing parties.
Very early on in life, every man learns, from the time he either is first dared to "put up or shut up" or dares somebody else to, that nothing exposes a claim to authority or personal power of any kind to more contempt than unwillingness or inability to enforce the threat of punishment for defiance upon which the claim indelibly rests. Common lived experience in every walk and station of life teaches that failure to punish when authority is challenged not only renders authority impotent in the eyes of everybody, but brings forth contempt so severe as to make attacks on the disgraced non-authority practically inevitable- since (as long as we're already on the subject) the failed claimant is socially designated an involuntary transsexual, derided as "ballsless" and scorned for having sunk beneath the lofty dignity of manly power into base effeminacy. (Consider the etiology of term, "faggot" in an old oath in which a braggart avers that, should he prove unable to defeat anyone who gives the lie to his boasts, the staff with which he is armed ought to be cut up into faggots for kindling and himself called a woman).
The amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada promise that anybody who speaks "hate" against trans people commits a criminal offense (possibly, an indictable offense- the equivalent of a felony at American law) and if convicted subject to two to five years imprisonment. Tough talk. Can you back that up, tough guy? The Canadian State, while not exactly ballsless as such, styles and legally constitutes itself as a Liberal State, as of course does the governing party responsible for the legislation, and so isn't always at liberty to let its enforcement balls hang.
Hate-speech convictions are actually quite rare in Canada. As a Liberal State with a written Constitution and Charter of Rights and grounded in English law, procedural barriers to conviction in the criminal case are very high. Additionally, since the aforementioned Charter of Rights makes First Amendment-type noises about "freedom of speech", hate-speech trials ignite a firestorm of public controversy that sometimes goes international, as in the infamous case of R v. Zundel in which a fashy historical revisionist became an international celebrity when charged, tried, and convicted for hate-speech, which action gave Zundel access to a mass audience his obscure pamphlets could never have reached, and in any case resulted in a Supreme Court decision overturning the conviction and qualifying the law in certain truly remarkable ways to which we will return. Likewise, when Islamic militants petitioned an administrative "human rights commission" tasked with administering Federal anti-discrimination legislation to censor Mark Steyn and Maclean's Magazine, the resulting national and international controversy surrounding what has been immortalized as the "Steyn affair" eventually led to the Federal HRC actually being stripped of its censorship powers by Parliament.
Even before it was passed, the law censoring speech critical of "gender expression" had the effect of vaulting the enterprising Dr. Jordan Peterson from obscurity in the dust and miasmatic air of the University into international celebrity and acclaim, which he has already parlayed into a profitable lecture series- all for merely criticizing the proposed amendments. No doubt a criminal charge or two under them would vault him further into the major leagues of the Conservative commentariat at the Anne Coulter level of fame and fortune, and he should be so lucky as for it to happen. The investment of time and money in defending himself, and, in event of conviction, a trifling sentence "served in the community" (i.e. no jail time) as per the standing sentencing practices of Canada's arch-Liberal judiciary- jealous of its power over sentencing vis-a-vis the legislative power of Parliament to the point of the openly insubordinate- would no doubt pale against the eventual profit-margin.
In any case, as luck would have it Canada sits next door to a more consistently Liberal country in which hate-speech legislation, to borrow a phrase from Marx, could never be legal even if passed a thousand times over as law, and where any Canadian can speak his mind on gender expression and any other subject with total impunity behind a pseudonym and seven or so proxies (as the present author is doing right here). A State like that of Cuba or North Korea could always prohibit access to the Internet for private citizens; but Parliament is in no position to introduce juche here, not least of all because that would run into problems with the globalist political and above all, economic interests and ambitions of the acting Government. Prime Minister Trudeau inherited the genes, but not the absolute personal power, of his biological father, Fidel Castro; in a globalist State in which power is hopelessly divided to boot, he is structurally doomed to take more after his mother in that particular respect.
(The reader has a mini-case study, in the foregoing snark, of the kind of scorn weak authority is likely to bring upon itself. Again, I am a loyal subject of the Crown, and won't hear one word against the Queen- but I have no respect whatsoever for fairy-prince Justin and the rest of the impostors masquerading as Her Majesty's advisors in right of Canada).
Additionally, the new speech law will actually entice and incentivize a variety of different people to test the authority behind it: alt-Rightists and Chan trolls looking to transgress any and all Cathedral rules and defy censorship as a matter of principle, mercenary actors looking to parlay trouble with censors into publicity and thence book deals and speaking fees, and religious people who feel compelled to witness against the outrage to Divine law that transsexualism and sodomy inherently involves in it, which outrage is recognized as such by most every major faith tradition in Canada- not least of all, the growing Islamic population, which itself occupies an especially exalted place in Liberal hagiography, and against which the censor will be in a mightily awkward position (as the failed legislative effort in Quebec to ban the Islamic hijab on gender-equity grounds has already shown). As though that weren't bad enough, thanks to the sacred Liberal institution of judicial review of legislative acts the hate-speech law long ago had to be amended; it now specifically provides that nobody can be convicted "if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text", and even the non-religious get to defend themselves on the grounds that "the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true".
All this puts that State in much the same position as the hapless public-school teacher who is theoretically empowered to discipline her students, but whose hands are tied by administrative rules and regulations; the kids know it, and some take advantage, with the infamous indiscipline that obtains in inner-city schools as a result. The difference is that the ever-growing Islamic population of Canada includes a fraction who are no schoolboys, and who bring to Canada the values of pastoralist and Mediterranean honour-and-shame cultures- which of all the world's cultures produce men who are especially predisposed to disdain authority that cannot by show of force earn their respect, and accordingly:
refuse to take orders from women as a matter of principle
believe that men who live as women ought to be put to death as a matter of revealed Divine truth
chafe and seethe with resentment when forced to give respect to those they don't respect, viz. weak authority figures, women, and men masquerading as women, and
last but not least, become notoriously, dangerously, and undeterrably violent in such a position.
For quite some time it has been seen as potentially criminal to critique the open-door importation of these men as it now is to question gender expression, so if there's a choice to be made between which of these two cherished Liberal pets, which fight as incompatible species inevitably will, must be given a new home, it cannot possibly be made (nor, outside of the French-speaking population of Quebec, even discussed in polite company). A utilitarian theorist or conspiracy buff given to over-estimating the means-end rationality of human behaviour might well conclude that the acting Government is actually trying to produce terrorist and other disorders much more serious than unfashionable speech, first by importing a large at-risk population, then by systematically trying to goad them into it by trolling them right where they live. But the reality is that Prime Minister Trudeau, the ex-snowboard instructor from the Left Coast who admitted to getting high on illegal drugs when already a member of Parliament, and as Prime Minister danced down more than one downtown street in various sodomy parades while making funny faces at the crowd, simply isn't together enough for any Alex Jones-level machinations.
At most by way of means-end rationality, there may be some kind of wishful technocratic thinking which intends or rather hopes that the new legislation will banish all the backwards superstitions and illiberal mental pathologies that hitherto have cluttered the yellow brick road to Voegelin's immanentized Eschaton and gotten in the way as the Liberal Party skips down it. A doe-eyed journalist in the Globe and Mail (an outlet occupying roughly the same place in the Canadian establishment as the New York Times in the USA), extolling the legislation the day it was passed, wrote that:
Ultimately, defending LGBT rights embeds “the idea of the individual and individual rights over the body and sexuality,” says Graeme Reid of Human Rights Watch. Backlashes against such rights “become a sort of shorthand for traditional values, or the idea of this pristine past that, of course, never existed...”. This, then, is a struggle for the modern, the global, the individual, against the past, the parochial, the collective [...] Because it’s 2017.
The wannabe social engineers are here reasoning much the same way as an apocryphal Polish design team did when they were said to have built a submarine with a screen door. Traditional authority, that is, personal and undivided authority (King, Pope, etc.) is indeed able to unilaterally effectuate changes in societal values by legislative fiat, since under such authority law=truth=morality, "right" in every sense of the English word. But authority divided under the Liberal doctrine of the separation of powers is foundationally predicated on a radical separation of, and antagonistic opposition between, the three senses of right. Note how Canada's hate-speech law explicitly recognizes subjectively-defined truth and morality as limit-cases on the law- which means that it doesn't even claim to lay down what is true and good, but only to comprise a strictly utilitarian instrumentality for securing the peace, order, and good government specified by the Constitution as the supreme end of all legislation. Indeed, the main stream of judicial thinking in Canada, dominated by the utilitarian ideas of John Stuart Mill (the "harm principle"), holds that it is unlawful for Parliament to even attempt to legislate morality and truth as such (as the ruling in the aforementioned case of Zundel among others made abundantly and rigorously clear).
In Canada, then, as in the USA the taboo on questioning gender-expression primarily derives, not from the formal legislative power of the State, but the informal power of the Cathedral to manipulate ideology- and, also as in the USA, the main mechanism of enforcement is private social conformity (supplemented, to be sure, by the public mechanism of administrative fines and orders determined by the infamous "human rights commissions" at the very lowliest and distal reaches of the State apparatus, but again only exceptionally by criminal justice). It is precisely the existing herd-like conformity around the issue that gave Trudeau's handlers the opportunity to strike while the iron was hot and engage in some cynical grandstanding and pandering with the speech law, which flatters and tells this ideological fashion craze what it wants to hear.
At the same time, the speech law does not, as a line of sociological thought originating with Hegel might predict, and as the Globe and Mail hopes, complete this ideology by uplifting inarticulate public sentiment to the level of the formal, the Rational, and the Universal, and by solemnizing it with the power and majesty of the State, thereby coalescing inconsistent public opinion into a monolithic and truly National consensus forged by and under the law. Far from it. In a Liberal country like Canada where the idea of "speaking truth to power" makes sense, the speech law can only strengthen the resolve of skeptics and contrarians and indeed, recruit new ones- since under Liberalism power and truth are seen as mutually-exclusive qualities and zero-sum quantities. For at least some people, the reasoning will be that if it's illegal to say it, it must be true, the red-pill Truth "they" don't want you to learn. (Hence e.g. the meteoric rise of Dr. Peterson's following). Again, this legitimacy of this very way of thinking is sanctified by the Supreme Court, and the right to do so explicitly recognized in the very text of the hate-speech law (!).
It is also well worth noting that the last time the Liberal Party tried to create a consensus of National values through legislation in the 1990s with sweeping restrictions on gun ownership, the resulting backlash ultimately saw the Party first lose its Parliamentary majority, then voted out of office and kept out for almost ten years to come. (The crown jewel of the legislation- the universal gun registry- was during that time repealed by the Conservative Party). It would, however, be an abuse of language to say the lesson is lost on them along with the overall irony when they repeat this mistake seriatim. Liberalism, as the Marxists and Deconstructionists on the Left correctly perceived, both in theory and practice subverts its own claims in the very course of trying to make them and on the very grounds on which they are made, and undermines its own intentions in the very courses of action and with the very means by which it tries to realize them- all in a way that guarantees unintended consequences to the point where it becomes meaningless and indeed, misleading to continue to call those consequences unintended.
Once again, this absolute degree of means-end irrationality, in which individual and collective actors actually strive to end up further away from attaining their ends than they were before they started (something Mises thought categorically impossible), is best described as travesty, in the linguistically exhaustive sense of something so impossibly at cross purposes with its own proper purposes as to be not just contemptible, but hilariously so, of which the most elementary social form is- you guessed it- a man trying to dress and act as a woman. It is what professional comedians call "inherently funny", a comedic device that always works.
No doubt, future archaeologists who discover fragments of the present controversy in the ruins of Ontario will, on these exact grounds, doubt its veracity and conclude the whole thing was some kind of cautionary parable, allegory, satire, or other literary fabrication of the Ancients. They will say that the symbolic correspondences in the story are just too exact to be plausible, and that the figures of the mutilated man unsuccessfully trying to be a woman and the mutilated State of divided powers unsuccessfully trying to suppress the Natural human tendency to see such men as ridiculous are mere literary metaphors of one another, two twin travesties in one satiric package. At academic conferences with names like "What was Liberalism? The Gender-Expression Controversy in Late-Period Canada", panelists will argue that one must interpret this sort of historical data with caution, that the Ancients practiced a species of deadpan humour amongst themselves, perhaps as a form of veiled social critique designed to get forbidden ideas past the censors, but in any case not meant to be taken literally, and certainly not an accurate record of events. They won't be altogether wrong to suspect it. I certainly would. I myself sometimes worry about coming across as some kind of postmodernist drunk on the ironic just for describing these events as they happen- but, as the professional comedians say, you can't make this stuff up.
The travesty can be profitably described as an inversion of the old Confucian idea of the "rectification of names"; instead of trying to name things in accordance with the truth of their Nature, here we have a sort of radical legal nominalism that undertakes to rename men and things without any regard to either truth or Nature, and without even consistently pretending to- in contrast to traditional forms of "despotic" power, or alternately classically technocratic thinking, which believed that power is able to alter the Nature of things by Sovereign fiat. In this respect, Liberalism continues to observe the maxim of A.V. Dicey that "the only thing Parliament can't do is change a man into a woman." What Parliament can do, however, is legally re-classify a man as a woman, and then through administrative law force everybody to act as if the travesty is in fact what he claims to be.
I have said that the average dissenting intellectual probably has little more to fear now than before this grandstanding legislative initiative; but the likes of the everyday professional, the businessman, and the office-manager already had rather a lot to fear, and now more than ever to fear, from anti-discrimination and "human-rights" complaints leading to administrative fines and orders, and corresponding loss of reputation due to the instant media publicity that tends to accompany these actions. No doubt there will soon be a big spike in such actions just as soon as people at large begin to realize they can get their way and what they want when they want it, and generally be treated as aristocracy (right down to the right to be addressed by a self-styled title) on the pretext of "gender expression" simply by demanding it- for it is no longer necessary for anybody to actually dress or live as the opposite sex, let alone be genitally mutilated, as long as they claim the legal status, which administrators are now to rubber-stamp the second the claim is made. The State can't, by its own rules, make anybody believe that there are five lights where the eye sees only four- but it can force everybody to pretend that there are five. And, while the Liberal State of divided powers is feeble and contemptible when it comes to legislating, it peerlessly excels at exacting lock-step administrative-regulatory compliance.
This, perhaps, is what is rigorously termed "despotic" political power; a power that does not style itself as true and good, nor as defining the true and the good, but as causing truth and goodness to vanish as human categories before the power of the State. This is a travesty in its own right, but there's nothing especially funny about it, not least of all from the point of view of the higher interests of the State- for travestitic abuse of power seems made to order to poison people against the State in general, not just its pathological forms. These disaffected individuals are at risk for being seduced by crypto-anarchist and Utopian ideologies such as Libertarianism, which inter alia by blaming the State in general for everything poison the intellectual well and obstruct more productive discussion centred around critique of the pathological Liberal travesty of Sovereignty- which, in its wholesome forms, is an elemental human institution that cannot be made to disappear, should not be, and cannot coherently even be imagined to, for it defines Man in his distinctive species-being, above all his very capacity for social life and rational thought.