November 13, 2018

Authority, empire, and the devolution of liberalism

In the recent centennial commemoration of the end of the first “world war” (ie, the beginning of the second) French President Emmanuel Macron said: “In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: its moral values.”

How can you have moral values if you have you have no self-interest? It is obviously a question of balance (which Macron denies), but it is also obvious that one’s own interests (and what happens to those closest to you, expanding outward to community and eventually to nation and only then to include the world community) must be attended to first. Only an authoritarian would define moral value as the opposite.

Similarly, Justin Trudeau said, “Attacks on the media are not just about getting your preferred political candidate elected, for example, they are about increasing the level of cynicism that citizens have toward all authorities, towards all of the institutions that are there to protect us as citizens.”

Memo to the Canadian Prime Minister: Authorities earn respect, and when they are no longer respected, it would be the very definition of authoritarianism to demand that they be and to condemn the critical engagement of citizens as “cynical”. Democracy, not, unquestioning submission, is how we protect ourselves as citizens.

Trudeau also said: “When people feel their institutions can’t protect them, they look for easy answers in populism, in nationalism, in closing borders, in shutting down trade, in xenophobia.”

The joke is that all that so-called populists and nationalists in the US and around the world want is to control their countries’ borders with the rigor that Trudeau’s Canada controls theirs.

And who is shutting down trade?! Control of trade or renogiating aged treaties is not shutting it down, any more than controlling immigration is shutting it down or xenophobic.

Back to Macron, who also said about the victors in 1918: “They imagined the first international corporation, the dismantling of empires, and redefined borders, and dreamed at the time of a union, a political union of Europe.” In other words, a single empire to replace the three that had just been at war.