Confidence is the hallmark of a successful social movement. Groups which possess a conviction in their cause will trust in the power of justice and the appeal of truth, and are, therefore, always eager to articulate their ideals to any willing listener. How interesting, then, that despite their dazzling success, socially liberal groups display no such confidence, and no such desire for dialogue.
Advocates for “gay rights,” for instance, are part of what may be the most successful social movement in the history of modern democracy. A generation ago, the very idea of “gay rights” was unthinkable; now it triumphs in any legal or political contest. Yet, for some reason, the rhetoric of “gay rights” activists is marked by frustration, incomprehension, and, most of all, impatience. These advocates seem genuinely bewildered by any opposition to their radical and relentless agenda of sweeping social change, and insist upon—rather than argue for—such drastic alterations.
A similar, and similarly curious, attitude is evident among abortion proponents. One would think that, encouraged by its past political success, no social movement could be more confident. However, to judge them by their own rhetoric, advocates of abortion appear to be spurred by no motivation but fear. Political commercials produced by abortion advocates are calibrated to terrify their credulous viewers, convincing them that theocratic barbarians are at the gates. There is no appeal to the justice of their cause; rather, there is only an emotional frenzy of fear to be lathered whenever an election is in the offing.
In each case, social liberal advocates show no desire to persuade their opponents or win over hearts and minds. The “right” to abortion and the wrongness of “heteronormative” norms must be accepted, not as sound conclusions, but as articles of a blind, progressive faith with no room for disagreement.
It is this inability to imagine any legitimate opposition which has given rise to the widespread urban legend of elusive “social peace.” At no time in in the last four decades could any reasonable cultural critic or political observer have possibly observed something like social peace on any of the hotly contested issues over which such “peace” has been unilaterally declared. Perhaps “social peace,” then, refers not to an external phenomenon in Canadian culture, but to an internal shift in the minds of our elites. When the chattering classes of Canada made their peace with liberal causes, this social peace was declared throughout the land—and the rest of us were simply informed of the armistice.
Ironically, it is only the proponents of the most radical reforms who trade in such fictions of faits accomplis. When the legal entity known as gay “marriage” was invented by the Ontario Superior Court ten years ago, it was virtually without precedent in any country in the world; now, a short decade later, opponents of this innovation are accused of contesting this (recently) settled issue. Likewise, opponents of abortion are said to want to “turn back the clock,” despite the fact that the legal toleration of abortion has turned civilization’s sundial back to the brutal days of Sparta when infanticide was last a legal social practice.
What remains unexplained by pundits who peddle the charming myth of “social peace” is why a challenge to it would be unwelcome. Surely even our opponents would agree that a healthy democratic discussion is preferable to the (imaginary) decorum such debates would break. And if the so-called “rights” which the social revolutions of the 1960s produced are so vulnerable that they cannot endure any opposition – and these new rights can only be defended by dispensing with all others – then social peace is clearly not worth having.
Perhaps, then, a better name for “social peace” would be “silent dissensus;” opposition does not disappear just because an ongoing public debate is ignored. Happily, such stultifying silence has never descended upon Canada; there is not, and never has been, “social peace” on the crucial contested issues in our society. And it’s a good thing, too.