|A leading Canadian academic, Olympic athlete, businessman, poet and author, having composed books including The Trouble With Canada, The War Against the Family and Constitutional Crack-Up, William Gairdner was also managing editor of a landmark historical book, Canada?s Founding Debates. As a track and field athlete, he represented Canada in the men’s 400-metre hurdles and the men’s decathlon at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. He also claimed the silver medal in the decathlon event at the 1963 Pan American Games in Brazil.
He now has two new books hot off the press. From McGill-Queen’s University Press, The Book of Absolutes argues that relativism is not only logically and morally self-defeating, but that progress in scientific and intellectual disciplines has actually strengthened the case for absolutes, universals and constants of nature and human nature. A second book, Oh, Oh Canada: A Voice From the Conservative Resistance, ranges over hot button issues of the day in the spheres of culture, family, politics and science. More information is available at his website: www.williamgairdner.com.
A full audio version of this interview can be heard on the internet at the audio archive website of Radio Maria, www.hmwn.net/audioarchive and selecting the “Culture Watch” program.
The Interim: What prompted you to write these two books?
Gairdner: True conservative values in Canada do have to take the posture as a kind of resistance against the predominant liberal viewpoint, which is everywhere … So I thought I would collect a group of essays in this book on a whole variety of topics to kind of show readers who are interested what a true conservative viewpoint is …
The Interim: What about the influence of the media? … Looking at newspaper boxes on the streets of Toronto, it?s all left-liberal propaganda.
Gairdner: Where has leftism come from? … The people on the left and right have pretty well the same objectives: they want a good world, a better world. Where they really, really differ is in the means they choose to bring it about ? The modern liberal … is someone who?s very pro-statist, who … wants the government to do it all for you. He?s very interested in the nanny state. His fundamental idea is that all people are born with a blank-slate mentality … it must be the environment that did it to them. The world outside is what made them bad or inadequate or incapable, etc. The modern liberal view is you fix this by fixing society. And if you want to fix society, you need a lot of money … through the tax system …
The true conservative tends to take a different point of view … He would rather teach the fellow how to fish than give him fish. It?s a fundamental philosophical difference …
One of my complaints about modern Canadian life is things like human rights tribunals and teachers in our schools … the forbidding of thought that is going on in Canadian institutions ? We see this again and again in Canada. When I give public speeches, inevitably somebody stands up to object to something I?ve said.
The Interim: Tolerance and diversity are being pushed as ultimate Canadian virtues … but (the left) are talking out of both sides of their mouths. They want tolerance and diversity as long as it agrees with their ideology. If it doesn?t they will shut you down.
Gairdner: The liberal joke is: everyone is welcome to my ideas … (Catholics) are really in the bull?s eye as far as people wanting a target for their anger about faith in general … Everybody has a faith position. There?s no one who doesn?t have a faith position. A Darwinist has a faith position …
The Interim: Going back to your book War Against the Family … why is collectivism in general so dangerous?
Gairdner: Collectivism is about equality ? not so much equality of souls … but substantive equality and the attempt to eradicate differences in economic class or privilege between human beings by rejigging society, by social engineering v As Rousseau said, man is born free, but is everywhere in chains ? Basically, they want to destroy the world as it is now, bringing down the existing institutions and replacing them with more egalitarian institutions. The problem is … there?s a conflict between freedom and equality ?
Collectivism requires force, because it tries to make everybody equal … The idea of taking from the successful person and giving to the unsuccessful person to make them both the same is a pernicious idea … What happens in all collectivist societies is that the state takes on a larger and larger role in the lives of the people … In Canada, we very much have a nanny state and it wasn?t always that way … Almost nothing is done without government in this country … We have a very highly centralized form of government …
What?s the money being used for? Is it being used to encourage people to start doing the kinds of things human beings should be doing?
The Interim: Do we, in fact, have socialism right now?
Gairdner: The word is everywhere. People freely talk about it … So they call it social democracy or something like that. You do see the word socialism. It pops up in various articles … It’s taken awhile for that to become mainstream. It?s pretty much there now. Nobody?s apologizing for it. They?re sort of bragging about it.
The Interim: Let’s say we?re already at the point of socialism. The fear is we’re moving beyond that, maybe even towards a tyranny.
Gairdner: I remember Life magazine used to come to the house … I saw a photo of a march in Tiananmen Square in China ? one million students all dressed in the same black tunic, same black pillbox hats, all waving Mao?s red book … I remember feeling sorry for them … thinking you would never get people in a free society to do that, never in a million years. But here we are, only 50 years later, not even … We?re dressed in mental tunics, attitudinal tunics. We?re lock-step thinkers … The crucial issues of human existence are off the table. They?ve been solved by our governments, Trudeau and the Supreme Court. Why bring it up? …
I remember sitting with David Frum five years ago, talking about the future direction of this country … I said the watershed ideological issue of the future in Western democracies is the question of abortion, because it drives right home to the question of individual rights versus control by others ?
I wrote a chapter in War Against the Family … I had tears in my eyes writing that chapter. Some of the most gruesome, difficult stuff I?ve ever had to research and write … I called the chapter, ?The Invisible Holocaust,? primarily because it?s not being talked about, it?s not being written about …
We refuse to call an unborn child an unborn child. We call it a fetus and say it has no rights as a person, it?s not a human being and all that kind of stuff … Let?s get rid of that (pro-choice) language. Human beings can?t do anything without choosing … You have to make the argument that a woman is carrying a human life … which obviously it is.
The Interim: We?re looking at the other end of the spectrum with the aging population. Half the (Ontario) provincial budget is health care and it?s going to increase. There will be this pressure to allocate resources with all the ?useless people.?
Gairdner: Another scary chapter in War Against the Family is the chapter on euthanasia. You?ve got to be sitting down when you read it. It will break your heart … When you get that old and that infirm, you better check into a private clinic, because they have a vested interest in keeping you alive. Public institutions don?t.
The Interim: Looking ahead, your advice on what we can do to ensure a better future for Canada versus the direction we seem to be going in?
Gairdner: I can?t help but encourage people to buy these books, read them and think about them … Fundamentally, it comes down to taxation. If Canadians protested taxation … the government would come to a halt … I?m for minimal government. It was Henry Thoreau who said the best government is the least government … You?ve got to have a population of citizens who are willing to run their own affairs as much as possible.