Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« Catholic Church being taken to Human Rights Commission | Main | The Summer's Best Album? (Reprise) »

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My brush with conservatism

In late 2006 I wrote a counter editorial for my school's newspaper on the rise of what I like to call "politcal correctness oppression". Another student did an editorial in opposition to mine, arguing that people have the right to not be offended and that as a proud multiculteral society, we must be tolerant to other ethnicities and religions. Unfortunatly I never did scan that page with the opposing view; it would be good for a laugh. I also never asked how saying the word "Christmas" is offensive in anyway, even to say, Muslims. If a Muslim can't handle hearing a Christian word then he does not belong in a country of (supposed) free speech.

Either way, I consider that editorial as my first encounter with social conservatism. By that I mean that that as a libertarian it was the first time I felt sure about something a social conservative would feel sure about.

Not all social conservatives want the government to control speech to fit the Canadian heritage mold. I would argue that most, like me, would probably prefer everyone to be culturally Canadian and value traditions but would rarely want the government involved. Instead, we prefer an independent social movement. I hesitate even using the word “movement”, as it’s more of an unspoken, gradual move toward a way of life that the conservative public feel in their hearts to be true; a weaving of the old tattered social fabric. As a member of the Libertarian Party of Canada at that time, my brushes with social conservatism had been limited to volunteering at the Civitas conference in Halifax in early 2007. The base of my editorial had been individual liberty at the time, but now I can see that it's also an argument for Canada's culture war movement. I still agree with my original argument for individualism - one should be able to say what ever they want to express their festive joy so long as it doesn't harm anybody else.

I could go even further by saying that the editorial is one of classical conservatism too, à la Edmund Burke. Burke is known for arguing against change for the sake of change, and today I believe that applies to the wave of excess political correctness that's been sweeping the West since the 90's. Today it seems saying "Happy Holidays" is done not because it sounds better or is more clear, but because the rise of "progressive" policies creates social momentum that's hard to reverse. Of course, reversing such policies would be regarded as either racist, intolerant, bigotted, or a "return" to ignorance. Staying true to what we know is the basis of classical conservatism, and in this case that's exactly what I'm saying - not only as an individual of free speech do I have a right to say "Merry Christmas!", but as a born-and-raised Canadian it feels much more "right". In other words, it feels more natural to me to go by what I've grown up with rather than a more "correct" version that just makes me apathetic to the season. If that's not classical conservatism, I don't know what is. Here's the editorial:

As the Holiday season rears its head and Canadian youth get ready for the end of the year, one has to wonder what the name ought to be for the upcoming semi-formal dance in many of our high schools. On one side it's said that in order to include all types of people and religions, it should be called the "Holiday Social". On the other hand, the majority of Canadian high school students celebrate Christmas, and thus it should be called the "Christmas Social". The holiday season has always been centered on Family and gift giving, but that of course is not the problem. The problem lies within the fact that everyone and every thing is pushing for the change from the traditional Christmas season of the West to the new politically correct Holiday season. There is nothing wrong with individuals, businesses, or non-profit organizations using the term Holiday instead of Christmas, but when those same people tell someone else that they cannot use the word Christmas, it crosses a line.

On one side of that line, there is "being politically correct"; on the other, free speech. Using the term Holiday instead of Christmas is fine when used to include all religions and ethnicities, but telling someone that they can't use the word Christmas because it is discriminating against non-Christians is ridiculous. "Christmas Social" does not discriminate against Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists. It isn't saying that only Christians, or rather those that celebrate Christmas are allowed to attend. It is merely saying that it is a mid school year dance during the season in which Christmas is celebrated. To the logic of those who think calling something a Christmas social is discriminatory, calling it a Holiday Social discriminates against those who don't believe in religion - Holiday does mean Holy Day after all.

People in Canada have the right to call their special end-of-the-year celebrations anything they want. Suppressing the allowance of calling the end-of-the-year celebration what one wants is a violation of the Fundamental Rights section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. People that think as such are no better than those so called intolerant or non-politically correct citizens they talk down upon; toppling the bridge of being politically correct on to the road of free speech does not help ethnic tolerance. Does calling it the "Holiday Social" blur the realms of culture and business, or make ethnic, religious, or cultural tolerance in our school any different? Any way you answer these questions, Christmas is an official holiday whether we like it or not. It is part of our culture. Abolishing harmless parts of our culture to create a generic world is not what this school wants; but alas, intentions are unfortunately different than actions.

I'm interested to hear what the right-of-centre blogosphere thinks!

Posted by Dane Richard on July 16, 2009 | Permalink


Good post and good points, Dane. I think it is a matter of common sense rather than conservative or whatever. Happy holidays is absolutely meaningless which is why I reject it every time. I am not a Christian but I am not the least insulted when someone wishes me merry or happy Christmas. After all that is the name of the official holiday. Funny that those rejecting the names of Christian holidays often go out of their way to use the names of holidays of other faiths.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-07-16 10:54:29 AM

Interesting points. Wasn't it John Stuart Mill who argued that 'social conservatism' was the mechanism by which common wisdom functioned?

Posted by: RL | 2009-07-16 8:41:38 PM

"I'm interested to hear what the right-of-centre blogosphere thinks!"

Then you're asking the wrong crowd; these people despise conservatives and conservatism.

Let me tell you a story: two Christmases ago I received from my recruiter (I'm a consultant), a twentysomething Canadian born and raised woman, a "Happy Holidays" email, I replied "Merry Christmas", natch.

Shortly thereafter I received a "Merry Christmas" email from an Indian guy I hired that year to do some cheap offshore joe jobs for me. I think he was Muslim as he was from the northern part of India, but in any case: there's something wrong when Muslim guys twelve timezones away show more respect for the traditions of western civilization than born and raised Canadians. It's perverse.

This Christmas passed the my office sent out a Happy Holidays email which, bizarrely, listed and explained other religious holidays, as if singling out the biggest holiday of the year in western civilization was wrong unless others were mentioned too.

I shouldn't have to explain this to adults but Christmas is not a religious holiday, it is as fundamental to western civilization, to Canada, as it gets. To be anti-Christmas is just obnoxiously anti-western civilization.

Oddly, it harkens back to the Puritans, who banned Christmas. Cromwell sent men from house to house to check if people were cooking goose on Christmas day:

"Cromwell banned Christmas as people would have known it then. By the C17th, Christmas had become a holiday of celebration and enjoyment - especially after the problems caused by the civil war. Cromwell wanted it returned to a religious celebration where people thought about the birth of Jesus rather than ate and drank too much. In London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration. The smell of a goose being cooked could bring trouble. Traditional Christmas decorations like holly were banned."


Those who don't learn history...

Atheists often have poor relations with their families, and Christmas being a time where people "go home" and get together with family, it behooves them to do what they can to kill that tradition.

Separately, I think the thought process for atheist/leftists on Christmas and any matter really goes something like "does this help destroy western civilization? If so, I support it." Straight anti-moralism. Ugly.

It's the one day of the year where goodwill towards your fellow man reigns, where you wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and to kill that tradition is anti-social to the extreme. Now I and others just don't wish Merry Christmas to anyone, which I suppose was the plan.

The fact that the media is anti-Christmas now should tip you off it's the wrong move; when the MSM tells you to zig, zag.

You may now commence with the angry, ugly responses to this comment. May I suggest personal insults? Seems a favourite of the crowd here.

Posted by: Fair Commenter | 2009-07-16 10:11:45 PM

RL: I'm not sure but that's an excellent quote!

Fair Comment: You're 100% right, and the fact that Christmas is a cultural holiday rather than a religious one is a very good point, one I somewhat tried to make in my post.

I don't see why there would be ugly comments to your thoughts, they seem pretty legitimate and correct to me!

Posted by: Dane Richard | 2009-07-17 7:00:42 AM

It is a social imperative to educate people and eliminate ignorance to the best of our abilities. The constant reminder to Christians exemplified in the ban of Merry Christmas and other religious expressions might eventually penetrate these narrow little minds and open up the minds of others in the process. Christianity is a NEGATIVE in society.

Posted by: owlafaye | 2009-07-17 9:28:19 AM

Fair Commenter,

All very good points. I have known several Muslims and Indians (the real term, citizens from india) of all Religions who love christmas. the problem is Political Correctness, and the West's morbid obsession with self flagellation.

Posted by: Doug Gilchrist | 2009-07-17 10:23:00 AM

owlafaye: I strongly disagree, and I'm not even a Christian. Well, technically I am Catholic because I was confirmed and everything, but I don't really believe in a God. I do however appreciate and greatly respect Christian morality and its strong ties with Canadian heritage. Even if you don't like religion, you should appreciate that practically every tiny cultural aspect you witness and display come from Christian traditions and way of life. It goes without saying that our Law system, based on Common Law, is formed from Christianity. Ever read the 10 commandments? They're almost identical to that we still practice today; do not steal; do not murder; do not cheat, etc. The list goes on. Those may seem like common sense ideas but that's only true because it's bread into our upbringing and our bones. In Muslim countries where Sharia Law is practiced all these rules we take for granted basically don't exist.

So unless you want your hand cut off for stealing say, an apple from an apple stand, then I suggest you read up on our history and heritage and learning where it comes from. Chances are it'll all boil down to a Christian or a group of Christians creating movements that arguably better society.

Posted by: Dane Richard | 2009-07-17 10:35:46 AM

"I don't see why there would be ugly comments to your thoughts, they seem pretty legitimate and correct to me! "

You must be new here :-), but thanks for the sentiment.

Posted by: Fair Commenter | 2009-07-17 11:30:12 AM

I've heard of some "socially conservative" Christians who have objected to having "Halaal" printed on food for sale, so this is not simply a "left" politrical correctness -- it affects the whole political spectum except the liberals, who believe in live and let live.

Posted by: Steve Hayes | 2009-07-17 7:11:55 PM

It goes without saying that our Law system, based on Common Law, is formed from Christianity.

Except, of course, it's not....

...the basis of the common law was shaped in the immediate aftermath of the arrival of Hengist and Horsa in the mid-fifth century. Since England was not converted to Christianity until two centuries later, the common law is by definition pagan.

And it's not Muslims that have a problem with Christmas or Christian symbols...

A Toronto judge has banished a Christmas tree from the lobby of a provincial courthouse, saying the "Christian symbol" might alienate people of other faiths.

Judge Marion Cohen ordered that a small artificial tree on display in the Ontario Court of Justice at 311 Jarvis St. be placed in a back hallway, out of sight of the entrance.

She wrote in a note to staff that she didn't think it was appropriate that when people entered the courthouse, the "first thing they see is a Christian symbol."

The tree's presence suggests to non-Christians that they are "not part of this institution," she said, according to the Toronto Sun.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-07-17 10:38:42 PM

No suprise Dane is a xLibertarian given the conservative tone of this post...

Posted by: V.M. Smith | 2009-07-18 10:42:10 AM

I guess what I'm against is the diminishment of our culture and faiths in a general sense. I very much enjoy the variety of cultures world wide and I like that they are distinct from one another. The idea that we are a "global village" is absolute propoganda perpetrated by those who would ensure we are one big beige tax paying sheep. And that is why I am against all forms of (socialist) multi culturalism. It does not bring us together it divides us. And a people divided are very unlikely to stand together on any pricipled platform...and that works very nicely for the globalist agenda.

Posted by: The original JC | 2009-07-18 12:53:49 PM

You do realize that it was only ~35,000 years ago that a single woman lived who as far a science can tell was the female ancestor of everyone alive today? We are more common than many would like to admit.
Technology and trade will bring us back together more as time passes and that globalization will make the nation states less powerful. It already has to some degree, till 9/11 brought religious conservativism back, but that too shall pass (I hope).
I am a libertarian so I prefer that people have maximal choice of who they should be and how they relate to others.
I do not agree with government enforced multi-culturalism either - which is authoritarian socialism. The culture of the people is no business of the government, we are not children.
If in doubt look to places like Iran, or for that matter much of Europe in the dark ages, where the religious conservatives are not held in check from their quest for enforced uniformity through the force of the state.

Posted by: V.M. Smith | 2009-07-18 3:33:58 PM

JC, I am with you on your views of this topic. VMS, I agree that we are all the same, in the sense of being human regardless of colour or culture. I do not see globalisation as it is being pushed as being a good thing, for it is being pushed by the big transnational corporations for their own benefit. They seek to control and dominate everything from seeds we can plant to what we eat and owe no allegiance to any country.

I also have to disagree with your attributing the dark ages to "religious conservatives", for they were the same as all other tyrants from communists, socialists to fascists. It happens to be an ugly part of human nature to lust for power, control and wealth. Some simply call it greed and all religions, tribal or otherwise, discourage it. I am not at all excusing it, but I suggest we recognise what results when we allow our liberty and freedom to be extinguished by the few, be they government, transnational corporations or any ideologue.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-07-19 3:20:28 PM

Making and buying product from the place with the best comparitive advantage instead of where the politicians want you to buy is good for the economic and moral growth of a society. Corporations are simply taking advantage of technology and less oppressive governments to conduct more international trade.

With few exceptions a Corporation's aim is to make money and that is a far less onerous instinct than the protectionists. The ones that are not trying to make money are not around long.

We benefit from improved and more cost effective products and greatly eased travel with this globalization. The only losers are governments, as they lose some control they never should have had in the first place. That is good to my my of thinking. I understand how the more conservative people may worry about this and would prefer to status quo, but I am not conservative by any means.

I agree that it is more than religious conservatives who are typrants, but with the dark ages (which implies Europe in a certina time period only) I stand by my connection of that problem with religious conservatives. This is relevant since our current era has forces trying to take us back into something similar, hence why I choose it.

I further suggest it is hard to find a tyranical government that does not quickly take on most aspects of a fundamentalist religion: just some details change when Jong-il Kim controls the opium of the masses.

Posted by: V. M. Smith | 2009-07-19 5:22:44 PM

From this website:


"The worst of the totalitarian governments, however, by far have been the socialist. Socialist self-righteousness, desire to radically reconstruct the fundamental institution of society (throwing out the institutional evolution and cultural learning of generations), the belief that those who disagree are evil, and that one must "break eggs to make an omelet," have led to monumental democide, as for example by the Soviet Union (about 61 million murdered), Mao's China (about 35 million), and so on for all the communist regimes, as well as the nationalist socialists like Germany (21 million), state socialist like Burma, Baathists like Syria and Hussein's Iraq, socialist Libya, and so on."

It goes without saying that most forms of socialism are either automatically Athiest (or Muslim in the case of the Middle-East)

Hitler was born Cahtolic but, "he rejected Catholicism and in most ways he rejected Christianity in general."


Mussolini is the only obvious exception, as he was Catholic. The common link is ideology - some variant of socialism/leftism.

Posted by: Dane Richard | 2009-07-20 5:48:29 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.