"It's wrong to be considered wrong"
I sent a thank-you letter to a donor who had given to my legal defence fund. I received the following letter in return, and I republish it with permission, with no changes other than to delete his name, and to bold the most heart-breaking sentence:
Thank you for your letter and not only. You are in the forefront for all of us, so I consider my duty to support you.
I was born in the Peoples Republic of Poland. My Father lost his all family in the Holocaust (“it’s wrong to be considered a Jew”). My Mother lost her Father and Brother during Stalinists purges (“it’s wrong to be considered wrong”). Not surprisingly, my Parent’s utmost neurotic parental preoccupation was to ensure that I suppress any natural tendency toward free thinking and never say anything deemed incorrect by those in power. And when I did stray (as I did often enough), their reaction was hysterical. They never succeeded and eventually relented, but I was also lucky. When in 1965 the foreman of my workers apprenticeship, com. Malodobry (Littlegood – I am not kidding) visited my Faculty to ensure that student [name redacted] never becomes an engineer in the “socialist Poland”, the Dean responded: “Mr. Malodobry, I have bad news for you. Com. Stalin died 12 years ago”. So, as you can see, I do owe.
After coming to Canada in 1978, I was mildly surprised by one of the earlier Polish immigrants, who warned me: “[name redacted], do not display your instinctive non-conformism in front of the Canadian government employees. It will not do you any good”. Well, fortunately, I also know how to behave in entirely conformist way as well. However, in spite of all the years of schooling and conditioning, it still feels so unnatural… Actually, quite infuriating!
Ezra, you fight for my human right to be “considered wrong” and you fight against government and anybody’s monopoly to decree who is wrong. That’s the fight of my life and luckily for me, you happen to be a lawyer. And - I am afraid – that might be an exception among lawyers, too.
So thank you again for the job so well done!
With best regards,
I do not want to be in a country where it's wrong to be considered wrong. Because, as my correspondent's letter reminds us, in a tyranny being wrong can mean anything the tyrant says is wrong -- being Jewish; being a non-conformist, whatever.
I would rather live in the cacophony of freedom than in the tyrannical monotony of Nazi or Soviet Poland.
Am I comparing Canada's human rights commissions to the tyrannies of Hitler and Stalin? Of course not. But the difference is only in degree, not in direction. And the fact that Canada's HRCs do not have the awful power of the Soviet "comrades" mentioned above is something that grates on those who inhabit the HRCs. My correspondent is a Jew, and he reminds us why censorship should be so odious to real Jews -- not the Official, Professional Jews of the Canadian Jewish Congress and others who have become little more than ethnic political bosses and grievance hustlers, Canadian Al Sharptons.
But Canada's HRCs are on the march; over the course of four decades, they have slowly, quietly, accreted more and more power, more power than they were originally mandated, more power than they were permitted in the 1990 Taylor decision by the Supreme Court. And they're not done their slow march; as Ian Fine, senior counsel for the Canadian Human Rights Commission -- and a Jew himself! -- declared on national television, as far as he is concerned, "there can't be enough laws against hate" -- hate being whatever he and his cronies decide is hate.
In the past year, I have met dozens of people at all levels of Canada's human rights commissions, from junior staffers to senior executives. Some are just ordinary joes luxuriating in a government job. But too many are the type of people who are actually attracted to HRCs because they themselves have a tyrannical instinct in their personality. They are people who are generally inconsequential in their own lives -- not particularly talented, not particularly successful -- but when they put on the uniform of the state, they are very powerful indeed, and people will listen to them and do as they say, damn it.
There are petty tyrants in every walk of life. But we can avoid or ignore them -- or fight them. Not so when they have the power of the state behind them.
Let me give you my own example. If some unknown, untalented, untrained, inexperienced literary critic like Pardeep Gundara had criticized the Western Standard magazine that I published, I could have ignored him (which I would have done). But Gundara -- a laughable literary critic -- suddenly had the power of the state behind him to weigh and measure our magazine's efforts, as the Alberta HRC censor assigned to adjudicate my case.
Nobody gives a damn what Gundara says, when he says it on his own. At least I don't, and I was the publisher. But when he says his bit as a petty tyrant of the state, people have to listen to him. Or at least I did. That, no doubt, gives him great pleasure, and a feeling of great power, power that he surely lacks in every other aspect of his life. He couldn't earn my respect for his laughable literary and political views. So what -- he could extract obedience from me, by virtue of his position in the Alberta government.
Of course, Gundara's arrogance pales next to that of his colleague Lori Andreachuk, who ordered Rev. Stephen Boissoin to cease giving public sermons (and sending private e-mails) about his Christian views. Had she done so in her private capacity -- a divorce lawyer from Lethbridge -- Rev. Boissoin would have ignored her, or more likely tried to save her anti-Christian soul. But put her in the seat of the HRC, and Rev. Boissoin would have to bend to her will, damn it.
And even Andreachuk pales next to Richard Warman, who has perfectly gamed the system to enforce his political edicts. Once upon a time, Warman ran as a radical candidate for the Green Party, but was rejected soundly several times. Fed up with trying to convince his fellow Canadians of his rectitude, he launched a career of censorship -- suing libraries, websites, newspapers and bloggers who dared to disagree with him.
Warman has filed literally half of all "hate speech" complaints before the CHRC, and 15 of the last 17 trials have had him as the complainant. (He's also made a pretty penny off it, being awarded more than $50,000 tax-free by the human rights tribunal.) The fact that Warman provokes and entraps his targets by engaging in anti-Semitic, anti-gay and anti-Black bigotry online in the guise of a neo-Nazi seems to have given him no moral qualms and no legal qualms to the CHRC, which has not only prosecuted his complaints, but paid for his expenses.
Fingering one's political enemies to the state would be very familiar to my Polish correspondent, to any Chinese survivor of Mao and to any Russian who grew up being forced to idolize Pavlik Morozov, a Ukrainian child venerated by the Communist Party for turning in his own parents for anti-Soviet remarks made over the dinner table. Two generations of Russian children were taught that his example of parricide was the highest form of patriotism.
My point is this: human beings are no different today, in Canada, than they were fifty years ago in the Soviet Union or seventy years ago in Nazi Germany. We are made of the same frail stuff; we must remain on guard; we must continue to call good and evil by their proper names.
There are those among us who would rather punish their neighbours than to persuade them of things. There are those among us who believe that political ends justify brutal means. There are those among us who are attracted to bullying jobs, who take pleasure at meting out pain, who laugh as they humiliate others. That's who are attracted to Canada's human rights commissions. I believe that many of the people who work for Canada's human rights commissions, in a different place or time, would have been attracted to the Communist Party or the National Socialist Party, working to ensure political hygiene in the Motherland or Fatherland.
My correspondent's letter is a reminder to cherish our freedoms, our right to be dissidents, our right to be wrong, and our right "to be considered wrong".