I read that the The European court has ruled against the Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law- saying, “given the vagueness of the terminology used and the potentially unlimited scope of their application, these provisions are open to abuse in individual cases.” https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/06/european-court-blasts-russias-gay-propaganda-law-as-discriminatory/530925/
I think that’s a good standard for laws and I’m inclined to totally agree with the ruling because the law is only capable of policing certain things. If the law isn’t incisive enough it becomes absurd and oppressive. The court would do well, though, to look at all European and Canadian laws through that same lens (Americans legally have the most expansive freedom of expression).
I can think of a few canadian laws and I gather Europeans have similarly stifling laws that certainly fit that discription of vagueness and potential abusiveness. The Russian law probably targets some speech and expression that is really harmful and misguided but it probably does a whole lot of bullying too. There isn’t a ‘group’ of people on earth that isn’t party to reprehensible speech or insightful speech. That’s the thing: although I would certainly like the government to ban a bunch of things I don’t like, I know it would be bad in the end because the government does a poor job of policing speech or personal ‘propoganda,’ usually just bullying political opponents in the end. The totality of life is too dynamic to police with legislation. The upshot is that the law can’t change hearts. The government can’t coerce people to be virtuous or tolerant- people need to discover and nurture virtue and tolerance on their own, and communities can help. So while Russia has a long way to go to be a free and tolerant country, we shouldn’t be smug and complacent in Canada: Canadians have our own vague laws and need to find virtue on our own.
Emma Green wrote an excellent, vital piece on the importance of talking about virtue- and what makes it so hard to talk about! It requires the virtue of temperance in order to strengthen our hearts by tempering our passions with humility.
It seems 1984 would be more useful in Russia as the Handmaid’s Tale would be more useful in Saudi Arabia- Canadians should be looking to Brave New World (a book I regret not looking at more closely when it was assigned in high school). What Huxley shows us in Brave New World isn’t a police state or a brutal theocracy, but a society where political nudging, social status signalling, shallow relationships, and the ideas that advanced technology and pharmacology can solve moral problems and quench spiritual longings are paramount. The dystopian world in Brave New World should help us hone back in on first principles; The wild man yearning for higher beauty and willing to hurt for it should inspire us
P.S. I think I’ll give The Handmaid’s Tale a closer look because it seems like the cause of infertility that impelled the dystopian world might be shallow relationships, status grubbing, and pollution, so tracing it back Atwood might share some of Huxley’s warnings
The government of Canada works for you: if you build your mansion in a flood plain, the government will buy it from you after the flood; if you make 200K a year and feel like you’re being squeezed in the middle class, you’ll get tax relief; if you’re the son of a lawyer, you’ll get your prescription drugs paid for just like the next young person; if you want to drive a luxury Tesla sports car, the government will give you a big discount- if you work every day but can’t afford to get your teeth or eyes checked, the government isn’t working for you yet, though- how about we get the government working for the working poor or let’s start limiting the government
I’d take two admirable people- one with fears that give him or her a soft spot for conservative excesses and another with a soft spot for liberal excesses- and I would have them temper their bias together with the goal of listing as many agreed facts and principles on a given issue as possible. It won’t be fun, but I think it’s necessary and would impel much more tempered and constructive conversation
Andrew Coyne does a commendable job expressing the conservative ideals of rule of law, separation of powers, and dignity of of Every One. Alas, the same seems to go for conservatism as he writes about populism: ‘the most idealized sense of a word is rarely its meaning in common usage.’