(Image Credit: Account futureatlas.com at flickr.com; the image is at this link. Used without modification under Creative Commons Licence)
The widespread support for the argument that the alleged Chinese interference in Canadian elections is no big deal because it did not affect the outcome of those elections is a sign of the fact that Canada is a nation & society in decline.
A FLOCK OF WILD GEESE
In the 1985 action-thriller movie Wild Geese (Part 2), the character of John Haddad (played by Scott Glenn) is sent on a mercenary mission to East Berlin to kidnap Rudolf Hess, the sole surviving member of the Nazi hierarchy. Haddad is quickly spotted and forcibly picked up by a Soviet operative Karl Stroebling and shoved in a car. As the car begins to move, Stroebling tells Haddad, “This is our city. We like to know what goes on here.” To this, Haddad replies, “Then read the f*****g newspapers.”
I remember this scene after all these years because that was the first time that I heard a curse word in a movie. The idea that Stroebling was conveying was that of State control over the goings-on in its territory. Of course, the Soviets / Communists (and other assorted types of authoritarian regimes) took the idea to its extreme – and still do, in different places in the world. In Canada, there are now legitimate concerns as to how far the State wishes to keep abreast of the most mundane activities of Canadians. In light of this, and keeping in mind the basic tenet that a sovereign State is supposed to have exclusive authority over its territory, it is concerning to see that in certain quarters, the alleged attempts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to influence electoral outcomes in Canada is being shrugged off as a ‘nothingburger’. This is a perplexing stance to take after having read ‘the f*****g newspapers’.
My opinion is that this is tribalism of the worst sort, where one must defend ‘one’s side’ regardless of the consequences for the nation and society. There are multiple corrosive influences gaining ground in Canada at present that pose a variety of challenges on a wide range of fronts. Without minimizing the gravity of the problems that the other influences are certain to cause for us down the line, I am prepared to state that this present iteration of hyper-tribalism poses the gravest threat to the existence of Canada. This is because this hyper-tribalism is causing many Canadians to dismiss as inconsequential an (alleged) act on the argument that the said (alleged) act was infructuous. Of course, if such an attempt were to be fruitful, it would be too late to do anything about the meddling by foreign powers in the foundational structures of Canadian democracy. The time to do something about it (after having been caught napping) is before such attempts in the future have a chance to fructify. To use a crude analogy, this ‘nothingburger defence’ is akin to a situation where an outsider violates the modesty of a lady in a household, and some of the members of that household deem it unworthy of reaction because the lady did not become pregnant as a result of the outsider’s act of aggression.
IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS
It is a universal tenet of legal systems that an attempt to commit a crime is itself a crime. This, of course, presupposes that the attempt was unsuccessful. Several other concepts are also attached to this tenet, such as being an accomplice / accessory to a crime, being an after-the-fact accomplice to a crime etc. We derive two observations from this legal arrangement: that it is not necessary that the intended objective(s) of the perpetrators should have been met and that one need not have been directly involved in the act.
Beyond that, given that the very idea of a ‘due process’ is to ascertain whether the accused is / are indeed guilty of the act or an attempt thereat, what sets the process going is prima facie evidence that a crime may have been committed, including the attempt to commit the said crime. From the details available so far, it is pretty clear that the prima facie evidence of CCP’s attempt to influence the outcome of the elections in 2019 and 2021 exists. The fact that the attempts may have been unsuccessful is, therefore, irrelevant. The hair-splitting being engaged in by the hyper-tribalist factions in the Canadian society can be understood in the context of world history, and especially the chapter of history pertaining to colonization.
During my school years, studying history took me through a range of emotions. Of course, the textbooks painted the European colonizers as villains (primarily British, but let us not forget that a whole bunch of other European countries also had their version of the British East India Company, such as Portugal, France and Holland). But one fact nagged at me: at the 1757 battle at Plassey in Bengal that gave the British political control over an area in the Indian subcontinent for the first time (they had been traders until then), the British victory was the result of that the General of the army of the Indian king had sold out to the British, in return for a promise by the British to be made the next king of Bengal. Till this day, the name of that General, Mir Jaffar, is synonymous with ‘betrayal’ or ‘treason’ in the Indian subcontinent.
But Mir Jaffar wasn’t the only one to aid the British. Their army consisted of over 2,000 Indian sepoys (foot soldiers) in addition to less than 1,000 British. In addition, a prominent merchant family (that of Jagat Seth) funded the British military effort because they were the subject of predatory actions of the king, Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah and his coterie, including (allegedly) against the womenfolk of their household. Finally, at the instruction of Mir Jaffar, tens of thousands of the king’s soldiers (both infantry and cavalry) defected to the British side once the battle began. In a nutshell, (a) there was a critical mass of the local population whose loyalty was to a foreign power rather than to their land and (b) there was an additional mass of locals who were willing to follow whatever instructions this former group gave them, unmindful of the long-term consequences. History says that ‘the British’ won the battle at Plassey, setting in motion a long chapter of history of colonization, but this ‘British’ victory had been brought about by Indians – against their own people. Their motivations varied, from a lust for power to self-preservation to blind loyalty. I believe that at the root of these was the fact that oppressive rule by the Nawab had created deep, irreconcilable divisions in the Bengali society.
SWEARING BY THE SABRE
Every time an issue of this nature emerges (or erupts, depending on the circumstances), a (thankfully tiny) segment of the Canadian society offers that foreign-born Canadians should not be allowed to hold any elected office in Canada (I have taken a deep dive into this in my podcast episode titled ‘Perennial Outsiders’). Some extend this argument to state that dual citizenship should not be allowed for people holding political office, or even in general.
I disagree with this position because being born in Canada is no guarantee of being loyal to it. But seeing these comments makes me remember a scene from the classic Western movie ‘The Searchers’, in which the leading character Ethan Edwards (played by John Wayne) refuses to take an oath to be a member of a hastily organized militia of the Texas Rangers, telling Captain (and reverend) Samuel Johnson Clayton (played by Ward Bond) that “I figure a man is only good for one oath at a time” (at the 3:05 mark in this YouTube clip). It is, of course, impossible to know whether a person is true to his or her oath of loyalty to Canada until there is evidence pointing one way or the other. But this evidence would rarely be conclusive ab initio. Hence the need for a due process.
DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR
Ever since the story of alleged CCP attempts to influence Canadian elections broke, the governing Liberal Party and Prime Minister Trudeau have tried various approaches to make it go away. At first, the story was said to be false, then it was suggested that investigating this allegation was somehow akin to doubting the loyalty of Chinese-Canadians and therefore racist, to Liberal MP Ruby Sahota offering that an inquiry would be too time-consuming and costly (notwithstanding that there is megatons of money wasted in government). The announcement by PM Trudeau that a ‘special rapporteur’ would be appointed to look into the allegations, while cringeworthy and validly suspected of being a potential smokescreen, is indicative of the fact that he thinks too highly of himself. Usually ‘rapporteurs’ are appointed by the United Nations (or other global bodies) to look into issues of global concern. I have never heard of a ‘rapporteur’ being appointed by a country to look into an internal matter. The closest example that I can think of is the tendency in the US to appoint a ‘Czar’ on issues that have acquired critical importance in their domestic politics. Given the fact that the very foundation of the country on a rejection of monarchy, I find their affinity of this title of ‘Czar’ to be mildly amusing.
Coming back to Canada, the report by a ‘rapporteur’, if and when it comes, is very likely to enable the whole issue to go away – while offering some token, milquetoast criticism of the way the Liberal government has comported itself over the issue. If that happens, it would add considerable wind in the sails of the ‘nothingburger’ crowd, and the divided opinions on the matter will persist for decades in exactly the manner that I have described my earlier article ‘Structural Dysfunction’.
WAITING FOR 24 JUNE 1757
The battle of Plassey, which undoubtedly changed the course of world history despite being a small battle that was over before the sun had set, was fought on 23 June 1757. Less than 6 months prior to that, the two sides had fought another battle on 9 January 1757, in which the British had been defeated. However, the victorious Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah had become scared enough to sign a treaty with the British East India Company, agreeing to restore the Company’s factories, allow it to fortify the city of Calcutta and restoring their former privileges. Less than 6 months after this victory, the Nawab had been defeated and killed; the British had acquired political control over an area several times the size of Britain.
In current colloquial terms, the first British attack on the Nawab’s kingdom was a ‘nothingburger’, because they failed to achieve their objective. But the Indian side treating it as a ‘nothingburger’ led to the success of the subsequent attempt by the British. I believe that treating the alleged attempt by the CCP to influence Canadian elections as a ‘nothingburger’ because it failed to achieve its objective will lead Canada to our own Battle of Plassey, and on our equivalent of 24 June 1757, we may wake up to find out that we have new political masters, the ones who have zero interest in the welfare of Canadians; their only goal will be to plunder the wealth of Canada, just as it was the solitary goal of the British East India Company to plunder the wealth of the Indian subcontinent. As history has shown over and over again, that is the inevitable fate of nations and societies in decline, because too many people are unwilling to stand up to the affronts against its sovereignty.
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