In Canada and beyond, one of the most odd and broad political patterns these days is the strange dynamic between the private and the public.
These days, I often see evidence suggesting that secular progressive culture wants religion to be a thoroughly private affair. For instance, such progressivism has a tendency to believe in the “freedom to worship”, but not as much in the more politically engaging “freedom of religion”.
In other words, believers should (perhaps) be seen in public but never heard.
Now, to be fair, the “freedom of religion” has always been more dangerous to the political status quo. After all, one never knows when a “religious” idea might take hold, publicly. Nevertheless, when it comes to religion, the secular liberal public appears to prefer Batman to Ironman— it wants less grandstanding in the public square, and more seclusion in a private lair.
At the same time, however, non-religious priorities are seemingly moving in the opposite direction. Suicide, for example, which might just be the epitome of the weighty “private” decision, is now going public in Canada in ways that might make street-corner evangelists envious.
Whereas, historically, suicide could be as private as falling on one’s own sword, the contemporary progressivist desire for suicide is about as public as one can imagine. It’s doctor-assisted, State-assisted, and hence tax-payer assisted. It has more assists than Wayne Gretzky.
Andrew Coyne recently summed up its emerging Canadian status: "Assisted suicide has gone, in the space of a year, from a crime to something to be tolerated in exceptional circumstances, to a public service.”
And what about our custodians of the public trust?
Recently, an entire provincial government would have been guilty of murder had the Supreme Court of Canada not granted, in effect, a special legal dispensation to Quebec! Can the embarrassing rush to judgement get any more public than that?
The euthanasia issue may be routinely debated using libertarian arguments that focus upon personal autonomy, but make no mistake, State-assisted suicide is not about privacy— it is about publicity. It is about the full-blown public endorsement and subsidization of private despair.
Interestingly, though, we’ve actually heard a similar debate before, but in another guise.
In 1973, the American Supreme Court defended its decision on abortion (in "Roe v. Wade") on the basis of privacy. Yet, when combined with public health care, abortion in Canada or the United States becomes completely tax-funded. Thereby, abortion becomes a “private decision between a woman and her doctor” publicly justified and financed by everyone else. Do we realize that the same secular progressive Canadians who complain about Catholic schools receiving public funding, will likely heartily endorse tax-payer funding of the new “Mengele School of Medicine”— mythically speaking, at least. And all this Hippocratic hypocrisy comes courtesy of the progressive State.
Even trivially, these important issues have precedents in far older arguments. Do governments want to control a Canadian’s desire to be drunk, personally, or simply have some say over a Canadian’s desire to be drunk, publicly? In this particular instance, the State believes in one’s sovereignty in private, but just not in public. Evidently, we once knew better than to endorse a private evil as a public good. Hence, the irony that a Canadian cannot get drunk in public, but will soon be able to ask a doctor to help him die, all while “live” and probably tweeting about it.
For all our penchant for publicity, why isn’t there much public discussion on the concept of the “public good” (as opposed to personal rights)? Are such topics too quaint for general consumption? The first home-grown constitutional document that existed in North America, the Mayflower Compact (1620), not only spoke of a “civil body politic” in all its 204-word glory, but also made special mention of enacting laws and ordinances for “the general good” of the colony.
In other words, if those citizens were going to publicly enact anything, it would be because it was a public good they were embracing.
Yet, can suicide ever be defined as a “public good”? Perhaps we’d rather opt out of the question. If so, here’s how far we’ve come: We’re now more convinced of the public goodness of not defining “good” than we are in defining the public good.
When Premier Notley’s government in Alberta wants to make certain that transgendered students can use the washroom of their choice on any given day, depending on their feelings in the moment, she may well be empowering a very small group of people. Yet her government is, by so doing, taking private identity-based ideology and deliberately eroding the common good. If I’m wrong, then why have public washrooms become the battleground to redefine private identity?
Moreover, when Alberta government legislation compels all schools— whether public or private— to accept such ideology, it is also forcing public religion to go back into a closet, all while urging the transgendered to come out of whatever water-closet they choose. And all this is based, in this instance, on unproven academic theory— derived inside publicly-funded ivory towers and bureaucratically foisted into the public square.
What we are actually witnessing, therefore, is minority-based sexual identity rights attempting to drive opposition into the private realm, while also attempting to redefine the public good in ways that are not the common good. Progressive regimes are routinely ignoring both what is “common” and what is “good” in favour of ever more esoteric autonomous rights.
The always unstable entente between the majority-protecting democratic compact and the individual rights-toting judiciary is likely now tipped in favour of the latter. And this trend now comes complete with a thoroughly novel desire on the part of social progressives to take previously private things public, and force previously public things private.
All this reminds me of the rather curious case of the activist who protested circumcision in the 2012 Vancouver Pride parade. In taking his criticism public, he thoroughly revealed his privates. Ironically, though, his public display was largely directed at a thoroughly private religious tradition.
So, are we close to a day when progressives can be more public with their private parts than those private parts can be public about their religious source? I’m not sure.
But, in this case, foreskinned is forewarned.