Gleichschaltung in Quebec

Gleichschaltung was a term used by the Nazis for “coordination”, “bringing into line”,”making the same”.  In the period from 1933, when they took power, to 1937, the Nazis forcibly “coordinated” every institution in German society so that it could never be a source of opposition to the regime, and created many organizations (such as for youth) in which participation was compulsory.

Now I freely admit that likening the behaviour of the Parti Quebecois to the Nazis in any real sense is unfair, ludicrous, so exaggerated as to be seriously misleading and unjust. There is no terror here; I write and speak  freely; the Quebecois neighbours are nice; there is no secret police, no burnings of books or of witches. English shop owners are not burnt out, nor are our churches.

So by what right do I liken Quebec’s proposed policies against the visible wearing of religious symbols to a form of tyranny?  After all, I agree that Islam’s adherents need to be watched carefully, and that the state needs to suppress jihadists and their supporters. I am against significant Islamic immigration.

So I am just as bound and determined to maintain a  liberal democratic society as the Quebecois seem determined to maintain a democratic tribal one. That is the nub of our differences.

A propos tribalism, I have just begun to read Karl Popper’s magnificent “the Open Society and its Enemies”. Popper writes clearly, and the targets of his well-considered wrath are Plato, Hegel, and Marx, among others. His fundamental contention, so far as I understand it, is that humanity is in a constant struggle against those who would have us live in a tribal society, where we shall all vibrate on the same wavelength. Such, in their own ways, were the goals of National Socialism, and International Socialism (race versus class). Plato’s political writings concerned how the Guardians could maintain their purity of purpose against the diverse purposes of the leser people whom the Guardians would rule.

Popper’s  argued passionately against collectivism and seeking a meaning in history, which meaning would compel us conform and subordinate our thoughts and actions to the Greater Collective Good, as defined by the prophet (Plato, Hegel, Marx, or anyone else).

So while it is in some sense grotesque to liken Quebec’s collectivism to those of national socialism, Marxism, or the Platonic republic, in another sense, it is a tepid copy of  much worse regimes. It is the direction in which the Parti Quebecois wants to go that is objectionable, not the state at which it has arrived.

Pauline Marois says she wants

a serene harmonious debate so that we can collectively draw some conclusions that allow us to live together better. That’s what we want”.

Pauline, you can have a debate, or you can have a serene and harmonious hymn singing, but you cannot have a debate when different ideas of society are, ipso facto, excluded or beyond the zone of toleration . You can have political liberty, you can have fundamentally different ideas of society being argued about, but you cannot have everyone on the same wavelength. If you want that, go to North Korea.

Serene, harmonious debate – my ass.