November 20, 2019

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Put away the revolver

As an idealistic young man in 1936, Albert Camus pondered joining the Communist Party. His teacher and friend Jean Grenier advised him to consider his choice carefully.

Grenier told Camus, “The problem of communism is whether, for an ideal of justice, one is willing to accept stupid ideas.”

Camus eventually joined the party, but his teacher’s words stayed with him—how far was he willing to compromise his own morals and his intelligence in the name of “an ideal of justice?”

When he finally broke with the communists after the Second World War, many French intellectuals accused him of selling out. But Camus had already been writing his master work, The Rebel, which denounced all forms of absolutes and called for people to think freely rather than obey a prescribed set of core beliefs.

To radically oversimplify, pursue justice but don’t accept stupid ideas.

The Rebel earned Camus the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957.

Canadians in 2019 are divided and entrenched in our partisan camps. Our political tribes demand ideological purity and strict solidarity. And so we see intelligent people going along with stupid ideas.

My friends, western separatism is a stupid idea. And we know it’s a stupid idea. But for our own ideal of justice, we seem willing to accept it.

It’s not just the separatists who are guilty. It’s also the self-proclaimed federalists, like our premier, who use separatist sentiment as a bargaining tool and a weapon.

This only compounds the stupidity. The playwright Anton Chekhov once said “if you show the audience a revolver in the first act, you must fire it by the third act.”

Put another way, a bluff hand will be called sooner or later. Then our federalist champions will have to come through on the separation threat, or admit it was never serious. Either way it’s a dangerous game, and one we can’t win.

Put the revolver away. Reject the stupid ideas, and get to work.

I am far more inspired by the leadership stance of Manitoba premier Brian Pallister:

“I don’t have any time for that,” he said when asked about separatism. “I listened to this from Quebec for years, and I don’t like listening to it from western Canadian friends of mine.

“If we’re going to make the country work, we work together on it. We make a commitment to it. It’s a relationship.”

A conservative ideal of justice for the West doesn’t have to include stupid ideas. But if it does, we need to have the courage and the intellectual honesty to reject them outright.