Hegel And The Tribal Nationalism Of The Parti Quebecois

The source of the various totalitarian regimes of 20th century Europe can be traced back to the days of Plato. The early blueprint of totalitarianism could be found in works such as ‘The Republic‘, one chapter of which is called ‘The allegory of the cave’, which some have some said is an early example of how politicians deceive a population for their own power-driven aims. In the allegory of the cave , the people were referred to as prisoners, chained-up and forced to watch shadows of puppets projected on the wall by a fire behind them. When the prisoners saw a shadow of an object or a puppet, they referred to the object by it’s name. It was the role of the philosopher to ‘free the prisoners by showing them the light’, and to make it clear to them that these objects that they were referring to by their real names were not reality, only shadows.

It is difficult to draw a line in history directly from Plato to the Parti Quebecois, because Plato’s thinking was in an entirely different sociopolitical context, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that the ‘warchest’ for modern day nationalism had developed. But from Plato, if we fast-forward over 2000 years to the 1700’s, we can find some less abstract comparisons between the teachings of early thinkers of racial and tribal nationalism that inherited many ideas from Plato. Many would agree that the father of modern day tribal nationalism was George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, born in 1170 in Stuttgart.

Hegel is credited, more fundamentally, of being the father of modern-day totalitarianism for which communism (Karl Marx) and tribal nationalism (Hitler, Mussolini) are both branches of. Before you come to the conclusion that I am making a comparison between the Parti Quebecois government and either of these political doctrines, I am not. I am just mentioning what the thinking of Hegel led to. But there are also tremendous differences between the contexts in which these doctrines were applied. For example, in Germany, the Nazi’s had much more power to act on their brand of racial nationalism, and so did Bolshevik Russia in the case of communism. In modern day Quebec, there are all kinds of barriers to the Parti Quebecois ultimate goal (Canadian and Quebec charter of human rights, general apathy towards nationalism, Quebec being well positioned socioeconomically, the fact that we live in a relatively enlightened age where information is ubiquitous and easily obtainable ). But to create the conditions for a referendum on sovereignty, one approach is to do it within the framework of a specific brand of tribal nationalism that speaks to the realities of contemporary North America. It is unlikely to succeed, but you never know.

Instead of dissecting Hegel’s work directly (Hegel is notoriously extremely difficult to follow), I will refer to Karl Popper’s analysis of Hegel. Karl Popper was a great philosopher of science, and as such, is perfectly suited to confronting head-on, in a pragmatic manner the dangerous ideological thinking of Hegel. I want to first point out a quote that Popper used in his book The Open Society and It’s Enemies (I will use this book for my analysis in this blog). The quote is about Hegel’s work and it is by a philosopher by the name of Schopenhauer (Schopenhauer is talking about the appointment of Hegel as a sort of state sanctioned philosopher by the Prussian empire) :

Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. This nonsense has been noisily proclaimed as immortal wisdom by mercenary followers and readily accepted as such by all fools, who this joined into a perfect chorus of admiration as had ever been heard before.

I don’t know about you, but the reaction that Schopenhauer has to Hegel reminds me of the reaction that many have had to the values charter. I think ‘Crazy, mystifying nonsense‘ is the best phrase I’ve heard to describe the values charter. Crazy, because the approach of banning everyone in the public service and every private government contractor from wearing ‘conspicuous’ head gear goes right of the deep-end, and is well, crazy. Reasonable people can debate whether or not certain employees should have their faces uncovered that are in positions of authority, before a public hearing or for security reasons. No one is denying that there shouldn’t be some adaptation to Quebecois culture. And the law is mystifying, because no one is quite sure what the party Quebecois mean by ‘conspicuous’ religious symbols, nor does anyone really understand how to administer the law, or what punitive framework will be put in place for non compliance. Imagine the bureaucracy and tax money that will be required to follow-up on complaints, administration, working out ambiguities, human rights litigation, etc. Yes, Bernard Drainville is our very own, modern day Hegel.

Let’s compare the Parti Quebecois’s brand of nationalism with 3 more pertinent points from Karl Poppers summary of Hegel’s philosophy of Totalitarianism. I will provide the quote from Karl Popper’s book, followed by examples of Parti Quebecois behavior.

a)  “According to modern totalitarian doctrinces, the state as such is not the highest end. This is rather , the Blood, and the People, the Race. The higher races possess the power to create states. The highest aim of a race or nation is to form a mighty state which can serve as a powerful instrument of self preservation.”

Ask yourself as an Anglophone, Allophone or Federalist Francophone – do you feel truly ‘Quebecois’. I don’t. That’s because I am not, my last name is not Tremblay or Lefebvre. If the separatists ideology is not founded on racism, why do so many people in Quebec feel this way?

I find it quite amusing to listen to all of the defenders of the PQ and the Quebecois people to dismiss claims that they’re is not rampant racism in the separatist ideology. Like it wasn’t racist when Suzanne Tremblay reminded everyone that Jean Charest’s real name is ‘John’ and not ‘Jean’, so he is not really ‘one of us’. And the most glaringly obvious, when a drunk Parizeau stood in front of a dejected crowd of separatists and blamed ‘money and the ethnic vote‘ following the referendum of 95 NON victory. If ethnics are the real problem, then what are we to do with them? One of the answers may be the values charter. Something about the values charter that has not been treated very much is how it is supposed to make an immigrant (even a non-religious immigrant) feel as a member of Quebecois society? When the PQ has made it clear that the symbols of that which is most sacred to them are not welcome. It is not about the details (ie you cannot wear the symbols in public office), it is more about perception and precedent (the general attitudes towards minorities that the state has sanctioned as well as the reputation that Quebec has globally for treatment of minorities). Think for a second, if the charter is not even law yet, and the the number of complaints made by Muslim women has surged to 117 between the September 15 and October 15, when there were 25 complaints in the 6 month period of January to July 2013. That is a staggering increase in complaints, and only the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, it is these kinds of statistical facts that are used to evaluate a nation (if Quebec should ever become one) with respect to how it treats its minorities, and how indices such as the HDI are calculated (if you would like more information, review current human development reports conducted by the United Nations Development Programme).

b) “A theory common to both Hegel and his racialist followers is that the state is its very essence can exists only through its contrast to other individual states.”

Popper also quotes H. Freyer: “A being that draws itself round its own core creates, unintentionally, the boundary-line. And the frontier – even though it unintentionally creates the enemy

The term ‘Racialism’ denotes the broader theory that there is a distinction between the races. I have already treated the racism of the Parti Quebecois, so let’s turn our attention to the essence of the Quebec state as it contrasts to other states, ie Canada. Sigmund Freud made a similar statement in a work that he wrote during the first world war in which he essentially states that nations attempt to destroy what is around them in the interest of their own self-preservation and providence (see ‘Civilization and it’s Discontents‘). We can see this constantly with the Parti Quebecois. The enemy is clearly Ottawa, and we must do everything possible to repatriate powers from them. Ottawa, is of course the governing symbol of Canada.

In an article by ‘vice.com’, titled ‘This is what Quebec separatism looks like in 2013‘, the author asks the following question of Jean-Claude Sylvain Guay, who ran for the leadership of the Bloc Quebecois in 2011: How would the Anglophones fit in to a separate Quebec? To which part of Jean-Claude’s response was: “I feel that many Anglophones are feeling less and less Canadian.” What? Seriously? If you were to poll Anglophones today with the question “would you stay in Quebec if it separated“, I would be surprised if 1% said yes. This is an example of the arrogance of separatists, that they are some how ‘destroying’ the Canadian inside of Anglophones. Not a chance.

This drive by the PQ to draw a boundary around the Quebec people, closing them off, or walling them in from the rest of North American civilization is sure to impoverish the Quebecois people. They continue to be hostile to freedom by limiting people from attending schools in the language of their choice, banning religious symbols in public office, preventing English in the workplace as much as they can, and taxing people to the hilt. Pauline Marois is becoming the Fidel Castro of the north. And by the way, there are plenty of other ways to protect the French language and culture in North America.

c) The State is the law, the moral law as well as the jurdicial law, thus it cannot be subject to any other standard, and especially not to the yardstick of civil morality. It’s historical responsibilities are deeper. 

I will come back to the values charter once again. Don’t forget, that the charter removes rights from people. What is the justification for this? The PQ use the excuse that it is somehow rooted in their history and their culture (more silly mysticism, but anyway). No one can really explain how this has anything to do with Quebecois history and culture, but asking this question is unnecessary, because the PQ are appealing to this deep rooted and irrational fear among Quebecois that there very existence at risk. Essentially, ethnics are the problem. Let’s face it, if the PQ could get away with more extreme measures than the values charter, they would. Another point here is that one needs to point out that the PQ are constantly using historical and cultural arguments as motivation for tabling their various legislation, whereas the PLQ uses the basis of contemporary and economic issues as motivation for their legislation, you know, like having good job opportunities, taxes, housing values, etc. Imagine if some English Canadian zealot prime minister started talking about English Canadian history, dug up some examples of where Francophones had historically wronged us and then turned this against Francophones and Immigrants. News flash for separatists – this country was founded on wars, wars that involved many different people, where many different peopled were wronged in many different ways – why are you always the victims in every story?

I admit that nationalism is one way of achieving victory for separatists, and I don’t deny that it can be an effective one. Achieving victory for separatists will require motivation and mobilization in perhaps controversial, confrontational and maybe even violent ways. To be honest, if you were to ask me straight-out, is the PQ movement a movement based on racial nationalistic, I would say yes, but only a mild form of it.

I welcome anyone to comment on my blog. Disagree or agree vehemently if you will. But any simple-minded personal attacks will never see the light of day, so don’t bother. Furthermore, if what I have said makes you so angry, then that is validation of its truth. My advice, if you are very angry and want to respond, take a walk, wait an hour and make your case lucidly.

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