While maybe not surprising to long-term readers who have been following since I wrote an article defending communism, I am now writing an article about how maybe we could all use a little less freedom. George W. Bush was right: we hate your freedoms, and we’re coming to take them away. Sorry America, but the terrorists just had the better argument. Blame the free market of ideas, and then marvel at the irony.

The thing is, freedom is actually a paradoxical ideology. Universal freedom is necessarily contradictory. The current “debate” about masking during a pandemic is case-in-point. If you are free to disregard masks and parade around mouth-breathing your aerosol droplets all over me, my freedom to avoid getting sick from Covid is reduced. There are millions of examples you can come up with: my freedom to be verbally abusive limits your freedom from verbal abuse. If you are free to make puns, it renders my freedom to live in a world without puns sadly utopian. If you believe yourself free to cheat on your monogamous partner and your excuse is, “I thought this was America!”, you will quickly discover that people aren’t super thrilled when your alleged freedom impinges on their own.

Kill me.

Am I entitled to mature and well-developed humour? Maybe not. Am I entitled to health? This point becomes harder to argue against. Am I entitled to health that is not being actively damaged by the choices of others? It would probably be a good idea to have a society that adopts that mentality, yeah. The issue is that the debate never focuses on the issues impacted by the free actions of others, and the freedoms they might be reducing in turn. It typically focuses on ‘freedom’ as an abstract, unexamined concept that just has that certain je-ne-sais-quoi that most people find appealing. Even those denouncing the demands of those freedom-loving anti-maskers won’t condemn the concept of freedom itself, but you heard it here first: freedom the way most people imagine it is a masturbatory fantasy.

Freedom advocates would argue that freedom should not exist completely deregulated, but that the only reasonable regulations are negative ones: you can’t murder, for example, but you shouldn’t be compelled to act in any particular way. Hence, you can’t make me put on a mask, you commie! However, the limits on negative regulation are arbitrary. Being forbidden from making puns is a negative regulation, but I have yet to come across a libertarian seriously making this argument despite its expansive merit. The distinction between negative and positive impositions on freedom is completely meaningless, and doesn’t address my original point that all the actions we take are going to be affecting those around us in ways that may well reduce their freedom. While this is a small case of conjecture, I can speculate that the ‘true believers’ would say that those who are negatively impacted by their free actions should just suck it up; they should content themselves with having less freedom than others. Sounds completely reasonable and not at all systemically oppressive.

Those kids should be free to do whatever they want, and if she doesn’t like it, she has the freedom to start her *own* school!

Freedom is a pretty great idea. I like being able to do things, but I also recognize that I am one individual among many with equal entitlement to the things that I ought to be entitled to. I want to be healthy, but I have to recognize that everyone else wants to be healthy too. I want to live in a world without puns, but I have to recognize that other people have the wrong sense of humour, and I just have to live with their wrongness. If I begin to act in a way that limits the puns of others using my own freedom to coerce their behaviour, I am limiting their freedom to make awful “jokes.” I would appreciate the same consideration when I make delightful and well-timed fart jokes from the plebeians that simply don’t understand the nuance!

When we recognize the needs of others as equally requiring consideration, we recognize that we must be responsible to those needs and our freedom must be curtailed. If we disregard the needs of others, we are not actually advocating for universal freedom, we are demanding selfish preference. Freedom is not generalizable, but the great thing about responsibility is that it is! Everyone is capable of shouldering equal amounts of responsibility to their neighbour. An argument could be made that some parties may be more responsible than others (more polluting nations are more responsible for reining in their carbon emissions to address climate change, for example), but aspirational responsibility is not as contradictory as aspirational freedom.

I may have lived long enough to see myself become the villain, here

Viktor Frankl is quoted as saying that America needs a Statue of Responsibility to temper its Statue of Liberty, and his worries are coming to deadly fruition today. Politicians and pundits that espouse and proselytize freedom can only be pandering to the selfish ego of their followers, by the very nature of the ideology they are spouting. The purposeful disregard and neglect of one’s neighbour is the disregard and neglect of their freedom. I guess the point is you’re not supposed to give a shit about your neighbour because your freedom is the only freedom that matters.

Let’s instead work toward a universal responsibility. It’s not particularly difficult because it’s something that can be adopted in every action. We can be responsible to others as individuals; it can be foisted upon our politicians and other macro-level actors sure, and adopted by corporations and those on the mezzo level too. Everyone can be responsible. The less we focus on a pointless concept like freedom, the more we can focus on taking care of one another. I think the world would be much better off, and we’d probably have fewer Covid cases too.

More reflective criticisms of communism, outside of the absurd mainstay of communism being the antithesis to “America” that most critics rely on, focus on the centralized government being in complete control of the economy. Economies work best when dictated by the invisible hand of supply and demand, and if a powerful bureaucracy were to attempt to fumble their way through managing the intricacies of varying economic factors, they would inevitably fail. An economy inherently cannot be managed by a centralized power. Just look at the Soviet Union, or Cuba, or Venezuela, or any of the other “failed” communist states who weren’t able to trade with other countries due to economic sanctions. It was The Communism that crippled their economy because their governments were too hands on; it wasn’t their isolation from markets. Also, don’t look at China because they seem to be managing their economy fine and are one of the most prosperous nations in the world.

IGNORE US! MILLIONS OF PEOPLE OUT OF POVERTY NEVER HAPPENED!

I’m not here to be a defender of communism or to detail about how it isn’t even necessarily linked to a managed economy (I’ve already done that). Nor am I trying to defend China (the Muslim-minority Uyghurs don’t seem to benefit from a prosperous GDP) or get into a debate about the extent of capitalism that exists under a self-described “communist” government (that’s why Western governments are totally fine with Huawei’s networks in their countries and are fully supportive of the Belt and Road Initiative – there is no government management in their economy whatsoever). I want to talk about managed economies in general as someone who has never formally studied economics. Strap in!

Let’s take the conservative view that any kind of government oversight is going to hinder economic growth. We’ll imagine the libertarian paradise where government finally leaves companies and corporations alone to competitively spar with grit and vigour. Of course, in competitions there are winners and losers, and when a company loses, it either folds or is bought up by the winning company it was competing against. Once a company wins, it dominates its market and becomes more powerful making it harder for newer, innovative companies to compete. It would sort of be like if Mike Tyson ate the heart of everyone he beat in a boxing match and gained their strength on top of his own. Or I guess the literal plot of the movie Highlander. And much like the film, there can be only one, and that’s why capitalism tends toward monopoly. You can look at Alphabet Inc., the corporation that owns Google, for instance: they’ve cornered the market, and bought up 243 companies that came up with innovative ideas related to internet-y type stuff. If some young entrepreneur working in their parents’ garage came up with some new technology that improved the way searching works, you think they’d be able to compete with Google? Or not be bought out in an instant? Even a trillion dollar company like Microsoft can’t compete with Google in its market, and if you use Bing, you’ll know why.

Most of the memes comparing Google and Bing are pretty dark, I’ve just now discovered, looking for an image to break up this text. I went with one that illustrates my point instead.

With further expansion of corporate assets, one can imagine quite a spread. Amazon, an online retailer, has made inroads into grocery chains, robotics, video streaming, and news media. With this diverse portfolio already existing within a world with already too much nanny-ing in its state, it’s easy to see these big corporations building their own empires of employment were governments to dissolve. The abolition of government in favour of capitalism wouldn’t lead to any kind of libertarian paradise, but to more of a corporate feudalism where one’s national identity would be better defined by where they worked rather than where they lived.

Jeff Bezos would be king, the managerial class would be his aristocracy, and the workers would be his peasants. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and the other b(tr)illionaire owners would be neighbouring monarchies. The metaphor works quite well. Current day governments are the centralized Catholic church; the church had control over the identity of their subjects for hundreds of years. Then the individual, national monarchies got stronger and stronger, and identity was shifting. In the end, Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife, the Pope said no, and King Henry said fuck you and started his own damn church. We’re at the stage now where there is an uneasy alliance between the two superpowers of government and corporation, and there is a real possibility that some corporate lord is going to have his own Henry VIII moment where he doesn’t want to do what governments are regulating and decides to secede.

Anti-trust laws are the only thing standing between me and my Anne Boleyn

Maybe this isn’t so bad because capitalism relies on pecuniary wealth as its measure of power rather than land ownership, right? Well, that’s not technically correct because capitalist power resides in ownership just as much as feudal power; Jeff Bezos is powerful because he has a say in how Amazon, the Washington Post, and Blue Origin are run. And within capitalism, this power manifests itself much in the same way as between warring monarchies. When Iran’s Prime Minister Mossadegh wanted oversight on his country’s oil reserves, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) pushed American and British forces to assassinate him to accommodate their corporate interest. When the United Fruit Company (now Chiquitas Brands International) didn’t like how the democratically-elected government of Guatemala was challenging its monopoly of their arable land, they lobbied the American government to arrange a coup. Both instances led to the installation of brutal dictatorships – notably, brutal to their people, but quite friendly to corporate interests.

This capitalist utopia would ultimately be a regression of civilization, and more importantly, the economy would still be managed! Jeff Bezos is already talking about it! He wants to solve global warming by sending industries into space, which, however unreasonable it might be given the timeframe that climate change has allowed us, is a goal he intends to use his vast wealth and influence to realize. The examples I listed above were governments working in tandem with corporate management of the economy, and that could be the only reason we haven’t had our King Henry moment – governments are quite content to whore themselves out to corporate mercenary interests. They’ve got fewer scruples than the Borgias.

By “we” I obviously mean the West, since Iran and Guatemala did actually have their own King Henry moments. Quite viscerally, in fact.

The thing is, Chiquitas is still around. BP is still around. Greenpeace recently tricked an Exxon lobbyist into admitting the ways that the oil industry manages the economy by curtailing green initiatives and reducing oil regulations in government. We’re already living in a plutocracy where the wealthy and ownership class manipulate government to exert their will. Cutting back government will only make their manipulations more open because they will be able to act on the economy much more directly.

Economies will always be managed; whether it’s by a communist government or a Keynesian one, whether by a feudal king or a corporate one. Once we accept that there is no such thing as a free market within capitalism due to accumulations of power, we can approach the problem of a managed economy with open eyes. I think everyone is in agreement that a concentration of control and power is bad and corrupt. Even Bezos’s “benevolence” toward climate change is myopic and likely influenced by an echo chamber of sycophants and power hungry trolls.

I think Bezos’s real goal is to make Elysium just as prophetic as Idiocracy.

The right happens to think that this concentration of power exists in government and calls it communist, and the left sees it in corporations more subtly exerting their influence. When the government and corporations work hand in glove, the distinction really becomes inconsequential. Both right and left even seek the same goal: a diffusion of that control. It’s just that the right wants that diffusion to take place in an environment where power cannot be diffused due to the tendency of monopoly within capitalism. The left seeks democratic control to replace this concentration, democracy in both community and organizational levels.

A managed economy isn’t such a scary thing because they always have been and they always will be. The invisible hand doesn’t exist – Adam Smith was a naïve idealist. The question you have to ask yourself is, who should be in charge?

It would be nice to say that this began with the 215 dead kids found on the site of a Kamloops residential school, followed shortly thereafter by the 751 unmarked graves found in the grounds of the Cowessess residential school (unmarked likely due to being bulldozed by a spiteful priest), and then 182 more unmarked graves in the Kootenays. There will be more. While not all of the unmarked graves are children, dead Indigenous children have been a thing for a long time. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008 estimated about 4,100 children died in residential schools. Survivors and those who listen to them have known about the tragedies associated with residential schools since this shit was going on. Dead children in residential schools is not a surprise. These were schools that needed on-site graveyards to accommodate all the bodies that were piling up. It’s not a great look.

Colonization is way easier when you strip people of their connection to their land, culture, and people! Or their lives, I guess, for those who didn’t quite make it.

David Hume is famous for his philosophical guillotine that posits that what objectively is cannot prescribe what one ought to do – there exists an impenetrable barrier between reality and our moral compass. We look at the world and see thousands of kids that died under the direction of the state and at the hands of the church. What we do about it is unclear. The best example I can give on the is/ought divide is the coverage of this news from Breitbart which released a fairly uncontroversial article about the 215 children found in Kamloops. Where it gets fun is the comment section where there are only two replies:

“So they were democrat owner slaves like in the south here in America.”

Tip of the iceberg. Demonic, satan-worshiping people did that to innocent children. They must have really enjoyed what they did.

Bet you didn’t think this blog would be about QAnon when you clicked into it, did you?

Anyone who looks at the systemically-induced deaths of thousands of children is going to have an opinion on it. If your worldview doesn’t include an acknowledgement of the southern strategy or you believe that there is a global cabal of satan-worshipping child sex traffickers secretly trying to undermine Donald Trump, your opinion on these dead children will be shaped by that worldview. You might advocate for the American annexation of seemingly progressive Canada because progressivism is the real slavery, or perhaps you might champion Donald Trump becoming the God King of Earth because clearly the Satan worshippers are spread out across the globe. There is a fallacious belief on the left that once people catch a glimpse of the reality that oppressed groups endure, they will automatically adopt progressive idealism because how could they be so blind otherwise? It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of empathy. There is no greater reality-check than headlines screaming about the bodies of children as young as three years old being callously dumped into the ground and left to rot, and I’m not hearing Ezra Levant calling for a socialist utopia.

Are you telling me that individual context shapes our relationship and feelings toward the world? God dammit, we were so close! Ugh, I guess I’ll try making a compelling argument…

There are already some proposals for how to react to this news. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is fuming about how the left wants to ‘cancel’ Canada Day like employees will somehow have to give up their stat holiday pay or something. He is the only Canadian leader who actually loves Canada after all, and anyone who wants to reflect on the very present atrocities systemically perpetrated by Canada on this day is just siding with the terrorists. The thing is, there is no individual person to point to on this; responsibility lies symbolically in the entity of Canada itself. Celebrating ‘Canada’ while we’re still sifting through the bones of dead children killed by over a century and a half of Canadiana seems a little uncouth.

Personally, I don’t think wearing an orange shirt and teetotaling for a day, regardless of how symbolic that day might be, is going to accomplish much. It sets the limit on how much time we’re going to spend on these dead children to July 2nd. Certainly some Indigenous communities are calling for restraint as a means to pay respect to the present moment, and I can appreciate not wanting to mourn while people are next door loudly celebrating the colonial death of your cousin and aunty. I see this as an easy ‘thoughts and prayers’ moment for Canada that we’re somehow still bungling despite its very superficial and simple implementation. It’s nice to have, but it’s not a solution to the actual problem. This really didn’t need to become part of the culture war, but it has and that focus concerns me because now we’re talking about a culture war instead of what we actually do about thousands of dead children.

Solid rhyme, though!

The next proposal that is also gaining some traction is to follow the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC didn’t rely on people’s empathic progressivism to solve the problem; they actually put forward some guidelines on how to address it. The news has tended to focus on Calls to Action 71 through 76 because those are the ones that focus on the missing and dead children covered up by the residential school system, and boy howdy are governments going to town on that one! The federal Liberals are promising $27 million; Alberta is pledging $8 million; Saskatchewan is at $2 million; Ontario, $10 million; BC, $12 million. It’s not a contest. Don’t get excited.

The thing is, the laser focus on actions 71 through 76 ignores the 88 other Calls to Action that exist on that list. It’s important to note that these children weren’t killed in Holocaust-style gas chambers, despite residential schools being part of Canada’s “final solution” to the “Indian problem.” “Kill the Indian, and Save the Man” seems like a philosophy that doesn’t particularly care whether the man dies in the process, but its goal is still not mass murder. These children died of neglect, loneliness, unequal health conditions, and obviously the physical and sexual abuse didn’t help. However, it’s crucial to recognize that it wasn’t systematic murder. If we appreciate that fact, then we can see that the conditions that led to all these dead kids are still ongoing. There are still brutally unequal health outcomes; there is still inequality in services; there is still marginalization; there is still explicit and implicit forces pushing to disconnect Indigenous people from their land and culture. Canada as a system is still killing Indigenous people, including Indigenous children, and because it’s not overtly a mass murder with bodies hanging from the steeples, we don’t seem to care. We are impacted by this current news because it has the feel of a mass murder due to the vast number of bodies being found. People are having to go on the record to explain that these are not mass graves, but simply unmarked ones, because that is the feeling people are getting from these revelations. The reality may not be as sexy as people want it to be, but we still have to deal with it. That’s why it’s important to focus on more than just the Calls to Action that address where the bodies are buried.

“The Israeli court psychiatrist who examined Eichmann found him a “completely normal man, more normal, at any rate, than I am after examining him,” the implication being that the coexistence of normality and bottomless cruelty explodes our ordinary conceptions and present the true enigma of the trial.” Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

The 94 Calls to Action begin by looking at the legacy of residential schools. They expose the child welfare system as still perpetuating colonialism and requiring significant adjustments. They demand better educational and employment opportunities for Indigenous people. They demand the promotion of Indigenous languages that were stolen from them. They demand an acknowledgement that the health disparities existing in Indigenous communities resulted from Canadian policies, and then obviously demand steps to address them. They call for reevaluating the relationship of police and the justice system toward Indigenous communities and populations. The impacts on health, education, employment, and the detriments imposed by ongoing discrimination within the justice system are all held to be a part of the legacy of residential schools and other colonial policies.

The second half seeks to address how reconciliation could be possible, given the, you know, genocide. They call on the government to work together with Indigenous communities to figure out a game plan. They call for recognition of Indigenous title rights. They want a national council of reconciliation. They call for the training and education of public servants on the history of Canadian colonialism. They want an apology from the churches responsible, especially the Pope. They want this shit to be taught in schools in an effective way. They want youth programs and museums, a national centre for Truth and Reconciliation, commemoration of Indigenous sites, and acknowledgement of Indigenous athletes. They demand media support from government-funded media to provide Indigenous programming. They call on the corporate sector to follow these similar principles. They want Canada’s real history to be a part of the welcoming of immigrants into this nation.

This is what the Erin O’Toole’s of the world don’t seem to get: nobody is cancelling Canada. They want Canada to be more honest and to work toward addressing and moving past the historical injustices of colonialism. Maybe that means that you can’t blindly celebrate the Canadian heroes of the past with statues and universities, but like, if you murdered somebody, and all you had to do to move on from that was to get rid of some statues, that’s a pretty damned good deal! The demands of reconciliation are things that no individual would receive in any Canadian court of law if they committed these crimes in any other context. I did not list out all 94 Calls to Action. Go and read my hyperlink there. Criminal negligence resulting in death can get you up to life sentence in Canada. Kidnapping a child is also a life sentence. See if there is anything resembling that in the Calls to Action.

When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal!

Given my use of Hume’s relativism, I feel I should justify why following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action is any better than putting Trump in a position of global leadership. It comes down to sovereignty. Indigenous people aren’t calling for Donald Trump to fly in on a golden chariot to save them. Saying “We know what’s best for Indigenous people!” is what got us trying to kill the Indian within them to begin with. What are Indigenous people asking for?

Canada has been disproportionately underfunding child welfare services in Indigenous jurisdictions despite being told repeatedly by the Human Rights Council that they should probably fund all services equally. Indigenous people are in court trying to fix that – as good a place to start as any. Indigenous people would like to be able to lobster fish through the year because they’ve been doing that for millennia, but they’re facing a whole whack of violence and pushback for doing so – this is despite this exception being legally implemented way back in 1999. The police, the alleged enforcers of the law, did nothing. Indigenous people would like clean drinking water and a society that doesn’t bully their children into suicide with racism and systematic neglect. Indigenous people would like Canada to stop building random shit on their land – like a housing development or a golf course or a pipeline. Keep in mind a good chunk of Canada is unceded, in that we never actually came to an agreement with the Indigenous people who were already living here. We just came to this country and started building – fun fact, my family personally benefited from the Dominion Lands Act when the Canadian government encouraged European immigrants to expand westward by providing them with free land which was then defended violently by the RCMP against reasonably confused and angry Indigenous people. Canada is still basically building shit without Indigenous consent.

I have painted with very broad strokes here, and I am fully aware of the dangers of utilizing a pan-Indigenous approach to reconciliation. Indigenous people are not a monolith; for example, there are some Indigenous people who do want pipelines – it’s a thing. However, the whole argument of this entire post is that the same behaviours that resulted in the horrifying stories that we’re hearing in the news are on-going, and the very least we could do is stop those behaviours.

Even in those areas with treaties, I wonder how often those treaties are actually respected by current day policies?

Now I know that Critical Race Theory says that every single white person is an evil racist who should be ashamed of themselves. The only solution possible is for white people to surrender to the judgment of the BIPOC Marxist authorities and embrace their summary execution. Oh wait, nobody seriously says that. Not even Critical Race Theory says that. I’ve already addressed that the Calls to Action are about reconciliation – people living in peace, love, and harmony, man! The 94 Calls to Action are not an exhaustive list, and do not lay out guidelines for the practical implementations that might be required given we live in a practical world. They don’t say anything on how to react when the Canadian government says that they know residential schools were meant to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children, but that there is no evidence that they “sought to destroy the ability … to speak their Indigenous language or to lose the customs or traditions of their culture.” I mean, I don’t know if the TRC explicitly defines what ‘assimilate’ means, but surely the Canadian government has access to a dictionary.

Thousands of dead Indigenous children cannot be undone. What we do for the future matters. There are plenty of avenues to follow when addressing Indigenous issues in Canada, but some are better than others. Governments need to work with Indigenous communities and leadership to reconcile atrocious Canadian history. Canada isn’t all bad – we live in a democracy; we can hold governments accountable to this. When we say Canada did a bad thing, it only means we want justice for that, not annihilation. Let’s work for justice. You’d think that with thousands of dead Indigenous children, that much would be obvious.