Far right

Yesterday I received a singular email. It was from a former housemate and colleague of mine during our law school days together at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Daniel Laprès is his name. He is a member of the Bar of Nova Scotia. He lives primarily in Paris, France where he is Avocat à la Cour d’Appel de Paris. In addition he is a professor at Institut Supérieur de Commerce (Paris).  He is also Senior Counsel to Kunlun Law Firm, Beijing.

It was not, however, those impressive credentials which constituted the peculiarity of the email. The email was supplemental to one addressed to a number of people whom I know from law school and who are now lawyers, a senator and a superior court judge. Daniel flattered me to ask for my “additional enlightenment “ on the subject of Saskatchewan’s latest swing to the right after a history of “being notoriously NDP/socialist”.

Subject: Saskatchewan

Hello folks,

This is to follow up on yesterday’s exchange about why voters in Saskatchewan who voted socialist a century ago and up to at least the 60s now vote (far) right.

So, it does seem credible that Saskatchewan farmers are now wealthy compared to other citizens and what more logical than that they would vote conservative nowadays.

Daniel

Apparently the new-found wealth of Saskatchewan farmers has altered their political course.

I don’t follow Saskatchewan politics.  As a typical “easterner” (who I suspect the farmers and cowboys west of the CN Tower consider predominantly “leftist”) I already view our country cousins as more approaching the American model lately spirited by Donald J Trump and his Republican bandittos. My immediate reaction to this curiosity is that it reflects a worldwide shift to so-called conservatism (which for political purposes is called “right”). I am parenthetically unable to escape the contemporaneous alignment of conservatism with autocracy.

I feel it mischaracterizes the shift to conservatism to call it a product of wealth. That is a fantastic Hollywood rendition akin to the Clampetts (Jed, Jethro, Elly May and Granny) moving to Beverly Hills. If my universal theme of conservatism is correct it is highly unlikely that everyone is rich. What is however more likely is that everyone is scared.

Fear is an intensely unpleasant emotion in response to perceiving or recognizing a danger or threat. Fear causes physiological changes that may produce behavioral reactions such as mounting an aggressive response or fleeing the threat. Fear in human beings may occur in response to a certain stimulus occurring in the present, or in anticipation or expectation of a future threat perceived as a risk to oneself. The fear response arises from the perception of danger leading to confrontation with or escape from/avoiding the threat (also known as the fight-or-flight response),

it constitutes a unique label to identify political preference with such bland emotional status as fear but it nonetheless succeeds to equate elemental human attributes with choice, unfettered by purely economic or structural attributes.

May i suggest a summary of the causes of fear:

. Phobia
. Panic
. Long-term stress

Anyone passably familiar with world events knows we’ve lately had cause for trauma. Aside from the random worldwide pandemic, many people have encountered isolated events or circumstances which have effectively caused them to retreat inwardly, to insulate themselves and to repair.

Famously liberalism is associated with heady stuff – like whether you were born with it or just worked out that way. Conservatism is by contrast generally considered more visceral, embracing tangible things like the price of gas. But when things start to get tough, the allure of intellectual debate quickly dissolves. Labels unfortunately linger; so no matter that liberalism may change to a more exclusive narrative it is not likely to survive the seed already planted. It then becomes a rehearsal for autocracy. The right has truly been liberated! And when it comes for rebuttal against fear it takes little time to proclaim a victor; and it can be a messy fight.

The unfortunate truth however is that right or left has little to do with the game of politics; as far as I can tell it is a convenient label for criticism. It also means the demagogues will in any event be looking out for themselves (as most of us do). It is even more certain that bread on the table is worth more than the rights of refugees. And liberalism with its defence of every flavour going is after all so utterly draining.