We Need an Open Debate on Slavery in this Country.

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If there is one thing that we can all agree on, it is that no subject should be be banned from the sacred and robust forum of public scrutiny and democratic debate. Great evils grow in the shadows of any great society; only in the pitiless sunlight of open discussion can we determine how we, as a nation, choose to shape our country and our lives.

This is especially true of those beliefs deemed by the politically faint of heart to be “too sensitive” for examination. In recent weeks, for example, a harmless attempt to clarify some insignificant legal terminology has been characterized, with great wailing and gnashing of teeth, as an assault on “choice” by the feminazi architects of public policy (abetted, as always, by cowardly lawmakers and the socialist press, and, of course, by the multibillionaires of the abortion industry itself). With predictably stridency these lobbyists argue that that a woman’s “right” to “choose” is somehow inviolate and beyond debate - that for some reason the rights of this one special interest group trump those of our polity.

Regardless of one’s personal views on infanticide, even its advocates cannot deny that there has never really been a debate on the topic. And our failure to grasp the bull by the tail and look it firmly in the eye is shameful. The assumption that some “rights” are too firmly entrenched for frank and candid examination represents a chancre gnawing at the very heart of our democracy.

I, for one, would like to draw back the shameful curtain of silence that surrounds the issue of slavery.

Its opponents will, with depressing predictability, argue that this yet another issue that needs no further debate. They will point to the fact that since Britain’s 1834 Abolition of Slavery Act, slavery of any kind in Canada has been banned. And so, for all practical purposes, has been any meaningful discussion of the question.

But it is dishonest to pretend this enforced silence means the matter has been settled, now and forever, or that dissenters from the status quo are, by definition, extremists.

Any honest defence of the current ban on slavery must concede:

• that whatever its merits, the status quo — complete and utter abolition of slavery — is at one end of the possible legal regimens surrounding slavery, with absolute prohibition at the other. That is, it is objectively extreme.

• that slavery in Canada was made illegal thousands of kilometres away, by an economic and political elite barely aware of our Canadian struggle and realities.

• that slavery has NEVER been debated by our elected representatives.

• that Canadians, while they APPEAR on the surface to support the current ban on slavery, have never been afforded to opportunity to voice their true feelings in the calm forum of public debate. I cannot, in fact, recall the last time our views were sought through a poll. (Perhaps Mr. Levant might take note?)

We know precisely what special interest groups and minorities can be expected to reject such a debate out of hand (reject even the DEBATE, mind you!). But surely those who long for the days of Apartheid, advocate suspension of our laws for those of particular religions, or proudly defend our right to deride or subjugate other races - surely they deserve the opportunity to finally have their say on the issue of slavery, unafraid of mockery or retribution? These courageous voices provide further confirmation that the issue is far from settled in the public mind. The pretense that it is, like the contradictory but often simultaneously advanced claim that it is too “divisive,” is unworthy of a democratic country.

I am certainly not proposing that Parliament should simply reinstate slavery in any of the absolute forms our culture has previously embraced. But surely today’s economy, whose health and vibrancy are of primary concern to every real Canadian, can allow for a broader range of options than our simple, laissez-faire and antiquated models of “paid employment”, painfully propped up by such anachronisms as unions and “workers’ rights”. Rather, following the trends initiated by our current government, we could encourage workers to take a more flexible view of their “compensation”, with greater input from our wealth generators, the employers (who, let’s face it, have a much bigger stake in our national prosperity). Such a moderate approach would at least provide an initial framework for attempting to break through our national taboo on debating slavery.

I am neither an economist nor a politician, and I do not claim to have a program ready-made for your review. Further, I acknowledge it is entirely possible that, following a full and vigorous debate, we as Canadians may decide to continue to ban slavery (pending further and periodic consideration in light of evolving social and economic circumstances). But if we do so, let it be on the basis of a clear, national consensus, rather than by default, by cowardice, or by foreign diktat.

That is how a democracy decides such questions.

(h/t to David Warren and Andrew Coyne, who actually wrote roughly 97% of this post. I just changed a couple of minor words.)

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This page contains a single entry by Balbulican published on August 26, 2012 10:00 AM.

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