THE TRUCKER’S CONVOY powering its way across Canada has been hijacked by radicals and aims to land on the doorstep of the federal government this weekend.
The Freedom Convoy was launched as a protest against the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all truckers entering Canada. Extremists and fringe groups have used social media to call for another spin on the January 6th incident (the day the American Capitol Building was stormed in Washington, DC). Online, there’s talk of violence, smashing through walls, and protestors are encouraged to bring rope to hang politicians. A GoFundMe campaign has collected well over $5 million in donations (as of this writing); the fundraising platform is holding back release of the funds until there’s more transparency on how the millions are to be spent. RCMP and police in Ottawa’s Capital Region anticipate anarchy, and a command centre has been set up to protect Parliament.
American author Upton Sinclair warned us of similar perils nearly a hundred years ago with his dystopian novel, It Can’t Happen Here. Read it and weep. And now political scientist Barbara F. Walter has a new book, How Civil Wars Start, echoing exactly how it IS happening here.
WHAT THE HELL?
For four years, we’ve written about how to move beyond polarized takes on how things ought to be. We watched how entrenched positions lead, at best, to stagnation, and at worse, to nasty conflict. As Barbara F. Walter cautions in her superb and sobering book, pitting one group against another is standard operating procedure if you want violence and civil war.
We’ve been lucky in these parts. Civil war seems restricted to the crazies “over there” and is highly unlikely here in our society, because…well, because.
Yet here we are with the so-called Freedom Convoy. Professor Walter, and her cohort of political scientists, describes this kind of direct action as a symptom for civil war; in this instance, Canadians who see themselves under pressure and vow to do something about it. And should push come to shove, they see it as their solemn duty—as the rightful heirs to their place of birth and deserving of special privileges—to be the sole arbiter of what is right & proper behavior in a time of plague; they will neither tolerate nor be told what to do or think or how to behave by outsiders.
You might be persuaded it’s just another trucker protest (a convoy in 2019 called out Ottawa’s neglect of Alberta’s petroleum industry). And that’s all it might be, if the truckers were not being recruited as we write into a much darker movement.
Historically, the road to civil war around the world has been one of appealing to once dominant groups facing decline. Bad things will happen when otherwise good people get snowed. According to Walter’s new book, current situations in the United States, and arguably now Canada, are akin to a dog whistle; it can and will fire up the most dangerous factions to do evil in the 21st-century.
FEAR & LOATHING = CIVIL WAR
As countries move toward democracy, civil war is often a risk—if the movement is too quick and impatient and displaces the dominant culture (even if it’s corrupt to begin with).
Case in point: In 1999, Donna did business with emerging democracies—Indonesia, Nigeria and Yemen—a treacherous ride for citizens in all three countries. In the years that followed, she observed, firsthand, civil war in emancipated places such as Iraq, Syria and Libya; the unintended consequence of bold democratization drove a wedge through neighbourhoods along ethnic and religious lines, or both.
“Civil war in the 21st century,” observes Professor Walter, “is distinctly different from civil wars of the past.” The era of regimented fighting forces in military uniforms using conventional weapons is over. “Today,” Walter continues, “civil wars are waged primarily by different ethnic and religious groups, by guerrilla soldiers and militias, who often target civilians.”
Relying on solid research & data to make her point, Walter cautions: America is not immune to conflict. While we’re more familiar with civil war erupting when a dictator is overthrown or an authoritarian regime is forced by public pressure to reform, she warns of a new phenomenon. In declining liberal democracies, people living in rural areas, distant from a country’s economic, cultural and political centres, can become isolated. “As the world moves on without them, they feel forgotten and ignored.”
WHIPPING UP A CROWD
Business as usual—the UCP and the federal franchise continuing to play internal leadership games and pitting people against one another—creates the conditions for opportunists to unsheathe their long knives. Semantics and legal twirls mean nothing to folks committed to saving their world.
Instead of Albertans coming together, for instance, during the healthcare crisis, the pandemic amplified & stoked up division in the province; regardless of perspective, it had to be ‘them’ that caused fill-in-the-blank trouble and never ‘us’.
And in the NDP’s hurried quest for diversity & inclusion, they are unwittingly creating the conditions for exclusion and segregation to flourish—potent ingredients for civil hostility—a toxic recipe that’s ruined many dreams for a long-lasting democracy (according to Walter and her colleagues).
The world is watching Ukraine right now and there are legitimate worries that we might lapse into a global conflict. Watching the truck convoy gather steam as it crosses Canada and descends on Ottawa raises the same alarm bells, for Canadians. Let’s not stumble into a war, eh.
You are going to hate what we have to say, but you need to know this:
Alberta’s provincial government foolishly stuck to their “plan” to undo what was done by their predecessor come hell, high water, or pandemic. It didn’t work. And it cannot work because it is out of date and out of touch with current reality.
Alberta and our governance—in the full flourish of the word—need to course correct as new data and circumstances hitherto unimaginable emerges.
January 6th, a year ago in America is a cautionary tale.
The trucks are rolling, rolling, rolling.
It will happen here.
This column is the consensus opinion of the writers Donna Kennedy-Glans & Don Hill. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to BEYOND POLARITY — scroll down on your phone or tablet, or look to the right in the panel beside this post. Enter your email to FOLLOW, a wheel spins, hamsters get fed.