Strong leaders

The gift that the Trudeaux have brought to Canada — Monsieur Trudeau, père et fils — is, or should have been, the gift of bad experience. It is the gift of demagoguery. Both were once popular, for shallow reasons, and both proved contemptible over what was, in politics, a long stretch of time. Unfortunately, as a low-intelligence country (at least east of Wawa, Ontario), we did not realize what we had done, and persisted in our democratic error. Had we given Trudeau père the boot, all the way down the stairs, in 1972, we might have avoided a long plague of misery and debt, or made room for some misery of a more entertaining kind. But we kicked him only half-way down the stairs, in the indecisive election of that year.

It is now the fiftieth anniversary of the reversal of this half-recovery. In 1974, the Liberals swept back into majority power. Stanfield, the opposition leader, an intelligent man but not too much, had proposed to legislate a price freeze in answer to the oil-crisis inflation. This was a very stupid “plausible” idea, which Trudeau mocked effectively, and then, upon winning the election, did it himself. For Trudeau the elder had been lying, as he was habitually, or what in the end is worse that lying — what in French we call, the “bowl-sheet.” Canadians had been, as usual, very easily suckered.

What Sir Herbert Read, the anarchist, called “the cult of leadership,” was displayed in this case. It is an invariable constituent in all political catastrophes. “The peeple” think that a Strong Man will fix their problems. He comes to power because he is arrogant, and knows how to exhibit the Strong Man style. He is indifferent to personal liberty, to the integrity of the family, to tradition and the rule of law, &c. He promises “change.” He parades, and seems wonderfully “cool” to the persons at the broad bottom of the intellectual pyramid.

And if he is lucky, he dies in his sleep, surrounded by his appropriated wealth. “The peeple,” whose ruin and poverty he also achieved, will die more modestly.