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The Arrogance of Rewriting the Rules

The Arrogance of Rewriting the Rules

By David Warren - September 13, 2009

Those who have played hockey will appreciate the need to keep an eye on the puck. And those who watch hockey through television are compelled by the cameras to fixate upon it.

Go to the arena, however, and one soon discovers dimensions of the game invisible to the TV viewer. Much of what happens is in the background, away from this "front line."

One begins to anticipate such things as passes, a potential breakaway, the risk of an offside.

One begins to grasp, for instance, that a player who is an offensive star may be useless defensively when the play turns; that others have gifts never previously noticed.

As a kid in small-town Ontario, I had a coach who drummed into me this seemingly Christian principle of "play the puck, not the man" ("the sin, not the sinner"). It went with not fighting, and not questioning the referee, and I found it was fairly good advice -- for goalies. In any other position it was better to ignore this coach, for one was confronted on ice with both/and propositions, more often than either/or. Playing the puck means playing the man, too; following the puck means following everything.

He was right about referees, however: it is pointless to argue with them. And fighting makes no sense when you are small. My heroes were Johnny Bower and Davey Keon.

My reader will now guess I am about to raise again the issue of "political correctness." I have written about it twice in the last eight days, in relation to so-called "human rights" commissions, and to the larger process of indoctrination and censorship by which the contemporary Left advances an essentially totalitarian agenda.

The purpose of political correction is to delegitimate opposition; to make the most basic facts of life undiscussable, and thereby eliminate debate. It is a device for seizing power.

In my view, the ideological Left advances ruthlessly, by turning the meanings of words upside down, by stating bald lies that we must not dare to challenge, by introducing "reforms" in the dark of the night, often through courts to subvert Parliament. And when the play turns, they throw an octopus onto the ice.

Moreover, it strikes me that the very discussion of political correctness can serve the Left as such an octopus, or "red herring," to distract from what is really at issue. We get our eyes fixated on the puck, when the real play is happening off-camera.

But there is no natural monopoly on the use of illegitimate means to advance an agenda. From the same small town in Ontario, I can recall the use of such tactics -- intense peer pressure to enforce social conformity; the manipulation of institutions behind the scenes -- in the service of very different kinds of party interest. Sin was reduced to a question of public respectability, and hypocrisy became the cover for very sinful acts, hidden behind ostentatious displays of public rectitude.

The Left are human -- it is perhaps the worst thing that can be said against them. They want what they want for themselves, but they also want praise and "validation." The Al Gore phenomenon -- in which a man lives in a house that burns enough electricity to power an African town, but also wants to be the poster boy for green -- is hardly beyond fellow-human comprehension. The phenomenon becomes more complex, however, and harder for us to follow, as more elaborate ideological poses become the cover for lives more elaborately selfish.

The human lust for power is Protean. The poet Wallace Stevens expressed this superbly: "Throw away the lights, the definitions, / And say of what you see in the dark / That it is this or that it is that, / But do not use the rotted names." Several lines later: "Throw the lights away. Nothing must stand / Between you and the shapes you take / When the crust of shape has been destroyed."

In plainest English: until a man has confronted himself, he remains a stranger.

It was the wisdom of our ancestors to realize that sanctity excludes posing as a saint. In the Christian West we once realized that the real battle was not between political forces, or ideological agendas, but between Christ and Satan. Note well: both of them outside ourselves, both appealing for our allegiance. The argument of Satan was presented in its simplest form, from the opening of our foundational document (i.e. the Bible). It was the message of the serpent with the apple: "eat thereof, and you shall be as gods."

The argument of Christ was, conversely, "Give up all you have and follow me."

To my mind, behind all questions of political correctness, is the same old background issue: the temptation to think that we can be as gods, that we can write the rules, and force the universe to obey us. To my mind, it begins with the denial of God, and ends in the inversion of every moral law, and the replacement of reasonable politics with murderous tyranny.

otiosus@sympatico.ca
© The Ottawa Citizen
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