Who needs parents when we are blessed with government?

  • February 28, 2012

Credit Air Canada with cluing me in to the bracing effects of the state sticking its imperious snout so deeply into Canadian society.

There I was on a recent cross-country flight waiting for someone in authority to give the malfunctioning in-flight entertainment system a good whack when the little screen was suddenly alight with visual metaphor. From the depths of one of the boundless bureaucracies that spend our quarter-trillion-dollar federal budget, we strapped in travellers were shown a videographic public service announcement on a matter so urgent it was deemed essential viewing for an audience that cannot escape.

It was an animation on how to sneeze. Properly, of course. Bureaucrats apparently remain confident that any fool can still let fly the honker willy-nilly. No, this was a meticulous instructional on nasal plosive protocol.

Schematics guided us on the acceptable turn of the head, the guided missile delicacy of bringing the proboscis into contact with the target site on the arm.

If memory serves, there were actually labels and arrows helping us recall which is the head and which is the arm. Perhaps memory misleads.

Still, emotion flowing from this was not outrage at waste of tax dollars but sorrow at how very old and out of date I have become. For I do still remember, as the old man remembered top hats in Orwell’s 1984, an age now lost in the deeply misted past when entities other than the state were there to teach the art of sneezing.

Those entities were called parents. They were considered useful for all manner of things. Indeed, they were considered so important to the right functioning of society that we were expected to keep our noses clean and grow up to become just like them.

Ah, well, happier times and all that. Even the Supreme Court of Canada now sniffs at the very idea of parents having any use any more, even when it comes to something as fundamental as the connective tissue of religious faith.

The country’s highest court recently ruled, after all, that parents have no Charter right to exempt their young children from a state-mandated school curriculum such as Quebec’s so-called ethics and religious culture program.

A couple argued the case because they believe that too-early indoctrination of their children in state-defined “religious neutrality” violates their freedom to raise their children fully in their Catholicfaith. In ruling against them, the high court declared the parents had failed to demonstrate the harm that might come to their kids by being force-marched down the path of state-imposed secularism. Huzzahs rang even from self-identified liberals ecstatic about the court’s wondrous progress toward greater tolerance, understanding, multiculturalism, etc.

Mind you, there was a time (I remember it well, kiddies) when liberal society would have been horrified that a court would require parents to show their freedoms, and the freedoms of their children, were being harmed by an action of the state. There was a time (doddering grey heads remember it, too) when liberal Canadian society insisted the onus was on the state to unequivocally justify its violations of constitutional freedom.

Indeed, once upon a time, starry-eyed, Charter-loving liberal Canadians would have scorned any thought that the state could simply advance what it thinks is a topping idea, and parents would be obliged to bow and scrape before it. We insisted, deep in our naiveté, that children were the fruit of parents, not the state; that families must be free to decide matters as fundamental as education in faith.

But leave such sepia-toned sentiments to nostalgia fetishists. We have moved on, progressed, evolved, as our liberals love to say. We are all the state’s children now. It is our supreme being and our handy-dandy sniffle-wiper rolled into one big ball. It teaches us lessons trivial and tremendous. Its nose is omnipresent in our faces, in our business, because our business is its business and because we no longer have faces of our own.

Which is why it was so revelatory when Air Canada’s in-flight system malfunctioned again and I turned to my trusty iPad for consolation. It happened to be cued to Bob Dylan’s ancient anthem from happier times, “Idiot Wind.” To slightly paraphrase its bracing chorus:

“Idiot wind, blowing through the flowers on our tombs
Blowing through the curtains in our rooms
Idiot wind, blowing every time we move our teeth
We’re idiots, babe
It’s a wonder that we still know how to sneeze.”

Sit up straight, watch the screen and await instructions.

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