What About The Canadian Truckers?
I'm strongly sympathetic to them, but not entirely confident that I should be
I tweeted over the weekend that I need to learn more about the Canadian truckers’ protest. While I am strongly sympathetic to them, that sympathy is, I hate to admit, not particularly well-informed. I mentioned in the tweet that I was really annoyed in 2020 at the kind of liberal who was unquestioningly sympathetic to all the Black Lives Matters protests, no matter how problematic some of them were, on grounds that racism is bad, so we shouldn’t look to close at all the protesters. As much as I favor the truckers in principle, I don’t want to be the right-wing equivalent of those people, I tweeted.
A Canadian reader responded via e-mail (ellipses are in the original):
Hi Rod… saw your tweet about your uncertainty about full support for the “truckers” (which most protesters are not at this point). I’m Canadian and have been following the protests and the media coverage of them.I think your uncertainty is a realistic response. It is simply not always clear whether the protesters deserve support. Uncertainty is actually a sensible place to be.Points to consider:1. the protesters represent perhaps 10% of Canadians–their view, which is not anti-vax but anti-mandate/ restrictions, is a minority view, but one held by a reasonable number of people. Yet the majority of Canadians, elite and non-elite, really dislike the protests, and think the protesters are in the wrong.2. Overall, I think the lesson of the protests has been that govts did NOT consider that they were limited in any way by the views of a minority… there was a kind of assumption that they could do what they, the elite, thought best, esp. given majority support and expert opinion. They thought they could insist that everyone go along with the authorities, the experts, and the majority. So they ignored the minority that was signalling resistance in many ways for a long time… and that led to this crisis. It’s a reminder that, even given majority support, there can be a cost to persistently ignoring/ erasing the views of a minority…3. the protesters are definitely the non-elite, a combination of working class and others up to the middle middle class, such as farmers, owner operators, and so on. This is definitely about class – non-elite versus elite.4. Trudeau has handled it badly, as I’m sure you know.5. There is a masculinity archetype at play here– I visited the local protest in my own city and was struck by its machismo, and I think there is a certain amount of this observable in much of the video of the various protests. Andrew Sullivan wrote about masculinity in some current issues (Rogan, J Peterson, the truckers) and I think this makes sense– Canada is very “safetyist” and this in part a reaction to that. That Trudeau embodies a kind of feminine energy has been one aspect of his ineffectiveness here. I think this is partly non-elite masculine response to a society-wide denigration of the masculine… a refusal to go along with that denigration and its various manifestations.6. as a Canadian, I see the deep influence of American culture on this protest, more than on most protests… this is coming into Canada via internet/ social media. The phrase “Make Canada Great Again” is NOT rooted in Canada or any mythology of past greatness as the US has, it just draws on MAGA. Same with the stress on “freedom,” a word with huge resonance in the US but not much to date in Canada. We see here the power the internet is having over culture, in multiplying the already strong US influence that used to come only through TV/ movies.7. Great coverage and comments on the protests by journalists Jonathan Kay and Matt Gurney– good sources.8. Huge backlash against the protesters from the entire elite, professional class, and so on. (almost everyone I know 🙂 ). The protesters are being demonized by the media and large numbers of Canadians. Mostly the protesters are ordinary folks, not troublemakers, but there may be some trouble brewing in Ottawa among some protesters, something to watch for.9. The protesters are the opposite of BLM/Antifa — keeping places clean, doing as little damage as they can, working / cooperating with police to a reasonable extent. Focusing on their own forms of ethical standards, crowd control, enforcement of respect for others etc.10. The closing of border crossings is a BIG problem for Canada and for working people, including truckers … this gets the protesters the politicians’ attention but is likely a bad strategy because it does too much damage.11. In the refusal to leave/ cease occupying downtown Ottawa and in the closing of border crossings, I personally perceive a delight in the discovery that they can wield power rather than a genuine fight against tyranny. I think this temptation to wield power and try to shut down parts of the country is a kind of hubris– it’s a negative temptation that ought to be resisted. It helps no one.Those are just a few random thoughts. I feel some sympathy for the protesters, but also a deep concern that they have gone too far, they should have unwound the protests after making their point, and they should stay away from the borders. Democracy relies on people voluntarily following society’s rules; it cannot rely on enforcement, because full enforcement would be too costly, it requires authoritarianism. The protesters have discovered that they can get away with a lot because no one wants anyone to get hurt, and Canada doesn’t have sufficient police and military to enforce all the rules all the time. But the result of this is going to be more police and military, especially at the borders, to keep trade moving… Canada depends on trade with the US. That’s not a good outcome. And that’s not even considering how difficult it is going to be to get the protesters out of Ottawa–clearing border points is not going well, but it is easy compared to clearing downtown Ottawa, and we all fear people will get hurt…
I appreciate the perspective. I invite other Canadian readers to share theirs in the comments section.