When professors around the country were busy figuring ways to deliver their classes online, two faculty members at the University of Alberta wrote a letter and enlisted the endorsement of 200-plus of their leisured colleagues at 33 universities in Canada. A crisis must not be wasted.
From the privileged positions of publicly-paid jobs, the Alberta authors urge Ottawa to stall COVID-19 help to the oil industry with an old idea minted in bureaucratic hell: they want the prime minister to start a new cycle of consultations.
All other aid should be expedited. Only aid to oil companies needs to be trapped in a nightmare.
Their dream is to shut everything down that can be shut down in the oil patch, start an endless process of consultations while oil workers are sent to retrain. The recommendation doesn’t include training camps for oil workers.
It’s hard to imagine such a rushed petition from level-headed people during a national emergency. In what seems a lack of awareness of the consequences, they advise to get on it right away because “we have no time to lose.” The classic let’s-hurry-up-and-wait!
It’s radical ideology at work. Ideologies are grids of interpretation and we all use them. In radical cases, however, ideology descends into zealotry and induces the adopter into a self-inflicted disconnect from reality. There’s no greater evidence of a mind infected with a radical ideology than when ideologues subordinate all things to their awaited goal, including humans and their welfare.
Radical ideologues are prepared to inflict pain and suffering for the sake of accelerating the future they expect to arrive soon. Some skillfully use crises to rush their goals. Typically, they see the misery they unleash in the process as the price to pay in order to create a new world, a new society or a new natural equilibrium – in the case of eco-radicals.
The 20th century was littered with examples of enlightened people who unleashed unfathomable suffering upon millions of people.
Some great works of literature have depicted the inner workings of ideological systems. They make excellent quarantine reading.
In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston and Julia fall victim to extraordinary indignities at the hands of the state apparatus, subjected to constant surveillance, abuse and torture. All this is to enforce a status quo of squalor and oppression that has long robbed society of the equality and prosperity that enlightened revolutionaries once promised.
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In Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler depicts the experiences of Nikolai Rubashov, a Communist Party official charged with enforcing ideological purity – until the repressive machine he helped to build turns toward him.
Slowly, he becomes aware that the compassion he now hopes for from others has been replaced by the conviction of ideas, discernment has been replaced by dreams of the future, and decency thoroughly eroded by ideology.
In both novels, people who belong to a group deemed politically or economically undesirable are sacrificed by the designs of a few enlightened figures, who claim to know and speak for the good of all. Only the final goal matters.
In real life, radical environmentalists similarly eclipse humanity behind the dreams of a soon-to-be-realized eco-nirvana. The organization Extinction Rebellion, for example, seeks to place the environment ahead of all things and replace governments with eco-sensitive assemblies to rule over us.
It’s not that concern for the environment is bad. It’s no worse than the communist concern for workers. But deep-ecology ideologues favour nature to the detriment of human welfare (as though humans were not natural), in the same way that communists sacrifice workers to create a utopian ‘new man.’
I’m not suggesting these two U of A academics want oil patch workers to be exterminated. They only want oil workers’ jobs to disappear by incantation.
Their position is radically ideological. It demonstrates three disconnects:
- with compassion;
- with the socio-economic realities of the present crisis;
- with the sentiments of the common Albertan, who is wisely capable of simultaneously supporting environmental concerns and responsible energy extraction.
These academics, ultimately, want to use the COVID-19 crisis to push their agenda of ecological purity at the expense of human welfare.
Marco Navarro-Génie is president of the Haultain Research Institute and senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.