A crisis has now darkened Western democracies just as surely as long-benighted dictatorships.
Wherein does it lie? In the disdain with which its proud technocrats dismiss conscience. Conscience is no quantifiable thing; it has no weight or measure, and it cannot be listed among a nation’s assets. Science can’t prove it exists.
Yet conscience is no mere trifle. Conscience distinguishes humanity from the brutes of creation. It is the little spark of celestial fire that motivated the obedience of our nations’ greatest heroes in their darkest hour. It is the voice of God in the soul.
Over the past 18 months, our fundamental freedoms have all been assaulted by a virus. The public incursions against freedom have been protested, but the small private matter of conscience has received scant attention.
Why? Because it is the casualty of “friendly fire”—by friends who never acknowledged it.
Conscience was caught in the politicians’ war on COVID-19 and its variants. They confessed their faith in science to defeat it. Progress demanded it. Computer models predicted the threat to the control of “the system” of public health to be so terrible that to defend their Technopoly, as coined by Neil Postman in his book of the same name, politicians seized extraordinary emergency powers to aid science in its certain victory.
This unwavering faith in science was completely irrational, if not unscientific. Science itself tells us that viruses are not living organisms. They cannot be killed. They also mutate. All the gains from rushing the slow safety protocols of science to contain last year’s virus were swiftly lost in subsequent variants.
As the unflagging determination to win the war continues, the illogic of the position grows. That is because it never was a fight about science—it was a fight to defend the pride of the idol of technocracy and extend its dominance. That means more control for the technocrats.
The Pfizer vaccine now fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a marvel of speed and deployment. But its success rate of 39 percent against the dominant Delta variant would have never got it to trial a year ago. The FDA’s Aug. 23 approval seems more a participation trophy for “speed and application” than for actual success.
But my concern is not to observe this evident absurdity. It is to note the moral consequence of fighting an extended, vain war against an immortal and invisible enemy, with no defined exit strategy.
For it is now abundantly clear. Approving a failed vaccine while mandating passports allows for a permanent group of second-class citizens even after a state of emergency has ended. And it normalizes mandatory vaccinations for everyone, even when they are not useful.
In September, Quebec and B.C. will require vaccination passports for non-essential activities, and some other provinces are considering following suit, while the federal government is planning to mandate vaccinations for commercial air, train, and cruise ship passengers as well as for all federal employees. We’d be naive to think it’ll stop there.
Consciences are being crushed in the mission creep. Why do I cite conscience as a problem?
When politicians waived the legal liability of the vaccine manufacturers, they also demanded the medical community set aside its ethics, first through a sustained “campaign” of pressure to “take the shot” and now through mandates. If the campaign of pressure defied the bedrock ethical principle of informed consent established in the Nuremberg Code, then the mob’s call for mandates on doctors and patients to defend our idol of technocracy is in defiance of our very essence as human beings.
Martin Luther once noted that “to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” The great civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. echoed his words. In his autobiography, he writes:
“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expedience asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ And Vanity comes along and asks the question ‘Is it popular?’ But Conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ … The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy.”
The worth of individual conscience is the great legacy of the West, and its blessings have spread with the Nuremberg Code, and in political defences of conscience.
But we are on the eve of its eclipse.
We are rejecting the lesson of history. Individuals ignore their conscience at the peril of their own souls, and when technocratic science is given the lead over the conscience of the nation, so much greater is the ruin. This can however be avoided.
English playwright George Bernard Shaw described a Native American elder’s account of his own struggles with conscience: “Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, ‘the one I feed the most.’”
The moral goodness of the freedom of association, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of thought and expression, and the freedom of conscience and religion are enshrined as fundamental rights in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They have been set aside these last 18 months under the auspices of an emergency. The good dog has been deprived of his food.
The question I would ask Canadians and our politicians is: What sort of nation is being preserved when fundamental civil liberties have been cast aside and the inviolability of conscience has been despoiled as a medical necessity, a casualty of war? What sort of country will we return to, and what will our children inherit when the freedoms our Charter calls “fundamental” give way to appeals to what is safe, or politic, or popular, rather than what is right?
It is indeed a time of crisis.