Category Archives: Human rights



I have heard friends, good friends, say they wished the LGBTQ* community were less flamboyant. Particularly they think trans queens are outrageously over the top. Why do they have to be so ‘in your face’ all the time they ask? Or they say,’ Don’t they know they are not winning support with their actions?’ Or, “Why do they act so we see them all the time?’


I used to feel that way. I think it was the residue of homophobia that makes the straight community feel that way. This is our liberation fatigue speaking and we must dissolve it. Members of the LGBTQ* community have always been forced into the dark cracks of society where they could hide.  They had no choice, they thought, because they would be hit hard when they ‘came out.’


Naturally, they don’t want to be forced back into those dark societal cracks. They want to be out in the open as they are entitled to be. I think flamboyance is their way of saying, ‘I am not going back into those cracks again. I am out and I am staying out, get used to it.’ And that is exactly what we should do—get used to it. Let then be. If they want to be flamboyant, so be it.


I think the LGBTQ* community is entitled to do exactly that. The rest of us just have to get used to it. Our discomfort with the flamboyance is only disguised homophobia and we in the dominant group need to get rid of all of that phobia. we don’t even recognize what it is. We need to get rid of it, not just for the sake of the LGBTQ*, but for ourselves. We must cleanse ourselves of all homophobia.  None of it does us well. That is our job in the face of injustice. This will liberate us! Flamboyance fatigue, or justice fatigue, or reconciliation fatigue are all unbecoming. We can do better.

A Drill Sergeant in the cultural War


John Oliver pointed out that some of some of the same players involved in another phony war, the war against ‘Critical race Theory’ (‘CRT’)  have volunteered for action in the current war by conservatives  against trans gender rights. This is  the latest battle and for the same reasons. Conservatives see an opportunity for advancement of personal agendas in a the phony war. Many of the participants in the CRT   battle were doing it as a wedge issue to promote school choice.


One of the main characters in the CRT skirmish has now joined the new trans war, namely Chris Rufo. He specifically said he was taking the same “reporting” he did with CRT to “gender ideology.” Rufo said he wanted to give parents “the media narrative, kind of justification, or validation or substantiation of their concerns.” Rufo was arming parents with arguments they could use in the cultural war…” to give them the language they can use to speak of it with confidence so that they can speak about it directly,  and they can speak about it with the requisite level of aggressiveness.” Rufo’s language makes it clear that he see himself as a drill sergeant in the culture war.

 Rufo claimed that the gender claims were all part of the “radical gender theory” and that combatants should start referring to the phrase “trans stripper” in lieu of “drag queen” because it has “a more lurid set of connotations and shifts the debate to sexualization.”

According to John Oliver,

“In the conservative playbook that tactic is a really big one–linking the discussion of gender identity sexual predation and teaches grooming students. A related tactic is arguing that the rise in numbers of children identifying as trans is due to social contagion. It is just a mass delusion, a trendy fad that is rapidly spreading among young people.”


The practitioners in the culture war that few things riles up their supporters more than sexual paranoia. Stoking fears about sexuality is a guarantee of conservative support. It is about as fool-proof as stoking fears about race.

Contrary to the typical position of conservatives in Canada and the US, historians are documenting the lives of transgender people through history. This is not something new. It is not a fad. As National Geographic, not exactly a left wing rag,  reported, “There’s ample evidence of gender variance throughout human history. As far back as historians have found evidence of transgender people, we have found transgender children.” This is not just a modern fad stoke by liberals.


Conservatives have claimed there has been a rapid rise in children identifying as trans, and that is a very common perception, but it is a misconception. As Julia Serano pointed out, when you look at a chart of left-handedness among Americans in the 20th century you see a huge spike when Americans stopped forcing children to write with their right hands. After that there was a plateau. That does not mean everyone suddenly became left-handed. It really just means that people were free to be whom they wanted to be. And isn’t that a wonderful thing?  Conservatives, again, claim to be in support of freedom when they are among the most relentless of foes against freedom. When people are free to choose, as they should be, a significant number of people chose to exercise that freedom and decided to change their gender. By far the most do not!

The only thing spreading like wild fire is hysteria.



Soothing the Base by Attacking 12-year olds


A lot of conservatives have been rendered apoplectic by the issue of transgender rights. On the right it is the latest and greatest liberal whipping boy. Much of it can be seen in their jokes on the subject. Like this one by MAGA supporter: My name is J. R Magusi, and my pronouns are “patriot,” and “asskicker.” Or Garret Soldano, my pronouns, “conservative,” “patriot.” Or Matt Schlapp, chair of the CPAC, “I would like to declare something right now. My pronouns are “USA.” Or good old Ted Cruz, “My pronoun is kiss my ass.” Cruz is really tough when he goes up against 12-year old girls! All of these jokes are demonstrating of course that they don’t know what pronouns are. But more importantly demonstrating that they don’t get it. It is difficult to avoid concluding that politicians like Cruz don’t care about female athletes unless they can calculate that their supporters might enjoy watching an attack on young girls by grown men.


Yet, the issue is more important than bad jokes.  This year, according to National Public Radio, “There are over 100 anti-trans bills in state houses.” 12 states have already signed anti-trans laws. That is part of a campaign of violence and threats against trans people, among the most vulnerable minority in the USA  and Canada showing once again, that conservatives love to pick on vulnerable minorities. This is particularly true when their sexuality is in jeopardy. Besides schools, there have even been attacks and harassment in children’s hospitals.  How brave can conservatives get?

Of course, defense of trans people on the left has been weak-kneed if not hostile in defending this group. American conservatives are the ones talking about this issue. Clearly, they are acting like petty demagogues when they use the issue to show to their fans that they can make Democrats look ridiculous and weak, while they demonstrate “strength” by attacking unsupported youth. We have to remember this can inflict serious harm on vulnerable people. And when it is adults ganging up on young children it is particularly ugly.


It is also obvious that many of these laws have very little to do with what is really happening and everything to do with what the conservatives believe will please their supporters regardless of that fact.

Here is an example, of what I mean. Recently, 18 American states have passed laws banning transgender youth participation in sports. Is that really needed? Are there that many transgender people trying to swamp sports? One of those engaging in this is South Dakota Republican Governor Kristie Noem who made her bill a centre piece of her political campaign. Here is what one ad said, “In South Dakota only girls play girls’ sports. Why because of governor Christie Noem’s leadership. She has been protecting girls’ sports for years and never backed down. Now governor Noem has a bill that will give South Dakota the strongest law in the nation protecting female sports. Doing the work. Delivering results.”

She sure is brave isn’t she?

People like her love to fire up fears about female trans athletes having an unfair advantage and taking away opportunities from “real girls.”  As Time Magazine pointed out, “There are vanishingly few examples nationwide of trans athletes attempting to compete at all.” This is a problem mainly in the eyes of conservatives and their pundits. In South Dakota the head of their sports association was able to name  only one “one transgender female athlete.” That athlete graduated a few years. This was past news. Yet is the news Republicans think they can use to beat up on Democrats. As John Oliver pointed out, “There are more athletes in Noem’s ad than there are trans girls known to be competing.”  Of course, even if there were more of such athletes the real nub is that it is just plain wrong to discriminate against them.

The International Olympic Committee said it would not issue blanket bans, but approach each on a sport-by-sport basis. It also said its general fundamental principle would be that “no athlete should be excluded from competition on the assumption of an advantage due to their gender.” Does it make sense that a trans athlete can compete in the Olympics but not in under 12 soccer?

Parents seem to fear that children are plotting costly time-consuming transition campaigns just to win a city championship.  Would any child really do that? Would any child do that who knows how much abuse they will be subjected to? As John Oliver said, “So much of the conversation about anti-trans laws involves massively overheated rhetoric that does not match the actualities of kids’ situations.”

And when you get “massively overheated rhetoric” that is a pretty good sign that the real issue is not what the combatants claim. Usually this shows hysteria is at play.  This is a battle in a cultural war. That is the real issue. Wars can generate heat. Not 12 year old athletes in a local volleyball match.


Christian Ethics

Yet even after all this, John Stuart Mill has one more dragon to slay—Christian ethics. Even that, he holds, cannot be accepted as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He makes a powerful argument that it too must submit to allowing the contrary voice to be heard.

Mill knows that many in the 19th century believed ardently that Christian ethics were the supreme good and nothing could be added or detracted from them and that here was at least one bastion that was immune from needing to pay heed to Mill’s cries for hearing the other side. Mill knew that he had a major opponent to defeat, but that did not stop him. He even challenged Christian morality. He also pointed out that if his theory could  successfully show that even Christian morality could benefit from listening to another truth he would have produced a momentous  achievement.

He says right at the outset that from his point of view the proponents of the all-inclusiveness of Christian morality had missed the mark. He said, “I wonder that any one who derives his knowledge of this from the book itself, can suppose that it was announced, or intended as a complete doctrine of morals.” In other words he suggests that nowhere in the Bible does it actually say that it offers a complete moral code. Even if you believe it is Holy Scripture, nowhere does it say that you are unable to add to its truths.

To begin with he suggests that Christian morality is defined as the teachings of Jesus Christ as evidenced by the New Testament. He believes that this is the essential Christian morality.

He points out at the outset that more was always needed. He said, “To extract from it a body of ethical doctrine, has never been possible without eking it out from the Old Testament, that is from a system elaborate indeed, but in many respects barbarous, and intended only for a barbarous people.”  I disagree with Mill on this point.  The Old Testament prophets, for example, produced a magnificent ethic as I have commented on earlier. Much of it has stood the test of time.

He also pointed out that Christian morality is in many respects a reaction against pagan morality and cannot be fully appreciated without understanding parts of pagan morality. It is as a result of that reaction, says Mill,

“It’s ideal is negative rather than positive; passive rather than active; Innocence rather than Nobleness; Abstinence from Evil rather than energetic Pursuit of Good; in its precepts (as has been well said) “thou shalt not” predominates unduly over “thou shalt.”  In its horror of sensuality, it made an idol of asceticism, which has gradually compromised away into one of legality.  It holds out the hope of heaven and the threat of hell, as against the appointed and appropriate motives to a virtuous life; in this falling far below the best of the ancients, and doing what lies in it to give to human morality an essentially selfish character, by disconnecting each man’s feelings of duty from the interests of his fellow-creatures, except so far as a self-interested inducement  is offered to him for consulting them. It is essentially a doctrine of passive obedience; it inculcates submission to all authorities found established.

In other words, Mill sees Christian morality as ultimately selfish.  We do what it advocates to gain eternal life. and avoid the pain of hell. We don’t do it to help others.

Mill is really saying we can do better. Not that we must throw out all of Christian morality. He admits that much of it is good and has benefited society.  His point is merely that it is not complete.

Mill suggests that other sources could provide improvement for Christian morality that would benefit it. For example, he says that what little recognition of the idea of duty to the public actually comes from Greek and Roman sources not Christian.  They have already supplemented Christian morality in the broader sense. He adds that these sources have much to offer as well in their notions of magnanimity, high-mindedness, personal dignity, and the importance of honour. Nietzsche for example, also argued for the importance of these concepts from classical philosophy and felt that to the extent Christian morality was not compatible with them it must be changed. I think Mill is merely suggesting that such notions can supplement Christian morality.  These concepts do not arise from our religious education.

Mill I think actually mocks Christian morality when he suggests that Christian morality has “grown out of a standard of ethics in which the only worth, professedly, is that of obedience.” We do the right thing because we are commanded to do, when we should do it because it is the right thing to do.

While Mill does not criticize the maxims of Jesus Christ he does say that obviously they are not intended to be a complete code of moral conduct. He says instead,

“they contain, only a part of the truth; that many essential elements of the highest morality are among the things which are not provided for nor intended to be provided for, in the recorded deliverances of the Founder of Christianity, and which have been entirely thrown aside in the system of ethics erected on the basis of those deliverances by the Christian Church. And this being so, I think it a great error to persist in attempting to find in the Christian doctrine that complete rule for our guidance which its author intended it to sanction and enforce, but only partially to provide.”


Mill does not complain about this incompleteness. He merely complains about those who treat the maxims as a complete code and therefore that “the Christian system is no exception to the rule, that in an imperfect state of the human mind the interests of truth require a diversity of opinions.”

This is precisely Mills the point that he keeps making over and over again in different ways.  Seekers of truth and justice need a diversity of opinions for all the reasons he has elucidated. We should never allow ourselves to be robbed of the benefit of the diverse opinion. All great political leaders for example understand this. President Barack Obama understood it well and frequently called for vigorous debate of proposed policies. I fear his successor is not so inclined, and prefers instead to hear his own views constantly applauded by Fox News or Breitbart. That, as Mills clearly demonstrates, is a big mistake.

We always have to be wary of those who argue against seeing a set of proposals as anything less than a partial view of the truth. “The exclusive pretention made by a part of the truth to be the whole, must and ought to be protested against.”

For example, anyone who looks fairly at moral issues will quickly see that much has been learned from secular thinkers. A wide variety of sources is immediately seen as richly beneficial to the understanding of any issues. As Mill said, “It can do no service to blink the fact, known to all who have the most ordinary acquaintance with literary history, that a large portion of the noblest and most valuable moral teaching was the work, not only of men who did not know, but of men who knew and rejected the Christian faith.”

That does not mean Christian morality is wrong. It is just that it does not tell the entire truth. We need other views to supplement it. We need diversity! We do not need pretentions to absolute and complete truth. Once again Mill puts it well,

I do not pretend that the most unlimited use of the freedom of enunciating all possible opinions would put an end to the evils of religious or philosophical sectarianism.  Every truth which men of narrow capacity are in earnest about, is sure to be asserted, inculcated,  and in many ways even acted on, as if no other truth existed in the world, or at all events none that could limit or qualify the first. I acknowledge that the tendency of all opinions to become sectarian is not cured by the freest discussion, but is often heightened and exacerbated thereby; the truth which ought to have been, but was not, seen, being rejected all the more violently because proclaimed by persons regarded as opponents.  But it is not on the impassioned partisan, it is on the calmer and more disinterested bystander, that this collision of opinions works its salutary effect.  Not the violent conflict between parts of the truth, but the quiet suppression of half of it, is the formidable evil; there is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend only to one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood. And since there are few mental attributes more rare than that judicial faculty which can sit in intelligent judgment between two sides of a question, of which only one is represented by an advocate, before it, every opinion which embodies any fraction of the truth, not only finds advocates, but is so advocated as to be listened to.”

This is Mill’s magnificent conclusion. This is why he argues so strenuously for diversity of opinions. This is why he argues so strenuously that we do not gain by suppressing free debate and discussion. This is why freedom of thought, discussion and ultimately, expression is so vitally important. We have everything to gain from freedom of thought and discussion and everything to lose from its suppression! The “impassioned partisans” might not benefit, for they will be cemented in their opinions, but the “calmer and disinterested bystander.” And we who have decisions to make, should be these ideal calm and disinterested bystanders! We should always try—and try hard—to be the ideal impartial observer if we truly desire to find the truth.

Yet, even with that dramatic conclusion, Mill is not quite complete. He reminds that this freedom to think and discuss which he has argued for so powerfully is not only important in its own right. It is the basis of “the mental well-being of mankind (on which all other well being depends).

The Deep Slumber of Decided Beliefs


John Stuart Mill argued in his book On Liberty that Christian faith had been impoverished as a result of not being sufficiently challenged in his country (England in the 19th century) Those beliefs were once firmly and genuinely held in the early days of Christianity. Then Christians had to constantly defend those beliefs from attack. Christians had to know the reasons and justifications for those beliefs. Over centuries of acceptance by rote, the beliefs have died in their minds. They are what Mill called dead beliefs.  Or dull and torpid beliefs. At one time the beliefs were vibrant, now they are mere forms.

Mill claims that because these beliefs are no longer truly held, the Christians have such difficulty in propagating their faith in foreign countries.  It is hard to convince others of a belief that is not obviously believed. If you don’t believe it, why should I? It is like a Chevrolet sales representative trying to sell a Chevrolet when the customer knows the sales representative owns a Toyota. Actions speak louder than words.

Mill describes these faux beliefs this way,

“The sayings of Christ coexist passively in their minds, producing hardly any effect beyond what is caused by mere listening to words so amiable and bland. There are many reasons, doubtless why doctrines which are the badge of a sect retain more of their vitality than those common to all recognized sects, and why more pains are taken by teachers to keep their meaning alive; but one reason certainly is, that the peculiar doctrines are more questioned, and have to be oftener defended  against open gainsayers.  Both teachers and learners go to sleep at their post, as soon as there is no enemy in the field.


And that is why free speech is so important to learning truth. It’s the contest for truth that is vitally important. This reasoning of course applies to all beliefs, not just religious beliefs.  All languages and belief systems are chock full of observations and directives about how adherents are to conduct themselves. People hear them and believe that they do in fact believe them. They are genuine about their claims. Yet most people only learn the meaning of them when they painfully have to implement them. That makes them real. The pain reminds the “believer” of what he or she should have known and believed.  As Mill said, “there are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realised until personal experience has brought it home.”

For beliefs, the best way to bring the belief home is to hear it argued pro and con by people who understand it. As Mill pointed out so wisely, “The fatal tendency of mankind to leave off thinking about a thing when it is no longer doubtful, is the cause of half their errors.  Mill said that a contemporary author has well spoken of “the deep slumber of a decided opinion.”

In the search for truth, slumber is an impressive and pernicious barrier.

I have looked at truths from both sides now


Mill wanted truths to be tested and defended against argument so the truth was lived. In such circumstances the truth is alive and vivid. Then, and only then, truth can avoid being a dead truth.

That is why Mill says, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”

To me it is like learning how to use a computer. It is not enough to be told how to use it. We have to use it to learn how to use it. Then the truth of how to use a computer becomes real.

So it is with reason.  A person might have been taught the reasons for an opinion, and those reasons might even be good reasons, but that is not good enough. If a person does not know what the reasons in favour of the opposite proposition are he really has no grounds to prefer either opinion. As Mill says,

“if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be to suspend judgment and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. That is not the way to do justice to the arguments or bring them into real contact with his own mind.”


Neither authority nor desire is good grounds for a belief.  The only thing that works is vigorous open debate on both sides of a question with both sides able to argue their case fully and freely. We must experience fully the weight of the belief on the other side. We must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form. Nothing else will do. “He must feel the whole force of difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of; else he will never really possess himself of the portion of the truth which meets and removes that difficulty.” Unless one fully throws oneself into the position of the other we can never truly know what we profess to believe. We must see the arguments on both sides in the strongest light.

As a result of such reasoning, Mill makes a surprising and profound argument. He says, “So essential is this discipline to a real understanding of morals and human subjects, that if opponents of all important truths do not exist, it is indispensable to imagine them, and supply them with the strongest arguments, which the most skillful devil’s advocate can conjure up.”

Mill makes another suggestion.  He says, “mankind ought to have a rational assurance that all objections have been satisfactorily answered; and how are they to be answered if that which requires to be answered is not spoken? Or how can the answer be known to be satisfactory, if the objectors have no opportunity of showing that it is unsatisfactory.”

So free discussion is essential to understanding fully the opinion held. Its absence is harmful to the worth of the opinion. It is not enough that we hold true opinions, the process by which we gained those opinions is of critical importance.  Mill put it this way,

The fact, however, is, that not only the grounds of the opinion are forgotten in the absence of discussion, but too often the meaning of the opinion itself. The words which convey it cease to suggest ideas, or suggest only a small portion of those they were originally employed to communicate.  Instead of a vivid conception and a living belief, there remains only a few phrases retained by rote, or if any part, the shell and husk only of the meaning retained, the finer essence being lost.

If you want a vivid belief, and which indoctrinator does not want that, free discussion is an absolute prerequisite. Without it there is but a husk of a belief—again—a paltry thing. That is why absolute free discussion is so vital. Free speech brings life.

Like Joni Mitchell sort of said, “you must look at truth from both sides now.” Otherwise, it’s only truth’s illusions you will recall.

The opinion is true: Freedom not Indoctrination


All I have considered so far, is John Stuart Mill’s consideration of the possibility that the statement might be true. How do his comments apply to statements that are true? For example, if you are a Christian and believe in the truth of the gospel can you benefit from heresy? If you are a liberal who believes that the election of Joseph Biden as president in 2020 was not stolen by fraud should you nonetheless accept and consider heretical opinions that the election was fraudulent?


Mill  argued that people should be free to challenge true opinions on the grounds that this would maximize the amount of benefit or happiness for society. You might have thought that this would be a difficult claim to establish.


Here Mill makes a fascinating point.  Anyone should be free to challenge an opinion even if is true.  This is an extremely important point and I never seriously considered it until I read Mill.


Mill asked an important question, how will an opinion be held when its truth is not freely and openly discussed. One would think that would not matter. Right? After all, if we believe it to be true because it is never challenged we will believe what is true.  But Mill asks, how will we believe that true statement?


Mill says, “however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as dead dogma, not a living truth.” Mill points out that there are people who believe that it is good enough if a person accepts what he is taught as true.  In fact, as we all know, most parents take this position. For example, they teach their children what is right and wrong. They want their children to accept that the things the parents think are wrong are in fact wrong. They want their children to accept that the things the parents think are right are in fact right. That is their goal. This is the goal of indoctrination.

Indoctrination is particularly robust in cases of religion—perhaps because rational argument and debate are so difficult and as a result the views of the children will be, it is believed by the parents, forever weak and subject to undermining by others. And that will not do. Mill strongly disagrees. So do I.

Indoctrinators don’t care if the object of their attention has any knowledge of the grounds of their opinion or not. What counts is the opinion, not the reason for the opinion. It matters not to these parents that the children could not make a tenable defence of the opinion against the most superficial objection. What matters is that the opinion is firmly held no matter what. Naturally people who indoctrinate others “if they can once get their creed taught from authority naturally think that no good, and some harm, comes of its being allowed to be questioned.”

The problem with this approach according to Mill is that such an opinion can never be rejected wisely, but actually can be rejected rashly and ignorantly. That is because one can never shut out discussion completely no matter how hard one tries. When rational discussion creeps in, as it always eventually does,

beliefs not grounded on conviction are apt to give way before the slightest semblance of an argument. Waiving, however, this possibility, assuming the true opinion abides in the mind, but abides as a prejudice, a belief independent of, and proof against, argument—this is not the way in which truth ought to be held by a rational being. This is not knowing the truth. Truth, thus held, is but one superstition the more, accidentally clinging to the words which enunciate a truth.

 This is what faith is. Faith is not based on grounds or reasons. In fact, often it is held against grounds or reasons.  Mill says, it is held like a prejudice.  That is because it is not based on reason and evidence but something else—like a superstition. It is not enough to be told the grounds or reasons either. That is still indoctrination. It is not lived; it is not experienced. It is a dead truth. And how much is that worth?


It’s Good to be Disturbed


In Viet Thanh Nguyen’s article in the New York Times called, “My Young Mind he said he was Disturbed by a Book. “It Changed My Life.” That was what said that when he was young, probably 12 or 13, and he read Larry Heinemann’s 1977 novel, Close Quarters. He was horrified when he read that book. He was born in Vietnam but was an immigrant to the US.

He was shocked to learn what some American soldiers thought about Vietnamese people like him and the book depicted horrifying scenes of rape and murder. Hard stuff for a boy so young to read. He said he hated the book. He hated what it said of his adopted country. Should he have been protected from reading a book like that? He said no. Though he hated the book he thought it was ultimately good for him to have read the book. He had been able to read the book because he was in a library where there are no boundaries and he was allowed to go into the adult section and find and read such a book. He was disturbed by the book and even said he hated it at the time. He thought it was a terrible novel.

Nguyen read the book again when he was an adult because he was writing a book about that war too. He realized Heinemann had done exactly what a good writer should do. He made Nguyen realize how terrible war was. “He did not want to give his readers an explanation or editorial. He did not want to humanize the Vietnamese people because from the perspective of the American soldiers he was depicting, the Vietnamese were not human. That was the point. He knew they were human, but they were not depicted that way. Why was that? It made him think. Discomfort can be a good thing. It is not something to be feared, even for a young boy.

Writers want to entertain their readers, but also confront them”, said Nguyen. That is the writer’s prerogative. That is what writers can do in a free and democratic society. That is what they should do in a free and democratic society. Writers often want to disturb readers out of their slumber. Even children should be disturbed.

 As Nguyen said in his New York Times article:

The novel was a damning indictment of American warfare and the racist attitudes held by some nice, average Americans that led to slaughter and rape. Mr. Heinemann revealed America’s heart of darkness. He didn’t offer readers the comfort of a way out by editorializing or sentimentalizing or humanizing Vietnamese people, because in the mind of the book’s narrator and his fellow soldiers, the Vietnamese were not human.


I remember once when my boys were very young, and Chris’s uncle had died, we discussed whether we should bring our boys to the funeral or not. They had never been to a funeral before. They didn’t know much about death. I remember our youngest son, Stef, asked, as the coffin was lowered into the grave, “Are uncle Joe’s bones in there?” “Yup,” was our answer the bones of their great uncle were in that coffin. Should a young lad not learn that? Would it disturb them? Maybe. So be it.

Many people currently want to protect young people from disturbing truths. They want the children to think their country is always right, even when it isn’t. That happens in both Canada and the United States.

Confronting readers or disturbing them “can make them think twice,” said Nguyen. I think that is a lot better than not thinking at all. As he also said, “That is exactly the function that, books, schools, and curricula should have. It’s not always about making us feel comfortable, it’s about helping us to confront difficult realities and difficult pasts as well.”

Isn’t it better to get disturbed than to slumber?


A Spectrum of Mandates


I have tried to establish that the majority in a democratic society are allowed to impose vaccines on others who do not want to take them. I have tried to establish that on the basis of Mill’s principle of liberty enunciated in his book On Liberty.  Many of us now call the right which we have not to have actions imposed on us the principle of autonomy. I think that is a very important principle, but it is not an unlimited right.

Harms can be imposed on us if that is necessary to prevent us causing harm to others. It is of course necessary to weigh the harm avoided against the harm imposed.  The harm imposed must be less than the harm avoided, otherwise we have created greater harm by our actions. Sometimes, the ends justify the means. I will have more to say on that later.

Therefore, the harm caused by the mandate must be less than the harm avoided.

I suggest that there is a range of harms involved in mandates that depend upon the type of mandate. For example, the mandate could involve manacling the citizen and forcibly inflicting a needle with the vaccine into the body of the resister. That would be the most serious harm. It could cause great harm on the resister.  It certainly would elicit widespread opposition. I have seen photos of such a procedure being imposed on women’s suffragettes in the United States. They went on a hunger strike in the early 20th century to influence the American government, led by Woodrow Wilson, to grant women the right to vote.  They were horrific images of a woman being held while a tube was inserted into her mouth  through which food flowed against her will into her stomach.. The images probably went a long way toward persuading the public that perhaps their position was too strong and they lost public support. The same thing might happen with vaccines.

Unlike, forcing women to take food, I have argued that we would be morally justified in forcing vaccine Resisters to take the vaccines. But perhaps, such images, and there surely would be images, would quickly circulate and could persuade citizens that the government was going too far. As a result, such measures might be counterproductive.  Perhaps even though vaccine mandates are permissible we would be wise to avoid at least the more serious harms in the spectrum of harms. The spectrum of mandates could be from the smart to the stupid. I prefer the smart, though that is not always easy to determine.

We already have imposed some lesser measures that still go by the name of mandates. For example, we now require some employees in some situations, to be vaccinated, in order to work.  The loss of employment is obviously a serious harm imposed on the resisters.

We have also imposed restrictions on the unvaccinated to refrain from entering restaurants or certain stores or certain facilities such as hospitals or personal care homes for the purpose of visiting loved ones. Again these are serious harms but less draconian than the manacles.

Even though mandates are justified in my opinion we must be smart in choosing those that are the most effective and least counter productive.

We need smart mandates.

Christians Sing while People Die


The Winnipeg Free Press (Tom Brodbeck) has again reported on the effect that Christians have been having on the health of Manitobans.

“First the reporters explained how Intensive Care Units are working.  According to the Free Press

“Manitoba’s intensive care units can handle close to one new admission a day, on average, without disrupting normal hospital operations. Two per day, on a sustained basis, may force hospital administrators to redeploy staff to ICUs from other wards.

More than three daily admissions can lead to disaster — the kind Manitoba experienced earlier this year, when officials airlifted 57 COVID-19 patients out of province for critical care treatment. ICU patients tend to remain in hospital for long periods, which means they pile up fast when admission rates are high.

That’s how Manitoba Health described its ICU capacity in October, when public health officials pleaded with people to get fully vaccinated and follow public health orders to reduce pressure on hospitals.”


Of course, the Winnipeg Free has already reported how many people in Southern Health particularly in the Winkler area (though Steinbach is not much better) have been repeatedly ignoring Manitoba’s public Health Orders. Worst of all, dozens of people have been gathering in “secret churches” in barns and sheds ordinarily used for farm equipment. They want to gather together and sing together, even though such activities are dangerous at this time.  At the same time the region has the lowest rate of vaccine acceptance in the province and among the worst rates in Canada. All of this is done in the name of religion and freedom. The results have been disastrous, not just for the Southern Health Region but for all of Manitoba. As Tom Brodbeck of the Winnipeg Free Press opined:

“Since then, the ICU situation has gone from bad to worse, largely owing to scores of unvaccinated patients — mostly from the Southern Health region— clogging up hospital beds and threatening to collapse Manitoba’s health-care system.

ICU admissions from Southern Health alone over the past month have been enough to trigger contingency planning at Manitoba hospitals.

By mid-November, the number of newCOVID-19 ICU admissions from Southern Health exceeded an average of one a day, according to statistics compiled from the province’s online data portal.

There were two ICU admissions from Southern Health some days in November. On Dec. 6, there were four. No other health region, including Winnipeg, had more than one ICU admission in a single day over the past month.

Between Nov. 12 and Dec. 12 (the most recent available data), 33 of 69 COVID-19 ICU admissions were from Southern Health. The region is home to about 15 per cent of Manitoba’s population.

During that same period, 15 ICU admissions came from Winnipeg, 13 from Prairie Mountain, five from Interlake-Eastern, and three from the Northern health region.”


It is reasonable to infer, that because so many people from Southern Health are using the ICUs, and because so many of them are unvaccinated and flaunt public health orders, that the Manitoba Health system is jeopardy. This is despite the fact that Southern Health accounts for only 15% of Manitoba’s population. Sadly, a small group of recalcitrant people who resist vaccine and health orders, is putting the lives of Manitobans at great risk. And in many cases, this is done in the name of religion.

Added to that, Brodbeck asserted,

“There is incontrovertible evidence that low vaccine coverage and a stubborn refusal to follow public health orders, including masking indoors and adhering to proof-of-vaccination policies, is killing and hospitalizing people from Southern Health at disproportionate rates.”


Moreover, during this time we constantly hear reports about over worked nurses and other staff who are on the verge of emotional and physical collapse as they try their best to help people who are harming themselves and others as a result of their failure to follow health orders.  As a result Brodbeck informed,

 “Hospitals have been forced to redeploy health-care staff and cancel thousands of procedures to accommodate that, leaving tens of thousands of Manitobans suffering in pain and misery on growing wait lists.

This is the direct result of a misguided and misinformed anti-vaccination campaign that has taken a foothold in parts of the province. It is also the result of a provincial government that has refused to effectively enforce public health orders.

Manitoba hospitals are averaging over three new ICU patients a day (around half from Southern Health, the vast majority of whom are not fully vaccinated). Instead of having enough capacity to absorb another wave, Manitoba hospitals already have 34 COVID-19 patients in ICUs and 135 in hospital overall.”

It really looks like Manitoba and Southern Health in particular are headed for disaster and people in Southern Health have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. They have illegally exercised their religious  freedom while they wreak havoc on the community. That is a strange kind of religion. If it is religion at all.