Half-mast

The Canadian flag flying from the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill has been at half-mast since May 30. That’s quite a long time. It was lowered in remembrance of the victims of residential schools. It’s unclear when it will be raised again. Prime Minister Trudeau has expressed the point of view that he has no authority to raise it, and that this can only be done after consultation with Indigenous leaders.

If we can’t say exactly when it will be raised again, I think it’s a safe bet that it will be up by November 11, when it is lowered in remembrance of fallen soldiers. That this is so indicates, I think, what a transparently political stunt it is. Yes, it’s more virtue signaling of the most blatant kind by our terminally woke prime minister.

Most of the criticism directed at the lowered flag has come from conservative commentators. They see it as disrespectful and expressing national self-loathing. I don’t care about any of that. What bothers me is its emptiness. This past week also saw the government of New Brunswick ask its employees to stop making land acknowledgments in reference to what may be Indigenous lands, as First Nations groups have begun a court case claiming ownership and title to over 60% of the province.

I’ve never liked the land acknowledgments. Like the lowered flag they are merely gestures, bankrupt of meaning. The lowered flag, however, is mostly harmless. The land acknowledgments are more invidious. But you can hardly blame Indigenous groups for wanting to take them at face value, and demanding courts do the same. I remember a few years ago hearing one Indigenous band member claiming restitution from a single, not-very-affluent Ontario municipality, in the trillions of dollars. That’s not a typo.

Another example of the same sort of thing — an expression of some moral principle never meant to be taken literally — can be seen in the diversity and equity movement. If you truly believe that your job is the result of your white privilege, shouldn’t you act on that by resigning so that a BIPOC person can have it?

But that would mean taking any of this seriously. The rhetoric and symbolism of woke culture is the essence of virtue signaling, by which I mean it’s a call for other people to make sacrifices and restitution for your beliefs. This makes signalers feel better about themselves. Presumably there is also some political payoff, but I think that’s starting to go into reverse. These virtuous balloons will burst. It’s all beginning to seem like the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade in Catch-22. It may, and I hope it will, end just as quickly.

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