The use of violence is like JRR Tolkien’s One Ring. The forces of evil seek to use it. For example, consider the looting, rioting, and arson that occurred in the wake of the death of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin. Something was lost on the Left, or perhaps they know and don’t care: if jurors convict Chauvin because of their fear of mob reprisal that this is not justice. The reason matters. Justice is when jurors convict based on their reasoned conviction that the defendant committed the crime. Justice is not when jurors fear for their lives or their family. Or just want to get their lives back after being stuck in court too long. But the Left cares not, they only want to impose their preferred outcome. And it looks like they won.
And so, logically it seems, that those who would fight for good wonder “hey, if the Left can win like this, why can’t we do it too?”
Tolkien wrote extensively and articulately on why it doesn’t work this way. In the film version of The Lord of the Rings, we see Boromir lusting for the Ring. He eventually betrays the Fellowship and attacks Frodo to try to take it.
The One Ring is a good analogy for power, the capability to compel others’ obedience, to bend them to the will of the one who wields it. This power is suited to the Dark Lord Sauron, who we are told in the prologue “seeks to dominate all life.” But it is not suited to the free peoples of Middle Earth who fight against Sauron.
In other words, this power suits he who would make us slaves. But does not suit those who would not be slaves.
There is a powerful analogy between the Ring and the Freedom Convoy in Canada. The Canadian government has imposed a Covid vaccine mandate. This is absolutely a bad policy. Government should not have the power to force people to get vaccines. This essay is not in any way a defense of the policy. As Lord of the Rings was not in any way a defense of Sauron. I am not saying that people should support vaccine mandates, as Tolkien was not saying that people should bow to Sauron.
My purpose in writing this is to show why this convoy will not lead to liberty or anything good. Notwithstanding that it is a reaction to a wrongful policy.
When Frodo offers the Ring to the Lady of the Elves, Galadriel, she proclaims “In place of a Dark Lord you would have a Queen! Not dark but beautiful and terrible…”
Perhaps one day, someone will make a movie of this and, a character will cry “in place of a Covid vaccine mandate, you would have mob rule!”
Let’s start with the facts. The Canadian government has passed a law: that they will not allow truck drivers to enter the country, unless they have the Covid vaccinate. In response to this, large numbers of truckers have driven their trucks to Ottawa, and there they are blocking streets and hence the residents from going to work, food, or even the hospital. They are also making noise, including honking their horns, which interferes with the ability of the residents to sleep. More recently, they have blocked the bridges between Detroit USA and Windsor Canada, the busiest land border crossing between the two countries. This prevents goods, including components used to make cars, from moving.
In other words, their complaint is against the Canadian government, but their target is their fellow citizens. Just like with the rioters after George Floyd, whose complaint was against the government, but whose actions were against retailers and building owners.
One guy on Twitter said to me that the truckers are trying to reopen the roads and bridges. It took me a moment to grasp the Orwellian convolution of this line of thought. The truckers are blocking roads and bridges, that is forcing them closed. They do this to get the government to repeal its Covid vaccine law. My Twitter interlocutor conflates this law with “closing the roads and bridges”. And thus, twists things to the opposite of the truth, and says the truckers are not forcibly closing roads and bridges at all, but merely trying to “open” (scare quotes deliberate) them.
One sees this kind of stretching of language frequently in political debates. Those who are arguing for the wrong side desperately twist and squirm, seeking some way to avoid admitting that they know what they are doing. And often, that way is to bend the meaning of words into their opposites.
We have all seen socialists declare that “freedom” is when the government keeps the people like pets, feeding, watering, and housing them. In that spirit, blockading bridges is fighting to “open” them.
The most fundamental political principle is that it is wrong to initiate the use of physical force against innocent people. This is a full stop. There are no mitigating factors. There is no “yes, but”.
Initiating the use of force against someone is wrong, even if you have a legitimate complaint against him. This is why we have police and courts. Initiating the use of force is wrong, even if you have a legitimate complaint against the government. This is why we have the right of freedom of speech, the right to petition the government, including the right to peaceably assemble, and ultimately the right to vote politicians out of office.
There is no right to block people from going where they would. This applies to a bully who would block you on the sidewalk, by interposing his body. It applies to a trucker who blocks the end of your driveway. And it applies to ten thousand truckers who block the roads and bridges.
Many who defend this, would attempt an analogy to Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. They say that the truckers are “going on strike”. But this is not accurate. To go on strike would be to refuse to drive one’s truck. Any truck driver has the right to go on strike.
But that’s not what these truckers are doing. They are forcing others not to go to work (also not to go to buy food, or seek medical care, etc.)
The moment they violate the rights of other people, they cease to be “protesting”. They become a mob seeking political outcomes, by the use of force.
With a jury who convicts not based on the law or the facts but based on the fear of a mob, the result is not justice. With a government who sets policy not based on the sanction of the people but based on fear of a mob, the result is not the rule of law. It is ceding power to any mob big enough, persistent enough, and threatening enough to bring the politicians to their knees and repeal the law.
And in both cases, this is true even if the defendant did commit the crime and even if the law ought to be repealed.
This leads us to an age-old question. Do the ends justify the means? Philosophers and populists have been debating for centuries. Let me cut to the chase.
Wrongful means are not justified. Even if the ends are noble. Professor Tolkien would add, wrongful means are not suited to righteous ends. And I would add, wrongful means will always lead to bad ends. For example, the French Revolution was a reaction to the brutal feudal system. They were right to end feudalism. But the French Revolution led to a reign of terror.
And there is a simple reason for it. One act of initiating the use of force justifies another such act. What will both sides in the Canadian trucker controversy take away from this, assuming the truckers get their way? It’s obvious: “if you want something, just organize a big enough mob and extort it from the hapless citizens.”
Like the One Ring, this is not really suited to those who want to be left alone. But it is a great tool for those who really want the power to make others obey.
On Twitter, I have said several times that once the Right forcibly Occupies, then it loses the right to complain when the Left Occupies. The same retort recurred over and over. “The Left already has that right!”
In other words, Tu Quoque. “It is OK when we do it, because they do it.”
Politics has been reduced to two tribes warring against each other, each justifying its own wrongdoing by pointing to the other side for doing it. Each side still clinging to the belief that it is the side of righteousness, while descending the steps to Hell willingly and eagerly with the other side.
Both sides forfeit any claim to righteousness, as they are violating the rights of the residents of Ottawa to go about their business, and the rights of travelers across the bridge from Canada to the US (including US citizens who need to return home).
Recall the story of Little Red Riding Hood. A wolf wants to eat her. But suppose a bear came to fight the wolf for her. What is the point of the bear“winning”—if that which is won is not the freedom of Little Red Riding Hood, but merely the victory of the bear over the wolf?
In many recent cases, the Right has rightfully called “hypocrisy!” on the Left. They do this whenever the Left acts against the Left’s stated principles (which is a weak way of opposing those false principles, but that’s a whole ‘nother matter). And now we have a pugnacious defense of doing what the Left does, on grounds of Tu Quoque or whataboutism.
Hypocrisy and Tu Quoque are flip sides of the same moral relativist coin. It is based on the belief that there are no firm principles, no standards for human behavior, no rules governing the use of force. Except one. Whatever you can get away with. And the defining factor of what you can get away with is: whatever the other side got away with!
They’re angry that the Left got away with Occupy, so they righteously Occupy.
Another common retort is, “sacrifices have to be made in war.” This little doozie contains two errors.
One, you have no right to decide what sacrifices that other people should be forced to make. This is the whole problem with the vaccine mandate in the first place, as someone decided that it is a small sacrifice for you to get vaccinated (an irony lost on the defenders of this mob). And in protest to this forced sacrifice, you decide to force Ottawa residents to stop living their lives until you get your way.
The philosophy based on forcing others to sacrifice, for an alleged “greater good”, is the basis for every totalitarian regime.
The other error is that this is not a war. In war, you do not bring your expensive assets to the battle. You would not rely on the enemy to let it sit there, neither seizing it nor destroying it.
The even greater irony, is the claim that the government of Canada has become totalitarian. But the truckers rely on that very government not to behave as a totalitarian government. Recall in Tiananmen Square, the totalitarian communist regime killed peaceful protestors (who were not blocking anyone). They shot the protestors in the back, and ran over them with tanks—even while they fled.
In East Germany, people were dragged off to years of torture, on suspicion of even whispering an anti-government word. In some cases, the informant was the victim’s brother.
In Canada, they call the government “totalitarian” while openly flouting the law.
It’s not a war, it’s a circus where those who would fight for liberty, and protest a bad law, end up working towards mob rule by breaking the rightful laws required of any civil society. And they know they can rely on the government not to enforce these rightful laws, even while it continues to enforce the wrongful vaccine law. If I were a fiction writer, I doubt I could come up with something so bizarre.