Leonard Cohen, poet laureate, singer-songwriter, prophet, visionary, and Jewish-Buddhist fascinated by Christ, was also a modern knight-errant, and a more faithful disciple of the Absolute than many sitting idly in the pews.

Cohen's voice broke into my world with his 1992 song "The Future." It is no exaggeration to say that I was stunned by his clairvoyance. It seemed that one of the prophets of old had arisen:
You don't know me from the wind
You never will, you never did
I'm the little Jew who wrote the Bible
I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
But love's the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
You feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future: it is murder.
Even darker imagery emerges: "Destroy another fetus now, we don't like children anyhow. I've seen the future . . . it is murder."

This unforgettable song also includes those stark and astonishing words "Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima." Critics can analyze precisely what he meant -- is it Cohen speaking or is he adopting someone else' voice? Others may claim to know for certain exactly what he believed, but allow me to point out how extraordinary it is that someone would utter such words in any context -- conversation, poetry or song.

Cohen once admitted, "I'm very fond of Jesus Christ. He may be the most beautiful guy who walked the face of this earth. Any guy who says 'Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek' has got to be a figure of unparalleled generosity and insight and madness...A man who declared himself to stand among the thieves, the prostitutes and the homeless. His position cannot be comprehended. It is an inhuman generosity. A generosity that would overthrow the world if it was embraced because nothing would weather that compassion. I'm not trying to alter the Jewish view of Jesus Christ. But to me, in spite of what I know about the history of legal Christianity, the figure of the man has touched me."

Sometimes Cohen confused me, when he seemed to lurch between the flesh and the spirit. He dedicated "The Future" to Rebecca de Mornay, whom my age-group remembers from the steamy sex scene with Tom Cruise in Risky Business. So Leonard Cohen was engaged to Rebecca de Mornay, but then became a Buddhist monk? Perhaps it's not so odd. Great souls on pilgrimage often proceed by fits and starts on their journey to the promised land. I was also reminded that many skeptical Westerners, alienated from their own traditions, will flirt for a time with Eastern religion, often as an experimental foray in university days. However, anyone who spends five years in a Buddhist monastery is serious, very serious. Upon further reflection, I actually admired Cohen for this, and my respect for him deepened.

Like a medieval troubadour, Cohen sang of his lady-loves, and in his own way explored the tension in our culture between courtly, romantic love and religious aspirations.
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof . . .
How many people know by heart the rest of the line?
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah.
Such lyrics suggest that Jews and Christians are permitted to say "Hallelujah" outside the liturgy, because there is indeed something sacred in life, love and sex.

Perhaps Cohen did have a tendency to idealize or idolize the female body, but he never stopped there. In his own understanding of the "theology of the body," he knew that the body revealed the soul, and that you could not properly love one without the other. Dante had Beatrice to lead him to Paradise, and Cohen had any number of women . . . Suzanne or Marianne or Rebecca. And even though Cohen did not achieve the great synthesis of Dante, between romantic and spiritual love, he did speak to our times, and his inner journey, on public display, enlightened and inspired us.

It is not uncommon for men in our culture to have multiple sexual partners in their lifetimes. What is rare however, is to encounter a soul of such profundity, passion and brilliance that he can gather all the raw material of sensual experience and heat it in the furnace of the spirit, refining it like silver, into a precious jewel of a song that actually assists us in contemplating the hidden beauty of life, and giving us courage to plumb the depths of our own sufferings and joys.

Cohen is both an embarrassment and inspiration to Christians: embarrassing because in his duels with God, he was closer to Truth than Christian Pharisees who honour God with their lips, while their hearts are far from him, hardened and blinded by years of habitual religion confined to externals. He is an inspiration in his intellectual honesty, confessing that no educated person on earth can safely ignore Christ; now that He has come into the world and spoken to us, everyone must eventually make a personal decision about His claims.

In many ways, Cohen was one of Kierkegaard's knights of infinite resignation, who came ever so close to being a knight of faith. For Kierkegaard, the knight of infinite resignation is a passionate man who loves deeply: "He is not afraid of letting love creep into his most secret, his most hidden thoughts, to let it twine in innumerable coils about every ligament of his consciousness . . . he feels a blissful rapture in letting love tingle through every nerve . . . " But then he realizes, for various reasons, that this love can never be fulfilled. He resigns himself to this reality, somewhat like a Buddhist who sees suffering as caused by desire, rather than the Christian view of infinite desire as a promise of perfect and complete fulfillment. The knight of faith, despite all rational arguments, believes that his love will be fulfilled, and in the "absurdity" of faith reaches out to the infinite.

Cohen spent hours "sitting at the table" with the Lord, questioning, debating. In the song "Treaty" from his last album, he laments:
I seen you change the water into wine
I seen you change it back to water too
I sit at your table every night
I try but I just don't get high with you.
In a "A Better Way," from the same album, his gravel voice intones:
It seemed a better way
When first I heard him speak
But now it's much too late
To turn the other cheek
Sounded like the truth
Seemed a better way
Sounded like the truth
But it's not the truth today.
It's not the truth today because the world has drifted from Christianity or too many Christians are hypocrites? Cohen is not the only one, among great minds drawn to Christ and His teaching, to be scandalized by the stumbling block of the reality of this world, and the poor example of Christians who fail to put into practice the teaching of the Master.

He stood at the edge of the sea of faith, contemplating a leap into those dark waters, leaning forward then back again, fascinated then repelled, hopeful then resigned. Though he never took the plunge, he was a man after God's own heart. In an age of superficiality, pusillanimity and mendacity, here was an Israelite in whom there was no guile, a man who was not afraid to be a man, and to wrestle with God. Here was a knight who was faithful to his quest.

Near the end, he also longed for his rest. In the title track of his last album "You Want It Darker," released less than a month before his death, Cohen expresses himself in the words of Abraham and Moses, "Hineni, Hineni. I'm ready, my Lord." In another song from his 2012 album "Old Ideas," Cohen prays,
Show me the place
Where you want your slave to go
Show me the place
I've forgotten I don't know
Show me the place
For my head is bending low
. . . Show me the place
Help me roll away the stone
Show me the place
I can't move this thing alone
Show me the place
Where the Word became a man.
Lord, show him the place. To this restless seeker after beauty, love and life, to someone who admired you, perhaps from a distance, and whom I dare say was your servant, show him the place of refreshment, light, and peace. Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Photo credit: By Gorupdebesanez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
(image modified)

Lea Z. Singh, editor of Culture Witness, takes on the Barbie doll stereotype that is prevalent in the news media.

"I feel like I've been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin
By a millionaire inside of a private prison."
So sings Win Butler of Arcade Fire from their Grammy-winning album, The Suburbs. Looking back, it captures my feelings exactly the day I returned to Canada after a two-month mission trip to El Salvador in 2001, one of total immersion in the country's language, culture and people.

I arrived back in the evening at St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto, an oasis of peace on the bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario. I awoke to a tranquil morning but soon felt discombobulated and out of my element -- a sign of culture shock, perhaps? The interior tremor of withdrawal symptoms? Later that day I went for a walk in the familiar, surrounding suburban neighborhood. It was too quiet -- eerily quiet -- reminiscent of the beginning of an X-files episode. A visceral and instinctive reaction was stirring and surging within me, as I kept thinking, "Something is wrong here, very wrong!" But what was it? Then something like scales fell from my eyes as I blurted out, "Where have all the children gone?" The streets were admirably clean and green, but vacant and lifeless, without children playing in them.

Anyone who has been transplanted for a time to a country in the global south has experienced the sensory inundation of another world, with the fortunate side-effect of extricating our minds from the matrix of constructed reality of North American culture. An atmosphere of sweltering heat incubates a profusion of life even out of poverty: a richly laden mango tree overshadows a tin shack where a young mother tends an outdoor cooking fire, while her little girl balances an oversized bowl of soaked corn on her head, to be ground at the miller's; two neighbours engage in a loud, animated discussion; an overpacked microbus painted with Bible quotes rattles by the road-side coconut vendors; on a dusty side road strewn with garbage, a gang of boys, proudly hoisting a scarred and tattered ball, improvise a soccer game. Actually, there are children everywhere.

The compelling and unforgettable movie Children of Men visualizes the nightmare of a world without children, beginning with the premise that all women on earth have mysteriously become infertile. So many scenes are seared into my memory. In one, the main characters pass through an abandoned elementary school slowly reverting to the wild, with vines spreading on the inside walls, a stray deer in the hallway, and classrooms strewn with overturned desks and scattered junk; through the broken windows can be seen a lonely, rusted swingset in the school yard. One of the characters, a former midwife, comments, "As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd what happens in a world without children's voices."

"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but for yourselves and your children. For days are coming when people will say, 'Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.'" Jesus uttered this prophecy to the weeping women, as He stumbled through the streets of Jerusalem under the weight of the Cross. Most likely He was alluding to both the end times and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Understandably, in a time of disaster, one might prefer not to raise children. That so many people choose not to have children at all is ipso facto a sign of disaster. According to words of Christ, what many in our culture consider a lifestyle choice is in actual fact a catastrophe similar to the end of the world.

The ultimately hopeful vision of Children of Men emerges in a haunting and gripping scene set amidst armed conflict in city streets, evoking images of the Warsaw ghetto uprising of 1943 or the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990's. Out of the ruins walks a miracle not seen on earth for 18 years -- a woman and child, a black woman carrying her baby through a bombed out, war-torn building. The bullets cease to fly, the fighting stops, and silence descends. The sound of a crying infant throws the soldiers into confusion, then reverential, uncomprehending awe as they lower their weapons and stare in amazement at this woman passing by, so reminiscent of the Virgin and her Child.

I recall an incident from a later mission trip in Honduras, which encapsulates what I experienced in El Salvador. Along with a friend, we visited an orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity. The moment we entered the courtyard, we were encircled by a pack of squealing children, leaping on us for hugs, tugging at our legs, grabbing our hands, looking for treats in our knapsacks. Rarely in my life have I experienced with such intensity the need and desire to love and be loved. In many ways I am a shy, reserved person, and as a priest have not had the experience of how one's own child elicits love from one's heart. But I was amazed at the flood of affection pouring out of my heart as I gazed into those beautiful tanned faces and black eyes, filled with hope and joy because they had some of the most caring substitute parents in the world, and they knew that they were loved. And there are people in our world that are indifferent and hostile to such love? What horrendous demonic darkness has corrupted our hearts and poisoned our minds, that we could even consider taking the life of one of these children, let alone implementing a system of mass murder against them. I confess that while writing this, my heart breaks and I could dissolve in a flood of tears, were I not in a public place.

Orphanages, a common sight in the global south, are for us in the affluent north
akin to 19th century sanitariums in the mountains of Europe -- institutions of limited historical relevance, now superseded by our social and technological progress, and permanently relegated to the past. Sharing with my friends in El Salvador about life in Canada and other countries, I once pulled out my dictionary to look for the Spanish word for "abortuary," trying to explain the inexplicable: how in our culture we have replaced orphanages with these dark Satanic mills.

Lest people misunderstand me, allow me to state emphatically that I too am responsible. Not that I have ever procured an abortion, but I am still responsible. As one of Dostoevsky's characters in The Brothers Karamazov exclaims, in a transport of joy in the grace of his own conversion, "We are all responsible for all." As human beings we are all in this together, to live or die. I have hardened my heart at times; I have failed to love; I have neglected my neighbour; I have helped to build the culture of death. I want to convey a message of hopeful and joyful repentance, the confession our collective guilt and the proclamation of God's infinite mercy. I am in awe of the mercy I have received, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is available to everyone on the face of the earth.

A picture of redemption in the prophet Zechariah is fitting for our times as well, as we hear the prophesy about the restoration of Jerusalem, "Old men and old women, each with staff in hand because of old age, shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem. The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in her streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Even if this should seem impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people, shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also, says the Lord of hosts?"

Living as I do now in downtown Ottawa, I feel deprived at times of this vision of hope. I lament with the psalmist: "I can see nothing but violence and strife in the city. Its streets are never free from tyranny and deceit . . . O that I had wings like a dove, so I would fly away and take refuge in the wilderness." Forty-five minutes southeast of Ottawa, amidst fertile plains of corn fields and pastures with grazing cows, lies the town of Russell, with schools and playgrounds filled with children. A refuge from the city, it is a haven for those seeking a simpler lifestyle, dedicated to raising their families. People marry younger and have more children than their counterparts in the city. (Residents even joke that there is something in the water which makes couples more fertile). Many of the families there remind me of the human warmth I experienced in El Salvador. When I visit some of them, as we are enjoying a leisurely moment after dinner, I contemplate their children with peace and contentment. Because there are still children in the world, there is hope for all of us. We can all unveil and recover our deepest identity as beloved children of God.

In Scripture, the Jews sent into exile in Babylon were commanded to hope, to marry and raise children. Their children's children eventually re-populated Jerusalem. The same can happen in our times. Those raised in the humble and hidden shires of life, the monasteries of the dark ages, those schools of love called families, will be sent back into the world, as seeds of a civilization of life and love. Does it seem impossible for you? "Even if this should seem impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people, shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also, says the Lord of hosts?" Never, for all things are possible with God.
I first noticed it at Starbucks one Saturday in November, that the colors had changed, from monochrome to Christmas Red, on the list of beverages behind the counter. It had begun. As the yearly promotional assault gathers momentum, I feel duty-bound to respond with an early warning system to men and women of good will: please don't hate Christmas. It's not His fault that it's become the least wonderful time of the year for so many people.

First of all let us acknowledge that there is much good at Christmas, even the secularized version. The philanthropy, the desire to be good and do good, is truly admirable. But without the right motivation, it can be exhausting rather than life-giving. We are not generous simply because it is expected and we are bowing to pressure to perform, stretching ourselves beyond our limits. We love others because we are first loved.

At this time of year, when we celebrate the birth of a baby, we actually need a little child to lead us, to point out the obvious truth that many adults fail to see, as the boy did in the tale told by Hans Christian Andersen -- the Emperor Has No Clothes.

For those unfamiliar with the story, two cheating weavers claimed to make uncommonly beautiful clothes, that also possess the strange quality of being invisible to anyone unfit for the office he holds, or incorrigibly stupid. The emperor himself, then all the people, are drawn into this mass delusion of admiring invisible clothes, until one day, during a public procession, a boy had the courage to point at the emperor and expose the lie.

In some ways, our secularized Christmas suffers from similar pretenses. How many of us pretend it's the most wonderful time of the year, even if it isn't true? Admitting that Christmas poses some challenges for us does not make us unfit for office or incorrigibly stupid. I would actually like to defend the average person, all those uncomplicated, regular human beings who want to celebrate Christmas, enjoy life, and love one another. God bless them. But to hell with all the commercial machinery that promulgates a myth of delirious happiness in order to sell more merchandise.

The emperor in our case might be called the robber baron of capitalist materialism and consumerism. In his greed he has hijacked a Christian feast and twisted it into a money-making venture. But he is just a big bully, and together we can stand up to him. We don't have to do what he says just because he is tall and loud and thinks he is important. We can choose to have a simpler Christmas. It is not our sacred duty to overspend, for fear the whole economic structure of society will collapse. Investing in people -- in terms of our time, love and energy -- pays larger dividends, produces more happiness, and contributes more effectively to the long-term welfare of society.

I remember when I was pastor at the Catholic Church in small town in my diocese, my Anglican counterpart explained their planned celebration of a "Blue Christmas" for those feeling alienated from the usual "happy happy" White Christmas. Victor Frankl once wrote that in modern secular culture, we have almost made a religion of "happiness" so that "unhappiness is a symptom of maladjustment." Worse, those who are unhappy, instead of finding some meaning and dignity in their suffering, are made to feel ashamed of their unhappiness! How absurd! Sometimes we act like it is a crime to weep, a betrayal of the gospel of optimism to grieve. If this were true, then it would be a sin to be human. Surely, this is not the meaning of Christmas! It is the opposite. That all our sighs and tears, our hopes and dreams, our laughter and joy, has been sanctified because the Son of God became human in all things but sin.

I don't know about the rest of you, but sometimes I want permission to be sad, for very good reasons. I am sad over my broken family, my parents' divorce and the estrangement between the members of the family. More material things won't heal my heart. I want to kneel at the manger and peer at the little infant. Then, in a quiet moment away from the noise and traffic, give me permission to let the tears stream down my cheeks over everything that has been lost. So much love that could have been was not. I need to grieve. That's part of being human. Because we are made by love and for love, and when there is no love, or a lack thereof, we will grieve. But not for long, though it may seem long. I feel a hand on my shoulder from someone standing at the crèche, and a gentle voice assuring me that's it's going to be OK.

I hear the infant cry, and at once hands reach down to pick him up and he is drawn close to his mother's heart, then his father's heart. Many years later, he would teach, "Ask and you shall receive." Every tear is a cry for love, and it will be heard. As children, perhaps there were times when we called out and there was no answer. But now, with the eyes of our heart enlightened, we see a deeper truth. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy." Because Christ has come.

He wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. But he also rejoiced during his lifetime. Perhaps he even danced at the wedding feast of Cana, and in such words he once described his ministry, "We played the pipes for you, but you did not dance." As if to say, "I want you to dance, yes I do! I want to see you to leap and dance for joy because you are loved more than you can imagine. I came that you might have life, and have it in abundance!"

So please don't hate Christmas. Try to love instead. Love God and your neighbour as yourself. As yourself. Don't forget that part. If the birth of the Son of God teaches us anything valuable for our times, surely one of the lessons is the reminder that each one of us is a beloved son or daughter of God. Not only is each of us worthy of love, we are in truth loved with an infinite and eternal love. Don't let anyone or anything rob you of this love or distract you from this truth -- not all the promos painted red, all the holly and Santa suits, the canned music, shopping malls and traffic jams. The robber baron may have convinced you that you are just a consumer -- so be quiet, do your duty, shop and consume and go into debt. But there is a much deeper truth. You are not a consumer nor a slave, but a son -- a son or daughter of God. Don't let "Christmas" ruin your Christmas!

In the northern hemisphere, a White Christmas has an almost archetypal appeal: that in one night a drab and dreary world can be made immaculate, as snowflakes like manna falling from heaven cover dirty streets in a glistening blanket of purity. Will it still be a Blue Christmas for some? Then we need to recover a Gold Christmas. (Gold is after all one of the options for liturgical vestments at Christmas time). It is the color of halos and glory, the aura that surrounded the child in the manger, and the saints of heaven. It is also the foretaste of heaven that we give to others when we love them. We overlook their faults, clothe their weakness in the garment of compassion and crown them with a reverence that is their due as sons and daughters of the Most High. Then without even knowing how, we find ourselves with Mary and Joseph and the Child, standing under a starry sky, contemplating the angels singing of the glory of God that has come to earth. That's a Christmas I could learn to love, and truly celebrate.

photo credit: Jules & Jenny Wilsford, St Mary's church, east window detail via photopin (license)

The American people crowned the man that the mainstream news media vilified. They crowned the man that Facebook users called a clown, a pig, and much worse. He was the man that his opponent Hillary Clinton said was supported by a “basket of deplorables.” He was so “unpresidential.”

So, how could he win so decisively? If you exclude crazy California, he won by about 2.5 million votes.

Since Canadians are up here and Americans are down there, we get most of what is going on from the mainstream news media. So, the better question is how could journalists, who are so shocked and apoplectic, be so disconnected from everyday Americans?

It might come as a surprise to Canadians but big media journalists on both sides of the border are generally left-wing. But Canadian journalists are even more so and to many of them a centrist position is right-of-centre and right-wing is fringe. I stopped hiring summer students from the Carleton University journalism program years ago when I found them closed-minded and antagonistically left-wing. I mentioned this lack of objectivity to a Carleton faculty member and she replied: “Our students work very hard and in their research have found that the truth is left-wing.” At least she was honest about their tilt.

To be accepted by their peers, the vast majority of journalists typically slide into the left-wing default position on most ideas and have done so for years. Former CBS producer Bernard Goldberg wrote that news rooms across the United States are filled with people who think to the left, surround themselves with people who think to the left and, therefore, assume the correct answer is to the left. And that was in 1994.

When it comes to religion, Trump got a big boost from those who attend a religious service at least once a week. Clinton’s biggest support came from those who do not attend any religious service at all. A study found that among a large group of professionals, journalists were among the least likely to have any religious affiliation. Journalists and Clinton supporters are practically kindred spirits.

Not surprisingly, when the Media research Centre looked at 12 weeks of evening news media coverage on the big three TV networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) it found that in covering Donald Trump, 91 per cent of the news reporter coverage was hostile: they made 623 negative comments. Over the same time period, news reporters offered 145 negative statements about Clinton.

Heap on the negatives and you get a man who is unpresidential. But what exactly makes one unpresidential? Do the Clinton scandals make her unpresidential? How about the Whitewater scandal (others ended up in jail), Bengazi (killed four Americans), the email scandal (FBI conceded it would have sent anyone else to jail), the Clintion Foundation (got rich on donations from foreign countries in a trade for political favours), her husband (sexually assaulted women)? How many people remember reading how a Russian company paid Bill Clinton $250,000 for a speech, while his wife was secretary of State and granted the Russians a huge chunk of Uranium rights on U.S. soil? That might be treasonous. Does it also make her unpresidential? To half of America, yes. Big media needs to rethink its criteria.

I agree with Newt Gingrich that if the news media treated both candidates equally, Donald Trump would have won by a landslide. Had he been treated like Clinton, he would have received his interview questions ahead of time. He would have been able to edit articles about himself before they were published. He would not have faced a barrage of interruptions and follow-up questions in the debates and would have been characterized as having “misspoken” when he gaffed. His remarks would have been sanitized and polished, rather than distorted and demonized.

Trump supporters were also demonized. What does that make brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson? Or the many law enforcement groups that endorsed Trump? Or the inner-city black leaders who wanted a return to law and order? His supporters included half of all white American women. Are they also stupid? The reality is they are sick of betrayal from career politicians. They are willing to live with a flawed character because they agree with his main policies.

Trump is an idea man. He’s filled with ideas and has a track record of getting things done. His buildings are all over America.

Building a wall between Mexico and the U.S. is such a good idea that countries like Hungary and Israel built their own walls to keep illegals and criminals out.

On Muslims, Trump wants to stop immigration from Muslim countries that breed terrorists until the United States can figure out how to stop terrorists at the border. That has proven to be wildly popular. Isn’t safety and security job one of any country’s leader?

Trump wants to drop corporate taxes and allow for a one-time free movement of assets back to the United States for companies that left and took good jobs with them. That’s a job generator. Isn’t the hope for a good job what many Americans want?

The news media owes the world a huge apology for encouraging millions of people to hate the caricature that it created. Meantime, President-elect Donald Trump has four years to prove to the haters that he’s not the villain that the news media painted him to be.
By Lea Z. Singh |

What started out as a reality show has turned into reality itself. Donald Trump has been hired...to fire pretty much everyone else. If only we could now move in the cameras to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW. Here's what the Oval Office will look like for the next few months or years:

I did not support Trump during the election campaign. If I had voted, it would have been for an independent candidate. But my husband may be right when he says, "Thank goodness most Americans realised that it was a binary choice." If more people had thought like me, then we might have Hillary in power today. And I can't deny the fact that I feel a palpable sense of relief this morning because she is not in the Oval Office.

Donald Trump might yet blow up the world with nukes. He might build a Great Wall of Mexico. He might kill NAFTA and do all kinds of impulsive, crazy things. But he might also put a conservative Justice into the Supreme Court, and he might roll back abortion and the dictatorship of political correctness. He is a wildcard which represents hope.

So thank you (possibly and maybe), all you hidden Trump supporters, for your covert act of sticking it to the Man. We might all be better off as a result. Or not, time will tell. But I doubt we will end up any worse off than we would have been under Clinton the Second.

By Lea Z. Singh |

For anyone who has doubts about the totalitarian tendencies of the radical left, and in particular the creeping dictatorship of gender-rights ideology, this program is a must-see. On Oct. 26th, Dr. Jordan Peterson appeared on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, and defended himself valiantly against three gender-rights activists. He was asserting his right to stick to the English language rather than adopting the various newly-minted personal pronouns, like xe, thon, zer and a singluar 'they', to refer to those who identify with a multitude of alternative gender identities. At the present time, Bill C-16 threatens to make it a violation of human rights for anyone to refuse to use these pronouns. The Agenda debate paints a very disturbing portrait of the intolerant and anti-truth society that is descending upon us.

Dr. Peterson was unwavering in defence of the truth and showed not the slightest signs of being intimidated by the left-wing barrage against him. Nonetheless, the following exchange shows just how serious the situation has gotten in our formerly free Western paradise:
Paikin: Are you prepared to suffer the consequences that society may deem you need to suffer because of your views?
Peterson: Yes, I'm prepared to do that....I think that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal is probably obligated by their own tangled web to bring me in front of it. If they fine me, I won't pay it. If they put me in jail, I'll go on a hunger strike. I'm not doing this, and that's that. I'm not using the words that other people require me to use, especially if they're made up by radical left-wing ideologues.
Dr. Peterson might be headed to jail for refusing to use "zer" and "thon" but fancy lawyer Kyle Kirkup of the University of Ottawa, a specialist in LGBTQ Human Rights, still tried to play down Bill C-16 as an insignificant tweak to existing laws, saying that the whole brouhaha over pronouns is just a tempest in a teapot. But Paikin didn't let the matter drop, and managed to corner Kirkup into an admission:
Paikin: If a trans person, or somebody whose gender identity was more, shall we say, complicated than the male-female that we've been talking about so far, and the pronoun used to describe that person were not traditional, would the person have a case before the Human Rights Commission?
Kirkup: I would say absolutely, as a general rule that you should be thinking about in terms of employment settings, absolutely, respecting a trans person's pronoun choice is really fundamental.
And voila. The totalitarian tendencies rear their hidden aspirations. Suddenly, it's "fundamental" and an apparent no-brainer that anyone who refuses to bow to the ideologically-driven linguistics of the left can be hauled before the Human Rights Commission. Well then, clearly Bill C-16 is not so harmless after all.

But there's more. Among other things, it became clear that the gender-rights activists consider it hate speech and even outright violence if anyone so much as dares to question the biological premises of gender expression and gender identity. This became very clear when Nicholas Matte, Ph.D. Candidate in the Sexual Diversity Studies program at the University of Toronto, accused Dr. Peterson of "abusing" students by refusing to use their preferred gender pronoun:
Matte:...I don't agree with why Dr. Peterson has been asked to stop abusing students on campus...
Peterson: To stop doing what?
Matte: Abusing students and other members of our learning community who do deserve respect and do deserve to be able to work and learn and contribute to society in a place where if they are physically assaulted....
Paikin (to Matte): You've accused him of abusing students by not using the pronouns that they want to be addressed by?
Matte: That is how I see it, absolutely.
Paikin: That is tantamount to abuse, in your view?
Matte: Absolutely. Many, many global documents, many organisations...
Peterson: How about violence, is it tantamount to violence?
Matte: Yes, absolutely.
Peterson: How about hate speech, is it tantamount to hate speech?
Matte: Yes, of course it's hate speech to tell someone that you won't refer to them in a way that recognizes their humanity and dignity.
There we have it. Get ready for this, because it is about to become law: anyone who refuses to verbally affirm the claims of gender-rights ideology will be accused of hate speech and even violence.

I found it rather amusing that as soon as his claim of abuse was doubted by Paikin, Matte immediately ran behind the skirts of huge piles of 'global' documents. I guess if the pile of papers gets big enough then what they say must be true, even if all the papers were produced by like-minded left-wing ideologues.

This doesn't make sense in any logical way, and it doesn't really have to. If Matte demonstrated anything on this program, it was his exquisite ability to talk at length in loose and convoluted circles without actually making logical arguments. Here's what I mean:
Paikin: Why do you think the trans community needs this kind of legislative [hate speech] protection?
Matte: People are actually suffering huge lack of access to resources that will allow people to survive. So people are being physically assaulted, people do not have counsellors that they can go to who are not going to, as Dr. Peterson has done on YouTube, recommend that they actually become more anxious and more upset about situations, people are being assaulted, I brought all sorts of really depressing stats that people who are leaning towards thinking that this is not that big of a deal, those people need to look at those stats.
Paikin: Give us one stat.
Matte: 58% of students could not get academic transcripts with their correct name or pronoun. That causes a huge chain of events for students or anybody who's had any kind of academic training. As everyone recognises, we need to be able to have references, we need to be able to have resumes, we need to be able to get jobs....The feeling of disrespect is not as important as the ways that people in authority are able to circumvent the possibilities for living, so it has more to do with not being able to find housing and therefore being homeless, it has more to do with not being able to get jobs because people are discriminated against....what we should be talking about are the social issues facing people who are being discriminated against, and what that looks like on campus, which is that some professors refuse to offer basic dignity to students and colleagues, and that leads to people missing classes, it leads to people dropping out, it leads to a lack of positive opportunity for society to actually benefit from the contributions of many, many people.
O-kay, so Dr. Peterson and anyone else who refuses to use "zim" and "hir" is causing homelessness, physical assault, drop outs and unemployment among the trans community. Gotcha.

But Matte has one big thing going for him: he can afford to be incoherent. He nestles secure in the knowledge that his side of this epic tug-of-war has already won, at least for the time being. Free speech has already lost, and gender ideology has already won. I don't want to sound defeatist, but this is not a matter of personal opinion. Whether or not we accept it, the legal hammer of Bill C-16 is already descending down to clobber the common man who dares to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

In fact, Matte was still being far too tolerant and forgiving towards Dr. Peterson, at least in the view of some other gender-rights warriors. One such activist actually refused to appear on The Agenda because he or she objected to giving Dr. Peterson any opportunity to be heard at all, saying:
Giving (Jordan) Peterson this platform serves to legitimize his views which are based in bigotry and misinformation. The humanity and rights of transgender, non-binary and intersex people are not a matter of debate, and holding a debate which places a false equivalency between the views expressed by Peterson and the human rights concerns of the trans community would be an act of transphobia.
Let me repeat a portion of that:
The humanity and rights of transgender, non-binary and intersex people are not a matter of debate.
Clearly what this speaker would like is an outright ban on any questioning of the claims made by gender-rights ideology. And Kirkup, a prominent legal eagle with a very fancy resume, also seemed to support the view that Peterson should not have been allowed on The Agenda:
Paikin: Kyle, are we being transphobic here by having this debate?
Kirkup: I do worry about setting up a false equivalency in this conversation, and really even making the premise that trans lives are up for debate. They're not up for debate. Human rights aren't up for debate...
And that, right there, is the totalitarian mindset. The term "human rights" has become a blanket that envelops the entire gender ideology in a protective bubble wrap, making it completely immune to any criticism or questioning.

This view will triumph in our society in the next few years, as Dr. Peterson predicts:
Peterson: Many people are claiming that the expression of these views should no longer be permitted. ...I believe quite firmly that if we continue on our present path at the universities for five more years, that's a discussion we will not actually be able to have on campuses, by fiat."
Dr. Peterson is right about that.

So why is this happening? Why are the gender-rights warriors pushing so strongly against free speech? A surprisingly perceptive answer came from a member of the trans community, a man who transitioned into a woman named Theryn Meyer.
Paikin: I wonder if you could give us your explanation for why some people adamantly refuse even to have this discussion, that the notion of having this discussion is somehow transphobic.
Theryn: I think it has to do with there's a lacking when it comes to actually being able to defend your points through argument. So if you open up the discussion for argument, they know they will lose.
It's the oldest trick in the book: when you run out of arguments, use your fists - or in this case, Bill C-16 - to crush your opponents.

Reading Culture War (LifeCycle Books, 2016) by Jonathon van Maren is much like that IMAX experience where a helicopter takes you on a racing ride above a quickly changing landscape. It is an epic and fast-moving panoramic sweep of contemporary society, displaying in HD clarity the deepest problems that are haunting many of us, often silently. No one can walk away from reading this book without a profound sense of just how desperately and completely our society is in the clutches of darkness.

Van Maren is one of Canada’s most talented young social conservatives, and Culture War is his first book, though surely not his last. It is a powerful work, packed with statistics, research and personal anecdotes which expose the rot and devastation that have built up under the thin veneer of normality in Western society.

Chapter by chapter, Van Maren descends down the circles of hell, starting with the hook-up culture and the “porn plague”, and proceeding to the rape culture, abortion, euthanasia and eugenics, and the commodification of human beings. It is a painful read, because our infection runs so deep and so far. But if we want to work towards creating a healthier culture, we first need an accurate diagnosis of our problems.

By Johanne Brownrigg |

In her Washington Post piece, The Rom-Com Is Dead, Emily Yahr opines that “romantic comedies are fueled by an idealized version of love, while modern sensibilities about gender roles and romance have increasingly caused audiences to see these films through a much different lens.” “An idealized version of love” indeed.

Back in 2012, the movie Laurence Anyways won the Best Canadian Feature Film prize at the Toronto International Film Festival. Laurence Anyways is a boy-meets-girl movie that becomes a boy-IS-girl who likes girl-who-still-likes-boy/girl, movie. Such a story is certainly today’s fodder for romance, but it makes me wonder if the romantic comedy storytellers will get things wrong, again.

In the previous century, we had stereotypical depictions of men as cool cats and women as domestic sirens while seeing surreal family bliss, until it was time for cynical family bliss. Yahr puts it rather bluntly. The generation gap led to a new awakening regarding rom-coms. “Mostly, I think we just got tired of living the baby boomer fantasy of ideal romantic love, propagated in large party by the society’s unprogressive cultural expectations regarding gender roles.” True. The fact remains that when movies and television were sending rom-com messages about what love should look like when dating, marrying, and raising a family, many of us who dated, married and raised a family in real life realized that this fantasy life was completely wrong.

Sadly, pure romantic fantasy still fuelled expectations about romance and led many to re-create their lives, thinking that the fluid, subjective desire of fantasy “romance” was the glue missing in their marriages. So their marriages became unglued, much like the baby boomers themselves, who are now depicted in movies like The Way, Way Back. Sadly, not much fantasy in that movie.

Culturally though do we ever get any smarter? At some point, we all have to get real. So you have to wonder at the purpose the movie industry had in creating a false version of marital bliss, only to tear it down for its fakeness, let alone flakiness.

Rom-coms were fun fantasy that left us pining for rainbow coloured unicorn kittens so to speak. As a twenty-something in the 80s looking for love, I can tell you no man had a chance. But neither did I, because what I was really looking for had more grit, more compromise and more forgiveness in a love with staying power.

Enter today’s new scripts: love in the gay, lesbian, transgendered, transsexual, inter-sexed, questioning, etc. lifestyles. More of these movies have come out since 2012, and more to come. Will these stories challenge us because they are real, or because they are not? I suspect the only thing that won’t change is that depictions of their lives, dating and marriages will be wrong too.

They use velvet ropes at film festivals. They use them to hang the culture too.