Ideology and pragmatism generally make for poor bedfellows, but for some reason, we as Canadians think by the miracle of politics we can combine them into one cocktail and present them all dressed up with paper umbrellas and lemon peel shavings to our “less progressive” trading partners overseas.
Once they get a taste of Canadian business and prosperity, this way of thinking goes, they will change their ways to get more of it.
First of all, this has never been true. But secondly, it has probably never been less true than now.
The world is in a societal “id” phase with dark desires of the underbelly rising to the surface, bringing with it an increasingly atrophied sense of common humanity and mutual social progression.
So what does this mean to Canada’s current progressive zeal to bring greater human rights to the globe?
It means blowback from Saudi Arabia, who chose Canada as its huckleberry, its token liberal western democracy to make an example of, to drive home a point about non-interference in its internal affairs.
It also has meant closed or narrowed doors to Canadian businesses in China, a nation which wants the soup we’re serving but has no taste for the Canadian human rights sermon which goes along with it.
This does not mean Canada must give up on or change its values to suit nations who think less of their own citizens than we do. We must never abase ourselves to a totalitarian theocracy like Saudi Arabia, for example, or kowtow to China.
But, let’s face it, our own allies don’t have our back anymore, and we will also have to start looking out more for our own interests.
We may have to rein in our overt ideological proselytizing and focus on ways of helping others more indirectly, or through more concrete actions rather than just more empty words – empty words which make us feel smug about ourselves, but do absolutely nothing to change the situation for those oppressed on the ground.