Watching Doug Ford become the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and Jason Kenney taking shots at Justin Trudeau and gender neutrality in his congratulatory speech, Ms Soapbox’s mind drifted to Flaubert’s Dictionary of Accepted Ideas. (Well, not initially, but after the incredulity wore off).
The Dictionary is Flaubert’s satirical response to “mass produced word and thought”. It rejects the triumph of prejudice and misinformation over facts. Flaubert’s translator, Jacques Barzun, describes it as a reaction to “conventional stupidity”.
What would Flaubert’s Dictionary look like if Flaubert had turned his critical eye to Canadian conservatism instead of the smug French longing for “order through convention” in the mid 1800s?
Let’s give it a try.
Flaubert’s Dictionary of Accepted Conservative Ideas*
Alberta Advantage: See Economy.
Budget: Must be balanced, always, so tomorrow’s generations won’t be stuck with debt. Today’s generation will be shortchanged on all fronts but it’s a small price to pay for the continuation of civilization as we know it.
Cheating the tax man: Can be legalized by replacing progressive taxation with a flat tax. Aren’t you clever.
Christmas: The only proper religious celebration (along with Easter), especially sacred when supported by Santa, Rudolph, and the Easter Bunny.
Choice (in healthcare, in education, etc): Refers to the belief that government must privatize public services. Occurs after a service is created with public money. Also known as the public risk/private profit model.
Climate Change: Pretend to be a believer (or not) depending on your audience. Emphasize the Economy trumps everything including the planet.
Common folk: Always honest—unless they’re rioting.
Common sense or instinct: A substitute for intelligence.
Competition: The heart and soul of the Free Market (never tamper with it).
Compromise: Ridiculous lefty concept. Better to lay down ultimatums than work out solutions with other governments and industry.
Conservatives: ”Common sense” politicians who tell the electorate they can reduce taxes and maintain services. Also known as magicians. Supported by corporations (good), unlike Socialists who are supported by unions (bad).
Conservative policy: There is no policy. Battle cry is: “Only I can save [insert name of province] from [insert name of progressive female politician]. See Standing Up For:
Economy: More sacred than anything, including religion. Only a few people understand it, so politicians are free to promise a booming economy and no one will ask how. See Alberta Advantage.
Education: Thunder against change; especially if it’s in higher education. Speak of it only in the context of socialists and a certain professor from Lethbridge. Let it be known that you are well educated having almost graduated from university.
Elites: Denigrate them but try to belong, or at least cozy up, because that’s where the real power and money reside.
Evidence: Is “plain” or “overwhelming” and yet absent in much Conservative policy. Replace with “common sense” even if there’s no common sense to be found.
Feminist: Term of contempt applied to women with a mind of their own, especially if they run for public office. Pro tip: can be applied to men like Justin Trudeau for extra snicker value.
Foundation (The): The traditional family, property, religion, and respect for authority that form the foundation of society. Defend the foundation at all costs and against any slights, real or imagined.
Free market: Source of all joy and happiness, the freer the better.
Free speech: The fundamental right to say hateful things while at the same time denying that you’re a racist, misogynist, homophobe or Islamophobe.
Grassroots: Venerate. No one knows what it means but everyone thinks they belong.
Grassroots promise: Words printed on a piece of paper, often an oversized bit of cardboard, intended to give supporters the impression they’ve signed “a contract” which is “binding” on the party.
Ideologues: Despise them, unless they’re in your own party, then laud them as purveyors of “common sense”.
Idiots and socialists: Those who disagree with you.
LBGTQ: See: The Foundation and Social Issues.
Portfolio: Carry one under your arm. It makes you look like a member of Cabinet. Modern day equivalent: Blue pick up truck. Makes you look like the premier of a western province.
Premier: The pinnacle of human glory…until you decide to run for Prime Minister.
Private sector: Always efficient, fair and generous, especially in comparison to the Public Sector (see below).
Public sector: Boo! Hiss! Starve it until it’s small enough to be drowned in the bathtub.
Rule of Law (The): No one knows what it is, but politicians talk about it all the time.
Section 92A: You have no idea what you’re talking about and neither does your listener but mention it often when discussing how you’re going to force the Trans Mountain pipeline through BC.
Standing up for [insert name of province]: Only Conservatives can stand up for a province. If you catch Liberal or NDP governments standing up, claim you thought of it first and they stole your idea.
Social issues: Official stance is “meh, this is for snowflakes”. Make social issues the object of ridicule (if possible do so at a speech welcoming a new conservative leader). Unofficial stance: eliminate or reduce funding to services like safe injection sites and abortion clinics because people who need such services have only themselves to blame.
Socialists: No one knows what this means. Thunder against.
Task Force and Experts: Of absolutely no use whatsoever, replace with “common sense”.
Taxes: Always too high. Always misspent by spendthrift liberal/socialist governments. Would be significantly reduced if public services were privatized.
Thinking: Painful. Can result in exposure of defective platitudes. Best avoided.
Tommy Douglas: Snicker upon hearing his name. “The gentleman who thought socialized medicine was a good thing, hah!”
Wealth: A substitute for everything including reputation.
With that dear reader, I turn the fountain pen over to you. I look forward to your submissions to Flaubert’s Conservative Dictionary. If you’d like to make submissions to Flaubert’s Socialist Dictionary I invite you to do so on your own blog.
*Many definitions are adapted from Flaubert Dictionary. Here’s the link. https://www.scribd.com/doc/187244/Flaubert-Gustave-Dictionary-of-Accepted-Ideas-1954