One is left speechless by some government legislation. That would be its intention, for it is designed to prevent, or gravely discourage, persons with views other than the Zeitgeist’s from expressing themselves.

The Zeitgeist demands. And what it demands, Courts and Parliaments deliver.

It began as a malicious game among liberals and progressives, to tar their political opponents through a mechanism we call “political correctness,” on college campuses and in other environments over which they were able to wrest control.

It was a “trend” of the late twentieth century. The Berlin Wall came down, to much celebration; but new psychic walls were erected to advance the old project of human engineering, towards the New Soviet Man, placidly obedient to the revolutionary authorities.

Then it launched, like Sputnik, into outer space. For while the bright lights in French, then American, intellectual circles remained instinctively loyal to the old Party Line, their ambitions went beyond it. They did not wish to stop at “worker’s control of the means of production,” or anything so humble. They wanted everything changed.

The Leninists, and their politburos through three generations, did not question so many of the old bourgeois assumptions, inherited from centuries of Christian civilization. To them, for instance, a man was still a man, a woman still a woman, the child was still their child. They made “advances” on such fronts as divorce, and abortion, declared the sexes “equal” – but there were still two sexes, and in Communist societies quite old-fashioned, normative attitudes were maintained.

In many ways, the Communists were among the most “conservative” of rulers. Their movement went back before Marx, to the invention of “workers” in the Industrial Revolution, and to the French bloodbath of Robespierre, in which “the masses” were first organized as a kind of battering ram against the anciently established institutions of Church and State.

Carnival in Berlin by Jeanne Mammen, c. 1930 [MoMA, NY]

Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao, Ho, Pol Pot, were caught in a European time capsule. All of their adaptations assumed a conventional anthropology (“a man was a man for all that”). You could shoot him, or otherwise twist him to turn against the interests of his own person or family, but you still subconsciously knew what you were twisting.

The idea that man is plastic, or plasticine of some sort, to be molded into whatever one wants, was at the root of all revolutionary ideals, but there was no Communist Party apparatchik who could have embraced, say, the idea of “trans-gender.” That was just too much. Homosexuals remained in the closet and, in a Communist country, where you’re put you stay.

Whereas in “the West,” there had always been some degree of accommodation, though this truth is being expunged from the history books, along with the history books themselves.

Through the Middle Ages, and from Michelangelo to Auden, homosexuals had taken prominent places in cultural milieux. Indeed, when Auden himself wryly complained in the 1950s about the “homintern” running the New York arts scene, he was echoing medieval popes, who did not doubt that there were “gays” in the Church – but whined sometimes that there might be too many.

I mention this, without an apparatus of footnotes, simply to place old notions of Sodom and Gomorrah in a certain context. Christian teachings on sexual perversion, inherited from the Hebrew, were plain; but as we read in the Old Testament, God would not destroy such places so long as there were a few honest men, and one might make a quorum.

Persecution is a legacy of all societies and of all religions. There are times when things seem to get out of hand, and the danger comes from over-compensation. I am not denying a few horrible exceptions, but in the main the long Christian tradition in both West and East has been to live and let live. Human beings are sinners by disposition. And if we prosecute every sin, the Last Man will have to hang himself.

Medieval law was partly legislated, but mostly it was customary; and to understand most of our earlier modern ancestors, this fact must be known. Indeed, a prominent motivation through all philosophy, ancient and modern, has been revulsion against totalitarian order – the very reason why not only the Scholastics, but the sages of the Enlightenment, were suspicious of democracy.

But that all went out with Learning. Today, the vanguards of society – in academic, legal, media, and bureaucratic realms – have neither knowledge of nor interest in the lessons of the past. They have bought into an existential creed they cannot even define, in which Will precedes Intellect, within a supposedly irrational universe. And they do not question what they cannot understand.

All this I write by way of explaining a fresh piece of Canadian legislation that has raised a few eyebrows around the world. By playing a little more with Canada’s “human rights” code, we have now made it a criminal offense to use the “wrong” pronoun, when speaking of a “trans” person.

The inverted commas are necessary because “wrong” in this case might be biologically accurate, and the definition of “trans” is rapidly evolving. It may soon be replaced, because the word itself implies that there are fixed “genders” between which one might trans-fer.

This measure passed through the Canadian Parliament with almost no objections. No one, especially no politician, wants to be caught in the cross hairs of the Political Correctors. Few had even heard of “Bill C-16” until, as a fait accompli, it became a tabloid story.

“Thou shalt not” interfere with the vanity of any of the protected classes, according to the latest redefinition of human rights. Previously, such fixed rights as freedom of speech left no protection for vanity at all, and much of what is now labeled “hate speech” was affectionate colloquial language.

If you are a member of a protected class, you may still, practically, say anything you want; but if you are not, God help you.

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: