The depth of Freedom Convoyers’ discontent is misunderstood

It’s easy to dismiss motives of supporters of the Freedom Convoy that paralyzed Canada’s capital last January. Their grievances seem so inchoate, like a primal howl.

image: Vox

There must have been more to it than a lark; more than a fun time in bringing Ottawa to a standstill and blocking the Ambassador Bridge to the U.S. for six days resulting in a loss of $3 billion in trade.

What motivated so many to give up their time, energy and resources? They were so determined. The media’s reporting on their behaviour has been largely empty of meaningful explanations.

Some of the supporters felt that vaccine mandates were an imposition on their freedom; others wanted Prime Minster Trudeau to resign.

That’s all superficial -their anger is deep-seated.

Many Canadians supported the sheer audacity of the convoy. In a survey taken during the occupation of Ottawa, nearly half (46%) of Canadians said that while they “may not agree with everything the people who have taken part in the truck protests in Ottawa have said but their frustration is legitimate and worthy of our sympathy.”

The highest support came from18-34-year-olds (61 per cent) and Conservative voters (59 per cent).

A year later, support for the freedom convoy is still substantial at 25 per cent. Prime Minister Trudeau dismissed them as a “fringe group.” Some fringe.

In an attempt to explain the deep support for the freedom convoy, Conservative leader Poilievre offered:

“I don’t like the flags, and I don’t like the rage,” said Poilievre in response to former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s tweet. “But I think we have to ask ourselves: ‘Why are people so angry?’ And the answer is that they are hurting.”

Poilievre was responding to O’Toole’s wish for fewer ‘f–k Trudeau’ flags. ‘These flags and the hyper-aggressive rhetoric that often accompanies them are slowly normalizing rage and damaging our democracy,” said O’Toole.

Indeed, we have to ask “Why are people so angry?” as Poilievre suggests. But his answer “that they are hurting,” doesn’t go deep enough.

Freedom convoy supporters are hurting because they feel disconnected and betrayed to society.

They are lashing out in a way they have seen effective. American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has attributed Donald Trump’s improbable rise to the U.S. presidency in 2016 to his mastery of the dynamics “in which outrage is the key to virality, stage performance crushes competence.”

The roots of these new forces are complex but ultimately laid bare by the collapse of shared prosperity and inclusive economics says pollster Frank Graves:

“Those drawn to this new movement are most likely to be males under the age of 50 who are lacking university educations and are experiencing an erosion of social status. They are dramatically more likely to lean toward an authoritarian, or ordered, populist outlook, be dramatically less trusting of institutions such as government, media, academics and other professionals, dramatically more disinformed – and they are also dramatically more economically insecure.”

For freedom convoy supporters, the middle-class dream has collapsed – the dream of doing better than their parents, buying a home, retiring with a pension and having their children inherit a secure middle-class future.

In the winter of their discontent, recognition of a lost future is the key to understanding their visceral anger.


The new counterculture is incoherent

“And something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, Do you, Mr. Jones?” Bob Dylan

I used to feel little smug when I was part of the Sixties counterculture. I was in on the inside. The establishment was on the outside; wondering what the hell was going on with free love, drugs, and rock and roll. The man just didn’t get it.


Now I feel like I’m on the outside looking in at an incoherent counterculture. Sure, there are some similarities to the sixties. There is an anti-establishment element to the protests such as the occupation of Ottawa by the Freedom Convoy.

The Sixties counterculture welled up in San Francisco.

However, there seems to be no physical place of the new counterculture. The anger and discontent springs up at various places around the globe. Canada found itself as an unlikely source of the new counterculture during the Freedom Convoy.

I was astonished at the global attention paid to the Freedom Convoy. Canada was seen as a model of protests that were duplicated around the world. We don’t think of ourselves as a radical nation, a hotbed of discontent. But in our car culture, apparently the use of trucks as a vehicle of a seething anger is novel.

There is distrust of corporate media, the so-called “mainstream media” that produces fake news. We had underground newspapers, some that went on to some success like Rolling Stone and The Georgia Straight.

The new counterculture has antiestablishment internet news spread through social media.

The sixties counterculture was coherent. The leaders were identifiable, those such as John Lennon, Timothy Leary, and Marshall McLuhan. The values, however naive, were ones of peace and harmony. Flower children wanted to live off the land in communes and set their souls free. There was even a kind of uniform consisting of bell-bottom pants, tie-dye shirts and beads.

Like Mr. Jones, looking from the outside, I find the information shared by the new counterculture unfathomable. QAnon has become a model for the “real news” in which followers believe that a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media.

Unlike Mr. Jones, I find the new counterculture to be dark and incoherent. Their issues shift with each new world event. One week they’re against vaccines and the next they want, in a copycat storming of the U.S. Capital last year, to overthrow the government of Canada. Then they are repeating Russia’s claim that the invasion of Ukraine is justified in order to remove Nazis from power.

Unlike the sixties movement, there is a dark side of the new counterculture. It’s not flowers and free love but a gloomy, brooding mood. There is a seething anger that seems to have a sinister source.

I’m tempted to blame the Russian propaganda machine. It’s no secret that President Putin wants to get even with the West for the downfall of the USSR.

But there seems to be something more fundamental behind the new counterculture, a groundswell that is less a grassroots movement than a dark force oozing from the bowels of the earth as a vapour and taking shape as a vague, ominous discontent.

The new counterculture howls with an ache that will not be silenced. May they find solace for their tortured souls.

Now’s your chance, Freedom Convoyers, to fight for Ukraine

Supporters of the Freedom Convoy that paralyzed Ottawa for three weeks are passionate about freedom.

Now’s the chance for those supporters to demonstrate their commitment to freedom and join the 20,000 people from 52 counties to stop the indiscriminate Russian shelling of schools, hospitals and ambulances in Ukraine.

Ordinary people like Lola Parsons felt moved by the Freedom Convoy. The 54 year-old began the 31-hour drive to Ottawa from St. John’s, Newfoundland; her journey was filled with “crying and laughing,” she said, as she traveled with her friends and their dog Monty in the East Coast Convoy towards the nation’s capital.

“That will tell you what kind of movement is happening in Eastern Canada right now,” said Parsons, this drive is a “journey to freedom.”

One Freedom Convoy supporter stood in front of the Ambassador Bridge and said in a video that she would she was prepared to die for the cause of freedom.

freedom fighter on Ambassador Bridge. Image:

Other supporters are ready to face physical harm. Truck driver Jacobo Peters, said he planned to lock himself in the cab of his semi and lay on the horn whenever police try to remove him. He said that they’ll have to smash the cab window and pull him out to remove him.

“Who knows, I might go home with some broken bones or go to jail with some broken bones depending on how much force they use,” said Peters. “We just want our freedoms back, and we’ve been peaceful.”

The courageous supporters of the Freedom Convoy who rallied against the tyrant Prime Minister Trudeau will have their now have a chance to go against Vladimir Putin.

Freedom Convoy fighters will have the support of Former U.S. President Donald Trump. He condemned Trudeau during a rally in Texas.  “We are with them all the way,” he said. “They have really shown something.” He said that the protesters are “resisting bravely” vaccine mandates that he called “lawless,” and “are doing more to defend American freedom than our own leaders, by far.”

Freedom fighters that supported the convoy will join other courageous Canadians who are answering Ukrainian President Zelensky’s call for fighters around the world to join in the defence of Ukraine.

Freedom fighters like Canadian Yaroslav Hrytsiuk, only 18 years old and a high-school student from Toronto. He hopes to join his father in Ukraine who is preparing to fight Russians invading their home city of Lviv.

“Today, I’m going to Ukraine to stand with my family and fight for my country,” said the teenager. “The hardest thing was to convince my mother that I should go. As any mother, she says: ‘Are you nuts? Why are you going there? It’s war and you’re young,’ ”

In Victoria, Mark Preston-Horin, 43, said he has been writing his will and completing his taxes in anticipation of getting on a flight overseas to volunteer for Ukrainian forces in whatever capacity he can.

When a people’s freedom is at stake, the battle becomes deeply personal. It always surprises tyrants to discover that people can care about other people’s freedom as much as they care about their own.

The brave men and women of the Freedom Convey have demonstrated their commitment to freedom. The world is watching to see the depth of that commitment.

Freedom’s just another word for anarchy

The word “freedom” has been co-opted by the Ottawa occupiers as a rallying cry. Like many words that become politicized, it’s lost its original meaning

image: The

The meaning of freedom is fluid. Janis Joplin sang; “Freedom‘s just another word for nothing left to lose” in the song Me and Bobby McGee. I think she meant that the accumulation of useless stuff is a burden and you’re better off being free from consumerism.

More significantly, freedom has been used historically by civil rights movements to liberate slaves and the oppressed.  Martin Luther King said: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

But whose freedom is being promoted by the Freedom Convoy of Ottawa. Just who do they imagine are the oppressors and the oppressed?

I asked a Kamloops’ Facebook user, a supporter of the occupation of Ottawa, what the issue was? She replied: “Freedom to choose”

The use of the word freedom has been subverted. It now means the right to do as you please regardless of the harm to others through the spread of disease and the clogging hospitals with vaccine deniers; regardless of the harm to the economy through the shutting of boarders; regardless of the harm caused to the mental health of Ottawa citizens though the occupation of Ottawa.

The right to spread disease and clog hospitals is not exactly what Martin Luther King had in mind.

The truckers and their anarchist supporters want an end to “vaccine mandates” but no such mandates exist. No one is being hunted down and forcibly vaccinated. Rather, if you want to work in certain professions you must be vaccinated.

The Ottawa occupiers represent a grab-bag of grievances. Some want to overthrow the Liberal government. Others believe the COVID-19 virus is not real and that the media is propagating a lie. Others are simply vandals who want to do their dirty work under the cover of “freedom.”

Canada has gained global notoriety under the banner of freedom. Protesters around the world imagine Canada’s freedom fighters descending on Ottawa to overthrow a tyrannical government. What a joke.

The drive-in protest is a new low in demonstrations. It’s the lazy man’s protest. Real protesters don’t sit in the comfort of their cars and trucks and hold tailgate parties.

Real protesters walk shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, in solidarity.  The couch anarchists should study how genuine demonstrations are held, like in 2006 when thousands of protesters in 40 Canadian cities and towns walked, rallied, and stood in opposition to Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan.

Under the slogan “Support our troops, bring ’em home”, 500 real demonstrators marched through downtown Ottawa to Parliament Hill to protest the military mission and demand the return of Canadian troops.

Then they went home.

The federal Conservatives have jumped on the freedom bandwagon. Conservative leader candidate Pierre Poilievre’s said he would make to make Canadians the “freest people on Earth,” with “freedom to make your own health and vaccine choices, freedom to speak without fear.”

“Freedom over fear,” Poilievre tweeted.

During the last federal election, People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, the far-right’s current standard-bearer in this country, was greeted with chants of “freedom, freedom,” at his campaign stops.

What the anarchists don’t seem to understand is that their freedom to swing their fist ends where my nose begins.