The nightmare of divisiveness

From the Top of the Pile


I didn’t sleep well the other night. And when I did wake up, in my stupor I recalled the oddest dream. Unfortunately, much of my dream had strong roots in reality.

In my dream, there was tension everywhere, between everyone and about everything. There were Conservatives versus Liberals, Republicans versus Democrats, Christian versus Muslim, citizen versus immigrant, pipeline supporters versus earth muffins, and so on. Within these groups, such as the pipeline supporters, even they were at each others’ throats, as some people didn’t think their compatriots within the same movement were strong enough in their words and actions to be part of the crowd.

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But where my dream took this was most disturbing. It wasn’t just people yelling at each other, arguing different points about this or that. Instead, they were taking up arms. All of society seemed on the edge of breaking into a civil war. People were arming themselves and getting ready to take on the other guys, whomever those other guys might be.

And in all of this, a demagogue, one that I had met in real life, took advantage of all the tension and took power.

And then I woke up.

But have I?

In a few weeks I’ll hit the 27th anniversary of writing this column. And I don’t recall any time where our society has been so fractured, especially along the lines above. I came of age just as the Cold War ended, so perhaps there were deeper tears in our society before my time. But in my adult life, I have never seen such polarization.

Take, for instance, the recent protest movements that in less than two months have swept the oilpatch. Many, but not all, of these protests have been characterized by participants wearing yellow vests.

While much of their manifesto, as it were, focuses on energy issues like building pipelines and kiboshing the impending carbon tax, there are parts of it with regards to migrants and the United Nations that some people find troubling. I’ve told many people that migrants and pipelines is like talking about apples and sausages. They’re not even the same food group.

That inclusion of discussion of the United Nations, globalization and migrants led to the planning of two convoys to Ottawa, because one group of otherwise like-minded people did not want to be associated with anything to do with the migrant issue. The non-Yellow Vest convoy eventually withdrew, leaving it down to one.

But even within that remaining convoy, there has been a schism in recent days. As of the time of writing, it looks like there are, again, two convoys, one associating themselves with Yellow Vests, and the other, not. But the schism does not seem to be related that much with the migrant issue, but rather to other points.

So what just happened here? Broader society got fractured into a protest movement against the government, which then, itself, fractured, then fractured again.

What the heck is going on?

Another thing that has bothered me is something I’ve seen across various topics. It’s the increased online bravado with reference to violence and taking up arms, for whatever their grievance might be. In once circumstance, I saw a post on Facebook showing a silhouette of a soldier carrying a rifle, and the wording said when the time was right, they would take up arms to defend their country.

But the inference was not against the Russkies, who have thousands of nukes aimed this way. So who was it against? The context seemed to be against foreign invaders, and not the type you would conjure up in a “Red Dawn” scenario.

I asked one person who had shared this, just which of his neighbours did he intend to shoot?

Unlike a lot of these keyboard warriors, I have worn the uniform of our country as a reserve officer in the Canadian Forces, as has my wife. At one point I was a lieutenant. My wife was a second lieutenant. Now, our training was a sliver of that of the regular forces, because we were dealing with cadets. But my wife and I both signed on the dotted line, just before the world came apart on Sept. 11, 2001. We were both enrolled later that fall. While I, due to health, would have never likely been deployed, the prospects of my wife, a fully trained nurse, were substantial. The call, thankfully, never came.

So when I see these keyboard warriors talking about taking up arms, I take some exception to that. And I’ve told some of them this.

There is nothing, I repeat, nothing, so bad in our nation that should have anyone talking about taking up arms. NOTHING.

Who are you going to shoot? The neighbour to the left? The one to the right? The guy down the street? The one at 7-Eleven? What the hell? Why would anyone say such things? Think about it!

Like I said, I woke up this morning from a bad dream.

But recently, it seems like a waking dream that hasn’t ended.

Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at

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