THERE has been increased talk in Canada recently, ever since the country's officially socialist New Democrats tried unsuccessfully to turn themselves into the more politically acceptable social democratic New Democrats at their Vancouver convention, about what the difference is between the two political ideologies.
Careful research indicates there is none, except for the fact real socialists (not the New Democrats) are more open and honest about the fact they will tax you to perdition for the purely ideological reason of levelling society's playing fields, while social democrats will pretend they are taxing you into poverty for the benefit of other people whom you neither know nor care about (that's our NDP.)
In both cases, they call their cause equality and, because neither of them has the least understanding of what equality actually means, they can take us down some very strange streets, indeed.
Equality means one person can stand up in public and shout out that "Jack Layton is the best thing to happen to Canada since the United Empire Loyalists introduced stewed prunes." And another could stand up and say the NDP leader is not, by any test, the best thing to happen to this country since stewed prunes and both sides would be listened to respectfully and neither would go to jail, although the former might want to avail herself of Canada's free-and-equally-accessible-to-everyone mental health medical care.
Equality means equal access to medical care, to education, to job opportunities, to public services. It means everyone enjoys freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, equality of civil rights.
Being equal doesn't mean being the same -- economically, physically, intellectually, emotionally -- although a lot of people on the liberal-left seem to think it does.
Equality doesn't mean all girls are physically capable of playing hockey with the guys -- most guys aren't capable of playing hockey with the guys -- or that all boys are going to be as good in math as their female schoolmates. Not understanding this leads to some pretty strange social trends in our quest for social democracy, but none, perhaps, stranger than the developing trend towards "gender neutrality."
The movement may have begun in Sweden, the showcase of democratic socialism and the birthplace of most well-intentioned but truly goofy social-engineering fads -- Canadians of my generation are still smarting from the smugness of that 60-year-old Swedish social democrat who was far more physically fit than we could ever hope to be under our archaic political and social system.
Sweden has a government-run daycare system totally devoted to the idea that neither families nor societies should impose the notion of sexual gender on children. Workers are discouraged from using sexist pronouns such as "he" or "she" or "him" or "her." The designation "It," as in "Does it want to go the bathroom?" is probably acceptable but that seems a little cold even in countries like Canada and Sweden where people are routinely referred to as "human resources."
As almost everything Swedish does -- think of Ikea -- the concept is spreading and has recently made a big splash in Canada, where a Toronto couple received huge national and even international media attention by refusing to reveal the gender of their newborn child, who has the gender-neutral name of Storm.
The decision to announce this to the world seems kind of self-defeating, but not a lot makes sense in the world where these people live. Storm's oldest brother, Jazz -- we know he's a boy -- likes to wear pink dresses and nail polish, which has made him an object of curiosity at school, as one might imagine. So he is being "unschooled" at home. Unschooling is another new social engineering fad that involves allowing children to simply follow their curiosity wherever it might take them instead of being instructed in archaic concepts like the three Rs.
Oh brave new world, where kids are no longer boys and girls (at least until they reach puberty and can sort things out for themselves.)