David Heinemeier Hansson

February 9, 2022

Go truck yourself

The Canadian truckers have now for almost two weeks faced insults, threats, and slander to protest the country's new vaccine mandates. With a persistence that is driving some progressives both inside and outside of Canada absolutely batty. How dare these truckers continue to exercise their basic political rights to freedom of assembly, association, and speech?!

Even more frustrating to the queue of disparaging observers seems to be the peaceful nature of these protests. While honking horns and blocking roads is surely thinning the patience of nearby residents, it's hardly the kind of actions that would warrant sending in the military. Which is rather inconvenient if you'd really like the military to use its force against your domestic, political opponents!

The persistent but peaceful protests are putting progressives in a real pickle. Many of the same commentators who are keen to condemn the Canadian truckers were just as keen to cheer the American protests in the summer of 2020. The protests that in many cases lead to violent riots, looting, and in Seattle an actual  occupation know as the CHOP.

How does one square the condemnation of peaceful political protests on the one hand with cheering on violent political protests on the other? By any means necessary, of course!

So the Canadian truckers have been labeled everything from white supremacists to Trumpians and every other progressive label of disparagement in between. They've been denied donations they raised, and the police has been harassing people bringing them fuel for their trucks. The mayor of Ottawa has declared a symbolic state of emergency to further intimidate the protesters and forewarn more aggressive interventions.

But so far the truckers are not only staying put but staying calm. That's a powerful demonstration of patience in the face of overwhelming pressure from the Canadian government and media. Yet as Jordan Peterson encouraged his protesting countrymen, it's also the key to success, because it severely limits the justifications needed for a brute crackdown.

Which otherwise seems just what the Canadian politicians in charge of the situation are waiting for. The escalation. The efforts to cut off support both practically, in form of blocking donations and fuel supply, and morally, by giving the protests all those progressive scare labels, seem designed to accelerate this confrontation. Without support to sustain the peaceful protests, maybe the truckers will turn desperate, and we can have the escalation needed to justify the hammer?

What's fascinating about the Canadian trucker protest is the unwillingness of politicians to engage with the merits of the argument. That forcing vaccines upon truckers needing to cross the border for work is a gross overreach of state power, and utterly unwarranted by the state of the pandemic.

Don't take my word for it, though. Here's the director of the Danish Health Authority explaining why Denmark never saw broad vaccine mandates as a viable option:

I do not believe in imposed vaccine mandates. It’s a pharmaceutical intervention with possible side effects. I think if you push too much, you will have a reaction. Action generates reaction, especially with vaccines.

"Action generates reaction" indeed. Doubly foolish is this punitive push for a mandate now given the fact that over 90% of Canadian truckers are already vaccinated. And that omicron doesn't seem to discriminate much if at all between vaccinated and unvaccinated in its spread. So forcing truckers who don't want to get vaccinated to be so on the penalty of losing their livelihood will do nothing to alter the trajectory of the pandemic, but it sure will radicalize the truckers!

Yet this is what's beyond the pale to even engage to discuss? That Canadian truckers would like to see their country follow in the footsteps of Denmark and other nations who don't mandate vaccines as a condition to work? What a bizarre abdication of political responsibility.

You don't even have to believe that the truckers have a point in asking for Danish conditions to see that labeling their protests an "occupation" is histrionic, though. It's that same escalation of language that has seen words like insurrectionists and traitors thrown around with abandonment in regard to American political events. Or the expansion of trauma to encompass all degrees of emotional distress. Or that fantasizing that maybe THE RUSSIANS are behind this is a bad replay of the American obsession with #Russiagate.

The right to peaceful protest does not have an expiration date. A healthy democracy will engage with protesters to hear their claims and consider their voice within the guardrails of peaceful expression. The police should be there to arrest individuals who overstep that boundary, but politicians are elected to engage on the merits.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.