Recently the New Brunswick government “suggested” employees stop making “Indigenous land title acknowledgments”. It was coupled with a declaration that non-compliance would not invite repercussions which appears silly but it is really worse. It manifests a government-in-fear which is incompatible with it being-in-charge. Governing while scared is like driving intoxicated - disaster is the probable outcome.
Since I was a couple of years old or so, I was taught to make the sign-of-the-cross and pray when going to bed, getting out of it, having a meal, walking by a church, setting out for a trip and so on. When I was summoned to school I had to pray at the start and the end of the school day. Had I served in the Army, I would have been taught to pray before battle asking God’s help to kill more “enemies” than I would without devine help. Ugly stuff, poisoning the minds of the young.
I have lived under dictators, in the birthplace of Democracy: Metaxa (1936 to 1941) was one of them. He “drafted” the young into a military-style organization, draped us in blue uniforms and manipulated our brains. Pro-persuaders indoctrinated in us the despot’s dogma and made us sing praises of the despot and the regime. On Wednesdays half the school day was given to watching movies, starting with Donald Duck to warm us up and then moving on to propaganda. Every Saturday the “Neolea” (= “Youth”) magazine came out loaded with mind-warping propaganda cleverly baited to get the kiddos. Survival was difficult.
In 1941, on a sunny April day, at high Noon, a couple of airplanes bombed Pyrgos, then my home town. They killed no one but terrorized everybody. Priests explained that the town patron-saint had saved our lives and led us in a liturgy to acknowledge indebtedness to the Saint.
The next day the airplanes returned and showered the town with leaflets announcing the impending occupation and assuring us they will hurt no one as long as we obey them. Then they came: the Nazis and the Fascists.
Things were bad, all but the “Band”. This was a splendid Italian Army band who treated us to fantastic free concerts. The flip side of that was that the band would march, morning and evening, rain or shine to the Central town square, which was next to my home, to play the Italian anthem while raising the “tricolora”, the Italian flag, in the morning and lowering it in the evening. Everyone within earshot had to rise if sitting, freeze if walking while the flag was going up and down, day in, day out.
I disliked praying, perhaps because God was not answering my prayers. When I questioned the efficacy of prayer I was chastised and told to wait till I pass away to enjoy the fruits of prayer. When I tried to defer praying for after I pass away, the Sunday school priest-teacher had a word with my mother about me. She taught me that in such circumtances the thing to do was “to repent and forget”.
In Canada I was surpised when I heard “O Canada” and “God Save the Queen” played at the beginning and the end of movies, sports events and other occasions. Eventually, the testimony of eye-witnesses like Yuri Gagarin who found no God in Heaven and the Lasage Revolution in Quebec, the expressions of servitude waned, this to my great joy.
On a humurous note, Tom Bata the shoe super-magnate who had settled in Batawa, Ontario after fleeing Communism, had a band play the “Bata Hymn” each time he would land his helicopter at any of his shoe factories.
I dislike this “acknowledgement” thing, irrespective of it being made to a Lord temporal or eternal, for I abhor subservience, period. I think I got it from my mother who was self-confident, never mincing words, not suffering fools easily, either. Once she swung her arm and knocked the Police Chief flat on the ground after he insulted her – he apologized and no charges were laid.
What is wrong with “acknowledgments”, you ask? The answer is: “much”. All coagulating on one axis: it is demeaning, awfully dehumanizing. It is surrendering dignity, it is resigning decency.
Joseph Welsh gauged the potency and the magnificence of “decency”. He demolished McCarthyism by confronting Senator Joseph McCarthy with a magnificent line: “At long last, have you no sense of decency left, Sir?” McCarthy crumbled.
I am a proud Canadian and mindful of how I came to be. I owe it to an RCAF poster depicting blue sky, clear but for a fighter Jet flying near the poster top. It was signed “Canada”, the nation portrayed in half a dozen words: “We Fight to Stay on Top.” Irresistible ...
Thomas Paine was a British chap with five years schooling and a skilled corset-maker. His hurried “graduation” may have saved his mind. Had he stayed with the “scholars and the dons”, he would have become one of them and humanity would have lost a great malcontent. Had he not dropped-out, he could not have written “Common Sense”, “Age of Reason” and the plethora of pamphlets which fuelled American independence.
His personality was complex but there is an episode which brightly portrays the psyche of the great man:
When Benjamin Franklin proclaimed: “Where liberty is, there is my country”. Thomas Paine took his turn to reveal himself: “Where liberty is not, there is mine”, said he.