Thursday, December 07, 2006

Covenant: the freedom to start again

I was struck by this line from an Adam Katz essay:
Civil disobedience represents our highest traditions, which are all bound up in the divine liberty first introduced into the world by the revelation of the Mosaic God, the liberty to begin anew, to initiate a chain of actions irreducible to either biological or social causality.
Civil disobedience and covenanting (like Moses) to build a new order are but two steps in a unifying dance. It reminded me of what we do every Thursday: meet in public and speak our minds on matters and in ways that are seemingly taboo to many of those sitting around us, if one can judge from faces and body language. And yet we will keep challenging those puzzled faces, their confidence and purpose seemingly eroded by the politically-correct nihilism and relativism of our social and institutional betters.

We do it because we know some people have to start standing out, rediscovering what is sacred to our present public life together; and then, with a renewed sense of the public and political centre in each of us, we can, by words and deeds, refigure the covenant of nationhood in Canada. Only thus will we come to the self-understanding that we have lost in seas stirred up by those who claim, as did former Prime Minister Paul Martin in the last national election campaign, that there are thousands of ways to represent Canada but no unifying tradition or culture beyond tolerance for all and sundry. But anyone who has watched immigrants and their children adapt to the ways and tones of this country knows this is not true. It is an empty platitude favoured by politicians who fear ever taking much of a stand, or doing the work of trying to represent or exchange representations of our nation in truly meaningful and sustaining ways; committing yourself to a future is always riskier than pretending we can be all things to all people. Yet the pretense leads, of course, to a country that doesn't know what it is, what it believes, what it should do in relation to other countries, what wars it should fight at home or abroad. And most of all it leads to a country in which the people don't know how to rule themselves and must defer to the whims and deals and judgments of those who scramble into high offices, justifying themselves as the defenders of our unquestionable entitlements, and as the arbiters of the conflicts and differences we can no longer negotiate among ourselves because we have lost the "we" to the many, lost the faith that we can find a way together on someone's shared initiative.

Many would make fun of the normal; but it is to a renewed respect for a compact of virtuous and ethical normality, in face of those who see the normal as the source of all oppression and inequality, that we find ourselves breaking today's politically-correct taboos.

So, as every Thursday, we will meet in the atrium of the Vancouver Public Library, central branch, 7-9pm, in front of Blenz coffee. Look for the blue scarves and my Covenant Zone cap if you wish to share in our struggle. How can a handful of people change anything? Well, any change always starts with one or a few people who are capable of an act of faith. Here are a couple of photos, scenes from Vancouver's pioneer days in the wake of the Great Fire of 1886, the year of Vancouver's incorporation. Those few people clearly operated on faith in themselves and their culture and could hardly have envisioned, 120 years down the road, the city of today, even as they lay its foundations. We can do the same again, with all the pioneers now in Vancouver. Please join us.

1 comment:

dag said...

I often seeem to forget my own phrases, and I even seem not to understand what I mean by them, particularly when I write that "We are not who we are not."

It's too easy to get tied up in knots complaining about those whose ideas and ideological pronouncements lead to great social and personal harm to many individuals living within the range of my daily life. I do want to put those evil bastards in their right places; but as Truepeers reminds me so often, that is not enough, perhaps not even worthwhile, when one loks at the postiive that one could do and must do if one is to bring about conditions wherein we can all pursue our own happiness productively and humbly and wonderfully. Forget about hanging rotters from lamp posts, let's get on with defining our own moves toward the better. I forget that part very often.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that he is a farmer so his son could be a lawyer so his grandson could be a poet. We, like the men in the photos above, could again return to farming, as it were, to our humble beginnings in the wilderness to build some great place for those who follow. There is not one gnostic shown in the pictures above. Wouldn't it be great to return to such a time of the mind. It's right here for all of us, and I suspect it will always be so for those who will see it. So, I'll show up at the atrium, and I'll be smiling. What a great thing this is, to sit and talk and listen to men who know such simple truths that so often escape me.