Thursday, 19 June 2014

True north strong (and free)

"...they must live within a lie. They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them to have accepted their life with it and in it. For by this very fact, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system"—Václav Havel, The Power of the Powerless, 1978

Remember the first "Gulf War"? I do. I remember the merchandising of the war and wore a baseball cap in irony—irony that was largely lost; one side "thumbs up", the other side feeling it their duty to put me in my place. But I myself lacked the understanding and appreciation of the historicity of events as multi-national corporations saw it, as their well-funded lobbyists saw it. Where is Canada today? Where do these lobbyists want Canada to be?

Every few months, right-wing columnists and commentators offer the tar sands to the oil-hungry, conflict-ridden world—and, nary a word about the oil fields off Newfoundland nor about the liquefied natural gas in BC (those that actually make it to the domesticate market). I guess only the tar sands figure into Harper's image of Canada as the energy superpower.

Never seen a "superpower" exploited like a third world country and raw material resources shipped out and "value-added" economic activities and processing done elsewhere (most probably to be sold back to Canadians). Only third world countries have hitherto thus been exploited.

Any opposition to such unmitigated exploitation is portrayed and attacked as "anti-development" though the federal parties like the Liberals, the NDP, even the Green Party try and point out that they're not against resource development but have issues and concerns about the approval process, which has lost credibility and social license a few omnibus bills later that have seen repeal and outright gutting of environmental and treaty "obstacles". The Harper government tries to shout them down when they bring up how an inevitable environmental disaster would be dealt with—the impression the unwary, the uncritical get is the opposition really are closet Luddites, neanderthals really.

As Havel says, "They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them to have accepted their life with it and in it". No truer words.

The completed co-opting of Canadian institutions reaches its crescendo when corporations are allowed to cynically sell their products (no longer manufactured in Canada, mind) by usurping and editing symbols that are implicitly understood to have been bought by Canadian blood and sacrifice: "...true north strong and free..." has become an empty "true north strong".

This "trapped in a nightmare" -like quality that Havel speaks of in his 1978 monograph is also spoken of by CS Lewis in his Screwtape Letters, in the confusion created by way of a false dichotomy between "real" and "subjective" experiences (letter xxx):

The general rule which we have now pretty well established among them is that in all experiences which can make them happier or better only the physical facts are "Real" while the spiritual elements are "subjective"; in all experiences which can discourage or corrupt them the spiritual elements are the main reality and to ignore them is to be an escapist. Thus in birth the blood and pain are "real", the rejoicing a mere subjective point of view; in death, the terror and ugliness reveal what death "really means". The hatefulness of a hated person is "real"—in hatred you see men as they are, you are disillusioned; but the loveliness of a loved person is merely a subjective haze concealing a "real" core of sexual appetite or economic association.

As a "wanna-be" Christian, (to me, personally) it often comes down to meditating on the "subjective" and the "real". The two are interrelated concepts (indeed, comprise the whole of experience) informed and easily over-ridden by emotional states of being (the negative aspects which Uncle Screwtape wants magnified).

I often do not "feel" I have been saved, often struggle with faith and accepting that the Gospel tells me that Christ our Lord Saviour died on the cross as an atonement and reconciliation. I am here presented with a choice: either I'm informed by my emotional state and cynicism and remain in my naive condition (ie, forever trapped in arrested development); or, I respond and act just as if I were saved by grace, and, therefore, have a certain responsibility to behave in a Christian-like conduct (even if, at that moment, I just wanted to crawl into a hole).

It turns out that spiritual evolution, like political freedom, is an acquired perspective, a maturing process. Truly frightening and soul-wrenching challenges will and do come up. Failures can and do happen, spectacularly sometimes. This is life, writ large after all. Fortunately, these failures (of character and constitution, Screwtape and Big Brother would have us believe) are rarely fatal. And the true measure of our character then becomes whether we give up or not.

What we value or thought we did has to be tested by experience to become "real"—ie, the false dichotomy revealed. Enlightenment is not some drugged-like state of ecstasy but a willingness (a mutable degree of commitment) to work and actualize a perspective.

Jay

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