More on the Capitoolstorm of January 6, 2021

Tory refugees on their way to Canada, by Howard Pyle. Harper’s Monthly, December 1901.– wikipedia

February 12, 2021

The beginning of the lunar new year is a time to reinforce the resolutions made at the turn of the solar new year. So far, I’ve been able to stick to my resolve never to mention the 45th U.S. president by name again, even though he has been dominating the headlines again. 

But I do want to pick up from where I left off with my musings on the events of January 6th: the capitoolstorm, as they’re calling it in my native land. 

I called it the Epiphany Mob, but a term that evokes the beeldenstorm — the iconoclastic fury that deranged my forbears 4 ½ centuries ago — suits me even better: We’re talking about riotous impulses that go back even farther than the Boston Tea Party and the destruction of Governor Hutchinson’s house.

My “Loyal She Remains” take on the events of January 6 began with a reminder that the United States of America as a nation state was conceived and born in protest, riot, sedition and armed rebellion. My home and adopted land, Ontario, and the union it is part of, Canada, were not forged in a bloody uprising, so the view from here is different. 

I want to make it clear, though, that “different” here means another perspective, not an assertion that our way is the right way, in opposition to the systemic flaws woven into the fabric of the settler republic to the south. Both are pragmatic, ever-evolving, and very human creations. Like all human constructions, the settler dominion in the north has systemic flaws of her own.           

I’m not interested in a clash of ideas, especially not anything that can be reduced to an either/or debate. My concern here is how fragments of ideas can come loose, detach from the unfathomable whole, and become toxic, for individual minds, for human associations, and for a body politic.

The idea that motivated the mobs that vandalized the Governor’s mansion and dumped the East India Company’s tea into the ocean — “no taxation without representation” — has been a useful formulation. It is not self-evident; it’s not even a “truth”. It is practical standard, and when cited, it is, in effect, a demand for responsible government and fair taxation, at rates set through deliberation and consent. 

The concept can serve as a guide for setting up basic civic practices within an existing order, or from scratch, as settlers in the seceding colonies, now states, had to do..

When this fractional truth is whittled down to “government is the problem”, it becomes unwholesome, and sometimes deadly. 

The danger of standing armies, and the role of militias made up of townsfolk and citizens as a check and a balance, is also a useful formulation. The 19th-century Peelite principle that civic police are not soldiers is similar. But the idea of a personal right to bear arms, meaning that every man is, in effect, a militia unto himself is, again, pernicious and lethal. 

The Kochist formulation, that every man and whatever he has managed to stake out for himself is, in effect, a landed sovereign republic in his own person, is one of the most debilitating truth slivers ever devised.

These delusions are connected with the 18th century fractional truths that drove New Englanders to the rioting that set off the War for Independence. But this current manifestation — this dangerous combination of truth fragments that has deranged so many minds and souls — emerged out of 20th century concerns. 

The syndrome that the Grand Old Party and the U.S. as a whole suffer from didn’t start manifesting itself in this distinct present form until after World War II. 

High modern libertarian conservatism was formed in the crucible of the Cold War. It’s purpose, and it’s appeal, was to serve as a counter to Marxist formulations by providing an ideological framework as comprehensive and as consistent as communism. The difference is that now the science of history, society and economics shows that it is unfettered private, for-profit enterprise that will lead humanity towards some kind of stateless utopia, rather than workers of the world casting away their chains and submitting their fate to an ideologically pure vanguard.

This is why there are so many parallels between the two strains of thought. A key difference is their relative success: Soviet and Maoist formulations lost all credibility long ago, while the mindset designed to replace Marxist truths remains a dreadful force.  

After the end of the Second World War, a kind of paranoia swept the nation about communists infiltrating governments and institutional structures of all kinds. Such fears were unfounded, and the general sense of the actual power and influence of the people in charge in the Kremlin was greatly exaggerated. 

Ironically, counter-Marxism as parsed by neo-con/lib thought leaders has succeeded in all the ways people used to imagine the red menace was undermining liberty: Their formulations are as materialist, as deterministic as those of the enemy. They are as convinced they are in tune with dialectical forces of history; as conspiratorial; as ruthless; as immoral in terms of the means they use to serve their ends; as contemptuous of cultures and traditions; as global, imperial and total in their ambitions, and as ready to make gods out all-too-human personages as any Marxist, Leninist, Trotskyist, Stalinist, Fascist or Maoist true believer.  

These thought patterns have infiltrated governments, institutions and minds, not just throughout the U.S., but around the world, especially where English is the main language spoken. What has transpired is almost precisely what so many people imagined was happening during the McCarthy era, but from forces that profess to be the very opposite of the dreaded communist threat.

Cold War formulations, now 30+ years out of date, are the heart of the matter. But there are other poisons that have been leaching into the cauldron, including:

— festering resentment over New Deal innovations;

— Goldwater’s “extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice”;

— “silent majority” appeals to drive decent folk in the continental heartland towards fear and resentment;

— Christians yielding to the temptation to arrogate themselves and their nation state as the right hand of God;

— an anti-federal, states rights, separatist bent that has been persistent since the Second War for Independence, the one that failed, but rooted in the victorious rebellion that led to the birth of the Great Settler Republic;

— an uneasiness with modernity, in this case not peculiarly U.S. American but near universal in its reach, and the accompanying nostalgia for lost values, norms, certainties, glories;   

— and, perhaps worst of all because it is so central to late modern Republicanism, Nixon’s cynical “Southern strategy” of exploiting fear and hate, which has been the key to the party’s electoral success ever since.  

Together, these and other strains combine to give rise to what can be seen as the latest of the horrors that have cursed human life on this planet since those pivotal 17th century mobs raged. 

The syndrome that deranges so many minds, with its neo-con/lib core, belongs in the same category as Napoleon’s ideals-driven militarism; dictatorial presidentialism around the world; late imperial scrambling and plunder; fascist and national socialist delusion, brutalization and genocide; hardcore Soviet social scientific order; Red Army totalitarianism, or any of the many fanatical perversions of Abrahamic faith traditions that have emerged over the last 60+ years.

Extremes meet in all these configurations, especially in the present danger as manifested on January 6. Although these horrors are all part of the chain of events set into motion by the rebellion led by Massachusetts and Virginia and its aftermath, they don’t fall neatly into place on the traditional political spectrum set with those original revolutions as the benchmark. 

So it would be a mistake to opt for surgery that involves applying “left wing” correctives to “alt-right” excesses. MAGA populism and Breitbart style gonzo disruption are, again, merely symptoms. The disease is deeper, and more pervasive. 

The malaise is also infectious, so it is best not confronted directly. Quarantine — something like the containment that ultimately proved so effective against the Soviet threat — may be the best strategy here.

We’re dealing with slivers of truth — ideas, thought patterns, story lines — so the disease metaphor only goes so far. It’s mainly the patterns, and deliberate efforts to deceive people into falling into them for nefarious purposes, that need to be shunned, exposed, shamed, ridiculed and isolated, not the human element — not the people, individually or in company. 

The objective need not be to defeat the Republican Party once and for all, and relegate it to the dustbin of history where the disgraced grandee who inspired the capitoolstormers will certainly remain until the end of time. Even though the party that he used to serve his purposes has been in a diseased state for going on 60 years, the legacy it embodies is greater than what it may appear to be in its pitiful current state. Rescuing the party of Lincoln from its captors, bolstering its immune system, and purging it of all traces of the contagion would lead to the best possible outcome.   

The Cold War is over. There is no enemy as readily identifiable as the Soviets or the Nazis at the gates. This means the age of revolution is over too. Even if a case could be made for carrying on with the pattern of disruption, violence, schism, revolution and counter-revolution that was set into motion going on 250 years ago, the world at present is too fragile, too divided, and too heavily armed for such recklessness, such disturbance. 

The debacle at the U.S. Capitol shows how vulnerable we are. Think about it: In the very heart of the only global superpower still standing, members of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, and the vice president himself came close to being killed by a frenzied mob that was somehow convinced that it was the duty of patriots and freedom fighters to stage a coup. 

The fact that their leader is so ludicrously incompetent is, to me, an indication that despite all her sins and all her flaws, God is still inclined towards blessing America, and that Satan — the Prince of Lies — is close to being a spent force.  

But I wouldn’t count on it. Imagine what would happen if someone actually capable came along to lead the heirs of the Boston Tea Party mob and the Sons of Liberty trashing the governor’s home in another uprising dedicated to restoring the republic to an imagined former glory.  

I’m writing from an Ontario, Canada perspective, avowedly in keeping with the remnants of the “Loyal She Remains” tradition, threadbare as it may be. But if we manage to break those patterns of disruption, violence, schism and revolution, there would be no place for the reactionary, counter-revolutionary mindset either, whether in defence of an established order, old-fashioned Tory, “Family Compact” style, or determined to give free way for a new one to emerge, neo-con/lib, Manifest Destiny, deep red U.S. Republican style.

I propose we begin by discarding the traditional left/right political spectrum calibrated to late 18th century developments, and re-setting the compass to the challenges and opportunities we have before us in 2021, especially our relationship with our earthly home, with other life forms, and among ourselves, as peoples, nations, cities, towns, faiths, traditions, orders and companies of every sort. 

When we recalibrate the spectrum, the sick republicanism that I’ve been calling out in these musings will fall outside the range of practical civic discourse, along with all the other ideological horrors that have cursed life on this planet for going on 250 years. 

Their delusions do not need to be answered. While neo con/lib true believers can continue to blather away through their think tanks, institutes and media outlets, what they say does not warrant any of our precious attention. It’s hard not to loathe their existence, but even contempt is a waste of time, energy and band width. There are more important, and more practical matters to attend to at this critical point in human history. 

If, after we set our sights more purposefully, we still find binary, stereoscopic ways of looking at the world useful, it won’t be in oppositional terms, but harmoniously: The left and the right will function like our feet do when we walk, run, bike or skate; like our hands do when we work, wash, swim, love, play; and as the venous and arterial systems do to keep us alive with fresh energy.   

Further to this 570 News story about funding for THEMUSEUM’s Rolling Stones exhibition

https://bit.ly/3iRg45o

This Rolling Stones exhibition is a big deal. The timing could be just right: The cautions and restrictions of the coronavirus era will likely diminish, bit by bit, over the spring and summer. A November through January run is unusual for a major event like this, but if everything goes well this should be a time when we’ll all be eager to move around some.

A request for a bit of extra marketing support — $100,000 to intensify advertising in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec and potentially Buffalo and Detroit — seems reasonable.

Still, with local/regional media struggling and the regional arts community devastated, you wince when you see scarce resources going to metropolitan ad sellers, and weep when you see such dollars tossed in to the gaping maw of social media behemoths.

But that’s the way of the world nowadays, and there’s no question an influx of visitors from near and far can help the local economy break out of the doldrums of the “Great Cessation”. So I’m not raising any objection.

No, I’m going to be so bold as to suggest an even larger amount be earmarked, the sooner the better, to help ensure the communities of Greater Waterloo make the most of the opportunity David Marskell and his Museum team are providing for us here.

The idea I have in mind goes back to the latter days of my work with the WR Arts Council: a proposal to mark the 200th anniversary of Waterloo as a name in Upper Canada in a grand way, including a Cultural Capital of Canada bid for 2016. 

This would have come with several millions of investment from the federal government. 

There was considerable interest, including from the newly formed Creative Enterprise Initiative and from Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodward, who recognized the potential immediately and provided the most enthusiastic and effective support I’ve ever received from a member of parliament, federal or provincial. 

But the Harper government cancelled the program — no blame, it wasn’t well conceived. Canada just doesn’t have enough cities to go around. But we here in the Tri-City area, the 10th largest urban centre in the country, could have made very good use of that kind of investment. And I am certain that our bid would have been successful: We were ready for this. 

Even though the Arts Council had shut down by then, I would have worked hard to try to make sure that the bulk of the funding was dedicated to paying artists for doing the work only they can do. The plan was to invest in making art happen in our communities, like the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund has been doing year after year.

So to ensure the money stretched as far as possible, we had to be frugal. The plan was to engage people in Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and the townships in a kind of citizen tourism promotion effort. But it wouldn’t have been just to save money: If it had succeeded, it would have provided a kind of messaging that money couldn’t possibly buy. 

I’m not sure what more recent tourism figures look like, but at the time I was struck by the fact that, according a current study, the #1 reason people come here is to visit friends and relatives. That’s right: WE are the top tourist attraction — by far — in Waterloo Country. 

So the idea was to organize a campaign encouraging everyone in the region to invite friends and relatives to come and visit, thereby adding a homecoming aspect to the anniversary year and the Cultural Capital of Canada designation. 

The Rolling Stones have been part of my life almost from the beginning of their career. I’m not the hard core fan type, but at the peak of the youth culture era, I was awe-struck by these artists and their work. My regard began to wane somewhat when they became a global brand, complete with a tacky logo that is now almost as recognizable as the classic Coca-Cola script.

I remember the point when I started noticing people I’d grown up with going to Stones concerts with their teenage sons and daughters: The Rolling Stones had become an intergenerational point of connection. And that was going on 40 years ago.

Since then, they’ve become a global connector. They really have taught the world to sing, if not in perfect harmony, at least in time with a U.S. blues beat. 

Their reception in Cuba in 2016, during the Obama era thaw in relations between the superpower and the mini revolutionary republic south of Florida, suggests that they have been more effective missionaries of freedom than the CIA, the United States Information Agency, Voice of America, Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe combined. 

They’re not saints, but what we’re getting for three months starting November 2nd, is the 21st century equivalent of religious relics, the original tourist attraction of the Western world. There’s even talk of a living, breathing member of the band coming here in person to offer his blessings.   

This could prove to be a real godsend, and we’d be wise to take full advantage of the opportunities that open up. 

So here’s my proposal: Let’s all throw in a couple of quarters, say, to a town and city funding pot, and another four bits to cover Waterloo Country as a whole. 

That would add up to five times the amount the Region has been asked to contribute. Let’s make the goal to at least match that amount with sponsorships and donations. So in total a cool million, which is about the price of an average house in Toronto.

The fund will be to encourage and facilitate other community groups to come up with other things for people to do while they’re here to see the Rolling Stones exhibit and/or visit friends and relatives in November, December and January

This will have to be done immediately, because November, December and January are not far away.

I recommend forming a jury of trusted community members, and paying them a fair amount to quickly set the criteria and then proceed to make decisions about how best to invest the money. 

The thing is, almost every extended family or friendship cohort must have at least a couple of Rollings Stones fans interested in seeing the relics. If we made the exhibit a homecoming event, people would come in more than just groups of two or three. And they’ll stay a few days longer if friends and family are part of what brings them here.

There are only so many hotel, motel and bed/breakfast rooms available in these parts. By opening our homes to friends and relatives, we could dramatically expand the region’s capacity for welcoming visitors. 

The ancillary attractions could be anything:

An off-season Oktoberfest session.

A Caribbean equivalent, featuring calypso, soca, salsa, reggae, reggaeton and zydeco instead of polka.

Special offers for symphony concerts already scheduled. Choral presentations.

Singalongs in churches: Beatles only; Rolling Stones only; Sound of Music; show tunes; ABBA; psalms and hymns.

A church organ extravaganza (2021 has been designated the Year of the Organ).

An arena-sized Art$Pay style show and sale.

A really big blues, Waterloo Country style, show.

A really big Country & Western, Waterloo Country style, show.

An immersive Celtic Real Life offering.

Poetry slams. Book fairs. Pow Wows. Talks. Lectures. Tastings. Guided walks.  

Art in the forum and the public space. 

Dancing in the streets, with boots, scarves and mitts. 

In contrast to the Culture Days formula, I recommend charging, even if it’s just a nominal amount, for every offering. 

There are roughly six months left to imagine, plan and get organized, and after that, another three months to invite friends and relatives to come and visit, and to get the house ready to receive them. 

Treat it as an experiment. Make notes while the adventure unfolds. Let our imaginations run off the leash for a few months with a view towards doing it again, on a bigger scale, with a more original and dynamic focal point, in 2022, 2023, 2024 … .  

Further to the Record’s View on Preston Springs

Answers, please, on Preston Springs demolitionWaterloo Region Record editorial January 8, 2021. 

Yes, answers please. 

We need answers that can help lay the ground for developing ways and means to prevent the same pattern from repeating over and over again.

The “hard questions” that need to be addressed are not the concern of “irate heritage advocates” alone. 

“Who is to blame?” is not the question to ask, especially not if it means assigning blame among City of Cambridge elected officials and civil servants. 

These kinds of failures are systemic. 

The blame belongs to all of us.  

For the most part, the Christmas Eve demolition order and what has taken place since then at the site where the Preston landmark stood for 132 years are irrelevant.

We give a City’s Chief Building Official authority for the same reason we have a Medical Officer of Health at the Region: to protect lives, and deal with emergency situations.

The decisions we charge them with making are not up for public debate, not even by mayors, chairs or councillors. There is no alternative but to trust them to do the best they can when a crisis arises. Later, such decisions can be analyzed, like the decisions of commanders in historic battles can be studied and debated.  

There is no doubt that the building was a danger to public safety. The fact is, it started becoming a danger to the public the moment renovation efforts were abandoned and the site was left unattended to weather the elements, and to withstand the inevitable mischief that neglected property attracts.

The “hard questions” we’re left with now that the Preston Springs Hotel has been destroyed have been with us all along. We, the public, not just heritage advocates, should have been demanding “answers, please” for going on 20 years now.

As an informed public voice with a duty to speak out, the Record’s editorial staff has been especially negligent here. The paper’s investigating and reporting staff should long have been, and could still be, deployed to finding the facts and telling the story.

If we’re serious about finding answers, we should look at the whole picture: Demolition on order from a civic authority after years of abandonment has become an all too familiar pattern. 

The investigation should include the loss of the Forsyth Shirt factory complex, the Mayfair Hotel and the former Electrohome factory on Shanley Street in Kitchener. 

It might be good to include an examination of some comparable situations where there were happier results, like the Old Post Office in Galt, the former Goudies department store in Kitchener, or, going back farther to one of the luckiest breaks this generally unfotunate city has ever received, the resurrection of the Walper Hotel years after being boarded up.    

It is not clear what kind of investigation is most likely to yield productive results: journalistic, professional, scholarly, or some combination of these. Certainly not forensic. It is doubtful an established heritage consultant from another city would be able to produce the best result. But I’m also not sure all the resources required could be sourced locally.

Whatever the format, the broader the engagement, the better the chance for success. We have to come to terms with the reality that no leadership, political, professional or entrepreneurial, can fix this kind of problem for us. It will require all the wisdom, knowledge, confidence and will we can muster as a city, a region, a province and a country.

To break the pattern, we need to deepen our understanding of all the factors, and then set out to break new ground. The effort must be grounded in reality, current and past, here in our neck of the woods. To break through, courage, especially for imagining possibilities, will be more important than gathering all the facts and adding up all the numbers.       

The situation here is unique, but the call for “answers, please” is not a Cambridge, Kitchener or Greater Waterloo challenge alone. The Record editorial describes the lost landmark as “one of southern Ontario’s most historic buildings.” Consequently, it is not just the Cambridge chapter, but Architectural Conservancy Ontario as whole and other provincial, national and international agencies that can and should help lead the way towards preventing failures on such a colossal scale.

It is also a challenge to Canada. Because this is such a young nation state, everything built before 1950 has historic value, and everything that remains from before the end of the Victorian era is precious beyond measure because it is scarce, and irreplaceable. 

The self-evident fact that “the greenest building is the one that already exists” adds a new dimension to architectural conservancy. 

If the story so far has been one of unspeakable devastation to the land and to the peoples who lived on it before settlers from points south and east took possession of it, all the more reason to start changing our ways and means. For this reason alone, we should have shown more respect for those timbers and bricks that got trucked off to the landfill last week.

For Waterloo, North and South, especially Preston, Cambridge, we have just lost, through our own negligence and incapacity, an inheritance that was as valuable to this community as the Chateau Laurier is to the City of Ottawa — more so, in relative terms, because the nation’s capital is so much richer in such assets than we are.

We here in Waterloo Country have an opportunity here to lead the way towards a breakthrough in the appreciation, conservation, daily maintenance, practical use, and happy enjoyment of cultural heritage assets in towns, cities, provinces and territories from coast to coast to coast.

Let’s seize that opportunity, do it right, and not waste valuable attention, time and energy hounding local civil servants and elected representatives for answers, and looking for someone to blame.  

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, 2020

December 30

Happy Holidays; Merry Christmas; Fortunate New Year.

I know Christmas proper has come and gone, but a seasonal greeting should still be in order. I’ve been musing about possible extensions, adaptations and variations. A case can be made for spreading it out — taking the whole 12 days instead of concentrating on just one — especially this year.

Christmas, and the high holiday season in general, has been in austerity mode this time around. For some people, it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. By taking the whole 12 days or even longer, we’d be able to stretch what’s left for us to enjoy to the fullest. 

They’re called THE holidays because we take so much store by the string of celebrations that happen during what are the dark days of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere.

In places where Western European ways have been dominant, the heart of the holiday season is December 25. The big day is perceived as the apogee of a sequence of special observances, from Thanksgiving, Hallowe’en and the Winter Solstice, to New Years, Epiphany and Groundhog Day.   

It seems clear, however, that this dominance is being eclipsed by a more balanced way for the various cultures of 21st-century humanity to relate to one another. 

That’s an optimistic take on where we’re headed. A darker outlook is one that can’t imagine a world where some great empire or other doesn’t rule the waves, the lands and the skies. The conclusion becomes that the decline of Western dominance must lead to the rise of an Eastern world system, or maybe even a Southern one. 

The fact is, though, that the holidays as we know them are being steadily enriched with elements from additional celebrations, ancient and modern:  Samhain, Día de los Muertos, Diwali, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, Kwaanza, Imbolc, Lunar (Chinese) New Year …  all the way to the original New Year: Nowruz, as celebrated around the first day of Spring in places along the Silk Roads, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.   

Beginning the year in March was the Roman, and therefore the original Western way: December is still named month ten, following month seven (Sept), eight (Octo) and nine (Novem). January and February are a kind of interlude: prologue to month one, and epilogue to the tenth. 

It will be interesting to see where all this leads. Will these new variations get absorbed to the mainstream? Could they help restore some depth and meaning to these celebrations? 

I’m using the word “restore” with some hesitation: The folly of trying to go “back” to any kind of imagined past has been made amply clear by the deluded longings of MAGA and Brexit advocates.  

The conventional holiday season in North America is the commercial Christmas, which began emerging going on 200 years ago. Two institutions that originated in the 19th century and thrived throughout most of the high modern era played leading roles in shaping Christmas as we know it: city newspapers and big local department stores.

Despite the excesses, mainstream Christmas has been a wholesome development: It helped settler communities on both sides of the border move beyond a rather grim puritanical bent. The holiday brought people from diverse backgrounds together through a relatively benign set of shared customs. It also played a role in developing modern prosperity, which, although we’re struggling to come to terms with the fact that it is unsustainable, has brought previously unimaginable comfort, security and wealth to a fortunate large minority of us humans.    

Television stations and shopping malls have helped keep mainstream forms alive for the last 70+ years, but they have not enriched Christmas culture in the same way newspapers and department stores did earlier. All I can think of are a few movies and TV specials that may stand the test of time, and the annual shopping frenzy on Black Friday and Boxing Day. 

The reason for this stagnation may be that these peak modern forms left little room for local adaptation or engagement. And now, these 20th-century systems are being eclipsed by new configurations that are even more remote from life on the ground in any particular place. 

The optimistic view is that, with commercial Christmas now almost totally within the domain of post-national, nowhere/anywhere corporate conglomerations, we’re left with a wide open field for adaptation and innovation. The powers that be may appear inevitable and invincible, but they’re actually spread extremely thin. Done the right way, efforts to improve balance and deepen meaning may meet with little resistance.

And there may never be a better time than the present, while we’re in the depths of the second wave of the pandemic, to try some things.

Taking the whole 12 days could be a good way to begin. We can make of them — six geese a-laying; seven swans a-swimming; eight maids a-milking, the works — what we hope and wish.


We could go even farther, and experiment with a kind of “Afterlude” that mirrors Advent: make it a full 40 days this time around rather than the traditional 12. 

This would take us almost to Chinese New Year, and, in some years, the beginning of the Easter cycle, both of which are aligned with phases of the moon. The holiday season as we’ve known it has a solar bias; it might be good to add some lunar elements. 

Matching the celestial with more of the terrestrial would also be timely: The angel chorus sang from on high, but their songs promise peace ON EARTH.

We could use this disruption in our routines to work on inventing or adapting ways to celebrate Christmas that could accelerate the development of a new kind of prosperity: ways to live, work, learn and associate that are more respectful of the planet and to all the creatures that live and grow on it than the kind of consumption mainstream Christmas has come to represent and promote in wealthy societies like ours. 

Christmas as we know it also has a pronounced Northern bias. Maybe we can join forces to persuade Santa Claus and his crew to move their operation to the South Pole for the next six months or so. These austerity measures must have wreaked havoc on Christmas as they’ve known it up there too, so there might be interest. 

If they agree, we can start getting ready for a celebration of the Winter holiday season in the Antipodes as the Northern Summer approaches.

Imagining a kind of anti-Christmas in July, with the “anti” signifying balance and completion, rather than conflict or opposition, could be a pleasant and rewarding way to spend the rest of the current holiday season, however long we wish it to be.

What would a one-time-only event, six months from now, dedicated to offsetting all that we’ve had to do without during this long, long time of cessation and isolation look like? 

Company

“Sammankomsten” (“The Meeting”), oil painting by Ester Almqvist, original at the Swedish National Museum. The painting was chosen by the UN as a motif for a stamp commemorating the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, paragraph 20: the Right of Assembly – Wikipedia

The question, beginning back in June in the wake of the Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter, remains: “What can a poor boy do”?

There is no end of things that can be done to make this beleaguered world a better place. And there is no shortage of “human resources” (what a repulsive term) to do the work: 7.94 billion of us and counting. 

Some of us are old or otherwise slowed for work; some are sick or otherwise incapacitated, and some are busy growing and learning, but that leaves what must be an inexhaustable reservoir of minds, hearts, hands, bodies, and imaginations to do what needs to be done.    

To get started, the best move for any one of us facing the question of what to do as an individual would be to start or join an association of some kind: a company.   

The fact is, there is almost nothing you or I can accomplish alone. Even a rock’n’roll band is an organization of sorts.

It doesn’t have to be official. You don’t always need a license, a charter, or corporate status. A secret sect, a personal cult or a street gang is a company of sorts.

But informal arrangements have limitations. Without rules, leadership is usually by force of character or personality. A formal organization with all the proper understandings in place can smooth processes, expand capabilities, and limit bullying.  

I’m inclined to agree with Margaret Thatcher: There is no such thing as “society.” Not as an abstraction, anyway, as utilized by social scientists, economists and the like.

Such categories tend to bypass, if not erase, many of the peculiarities of what humans do, alone or in company. The aim of social science is primarily mastery, whether for our own good or to fit us into some system or other. 

There may be no such thing as an actual, tangible “society” as such. There are, however, a breathtaking variety of what I’ll call organisms — collectivities that evolve out of particular circumstances in an unplanned and unpredictable manner. 

There is also an almost infinite variety of what I’m calling “companies” — collectivities that are willed into existence, for a purpose.   

Nations and peoples are primarily organisms, rather than willed associations. Who could ever have imagined a land of the Canadas or a United States of America as they exist today? But beyond recognized borders of their respective lands, they are largely imagined, and not inclusive: Not everyone within the boundaries belongs. 

Towns and cities are the most interesting organisms because they’re real. The limits might be vague, but they’re measurable: There are ways to determine the point where dense proximity ends. For the most part, a townsperson or city dweller belongs by simply being there.      

Companies are formed deliberately. Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when someone says “company” is a business organization dedicated to making deals or staking out territory for private gain. But there are so many other types of companies: lodges, clubs, congregations, denominations, faith groups, charities, political parties, coalitions, universities, colleges, schools, monastic orders, monasteries, guilds, unions, gangs, armies, militias, brigades, sport teams, sporting associations, libraries, galleries, choirs, orchestras, bands, theatre groups, dance groups, &c, &c  …. .

There are associations to preserve and conserve, and associations to disrupt and improve; associations to restrict and limit, and associations to open opportunities; associations to protect the established norm, and associations dedicated to overthrowing the existing order. 

It’s not quite so neat and tidy, of course. What is willed inevitably becomes systemic. Things get out of control. Systems become oppressive, exclusive or routine. Nevertheless, all the ways and means by which human beings do things are artificial — i.e. cultural. A large organism like a nation, a city, a movement or a major legacy corporation may be beyond anyone’s control, but they are all our doing nonetheless. 

Deliberate association may be the defining element of modern life — more definitive, I think, than that ever-shifting cluster of behaviours social science types abstract as “capitalism,” which, if and when it actually exists in any form, is more like an organism: unforeseen, unintended, out of control, but human nonetheless.  

Those original “companies” that played such a major role in creating the land of the Canadas as well as the settler republic down below were formed deliberately, for relatively simple purposes: to share the risk, but also the potential profit of foreign adventures: The London or Virginia Company, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Hudson Bay, Honourable East India, Company of One Hundred,  Dutch East India, Dutch West India, British West India, French West India, Danish West India — the list goes on and on. 

flag of the Hudson Bay Company

Atlantic European colonialism, and through it, much of the modern and contemporary world as we know it, began through the adventures of private, for profit corporate entities with exclusive rights and privileges established at the pleasure of, and for the benefit of, monarchs who were considered the embodiment of their respective realms and peoples. 

For the private investors, the purpose was to share risk on highly speculative adventures, to earn as much exchangeable currency as possible, and to shut out overlapping interests by securing exclusive rights, permissions and by making deals of various kinds.     

They were like guilds: associations designed, in part, to corner the market, and, ideally, eliminate it altogether. That has always remained the dominant pattern: Every for-profit corporation is a conspiracy against a free and open market. 

The charters that recognized and legalized their existence granted privileges and set limits. Ultimately, the aim was to enrich the realm under which the company operated, thereby rendering it more secure against rivals and enemies. 

The Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild by Rembrandt, 1662- Wikipedia

The public aspect of chartered private companies remains part of the basic organizational landscape to this day. They are part of the order of things, and ostensibly are still allowed to exist in order to serve the public interest. The tendency, however, is to think of such entities as independent, dedicated to the will and the interests of those that have a share in it, and to equate this unintended and largely imagined independence with “freedom”.  

The end result is what might be called Kochism, which in its purest form means no bishop, no king, no nobility, no realm beyond private and shareholder holdings, no commons, no public other than a formless, abstract “society” or “market”to serve as a kind of corporate happy hunting and gathering ground, and ultimately, no government, and until then, as little government as possible.

Every kind of organized human activity, including roads, rails, airways, shipping lanes, schools, knowledge, information, analysis, prisons, police, military services, social services, hospitals, pharma, water, energy, housing, recreation, entertainment, sports, fitness, gaming, drugs/alcohol (provision, control and rehabilitation), is owned and operated by private or shareholder corporate entities.

But let’s set the big picture and the long view aside, for now.

Part of what I’m trying to get at here is the dominance of the private for profit corporation in how people think and imagine what can be done. 

“Non profit” usually signifies do-gooder groups engaged with benevolent work led by the privileged and the powerful. The general conception is that the charitable sector operates as a complement to the main order of business in the corporate world.

The fact is, for-purpose and public enterprise have been around for much longer than the modern limited liability, for-profit corporation, and have played a much greater role in the evolution of modern realities than is generally acknowledged. 

For-purpose enterprise is as significant as ever: If we take the latest, and maybe last, field of endeavour in which the United States has been dominant — the rise of digital technology — my guess is the organizational structures that made it all happen are the military; institutions of higher learning; tinkering by individuals or small groups, and for-private profit corporate enterprise, more or less in equal proportions.   

The fact is, the private interest, for-profit model is of limited utility if the purpose is to do something that could make the world a better place. 

Private and public interests can, at times, be harmonious, but those interests need to be meticulously and constantly attended. But because private interest corporate model is so dominant, combining for-profit and for-purpose is usually an unequal yoke.   

Because the quest is market dominance, exclusive territory, privileges, long term contracts, mergers, acquisitions, restrictive patents and copyrights, large for profit corporate organisms are in many ways antithetical to free and open enterprise. And yet, that’s where the attention and the action is, to the point where the model threatens to dominate all other forms of deliberate organized endeavour.

As the standard corporate model expands, for-purpose enterprise form and practice have been stagnant or in recession. The time is ripe for innovation and experimentation in this field, on its own terms, without confusing or conflating it with for-private profit corporate forms and practices.   

A large organism like a nation, a mass movement, a disruptive tech behemoth, or a dominant legacy corporation may be beyond our control, but they are all our doing nonetheless. They are not part of the natural order of things: People created them, and they exist for the good of their members, of the places where they are chartered to operate, and of humanity as a whole.

And whether its for profit, for good, or for fun, it is all business — i.e. busy-ness. 

The world as it exists today is, to a very large extent, our doing, and therefore our collective responsibility.

So “what can a poor boy do”  — in particular, an old white settler Canadian of Atlantic European origins with no professional, religious or political affiliations?

Well, a good way to begin might be to look for company, be good company, join good company, gather companions, or form companies for doing what needs to be done.

Rapper Michael “Killer Mike” Render was thinking along similar lines when he said, at a critical point in the Black Lives Matter awakening, that Black Americans could “have freedom in an instant” if they “plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize.”

In other words, the logical next step after a massive assembly, is to get organized. 

The right of assembly, as exercised by the Black Lives Matter March, and its corollary, freedom of association, are inseparable, and equally fundamental. 

In the U.S. Constitution, the right of assembly is part of the First Amendment, which, along with freedom of religion, speech and the press, mentions “the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

It is significant, I think, that the primary association with the right to gather is the “peaceable” qualifier, and that it is paired with petitioning the government to correct an action. 

The Founding Fathers of the republic next door seem to have protests in mind, which is logical in a place born in protest — beseeching the government to remedy various grievances — and turning to armed revolution when their prayers to their sovereign were not answered.   

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifies both freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association, perhaps because there is a general sense here in the True North that it is safe to do so. 

In a revolutionary republic, these are dangerous concepts. In a federated state founded on the idea that, should a government get out of line with self-evident truths, people can and should rise up, dissolve the bonds of law and order, and allow a new order take charge. 

For a neo-loyalist, deeply attached and committed to Ontario, the nation, in the land of the Canadas, the true path is closer to a “thousand points of light”. That’s the idea that Peggy Noonan wrote up for George W. Bush, and that Donald Trump finds so baffling, but without equating the light to private, non-governmental, voluntary, unremunerated benevolence.  

We can shine in any way that promises the best result, alone or in company, including all together as citizens of a town, a city, a province, a nation, or a confederation. 

Because human beings are so diverse, 

and because true freedom means being able to pursue whatever each of us are called or inspired to do, 

and because no sociologist, political scientist, urban planner, economist or think tank can ever have all the answers, 

and because the powers that be and their defenders are armed with weapons of personal, widespread and mass destruction,

a scattered, peaceful, piecemeal, incremental, experimental, exploratory and respectful approach is far more likely to produce the best possible results, 

while a solidified, aggressive, disruptive, revolutionary, ideologically consistent effort is likely to fail, and bring death and destruction in its wake.

On the Statues in Baden

Here’s my 2 cents worth regarding the controversy over the Prime Ministers statues project in Baden. I’m writing here as someone who was outspokenly critical of the project when it was initially proposed for Victoria Park in Kitchener, but not for the reasons being raised today. I just thought it was tacky, derivative and unCanadian.

A shorter version of the text below was published in the New Hamburg Independent on July 22, 2020. Later that day, Wilmot council decided to move the controversial Sir John A. Macdonald statue from its current place, and to postpone any additional statues from being installed until next March at the the soonest.

Let’s shoulder the burden
and leave Sir John A. where he lies

The Prime Ministers statues project in Baden is dividing the community at a time when we should be coming together to get ready for the challenges ahead.

It is getting difficult to imagine a happy outcome. Suspending the project indefinitely, or curtailing it by removing the historical figure at the centre of the controversy, would in effect be killing it. A Prime Ministers Walk without Canada’s first political leader, the man who, more than any comparable figure, built this country, wouldn’t make any sense.

I have no interest in exonerating or condemning Sir John A.Macdonald. He left this mortal coil 129 years ago, and is therefore no longer capable of guilt, shame or remorse. He can never be any wiser, more compassionate, or more just than he was when he was alive; he cannot make amends, seek reconciliation, or serve the truth.

It is Canada itself that is on trial here. Sir John A. and his contemporaries set us on a road to tragedy. And it is we, the living, who remain capable of honouring truth and working towards justice.

We know better now, and from that we can take comfort, build hope and gather courage. Because we know better, and because we are alive, the responsibility for setting things right falls squarely on our shoulders.

Can the statues project be set on a more promising course? I’m wondering if something along these lines would be acceptable, to the project leaders and to those who want to destroy their work:

— Change the name from Prime Ministers Path to something like “outdoor museum” or “history garden.”

— Take steps to ensure that each visitor arrives by choice, and not by stumbling upon the installation.

— Minimize ties with the municipality.

— Shift the focus away from political leadership, and towards the full timeline from the beginnings of Canada as we know it in the crucible of empire, through her evolution as a modern nation state, to the present and into the future.

— Take a broader approach to the educational aspect. For the immediate future, make Truth & Reconciliation the main focus. Aim towards broad community engagement that invites people of all ages, all backgrounds, all convictions to actually doing history, i.e. broadening knowledge, deepening understanding, and telling the story anew in the light of the present.

— Acknowledge that at this juncture moving beyond a “whitewashed” telling of the Canadian story has become an urgent priority, and that the Prime Ministerial focus may be a hindrance for this kind of work.

— Acknowledge that your inspiration to do something fun and exciting with traditional historical statues came at the worst possible time.

But if you can, stay inspired. Explore ways to regain trust, and get permission to continue.

To that end, consider an offer to cover all the statues in a coat of white paint, with a pledge not to reveal the monumental brass underneath until it is abundantly clear that the people of Wilmot, of Greater Waterloo, and of Canada are resolutely on the road towards Truth and Reconciliation.

If that’s not acceptable, try something else. Once it is clear that trust has been restored, finish what you started: Install the four statues that are ready to go, and mark the places where the other 13 will stand when the time comes.

There are so many things wrong with this project, but that could become a strength. With adjustments based on learning from how the community has reacted, it could still end up being of great service to each and every one of us as we consider our roles as active and informed citizens within the three spheres of Canadian democracy: federal, provincial and municipal.

What’s in a Name

This is an index for an ongoing series of columns I’m writing for CultKW, “an independent online community developed by THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener that aims to facilitate discussion around the arts and culture in the Kitchener-Waterloo region and surrounding areas.”

The theme is “what’s in a name.” Taken together, these pieces represent a train of thoughts related to current discussions about the significance, and the suitability, of names such as Dundas, Waterloo, Kitchener, Victoria, even Canada.

These are musings, not contentions. The main point is that stories, including national stories and stories of shared identity, can be told in multiple ways without straying away from basic truth.

There is, however, serious intent. Part of the purpose is to come up with some answers to the question that arose after witnessing the Kitchener March for Black Lives Matter on June 3rd: “What can a poor boy do?”

The hope is that, by tinkering with familiar storylines, we may discover pattern variations that will open fresh possibilities for imagining how we’ll deal with the challenges and opportunities that lie immediately ahead.

May 06 I am Groot
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot/

May 20 Victoria Day | Museum Day 
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-2/

June 03 Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter 
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-3/

June 17 Dundas Street / Old Highway Two 
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-4/

June 24a Waterloo Day
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-5/

June 24b Waterloo, Waterloo, Waterloo
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-6/

July 01a O Canada
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-7/

July 01b The Canadas
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-8/

July 08 Towns
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-towns/

July 15 Islands and Valleys
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-islands-and-valleys/

July 29 Kitchener I
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-kitchener/

September 2 Kitchener II: “Kitch”
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-kitch/

September 16 Work
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-work/

October 3 Company
https://marinusdegroot.ca/2020/10/06/company/

October 17 Ontario
https://cultkw.com/i-am-groot-ontario/


Topics for projected posts planned for the immediate future include:

Ghost Names of Waterloo Co/R

Ontario Nation

What’s in an Emblem: The Lion and the Lamb

Convergence

Reflections on the Common Sense Revolution at the 25 Year + One Week Mark

File:Tree planting 001.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
image is from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository


Another Saturday night. I’m still in my lockdown coop. I want to finish my reflections on the Mike Harris years before another Sunday tempers my outrage.

The response to my June 8, 2020 Facebook post about the 25th anniversary of the Common Sense Revolution was encouraging. Lots of comments and shares.

One friend wrote that the real problem is “not … what has been done, but what has NOT been undone.” I agreed:

“The Liberal administrations that followed [the Harris-Eves era] left much of the toxic legacy of the Common Sense Revolution in place. The workfare scheme, the resentment generating “sunshine list”, the total demoralization of our educators, offloading costs to municipalities (i.e., property taxes), centralization and bureaucratization of the health care system, making an absolute shambles of local democracy in this province, privatization of long term care, riding roughshod over legacies, symbols and traditions: e.g. the King’s Highway, Loyal She Remains, peace, order and good government … the list goes on and on.

We’re not talking about past ills here. We’re talking about chronic ills, and the very real and present danger of relapse.”

Another friend commented: “this neo-con virus is as prevalent and as pernicious as the present pandemic. Calls for eternal vigilance and … Speaking truth to power and all that that implies.”

“‘Virus’ is an apt metaphor,” I replied.

“What emerged in the 1970s was a new strain of disease that began attacking the various bodies politic that we’re all part of.

This disease is virulently contagious, and deeply debilitating. The powerful are as infected as us ordinary folks, so there will be no help from that quarter. We haven’t been vigilant. We’re only beginning to become aware of what hit us.

An emerging awareness, however, is an indication that there is still a possibility that our bodies politic have an immune system that can fight the infection.

In this case, self-isolation is not part of avoiding infection or curing it. The remedy is working together, each by our own lights, in our own particular corner of the world. It is speaking the truth, but also living it, and putting it to work.

If you have a good heart, and you can see a glimmer of hope, you are an indication that our immune system is actively engaged in fighting the infection and restoring us to health.”


As you can tell, I get worked up about these things.

I got furious in 1995, and started speaking out in a way that I never had before. And hadn’t since — I went through the entire Stephen Harper decade without losing my cool even once — until April 25, 2019.

That’s when, on the eve of Ontario Arbour Week, Premier Doug Ford announced that his administration was cancelling a program that was in the process of planting 50 million trees.

In an instant all the rage I’d felt almost 24 years earlier came rushing back. And now, 59 weeks later, I remain committed to doing anything and everything I can to free my life, my city, my province and my country of the influence of the kind of diseased frame of mind that can make decisions like this.

It’s nothing personal. Mike Harris is long gone. Doug Ford is just a mascot. Andrew Scheer has become a pitiful figure. Stephen Harper is in the dust bin. Maxime Bernier came within a hair of being his successor, but his assault on our values was a total bust. Jason Kenney is squandering whatever modicum of credibility he has left with his recklessness. Donald Trump appears to be almost down for the count.

Let them all rest in ever lasting peace. It’s that toxic bundle of attitudes that have held sway on this continent for going on half a century that I want to help find a cure for.

There’s not even a proper name for it. What I mean is the attitudes and proclivities that characterize all those neo-con; neo-lib; earth ravaging; Kochist; rebel-yelling; anti-government; anti-federalist; anti-democratic; anti-republican; anti-Christian; blasphemous; hate mongering; fear, resentment and ignorance peddling hucksters, tempters and tricksters who were and are part of … let’s call it the Big Con for short.

Never mind the personalities. These are all people who have either been deceived, or who are practiced in the art of deception. Concentrate on the lies.

For the last 13 months, this has been my mission in late life.

Reflections on the Common Sense Revolution at the 25 Year Mark

Image may contain: 1 person

(this is based on a Facebook post from Monday, June 8, 2020)

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the day Mike Harris was elected as Premier of Ontario with a mandate to impose his “Common Sense Revolution” on our way of life.

I was going to post a comment about this being a day for “every Ontarian who has a modicum of decency and loyalty left to hang our heads in shame and grief, and then rise up to voice a solemn vow ‘never again'”.

That’s as far as I got before remembering that this was a Sunday, and such dark thoughts may not be appropriate on the Lord’s Day. So I’m posting this today as a Monday afterthought.

The motto “never again” probably needs some adjusting.

Two years ago Ontario forgot all about what transpired so long ago, and, for the first time since the end of Mike Harris era, elected another PCO government under the leadership of another “for the people” style standard bearer.

And it started to look like they were ready to pick up from where the “reign of terror” of the Harris era had left off by launching a kind of dictatorship in June 2018. This would be Napoleon began his rule making it clear that he had every intention to serve as the successor to the Robespierres of the Common Sense Revolution.

Thank goodness the people started voicing their disapproval; thank goodness people started booing our “premierissimo”, and thank goodness things started to quiet down.

Thank goodness, because if that hadn’t happened, Andrew Scheer would be Prime Minister right now, backed by that new-fangled, post-PCC political party controlled by true believers like Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney and others in solidarity with the the Fraser Institute / Manning Centre / Calgary School mindset.

“Never again” at this point means coming together in an omni-partisan effort dedicated to using every peaceful, lawful and honest means available to make sure that what began here 25 years ago remains in the dustbin of history, and not the harbinger of what will come to pass.

And there is a real danger that it will come to pass with a vengeance as early as the next provincial and federal elections.


Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter

This was written on the eve of the Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter in Kitchener, and published via CultKW.com on the day of: Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

This image is from the Fashion History Museum website; it’s related to the WARdrobe exhibit prepared in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, which is set to open as soon as it is safe to do so. It’s related to my column below because I’m proposing that, although the story of anglophone, francophone and allophone North America has many subplots, it is essentially a single narrative.

I was going to write something about museums for this top of the month of June column. Jonathan Walford and Kenn Norman of the Fashion History Museum in Hespeler, Cambridge,  were guests on our community radio magazine program on CKWR 98.5 last night, and they had all sorts of interesting news to share.  

But current developments have set me in a different direction. At 5pm today the Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter is happening in Kitchener’s venerable Victoria Park. That’s very close to where I live. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m ready to leave my coop just yet. I’m old, and have various vulnerabilities.

So what can this poor boy do instead? “ … [S]ing for a rock & roll band,” Mick Jagger mused at a time when people all over the world were fighting in the streets. I was still a teenager then. In 2020, all I can think of is maybe do a history lecture. Why not? (I wish I was in a band, though. This Groot never liked being a solo act). 

On Saturday, March 21, I was scheduled to give a talk at the 2020 United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination observance at Kitchener City Hall, a gift to the community that Gehan Sabry of Cross Cultures magazine has been putting together for many years. (She also does the Cross Cultures radio hour Saturday mornings on CKWR 98.5).

The lockdown started in earnest during the week leading up to the event. So my talk never happened.

Because I usually wait until the last minute on projects like this, I never finished my speaking notes. But I had a good idea of what I wanted to say, so when Gehan asked for a description, I was able to promptly scribble something down.

“I’d like to talk about causes and commitments,” I told her. “It was through happenstance, not conscious choice, that I became involved with arts, culture and heritage with a local/regional focus. So my bias is towards a personal, biographical approach, as opposed to rational ‘prioritization’ ’’.

That was putting it mildly. I am adamantly opposed to setting priorities for others to follow with regard to their personal causes and commitments. 

“However,” I went on in my talk description, “with a growing sense of urgency arising on so many fronts, especially over what is called the ‘climate emergency’, one is drawn towards re-examining long-held interests and preferences. I’m going to propose that convergence, rather than increased specialization, holds the most promise.”

In my talk, I would have taken the long view. I would have suggested that, although the story of anglophone, francophone and allophone North America has many subplots, it is essentially a single narrative for developments over more than five centuries on this continent, from Trinidad and the Mexican border to Nunavut; from Buena Vista to the redwood forest.

The story begins with alien invaders stealing land from men and women who had lived in harmony with place in the world for generation after generation, and then trying to drive them into oblivion. From there, they proceeded to steal other men and women from what had been their land and their people for generation after generation, and ship them here to this side of the Atlantic. Why? The aliens stole African women, children and men in order to possess, work, breed, and sell their bodies. 

My forebears, the sea-faring, sharp-dealing Nederlanders, played a particularly ignominious role in this woeful tale.

The talk would have mentioned 1619, when Africa in what is now the U.S. began. That’s a year before the Mayflower brought the Pilgrims, those radical Protestant separatists who “came out” of a kingdom and a church they considered corrupt beyond redemption in order to found a new, pure colony in the wilderness.

This November will mark the 400th anniversary of that sub-plot of the big story. (The quad-centennial of another key development, the beginning of England and France in our deep, deep south, i.e. the Caribbean, will happen in 2025).   

The plan was to talk up some history and some autobiography, and then tie it all together with the fundamental issue of humanity’s relationship to all lands and all seas, i.e. our earthly home. It would have included a reference to the “ALARM” exhibit that is currently running at THEMUSEUM. I even thought of asking CEO David Marskell if my talk might be a fit for the series of discussions planned in conjunction with this exhibit, now sadly shut off from public view.

But in the wake of what happened in Minneapolis last week, juxtaposed with news about that 21st-century Mayflower adventure called SpaceX, which proposes to “come out” of a defiled planet and set out on an errand into the wilderness on Mars, I’m going to have to make some major revisions to what I have to say.   

When I’m ready, I’ll let you know.