17 April 2007

The Charter yields to blood sacrifice

Today is the 25th anniversary of the patriation of our constitution and the birth of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a day one might think worthy of special note, a day to celebrate becoming masters in our own house. Yet there is a deafening silence. The media have little to say and our federal government shamefully makes no special plans to commemorate the event.

One cannot help but compare it to the recent hoopla over the battle of Vimy Ridge. Thousands visited the site, the Prime Minister and the Queen made speeches and the media ran page after tedious page covering in excruciating detail every aspect of the affair. Over what? A massive slaughter so that our boys could stand on top of the hill rather than their boys? We used to play top of the hill when we were children but eventually grew up and went on to other pursuits. There was no more purpose at Vimy Ridge because there was no more purpose in the First World War; it was an exercise in bloody-minded European hubris, nothing more, a bunch of tired old empires taking a pointless whack at each other to the cost of millions of lives.

And yet it is often thrown up as the defining moment in Canadian history. The reason is simple, ancient and primitive. We continue to believe as we have for thousands of years that a people must be defined by blood sacrifice. Nothing else will do. Certainly not a peaceful, constructive act like patriating a constitution and establishing a charter of rights.

We have all the trappings of a highly-advanced species -- centrally-heated homes, cars, computers, etc., etc, -- yet we are in our souls much the same brutes we were when all we had was stone tools. We still need tribal myths to unite us, especially the myth of the immaculate warrior, the killing of our tribal enemies as the purest and highest attainment of manhood.

So of course the Charter yields to Vimy. It may be a far greater achievement but it involved no blood, no human sacrifice. It was, in other words, a far greater achievement for a fully civilized species, but for us ... it is second tier.

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