(Image Credit: Twitter account @Canadian_Crown, the image is at this link. I believe this is a publicly funded account and therefore Canadians have a right to use its images)
The new design of the Canadian crown continues the trend of ditching ideas and imagery that are inextricably woven into the fabric of Canadian identity. The resulting loss of national identity may be intentional.
The announcement of the change in the design of the Canadian crown drew a lot of adverse comments. I think this was due to two reasons: the nature of changes that were made and the manner in which the exercise was carried out. We live in an environment where even a change to the use of a plot of land requires public input. Being completely shut out of the process that made changes to a national symbol, and being blindsided would naturally raise some ire among the public. In particular, the images of the Cross and fleur-de-lis being replaced by the mages of a snowflake and maple leaves constitutes change of sufficient magnitude to raise more than a few eyebrows.
There is a sizable population in Canada which believes that Christianity is under attack, and the removal of the Cross from the Canadian crown merely adds to their grievance. There are certainly times when one feels that they have a valid point, and the change in the design of the Canadian crown is definitely one of those times. HOWEVER, I believe that this goes deeper than attacking Christianity; what is happening with increasing frequency is that symbols that are foundational to the identity of Canada as a nation are being done away with. This also includes notable names from the past, not just symbolic images. The reason why these symbols are seen as fair game for attack (or ‘dismantling’ in the language of Progressives) is not that they are considered objectionable per se, but because erasing them from the public sphere erases the existing identity of Canada so that a new one can be created from scratch.
PESUDO-INTELLECUALISM TURNED INTO REALITY
Let us revisit the comment by Prime Minister Trudeau some years ago that Canada is a ‘post-nation state’. My guess is that someone said this within his earshot, and he fell in love with the expression, so he regurgitated it when he had the opportunity. In reality, the statement is brimming with pseudo-intellectualism of the highest order (or perhaps I should say the lowest order).
The fact is that while you can have a nation without a State, a State cannot exist without at least one nation within its borders. For example, Kurdistan is a nation, but not a State. In fact, a State can have more than one nation within its borders; typically these nations are formed around ethnic, cultural or religious lines. A ‘post-nation’ State is, therefore, an oxymoron. Further, the State and the nation(s) within it often display different – indeed, opposite – behaviour. For example, the reason why Afghanistan has not broken up into smaller entities based on the distribution of its ethnicities is because while it is a weak State (in that the government is unable to exert its authority effectively), it is at the same time a strong nation. And the reason why Pakistan often teeters on the brink of disintegration is because it is a weak nation (but a strong State, which is able to hold it together).
The thing about Mr. Trudeau’s oft-derided statement (that Canada is a ‘post-nation state’) that no one has commented on is that it may have been intended not as a reflection of the present reality but rather as an objective to be achieved. If that is indeed the case, then it becomes easier to understand the change in, or dislike of, the symbology that represents Canada.
Nowadays, I am frequently reminded of the Sanskrit term ‘raajyashray’. It is a composite term of ‘raajya’ (meaning the State) and ‘aashray’ (meaning ‘shelter’ or ‘refuge’). That term is typically used in relation to certain arts or activities being supported by a ruler to make them more popular – but the term can also be applied elsewhere. I am sure you are familiar with historical instances when a king converting to a different religion ended up spreading that religion among the masses as well. I think this is what is happening in Canada, where endorsement and even enthusiastic embrace of certain ideas encourages many people to begin subscribing to these ideas (or to express them more vocally, in cases where the individuals already had these ideas). From time to time, we come across instances of this that are especially shocking. Therefore, my recent experience wasn’t at all unexpected – but I was still taken aback by what was said.
I was listening to a talk show on a major radio station, and the host brought up the issue of the hockey player Ivan Provorov refusing to wear the Pride jersey on religious grounds. The host pointed out that Mr. Provorov belongs to the Orthodox Christian faith. This was a panel discussion with his guests, and one of them, a lady who runs some kind of a communications / PR firm, replied with something that made me switch off the radio (this happens fairly often, especially when invited talking heads are on air). The gist of what she said was that hockey teams are essentially corporations, the players are therefore their employees, and a corporation can direct its employees in any manner that it may deem fit. Then she added that in such circumstances the religious rights of the employee take a back seat to the corporation’s instructions.
This was wrong on multiple levels. Religious rights are part of our Charter, and for someone to suggest that they are at the whims and fancies of a vast number of corporate executives in Canada beggars belief. But it is easy to say outrageous things like this when the religion in question is Christianity. Can a corporation declare that it is observing a day of solidarity with the women protesting in Iran so all its hijab-wearing employees should take off their hijab on that day? In fact, going by the ‘logic’ that had been offered by this panelist, a corporation wouldn’t need a reason (like showing solidarity with this or that group) in order to give such an instruction to its employees. A simple “We have decided that no employee of this corporation shall wear a turban henceforth” would suffice. How is that likely to fare in a legal suit?
Since I had shut off the radio, I now had time to think: Was this another instance of someone attacking Christianity because we have created an environment where that can be done without (ahem) adverse consequences? Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: This wasn’t an attack on Christianity per se, but rather a blow aimed at one of the FOUNDATIONAL aspects of the modern country of Canada. Given enough time, other religions would be equally fair game for the attackers, when these religions would have been inextricably interwoven with the Canadian identity the way Christianity has been thus far.
CHANGE AND ADJUSTMENT
It is indeed a truism that the only thing that is constant in this universe is change. However, the timescale on which the universe (and even Mother Gaea) operates is vastly longer than the human lifespan. Even civilizational timescale is much longer than the human lifespan. Therefore, at the (relatively puny) human level, we expect some degree of continuity. This is why change usually makes us uncomfortable – unless we perceive that the change is of benefit to us. However, as Robert Pirsig explained in his second book ‘Lila’, it is always desirable to strike a healthy balance between continuity and change. If nothing changes, what results is stagnation, and if too much changes too quickly, the sense of identity is lost.
My understanding of Pirsig’s exploration of this idea is that it is not necessary for continuity and change to be evenly balanced (meaning equal in quantum). From time to time, one component of the equation outweighs the other. There are times when maintaining continuity takes precedence over change, and vice versa. And since evolution (itself an outcome of adaptation to change) is dependent on choosing the most advantageous course of action, we are wired to prioritize whichever of the two is of greater importance at a point in time.
Over the last few centuries, and especially in the preceding 100 years, evolutionary advantage was to be gained by adapting to what was new, whether it was migration or modern education or social behaviour / mores. People who did not adapt to the new reality were left behind. Consequently, their political power declined and was often eclipsed altogether. I believe that this has now changed – in fact it changed a while ago, but we didn’t realize it immediately. Now, it is more advantageous to hold on to one’s past, which we can call ‘refusal to change’, that increases one’s heft in society and politics. To express this as a paradox, the importance of adapting to change has changed.
PART OF DAILY LIFE
The simplest and easiest sign of this to observe is in the kind of importance / attention that different members of the ‘visible minorities’ are able to get. If they are wearing something associated with their religious or ethnic / cultural identity, they get noticed and often promoted. I was discussing this recently with a friend of mine who is from India and belongs to the Catholic faith. One of us observed that if we were to be standing together, it would be impossible for anyone to tell us apart in terms of our religious affiliation – and THEREFORE we would be of little interest to a politician looking to earn some brownie points (pun intended) and votes.
This was also the reason why an erudite scholar like Professor Salim Mansour was disqualified by the Conservative Party of Canada in 2019, on grounds that his presence as the party’s nominated candidate would attract accusations of Islamophobia towards the Party. Prof. Mansour has been vocally opposed to the Islamist segment of his faith for a long time. To equate his views – criticizing what he thinks is wrong within HIS OWN Islamic community – with ‘Islamophobia’ is possible ONLY because refusal to change outweighs adaptation as a survival tactic in the current era. In terms of appearance and thinking, Prof. Mansour is indistinguishable from the average westerner, apart from his skin colour. This is the product of adapting to change – and his Party was more interested in pleasing people who had rejected that change. It does not surprise me that it was the political class that saw this – consciously or otherwise – before anyone else; unless one has the ability to perceive which way the wind is blowing, one doesn’t belong in politics.
But as I said earlier, what starts in politics ends up percolating down to the masses – which may explain why Toronto District School Board cancelled their event featuring the Nobel prize winning Yazidi lady, Nadia Murad, on grounds that her criticism of ISIS amounts to ‘Islamophobia’. After years and years of being told that ‘terrorism has no religion’, we are now being finger-wagged into accepting that criticizing a terrorist group – and most vile one at that – amounts to bad mouthing a religion. I think this is due, at least partly, to the fact that ISIS (and those of its ilk) are obscurantists wanting to take the world back to a distant past. In other words, they subscribe to an ideology that not only refuses any and all change, but also seeks to undo the change that has happened in the millennium+ of recent history. They have the advantage because the flow of history is on their side. Those who say that rejecting change is not a good choice are fighting a losing battle.
But we started with a discussion of how certain things are being changed. How did this discussion drift in the opposite direction? After all, the Cross and the fleur-de-lis exemplify durability (and even permanence, for the religiously minded), whereas a snowflake and a maple leaf are quintessentially ephemeral. Doesn’t replacing the former with the latter signify a move towards embracing change?
The answer is. No. What I think is at play here is that imposing an ideology resistant to change first requires that the existing symbology be expunged from the society. While the removal of the longstanding symbols of Canada amounts to change, that change is being thrust upon us so as to make room for the change-resistant ideology. To be amply clear, here I do not mean ‘Islam’ (in any version) as that ideology. There is a different ideology that is being thrust upon us, one that will be in direct opposition to Islam (in any version) at some point in time. And that ideology is Statism.
For all its many faults, Canada has done remarkably well as a society – if one takes a civilizational view of these things. The existing symbols of Canada, including the Cross and the fleur-de-lis, have played a role in this achievement by serving as the ‘continuity’ component of the equation while different ‘change’ components came & went. Over centuries, as wave after wave of change arrived on the shores of our society (sometimes literally), these symbols have provided us with a sense of continued identity. If one aims to change the nature of our society diametrically – from one that absorbed all changes and yet maintained its essential character to one that is adrift and dependent on individuals posing as the State for its identity – one first needs to get rid of the old symbols. In a nutshell, this is a change that is part of the exercise to take us to a place of stagnation, where nothing changes.
The infrastructure for ushering in this age of stagnation in Canada is being slowly but surely put in place: the precedent of using the Emergencies Act to deal with a pesky protest, internet censorship via Bill C-11, the proposed legislation to police ‘misinformation’, the LPC resolution to demand that journalists reveal their sources, another resolution demanding Universal Basic Income and the like. The removal of the time-honoured symbols from an important image (the Crown) is of a piece with these actions. By a curious coincidence (or perhaps by malicious design), the new image of the Canadian crown also shows arrows pointing backwards, whereas in the previous version, they were pointing forwards. I think we need to buckle up for a bumpy ride that takes Canada backwards to the age of stagnation. It will likely be the last change that we will get to see for a while – until something changes.
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