The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.
– William Blake
There is genuine madness in most of white middle-class rural life on the prairies in Canada.
On Monday we started to make our way home from our daughter’s house where we had spent a happy Thanksgiving weekend with her and her friends, attending the baptisms of her twins. But eight inches of heavy, wet snow that had fallen Sunday night had not been plowed, nor would it be, and was frozen into an interminable two-rut toboggan run. Local road plow workers had obviously been given the day off – a typical Canadian governmental decision to only work from 9 – 5, five days a week even when there is genuine need. So the rest of us who had decided to travel to see our families slogged our way through extremely treacherous terrain. What was normally a two hour section of our trip turned into a seven hour marathon, and extended a normally long ten hour drive into sixteen hours of exhaustion. We had had to take two vehicles there, one for my wife and one for myself. Cars littered the highway. Twice my wife was sucked off the road and into the ditch. And so what had seemed like an unnecessary and wasteful decision several days before to take two vehicles turned out to be a lifesaver as I perilously pulled her out each time with our pickup truck. Being a holiday tow trucks were likewise nowhere to be found. By the time we made it home we were exhausted. Yesterday I went into town for some errands. In response to a receptionist’s enquiry back home into how I was doing I simply and briefly alluded to the story. And the response was typical, that without batting an eye she responded with, Well you’re safe now. There will be someone to see you shortly. In spite of all the curtain pulling that goes on here as people peek into everyone’s life…which feeds the gossip mill…and ensuing judgementalism…and resultant punitive actions that inevitably arise from doing so, her words were a reminder that directly naming reality here in this rural madhouse is taboo. This is a system designed to keep people psychologically claustrophobic. Even the mental health services here get into the act. Their employees are, after all, locals who are part and parcel of the environment, paid by the government to keep this disorder in disorder. Everybody’s watching – keep your negativity to yourself – don’t confound our ideology with reality – we wouldn’t know how to address it in a healthy way anyway.
Advocacy has always been our strong suit. And since advocacy is an unnamed hallmark of the Catholic Worker it is no wonder that we found our way into the CW movement. In rural areas much of what we have done over the course of our lives has been to invite people to believe that there is another, healthier way of living and to step out in search of it. My wife does this as a teacher; I did it formally first as clergy and now as a Catholic Worker. According to the gospel, this is one of the essences of following Christ, i.e. genuinely caring for those whom society routinely dismisses and disregards and discards…children, youth, women, the poor, outcasts, those who do not accept the social order.
A perilous and slow seven hour section of my drive on Thanksgiving Day itself gave me plenty of time for reflection and contemplation. My thoughts turned toward the gulf between the colony of delinquents who now run the country and the people whose land I was actually driving across. Ruminating on this highlights a stunning disparity, that is glossed over, ignored, and justified by the latent taboos of the former.
The white middle-class argument is that other ethnic groups have assimilated into this country, so what is wrong with the aboriginals? In our region Ukrainians, English, Germans, Russians, Swedes, and Czechs, while suffering some discrimination and conflicts, have gradually and successfully become accepted into Canadian society. Immigrants still come to our region. Their arrival is unhindered once language and culture and religion and nationality have been adequately diluted. But the fact of the matter is that none of these groups have ever threatened by their presence or challenged by their conduct the ethic of white supremacy that has been the dominant ethic in every realm of social development in Canada for the past three hundred years and which remains entrenched today. And it is white supremacy itself that accounts for the lack of assimilation by aboriginals into Canadian society today.
Of course the great irony of this Canadian rural enclave of prosperous whites is the gospel of free enterprise and individual initiative that they preach. This is a wildly hypocritical take on reality, scolding First Nations for a lack of enterprise after having kept them first in separation then in servitude from the start. Whites really cannot have it both ways. To cherish freedom of initiative they must forego supremacy; if they promote continued supremacy let them at least forbear from denouncing those whom they oppress.
True Christianity recognizes that every action or omission – perhaps especially those that are accepted as routine – is consequently related to the lives of all other human beings on the face of the earth is more than just prudent. It is essential. Christian conscience is knowing that people are related to and responsible for each other in all things and is why poverty cannot be accounted for by simply blaming the poor since the prosperous are directly involved in the institutionalization of poverty and racism. False Christian conscience recognizes none of this, as does a basic secular colonizing mentality.