Monday, April 09, 2007

Breaking Faith

The Toronto Star is up to its old tricks, I see.

Michael D. Wallace, professor of political science at UBC, has got his state-laundered diaper in a bunch because Canadians are under the impression that the Battle of Vimy Ridge was a definitive national accomplishment. He says:
Canadians did not fight in "the Great War" for anyone's "freedom." We fought because we were part of the British Empire, wherein only the white, English-speaking minority was free.
Oh dear, oh dear. Is this what modern scholarship has been reduced to? An unambiguous assertion that the institution of slavery existed in the British empire well into the twentieth century?

Ignore how utterly stupid and ahistorical this is; can anybody explain to me how it comes to bear even in the slightest on the fact that Canada made a large-scale contribution to a large-scale military conflict at the beginning of the last century, and that that had an effect on how Canadians perceived themselves?

Wallace concludes his obtuse moralizing this way:

But battles are merely historical markers. A nation's true place in history is not achieved on the field of battle. History is not a catalogue of wars but a catalogue of human progress.

I could make the case for any nation, but ask yourself this: Is Canada not better defined by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms than by any clash of arms? We have ancient tanks but the most up-to-date liberties. Who would choose the opposite?

Well, I would, for one; given how often the spectre of that useless document has been invoked to justify this sort of quasi-reasoning and fact abuse. And, anyway, history most assuredly is a catalogue of wars. It would be the height of idiocy to forget so obvious a fact ... But one wonders (and I'll admit that, in the age of the sort of entitlement we see with Mr. Wallace, it is extremely fanciful to do so) whether there should've been any repatriation of the Constitution--and thus a Charter--in the first place, if Canada hadn't managed to prove to its racist and tyrannical British overlords that it had actually earned the right to do so.

Ah, the folly of those who conflate a linear movement forward in time with that elusive and three dimensional abstraction "progress". It's not surprising, I guess. We've had so little real progress (indeed, rather a lot of regress) since the passing of the generation that fought in that war that it really is awfully hard to remember what it means or what it looks like.