What Is Progress

//What Is Progress

What Is Progress

Canada 150, eh? What a celebration! The maple leaf waving everywhere. So many red pots too, bursting with red and white blooms. Wow.

Then I heard this. Many indigenous people in our country aren’t so impressed, had no desire to celebrate. I mean, they were here first, right? With – from what I’ve heard and read – a much gentler approach to nature, a symbiosis with the land that I find inspiring. We stole so much of that land, then tried to steal their very culture, taking children from parents and putting them into harsh conditions in the residential schools. I feel horrible about this cruel treatment by my ancestors. And also for introducing alcohol to people who’d never encountered such a thing, so had no chance to build up a physical or mental tolerance to it.

But I’m conflicted. I’m proud of my country too! When I brought this up at my book club, that well, we’re celebrating the birth of a nation, the terms of Confederation on July 1, 1867, and that the indigenous people the Europeans found upon their arrival in the New World were split among various groups, didn’t have a unified thing they referred to as a “country”, one of our book club members retorted, “Well, why don’t we celebrate Aboriginal Day with them then?”

Geez. I didn’t know we even had such a thing! It was first celebrated in 1996, after being proclaimed by then Governor General of Canada Romeo LeBlanc, to be honoured on June 21st each year. Many Aboriginal groups traditionally celebrate their heritage on summer solstice, hence the date choice. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged this year to rename the event National Indigenous Peoples Day, with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde calling it an “important step” since the adoption in 2007 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN describes this declaration as “an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples that will undoubtedly be a significant tool towards eliminating human rights violations against the planet’s 370 million indigenous people.”

So progress continues. One could argue, I suppose, that progress has been a catalyst for significant struggle, in that those throughout history with technological advantages have reigned supreme over those with less gadgets, education and organization. But in his TED Talk Progress is not a zero-sum game, Robert Wright feels that at this point in history, with commerce operating on a global level, capitalism has been good in that we must do business with everyone, so therefore we must get along. Now, Wright says, most people believe “all people everywhere are human beings who deserve to be treated decently – unless they do something horrendous – regardless of race or religion.”

Canada – with all of its races and religions – at 150 is really just a youngster to our closest neighbour (sorry about the “u” there), 241 now, the U.S.A. – with all of its races and religions. But I would submit that a country, like a human being, is always becoming. Dan Gilbert, psychologist and writer, reminds us, “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” Ha. You’re not finished, I’m not finished and these notions of our nations – Canada and the United States of America – are not finished either. Progress is forward movement. It is impossible to go back, to fix wrongs, to alter the course of history, but we can learn and apply that knowledge to create incredible futures. Says Gilbert, “We have a fundamental misconception about the power of time.” Let’s harness that power, use it wisely and move forward into the colourful, multi-cultural ongoing becoming of all-encompassing great nations. Gilbert feels that we limit ourselves due to the “ease of remembering vs. the difficulty of imagining.”

Imagine. Like John Lennon sang. And apparently Yoko Ono, in part, wrote. She was officially recognized as co-writer on the song last month by the National Music Publishers Association CEO David Israelite, who played an old interview clip of Lennon, who said, “But it was right out of Grapefruit, her book. There’s a whole pile of pieces about ‘Imagine this’ and ‘Imagine that’.” Lennon defined himself as too “macho” at the time to admit her contribution. Imagine that.

Change is constant. Good change is always possible. Imagining good change, then trying to implement it, needn’t be a difficult thing.







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