Sunday, July 14, 2013

In the beginning - the Peter O'Connor commentary

I believe (but I am not certain) that most of the world’s main religions share a common account of the “Beginning”, how the Earth was formed, the creation of light and darkness, the seas and the land, the trees and plants, the animals—of the sea, the land and the sky--, and then of Mankind. 

Certainly for Christians, in Genesis, this was the “order” of creation, and of our arrival and—not necessarily from Genesis—our evolution and development from then to now. 

We are talking these days about our Constitution—how it can be reformed, and how our rules, regulations, rights and responsibilities can be made more relevant to our current society.

Essentially Constitutions guarantee certain basic rights for citizens, and also demand certain responsibilities of citizens. And we all accept that these rights and responsibilities are necessary although we debate and disagree upon the actual extent of rights we seek and the limits of responsibilities to be imposed upon us.

While we debate the form which our new Constitution will take, we are ignoring two major columns upon which our Constitution must stand. These are our Heritage and our Land. And both have been in our news recently.

Recent excavations at our already historic Red House have unearthed
skeletal remains of our First Peoples, dating back to around 400 AD. Fortunately, the work has stopped while the area is examined for further relics and remains. 

But the question we face is what do we do about this discovery? And how will we relate to our different histories? The descendants of these original inhabitants have made it quite clear, and correctly so, that this discovery must be respected, and that some form of meaningful tribute be accorded to these people who walked this land some one thousand, six hundred years ago. 

We who have inherited this land must show our respect and pay tribute to these souls who lived here. For they have left us the very first stone in the building of our Heritage. So much of our subsequent Heritage has already been lost, sadly just discarded by us rather than blown away with the sands of time. 

For me, the discovery of the remains at the Red House at a time of the restoration of that heritage building and the discussion for a revised Constitution is prescient. 

We are reminded by this discovery that we share a history way before 1498, and we must not let this opportunity pass without embracing it. Newsday featured, last Thursday, a spread on the concerns expressed by the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Indigenous Community of their history as far as it is known. Our heritage and much of our history is built upon these and other remains and the crafts of our Indigenous Peoples. And it is time we not only acknowledge them, but honour them.
And indeed, accept and honour all of the heritage inputs which we—European, African, Indian, and Middle Eastern peoples-- brought here, developed here, and created here. This would include our architecture, literature, arts of all forms, religions, music, festivals and foods. 

All of these, and the combinations created in the blending of some, are our cultural heritage. And these in my view need to be written into the preamble of our Constitution so their value can be appreciated and seriously taught to our children, in order to give them the sense of worth which we desperately need.

But before we had our heritage, we had our land. And for some reason we consider our land “disposable”. Living on two small islands, we cannot continue to allow our land—the source of all that we need and do, to be destroyed. “Our Land” comprises our mountains, forests plants and flowers, streams and rivers, wetlands, and all of the animals of the land, sea and air. Our forests produce the oxygen we breathe, the water we drink, and the rest of the land gives us our food, our recreation and our dwellings.

Without all this we become Haiti.

I believe that we cannot write a document which guarantees freedoms of speech, opinion, religion, fairness and the like, which provides for the ownership of property (land) and sets out the methods for granting and assuring these rights, if we have no understanding of the heritage
which defined us, or of the value of our natural environment from which all life must spring. 

Before we have forgotten it all in favour of Miami and KFC, let us begin to instill in our children, the understanding and love for where we are and who we are—our land and our heritage must be protected for us to value ourselves.

Now let us develop the wording needed to include these two foundation stones in the structure of our constitution.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai