Overnight In October of 2012, the Canadian Museum of Civilization disappeared and was replaced by the Canadian Museum of History
Long before this change of name took place the curators of this publically-owned facility had made clear their embarrassment about being associated with Civilization. The exhibit that meets visitors at the front door, as well as the Children’s Hall and the First Peoples’ Hall gives prominence to pre-civilized (that is, Stone Age) life. The content of these exhibits as well as the texts on the accompanying plaques emphasize the bucolic estate of the First Nations before they became blighted by European explorers, missionaries and settlers — the ancestors of most of the visiting children.
In reality, because the First Peoples remained illiterate until European missionaries gave them the gift of writing in their own language, we know virtually nothing about their history. However, the archeological record makes it clear that their history was exceptionally bloody and their daily life chronically insecure.
“Primitivism” (celebration of the aesthetic superiority of the pre-civilized over the civilized) has for a long time given a cheap thrill to the deconstructionist element within our culture. The myth of the noble savage has an even longer pedigree among philosophers. Universal public education has made it possible for champions of these themes to establish them without challenge in the popular culture, making possible the open vilification of civilization.
I made the effort several months ago to secure some explanation for this change of name from the curators of the Museum, but they ignored repeated inquiries. I therefore thank herewith Melanie Joly. M.P., Minister of Heritage, who had the courtesy of responding (eventually) to an old nuisance, as follows:
The CMH is now mandated to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experience, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history. It also aims to enhance awareness of world history and cultures. The Museum continues to present internal exhibits on the history and cultures of the world and to tell the story of Canada’s indigenous peoples with the First Peoples’ Hall and the Grand Hall.
This pretty well makes my point. Even before the word CIVILIZATION was quietly lowered from above the door, the custodians of our national culture had become ashamed of the word and its associations.
Not many months ago, I attended a conference where the Chief of one of the major First Nations, wearing the full eagle-feather-headdress that was never until the day-before-yesterday worn by anyone east of the Prairies; and I squirmed as he boasted that he speaks for “a civilization that goes back thirty thousand years.” No one blinked. I tried but failed to get the microphone.
No one dares to contradict this commonplace idiocy. No civilization “goes back 30,300 years” or anywhere near that time! The oldest Civilizations known to us go back at most to 7,000 BC. and are located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers – roughly where Iraq is today.
To be taken seriously as a commentator on any aspect of our present world a Christian must show quick readiness to join in the general cursing of “Civilization.” Currently, the best opportunity to do this is to press to the head of the lynch-mob that is vilifying the residential schools. These provided clothing, shelter and education to native Canadian children, most of them abandoned by their parents. The approved line on this today is that it was all a sinister campaign to deprive the First Nations of their “identity” and “legacy.” We are told in chorus that the churches and the schools and the residence which the missionaries established among aboriginal people existed for the purpose of creating a hollowness in the heart and soul of aboriginal people — into which the Sunday School teachers could pour contempt for the native legacy [http://globalnews.ca/news/2402492/residential-schools-subjected-students-to-disease-abuse-experiments-trc-report.]
This vicious campaign has resulted in ubiquitous vilification of some of the very best souls of those generations. The theme of the Truth and Reconciliation Report is that abuse of the innocent was ubiquitous and that decent behaviour was nowhere on the scene. Clear thinking people will see the improbability of this at once. No effort is spared in finding testimonies to abuse; there is no time for seeking out and verifying good deeds. Graduates of these schools who step up to say a kind word for teachers or priests must leave the other longer line that leads to financial compensation.
It is particularly painful to watch the leaders of the so-called mainline churches joining in this mindless vilification as proof that they equally stand above the morality of the Christian people who provided these life-saving services. Mainline churches, ashamed of the Gospel, have joined hands with secular elites in subscribing to the left-wing verdict on “imperialism” –and the cliché that missionaries were, deep down, murderers of alternative cultures more benign than the one that they served.
Who can doubt that some bad characters and weak personalities were active in the ranks of these generally noble people and that they took advantage of their position to abuse some children? But that is not good enough to serve the agenda of the lynch-mob. It is just taken for granted that the slogans about civilization were cynical camouflage to cover a programme designed for humiliation of the weak.
Our governments have funded gargantuan commissions that interview every person who has made a claim to have ever been a resident of a church- or government-run school or to have been for any length of time in the grip of a missionary. Massive financial compensation is now available to all victims. No time or energy is expended on seeking out and verifying the good deeds. No one ever suggests deducting anything from these extortions in consideration of the free room and board and the free education over many years.
I am not ashamed of civilization. Indeed, I am ashamed of educated people, who parade their shame of civilization, while drawing huge salaries from positions of prestige within our civilization — Directors of Museums of History, for example, people who benefitted from all the gifts our civilization and are in places of leadership of opinion — well-salaried people who seek the approbation of Stone Age apologists but are ashamed of civilization.
The very fact that we can be trading these thoughts is a gift of civilization – the gift of writing – the first of civilization’s greatest early accomplishment. On this was built science and the arts. Literacy existed nowhere among the Stone Age people whom we found in place here in the Sixteenth Century. In time, the missionaries gave the gift of written language to the First Peoples. This in turn made it possible to tell something of their history as of about the late Eighteenth Century.
A lifetime has gone by since intellectuals and statesmen actually spoke of “our Christian Civilization,” the term that Winston Churchill preferred in his speeches to cover the largest cause for which we were all fought the Second World. Sub-civilization is winning the glamour contest – among aesthetic leaders, leaders of opinion, media celebrities and politicians. University lecturers in History who let slip the word “civilization” are certain, at least, to be mocked, and at worst to be reported for “cultural supremacism” to the Student Council’s truth squads.
In the absence of any objections from any corner of the educated world, Civilizationophobia is winning the day.