Vimy Ridge, 100 Years On
For Mark Wegierski, history defines us
To many current-day observers, Canada’s participation in the First World War, and the great victory at Vimy Ridge in 1917, may seem far away. The tide of change in Canada has been so massive that the events at Vimy Ridge seemingly occurred in relation to a country which manifestly no longer exists. For Canada has been under something akin to “foreign occupation” as far back as 1963. The “occupiers” are not of course “foreigners” — but Canada’s self-hating, self-alienated elites. Even a person who considers all the resulting changes as positive, would probably concede, that from the mid-1960s forward, a “new regime” has been constructed in Canada which has entailed the eclipse of a more traditional Canada.
Before the 1960s, while the Conservative (or, after 1942, Progressive Conservative) Party rarely held power at the federal level in Canada, the Liberal Party of long-serving Prime Minister Mackenzie King, could be characterized as “centre-traditionalist”, or “traditionalist-centrist”. While the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the precursor to the New Democratic Party) fought against the obvious inequities of capitalist economics, it was socially conservative, upholding traditional notions of nation, family, and religion.
What has occurred in Canada since the mid-1960s is a massive social and cultural transformation. Juridical, administrative and educational infrastructures now maintain the ideological hegemony of the current-day regime. As George Orwell noted, those who can control society’s understanding of the past, control the present, and those who control the present, control the future.
It might seem absurd that a straight line of evolution could be drawn from traditional Canada’s triumph at Vimy Ridge, to the enactment since the 1960s of what could be called “Canada Two.” Indeed, it could be argued that – insofar as it is holding together today at all – current-day Canada is coasting on the residues of genuine patriotism and Christian religiosity, and of the habits of good government and hard work, which the excesses of the “new regime” have not yet undermined. Canada is the world’s second largest country in surface area, with huge natural resources. It would take a special kind of stupidity to run the country’s economic and physical infrastructure into the ground.
However, those who take their bearings purely from economic achievement, and therefore pronounce current-day Canada a success, forget that matters of culture, soul, and spirit determine power-relations between different nations and religions of the world. History teaches us that a confident, exuberant belief in one’s own culture and greatness, can be a “force-multiplier” in the battles and struggles between nations and religions. Consider the self-confidence of the Spanish Conquistadors, or of the typical, nineteenth-century British Imperialist – and, centuries ago as well as today — of the typical Jihadi.
To recapture the spirit of Vimy now would require the restoration of what has been lost to Canada since the 1960s. In Canada’s WASP elites, one finds a curious mixture of self-interest and self-hatred. The self-interest is obvious – they enjoy a standard of living way above that of the “poor” whom they claim to champion, as well as of the “reactionary” lower-middle-classes whom they loathe. At the same time, members of the WASP elites abase themselves before the “recognized minorities.”
Since there have also been positive aspects in Canada’s development since the 1960s, it has been proposed that a more positive conception of Canada’s future could be termed “Canada Three.” The idea would be to amalgamate the salutary aspects of traditional Canada with the more positive achievements of the post-1960s period – notably wide-spread prosperity. Insofar as the stupyfying influences of the mass-media and education systems could somehow be mitigated, Canada’s beneficial economic climate could ensure a far worthier, far nobler life for most Canadians. This would entail the recognition of the importance of traditional patriotism and religiosity, civic-mindedness, and humanistic scholarship, as well as the imparting of the ability to live within one’s means, and the repudiation of the excesses of consumerism/consumptionism.
Canada’s triumph at Vimy Ridge should be an inspiration for all those engaged in the “culture wars” at home. These social, cultural, and political struggles will determine whether Canada prospers or disappears from the world-historical scene.
Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher
I went to Vimy Ridge last year – what a commanding view of the “vasty fields of France” from the hill and memorial. Explored the dank tunnels, too, which served the front line. Ghosts all about, in the air and the wind…