Friday, May 19, 2023

History of "woke"

Conservative academic/journalist Andrew Potter catalogues in the substack The Line why he abhors design changes in the new passport: “The lengthy list of apologies for past transgressions; the acceptance of Canada as a genocidal state; allowing the country’s 150th anniversary to be turned into an orgy of national self-hatred; ordering the national flag to fly at half staff for an entire summer while blithely ignoring, for months, the factors that went into that decision; letting 24 Sussex turn into a ruin; the obscenely casual, almost sabotaging, attitude toward the appointment of a governor general; the general indifference to the Crown, the Royal Family, and what it symbolizes.”

A 20-something I know opines: “I love when he lists all the good stuff Trudeau’s done. As a Canadian nationalist I support every one.” (Try rereading that list with a positive tilt.)

I'm far from being a twenty-year old, but I'm with the kid on this one. It's depressing how often "History" is assumed to be on the side of the reactionaries. 

Meanwhile, Parks Canada is considering revisions to the texts of almost ten percent of the more than 2000 heritage plaques it maintains around the country. So, for instance, old plaques at fur trade posts will now give more recognition to the indigenous role in the trade. It's part of Parks Canada's response to Call to Action #79 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ("to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration").  Frankly, it sounds like this could be routine maintenance anyway: how many historians would not consider reassessing things they wrote fifty years ago when they were being republished?

Yet people who should know better -- including a former Parks Canada VP, Heritage Conservation quoted in the article -- declare "a new woke perspective is being imposed on what was formerly an apolitical ... process."  Yeah, right.

I'm an old Parks hand myself (Historic Sites Branch, natch), and I've often noted Parks Canada's long held grasp of "commemoration, not celebration." The first of my (very few) ventures into drafting text for plaques was at Louisbourg, when a plaque about James Wolfe was being reviewed to make it a little less "Rule Britannia" in spirit.  Parks Canada, from administering sites like the Plains of Abraham (and Batoche) has long had opportunities to consider the pitfalls of picking sides, and it's good to know that process continues.

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