This Quebec election is part of something old

Posted 08.21.12

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | As I get older, I'm surprised to find that some of my prejudices are getting stronger, not dying away.

Naively, I expected grand-fatherhood to be on the warm and cozy side -- and for the most part it is, but one group of prejudices seem tough to deal with. They have to do with our genetic backgrounds -- mine originally from Irish soil.

My ancestry is virtually pure Irish, and the prejudice is that after four or five generations in Canada, I still viscerally react to many things English. My wife and kids roll their eyes . . . it's actually the British class system that rubs my soul raw, such that the honorific "Sir" feels more like a slur or a mark of ill-begotten gain.

I've read a little of Celtic and Gaelic history. Its patterns are fascinating, in particular in relation to North America. If one compares, for example, the territory of the British Isles with America, both expanses were conquered from the east by a radically different race and culture aggressively pushing westward.

Compare the Celts and Gaels to North American native peoples; compare the Euro-settled American republic to the much, much earlier waves of Angles, Saxons, and Normans who pushed the Celts and Gaels westward and northward, bathed in blood and treachery, just as Native Americans were pushed westward and north. In the British Isles, the original peoples managed to hang on to large territories in the west (Ireland) and north (Highland Scotland), until finally the British Empire extended its power completely.

Several time-telescopes here, but this is a process of conquest that is often repeated -- Mexico and Peru were spectacularly horrible repeats.

My conclusion is that history never leaves us; we remain in history's grasp, ever so mildly, perhaps, but in a grip that sometimes shows itself in surprising ways.

In Quebec, we constantly repeat the broad history of English-French competition, which began upon the break-up of the Roman Empire. Recall the wars and expeditions, the carnage, economic battles, and personal feuds between French and British royal houses. And here in Aylmer we find those old battles breaking out of our genetic unconscious in surprising, if mild, ways -- especially in elections.

Few of us were royalty when those genetic blueprints were laid down, yet we have carried royalty's burdens and conflicts within our spirits generation after generation. What bone did a stonemason in Paris have against a shepherd in Suffolk? The same battle a farmer in Cork had against an innkeeper in Warminster? And here we are today, still nursing some of these old scars, getting a bad taste when we hear an accent, suspecting a motive from someone with a certain name or complexion . . . still carrying the battles for the big shots.

In the current election, we should constantly remember to resist appeals to these old rivalries and genetic triggers. We can be manipulated much, much too easily via our genetic-based emotions.

Copyright © 2012 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/08.12