LONDON, ONTARIO – Following a two-year moratorium on such gatherings so as to flatten the infectious spread of a wicked man-made virus, last weekend we were able to attend a Christmas luncheon at the Delta London Armouries Hotel with a group of unhinged conservatives with whom we occasionally consort. It was great to get together with friends once again. And it was just as encouraging to see the dozens of other small parties (some of whom might even have been Communists or Liberals for all I know) freely mingling with nary a mask in sight at one of the finest smorgasbords in town.
While our civic and medical overlords do not dare to try to lock us down again – at least not yet – a supine and paid-off media continues to pass along their vague, fear-drenched warnings that we plebeians had better exercise ‘an abundance of caution’ in every aspect of our lives if we don’t want to have our liberties withdrawn once again. Well, phooey on that. We are not children and they certainly aren’t our parents. Yet they stamp their feet and call up to us from the bottom of the stairs: “Don’t make us come up there or you’ll be sorry.” The arrogance with which they have wielded an authority that is not theirs – and which we never handed over to them – is monstrous.
A leadership that actually wanted to help its people to flourish during a time of trouble would not curtail their freedoms of movement, speech, association and worship ... would not shut down the careers and livelihoods of the currently disfavored and starve entire sectors of the economy ... would not piss away a nation’s treasure and then borrow against any possibility of recovery by ploughing yet more imaginary mountains of money into delusional sinkholes that are supposed to modify the weather a hundred years from now.
Sure, we all know friends who – though they aren’t immuno-compromised in any way – still regard themselves as at risk and cannot summon the courage to come out from under their beds. And perhaps some of them never shall. Truly, and perhaps most numerously, I rank such brow-beaten souls among the casualties of Covid. But signs that the old ‘ooga-booga’ isn’t working like it used to, are everywhere.
Bottles of hand sanitizer on a prim little stand no longer confront you as you walk through every doorway. And those that are still in place go largely un-pumped. Each successive formulation of an anti-Covid booster finds fewer willing arms to receive the dubious injection. A lot of healthy young people at zero risk were cowed into taking a shot for the sake of their Gran; then swore off subsequent injections when Pfizer admitted to the European Union Covid Committee that their vaccine had never been designed to stop the spread of Covid.
In the wake of that little bombshell, I noticed that people who still asked me why I’d refused to even take the first shot, replaced, “Are you out of your mind?” with “How did you know?” I didn’t know. I just mistrusted the witless mantras of all these idiots barking at me to “follow the science”. And in perhaps the most cheering development of all – because the change it heralds is manifested so unconsciously – I’m finding more situations where people are shaking hands and neither party bothers to impart that tentative glance of sheepy neurosis to first make sure that it’s okay.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Though they accomplished diddly-squat in retarding the spread of Covid, lots of other things did get flattened by the heavy-handed lockdowns and the inconsistent and hypocritical manner in which they were imposed. Paramount on that list of the irretrievably squashed would be any sense of trust in a whole range of supposedly public institutions that turned on the very people whose best interests they were supposed to represent and uphold. That list of institutions would include our governments at every level, the police and military authorities, the medical establishment and big pharma and our schools and our media and press; all of whom worked together in a destructive campaign of social coercion.
Now that the harassments have lifted a little, a lot of people are looking back on what was done to us in the name of ‘safety’ and shuddering at the memory. I sometimes wonder how it all sits now with Jane Sims, a first-rate journalist whose fair-minded London Free Press reportage I admired until these last couple years. Now that Sims has stepped down from her unfortunate post as our daily paper’s hectoring Covid hallway monitor, does she have any regrets about the way in which she incessantly maligned anyone who tried to stand against the medical/legal/governmental establishment’s usurpation of Canadians’ rights to bodily autonomy and freedom of speech?
In truth, we probably should have been more leery of all of these institutions three years ago. But having learned what traitorous tyrants they can become when left unchecked, we must fight to make sure that they never again have the leeway to cloak their craven will to control as an act of community service. The surest way to accomplish this, it seems to me, is to openly reject the shabby premises on which their freedom-cancelling incursions are predicated. We need to stop parroting their lies and refuse to comply with their nation-annihilating agenda.
A prime example of the sort of bullshit I will no longer play along with is the insidious ‘Land Acknowledgement’ which precedes more and more concerts, plays, ceremonies and even church services. You all know the fatuous drill by now. A pasty white dude or dude-ette shuffles up to the front of the stage and sanctimoniously announces that before our proceedings can get underway, we need to take a moment to acknowledge that non-indigenous Canadians have no right to be here because several centuries before we were born, some Indians lived in this neck of the woods and our rapacious European forefathers tricked or intimidated them into giving us the use of their land.
So should we all get up and leave, apologizing on our way out the door for trespassing where we don’t belong? Shouldn't we put things to rights by giving somebody a big bag of money or handing over the deed to this building? And what about when we get back to our homes where we’ve been faithfully paying off our mortgages or rent? That’s in the same neck of the woods as this place. Are we even entitled to sleep in our own beds?
No, no, you’re taking all this too literally. There’s no need to pay restitution or anything like that. This is just a tokenistic gesture we make – utterly devoid of any sort of obligation or follow-through – to show that we have a more heightened moral conscience than certain other people we might mention. No, all we mean by any of this is that you should feel fundamentally ashamed of yourselves and your heritage and every one of your forebears. You are a worthless excuse of a human being and nothing you can ever do will expiate one iota of your wickedness. Now, sit back and enjoy the show.
So for our little gathering last weekend, I prepared my own land acknowledgement, paying subversive homage to the people whose hard work and generosity and ingenuity gave form to the place that I am fully entitled to call my home.
WE ACKNOWLEDGE that the Delta London Armouries is located on land whose earliest known occupants were the Neutral Indians. The Neutrals (along with the Huron, Petun and Erie nations) were violently decimated and driven from the area by the Iroquois nation in the early 1650s. Control of the land was subsequently ceded to the British Crown in the 1790s when the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, one John Graves Simcoe, decided in some sort of fever dream, that the entire area around the forks of the Thames River was ideally situated to become the capital of this newly minted British colony.
In 1838 a military garrison was set up two blocks northwest of here in what is now Victoria Park. The British Army commenced its thirty-year residence in London in response to the December Rebellion of 1837. At that anxious moment in colonial history, many of the supporters of William Lyon Mackenzie and St. Thomas radical Dr. Charles Duncombe, fled south across the border to the northernmost States from where it was thought they posed a significant threat to the communities in the southwestern peninsula of Canada West which stretched from London down to Windsor (or Sandwich as it was then called). Later on the garrison was maintained so as to thwart the possibility of Fenian raids on the London area in the discombobulated wake of the American Civil War. Neither of these threats ever really materialized; perhaps because of the garrison’s watchful presence. But that protection was not the only benefit which the garrison provided London.
When the garrison was originally established, London was a struggling district town with a population of 1300. So the addition of four hundred British troops and their dependents (all of whom needed to be regularly provisioned by local merchants and suppliers) was a real boon to London’s early development, both economically and culturally. Many garrison soldiers and virtually all of their officers were well-educated men and when they weren't exactly run off their feet with quelling rebellions, they were able to turn their ample energies to recreational pursuits; starting up London’s first theatres, choirs and athletic teams. Our first sports field – a cricket pitch – was laid out on the garrison grounds.
Some of the better-born men of the garrison were also coveted as potential husbands for the daughters of London's more socially ambitious families. Many dances and dinners – with nubile London lasses in low-cut Regency gowns ladling out the punch – were arranged to help facilitate such mergers. Most notoriously, the over-daughtered Harris family of Eldon House would eventually nab no less than four officers in matrimony.
When the British troops withdrew from London in 1869, defense of the area was taken over by the Canadian militia. And they were the ones who built the historic shell of this hotel as a replacement armoury in 1905 at a total cost of $135,000. London’s new armoury served as a drill shed and headquarters of units affiliated with every branch of the militia: artillery, cavalry, armoured regiments, engineers, infantry and the medical and service corps. Similar armouries – with the same distinctive crenelated towers, octagonal chimneys, large, arched windows and enormous hardwood floors – were built in communities throughout Ontario and served as training bases for soldiers during both World Wars and for many years afterwards. Some are still functional today.
But what with Wolsley Barracks and all, London had an embarrassment of military facilities and in 1976, a cost-trimming Department of National Defence decided to close the London armoury. For the next twelve years Londoners braced themselves for what seemed to be its certain demolition. We certainly were going to miss its distinctive profile in the very heart of downtown. Then in 1988, hotel magnate Donald Wharton came up with the wildly unorthodox idea of leaving all of the exterior walls intact, gutting the interior, and audaciously constructing a twenty-storey hotel tower in its centre. While preferable to demolition, it all sounded a little crazy at the time. But today, few deny the ingenuity of Wharton’s vision.
Well, I’ve rambled on long enough. In truth, my very favourite formulation of land acknowledgement is only five words long and it goes like this: “It’s good to be here.” Hoping that you might perhaps share that sentiment, I hereby raise a toast, inviting you all to join me in a not-quite military salute to this unlikely architectural mashup which turned out to be a milestone of heritage management and good old capitalist pluck.
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THE AQUINAS LECTURE
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