I’m a firm believer in Martin Luther King’s faith that the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice. I believe that there is a general trend of evolution of human consciousness and that we are getting smarter, kinder and more aware and awake. Of course, hard to keep the faith in the face of 45 and there’s no question that it seems like we often go one step forward and two steps back. I mean, just compare Trump’s inarticulate speech to Thomas Jefferson’s or the soft rock music I heard in the Leipzig Church to Bach or Snoop Dog’s lyrics to Rumi’s poems. Plenty of reason to be cynical and think that the trend is backwards.
But on the other hand, no one practices human sacrifice anymore. It used to be commonly accepted that if there was a drought, of course it was because the gods needed a couple of virgins thrown into the volcano. I mean, duh! everyone knows that will solve the problem! No way you can convince me that leeches sucking my blood aren’t going to heal my sickness and come on, the slaves are so darn happy down there on the plantation, why would you ever want to abolish slavery? You must be out of your mind if you think a woman has the intellectual capacity to vote, never mind run a country. And how could you not think that smoking is the coolest thing ever?!! Anyone that challenged these commonly accepted thoughts and practices was considered crazy. And then we grew up. Well, most of us.
The Pier 21 Museum in Halifax has a great exhibit about Canadian Immigration, done in the form of a timeline. Most of it was the depressing story of inclusion and exclusion, who’s in the club, who’s out, who can open the door, who will find it locked, who can step through the door and still be treated shabbily. No surprise that there were lots of Chinese Exclusion Acts, that runaway slaves were allowed in and then suffered more barbs of racist exclusion, that indigenous people were torn from their own land without a second thought. Then there were the homosexuals and communists grouped with the drug dealers and drug traffickers and then the disabled and sickly paired with married women (huh?). In short, the same old, same old hierarchy of skin color, sexual preference, gender, class.
But suddenly, in 1971 (thanks to Pierre Trudeau), it all changed and Canada formally proclaimed the first official multicultural policy, boldly stating that they now welcomed diversity. The timeline got a lot happier after that and it is true that Toronto, where I teach year after year, apparently is the world’s most multicultural city. So that’s progress, yes?
And then yesterday, I flew United from Boston to San Francisco and imagine my shock when the flight attendants came down the aisle with a hot meal!! On a domestic flight!! Hadn’t seen that for the last 10 or 15 years! What changed? The flight attendant said it was a new policy on flights over 5 hours long, but only in Economy Plus (and of course, First and Business class). I felt a little weird thinking that a few rows behind me, the peasant passengers would not partake, but hey, I’ve paid my flight dues to get the privilege! Ha ha! Maybe the next step in evolution of consciousness with trickle all the way down to the last row someday. One can only dream.
So that’s my report on progress. And, by the way, lest you’re too shocked that I didn’t share my meal with those behind me and angry at my privilege, I was the only one whose luggage didn’t arrive. Like I said, one step forward, two steps back.