the garrison

“Must be something in the water.” (Robbie Robertson ) Very potent water indeed. It was the politics of the mystic. One taken in with the idea of a New Jerusalem. This concept of the “City on a Hill” which originally had a theological and apocalyptic basis would become part of the North American civil religion. The chosen land of a new Zion with the flip side containing a vision of coming destruction based on the Book of Revelation which in its wake would see a new heaven and new earth. and becomes transformed into a kind of vision of America having a redemptive role in world history, simply by being America, simply by being the kind of nation it is, without the explicit apocalyptic theological foundation. Simon de Jong’s story is one of finding a New Jerusalem within a “garrison mentality”…

---As Heritage critic he once railed against Canada Post for issuing a stamp to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Disneyland. "We are losing our identity," he argued. "We as a country are promoting a foreign, privately owned institution, a privately owned theme park and we are promoting it on our stamps." Among his most satisfying moments as an MP, he said, was getting Parliament to send a message of condolence to Yoko Ono when John Lennon was assassinated in 1980... Read More: image:

“Intellectually, Simon was very serious, but sometimes he was politically naive and unpredictable,” said Ed Broadbent, who led the New Democrats between 1975 and 1989. “He took his politics very, very seriously, but he could go off on tangents that left many in the NDP caucus, quite frankly, befuddled.”…

---The notion that America was the New Jerusalem was something that had to be claimed with some temerity. Canada was still were very much a backwater from England's perspective; and De Jong's Saskatchewan was smack on the periphery of what Europeans considered civilization. To confidently claim that this is the New Jerusalem as Tommy Douglas did, appeared to be a bit of a reach. But, they still thought, here we are. In the middle of nowhere. perhaps this is the New Jerusalem. For them, it really was this sense of a kingdom of secular believers whose conduct and whose vision of salvation through the political process would come to define a kind of holy commonwealth. Image:

Audrey McLaughlin remembers de Jong as a free-spirited MP who fought for what he believed. “He was always wired for sound, which was funny in some ways, and sad and naive in other ways, but he was never acrimonious,” said McLaughlin, who followed Broadbent as leader. “He expressed his views, but he was never sanctimonious. That wasn’t him at all. He was a good debater. He had a riotous, carefree life in the sixties and he brought that joie de vivre to caucus.” Read More:

“no intelligent idea can gain general acceptance unless some stupidity is mixed in with it” – fernando pessoa

---As head of the student union at the newly created University of Regina, where he was taking social science, he wrote a constitution in 1964 that empowered students and sparked campus unrest. A key feature of the constitution was to have the union incorporated under the societies act, which gave it independent status within the university and the authority to own property, issue debentures and borrow money. During de Jong's tenure, the university became known as the USSR - The University of Southern Saskatchewan, Regina. He served as president of the CCF youth wing, dabbled as a painter and ran an art studio. He also experimented with LSD to raise his consciousness.--- Read More: image:

Shortly before he died, he was asked what he would do if he was in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s shoes. “It’s a bit facetious, but take LSD,” he said. “See some bigger pictures.” Read More:

But De Jong, like a few others, represents and epitomizes a Canada that has historically struggled to lift itself out of deep-seated marginality, most of it self-inflicted insularity. In De Jong’s era there was a void, non articulated pan-Canadian rhetoric comprised of myths that the population would willingly let themselves believe in. Northrop Frye termed this a “garrison mentality” which was really a ghetto vision; a paradox of a small psychological frontier within a huge sparsely populated land mass: nearly uncharted wilderness juxtaposed with the imperialistic American marketing project to the south.

---Northrop Frye wrote of a "garrison mentality" in the Canadian psyche - a vestige of the early European presence here, when civilization consisted of isolated garrisons surrounded by a harsh and forbidding wilderness. "In the earliest maps of the country," he writes, "the only inhabited centres are forts, and that remains true of the cultural maps for a much later time." The "garrison mentality," as we will see, is a moral code the artist internalizes and reveals as sensibility. In the book that has brought us here today, Margaret Atwood refigures the "garrison mentality" as "survival" - a narrowing of scope that shifts our concern from sensibility to theme, from ethos to trope, from form to content. Reading Canadian literature thus becomes a search for embattled settlers, explorers, families, artists, and ecosystems variously surviving, or not, brute indifferent nature, hostile Indians, repressive Presbyterianism, obscurity, anonymity, and brute indifferent modernity.---Read More: image:


As Daniel Francis argues in his National Dreams: Myth, Memory and Canadian History: “Because we lack a common religion, language or ethnicity, because we are spread out so sparsely across such a huge piece of real estate, Canadians depend on this habit of ‘consensual hallucination’ more than any other people.” Read More:

---George Woodcock once wrote: “It might be a metaphorical exaggeration to describe Canada as a land of invisible ghettos, but certainly it is, both historically and geographically, a country of minorities that have never achieved assimilation.”--- Fred Herzog photo:



This something that De Jong was reaching for, something as big and majestic as the country:

One important difference is that Martin Buber defined the practice of ethics in very concrete forms, and his call to dialogue as the venue to god, became a concrete and actual program of personal and social transformation. In dialogue, the personal and the social are no longer divided into two separate realms. One becomes an I through a thou, but again, that i-thou relationship is explained in terms of communitarian structures of life in society.Read More:
It is a sensibility, by which I mean an understanding the mind forms of itself, its place in the world, its appropriate engagements, the uses to which it may, or must, or may not, or must not, be put. Our sensibility begins with a physical edifice, the garrison, but long after the landscape has ceased to be dotted by forts and palisades, except for the few that have been turned to national historic sites for the edification of domestic tourists, it persists as a refusal to admit the unknown or the unnamed. The culture and the individual are always on guard then against incursions. Some of these incursions are from within. When they arise within the culture as a rebellion or a heterodoxy they are quelled or ignored. When they arise within the individual they are summarily repressed. One distinguishing mark of the Canadian sensibility is that “must” and “must not” predominate over “may” and “may not.”

The “garrison mentality” is a reluctance to individuate, in Frye’s words, a “dominating herd-mind in which nothing original can grow,” a “frostbite at the roots of the Canadian imagination.” As the society grows and complicates, garrisons multiply, and the poet, making a home in one or another, and internalizing its defensive posture, declines the difficult, lonely work of self-study, his capacity for which gradually atrophies. He resorts instead to a lofty rhetoric — a debased poetry — whose purpose is to stake out an argument against a rival garrison. Canadian culture, fostering these choices, and impoverished by them, thus becomes, Frye says, “a milieu in which certain preconceived literary stereotypes are likely to interpose between the imagination and the expression it achieves.” Read More:

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