Shoe Leather, Trauma and Change

by Ray Grigg

“Wear leather on your feet,” taught a Hindu guru, “and the whole world is covered in leather.” So it is that when we’re hungry, all we see is food; when we’re freezing, all we know is cold. And when we live in a country in which the prime minister has ruled like an Iranian ayatollah — flagrantly abusing democratic traditions, disregarding evidence, silencing science and gutting established environmental regulations — all we experience is despair.

This despair has been visceral and palpable for people who are connected to their country and the Earth in a holistic way. Consider nearly ten years of Stephen Harper’s single obsession with economics and, for some, his record may seem relatively harmless. But examine all his behaviour in its totality and the resulting pattern is chilling: obsessive control, legislation by ideology, endless court challenges, blatant political opportunism, suppression of evidence, a cultivated amorphous fear, a fracturing of the country’s psyche into antagonistic parts.

Worse, perhaps, than all this has been his environmental offences, a disrespect for the natural world as if it were not the fundamental source of our nourishment, the basis of our security, and the hope for our future. Nature to Stephen Harper was an impediment, an obstruction, an lifeless resource, an object to be dominated rather than a miracle to be respected, honoured and loved.

This was a traumatic decade, interspersed with unpredictable and outrageous acts of vicious affronts to the sacred integrity of Canada’s crucially important ecologies. It will take us a while to regain our balance and optimism, to shed the pervasive apprehension that he inflicted with his policies, his muzzling, his attitude and his character.

On the morning of November 4th, in Ottawa, Stephen Harper was driven to the Governor General at Rideau Hall to resign as Prime Minister of Canada. The day was sunny and bright, the sky a translucent blue, the autumn leaves cheerfully colouring the nation’s capital — the old was ending so the new could begin. As he got out of his limousine, he looked alone and small, somewhat harmless and innocuous, no longer the commanding force that once shaped the psyche of the entire country by the power of his will.

Later at Rideau Hall, Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau and his 30 cabinet members took their oaths of office. The solemnity quickly became a carnival, a joyful celebration of renewal, a reclaimed vitality and freshness. The country suddenly felt alive and young, no longer ruled by a single leader but now led into its promising tomorrows by a cabinet family with experience, expertise, insight and competence. In a matter of moments the healing seemed to begin, the impossible felt as if it were once again possible. The world, no longer covered in leather, was once more alive and responsive beneath feet that could again feel and respond to its urgent needs.

Reflection, of course, tells us that this euphoria is the initial phase of a release from oppression. Caution tell us that our expectations will exceed reality. But this momentary illusion is better for the soul than obstruction, frustration and despair. We will need time to recover from a decade of trauma and begin the long journey to our distant dreams.