Christmas Eve. This is not going to be a religious blog. But it will be religious. (Don't even ask what the difference is.)
On a Christmas Eve when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, my parents, my sister and I were at a Christmas Eve supper in the basement of a small, mission church in the North End of Montreal. Bored and anxious to get home in case there was a present, I slouched over my meal, head and shoulders leaning over the plate.
"Graeme. Sit up straight. Eat your supper like a Christian."
My mother's theology was the grimmest Calvinism from her home in the Scottish highlands. In her view, that habit of the highlands determined what Christianity was. Christians sat up straight when eating. Christians wore neckties to church. Christians put their dishes in the sink after supper
"Aw, mom, this is boring."
She fixed me with the eye of an avenging devil who has found her sinner for the day.
"This is church. Y're dinna her to enjoy y'rsel'."
We all make religion into something we want it to be. Some people insist that Christianity means believing that Mary was a virgin - as it Jesus went around sticking out His tongue at people, and saying "n'ya, n'ya. My mother's a virgin - and your's isn't."
Or they think it's about saving themselves (which seems to me remarkably selfish) so they can spend eternity clapping hands and praising God which, surely, would get both boring and hard on the hands before even the first million years were up.
Actually, religions, almost all of them, make more sense than that. In fact, you don't need to believe in God or Mary's virginity, or Jesus as the son of God - let alone with irrelevant chatter about being born in a manger, and the animals all starting to talk.
Religion is more important than that. It's about how we survive as individuals and as a society. You'll find that in Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinudism, just about any religion you can think of. Love thy neighbour isn't just a fluttery piece of goody-goody. It's necessary for a society to survive. It's necessary for the whole world to survive.
There was nothing arbitrary about the rules of the ten commandments. And it really doesn't matter whether they were written in lightning by God or made up by Moses. Picture Moses. He had a mob out there with no organization, no laws. They weren't going to survive for a month in the desert without rules. A society which accepted murder, stealing, greed simply would not have made it.
Christmas Eve is not (or should not be) about angels and wise men. It's about the code of morals were have settled on so that we can live and survive together. And they are remarkably similar to those of other religions. (Oh. I know. Some religions don't treat their women as nicely as we do. How easy it is to forget that it took us Christians two thousand years to give our women equal status - and they still suffer inequalities and violence. Less than a century ago, it was still legal in Canada for a man to beat his wife.)
The trouble is we confine our morals pretty much to those moments when we're in church, and in occasional outbursts of loving our neighbours - as in turkey drives.
The even bigger trouble is that big business, with all respect an public showings of faith, has hopelessly corrupted our morality. It uses its power to demand lower taxes for itself and lower salaries for employees even as millions suffer. (In the US, one million public school children are now homeless. Guess what their chances in life are.)
In Canada and the US, poverty is rising, especially among children, while the very rich are pulling in record profits.
Big business has, in fact, evolved its own morality, a morality that has no thought whatever of people or of the future. In the new morality, greed is good. Killing for profit is quite reasonable. True, it's a pretty shallow morality. But it's backed up by power, power in the ownership of politicians and in the ownership of news media. Our society and our future are being determined by people who care only for themselves, and are motivated only by greed.
The corruption and the moral rot that big business (with the help of politicians and news media) have spread is destroying American society. With the destruction of any any moral code, with the economic and social abuse of most Americans, with indifference to the suffering that has become so widespread, they have destroyed the United States. And there is no economic need for that. For a small example, tiny Cuba, one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, maintains a health system far superior to that of the US. Meanwhile, the US is cutting the miserable and exploitive system that is all it has.
Americans have not yet begun to see the bottom of the hole they have been driven into.
Harper is much in tune with that. He has destroyed most of our environmental protection out of his love for big business and his indifference to the rest of us. He will certainly begin cuts to medicare as soon as possible - and he would dearly love to kill CBC, the only competent and honest news service in the country.
The private news media in New Brunswick are simply propaganda agents for the rich. They mislead, they lie, they hide news. Their job is to set us up as suckers. They don't have even the beginning of a concept of journalistic ethics.
If there is any moral code that governs the Liberals and Conservatives of this province, I would be delighted to hear of it. The best remembered ones have been skilful "fixers" for big business - and have been well rewarded for it.
Even at the city council level, we see it. There is no future. There is only now. And now means launching land purchases and grand schemes that benefit the very rich while - maybe -having small benefits for the rest of us and - certainly - with us taking all the risk.
The corporation bosses, news media, and politicians seem to have no morality whatever,no ambition except to loot. And looting inevitably leads to destruction.
Religion is, or should be a practical matter. Our religions supply us with the moral code we need to survive. It is not something separate from daily life, something that happens only in a place of worship. There are very sound reasons why we should love our neighbour, why we should not kill......
But the rot and corruption an indifference run deep in New Brunswick.
By all means enjoy Christmas Eve. As with other, similar religions, this is an occasion to celebrate a moral code that has served well. Let's make sure we keep that moral code in mind when we judge the business, political and news media leaders of the province.
And don't worry about sitting up straight. That's not part of any religions moral code. The Highland Scots just think that any uncomfortable must be religious. So you just sprawl and enjoy yourself.