JULY 1ST IS CELEBRATED as a national holiday, known colloquially as Canada Day, but officially designated Dominion Day. Whether you'll be puttering about the house, sweating outside in the garden, or taking time off work to kick back and relax, I would urge you to take a few minutes out of the day to reflect upon the meaning of this word 'dominion'. The oldest ancestor of this word is the Greek 'domos', which simply means 'house' or 'home'. The first derivation of the word was the addition of the suffix 'nus', which denotes the relationship of ownership, the possession of property, resulting in the Latin 'dominus', meaning 'lord' or 'master'. So 'dominion' means domination: command, control, power, privilege.
THE TWENTY-SIXTH VERSE of the first chapter of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, reads: "And Elohim said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.'" Putting aside for the time being the interesting implications of this verse being the very first instance of the Elohim-Deity referring to itself, and it doing so in the plural first-person, at that -- the only time that this occurs in the entire Mosaic codex -- we note that the first textual reference to humankind is indelibly linked with domination over all of the other species on the planet, even the very living planet itself.
STATISTICIANS ESTIMATE that Christians constitute about 33% of the population of the planet, Muslims make up 21%; Jews only amount to about a quarter of a percent, so altogether, adherents of the three major Middle-Eastern monotheistic religions add up to over half of the people on the planet. And as is graphically demonstrated in the video clip below, these cultures have come to conquer and politically control the overwhelming majority of the earth's land mass. This is not to posit that Hinduism, Buddism, or any other sedentary spiritual traditions treat the earth with any more respect that does this trinity; but it is these three religions that have the most amount of influence in Canadian culture.
CONSIDER THAT THIS one sentence, Genesis 1:26, has provided our culture with the ideological basis for its singular supremacy. Certainly, those of us that benefit by obtaining Canadian citizenship have a deep responsibility to the indigenous inhabitants of lands near and far that have been displaced and nearly erased by colonialism and disaster capitalism, lethal forces with which we are complicit. But the dominant paradigm of dominance has been applied not only to other human cultures, but even more so to other non-human cultures. The sorry state of the planet cannot be reversed by buying low-energy light bulbs; the real healing begins only when we abandon our attitude of detachment and accept other living beings, including the green ones that grow all around our houses, as our equals.
THE FRENCH-CANADIAN name for Dominion Day is 'Le Jour de la Confederation', or Confederation Day. The evolution of this word 'confederation', is rather intriguing, as well. The etymological root of Confederation is the Proto-Indo-European 'bid', meaning 'to offer' (it still carries the same connotation in modern English). From this we derive the Latin 'fidere', which means 'to trust', and subsequently the Latin 'foederis', a 'covenant', which is an agreement. So the original definition of 'federal' is 'pertaining to an agreement', and the word 'federation' is first used in 1721 (from the Latin 'foederare') to mean 'together in agreement'. The classical prefix 'con' also denotes 'togetherment', so a precise rendering of 'confederation' would be 'coming together in agreement'.
WE JUST CELEBRATED the astronomical mid-point of the year, summer solstice, on June 21, and tomorrow we mark the empirical mid-point of the year, July 1. School's out for the season, kids are playing in the street, and the sun won't set until very late. When we celebrate our holy days -- be they religious, cultural, national, or some kind of creole combination of all three -- let us do so with positive intent; this year on Canada Day, let us commit to make this country truly multicultural -- and multispecies. To all of our clients and co-workers, friends and family, have a safe summer, and may we live next to one other not in domination, but in confederation; and may we meet on the street not in competition, but in cooperation.