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the loss of Cape Breton churches - a cultural genocide

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Marx once said," religion is the opium of the people." Unfortunately, this Trite truism has been taken out of context. When we look at the fourth paragraph of Marx's "critique of Hegel's philosophy of right" We find the full context from which the aforementioned truism was plucked, which is as follows, "Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

Marx understood the inherent contradiction within religion,namely that religion contains within it's nexus the abstracted notion of right and humanities intrinsic need to have community. As such, religion can promote liberation or oppression.  With this being said, it must be understood that religion's tendency to oppress or liberate is dependent upon the conciseness of the people; it is not intrinsic to the institution.

The history of Cape Breton is a history of class struggle, a history of fighting against corporate exploitation and oppression. Because of the hard work of Cape Breton unions and the hard work of working-class revolutionaries like Dawn Fraser and J.B McLaughlin, the people were able to develop a working-class consciousness; they were able to understand their material conditions and struggle against exploitation and oppression in order to build a class based ethos of collectivism. This ethos of collectivism may was  founded to a large degree and celebrated within the structures of strong Cape Breton unions while also being celebrated in a strong church community that helped to build the consciousness of the Cape Breton working class

Throughout Cape Breton's history there has been a dialectical and often concentric connection between the labor movement and the church community so it should not be a surprise to see the loss of church community seeing that our labor community has been decimated over the last 20 years. To quote an old friend of mine, a former resident of New Waterford  who is referencing the ownership of churches and their icons, "almost all of those elaborate ornate structures were paid by poor hard working miners who did a pay check off every week. They were paid pennies in horrible working conditions and every parish tried to outdo the lavishness of the adjoining community's church"

Some of my fist memories as a kid are of driving to town with my mom and waiting in the Sydney Steel Plant parking lot to pick up my dad. Sometimes he was getting off a double shift, something he often did as a favor so that a co-worker could have extra time off to be at his kid's hockey tournament, a gesture that was often reciprocated. Other times we would be waiting an hour because he did an extra long shift on the picket line out of a sense of duty to his fellow workers and his community.

Over the last 20-30 years with the advent of neo-liberalism, with it's union busting, nation wrecking and privatization, we Caper's have seen the demise of our steel plant and our mines, both of which played an important part in the building of Canada - you cannot build a prosperous society without your own steel and means of producing electricity. As a result of this, we have not only seen a loss of economic wealth in the working class, we have seen the loss of human capital with massive out migration of our people (it is a common understanding in Cape Breton that our biggest export is our people) and the loss of social capital with the rise of bourgeois liberalism and it's post modern secularism, subjectivism and capitalist individualism

When a community losses it's human, social and financial capital, so too will it loose those special institutions that celebrate community. As an atheist and as someone who was born and raised in Cape Breton, I have no problem saying that the loss of Cape Breton churches and church property is not only a travesty, it is unacceptable!! first we saw the loss of Gaelic culture, then we saw the loss of good union paying jobs and good industry, then we say the out migration of our people along with a degridation of our ethos of shared collectivism, now we are seeing the loose of the institutions and properties that we have used to celebrate our ethos of shared collectivism, namely our churches, church halls and their adjacent properties.

It is time we courageously call this what it is; whether it is us paying for the Vatican sanctioned ideology and behavior of pedophilia or it is us being punished by the capitalist class or the state who are both hooked on the drug of neo-liberalism,  the fact is, Cape Breton has suffered and continues to suffer from cultural genocide at the hands of the capitalist class, the state and now the church!!! It has to stop!! We have nothing but our chains to loose!!
                                          Aaron Doncaster, resident of Calgary, Albert

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