Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Skjærtorsdag (I)

Leonardo da Vinci’s (Italian, 1452-1519) painting of the Last Supper
Denne dagen skulle Jesus holde påskemåltid sammen med disiplene. Det var den vanlige måten å feire påske på for jødene, de holdt måltid på samme måte som Israelsfolket hadde gjort den første påsken i Egypt over tusen år tidligere.

This day would Jesus eat the Passover with his disciples. It was the usual way to celebrate Easter with the Jews; they were eating the same way that the people of Israel had done the first Passover in Egypt over a thousand years earlier.

I thought that I would start this post on Maundy Thursday with a little Norwegian language quote because I’ve been in Norway, Thursday comes from a Norse word meaning Thor’s day and finally it would create curiosity. Today is a holiday in Norway but not in Sweden so they do the same thing that all good consumers do and go shopping. They have an annual trek to the shopping malls in Sweden called harrytur where towns like Strömstad have huge sales of alcohol and tobacco which is much more expensive in Norway. It’s a bit like Torontonians travelling to the discount malls in Buffalo, New York except they forage in Sweden with all the rapacity of Vikings pillaging coastal towns in the Middle Ages.  Skjærtorsdag is deconstructed into Skjær (“cut”) and torsdag (“Thursday”). This is because it was customary for men to cut their beards on this day since spring was coming and the weather was getting warmer. In Sweden it is associated with the day of witches where young children dress as witches and knock on doors for candy.

Maundy Thursday is used in the Anglican Church and originated with the Latin word “mandatum” which comes from the first word in the Latin translation of the Gospel of John (13:34) bible verse. “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you") was spoken by Jesus at the last supper. The washing of feet to represent humility is part of the service. This is the point at which I shift for a moment to Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” where he hypothesizes about various aspects of the Last Supper picture. Is John on the right of Jesus really Mary Magdalene? The painting has faded, been washed during a flood and had a door cut in the bottom so it’s hard to judge. Folk have continued to bring up new ideas about the painting. One person suggested that the heads of the people in the painting are actually musical notes that when reversed in a mirror (Da Vinci would sometimes use mirror reversal) referred to a contemporary musical piece. The fallen saltshaker on the table could represent bad luck. Does the fish represent a reminder that several of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen and Jesus grew up near Lake Tiberias?  Is the fish a herring or an eel?  The Italian word for eel is “aringa” and “arringa” means indoctrination and the word for herring is “renga” which means he who denies religion. We’ll always query symbolic codes in the painting.
The basic message is humility and altruism. Not popular with Steven Harper and the Conservative party in Canada’s current election campaign. If the Liberal party is the house of Hillel then the Conservative party is the house of Shammai. At least Shammai was faithful to the Law while the Harperites flout parliamentary tradition. Speaker of the house, Peter Milliken, made a ruling on contempt of parliament. This is the first time in Canadian history that a government has fallen due to a non confidence vote on this topic as well as in any of the 54 countries of the British Commonwealth. The wording is as follows:
That this House denounce the conduct of the government, its disregard for democracy and its determination to go to any lengths to advance its partisan interests and impose its regressive ideology, as it did by justifying the Conservative Party's circumvention of the rules on election spending in the 2005-2006 election campaign, when the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism used public funds to solicit donations to the Conservative Party, when the Party used taxpayers’ money to finance a pre-election campaign under the guise of promoting Canada’s Economic Action Plan, when it changed the wording in government communications to promote itself, when it showed that it is acceptable for a minister to alter a document and make misleading statements to the House, when it refused to provide a parliamentary committee with the costs of its proposals, and when it improperly prorogued Parliament.
A few comments: When a parliament is prorogued, between two legislative sessions, the legislature is still constituted and the prorogation causes all orders of the body such as bills and orders to be expunged. Prorogations are not recesses, adjournments, or holiday breaks from legislation, after which bills can resume exactly where they left off. Harper did this twice in one year to avoid contentious issues which is an inappropriate use of the procedure and flouts parliamentary tradition. This is a direct threat to democracy. I went to the anti prorogation demonstration in Toronto to publicly display my disapproval.
Myself at the Anti-prorogation demonstration

Harper has also announced his intention after the election to eliminate the public funding of parties’ electoral costs which amounts to approximately $2 per vote won in the previous election. He would like to adopt the American system where private funding by special interest groups and lobbies are so important and have a major effect on legislation to the detriment of public interest. If the Conservatives win a majority then they will try again to reverse the CRTC decision not to allow false or misleading information to be broadcast thus enabling Fox news north. The Prime Minister’s office also issued a directive this year that the phrase “Government of Canada” be replaced with “the Harper government” in all government communications so that citizens who have a marginal understanding of civics think it’s his government. We don’t elect Prime Ministers. We  elect members of parliament.
Part of a very large crowd at the demonstration

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