Friday, May 10, 2019

Learning From Our History

Brian Joseph Johns
Yesterday was a typical Thursday for myself. I ventured out to one of the local food banks, in this case the Allen Gardens Food Bank as I often do every two weeks.

As many of you know, I've spent much effort learning of other cultures at least as much as I have my own cultural heritage. Much of my early learning came from television stations like TVO and PBS, which give a very unbiased look at a wide variety of topics from history.

There are many people who believe that what you choose to eat and drink influences your biases in terms of whether you're being warm or cold blooded in relation to the cultural origins of the foods you eat. For instance, there are some people who believe that if your Spanish or South American and you drink coffee, that you are being very blood centric largely based upon the misconception that coffee originated in Spain and with the Spanish.

There are misconceptions in that very topic with regard to the drink tea, which most people believe to be primarily British. Hence if you drink a cup and you happened to be of British descent, you're being very warm blooded (as opposed to someone who isn't British drinking tea would be cold blooded). Once again we have a misconception about the origins of tea as we do coffee. I'd learned of these things both from reading and from shows I've watched on TVO, PBS and even BBC.

In my community its a constant hot versus cold game between the citizens thereof and one from which I most often try to keep myself away but despite my best efforts, I often get drawn into it. Thursday was just such a case.

I happened to drink a cup of courtesy coffee from the food bank and someone had claimed that I had "flipped blood" as a result. I'm part Spanish so they were clearly referring to that aspect of my heritage. I'm also part Welsh, French and Cree (Aboriginal). So sometimes I'm watched closely by people for whatever reason for what I eat and drink to further them in this hot or cold, red or blue game.

So I happened to bring up the fact that coffee isn't actually Spanish at all. It originated from Arabia and Turkey and during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, it was spread throughout central Asia and Europe. As the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire fought and lands changed hands, coffee made its way further throughout Europe and Asia and of course within Spain itself.

It was Spain that brought coffee to the Americas during its conquest of South America and that's where the history of coffee in South America began. So coffee isn't even originally Spanish but I still drink it and love it. Thanks in large part to the British, Spanish, Dutch and French and the Silk Road, we have a global trade network that largely resulted in coffee becoming associated with South America, as it was one of the most plentiful crops (aside from other currently illegal crops).

Likewise, tea is actually from China and it is their cultivating methods and that gave us all of the varieties of tea that we now enjoy throughout the world. You see, the British were looking to grow tea in India, one of the holdings of the British Empire at the time. A spy was sent to China and this man learned directly from the tea growers there how to cultivate and process tea. This spy took several plants and the knowledge of the process and brought it to India where he setup tea plantations for the British Empire.

The British Empire having the largest trade network in the world at the time brought tea everywhere else. Ultimately though we have to remember that coffee originated from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, while tea and the processes required to cultivate it and harvest it originated from China. That doesn't make the British Empire the big bad wolf anymore than it does Spain.

I learned these things from channels like TVO and I'm not in the least bit offended with that knowledge even with heritage being partly Welsh and Spanish. I think its important to know history and to know about ourselves in that way because when we honour the truth in that way, we're really learning from the whole of our past and doing so opens to doors to a more peaceful world.

So when I heard the Ford is cutting funding to public television stations like TVO in Ontario, that kind of struck me seeing as this all happened recently and I have to wonder if there isn't a movement to keep us from learning about our history or views that don't cast the our origins in the best light.

The truth is that nobody should ever avert learning from their own history or their own mistakes. When we learn from our own past or of that of others, we're progressing greatly and in strides compared to if we buried and forgot about the worst of our history. Part of our identity comes from that very aspect, and being able to understand ourselves means being able to understand our own history. Even the worst parts of it. So covering that up by limits the educational outlets of our children and society is definitely going to hurt us in the long run. Honouring the truth of history too will garner us many allies that we didn't realize that we had all along.

I'm proud of my heritage but I'll never let it be a ball and chain that limits my opinions or options in life. The best way to deal with people who would use the truth of your history to confine you is to be knowledgeable rather than ignorant of it. Having said that, I'm very much opposed to these budget cuts targeting public television stations like TVO, TFO and the CBC.

Friends Of Canadian Broadcasting is in fact doing something about this. They plan to call 10,000 different Conservative MPs and let them know the facts which indicate the 73% of Ontarians support increasing funding for TVO and TFO including 66% of which would vote or voted for Doug Ford.

If you want to donate to this cause click this link (or the one above).

Anyway, I hope that you're all doing well and perhaps I'll be posting soon. Oh and I still don't play guitar.

Brian Joseph Johns

200 Sherbourne Street #701
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5A 3Z5



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