Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Truth and Reconciliation: The Parody

Truth and reconciliation: those sound like good things. Who could be against either? Even better, the phrase is a reference to the successful process in South Africa of getting past the fearsome wounds of apartheid. Who’s against Nelson Mandela?

Hey, let’s strike a commission!

Confucius once said the chief task of government is making sure words mean what they are supposed to mean. It is too easy and too common to disguise something disreputable through a misuse of words to make it sound good. That is the path to all bad policy.

If you want to put something over on people, call it truth and reconciliation.

Truth? The Canadian Commission is mostly here to demonize the residential schools. “Its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools,” as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. That it would find the residential schools an abomination was a foregone conclusion. That was the premise. The IRSSA already had. What if it had found nothing?

The main thrust of their criticism is that the residential schools were not sufficiently committed to apartheid. They treated Indian children too much as though they were like other Canadians. And so this crime called “cultural genocide.”

If apartheid was wrong, if Nelson Mandela and the South African Truth and Reconciliation process were right, then the residential schools, to the extent that this charge is true, were the right idea. Justice Sinclair and his commission are defending the views of P.W. Botha and Eugene Terreblanche, insisting that minorities must be kept separate from and treated differently from members of the mainstream culture. As long as the sun shines and the grass grows. Bantustans today, bantustans tomorrow, bantustans forever.

The commission does not seem confident that it knows what the word “truth” means, or that it has any fixed meaning. One witness, quoted in the summary report, asks the Commission, “When you talk about truth, whose truth are you talking about?” This is considered by the report “a critical question”--a tacit assertion that there is no objective truth. In other words, the meaning of “truth” seems up for negotiation. We can each manufacture, or invent, our own.

The Commission responds, “by truth, we mean not only the truth revealed in government and church residential school documents, but also the truth of lived experiences as told to us by Survivors and others in their statements to this Commission” (Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, p. 12).

It could be worse, I suppose. At least they accept official documents. But the commission is not promising here any attempt at actual objective truth. Whatever self-declared “survivors” say is to be simply taken as truth. No cross-checking, no cross-examination, and no promise to listen to both sides. By such standards, there is no such thing as a lie, and one cannot be wrong in one’s recollection. Of course, such a standard cannot work if allowed to everyone—in empirical science, say, or in a court of law. But it can be pulled off, in a superficial way, if the right is limited to those of aboriginal heritage who self-identify as “survivors.”


If I believe I am Napoleon, then, I am Napoleon. That is my truth.

This is actually a backhanded admission by the commission that the residential schools were not really bad. Had they stuck with objective truth, they almost as much as admit, they would have been forced to the politically incorrect conclusion.

As for “reconciliation,” the Commission is attempting the opposite: its mandate is to stress and exaggerate if possible the damage done by the residential schools. It is an enterprise well calculated to stir up ill feelings between Indians and “whites.” Where it can it makes the residential school experience out to be more awful than it was—most obviously by interviewing self-declared survivors and not, or rarely, those responsible for running the schools. This is an inversion of the methodology of the South African Commission, which interviewed mostly those responsible for apartheid, to hear their side. That would have been the reconciliation part.

The natural assumption, too, is that the Commission is intended for the betterment of aboriginals. Not so.

It is hard to find anything in the recommendations of the report that unambiguously does anything of the sort. Instead, the thrust of its demands is to expand the government bureaucracy. The commissioners are, in the end, bureaucrats, and they are acting, in the end, for the advantaged and toward the goals of their class and profession, not for Indians. They want more power for commissioners, bureaucrats, and professionals. This, it is to be understood, by happenstance includes some aboriginals—the band leaders, themselves career bureaucrats.

This begins with finding work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which ran for seven years. Nor was this the first Royal Commission to supposedly investigate the history of the residential schools. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal People had already done so by 1996, leading to the release in 1998 by the federal government of Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan, which called for the settlement agreement, which called for the current commission, which calls for a new commission to be struck. A great deal of money spent, over twenty years, on bureacrats and what they do. As opposed to giving money, needed or not, deserved or not, to actual aboriginals.

If you spend money on Indians, people think it is a good idea. Not so much if you say you are spending it on more bureaucrats. So let’s say it is for the Indians.

A few examples from their “Calls to Action”:

“Requiring that all child-welfare decision makers consider the impact of the residential school experience on children and their caregivers.”
“We call upon the federal government to enact Aboriginal child-welfare legislation that establishes national standards for Aboriginal child apprehension and custody cases and includes principles that: ... Require all child-welfare agencies and courts to take the residential school legacy into account in their decision making.”

More forms for bureaucrats to fill out; and another profitable layer added to the child-welfare bureaucracy. In real terms, this means tax money taken away from the actual needs of abused children, and put instead in the pockets of bureaucrats.

“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, to prepare and publish annual reports on the number of Aboriginal children … who are in care, compared with non-Aboriginal children, as well as the reasons for apprehension, the total spending on preventive and care services by child-welfare agencies, and the effectiveness of various interventions.”
“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by: … ii. Providing adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside.”
“iii. Establish, as an important priority, a requirement that placements of Aboriginal children into temporary and permanent care be culturally appropriate.”

Money ostensibly going to orphans actually going to bureaucrats. In the meantime, the new regulations would ensure that fewer children are adopted, and more stay orphans.

Can anyone explain why taking childen away from their families and putting them in residential schools is wrong, but keeping children in orphanages instead of placing them in a family is right?

Yep—say it’s going to widows and orphans. That ought to work.

Yet how does it help abused children? They are to be left to be abused if their parents are aboriginals? How does it help aboriginals? Aren’t the children aboriginal too?

“We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, and to publish annual progress reports and assess longterm trends. Such efforts would focus on indicators such as: infant mortality, maternal health, suicide, mental health, addictions, life expectancy, birth rates, infant and child health issues, chronic diseases, illness and injury incidence, and the availability of appropriate health services.”

Another layer of bureaucracy, and tax money supposedly going to the sick really going into the pockets of bureaucrats. If we know there is a gap in health outcomes between aboriginals and other Canadians, why do we still need to “identify” it? Isn’t this a stall, an effort to avoid any help for actual Indians? Perhaps because there is no real problem; perhaps because it is not really soluble by government; perhaps because it is not really in government’s interest to solve it.

“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties.”

Again, nothing here for Indians. Aboriginal people already get free, and tax-free, health care. The only objective here seems to be to stir up bad feelings and prevent reconciliation, to force a claim that Indians have been badly treated in the absence of evidence. The public declaration that it has been so, true or false, becomes the evidence.

“We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to provide sufficient and stable funding to implement and evaluate community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying causes of offending.”
“We call upon federal, provincial, and territorial governments to commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody over the next decade, and to issue detailed annual reports that monitor and evaluate progress in doing so.”
“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth in custody over the next decade.”

More money to bureaucrats, in this case lawyers, judges, and probably band leaders. It might also give some advantages to aboriginal criminals. But, even if racial discrimination is a good thing, does that help aboriginals? The usual victims of aboriginal crime are also aboriginals. Reduce the deterrent, and you are likely to increase the rate of crime—if imprisonment is of any deterrent value in the first place. The guilty get a better deal at the cost of the innocent.

This also subtly denies any agency to the individual, who is not to be held accountable for his or her acts. This encourages a culture of dependency. But lots of detailed annual reports to keep the bureaucrats in charge and in change.

“In keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal organizations, to fund the establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada”

This gets down to the nitty gritty. When we say, as in the US Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal,” the bedrock of our concept of human rights, or indeed of morality generally, what we mean as a legal issue is equal protection before the law. There must not be different laws or penalties based on race, creed, or colour. This is exactly what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission here demands: an extreme apartheid of the courts. They call for two separate legal systems, one for aboriginals and one for other Canadians.

Would this be better for aboriginals? Only if aboriginal law is superior to Canadian law. If it is, why do we not all adopt it?

But it is better for adding a lot of new jobs for lawyers and bureaucrats, at taxpayer expense.

Of course, it is always the case that, if Indians among themelves wish to observe their own rules, they are at liberty, like the rest of us, to do so. This is called a contract.

“We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles: i. The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies”

More public money to bureaucrats and already-wealthy band leaders, with no tangible payoff for any living Indians.

“Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.”

The surest way to do this is to do nothing. The free market would ensure that employment is equitable. If company A insists on employing less-competent staff based on race, company B gains a competitive advantage. Enforcing hiring policies that might go against this principle, besides being inevitably inequitable, makes all companies less competitive. At best, this additional cost of doing business will be passed on to consumers. At worst, businesses will shut down, and aboriginals along with the rest of us lose jobs and services. Moreover, any extra regulation raises the bar for entering the market, reducing competition and making discrimination more likely.

But who benefits from extra regulation? Bureaucrats. Regulation and dealing with regulations is their job.

“We call upon the federal government to prepare and publish annual reports comparing funding for the education of First Nations children on and off reserves, as well as educational and income attainments of Aboriginal peoples in Canada compared with non-Aboriginal people.”

Money supposed to go for “education” going instead to more bureaucrats. With a troublesome demand that the government keep detailed records based on race.

There must also be money to teachers to teach other teachers to teach. Tail, meet dog. Dog, meet tail. Obviously, we need more bureaucracy in education.

“Establish senior-level positions in government at the assistant deputy minister level or higher dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.”

“Or higher.” My guess is, poor and needy Indians need not apply.

“We call on the federal government to draft new Aboriginal education legislation with the full participation and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. The new legislation would include a commitment to sufficient funding and would incorporate the following principles: i. Providing sufficient funding to close identified educational achievement gaps within one generation”
“Improving education attainment levels and success rates.”

This is subtly totalitarian, as bureaucratic thought is bound to be. It assumes that variance in educational achievement and success in life is due to only one factor: government involvement. Everything is up to government and nothing can be done by the individual. Along with other problems, this is a perfect plan to keep ordinary Indians eternally dependent.

“Provide the necessary funding to Aboriginal schools to utilize Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods in classrooms.”
“Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.”
“Developing culturally appropriate curricula.”
“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for Aboriginal families.”
“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families.”

It is colonialist, paternalist, and demeaning, surely, to suggest that aboriginal people cannot do this for themselves, without government help. We do not expect the government to design culturally appropriate materials for Mormons, Portuguese Canadians, Jews, or any other minority group. Are we saying Indians are not competent to manage their own culture?

Note too the disturbing undertone of cultural relativism. If aboriginal teaching methods are effective, they are just as effective for non-aboriginal as for aboriginal children. Why not share them with everyone? Why would this not naturally happen in the natural course of events? Or are we, rather, forcing Indian children to accept an inferior education for the sake of employing a few more bureaucrats?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission seems very keen on education. Or, more precisely, re-education:

“Ensuring that social workers and others who conduct child-welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the history and impacts of residential schools.”
“Ensuring that social workers and others who conduct child-welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing.”
“Provide cultural competency training for all healthcare professionals. “
“We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”
“We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”
“We call upon Canadian journalism programs and media schools to require education for all students on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal– Crown relations.”
“Provide education for [corporate] management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”
“We call upon the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal– Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism”
“We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and antiracism.”

Cumulatively, this must mean a massive expenditure of public funds. But, if there is any benefit here to anyone, it all remains within the professions.

It is darkly ironic, but typical of the territory, that these re-education and self-criticism sessions are said to include a segment on “anti-racism.” Because nothing could be more racist than their other assumptions, or the assumptions of the Commission report as a whole.

“We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation”

More gravy for another station along the route: the academics. Lots of meeting time and jobs with the vague term “liaising” in the job description. Nothing for Indians, unless they happen also to be academics or bureaucrats. Note again the usefulness of the word “reconciliation.” That sounds good, but how does one actually research “reconciliation”?

“We call upon the Parliament of Canada, in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to enact legislation to establish a National Council for Reconciliation. The legislation would establish the council as an independent, national, oversight body with membership jointly appointed by the Government of Canada and national Aboriginal organizations, and consisting of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members.”

Another permanent layer of bureaucracy. Nothing for ordinary Indians.

And their chief role would be to hand out pork to also-well-heeled buddies:

“We call upon the Government of Canada to provide multi-year funding for the National Council for Reconciliation to ensure that it has the financial, human, and technical resources required to conduct its work, including the endowment of a National Reconciliation Trust to advance the cause of reconciliation.”

With this tax money, it will “Develop and implement a multi-year National Action Plan for Reconciliation, which includes research and policy development, public education programs, and resources.”

This reconciliation, apparently, will always be intended for the future, always worked towards, but will never arrive.

As to reconciliation, the Commission insists on seeing Indian groups as fundamentally apart, independently sovereign, not Canadian. That does not sound like reconciliation.

“We call upon the Government of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians, to jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown. The proclamation would build on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764, and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. The proclamation would include, but not be limited to, ...”

That sounds good. Indians are not real Canadians, just as Africans are not real Americans and Jews are not real Germans.

Indians do probably have a right to sovereignty in international law, if they want it. Since the Treaty of Versailles, we have all more or less endorsed the notion of a right to self-determination of peoples, that is, racial groups. But let’s be clear: said sovereignty is not now the case. There is no existing nation-to-nation relationship. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara were not, as here claimed, treaties between sovereign nations. The Royal Proclamation made it plain, above all else, that all sovereignty over North American soil resided in the British crown, and the Indian bands were the King’s subjects. In introducing the concerns of the Indians, it begins:

“And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our Interest, and the Security of our Colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom We are connected, and who live under our Protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them. or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds.”

One might say there is a government-to-government relationship involved, but it is like the relationship of the national to a provincial or municipal government, not to a foreign power.

This sovereign power has, of course, since been passed to the Crown of Canada.

Aboriginal groups might prefer to renounce the Royal Proclamation and its cession of sovereignty. But that would mean renouncing, at the same time, the legal basis on which Indians were acknowledged to have an ownership interest in the land. In law, they had it because King George gave it to them.

Nevertheless, the Commission inconsistently demands that any and every body they can think of, in and outside Canada, must:

“Repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples...”

If Indians want to proclaim sovereignty, as we say, they have that right, but this would be a change from the present situation. Why then should a Canadian National Council for Reconciliation, or Canadian tax money, be involved? Let them run their own affairs on their reserves, and lots of luck to them. One they have assumed their fair share of the national debt.

Moreover, it is conspicuously contradictory for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, on the one hand, to insist on Indian sovereignty, and on the other, to demand money from Ottawa to commemorate “the Indian contribution to Canada”:

“We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to: i. Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.”
“Developing and implementing Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools.”
“Revising the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.”
“Developing and implementing a national heritage plan and strategy for commemorating residential school sites, the history and legacy of residential schools, and the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada’s history.”
“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, and the Canadian Museums Association to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017 by establishing a dedicated national funding program for commemoration projects on the theme of reconciliation.”

Nice cake. I wonder if I can eat it now, then save it for later?

But there is another bit of a logical contradiction here. Why it is that, if the Canadian government teaches Indian children about the majority culture, it is cultural genocide, but if the Indians teach majority children about Indian culture, it is their right? Even at the latter’s expense?

The project of racial apartheid is of course vastly aided if the two groups speak different languages. Accordingly, the Commission is strong on the need to nurture aboriginal languages, at the expense, of course, by and large, of English and French speakers.

“We call upon the federal government to enact an Aboriginal Languages Act that incorporates the following principles: i. Aboriginal languages are a fundamental and valued element of Canadian culture and society, and there is an urgency to preserve them.”
“The federal government has a responsibility to provide sufficient fund for Aboriginal-language revitalization and preservation.”
“Protecting the right to Aboriginal languages, including the teaching of Aboriginal languages as credit courses.”
“We call upon post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages.”
What, in the end, is language, and what is its use to man? It is a tool for communication. It follows, therefore, that the value of a language is directly proportional to the number of people with whom you can communicate using it. For English, that would be about one billion. For French, about 300 million. For most aboriginal languages, a few thousand.

To be fair, of course, we also need to count the dead; written language allows them too to communicate with us.

Very well, then. For English or French, we have great libraries of writings dating back perhaps a thousand years. For Indian languages, perhaps at most a hundred years, and not in any quantity.

In sum, sentiment aside, it is probably against the real interests of any individual who does not already know it to spend much time learning an aboriginal language. Lead young aboriginals down this primrose path, and you are leading them away from their own best interests.

I suppose this opens up an easy major to a few aboriginals who already speak the languages. But that is still a primrose path. Get their degree, and whom are they going to teach? Looks a lot like a pyramid scheme.

“We call upon the federal government to acknowledge that Aboriginal rights include Aboriginal language rights.”

Well, of course. Everyone has the right to speak their language. What they do not have is a right to government services in their language, or to government subsidy. And that is surely what is meant here.

“Aboriginal language rights are reinforced by the Treaties.”
Aboriginal “language rights” are not in any treaty. The commission probably put this in precisely because they know it is not true. Now, anyone can cite the Commission report in an attempt to make this wild assertion stick. “According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission...”

As a practical matter, a demand for government services in native languages is not especially sane. There are perhaps sixty different “aboriginal languages” in Canada. To provide services in all, the civil service would have to grow exponentially. For the sake of a few thousand speakers, almost all of whom can also speak English or French. Besides benefitting so few at such expense, how probable is it to find speakers of all these languages who are competent and qualified to do the needed jobs?

We would need a civil service rivalling in size the total population. All to provide a special and mostly symbolic privilege to one minority group.

“We call upon the federal government to appoint, in consultation with Aboriginal groups, an Aboriginal Languages Commissioner. The commissioner should help promote Aboriginal languages and report on the adequacy of federal funding of Aboriginal-languages initiatives.”
Nice job for some top bureacrat, probably a full department of bureaucrats, doing nothing of any use to anyone.

But so long as Indians are encouraged to stay in their own linguistic and cultural ghettos, unable to interact with their neighbours, there will be lots of secure jobs for bureaucrats and band leaders taking care and control of them and profiting in their name.

Wishing to find anything in the commission’s recommendations that would actually be in the interests of ordinary Indians, advocates might point to the claim by the Commission that Indians have special rights to natural resources:

“We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following: i. Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.”
This is all against treaty. The treaties made clear that the various Indian groups ceded any claim to natural resources outside their reserves. It is based on the Romantic noble savage notion that Indians are “one with the land.” And, perhaps, by implication, racially unique beings, natural creatures, beasts not men.

But it is wrong to think that any of this helps Indians. What it means is another level of bureaucracy to be satisfied and to be paid off, and another heavy tax on economic development, especially in areas near where Indians live. The extra work, and most or all of the money, will go to lawyers and bureaucrats. In the meantime, development will be less likely to happen—lands where Indians live will remain underdeveloped. Fewer jobs, less money, less opportunity, for ordinary Indians.

“We call upon the federal government to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.”
Again, money claimed to go to education and jobs really going to bureaucrats, instead of to building schools or businesses.

“Reconcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples are full partners in Confederation, including the recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and legal traditions in negotiation and implementation processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other constructive agreements.”
This suggests a parity between Canadian law—even the Canadian constitution--and rules set by aboriginal bands. On an individual level, such group rights mean that one Indian has the same legal status as perhaps a hundred thousand non-Indian Canadians. Even if this were not so, there is a further problem: the notion of an indigenous legal tradition is mostly a fiction. There are no written records; all is hearsay. In practice, it would be the law and the legal traditions of Canada, and of the English-speaking world, against the say-so of any given individual chief. This would give Indian leaders dictatorial powers, over other Indians and perhaps over the rest of us as well.

“We call upon the federal government to establish multiyear funding for community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation, and establish a national network to share information and best practices.”
It almost sounds like this money would go to youth. But would it? They would presumably be given “programs on reconciliation.” What does that mean? Might it be harangues on how evil the white man is? Do young Indians need this or want this? Is it to their benefit? Isn’t the money really going to the bureaucrats or academics employed to give these programs, who might use it to promote their own power? Some of this money, perhaps most of it, would explicitly be spent on “sharing information and best practices” among bureaucrats.

“We call upon the federal government to ensure that national sports policies, programs, and initiatives are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples, including, but not limited to, establishing: i. In collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, stable funding for, and access to, community sports programs that reflect the diverse cultures and traditional sporting activities of Aboriginal peoples.”
Equity for aboriginal athletes sounds good. This is the opposite. This is more apartheid. Special funding for traditional aboriginal sports (unlike, say, hockey, football, or lacrosse, all of which have aboriginal roots?) is pushing young aboriginals into a sports ghetto. Are non-Indians too dirty to play with Indians, or are Indians too dirty to play with non-Indians? Why this insistence on segregation? It might be a way to short-change Indians for funding, or a way to short-change “whites.” It has no other obvious purpose. Except that it provides more opportunities for graft, and keeps young Indians thinking of themselves as different and dependent.

Many of the commission’s demands imply cultural relativism. For example,

“An elite athlete development program for Aboriginal athletes. iii. Programs for coaches, trainers, and sports officials that are culturally relevant for Aboriginal peoples.”
When you play baseball, does it make a big difference whether you are Cherokee or Japanese? While the provision of such courses might make a cushy job for some academic or bureaucrat, is it really going to do anything for any kid on the sandlot?

“Ensure the retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities.”
“We call upon all levels of government to: i. Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the health-care field.”

Why should it matter to the average aboriginal whether the local dentist is Dene or Danish? That is, unless we are saying that only aboriginal doctors are competent to treat aboriginals. So--is there a “Jewish physics,” too?

“We call upon the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new Aboriginal healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools, and to ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority.
“We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.”
If there is no good evidence that “Aboriginal healing” works, this is throwing public money away to no benefit to anyone but the practitioners. If there is, it is criminal to withhold it from the rest of the population. Surely the only plausible argument here is extreme racialism: Indian bodies work differently from non-Indian bodies.

What else might that assumption imply?

“We call upon the federal government to provide funding to the Canadian Museums Association to undertake, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, a national review of museum policies and best practices to determine the level of compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to make recommendations.”
More make-work for bureaucrats and academics, surely. More thick reports, no other action specified.

Oddly, because so evidently irrelevant, the commission report calls for the abolition of the “spanking law”:

“We call upon the Government of Canada to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.”
It allows parents and teachers to administer physical punishment, so long as it is commensurate with the offense.

What on earth does this have to do in particular with aboriginals? Nothing—the law applies and always applied to all Canadians. But its repeal gives lots more work and power to lawyers and social workers, at public expense, instead of leaving such judgements unprofitably in the hands of the family.

The Commission is especially keen on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.”
“Adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.”
“Full adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.”
“We call upon the church parties to the Settlement Agreement, and all other faith groups and interfaith social justice groups in Canada who have not already done so, to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.”
“Engaging in ongoing public dialogue and actions to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
“Issuing a statement no later than March 31, 2016, from all religious denominations and faith groups, as to how they will implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
As the current Liberal government, previously enthusiastic, has now admitted, this is not possible in a democracy, without overturning the democracy. The Declaration offers a lot of other problems, but the insurmuntable problem is this passage:

Article 19: “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”
Any law passed by any Canadian government almost necessarily affects Indians, just as it does other Canadians. This article gives aboriginals a veto over all legislation. Canada would become an oligarchy, not a democracy, with aboriginals as the ruling class.

This might be of advantage to Indians, although obviously injurious to everyone else. Neverthelesss, it is perhaps here not for their sake, but for the obvious benefits to bureaucrats on both sides needing now to constantly “liaise.”

Aside from the family and the electorate, another possible source of power to be passed over to the bureaucrats is that most venerable of voluntary associations, the church. It must accordingly be brought under government control.

“We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement, in collaboration with Survivors and representatives of Aboriginal organizations, to establish permanent funding to Aboriginal people for:
Community-controlled healing and reconciliation projects.
Community-controlled culture- and language revitalization projects.
Community-controlled education and relationship building projects.
Regional dialogues for Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth to discuss Indigenous spirituality, self determination, and reconciliation.”
Money donated to one church and religion must be given instead to a different “religion.” But not really a religion at all—to the bureaucrats running the Indian “communities,” who are free to say what Indian “spirituality” is or is not as it suits them. To the benefit of ordinary Indians? No; most Indians, you may recall, are Christians. They are paying for this, but not benefitting. And “community-controlled” means the churches will have no say in how the money is spent.

“We call upon all levels of government that provide public funds to denominational schools to require such schools to provide an education on comparative religious studies, which must include a segment on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders.”
The point of having a denominational school is the right to teach your children the beliefs and teachings of that denomination. This demand requires them instead to teach the beliefs of other religions. It is a direct assault on religious liberty. Bureaucrats—“Aboriginal Elders” and others--are to be given final say on the content of all religious education.

“We call upon leaders of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders, Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres, to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.”
“Spiritual violence”? That’s even better than “cultural genocide.” According to Merriam-Webster, violence means “the use of physical force to harm someone, to damage property, etc.” Accordingly, “spiritual violence” is a contradition in terms, like “cold heat” or “dark light.” Presumably what they actually mean is disagreeing with someone—here, presumably, some government functionary. This cannot work otherwise: both parties to any disagreement would then be equally guilty of this crime of “spiritual violence,” making the change moot. Violence is, proverbially, a government monopoly. The government bureaucrat must be completely free to disagree with the mere citizen without being charged with “spiritual violence.”

In other words, no more freedom of thought or of speech.

Most remarkable is this demand placed specifically on the Catholic Church:

“We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and M├ętis children in Catholic-run residential schools. We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.”
Nothing is any more to be beyond the government’s reach: its writ now extends to Rome and to the hereafter. Even if an apology is warranted, why does it matter where the apology is made, or when? Whom does that benefit? Only the bureaucrats, in establishing power over the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church in particular must be brought to heel and humiliation, presumably, precisely because it is so influential among common Indians. It therefore rivals the bureaucrats in its influence and prestige among them. This must be destroyed.

A good reason, not incidentally, for the attack on the residential schools in the first place.

If we have not yet slipped into parody, there’s more.

“We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to recognize as a high priority the need to address and prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and to develop, in collaboration with Aboriginal people, FASD preventive programs that can be delivered in a culturally appropriate manner.”
“We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to work with Aboriginal communities to provide culturally relevant services to inmates on issues such as substance abuse, family and domestic violence, and overcoming the experience of having been sexually abused.”
“We call upon the federal government to develop a national plan to collect and publish data on the criminal victimization of Aboriginal people, including data related to homicide and family violence victimization.”
Do the commissioners not realize they here give strong evidence that the residential schools were a blessing, not a curse, and that abolishing them was a lousy idea for Indians? They are admitting that alcoholic parents are a special problem for aboriginal children. Granted that, in the matter of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the worst damage is already done by the time of birth, even after birth, an alcoholic mother is not a happy thing to grow up with. The commissioners are admitting further a special problem in aboriginal communities with substance abuse, family and domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Surely the poor children might be better off elsewhere, at last for part of their childhoods.

Note too that the Commission wants to reduce sentences for aboriginal criminals while demanding the government do something to reduce aboriginal crime. These seem to be contradictory goals. They cry out for paternalism and colonialism: they take it for granted the white man bears all responsibility, and can work magic if he chooses.

“We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls. The inquiry’s mandate would include: i. Investigation into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. ii. Links to the intergenerational legacy of residential schools”
There is no plausible link between the disappearance of aboriginal women and the residential schools. So, the commission simply requires the government to find one… Again, everything is left up to the white man, and he is assumed to be able to work magic.

Or rather, perhaps, it is in the interest of the bureaucracy to set intrinsically impossible goals. This means the jobs, and the work, will never end. The worst thing that could happen to a government bureaucrat, in terms of sheer self-interest, would be ever to solve a problem.

More magic is proposed:

“We call upon the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments, and the courts to adopt the following legal principles: i. Aboriginal title claims are accepted once the Aboriginal claimant has established occupation over a particular territory at a particular point in time”

As worded, this suggests that, if someone of “aboriginal” status, however legally defined, can prove they once visited Niagara Falls, they own Niagara Falls. The impossibility of this criterion, at a minimum, offers endless work to lawyers to work out what it really means. It cannot possibly be applied, even if limited to aboriginals, because aboriginal claims would conflict.

And how will these proposals help?

“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools National Monument in the city of Ottawa to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.”
“We call upon provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools Monument in each capital city to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.”
In every capital city—even in provinces that hosted no residential schools. Perhaps such public sculptures would be decorative. Even so, they are not being erected where Indians concentrate, are they? Rather than helping Indians in any tangible way, they seem intended to institutionalize the culture of grievance, in an effort to ensure that reconciliation not occur, and to offer employment to more committees.

“We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following: I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

No words suffice.

The good news is, the present Liberal government is pledged to implement all the Commission’s recommendations.

Say it’s for the benefit of Indians, and you can get away with anything.

For this reason, it is in the self-interest of the bureaucracy never to do anything that will actually substantially help Indians. Were they not in constant apparent crisis, the money and the powers might dry up.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Discrimination at University of Manitoba

Bastion of white privilege.

A recently dismissed sessional instructor at the University of Manitoba has written a piece in the campus graduate student magazine protesting the system of student evaluations that caused her not to be renewed, on the grounds that it is unfair to minority professors.

Her evidence is that studies show “minority faculty often receive significantly lower and more negative evaluations in comparison with their white counterparts.”

Given that no studies are clearly cited, we need not accept that claim. There is a reason why academic standards require clear references and footnotes. Lose that, and anyone can say anything. The word “often” renders it ambiguous in any case—it does not necessarily mean more often than “white” instructors.

But let us assume that is so. It does not demonstrate that said minorities are being discriminated against because of their ethnicity. It might equally demonstrate that the current regime of affirmative action in hiring and promoting is, predictably enough, producing an inferior product. Why would it not, when you hire not on the basis of merit, but of other irrelevant factor like genitalia or skin colour? Merit must suffer, and especially among those of the preferred skin colour. It will correspondingly rise in those groups discriminated against—here, the “whites.”

Odd, though, that this could be a consideration for someone named Sardana Nikolaeva. Isn’t that an Eastern European name? Yet she is implicitly claiming here to be non-white. If Eastern Europeans are not white, who is? Does the term mean anything? Is there really a general prejudice toward Eastern Europeans in Canada?

Indeed, it seems quite a stretch for her to claim she got her--by her own account--universally negative evaluation sheerly because of her supposed visible minority status. Especially since she demonstrates the truth of the complaints in this very essay. Among the intolerable student comments she quotes are, ”she had an agenda,” ”she made me feel ashamed that I was white,” “she hates Canada and our culture,” as if they could not possibly be true. But her next paragraph begins, “As any predominantly white neo-liberal educational institution, the University of Manitoba functions within the politics of ignorance.” Is she not saying that any “white” institution is ipso facto “ignorant”? Would that not include Canada?

The seminar she taught, she explains, “revolved around the topics of racism and discrimination, white privilege, problematic aspects of multiculturalism, and experiences of marginalized communities in Canada.” Doesn’t sound like she has any political agenda, there, does it?

You might also note that much of what she writes is rather difficult to make plain sense of. It is not just the illogical assumption that disparity of outcome must prove discrimination, or her arbitrary concept of “white.” It is sentences like this: “The biased attitudes expressed in student evaluations of minority faculty are particularly problematic as they contribute to already existing practices of discrimination, marginalization, and lack of support from peer faculty and administrators in predominantly white campuses.” That is unnecessarily obscure. Why not “Biased student evaluations add to existing discrimination from colleagues and administrators.” An inability to express thoughts clearly is the most basic sort of incompetence in an instructor.

Anyone who has been reading the news for the past twenty or thirty years, too, must be surprised by the claim made here that college campuses generally are hotbeds of anti-minority and anti-female sentiment. The reverse is the obvious case.

It is simply so that, in a democracy, it is improbable if not impossible to see the government intervene to protect any genuinely oppressed minority from general discrimination. If there really is general discrimination, such measures could not pass the bar of majority approval, pretty much by definition.

It follows that any intervention by the state or by state institutions like public universities in favour of one group over another will always be a case of increasing an advantage already bestowed upon that group by common prejudice.

Black like me...

We can therefore expect student evaluations, in fact, to already be biased in favour of, not against, “visible minority” instructors. But this is not enough. Advantaged groups always expect more advantage. The truly oppressed learn through experience that they must remain silent.

But this, in the end, does not logically apply to an instructor with an Eastern European name. Here, the demand for special rights for preferred minorities is clearly only a cover, an alibi, for discarding the idea of student evaluation of professors in general. The peons of the unwashed majority must be understood to be prejudiced and incompetent, and kept in their place.

Yet the very idea that the customer should have no say in his own interest would be deeply shocking any other context than education. Why should we not choose our own professors, just as we choose our own doctors, lawyers, repairmen, or legislators? Even if the student did not have that natural and inalienable human right, isn’t he, as a purely practical matter, in a better position than anyone else to evaluate the quality of instruction?

In the end, the essay demonstrates the frightening totalitarian tendencies of the modern academy.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The American Apocalypse

Remember me?

To fill the time before their live feed of the presidential debate began, the YouTube channel I was watching played a rerun of the Carter - Ford debate from 1976. It was a reminder of how much the civic discourse has deteriorated. Despite the fresh wounds of Vietnam and Watergate, Ford and Carter were always polite with each other. There was no interrupting while the other spoke. There was no talk of sex or scandal. The general sense was that they were discussing matters on which reasonable people of good will could disagree.

We have obviously lost that level of social consensus. And not just in America. Even in unfailingly polite and decorous Canada, Justin Trudeau interrupted frequently at the recent leaders' debates. That would not have happened in his father's day. Even more striking is that the voters do not seem to punish politicians who behave this way. Trudeau won the election. So did Joe Biden, who behaved exceptionally badly in his debate with Paul Ryan. So, in the primaries, did Donald Trump, against a large field of ladies and gentlemen.

The problem is that nobody any longer believes that the other side is acting in good faith, or has the general good of the country at heart.

This is what comes when one side or the other starts disregarding the basic general principles that bind the nation together. We have seen this over the last thirty or forty years. And the left, frankly, is the side to blame.

Remember motherhood and apple pie? What is feminism if not a direct assault on motherhood? Or, more broadly, what else is the great complex of "gay pride"?

Religion, the traditional reservoir of shared values, is under sustained assault. Even science, its unsatisfactory modern substitute, is under assault by some branches of the left as patriarchal and racist. Liberalism and the doctrine of human rights, on which America was founded, is also under attack: not just the right to freedom of conscience, of association, of speech, but even the most fundamental right, the right to life. Postmodernism even rejects the rules of formal logic, or the possibility of knowing truth.

Granted, the immediate cause of the Trump phenomenon was apparently fear of immigration; this seems fundamental in Europe too. But is immigration just a symbol of something deeper, a sense that the culture is being widely and deliberately subverted by the ruling elite? Is it a symbol of the loss of social consensus?

The next question is, why has the left lost its commitment to moral right, logic, science, religion, the family, and anything else that might check its own power? For the move is itself ultimately self-defeating. Destroy the civilizaton, and you destroy your own part in it just as much as your opponent's: mutually-assured destruction.

It is, I submit, the action of the agitated human conscience. The left at some point knowingly did something morally wrong. Once you do that, and do not repent, you begin the downward path. As the gospel of John avers, those who have knowingly done wrong begin to fear the light as a general principle, for fear it will reveal their deeds. They become enemies of the light. It follows that they become inconsolable enemies of all who follow the light. To accept and believe in truth or moral right becomes intolerable. So much for any possibility of social consensus.

The obvious example of a previous time in American history when this happened was the Civil War. Slavery was such an issue. Nobody could in good conscience accept the institution of chattel slavery. And, no surprise, it was the South, not the North, that cut the social cord, that chose to separate, and it was the South, those in the moral wrong, who fired the first shot. Nor had the northern government proposed to outlaw slavery. Just the awareness of general disapproval was intolerable to a bad conscience.

This time, in the end, I believe that the issue on which the left made its bargain with the devil, for the sake of personal gain, was and is abortion. Abortion, in turn, became necessary in order to allow for free sex.

At such a time, it is folly to pretend nothing is happening, to remain the well-mannered Buchanan or Mitt Romney. There is no common ground left on which to build consent. The sad times demand a terrible swift sword. Trump may not be up to the job, but neither would Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, from all evidence, have been. We need another Lincoln, and none is to be seen.

Then again, at the time, nobody saw Lincoln as a Lincoln either. He had an extremely thin resume, and as not even the favourite for his own party's nomination.

It is in God's hands.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Cleveland Indigenous First Nations Individuals

Critics object that the Cleveland Indians logo, Chief Wahoo, is disrespectfully cartoonish.

Unlike, say, the Fighting Irishman of Notre Dame.

Inevitably, Canadian activist Douglas Cardinal has gone to the Human Rights Commissions demanding that, during the current playoff series with the Blue Jays, the opposing Cleveland Indians be prohibited from wearing their uniforms, displaying their logo, or using their team name. It is, you see, offensive to Indians that they call themselves Indians. The Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, showing that body's traditional scrupulous neutrality and respect for due process, has already publicly agreed.

Great job, impressing our American neighbours with both our hospitality and our commitment to basic human rights like freedom of speech.

One commentator, in support of the proposed ban, points out that it would be offensive to call a team "The New York Jews," or "The San Francisco Chinamen," so why is this different?

Why, indeed? And why indeed is it different from the Minnesota Vikings, the Boston Celtics, the New York Yankees or the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

Why do teams everywhere want to name themselves after Indians, while nobody anywhere seems to have ever wanted to name a team after Jews or Chinese?

It is because, if you name a team the Indians, people like and want to support it, but if you name a team the Jews or the Chinamen, people do not.

In other words, there is a general popular prejudice against the Jews or Chinese, but in favour of Indians. The surest proof that a group is not being discriminated against, is that it is used as the name of a sports team.

Cardinal is not protecting Indians from discrimination. He is pulling rank.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bringing the Nobel Back Home

I am delighted that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is about time the Nobel Committee did something right.

The resistance to the selection has been strong and predictable. That is a good sign. As Confucius pointed out, if a man has no enemies, he is suspect. If a decision faces no resistance, it is not a good decision.

In National Review, Ian Tuttle writes, “isn’t Bob Dylan a songwriter? To my mind, the achievement of a great song is that words and music are seamlessly integrated, and you’d ruin the thing if you separated one from the other.” Others have called the award a “categorization error,” and japed, “next up: Keith Richard wins the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.”

No. Has Tuttle ever heard of “lyric poetry”? Does he know, then, what a lyre is? Back when we understood and cared for poetry, we understood that it was really a form of music. It was all originally sung, and not just “lyric” poetry, either. We have, inadvisedly, recently separated the one from the other. This has been bad for both music and poetry.

As for the two being seamless, back when we understood poetry, even a hundred years or so ago, as a matter of course, a good poem was soon set to music, often to several different tunes. And a good tune soon got several sets of lyrics. I think I can see the seams there. This is true of most of our best-known folk songs—words and music evolved separately. On might mention, for example, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” or “O Canada.” Or “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” or “Amazing Grace.” Not great songs?

Even where this is not the case, is it not common practice for different people to write the lyrics and the music? How can that be seamless? Has Tuttle never heard of Gilbert and Sullivan? Weber and Rice? Jagger and Richards? Rogers and Hammerstein? Not great songs?

Tuttle goes on to ask, “Have you ever recited the lyrics of ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’? They need that melody.”

Very well. Challenge accepted. Let’s have a look:

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.
Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin' ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can't feel to grip
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
To be wanderin'
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Though you might hear laughin', spinnin' swingin' madly across the sun
It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin'
And if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it's just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn't pay it any mind, it's just a shadow you're
Seein' that he's chasing.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

I am sorry; I guess there is no disputing taste; but to my ear you have here some of the finest poetry in the English language. Where is there a better line anywhere than “Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow”?

Tuttle is not alone here. A highly literate friend recites some more Dylan lyrics, in protest at the prize, claiming them to be notably bad:

Buy me a flute
And a gun that shoots
Tailgates and substitutes
Strap yourself
To the tree with roots
You ain’t goin’ nowhere
Whoo-ee! Ride me high
Tomorrow’s the day
My bride’s gonna come
Oh, oh, are we gonna fly
Down in the easy chair!


Mona tried to tell me
To stay away from the train line
She said that all the railroad men
Just drink up your blood like wine
An’ I said, “Oh, I didn’t know that
But then again, there’s only one I’ve met
An’ he just smoked my eyelids
An’ punched my cigarette”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Notably bad? I say they’re awfully good. Who has never had the Memphis blues? Who cannot feel here the emotions of a man about to get married?

I think my friend’s problem is that they are “nonsense.” Nobody really smokes anyone’s eyelids. Nobody flies in an easy chair.

Dylan’s writing is impressionistic, stream of consciousness. It cannot be reduced to a simple narrative. But then, if it could be reduced to a simple narrative, why bother writing a lyric? Dylan is conveying emotions, and doing it very well. How is he different in this regard from, say, TS Eliot? James Joyce? Samuel Beckett?

The very superficial disjointedness is part of the point. Dylan is portraying intense emotional states. When we are in an intense emotional state, our experience of our surroundings, and our thoughts, are indeed disjointed. Dylan is giving an accurate depiction of that; not an easy thing to do.

To be honest, though, my friend’s quote from “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” misses its best lines:

Genghis Khan he could not keep
All his kings supplied with sleep
We’ll climb that hill no matter how steep
When we get up to it.

Childish? Childlike? Surely that’s exactly the point.

I think the real problem here is that Dylan is “low” culture. He is too popular. He uses common phrases, common images, common experiences of common men. He did not go to college.

This is just what I love most about the Nobel selection.

There is always an attempt by the social and economic ruling classes, the rich, established, and powerful, to take the best of culture and claim it as their own, and unappreciated by the great unwashed. It tends to justify their rule. This is a lie. It is a damned lie, given that the same class of people usually starves and persecutes when alive the same artists they appropriate to themselves as soon as they are good and safely dead.

Contrary to the mythology, it is not as often the people who reject a really great new artist. It is the academy. Shakespeare was popular entertainment in his day. So was Dickens. The romantics, best of British poets, were in their inception an attempt to keep poetic diction on the level of everyday speech and common experience, to bring art back to the streets and hedgerows. More recently, the Beats tried the very same thing. Whenever art becomes alone the possession of some self-appointed sophisticated cognoscenti, as has modern opera, modern poetry, modern jazz, postmodern anything, it loses all vitality, all reality, and all quality. It becomes dry and academic and wheezingly anemic and, in a word, phony.

That a thing is popular is no proof that it is good, granted. But, equally, that a thing is unpopular is rather worse proof that it is.

The mob may have rejected Jesus, but only at the urging, do recall, of the Sanhedrin.

Recognizing genuinely fine popular culture like Dylan may help revive poetry itself, now hopelessly moribund because it has been co opted by academic and pseudo-intellectual poseurs of the sort that attend classical concerts in tie and tails. Or, as bad or worse, affect torn jeans and Che Guevara T-shirts. And have no idea what poetry is, but know what they are supposed to pretend to like.

In addition to this, to disdain popular art is, right from the opening gun, to disdain American culture specifically. That, as de Tocqueville points out almost two hundred years ago, and as Andy Warhol more recently reminds us, is the essence of America. And in this America is the cutting edge, the avant garde, the artistic future for us all. Not to mention the true Christian option, the moral choice. Art comes from depth of soul, not material or social position.

Another good thing about the Dylan selection is that it flies in the face of the modern mistaken cult of innovation in the arts. Dylan is deeply rooted in tradition, as any good artist ought to be. Cultures are to be built upon, not blasted back to rubble.

And now that I think of it, Keith Richards, too, deserves his Nobel for Chemistry. He obviously knows a lot about chemical substances.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

A Tour by Handcart of Babel, Bedlam, and the Land of Nod Beyond

The City of Tomorrow

U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson is under fire. A campus rally last Wednesday called for his firing. His offense was to publicly insist on the right to continue to use the English third person singular subject pronouns: he, she, it. A lesson I happen to be teaching to a Chinese student today. What I am still teaching as simply correct grammar, is now a risky political position in Canada.

Doesn’t that strike anyone as a bit odd?

Chris Selley rushes to Dr. Peterson’s defense in the National Post. Sort of. He accepts the professor’s insistence on using standard grammar as a legitimate exercise of freedom of speech. But he does call Peterson a “total jerk” for it. He asks “what kind of jerk refuses to refer to someone as he, she or they would like? They’re human beings, not issues.”

The point is, of course, that some people who are objectively male now demand the right to be referred to as “she,” some who are objectively female now insist on “he,” and some who insist they are neither the one nor the other, or both at once, demand to be referred to now as “ze,” or “xe,”or something else.

While the matter might in itself seem trivial, forcing everyone to acquiesce to this right to choose one’s own personal pronouns forces two other people, each time, to accept and consent to two dubious and dangerous assertions: that the rules of language and grammar are a personal possession, and that one’s sex is a matter of free choice. The problem with the first contention is that, if each of us may impose our own vocabulary and grammar on anyone speaking about us, communication is no longer possible. Language ceases to be as soon as it is not shared. It cannot by its nature be a personal possession.

The problem with the second contention is greater: by it not only words, but things, are subjective and infinitely fungible. Physical sex is not a matter of opinion or preference, in any sense that height, age, or eye colour are not. It is encoded as ROM in every cell. Can I declare myself twenty-five? Many would like to. How about making myself aboriginal, and so qualifying for various federal subsidies? Can I say I’m seven feet tall, and angle for a basketball scholarship? Can my new IQ be 200?

It all sounds lovely on its face. To begin with, I could be invisible and fly. It’s almost like a dream come true. One can see the attraction. But a lot else follows once we decide that a firm personal belief determines reality, even against the evince of the senses. It is all the stuff conventionally called insanity.

And I am not talking here of slippery slopes. It is not that accepting that sex is up for grabs might one day lead to all the rest. All the rest is already here, in some circles, and has been for some time. You already read it in Marcuse in the drug-soaked sixties; you read it in the seventies in the Teachings of Don Juan. It was the self-actualization movement. It is postmodernism. There is no objective truth. “Reality is a function of belief.”

First person and second person discuss third person, holding the oar, in the fifth circle of hell.

We are instantly at the bottom of this slope; or rather, as soon as we plant our mental handcart on it, it dissolves beneath us, and we find ourselves in the nether regions. Where is the logical difference, the possible distinction, between a man who feels in his deepest heart that he is really a woman, and a man who feels in his deepest heart that he is Napoleon Bonaparte?

If there is to be no objective check on our beliefs, anything is possible. And anything possible is real.

The defenders of this new postmodern theory of reality will no doubt point out that it is possible to make a distinction between personal fantasies that harm no one else, and those that do. The former ought fairly to be indulged, while the latter can be opposed.

But they have already violated that principle, in demanding that everyone else accept each individuals inner conviction of their own sex. Why does the third person in every conversation have the right to his, her, or its own reality, but not the first person or the second person? If C gets to tell A and B what to do, is the rule not already violated?

There is no way to square this circle. Postmodernism is founded on the notion that two mutually contradictory truths can happily coexist. They cannot; and the a priori truth that they cannot is, as Aristotle pointed out, the basis of all logic. Accept this idea of the malleability of reality based on belief, and all possibility of logic or reasoned discernment is lost. That is no small matter.

Among so many other things, this means that no classic distinction between my rights and yours can any longer be maintained. We can no longer say that what you believe is only your business so long as it does not harm me. What, for example, if my heart tells me that I am actually you, and you are me? What if it tells me, with a deep Buddhist profundity, that we are all one? Where is the possible distinction between my beliefs and yours then? And what if it tells me you are working with the CIA, or with sinister alien beings, and are secretly trying to control me with your radioactive brainwaves? Surely, the right of self-defense allows me to act accordingly. What if my heart tells me that what you consider harm is actually to your benefit. What if I believe you would be better off without a head?

Bethlehem Royal Hospital, 1735. Yonge and Bloor, 2016.

But why even bother with these relatively strenuous mental contortions? What is left to save any distinction anyway between the moral good and evil, between right and wrong? If there is no truth, why prefer the one over the other? Isn’t it all just another matter of personal choice?

That is just what postmodernism, constructivism, and “cultural relativism” argues already. Welcome to the bottom.

Given this path we have apparently already civilizationally chosen, no laws, no social contracts, no contracts of any kind, and no social institutions, will have any predictable or reliable results. It must, in the end, be total civilizational collapse. And not in the long run. In the very short run.

The only question then is whether another civilization has the moral strength to take over.

Or is there perhaps a chance to preserve something in remote monasteries?

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


Don't you wish Mike Pence were the Republican nominee instead of Donald Trump?

The only trouble Pence had in out-matching Tim Kaine was Kaine's ability to bring up crazy things that Trump has said, or could be slightly misrepresented as saying. Trump was like an albatross around Pence ' s neck.

But wait. If Republican voters had wanted to run a Pence, they had every opportunity. There was no shortage of good candidates. They could have nominated Jeb Bush, or Marco Rubio, or Bobby Jindal, or John Kasich. They chose not to.

There has to be a reason.

And there is. Pence, with his courtly, gentlemanly manner, his refusal to stoop to questionable tactics, his reasonableness, his courtesy, reminded one a lot of Mitt Romney, or Paul Ryan debating an interrupting Joe Biden, or John McCain insisting Barack Obama was a decent chap. Or the Republican leadership in Congress. This is just what enraged the Republican rank and file into choosing Trump.

It is the wrong tone for the times. It reminded me of Hubert Humphrey, back in 1968, proclaiming "the politics of joy." When the Vietnam War was in full swing. It just seemed callous.

While Pence was being well-mannered, Kaine was talking over every point, and the moderator was obviously biased against him. In such circumstances, anger is called for. Act as if everything is fine, and you just look helpless. A loser.

Indeed, you will be a loser. If one side follows the rules of the game, and the other side cheats at every opportunity, the good will always lose.

You may think this is too harsh a judgement on the left. I disagree. Postmodernism has refused to be bound by any of the rules of civil society. Alinsky has refused. The Bible or the Ten Commandments no longer hold us together. The sanctity of marriage no longer does. Motherhood no longer does. Male and female are no longer fixed qualities. There is no longer a general consensus on the right to life.

That's why we got Trump.


The time has come for a Canadian professional baseball league.

Baseball has always suffered in Canadian eyes for being considered "America's pastime. " This was never really true: baseball actually has roots as deep in Canada as in the US.

American baseball has left the Canadian market open, with the exception of Toronto. Why not create our own league, on the lines of the CFL?

Any such trans-Canada competition helps national unity.

Here are my proposed teams:

Montreal Royals
Calgary Chinooks
Edmonton Magpies
Winnipeg Nor'Westers
Ottawa Shiners
Hamilton Bobcats
Quebec Fusiliers
Vancouver Lotus Eaters
Toronto Red Rockets