Playing the Indian Card

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Song of the Mad Prince Wolsan

Autumn night on the river; ripples sleep.
No fish want my bait;
Only moonlight--
The boat returns empty.

- translated from a poem by the 15th-century Wolsan Taegun, for whom Toksu Palace in Seoul was built. He was twice passed over for the Korean throne on the grounds that he was insane.

-- Stephen K. Roney

Again with Atttawapiskat

Traditional Ojibwe and Dakota homes.

Tristin Hopper writes an op-ed in the National Post to explain to us ignorant white folks why it is that Cree might not want to leave the blight of Attawapiskat. We cannot understand, because we are descended from immigrants, who of course did move for a better life.

Yeah. Unlike the Cree Indians, our ancestors had to give up our land. So we owe them something because theirs didn't?

Speaking of Europeans, she explains, “The gospel of 'just pick up and leave' is extremely foreign to your typical European.--be they Serbian, French, or Irish.”

Odd—if we are “white,” weren't our ancestors European? How did all those Europeans, 400 million or so at last count, get over here to North America, with nobody actually leaving Europe? How did we get to be descended from immigrants,, if there were none? One of life's little mysteries.

Famine Memorial, Dublin

My own ancestors are mostly Irish. Ask the Irish, if you will, about “just pick up and leave.” Within a space of ten years in the middle of the 19th century, about one third of the Irish population was obliged to do just that. Most of the rest just died in place. Anyone here heard of the Great Hunger? And the emigrant flow from Ireland to elsewhere has been thick and fast before and since.

But Hopper needn't ask the Irish. She could ask the Cree.

Hopper laments on behalf of the Attawapiskat Cree that they “share a country with some of the most fanatically nomadic people in human history.”

Right. And the Cree were not nomadic? Reporting to their French superiors in the early days of New France, Jesuit chroniclers noted that Cree villages were dismantled and moved at least every six weeks. I think the Cree once knew something about moving.

Drew Taylor, Indian playwright, is quoted as saying, “Cree communities are not RV parks, ready to uproot at a moment's notice.”

That's exactly how traditional Cree communities always worked.

Stewart Phillip, Indian political leader, is quoted as saying “We're not bison. We shouldn't be herded around on the whims of a racist nation.”

That's exactly what traditional Plains Cree communities did—moved with the bison. (And, of course, Canada is probably one of the least racist countries on earth.)

Joseph Boyden, Indian author, is quoted as saying “this idea of forcing people off the place where they've lived for thousands of years is not the way to move forward.”

Which place would that be? In the hundred years or so after the Hudson's Bay Company set up its first trading posts at James Bay, ancestors of the Cree spread from the area of Attawapiskat all the way to Peace River.

This is all an example of an eternal truth: when people commit to lie habitually, they tend to end up saying the exact opposite of the truth. This is because the truth becomes a danger to them. Always staying as far from it as possible feels like safety.

A guilty conscience also makes them tend to contradict themselves. As if subconsciously they wanted to be found out.

Again with "Gender Identity"

Was Marcel Duchamp a prophet?
Ths is the latest post I was forwarded on Facebook about the North Carolina 'bathroom bill."

If the author would only open her mind a smidgeon, she would see in that new light she was arguing against her own interests. She is a woman who looks like a man. Currently she gets embarrassed, and risks being physically ejected, she says, when using the women's rest room. The current North Carolina law would solve the problem. It sets an objective test. “Looks like a woman” is too ambiguous, as she points out. What is she supposed to do—drop her knickers? But under the new NC law, she need only show her birth certificate if questioned.

There is another simple solution to her present problem she could apply anywhere, even under the pre-NC laws. If, as she says, all she really cares about is going in and peeing, why not simply use the men's? She claims to look so much like a man that people think she is one when she enters a women's washroom. Very well—then she also looks like a man when she enters the men's room, and nobody is going to challenge her. Problem solved. Even if she is wrong, even if she does not look that much like a man, in the real world, nobody is likely to challenge her. Men do not care, as men do not worry about being raped or about being looked at carnally by a woman.

You object? Why? Why does she? QED. Obviously, something about doing that concerns her. Odd shre does not mention it. But there is no need to figure out what it is. Whatever it is, in advocating for rest rooms effectively unsegregated by sex, she is demanding that every women, not just herself, face the problem she faces here: all would then have to share the washroom with random men, the very thing she cannot bring herself to do. She would not even be helping herself. She would lose any opportunity to avoid doing likewise.

She even ends by pointing out the darkest possibility of the alternative policy, of letting everyone use the toilet they “self-identify” with. Some innocent transgender person, like her, is liable to get shot. Extreme and unlikely, perhaps, but this is her example, not mine. At best, the problems she now identifies, with being suspected of voyeurism and sexual molestation, would intensify infinitely.

You want chaos? You got chaos.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sun on High Park

The sun glances off the pond,
Cascading diamonds,
Each duck seems to dive in pools of light.
-- Stephen K. Roney

The War of All Against All

Nuclear test, Bikini Atoll, 1946
I remember the Sixties.

They say, of course, that if you remember the Sixties, you were not really there.

Nevertheless, I think we all agree that something happened then. There was a tectonic shift in Western culture. There was some existential earthquake of major magnitude. Why?

There were many factors, no doubt; but let's not underrate The Bomb. In the Fifties and early Sixties, “The Bomb,” as we called it then, was new. We lived in constant fear of thermonuclear war, and “mutual assured destruction.” Eminent philosopher Bertrand Russell opined at the time that, all things considered, it was better right now to surrender to the Soviet Union than to run the risk of atomic war, whoever won. North American cities, on the model of London in the Blitz, set up systems of air raid sirens. Everyone built a bomb shelter in their back yard. Even Diefenbaker had his Diefenbunker.

Main conference room, Diefenbunker

Now we are all more sanguine, perhaps without good reason. But back then everything smelled of Armageddon. Add that recollections of the Second World War and its carnage were still fresh, Korea and Vietnam had quickly followed, and the First World War was still within living memory. It all left us with a general impression that civilization, technology, and the grand sweep of history were herding us lambs to the slaughter. More civilization simply led to bloodier and more frequent war year upon year, as nations got bigger and weapons more powerful, until, inevitably, the entire species was annihilated. Along with every other species. George Orwell's 1984, composed in 1948, accordingly forecast a future of constant war.

Orwell's imaginary world in 1984, showing areas of constant conflict among the three great powers.

So if civilization and progress were a dead end, what was our alternative?

Enter, stage left, a familiar dramatis persona, a stock character of stage, screen, and bodice-ripper: the Noble Savage. We began to imagine, as Europeans traditionally do whenever Europe is caught in war, that North American Indians, relatively untouched by civilization, were a contrasting model of peace, tolerance, and general human happiness. “Little Big Man,” the anti-Western released in 1970, outlined the basic narrative; although not in as extreme form as the notion of primal innocence later became. In that film, Indian war is shown as a sort of shadow play: victory consists in touching the enemy, then retreating unharmed. The poor, good-hearted Cheyennes in the movie are unable to comprehend the reality of modern war, and die like lemmings. At another point, the European protagonist, as a boy, lands a punch on the chin of an Indian antagonist. The native lad, nonplussed, just stands there, not knowing how to respond. He knew nothing of fisticuffs.

Right. Nice life, if there is not an angel with a flaming sword blocking your way.

Sadly, some of us have recently been rudely awakened from this Samoan vacation of the mind by the archaeological record. As Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature) and Lawrence Keeley (War Before Civilization) have outlined in recent books, if wars in the Twentieth century had generated the same mortality rates as the typical wars among hunter-gatherer societies, by 2000 there would have been two billion dead (Spengler (4 July 2006). "The fraud of primitive authenticity". Asia Times Online, citing Nicholas Wade). In the close encounters characteristic of tribal war, Keeley says, casualty rates run to 60%, against 1% among combatants in a current war. On average, tribal wars are 20 times more deadly than that trouble Hitler started. Nor were they as uncommon as modern war: The Economist estimates that two-thirds of hunter-gatherer societies worldwide are at war constantly, and 90% go to war at least once a year.

Apparently, Canadian Indians were a bit on the pacifist side. Keeley's data from North America suggest that, among our First Nations, only 87% enaged in war at least once a year. That's 3% less bellicose than the mean.

A notable excavation at Crow Creek, South Dakota, has uncovered the skeletons of 500 men, women, and children, all, by the marks on the bones, dead by violence, scalped, and mutilated, a century and a half before Columbus sailed. No polluting influence of European civilization here. This was 60% of the estimated population of that village. Mostly missing, interestingly, were the bones of young women. That might account for the other 40%--carried off for future considerations, probably of a largely sexual nature.

This actually should not come as a shock to anyone. It conforms well with the historical record, and the historical record has always been clear. When Columbus disembarked, he found the Indians of San Salvador on alert against raids from nearby islands. John Smith, kidnapped by the Powhatans, was briefed on the local situation: “Hee [the chief] described ... upon the same Sea, a mighty Nation called Pocoughtronack, a fierce Nation that did eate men, and warred with the people of Moyaoncer and Pataromerke, Nations upon the toppe of the heade of the Bay, under his territories: where the yeare before they had slain an hundred” (A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Hapned in Virginia, 1608). The Stadacona Indians at Quebec told Cartier on his first visit of a recent successful raid by their neighbours resulting in 200 deaths, out of a population of a couple of thousand. When Champlain came by eighty years later, of course, all the Stadaconans, and even any trace of their language, were gone. As Champlain and his arquebusiers landed, the local Indians promptly tried to recruit them in their ongoing war with the Iroquois.

Jesuit chroniclers, often first at the frontier, and trained scientific observers, also noted this state of perpetual war. Father Jouvency, S.J., says of the Indians of New France generally, “They engage in war rashly and savagely, often with no cause, or upon a very slight pretext” (Jesuit Relations 1, p. 267). “One tribe hardly ever has intercourse with another, either distant or near, except such as may arise in the prosecution of offensive or defensive warfare” (Jesuit Relations 2, p. 199). Of the Algonquins and Iroquois, the early Jesuits explain, “There has always been war between these two nations, as there has been between the Souriquois [Micmac] and Armouchiquois [modern identity unknown; possibly wiped out by the Micmac]” (Jesuit Relations 1, p. 103).

There really was, in fairness to “Little Big Man,” a practice among some plains Indians (only) of “counting coup,” getting boasting rights by touching an enemy and retreating unharmed. However, this was in addition to, not instead of, war as we know it, with all the blood and gore and stuff. There is no question real Indians would understand the difference. “Although military historians tend to reserve the concept of 'total war' for conflicts between modern industrial nations,” Mark Van de Logt writes of these same tribes of the plains, “the term nevertheless most closely approaches the state of affairs between the Pawnees and the Sioux and Cheyennes” (Mark Van de Logt, War Party in Blue. Pawnee Scouts in the US Army. University of Oklahoma Press, 2012. p. 35). “To take one another's scalps had been for ages the absorbing and favourite recreation of all these Western tribes,” Francis Parkman concurs (Parkman, A Half Century of Conflict, vol. 2, p. 21, speaking of the Outagamies, Winnebagoes, Sacs, Sioux, and Illinois). Horace Greeley reports, from the Nineteenth century frontier, “[T]he Aarapaho chief, Left-Hand, assures me that his people were always at war with the Utes—at least, he has no recollection, no tradition, of a time when they were at peace.“ (Horace Greeley, “Lo! The Poor Indian!” An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer of 1859).

It is also true enough that Indians, as shown in “Little Big Man,” did not box. But a real Cheyenne would not have responded only with shocked inaction if struck with a right hook. Father Biard, in the Jesuit Relations, reports just such a circumstance: “they do not understand boxing at all. I have seen one of our little boys make a Savage, a foot taller than himself, fly before him; placing himself in the posture of a noble warrior, he placed his thumb over his fingers and said, 'Come on!'”

“However,” the good Jesuit immediately adds, “when the Savage was able to catch him up by the waist, he made him cry for mercy” (Jesuit Relations 3, p. 91).

No wonder Brazeau lost. Image courtesy Globe and Mail.

Nor was this non-stop aggressiveness simply a matter of young men needing to prove their mettle, while life went on more or less as always back home among the tents and longhouses. This, as Pinker, Keeley, and Van de Logt point out, was total war, in a sense the world wars of the Twentieth century really never were. “Noncombatants were legitimate targets,” Van de Logt notes. “Indeed, the taking of a scalp of a woman or a child was considered honourable because it signified that the scalp taker had dared to enter the very heart of the enemy's territory” (Mark Van de Logt, War Party in Blue. Pawnee Scouts in the US Army. University of Oklahoma Press, 2012. p. 35). The object of any war was, ultimately, total extermination of the enemy. They were, after all, not human.

The Indian way of war was familiar enough to early colonists. In the raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts, during Queen Anne's War, in 1704, for example, one Joseph Bradley's wife was taken captive, and later gave birth to a child in captivity. The assembled Indians, mostly Abenaki, with a sprinkling of French, quickly killed the child by throwing hot coals in its mouth when it cried (Francis Parkman, A Half Century of Conflict, vol 1, p 91). They also killed Mercy Sheldon, age two, by dashing her brains out on the door-stone (ibid, p. 115). Mariah Carter, five years old, was killed because the Indians did not think her fit for the march of captives back to New France (p. 117). For that was their plan for prisoners: to bring them back to their villages along the St. Lawrence for either ransom or servitude. Later, on the long trek with their human booty, they killed a nursing baby (p. 123). Soon after, in a fit of drunkenness, they killed a negro serving man (p. 124). A Mrs. Williams, who had recently given birth, was tomahawked when she fainted along the way (p. 126). Next day, they killed another infant and a girl of eleven (p. 126). Another day, and they tomahawked another woman. The day following, they slaughtered four more. In this case, at least, woman and children were seemingly killed first, on the grounds that they were not strong enough to survive being taken as captives.

Indian women were apparently hardier, or more desirable as captives. When an assembled force of their enemies overwhelmed the Outagamies outside Detroit, according to Parkman, “The women and children were divided among the victorious hordes, and adopted or enslaved. To the men, no quarter was given. 'Our Indians amused themselves,' writes Dubuisson [the commander of the French forces], 'with shooting four or five of them every day.'” (Parkman, A Half Century of Conflict, volume 1, p. 497).

Iroquois expansion during the Beaver Wars.

You want to accuse Sir John A. of “cultural genocide”? This was real genocide, of real people. All Indian wars were genocidal. You may have heard of “the last of the Mohicans”? Blotted out by the Mohawk. Recall too the Stadaconans who greeted Cartier. Gone, as noted, eighty years later. The Dorset people, “skraelings,” who fought off the Vikings? Gone a few hundred years later; only archeological evidence remains. The Pocumtuc, prior residents of the Deerfield of which we have recently been speaking? Wiped out by the Mohawks in the early 1660s. The Yellowknives from the region of Great Slave Lake and the Coppermine River, the largest tribe in the great Northwest when Samuel Hearne passed through in 1774? Obliterated by the nearby Dogrib Indians soon after, in the early nineteenth century (Keeley, pp. 67-9).

In the “Beaver Wars,” the Iroquois Confederacy exterminated the Wenro by 1638, the Hurons by 1649, the Neutrals by 1651, the Eries by 1656, and the Susquehannock by 1677. They drove the remnants of the Shawnee west beyond the Mississippi River.

“Before French or English influence had been felt in the interior of the continent,” writes Parkman, “a great part of North America was the frequent witness of scenes ... of horror. In the first half of the seventeenth century the whole country from Lake Superior to the Tennessee, and from the Alleghenies to the Mississippi, was ravaged by wars of extermination, in which tribes, large and powerful by Indian standards, perished, dwindled into feeble remnants, or were absorbed by other tribes and vanished from sight” (Parkman, ibid., pp. 498-9).

In 1638, Jesuit missionaries were present to see the remnants of the Wenro Indians straggle in to Huronia, their own villages and most of their people having been wiped out by the Iroquois: “Notwithstanding the help that could be given them [by the Hurons], the fatigue and inconveniences of such a voyage —of more than eighty leagues, made by over six hundred persons, of whom the majority were women and little children —were so great that many died on the way, and nearly all were sick when they arrived, or immediately afterwards” (Fr. LeJeune, Jesuit Relations 17, p. 25). Eleven years later, Jesuits were present when the same fate befell the Hurons themselves. “[N]otwithstanding the many alms that we gave, ... we could not prevent hundreds and hundreds of them from dying in the winter by hunger. In the summer, many had rather postponed death than prolonged life, by living either in the woods on a few bitter roots and wild fruits; or on the rocks, on some little fish ... It was a frightful thing to see, instead of men, dying skeletons, walking more like shadows of the dead than like bodies of the living; and feeding themselves on that which nature has most in abomination, — exhuming the corpses (which we buried with our own hands, the relatives of the dead often lacking the strength to do so), in order to nourish themselves therewith, and eat the leavings of foxes and dogs” (Jesuit Relations, vol. 40, p. 47).

Long before the Noble Savage strutted his hour upon the stage, there was another Indian familiar to Europeans, based more closely on actual encounters. Horace Greeley, the author of the adage “Go West, young man,” himself went west, and wrote of his discovery of the untrammeled Indian, “I have learned to appreciate better than hitherto, and to make more allowance for, the dislike, aversion, contempt, wherewith Indians are usually regarded by their white neighbors, and have been since the days of the Puritans. It needs but little familiarity with the actual, palpable aborigines to convince any one that the poetic Indian—the Indian of Cooper and Longfellow—is only visible to the poet’s eye” (Horace Greeley, Lo! The Poor Indian!” An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer of 1859).

Frontidspiece to Hobbes's Leviathan, one of the most famous bits of book illustration ever.
Thomas Hobbes, the original author of the idea of a “social contract,” grew to young adulthood in the days that England, his homeland, was starting its first settlements at Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. Far from endorsing the Noble Savage image, Hobbes argued that man in a state of nature lived a life that was, now proverbially, “nasty, brutish, and short.” The state of nature was, as indeed Darwin later saw it, a “war of all against all.” Government, then, was man's great effort to escape this hellish condition, and so to protect his rights to life, limb, and liberty against some stronger neighbour. To Hobbes, even the most authoritarian, undemocratic, autocratic, oppressive government was more desirable than this awful possibility of a state of nature. “Hereby it is manifest,” he writes in Leviathan, “that during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man” (Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 13).

Where did Hobbes get such a misanthropic idea? Such a dark and sinister view of human nature?

As it happens, Hobbes is explicit:

“It may peradventure be thought, there was never such a time, nor condition of warre as this; and I believe it was never generally so, over all the world: but there are many places, where they live so now. For the savage people in many places of America, except the government of small Families, the concord whereof dependeth on naturall lust, have no government at all; and live at this day in that brutish manner, as I said before” (ibid.).

Hobbes, in short, was informed by contemporary reports from the American colonies.

This state of eternal war explains, to Hobbes' thinking, why Indian society had remained so materially undeveloped.

“In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short” (ibid.)

If innate conservatism were not already a central feature of Indian cultures, this alone would be enough to ensure they did not develop. It does not, of course, explain why Indian cultures since this condition ceased have still not produced very much.

Interestingly, then, the Indians of America are ultimately responsible for our current system of government: not just, as has often been said, for parts of the US Constitution, but for parliamentary democracy, for the idea of popular sovereignty, and for the doctrine of human rights. Hobbes's defense of absolute monarchy has long fallen out of favour; we have guillotines for that. But his essential insight of the social contract was built upon by John Locke, and liberal democracy was the result. Government is a pact we make to protect our rights. As part of that pact, we retain essential sovereignty, and have a right to always be consulted.

But Indian society was not the model: it was the counter example.

Living a life that was nasty, brutish, and short cannot have been nearly as much fun as it looks in the movies. But do not blame the Indians. They were its greatest victims. In said state of nature, each group faced a problem. Without some overarching authority to enforce it, laying down the tomahawk and seeking to live in peace with one's neighbours simply left one open to conquest, enslavement, and bloody murder. Everyone was a tiger with another tiger by the tail.

Enter, happily, the British and then Canadian government with their treaties. For the “white” authorities, these were all about land, about clearly, decently, and honourably “extinguishing aboriginal title.” The Indians, with no concept of land ownership, probably did not attach so much importance to this. Especially since they were still allowed to hunt. Whatever… For them, the treaties were about learning to assimilate, learning a new and better way to forge a living. But they were also, perhaps even more so, seen by the Indians as general peace treaties. Not so much peace treaties with the Canadian government: treaties of peace among the Indian tribes, with the federal government, and the redoubtable Mounties, reassuringly there to preserve it. Cree chief Sweetgrass sent an appeal for a treaty to Lieutenant-Governor Alexander Morris in 1871. He cites the need to learn farming, but also writes, “We made a peace this winter with the Blackfeet. Our young men are foolish, it may not last long. We want you to come and see us and to speak with us” (Alexander Morris, The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the NorthWest Territories [1880; reprint, Saskatoon, Fifth House, 1991], pp 170-171). The Blackfeet, his antagonists, sent a similar message, calling for a treaty while complaining, inter alia, that “the Half-breeds [Métis] and Cree Indians in large Camps are hunting Buffalo, both summer and Winter in the very centre of our lands” (Treaty 7 Elders and Tribal Council. The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7 [Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995], pp. 276-277).

A common rap against Locke's theories, and by extension against the philosophal underpinnings of liberal democracy and human rights, is that the original “social contract” is entirely a theoretical construct; that at no actual moment in history did any group of people actually, literally enter into any such contract, delegating some of their rights and powers for the sake of forming a government. It follows, then, if so, that governments are not legitimate. There was no deal.

But in fact, we have just such a historical example: the Indians of Canada, signing the numbered treaties.

Perhaps the greatest peril of the current, wildly romantic notion of a Noble native Savage living in an Edenic garden, is that Indians themselves now get most of their notions of “traditional Indian culture” from the popular media. Such misinformation encourages the Indian young in particular to try to return to a purely imaginary state. Such efforts cannot end well: even if it were possible to return to a state of innocence after knowledge, to crawl back up into your mother's womb and suck your thumb forever--before Jamestown, in all likelihood, is only Jonestown. Many modern Indians are left undermining the wisdom of their wisest ancestors.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Canadian Hostage Beheaded in Mindanao

My wife is Filipina. Indeed, her home town is in Mindanao, on the main road to Davao from the north. We plan to move to our home in the Philippines this summer. This has caused Canadian friends to express concern, given the recent beheading of Canadian hostage John Ridsdel by Abu Sayyef.

I wish I could reassure them by saying Ridsdel was taking unnecessary risks. We all like to believe that those who suffer great misfortune somehow brought it upon themselves. This calms our outraged yearning for justice, and reassures us that the same thing will not happen to us. We won't make the same mistake; we're smarter than that. But Ridsdel, an old Filipino hand, apparently did nothing foolish or reckless. He was kidnapped near Davao. Davao is in Mindanao, and parts of Mindanao are unsafe, but Davao is in the less remote and non-Muslim eastern part of the island, not the dangerous West, and is itself by reputation extremely safe. I have never been to Davao, and would worry about taking the road in, but my wife and I were actually talking of moving there not long ago. Partly because it is supposed to be the safest city in the Philippines, or even in East Asia.

In the end, any Third World country is dangerous. If government and police were reliable and effective, it would not be Third World. It is especially dangerous for anyone who looks European or North American. The typical Third World criminal, when he or she sees European or North American, sees money. If wishes were horses, I would not be moving to the Philippines. But, unfortunately, money is an object.

The only useful thought I think I can add in the present case is that it would be wrong to blame Muslims as a group or Islam for this. This sounds like a cop out, but I think it is not. This is not about Islam; that is a cover, a self-justification. The Philippines are a relatively poor country. Young people have trouble finding jobs. People actually starve to death. If you are poor and Muslim, the temptation is to join Abu Sayyef. If you are poor and non-Muslim, and female, prostitution is an option. If you are male, it isn't. Much like your Muslim neighbours, you similarly join the New People's Army, a Maoist organization active on the eastern side of Mindanao, and in most other remote regions. Given the vast ideological disparity, and the fact that you find something similar in just about any Third World country, the real issue is unlikely to be ideological. The point is money. It is a rough living, but it is a living.

For this reason, you cannot usefully negotiate. You cannot usefully acceed to any non-monetary “demands.” As the Philippine government well knows from experience, if you make a peace deal with one group, a new one will simply emerge to take their place. At the same time, it would have been a bad idea to pay the demanded ransom for Ridsdel; the Philippines government is right to counsel against this. It might have saved Ridsdel, but it would have guaranteed a rash of further kidnappings, of equally innocent foreigners. The surest way to prevent this sort of thing is to convince the miscreants that there is no money in it.

Of course, there is some slight chance I might find myself in the same situation as Ridsdel. If I did, I would probably, just like him, plea to be ransomed. Let the next guy leave his head in a ditch. There are no easy answers here.

The Coming of Rain

Storm-grey sky and cloud-foam--
The sea itself capsized,
And we below.

-- Stephen K. Roney

The North Carolina Bathroom Wars

He or she needs to pee.

Readers are probably aware of the ongoing North Carolina Bathroom Wars. My Facebook feed is full of it. Major celebrities are cancelling appearances in the state. Not to mention protests and pullouts by many large corporations, notably Target stores.

This time, it seems, it's total war.

And yet, this is all about a law that changes nothing, and should be common sense.

Traditionally, men are restricted to men's public rest rooms, and women are restricted to women's. The current North Carolina law would simply continue this practice, which was and is under threat from new ordinances in places like Charlotte. All it adds is a regular, legal method of checking in case of dispute that does not violate anyone's privacy: by the sex shown on the birth certificate. It does not call for any new enforcement procedure: only that a sign be posted advising everyone which washroom to use.

Back in the 1970's, the feminist movement pushed for an “Equal Rights Amendment.” It failed, primarily because, given the logic of recent “separate but equal” decisions by the US courts, openly requiring equality of treatment before the law between men and women in the US Constitution would logically require integrated toilets. It was obvious then, and went without saying, that this was not in women's interest. Surely the reasons are obvious? As it happens, men and women are actually not the same. If nothing else, women can get pregnant as a result of sex, and men cannot. Ergo, women's interests in any encounter between the sexes need to be protected. Enforcing unisex washrooms amounts to an open door, literally, for rapists, sexual molesters, pederasts, and voyeurs. Equal rights in this case are a violation of women's rights to privacy, security of the person, and (for example, for those, such as orthodox Muslim women, who still believe in the virtue of modesty) freedom of conscience.

Forty or so years later, the left will no longer even listen to such counter-arguments. They want unisex washrooms. The N.C. bill designed to preserve separate restrooms, and titled, to make the intent clear, “The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” is instead always and only referred to in the mainstream media as the “anti-LBGT bill.” According to the left, it is rank discrimination if “transgender people” cannot freely choose for themselves which bathroom they use, depending on their own view of their “gender identity.”

This post is characteristic of the genre. It appeared of late in my Facebook feed:

The irony here is thick as peanut butter. The article ends with an appeal for open-mindedness and tolerance. Yet it begins with a recommendation to un-friend on Facebook anyone who disagrees with you. If the author were at all open-minded, he would at least address the stated intention of the bill, clear in its very title, instead of imputing to its framers a different, unstated motive. The arguments and concerns of the bill's backers might be misguided, but honesty demands they be addressed in some way. To avoid accusing the writer and his original source of dishonesty—and the same goes for essentially every reporter and commentator on the bill in the mainstream media, and all those who repost this stuff on Facebook and elsewhere--it is necessary to assume an extreme closed-mindedness. They do not know the arguments for the bill, they never read it, and they do not want to know.

A Thai transsexual (male to female). Not a problem.

Note that the present bill would not affect transsexuals. They have always freely used rest rooms corresponding to their anatomical, not their genetic, sex. Nobody cares; most often, nobody knows. They would continue to do so under the present North Carolina bill. You use the rest room for the sex given on your birth certificate. Like most US states, North Carolina allows you to change the sex on your birth certificate if you have had “sex reassignment surgery.” This might be a bit of a hassle, but trivial compared to the surgery. And, in the real world, a transsexual probably would not need to bother. Nobody cares, and nobody with the new bill is going to be at the restroom door demanding to see your papers. If you look like a woman, why would anyone think to challenge you in the women's room? If you look like a man, most certainly, nobody will challenge you in the men's room. Where's the problem?

The problem, contrary to almost every piece of propaganda from the left, is not with allowing transsexuals, but with allowing “transgender people,” into the women's room. The left constantly uses this phrase, “transgender” but does not seem to understand what it means. They apparently think it means the same as “transsexual.” A transsexual is someone who has altered their anatomical sex with surgery. “Transgender” is a broader term. “Transgender” follows the feminist dogma that “gender” has nothing to do with anatomy or genetics, that it is a role assigned by society. The rest is just plumbing. Therefore, anyone can feel inwardly he is “really” a woman, or she is really a man, despite either genetics or anatomy.

Do you see the problem yet? 

The Rape of Lucretia. Problem.

Allowing such “transgender people” to choose which washroom to use, therefore, based only on their own claimed opinion as they state it to you, means in practice letting every man or woman choose for themselves which washroom to use at any given time. Yes, even at any given time. According to the politically correct definition, "transgender" includes "gender fluid." If challenged on entering the ladies' room, all anyone need do is say they feel like a woman today. And then perhaps file a complaint against the unadvisedly brave interrogator for discrimination on grounds of sexual identity.

Real transgender people, if they really exist, are of no concern here. Presumably they are not going to abuse this. But pederasts, rapists, molesters, and voyeurs certainly will. They cannot simply be held on their honour. If they were honourable, they would not be pederasts, rapists, molesters, and voyeurs. In effect, allowing “transgenders” free choice means the end to washrooms segregated by sex.

One response I have gotten, more than once, on pointing this out, is that there is no need to worry, because we already have laws against rape, molestation, voyeurism, and pederasty. But by this logic, we ought also not to waste good money on well-lighted transit stops, or police patrols. There is no good reason to avoid dark alleys, or certain districts of town. After all, we already have laws against anything bad that might happen.

Who cares if we have surrendered any good chance to prevent, apprehend or convict in court?

This may be the left's Waterloo. It is not just that they have jumped the shark. They have also now thrown women under the bus. It was all very well when they could make straight white males the villains. They are a minority. A little bit larger than the Jews, but still a minority. They can be pushed around. Also sacrifice the obvious interests of women, though, and you have doubled the numbers.

It only remains to be seen how strong the herd instinct is in keeping women in line. Or how long a ganeral closed-mindedness on the left will protect them from actual thought.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hockey Memories

Roch Carrier as a young boy, wearing his shameful Maple Leafs sweater.

There is something forever about professional sports. They keep adding new teams; but you can generally ignore them. They start doing sissy things like wearing helmets. But even so, to watch a sports competition is to return somehow to your childhood. Like Christmas morning, or old Three Stooges shorts.

For me, of course, a Canadian, hockey is prime. The sound of a skate cutting ice; the red light behind the goal; the organ playing. I was recently reminiscing. What else can you do when you're bedridden? I started handing out imaginary trophies left and right, in the NHL tradition. But not to players. That would be boring. They'd all go to Wayne Gretzky. Besides, it's been done. To teams, on the PR front, rather than for feats on the ice.

Howie Morenz

Most iconic team: no debate here. It's like Wayne Gretzky. Montreal Canadiens, of course. Other teams have a certain storied history—Toronto, Detroit, Edmonton, Boston, NY Islanders—but no one else comes close. They may be in the same league, but they're not in the same league. The Canadiens are Harvard; and there is no Yale. They are Oxford; and there is no Cambridge. They are Eaton's, and there is no Simpson's. Actually, there's no Eaton's any more either.

Ottawa Silver Seven, 1905

Best logo: Chicago Blackhawks. An amazing work of art; it never gets old. Colourful, yet not garish. Not simple, yet not complex. Of course, they will probably soon be forced to retire it, because it shows an Indian head. Among other logos, the new Winnipeg Jets' symbol seems really classy to me. The St. Louis Blues logo is simple, but strong. New Jersey's is pretty cool. Buffalo's is elegant. 

Chicago logo.
Of the original six, the worst logo was always New York Rangers. It is really no logo at all. Can't afford a designer? More recently, Calgary Flames is pretty weak. The flame motif worked well with the letter “A” for Atlanta, but looks juvenile with “C.” Carolina Hurricanes is worst among newer teams. It looks like something from a cheap 1950s paperback cover when they could only afford two colours of ink. Pittsburgh Penguins' strikes me as embarrassing to have showing on your chest. Granted, Anaheim Ducks' logo also looks cartoonish, but that is okay, because it is intentional. I don't like the Ottawa Senators' logo. Too generic. Are they sponsored by Roman Meal? 

Gretzky as a Ranger.
The logo is not too bad, but Edmonton Oilers should take some sort of prize for the ugliest uniform. Really. It's not Hallowe'en. Vancouver Canucks used to rule this category, and Edmonton used to have a rather nice uniform. But then, they used to win hockey games. How can you take yourself seriously, dressed like a pumpkin?

My trophy for the best team name goes to Buffalo Sabres. That captures something. Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils are also pretty cool. They make rich references to local history and legend, instead of just naming another sports team after another mangy animal.

Worst team name: Columbus Blue Jackets. Is that a name, or just a description of the uniform? Of course, if the latter, it is wrong. Hockey teams do not wear “jackets.” I've also never liked “Edmonton Oilers.” Profoundly unoriginal, since they are predated by the Houston Oilers of the NFL. Anyway, whats an “oiler”? An Italian teenager getting ready for a date?

Most lamented team: Montreal Maroons. New York and LA. have multiple teams. Toronto and Montreal could certainly support them too. Could be great rivalries. In the old days, Montreal Maroons were the Anglo Montreal team, and the Canadiens were the French. Sadly, that tribe is mostly gone, and they would probably lack a sufficient fan base. But they would be my team, anyway. 

Nels Stewart, Montreal Maroons

I lamented the Minnesota North Stars' move, too. It was a great team name, and an obvious hockey market. Now, of course, they have been replaced in the Twin Cities by the Wild. The market is again served, but it is still an inferior team name. Quebec Nordiques were also a massive loss, for the sake of the rivalry with Montreal. I hope they are revived in the next expansion. Quebec was part of the NHL from the beginning. I also miss the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still in operation? Who knew?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tourist Snaps of Thailand

The rain falls on the Chivas Regal sign across the street.
Dry under a roof, I fight back sleep.

Butterfly chases butterfly flower to flower.
An old dog sleeps beside me in the shade.

Do I smell jasmine from the temple pond?
Or am I remembering?

-- Stephen K. Roney

Most Science Now Isn't

Social scientist at work.
Science began as a theological exercise. It is based on the assumption that there is a designer of the universe. Without an invisible legislator, we would not be able to find “laws” of nature. Mathematics would not work, nor would logic. We would simply have chaos.

This being so, science began as a way to understand God's nature, and his intentions. Ask Francis Bacon.

No,  not that Francis Bacon

There is a reason, after all, why empirical science arose in Christian Europe, not elsewhere. Unlike most other religions, Christianity holds that the material world is real and made by God. To Buddhism or Hinduism, for example, it is simply “illusion.” To Gnosticism and many pagan philosophies, it is the creation of the devil. The success of science proves the Christian assumption, and disproves the Buddhist or shamanist idea that the material world is “chaos.”

This is also why, popular romanticism and Disney's Pocahontas to the contrary, it is only in the Christian world that you see a real concern for “ecology” or “environmentalism.”

Not a real Indian. Trust us: it's a cartoon.
Unfortunately, over the last few centuries, we have mostly forgotten this, and come to raise “Science” itself to the status of religion. From being a useful tool, we have made it a cosmology. Whereas Philosophy used to be the “queen of sciences” (which is why the highest degree is still, even in a scientific field, “Doctor of Philosophy”) now Physics is more often cited. The social sciences are the worst example of this new “scientism,” and perhaps the fount and origin of most of the problem. They contradict some of the basic assumptions of science, but let's leave that point aside for now. For now, let's just note that social scientists almost inevitably put themselves in direct competition with religion: seeking to explain without it what religion is meant to explain, seeking to fill the human needs that clergy used to fill. Chesterton once described Freudian analysis as “confession without absolution.” That's about right. Marx and Freud, the two great founders of the social sciences, were open opponents of religion. There is good reason for this: religion was their direct competitor. It still is. 

Is that a cigar, or are you just glad to see me?

Both have also been comprehensively debunked as science. Nevertheless, their mooncalf, “social science,” lives and grows. Feminism, postmodernism, “progressivism” not only continue to dominate, but seem to grow annually in their influence, even though they are based ultimately on Marx and Freud, and this philosophical underpinning has long ago been disproven.

Unfortunately, trying to elevate science to a religion is not just destructive of religion. It is destructive to human life. Humans are reduced to the status of physical objects. It is also destructive, ultimately, to science. We are now seeing this raven wing home to roost.

"He goes on Sunday to the church." We used to care.

Let's leave aside the point that any sort of social science presupposes radical human inequality: the scientific observer must be seen as having a consciousness at an entirely different level from the observed, or else you have an insurmountable observer paradox. Even if that were not so, from science by itself one cannot derive any moral code, or any sense of the value of anything. It has, of course, been tried: Nazism sought to derive morality from Darwin and the principle of survival of the fittest. This did not look to most of us, in the end, like morality. Freud's morality was more or less the same: survival of the individual, and survival of the species. But in practice, it was only sexual license, and another kind of mass murder, abortion, inevitably followed. Marxism tried to derive morality from material progress and a need to be on “the right side of history,” even though it held that history was going there anyway. Besides failing in practice, and leading to moral abominations as awful as those of Fascism and Freud, this was always philosophically incoherent.

So far, so bad for humanity. But also for science. Science itself (like more or less any human activity) cannot work unless you can count on its practitioners being themselves moral. Yes, you can police them, but then who polices the police? Who polices the police of the police? You can have peer review, you can expect results be reproducible, but in the end, someone somewhere is only on their honour to do this honesty. Yet science itself provides no moral code, and no reason to be moral. This was fine so long as we could count on scientists to also have a religious foundation. Now that we have dispensed with religion to the extent that we have, ancient chaos returns.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ezra Levant on Attawapiskat

Ezra Levant has been on top of the Attawapiskat story for years. Reviewing his old reports makes a good case for why things are now so desperate in that community that young people are threatening suicide.

Hint: it has nothing to do with residential schools.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Nobody Here but Us Bison Hunters

The National Post today apparently unknowingly catches Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, in a fine bit of unintended irony.

Responding to Jean Chretien's recent suggestion that some people in Attawapiskat First Nation might be better off if they move, Phillip responds, “We're not bison. We shouldn't be herded around on the whims of a racist nation.”

This serves as a timely reminder. The Cree were in fact historically a nomadic people. They had no fixed settlements. Moving from place to place was their way of life.

Moreover, the Cree, meaning individual Cree in many cases, spread over the past few centuries from an original base near Attawapiskat to as far West as the Peace River. Once on the plains, they indeed moved just like the bison, for they were literally following the bison as their source of sustenance.

If they really value their ancestral culture, what are they doing sitting there in Attawapiskat in front of their wide screen TVs? Why aren't they going where the jobs, today's game, are? Are they no longer worthy of their ancestors?


--after Po U (Korean, 16th century)

If you seek truth and find illusion
You are Buddha.
Illusion is the moth dancing into the flame;
It is a startled crane; an empty cage.
-- Stephen K. Roney

Nobody Here but Us Indians

Metis woman. Glenbow Museum collecction.

On April 14, the Supreme Court issued a long-awaited decision in Daniels v. Canada, regarding aboriginal status. Metis and non-status Indians across Canada celebrated what they saw as a huge victory. David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation, had trouble finding the right word to describe his emotions, writes the Globe and Mail. “Ecstatic, excited, happy, pleased.” Gabriel Daniels, son of the man who launched the court case originally back in 1999, said he was “overwhelmed and ecstatic.” Metis leaders were “screaming” with excitement in the lobby of the Supreme Court building. The Toronto Star headlined “Supreme Court recognizes rights of Metis, non-status Indians.”

I fear their celebration may be premature. The ultimate effect of the current decision may be to make the concept of “Indian,” and the special privileges it has come to entail, untenable.

At first glance at the ruling, the Metis actually mostly lost. They asked the court to decide three things: “(1) that Métis and non-status Indians are 'Indians' under s. 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867; (2) that the federal Crown owes a fiduciary duty to Métis and non-status Indians; and (3) that Métis and non-status Indians have the right to be consulted and negotiated with.” The court actually ruled against them on two out of these three, and it was the two parts that involved any additional rights for Metis. All they agreed with the plaintiffs on was the definition of “Indian” as it appears in the original British North America Act of 1867. Yes, "Indians" includes Metis and non-status Indians. And all the BNA Act says about "Indians" is that they are a federal, not a provincial, responsibility. The ruling implicitly denies that this entails any new rights. It explicitly says that it sees no obligation on the part of the federal government to pass any new legislation.

Nevertheless, there is a history here, and you can understand why the Metis leaders think the gravy train is soon to stop regularly at their door. Long before Canada was confederated, in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the British crown accepted a fiduciary responsibility for the interests of Canadian Indians. This, from the beginning, set us loyalists apart from the Americans, and indeed was one of the causes of both the American War of Independence, and the War of 1812. Unlike the American rebels, the British held that Indians had rights. They could not be simply displaced piecemeal by new arrivals; the entire matter needed to be dealt with by negotiation and agreement, and rather than being adversarial, the government should seek to be a fair arbitor between two groups of its subjects. The Supreme Court ruling would seem, therefore, to be self-contradictory. If Indians are a federal responsibility, the Canadian crown continues to have this fiduciary responsibility toward them, inherited in 1867 from the British crown. And this fiduciary responsibility would seem logically to include making some effort to be aware of their wishes, and to meet them.

This indeed already seems to be the tack taken by the Trudeau government.

Metis women and children
But given this reading, this expansion of the meaning of the term "Indian" adds a huge new federal liability. Status Indians get a lot of special benefits. Granted; these new "Indians" have no treaties, and so the government owes them no treaty benefits. On the other hand, doesn't this mean that their aboriginal land rights remain unextinguished, and so the government is obliged in fact to negotiate new treaties with them to extinguish their title?

According to official figures, there are about as many non-status Indians and Metis as there are status Indians. The federal budget estimates a current annual expenditure on Indians of around 8.1 billion dollars. The real figure is probably higher; virtually every arm and operation of government has added special programmes for aboriginals, the costs of which probably do not appear in this line item. Whatever the real figure is, it must now presumably be doubled. In the face of a budget deficit, in the middle of a recession.

But that may not be the end of the problem, The real problem may be much bigger. Is the official count complete?

The realization that this was true is probably why the Supreme Court tried to back away from the second and third parts of the plaintiffs' submission. The Supreme Court surely realized that applying these principles would make the entire concept of “aboriginal rights” economically untenable.

But the whole concept was always untenable. And the most the Supremes are really doing here, I suspect, is avoiding blame for the denoument.

The problem starts, as everyone points out, with the Indian Act, in 1876. The entire concept of an Indian Act implies the idea that different rules will apply to different groups of Canadians. That obviously violates essential democratic and liberal principles. Yet at the time that the Act was parred, this surely seemed only a temporary problem. The entire purpose of the original treaties, very much at Indian insistence, was assimilation. The Indians were assigned ample land to farm, farm implements, and education for their kids in farming. There should have been no need, after a generation or two, to worry about treaty rights. The individual Indians would have all moved on to unhyphenated Canadianness, and left the jurisdiction of the original band. With no members, the band ceases to be, and the treaty lapses.

Nevertheless, even as the numbered treaties were signed, it was clear that Indian status was, and was going to be, a thorny question. After all, the Metis were already an established group. Indians were already only a minority of the population, growing proportionately smaller. In the natural course of things, just like other Canadians, they were not always going to marry into their own ethnic group. Unless there are either laws or strong social taboos involved, love is going to find its way. The English are averse to marrying out, due to a certain Calvinist assumption that just about anyone you do not know well is damned. But Catholics, the French, the Irish, the Highland Scots, as were commonly employed by the fur trading companies, do not think this way. Neither do most Indian tribes.

This process of assimilation,just as Macdonald and the framers of the Indian Act expected, is real and has been ongoing. Indian leaders themselves predict (and lament) that, of this current generation, more than half have married or will marry non-natives. Left to itself, Indianness as a distinct identity, unless kept alive by artificial means, might have died out by now, or should soon die out, aand we would all return to being equals.

In the meantime, nevertheless, the Indian Act did make some attempt to deal with the issue. What to do if an Indian marries a non-Indian? Do the children, and their children, count as Indians, under the treaties, or do they count as ordinary Canadians, on the other side in the original bargain?

The original Indian Act specified that, if an Indian man married a non-Indian woman, the woman too became officially Indian. Their children were Indian. The male children of any such union might again marry non-Indians, generation after generation, all of them officially remaining status Indians.

But if an Indian woman married a non-Indian man, the opposite happened. She waived her Indian status, and became a plain Canadian. The children were ordinary Canadians, and their children in turn.

This involved certain assumptions, probably mostly valid for the time, regarding sex roles. Was this discrimination against women? In fact, in the eyes of the original framers, including the Indians who signed the treaties, it was probably the opposite. They saw remaining under treaty as an unfortunate and temporary condition, and merging successfully into the Canadian mainstream as the desired outcome. Originally, although being a status Indian had benefits, like the right to hunt and fish on any unused land, so did becoming fully Canadian. In remaining on reserve and retaining status, Indians could not vote, could not buy alcohol, did not own their own property, could not leave reserve without permission of an Indian agent, and so forth. Waiving Indian status was like growing up.

For example, according to the original Indian Act, if any Indian earned a university degree, qualified for a profession, or served in the armed forces, they automatically waived Indian status. As the entire point of the Indian Act was to enable assimilation, its framers obviously did not think that any such provision would ever deter Indians from earning a degree, learning a profession, or serving in the armed forces. Indeed, what narion does not encourage citizens to serve in the armed forces? No, both Indians and government saw losing Indian status as a reward, not a penalty. These were proud proofs that you had assimilated.

What was not a problem became a problem over time, with other changes to the Act. With the civil rights movement in the US South, all of this suddenly looked like racial discrimination. All such provisions were dropped, anything that seemed to put status Indians at any kind of a disadvantage as compared with other Canadians. But not only did the benefits remain untouched; they grew exponentially. An original provision, in only one treaty, to supply reserves with a chest of medicines became over time a commitment to provide comprehensive freee medical care. A provision to build schools or hire teachers, originally to teach farming and basic trades to the next generation, became a permanent obligation to pay for any education for any Indian at any level. While, of course, retaining Indian status. Nothing in the treaties says the government is required to provide any Indians with a living, or fund band organizations, or even send food in case of famine. Yet this obligation is now taken for granted on both sides.

As the benefits of remaining a status Indian grew, and the benefits of assimilation were removed, perceptions changed. Having done everything they could to avoid the criticism that the Indian Act discriminated against Indians, the government had, in doing so, inadvertently supplied feminists with everything they needed for a criticism that the Indian Act discriminated against women. .

So, in 1985, the Mulroney government changed the Act. Indian women no longer lost their status if they married out. Nor did their children. Indians also no longer waived their treaty status by getting an education, or serving in the army.

It just seemed fair. Of course, by now, the Act and treaties wer in fact doing the opposite of what was intended. Instead of enabling assimilation, they were now penalizing it.

More importantly, from the government's point of view, given the grwtly expanded benefits of being Indian, making the Indian Act sex-neutral opened up a huge new liability. Now they had suddenly doubled the number of Indians, by their own estimate.

Note that, if this estimate is accurate, it means that half of Canada's original Indian population had already assimiilated by thast point. Unfortunately, that progress was now thrown into reverse, and people who had already assimilated were to be returned to Indian status.

No doubt seeing this problem, and especially an unsupportable additional liability, the government tried to retain a distinction. The descendants of Indian men were always Indians. The children and grandchildren of Indian women who married out were still Indians; but after two generations, their descendants no longer were. A limited number of new liabilities were thus accepted; but the full can of worms was not yet opened.

This of course did not satisfy the Metis. People with little or no actual Indian ancestry might receive all the benefits of status Indians. Others, because they traced their line, like all the Metis, ultimately through the mother, got nothing more than the rest of us. This was sure to hit the fan in time. Now it has.

So, next question: if Metis are Indians, who is Metis? So long as "Indian" was understood as limited to status Indians, this was a more manageable, if already a morally awkward, problem. The Department of Indian Affairs, its predecessors and its successors, kept an actual list of those it deemed to have Indian status, Children were entered at birth. Now we have to go back into the general population, and create a new list. How to do this reliably and fairly?

An earlier ruling, R. V. Powley (2003) offered this definition. A Metis is someone who 1. self-identifies as a Metis, 2. has an ancestral connection with the Metis community, and 3. is accepted as a member by that community.

The current court ruling threw out the third part of that “test.” One can see why. First, the Metis associations are themselves self-selected groups of individuals. Who is to say these groups are representative of the Metis community? We'll never know, if they get to choose their own members. Second, this test penalizes anyone whose ancestors tried in good faith to assimilate, and rewards those who did not. Perhaps assimilation is now a dirty word, but it is unfair to punish their descendants. Third, this would only kick the original problem down the road a piece. Instead of unfairness to by non-status Indians, the system would now have to defend unfairness to non-status Metis. The only way to avoid this was and is to be as inclusive in their definition as possble.Anyone with Indian ancestry is Metis, if they say so.

Unfortunately, this magnifies the government's potential liability quite a bit. Never mind doubling the number of Indians. Genetic studies suggest that more than half of the current population of Western Canada has Indian blood. The figure may be larger or smaller for the East; I don't know. On the one hand, the Indian proportion of the population has been smaller for the last few generations, and many immigrants have arrived only over the last few generations. On the other, Indians and settlers have been in contact here for longer, and each generation is another opportunity to intermarry. It seems likely at least that those whose ancestors have been here for a couple of centuries or more are now properly aboriginal, by this new definition.

To give some idea of the pending problem, witness what happened in Newfoundland when, in 2011, the federal government allowed for the establishment of a new Mi'kmaq band. This did not involve new members being covered by any existing land treaty. Nevertheless, they got Indian status and Indian cards. By 2012, the original deadline, the band had received over 100,000 applications for membership. The deadline had to be extended, and as of this writing, four years later, applications are still being accepted. It is now the largest Indian band in Canada. This is from an overall Newfoundland population of 500,000. Note too that Newfoundland officially has no aboriginal inhabitants: the Beothuk are long extinct, largely because they did everything they could to avoid any contact with the settlers. No intermarriage likely there. Massive recent migration from elsewhere in Canada? How many people annually relocate to Newfoundland, and why? For all the jobs?

Canada may have to declare bankruptcy.

Or, I think, we may here see the solution to our problems.

We all declare ourselves Metis, and we achieve equality. Granted, we must establish our aboriginal heritage. But this need not be by supplying legal documents, marriage registers and baptism certificates. After all, insisting on this will ultimately reproduce the original inequality yet again: some Indians being more equal than others. Our ancestors were Indians, right? Indians had no writing. Do you really expect, if our claims are authentic, that we are likely to have white man's documents to prove it?

Of course not. The Supreme Court has already ruled, with regards to the legal reinterpretation of Indian treaties, that Indian oral tradition must be given equal weight with any legal government documents or the official text of the treaty.

So our word that there is an oral tradition in our family of some Indian ancestry should be sufficient.

Would Indians lie?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

On Writing Nothing

Birds labour over song;
Sun stumbles, burden-sore, to prostrate West.
Day dies behind low hills, no last word said.
-- Stephen K. Roney

Attawapiskat and the Wonders of U-Haul

Location, location, location.
It has been a long time since I liked Jean Chretien. Long ago, he was fun to listen to, and seemed to speak from the heart. Then he became prime minister, and never said an honest thing again. But like Bill Clinton, or indeed Pierre Trudeau, he is better out of office. The old Chretien is back. He is freer to say what he thinks.

Eleven young people in the remote Cree community of Attawapiskat were overheard recently planning a joint suicide. This has electrified the country. The Commons has been in a five-hour emergency debate. In it, Chretien has been criticised for suggesting to an interviewee that it might be best for some young residents of Attawapiskat to move, “like anybody else.”

Good God. What a racist. Assuming that Indians are “like everybody else.” Niki Ashton, the NDP critic on Indian Affairs, accused Chretien of being an “assimilationist.” "First Nations people and many people who work in solidarity with First Nations people know that these views are unacceptable,"

Clearly, assimilation has become a bad word. So much for open debate on what is really in the best interests of Indian people.

Ashton sees the problem as, of course, entirely the fault of people born with white skin. Who must pull out their wallets to assuage their guilt. Not that it will ever end.

"… this didn't just happen. In fact, the trauma that is apparent through suicide crises across Canada is the direct result of our history of colonization and decades of racist policies passed through this House."

Her solution, inconsistently, is to demand continued colonialism. That is what Attawapiskat is—a colony, where the inhabitants are kept apart, cared for by distant others, and given no responsibility over their own lives.

New school going in, thanks to federal government. Not residential.

Ashton then identified the Indian Act as the core of the problem: "a piece of legislation that is the symbol of colonialism."

"This piece of legislation and the way it is imposed on First Nations is deeply connected to the oppression that exists today."

Funny, that. Chretien is the great opponent of the Indian Act. His second cabinet portfolio was as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. He took the brief so much to heart that he and his wife adopted an eighteen-month old Inuit (Eskimo) boy--an act of kindness and common humanity that would probably not be permitted to a “white” family today. Hardly, of course, in the best interests of Indian orphans, but the individual must always be sacrificed to the group. He was the sponsor of the famous proposal, in the 1969 Indian Affairs White Paper, to end the Indian Act and make Indians full Canadian citizens. The Indian leadership, of course, rose as one to oppose it. The last thing they wanted was equality.

Attawapiskat is remote; probably one of the world's remotest communities. There are no jobs; there is little to do; there is seventy percent unemployment. Vegetables, fruit, building materials, and just about everything else has to be flown in at great expense. Nothing but life is cheap. Professionals, teachers, doctors, nurses, dentists, opticians, pharmacists, naturally consider it a hardship post; few want to come and fewer want to stay.

Why wouldn't any sane person move, or counsel moving? Is suicide really better?

Fibre optics cabling going in at Attawapiskat, for better Internet reception.

Here we see graphically the essential problem with Indian culture. Chretien, who with his background knows more about the problem than most, nails it: “they are traditional. ... They are nostalgic about the past when they were going hunting and fishing ...” Indian culture is extremely conservative, extremely traditionalist, extremely isolationist.

This is why Indians are highly resistant to leaving their reserves. But at the same time, this is what keeps them immersed in this culture, which is driving them to suicide.

The solutions now proposed are mostly about funneling more taxpayer money into the community. According to Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, as reported in the National Post, “Nothing can change significantly until governments stop controlling the flow of money going to troubled First Nations.” So the solution is to hand unlimited money to Indian leaders, and ask no questions about where it goes.

It is not just the chiefs. A group of local teenagers have joined in the sport. They have drawn up a list of new facilities they feel they need in the community to convince them not to kill themselves. They want a clean swimming pool, a movie theatre with six screens, a meeting with the prime minister, and a casino.

If the same money were just handed to them, instead of going to building these facilities, they would probably be quite well off. The problem is, they would then have to make personal decisions and shoulder personal responsibilities. It's more fun to get presents.

Attawapiskat First Nations band office. National seat of government?
Most of the population is already living on welfare. The government has supplied a grade school, a high school, a hospital. The young people's list of what they already have includes a local radio station, a gym, an arena, a soccer field, a baseball field, a rink. My wife comes from the Philippines, by world standards a middle income, not a poor, country. I can tell you, any Filipino town of under 2,000 with those facilities would think they had died and gone to heaven. The rest of the population is paying a lot to preserve the local Cree in their traditionalism, even though it is probably not in their own best interests. It might be better to cut off the flow of easy cash and make the choice plainer.

Instead, of course, the government will spend more money. Spending more money is the ideal solution for bureaucrats. The last thing they want is to solve a problem. That would mean no more money. Eighteen highly-paid mental-health professionals have been flown in, and are to be on twenty-four hour call, in response to the eleven threatened suicides. The highly-paid professionals will probably do nothing to benefit the Cree: their presence does not address the underlying problem, if it is cultural conservatism, and it is highly debatable whether the “mental health” system ever helps anybody. But a lot of taxpayer money will be spent, and will be seen to be spent, albeit into the pockets of already rich people, the highly paid professionals, of the same class as the bureaucrats. So that achieves the intended goal. The Cree kids are happy, because they are being given lots of attention and being taken care of. They may try this suicide thing again.

Interestingly, the first suggested action the young people came up with in their brainstorming session in terms of making things better was not actually to do with more governmnet money, but to “Stand up against bullying and etc.” “And etc.”? Are they being coy? Is there something here they are worried about making too explicit? When interviewed, one seventeen-year-old was a little more forthcoming. She said the bullying was not from other kids, but from adults. “Something happened to me when I was a kid,” she added, “but I don't want to talk about it."

It looks as though for some, perhaps most of the kids who were thinking of suicide, the real issue was child abuse. It makes sense, Isolated community. No police post. Little to do.

The solution is obvious: send them all to residential schools in more central locations.