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The Essential Humanity of the Migrators to Canada
An excerpt from the book "There is no difference" by Peter Best
Peter Best is a lawyer who has practiced law in Sudbury, Ontario for 43 years. Raised in nearby Espanola, favored with lifelong personal and professional relationships with indigenous Canadians, he brings a personal, literary and historical perspective to the greatest social crisis experienced by Canada today- the perilous state of its original peoples.
Today’s post is an excerpt (the complete twelfth chapter) from Peter’s book There Is No Difference. The full book is available online at nodifference.ca. And Peter’s main website, which includes essays, commentary, book reviews, etc. is There is no difference.
There Is No Difference
Chapter 12 - The Essential Humanity of the Migrators to Canada
By Peter Best
Between 1840 and 1872- years of famine in Ireland and depression in England- about 6 million people had left the British Isles. Since then the pressure had slackened, and an average of some 200,000 had been going each year in the eighties and nineties. Most of them because they were workless, landless or even starving…it was not often the pioneering instinct that took poor people to the Empire, only a desire for security and a fair chance…unemployed cotton workers, dispossessed Highlanders, Irishmen emaciated by generations of malnutrition, remittance men, dedicated missionaries, hopeful villains- the emigrant ships knew them all. – Jan Morris, Pax Britannica
It is surely fugitives, rather than conquerors, who led the way to new worlds.- Victor Serge
The concrete life of the individual is destroyed in order that the abstract idea of the whole may drag out its sorry existence. -Lewis Lapham, quoting Friedrich Schiller in his essay “Them” -Lapham’s Quarterly
I am always and at once on the defensive when people speak of races and nations as if they were personalities and had souls and destinies. -Christopher Hitchens
There is such a uniformity in the state of man, considered apart from adventitious and separable decorations and disguises, that there is scarce any possibility of good or ill, but is common to human kind…We are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure- Samuel Johnson
See the traitor run in the field alone,
Let the dead not the living now cast the first stone– Nathan Alterman
Too much history is “big sweep-big picture” in nature, where the people who were actually involved in the narrative in question are abstracted and dehumanized in the service of some grand, overarching historical theory-treated like mere automata or bloodless units in some supposedly vast and inexorable world-shaping force or movement- like communism, fascism, capitalism, colonialism or imperialism:
Procustean phrases by which we force a dehumanized and human imprint on the nature of the universe and which cloud our understanding.
(From A Legacy, by English novelist Sybille Bedford, the authoress referring to Bismarck’s united German “Empire” created in 1871, ironically described by her fictional narrator as a “Historical Necessity”, the latter phrase one of history’s most delusional and destructive examples of such dehumanizing and thought-clouding “Procustean” thinking. Sybille Bedford’s own view of history- intensely and imaginatively human, wise, soft, mournful, ever-alive to the ineluctable reality of human frailty-and thus forgiving- is antithetical to that. She also echoes Edmund Burke when she writes:
The moves that shape the future seldom shape their own intended ends; the course of self-interest is seen as a beeline only at the moment, and the history of individuals, groups and countries is the sum of these.
See my discussion of the heedless “beeline” insertion of section 35 into the Constitution Act, 1982, in The Haida Nation Case, below.
Tony Judt, in Reappraisals, described these “big-picture”, all-embracing historical theories as “crutches of intellectual or historical systems” to navigate the irritating complexity and contradictions of real experience…whose credibility depends on remaining untainted by real-world experience or human shortcomings”.
Historian Robert Conquest writes:
“But more usually…ism-ing brings together under one term a complexity of examples, or a variety of phenomena, phraseologically obliterating the often crucial contexts or differences.”
With respect to the tiresome, overworked terms, “imperialism” and “colonialism”, he writes that they “serve mainly to confuse, and of course to replace, the complex and needed process of understanding with the simple and unneeded process of inflammation”, and that “they are to a large degree mind-blockers and thought-extinguishers…”
In these concocted and forced “metaphors on the human mind…that so fix or hypnotize the imagination that it can see no alternatives”,if people are ascribed free will at all it’s usually a one-dimensional, stereotypical sort focused solely on the achievement of the so-called inevitable historical aim of the particular “ism” they’re supposedly a part of.
This is how the Indian industry – with these essentially empty word constructs – these meaningless abstractions, euphemisms and stereotypes- falsely portrays European migrators to Canada: as “colonizers”, “colonialists”, “settlers”, “exploiters” and “imperialists” – fictional “ism” people who should be regarded essentially as knowing, callous culture-killers and land thieves.
But which non-Indian Canadian among us regards his or her own pioneer ancestors in such an insulting, shallow and cartoonish way? Hardly any of us, and with good reason. It’s not true! In fact these were mainly innocent, vulnerable human beings, just like us, not human “ists” or “isms.”
The historian Jan Morris made this point in the headnote above, as does historian Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens. Mr. Harari wrote:
Until the late modern era, more than 90 per cent of humans were peasants who rose each morning to till the land by the sweat of their brows. The extra they produced fed the tiny minority of elites- kings, government officials, soldiers, priests, artists and thinkers- who fill the history books. History is something that few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets. (italics added.)
One of my great-grandfathers was a blacksmith in Palmerston, Ontario. Another was a failed bakery manager from Belfast. My mother’s mother was a domestic servant in London, England before she came to Canada after World War I as a very young and insecure war bride. At the same time my father’s mother was a recently-arrived (from Northern Ireland) clerk in the notions department of Eaton’s in Winnipeg. I revere these and all my other ancestors, as all Indian Canadians justly revere theirs.
And just as Indians are offended when they and their ancestors are described in cliché, generic terms (“drunken Indian,” “savages”) so I and other non-Indian Canadians are justly offended when our ancestors are caricatured as malevolent racists and thieves.
The European migrators to Canada should be seen and understood for what they really were – generally poor and powerless people – as said, individual human beings just like us – just like each Indian-Canadian – human beings who possessed, just like us, “infinite gradations of responsibility, human weakness, and moral ambivalence that have to be understood if we are to avoid the pitfalls of dividing everything and everybody into tidy poles”-sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents- people, with souls, who lived, struggled, feared, strived, loved, laughed, cried and died.
Our indigenous and non-indigenous elites, always lazily defaulting to such abstractions, euphemisms and stereotypes as only partially listed above, “desensitize, distance and deflect” us from our historical and present-day realities, causing our dehumanized fellow countrymen, past and present, to “remain faceless lest he or she is revealed to be father, mother, friend, neighbour, or someone’s beloved child.”
In doing so they unknowingly mirror the dangerous, fallacious mindset of classic racists- ascribing across-the-board, negative, group characteristics to every member of an identifiable minority group or class of people, and to hell with the worth, merit or actual characteristics of each individual in that group or class! Classic racist-type thinking!
Most of our forefathers and foremothers had little knowledge of or contact with Indians, or of any of the macro-historical “forces” of which they were each, if anything, a mere tiny, generally unknowing part. They were not “colonialists,” or “imperialists” or members of any of the other “ist” or “ism” false categories of history so frequently used by shallow thinkers and propagandists to grossly oversimplify or misrepresent history for present political or economic gain. They were, by and large, just vulnerable, humble, poor, individual human beings, like most of us today, trying to make and keep a somewhat secure place for themselves and their families in an inherently very perilous and uncertain world- in their (and our) powerless state, trying to avoid as much as possible being tossed about like mere froth on the surface of the wild seas of history and random circumstances.
It’s beyond the scope of this essay to examine or categorize the millions of Europeans who emigrated from Europe to the various “new worlds” during the approximately 400 year (1550-1950) period of European migration to and hegemony over the “uncivilized” parts of the globe – the Americas, Africa, parts of Asia and the lands down under.
But it’s safe to say that the vast majority of them left Europe for new lives in these “new” lands not because they wanted to, but because, for reasons like poverty, war, famine, disease, persecution, expropriation, military duty or forced transportation, they had to.
They were by and large decent, intelligent individual human beings-products of their times- each with a heart and a soul and a unique history and outlook -forced by circumstances to be uprooted and to sail away from their family and loved ones and everything familiar to them, usually, with hearts breaking, knowingly never to see any of them again.
Witness historian Allan Levine’s description of a young Eastern European Jewish man taking final leave of his parents before emigrating to America, in Scattered Among the Nations: The Jewish Diaspora in Ten Portraits:
Most Jews who left the Pale after 1880 were not well-read or worldly. They were largely poor and superstitious tailors and peddlers seeking better economic opportunities for themselves and their families in the New World….Leaving was never easy. “Just before train-time mother put the gold-clasped prayer book into my grip…She seemed calm and resigned,” recalled Marcus Ravage, who immigrated to New York in 1890. “But when the train drew into the station she lost control of her feelings. As she embraced me for the last time her sobs became violent and father had to separate us. There was a despair in her way of clinging to me which I could not then understand. I understand it now. I never saw her again.
These brave human beings were nearly as much the victims of larger forces and circumstances beyond their control as were the indigenous peoples of their “new” lands whose lives their arrival changed so profoundly. They were often themselves “oppressed” as much as they were ever “oppressors.” As such they have almost the same call on our powers of imagination, compassion, empathy, admiration and respect as do the ancient Indian peoples whose former lands they settled and whose way of life they inadvertently helped to end.
We are not superior to them. They cannot be just dust to us- of no consequence. We do a terrible disservice to them, and to ourselves, when we rashly deride them and tear down their, and our, symbols, namesakes and monuments. We stand on their civilizational shoulders!
Our cultures, our histories, grasp us with a thousand invisible fingers.
What we regard as our “past” was very much their present. And, while we regard our present as worrisome and uncertain, their present, characterized by an ethical ethos entirely different from ours, was a lot more trying, worrisome, uncertain and difficult. And as our future is uncertain, so much more, in the absence of any “social safety net” or any other such thing, was theirs!
After we join them in Canada’s other country- the country of the dead- do we want our joint and several struggles, compromises, injustices, follies and failures- our imperfect achievements- to be as harshly caricatured and condemned as we are permitting be done to theirs?
History should be experienced as a continuity of human existence, in which memory- the essence of humanity- places us above an indifferent and cruel nature… Our society has entered a phase of indifference…of being untruthful to the memory of our forefathers…We cannot let the past drop…we cannot so sever our links with the dead.
We cannot let what should be a continuing, respectful communion and dialogue with our ancestors descend to mean and shallow name-calling. Because they are a part of us, and we of them, by so debasing them we debase and demoralize ourselves. We owe them enormous gratitude and respect.
Every word we speak is a gift from our ancestors. Every thought we think was thought previously by someone smarter. The highly functional infrastructure that surrounds us, particularly in the West, is a gift from our ancestors: the comparatively uncorrupt political and economic systems, the technology, the wealth, the lifespan, the freedom, the luxury, and the opportunity.
Failing to maintain and defend our ancestors’ memory,sacrifices, hardships, accomplishments and legacy, is wrong and dishonourable.
Unhealthy to remember the dead, they are all connected, they call out to one another, they congregate inside you, they are too many, too alive. There’s no getting rid of them once they have got possession of your soul, instead it’s they that banish sleep, derail the train of thought, lead you where you have no wish to go….They defend us still. Their soul is present. Every one of our promises for the future was seeded by them.
Just as wrong and dishonourable is the way so many modern Indian activists, seemingly cheered on by our cultural elites, portray the descendants of those first non-Indian migrators – ordinary Canadians today – as boorish, blameworthy, shallow, one-dimensional, insensitive people, and often, like our ancestors above, as malevolent racists.
A recent top selling Canadian book was Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian,touted in its bookjacket blurb as “history with a candour and honesty rarely found,” exemplifies all of the caricaturing and almost-nihilistic debasement referred to above. The blurb from The Toronto Star said that “if you have any kind of a social conscience it will make you angry.” No kidding. Reading it does indeed make one angry, but that’s because of the dishonest, cartoon-like, insulting, historically ignorant, racially stereotypical way the book portrays non-Indians in Canada, both past and present. That this book is taken seriously, (it was a 2015 CBC “Canada Reads” selection), just shows how much lower our intellectual standards and levels of public discourse have become.
Mr. King, a talented, clever and entertaining writer, takes a joking, flip, shallow and sarcastic approach to “Whites,” as he calls them, to Canadian history, and to this profound, tragedy-ridden subject matter generally, confessing at the beginning of his book that, “I prefer fiction. I distrust the way facts tend to thrust themselves on me. I’d rather make up my own world.” And does he ever.
He falsely states that, “extermination dominated the early contact period.” He disgracefully ties in a reference to the Holocaust with Indian assimilation, (please see my plea in Setting Indians Free From Their Past, below, that our elites please, out of respect for true victims of genocide, not do this), compares Indian reserves to Alcatraz, suggests that, “Whites have always been comfortable with Dead Indians,” and makes the patently ridiculous, racially-stereotyping assertion that for non-Indians, “land is primarily a commodity.” (Tell that to Alexander Von Humboldt or Wordsworth or to the non-Indian victims of the environmental depredations of Mnidoo Mnising Power of Manitoulin Island, with their landscape-commoditizing industrial wind turbines.) This is just the barest outline of the dishonest, inaccurate, cliché-ridden, shallow, anti-“White” racism that permeates this book. If a “White” had written in such terms about Indians, he would have quickly suffered a Jian Gomeshi-like fate.
Another such book that also depicts non-Indians as a sort of impersonal, less-than-fully-human class of people, again lauded by our media and cultural elites, another CBC “Canada Reads” selection, is Indian Horse, by the late Richard Wagamese,a novel that tells the mid-1960’s story of a young Indian male’s redemption by hockey from the trauma of his Northern Ontario residential school experience.
Having grown up there in that period, and given my predispositions, I had my bull feathers detector on high alert as I began to read this book. The alarm on it sounded early and often.
Mr. Wagamese described a completely imaginary, dark, lurid, hate-filled, Southern cracker-style, racist version of Northern Ontario, complete with segregated restaurants where Indians were beaten with axe handles out back by brutish whites for being “uppity,” separate hockey arena entrances and segregated stands for Indians, and where the “Whites” were made up of “tough narrow-minded men and their loyal women and their callow kids.” (Talk about negative racial stereotyping! One would be insulted if the description weren’t so laugh/cry ridiculous.)
At a tournament in Manitouwadge the anti-Indian crowds were “rabid” and rained garbage down on the heads of the Indian hockey players, while outside, their tires were slashed, whites “pissed and shat in our dressing room,” and “young white males played “Broom-A-Buck, the redneck game of leaning out the window of a car or truck to swat Indians on the sidewalk or the road. Fifty points for a head shot. Twenty for any other part of the body.” This is disgraceful, dishonest, completely untrue writing.
Mr. Wagamese described his main character’s native hockey team, (he was not allowed to play for his local White River midget team because he was Indian- as if!), when travelling to tournaments, as:
….running into the black heart of Northern Ontario in the 1960’s and we were hated. Hated. There’s no other word for it…they only ever saw us as Indians. They only ever saw brown faces where white ones should have been. We were an unwelcome entity in their midst.
What absurd, dishonest rot! This kind of thing never happened.
The depths of this degrading read, fictional or not, for me, were reached in the author’s account of a 1968 hockey game in my home town, Espanola. I was raised in Espanola and lived there during the entire period described in this book. I had Indian friends and acquaintances. They were on my basketball and track teams at high school. They were welcomed and accepted as equals whenever they chose to step out of the reserve-based social apartness that Canadian history, up to that time, had understandably imposed on them.
So I was naturally angry and offended to read of myself, my parents, my sisters, my friends, all my parents’ friends and all the good people of Espanola generally, ( as I said in my Introduction, above, many of whom were refugees from and survivors of the racial and ethnic traumas of World War II, and so very sensitive to this kind of thing), so falsely and disgracefully depicted as a hate-filled, racist, howling, “rabid” (again) mob, throwing garbage onto the ice and shouting boos and racial epithets at a visiting hockey team simply because they were Indian-Canadian.
Here’s an especially egregious passage:
I heard them calling me names and beating against the glass. When I turned around I came face to face with a boy who must have been about nine. He spit against the glass. “Fuckin’ chicken” he mouthed. The man standing beside him squeezed his shoulder.
The image of an Espanola father in this passage, encouraging and endorsing his son’s racism, was especially insulting and wrong on the part of Mr. Wagamese. Shame on the people who hold up this kind of fabricated, insulting, purportedly “searing social criticism” writing as positively contributing to understanding Canada’s past or reconciling Indians and non-Indians in Canada’s present. Mr. Wagamese, in this book, contributed a mere, small-minded, Julius Streicher-like comic book rendition of an important time and issue in Canada’s past and present- not a serious, truth-seeking or truth-revealing novel.
Contrast Mr. Wagamese’s novel with the far more honest, nuanced, complex, and genuinely empathic memoir of Indian writer, (he acknowledges the essential humanity and decency of virtually all the non-Indians who populate his book), the late Basil Johnston, who was there, in that general place and time, and who actually did play hockey on an Indian team against non-Indian teams from Espanola, Massey, Blind River, Sault Ste. Marie, and other North Shore communities.
Mr. Johnston was “the foremost scholar of Anishnaabe life”; a “veritable library of the Anishnaabe universe,” the latter according to much-favoured contemporary Indian writer Drew Hayden Taylor.He had been a student/resident at the Indian residential school at Spanish (between Massey and Blind River) in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
In his autobiography Indian School Days,Mr. Johnston described in affectionate, generous and humourous detail, over several pages, hockey games between his residential school team and teams from Espanola and Massey. He also describes a tackle football game with Espanola High School.
Not one word about being “hated” or about “racist” opponents or “racist” fans!
Not one hint or shred of evidence whatsoever about Mr. Wagamese’s degrading and imaginary “black heart of Northern Ontario”!
In fact the opposite.
The whole tone and substance of his description of these games is so focused on the drama of the games themselves, the skills and personalities of his team mates and of certain opposing players, (one of the opposing Espanola players was named by Mr. Johnston as “Sevicky”, who was actually Johnny Savicky, a great Espanola hockey player in his day, and the uncle of a childhood friend of mine), that it is clear to the reader that, as I wrote in my Introduction about the budding zeitgeist of that emerging post- world war two era, race was increasingly becoming less and less significant.
Ironically, in complete, specific, counterpoint to Mr. Wagamese’s disgraceful description of Northern Ontario hockey fans as drooling, chin-dragging, racist cretins, Mr. Johnston describes a game in Massey where “a group of honest Massey citizens”, in a contentious goal dispute, took the side of Mr. Johnston’s native team over that of the Massey team.
Finally, it just has to be noted, one of the Espanola tackle football players named by Mr. Johnston, quarterback Jack Major, a subject in the book of that typical, nervous, pre-game, who do we have to look out for and how are we going to stop him? palaver, (they did stop him), eventually became a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (1992-2005), which Court, in that period, did so much to establish the powerful legal position that Indians now occupy in Canada’s constitutional, political and economic landscape.
Towards the end of Indian Horse the author’s protagonist is working in a bush camp, where the constantly drinking, fighting, swearing and racial epithet-hurling white workers “didn’t know what to make of me. There hadn’t been an Indian in their midst before.” This again is simply dark, insulting, ridiculous fantasy. At that time, as had been the case since the early 1950’s, there were many Indians working and living during the week in the bush camps of Northern Ontario and they were all treated with respect.
My father worked for the KVP Company at the time, a pulp and paper company operating out of Espanola, which had several bush camps operating in their timber reserves north of Highway 17. I worked in one of them in the summer of 1964. KVP had many Indians working “in the bush” and they were good workers. All that ever happened after supper was cards, horseshoes, juvenile horseplay and smoking roll-your-own cigarettes. If anyone was caught drinking or fighting they were immediately fired and put on the next truck back to Espanola. Interestingly, according to my father, the company initially assigned bunkhouse beds to the Indians on a racially and ethnically random basis, until the Indians themselves asked if they could all be bunked together!
The Inconvenient Indian and Indian Horse typify the casually insulting, ahistorical, mildly racist way in which past and present non-Indian Canadians are stereotyped and dehumanized by our blame and grievance-obsessed Indian and non-Indian elites. In their zeal to be politically edgy and relevant, they neglect or eschew their primary obligation, an obligation fulfilled by Basil Johnston, to be honest.
It’s such a wasteful shame that influential Indian-Canadians like Mr. King and Mr. Wagamese used their talents to promote the harmful, divisive, Canadian segregationist status quo, rather than Nelson Mandela’s vision of racial harmony, integration and one set of laws for all races in Canada.
“White” liberal guilt and a shallow, dogmatic, misguided sense of what it means to be “progressive,” are main reasons why such carelessly hurtful, inaccurate and fundamentally dishonest Indian-authored books like Indian Horse and The Inconvenient Indian are given such an easy ride, even lauded, by our non-Indian cultural and power elites, who demonstrate an increasing, almost wilful, indifference to or ignorance of serious literature, human psychology, biology, political philosophy, economics and religion, due in large part to the drastic decline of serious reading amongst them. The quality of their critical judgment shows it.
The ones of little reading
Or who never read for love, are many places,
They are in the house of power, and many houses…
But when a respected non-Indian Canadian intellectual who was deeply steeped in these disciplines writes a similar book, Canadians really do have to fear that we have entered into a new, post-Enlightenment era of increasing civilizational decline.
The eminent John Ralston Saul’s most recent work, The Comeback,a seemingly culturally self-hating jeremiad against all things Canadian, British, European and Western (as in “Western Civilization”) in relation to British North America’s past and present interaction with its Aboriginals, well represents the new cheaply sentimental, biased, low-standards, academically provincial, toss-off nature of what now apparently passes for educated high-mindedness in large parts of the Canadian public arena/marketplace of ideas.
Tony Judt, in his 1997 essay, Crimes and Misdemeanors,in relation to 1930’s pro-Stalin French intellectuals completing suspending their critical judgment in the face of such inconvenient and unpleasant facts as the Moscow show trials, coincidentally refers to this phenomenon as having “gone native” i.e. “taking upon himself the prejudices characteristic of his adopted compatriots”. Mr. Saul might want to consider, as Mr. Judt states, that:
…such total identification with one’s subject is surely not a necessary condition of close, empathic scholarship.
In The Comeback – the title referring to Indians rebounding to positions of power and “civilizational creativity” in Canada- the denigration of non-Indian Canadians and the Disneyfication of Canadian Indians is again on full, ramped-up display. The italicized phrase bears a striking resemblance to Octavio Paz’ phrase, “a new form of creative participation”. (Assimilation and Cultural Loss). While Mr. Paz’ use of the idea is positive, inclusive, forward-looking and humanistic, sadly, Mr. Saul’s use of the idea is narrow, exclusionary, exceptionalist and chauvinistic.
According to Mr. Saul, “rank racism” on the part of Canadians against Indians, ever-present in the past, remains firmly in place today. Our poor and huddled Canadian ancestors described above, presumably including my two grandmothers, weren’t just typical human migrators acting according to a 100,000 year old instinctive pattern of human behaviour. They didn’t come to Canada to escape the poverty and hardship of their lives in the old country. No, they came so they could, with “acts of evil,” express the “European racial desire to demean other races,” and to “consistently and consciously…deny indigenous people their citizens rights.”
Racism itself, according to Mr. Saul, was apparently an alien concept to our pre-contact Garden of Eden Aboriginals, who somehow were exempted from possessing one of humanity’s most basic, hard-wired, enduring traits (see The Myth of Race and Racial Differences, below). “Racial theories are not aboriginal concepts,” he writes. At least not until Europeans, with our “traditional tools” of “race, religion and territory,” came to dominate them.
Too bad nobody told that, to name just a few examples, to the slave-taking (see Pre-contact Indian Culture and the Shock of the New, above) Iroquois, who, when the first Europeans arrived in Quebec and Ontario, were already engaged in the conquest and deliberate enslavement or extermination of the Algonquins, Hurons, Neutrals and Petuns, or before that, told that to the Inuit, as they were conquering, dispossessing and killing off the Dorset peoples.
And, so as to debunk the notion that Indian racism was confined to the past, too bad that nobody is telling that to the Mohawks of Kahnawake, near Montreal, who, for the past several years, in a sustained exercise of pure racist, racial, “blood purification”, have been evicting from their reserve all “white” persons.
I acquired my first inkling that such a thing as racism, per se, existed, when I was about twelve. My best friend was Chinese, his family refugees from the Maoist revolution. ( There were pictures of Sun Yat-Sen and Chang Kai-Shek in his home.) One day he laughingly told me words to the effect that Chinese people thought white people were smelly and hairy and somehow, by implication at least, inferior. He meant it as a joke, and I kind of laughed, but, startled by it, I never forgot it. Jokes come from real places.
When I recently read Mr. Saul’s ridiculous assertion that racism was, in effect, the sole invention and province of Europeans, I had an almost instant flashback to that moment sixty years ago. And that got me to thinking of examples of racism not involving Europeans at all, including examples of “Asian against Asian” racism.
I think of Genghis Khan, who killed many millions of his fellow Asians.
I think of the “Rape of Nanking” in 1937, when, during a six week period, invading “imperialist” Japanese soldiers, whose culture at the time taught them that all peoples other than Japanese were the inferior “Other”, murdered about 300,000 Chinese men, women and children in that city.
I think of the Japanese invasion and “imperialist”, “colonialist” occupation of Korea (1910-1945) during which thousands of Koreans were captured and shipped to Japan to work as mine and factory slaves, and thousands of Korean women and girls were captured and sent to work for the Japanese military as sex slaves- “comfort women”.
I think of the Chinese racist treatment of their own “colonial” subjects, the Tibetans, the Mongolians and the Uighurs, and the Japanese racist and “colonialist” treatment of their own, tiny, remaining indigenous populations, the Ainu on Hokkaido, and the Ryukuans on Okinawa.
I think of the racist hatred existing between the Tamils and the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, and the cruel and degrading treatment of the minority Muslim population in Myanmar.
I think of the mass slaughters of each other by Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan during the political partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, when between one and two million people were killed. In Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partitionauthor Nisid Hajari writes:
Gangs of killers set whole villages aflame, hacking to death men and children and the aged while carrying off young woman to be raped…Pregnant women had their breasts cut off and babies hacked out of their bellies; infants were found literally roasted on spits.
I think of the racist-like intolerance and prejudice within the Hindu population itself, exemplified by the odious, bigoted, cruel and seemingly ineradicable caste system, with its permanent and finely-defined and graded levels of inequality.
I think of racism in Africa, where the Arabs, (slave owners and slave users themselves), were the chief architects and engineers of the black African slave trade with the Americas, whose evil work could only be carried out by Black African tribes in their employ.
The African slave trade…was a Muslim invention, developed by Arab traders with the enthusiastic collaboration of black African ones, institutionalized with the most unrelenting brutality centuries before the white man appeared on the African continent, and continuing long after the slave market in North America was finally crushed…It could not have existed without the wholehearted cooperation of African tribal states, built on the captives generated by their relentless wars.
I think of Darfur, (Arabs exterminating Blacks in the south Sudan area), the genocidal-like mass rapes by African males of African women and girls taking place throughout the living hells that are the Central African states.
I think of the vast, slave-based, indigenous empires of Mexico and Peru that Spain stumbled onto and conquered in the sixteenth century in the Americas, each of which empires, at the time, was experiencing civil war of genocidal scale and proportions.
I think of “Asian against European” racism. I remember, from reading Jonathan Spence’s The Search for Modern Chinaabout a Chinese Emperor’s decree in the 1800’s that Europeans were forbidden from travelling up the Yangtze River past Shanghai so as not to contaminate the local population with occidental racial impurities.(Perhaps part of the “place” from whence my childhood friend’s joke emanated.)
I think of the racist cruelty perpetrated against captured Allied soldiers by the Japanese during World War Two. These soldiers, if not beheaded at the outset, were worked, or marched or starved to death in any event. Richard Flanagan’s recent novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North,depicts the almost spiritual, mystical nature of the Japanese belief in their racial superiority, extant in those terrible times.
I think of “colourism”, that variation of racism, that occurs within racial groups, where the lighter-skinned discriminate against the darker-skinned, even in the same ethnic community! Writer Kamal Al-Solaylee writes:
Colourism, or shadism, operates between groups and within each one. Members of an ethnic community (say South Asian), may harbour racist thoughts about African-Americans based on the belief that brown skin trumps black. But the lighter-skinned among them may also discriminate against dark-skinned individuals or groups within their own community.
Colourism first gained traction in fields that included a focus on the African -American experience, such as law, sociology and race studies-writer Alice Walker reportedly coined the term “colourism” in 1982- but a more global approach has been gaining momentum in the past decade. The new approach focuses on brown people, who exhibit the greatest variation in skin shades (from the very light and almost white to the very dark and nearly black). Experts in race and demography issues are turning their attention to South and East Asia, the Middle East, and Central and South America, since these locations offer previously unexamined articulations of colourism, each with a different historical and racial context.
Colourism operates on a global scale. Virtually every society, explicitly or implicitly, has maintained the belief that a lighter skin is preferable to a darker one… To be white situates you at the very top of the racial hierarchy, and to be dark brown or black situates you at the very bottom…Passing for white (or for brown if you’re black) to grab a bigger slice of the economic pie suggests that colourism is about survival.
And when I think of all these, and many, many more, instances of non-European racism- of racism as exemplifying a universal norm of human behavior- I wonder: What has befallen the scholarship and judgment of John Ralston Saul, which I used to so revere?
The Comeback is filled with shopworn, stereotypical, nasty and just plain wrong assertions about racism (tragically for us all, as shown above, it’s a universal human phenomenon- and see The Amygdala Factor etc., below) and about the European migrators to Canada, past and present, all filled with great, angry, moral high dudgeon and all mainly devoid of substance, nuance and context.
Here are some examples of the numerous fallacious (some to the point of being bizarre) assertions in The Comeback:
-Sympathy for Indians is “the new form of racism”;
-“Linear…Manichaean…Platonist dominated…(sic) Europeans…see humans as the purpose of the planet”, while Indians take “a spatial or circular approach…” (like the circular motion of the Mnidoo Mnising windmills on Manitoulin Island, above!) “and so see humans from within existence” (Such romantic, ridiculous Walt Disney claptrap. Circularity and “eternal recurrence” are staple concepts of all world religions and cultures.);
– The treaties were the result of the “remarkable generosity” of Indians. (See Treaties- Fairly Made and Honourably Implemented, below, to see how sadly simplistic and wrong this is);
-Government lawyers act like “rapacious divorce lawyers…to get as much Aboriginal land as possible”. (See The Emasculation of Crown Sovereignty, below, to see how mindless and insulting on so many levels this statement is.);
-“Our governments don’t want Aboriginal people to be successful and prosperous”(!) (see Treaties-Fairly Made etc. to see how far above and beyond the wording of the treaties the Canadian people have generously gone).
-Our governments “bought the lands” from the Indians, and now “run them more or less as slum landlords.”(?!);
-Indians “regularly outsmart the government at the Supreme Court.” (Such a shockingly juvenile, unsophisticated statement from a gentleman who knows better.)
-The “partnership with Aboriginal peoples” was a prime cause of the Canadian social reform movement. (No details provided for this total puzzler of a statement.);
-The Crown honour principle is “an Aboriginal contribution to justice for all Canadians”. (In fact the compassion and empathy of the first Canadian treaty-makers, the British doctrine and sense of fair play, the “white” lawyers and judges, the Anglo-Canadian courts and jurisprudence, all essential parts of the “moral illumination” (Timothy Snyder, from Black Earth, above) of well-functioning state institutions, were and are almost entirely responsible for this doctrine. See Treaties etc. below);
-The third world conditions on Indian reservations are all entirely the fault of non-Indian Canadians. “The blame must be clearly assigned and assumed by Canadian society and its governing institutions.” (No mention of the Indian Act or the dysfunctional, rentier-like, pre-state, Indian band governance system. See Indian Reserves-Canada’s Gated Communities, and Our Liberal Values, below.)
Mr. Saul’s solution to all that is tragically wrong and harmful in this profound area of Canadian life is, like much else in his book, very simple: “What is needed is a serious transfer of responsibility and money.” Not just a transfer, but a serious transfer. (Could that be any clearer?) That’s it. No further details provided. Simple, elegant and incontrovertible, like Monty Python’s solution to cure cancer and achieve world peace: to cure cancer, just go to medical school, study the subject hard and then come up with the answer!; to achieve world peace, everybody just start acting nice towards each other and world peace will be achieved! To solve the tragic social problems of Indians in Canada today, just seriously “transfer responsibility and money” to Mr. Saul’s aboriginal “new elite” and then just stand back, get out of their way and let them bring about the New Jerusalem for Aboriginals and all Canadians generally. Why don’t the rest of us see just how simple it is?
Mr. Saul describes his Aboriginal “new elite” in rapturous, heroic, “New Men” terms: “smart, tough, intellectually lean, rightfully angry young people.” But actually Mr. Saul is using creepy, code-like, dog whistle, classically fascistic language here.
Regard how, disconcertingly, he seems to assert his and all other non-indigenous Canadians’ moral inferiority before the supposed “authenticity” of indigenous Canadians.This is so wrong! No man or woman is or ever was superior to any other man or woman simply and solely because of his or her race! It’s shocking that this has to be said! To suggest otherwise is to advance a racist trope!
Regard how eerily similar Mr. Saul’s implicit abasement of the non-indigenous and corresponding exaltation of the indigenous feels to this passage from Robert Kaplan’s In Europe’s Shadow, (above), describing 1930’s intellectual Mircea Eliade, who became “thoroughly smitten” with the fascist Iron Guard leader Cornelia Zelea Codreannu:
Eliade in 1937 called the Iron Guard… “mainly a spiritual movement, meant to bring about the new man and, pursuing our national redemption...alongside other wonders achieved through sacrifice, dedication, and creative will, they have also laid the foundations of a Romanian elite.”
Such creepy drivel-words used by Mr. Saul, and such creepy drivel-phrases used by him, like “civilizational creativity”, and “new elite” do indeed conjure up recollections of totalitarian, socialist-realism propagandist slogans and iconography, and the utopian fantasies about Russian and international communism embraced for decades by many Western cultural elites, where Stalin’s murder and enslavement of his own people and the people of many other countries in Eastern Europe, like Romania, was basically excused as an unfortunate but perhaps necessary phase in the inevitable and triumphant march of the new men “proletariat” towards the paradise of a secular, class-free, heaven on earth.
The Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, in his essay, Communism as a Cultural Force, (from Is God Happy?-Selected Essays,from the perspective of having lived under Soviet tyranny, described these deluded Western cultural elites thusly:
There was the fascination with barbarism that is sometimes found among intellectuals: what fascinated here was the absolute beginning of a new era. a break with the past, freedom from the shackles of a bygone age. In Russia, as in the West, this ethos of a culture unbound and unembedded, the (illusory, needless to add) freedom from inherited tradition, the cult of youth unhampered by the burdens of history, the desire to shock, to epater la bourgeoisie– all this too, made the Bolsheviks attractive. They represented the radically New; they were the hammer that would smash the dragging, restrictive weight of the past.
In The Discovery of Chance, (referred to above), author Aileen M. Kelly’s great study of, amongst other things, 19th century European thought, (a book that draws many relevant parallels between Russian feudalism and the Canadian reserve system- see Indian Reserves- Canada’s Gated Communities, below), Ms. Kelly narrates an intellectually thrilling debate between Russian cultural giants Ivan Turgenev and Alexander Herzen about Russia’s relationship with more “enlightened and advanced” Western Europe. Turgenev “takes down” Herzen, (unfairly according to Ms. Bailey), partially as follows, with phraseology I believe applies to Mr. Saul and all others like him, (such as Bob Rae, below), who would so cheaply and blithely diminish and denigrate the great accomplishments and heritage of “the West”:
…you avert your eyes, stop up your ears- and with that ecstasy peculiar to all skeptics who have grown weary of skepticism- with that special, ultrafanatical ecstasy, you keep talking about “spring freshness, blessed storms,” and so on. History, philology, statistics-all count for nothing with you: facts count for nothing…Meanwhile, your spiritual pain, your weariness, your thirst to place a fresh snowflake on your parched tongue, makes you hit out at everything that should be dear to Europeans and therefore to us: civilization, legality…
Finally, in regard to Mr. Saul’s emphasis on the youth of these new men aboriginals he touts so highly, it is instructive to quote Robert Kaplan’s reference to the tragically realistic statement of the profound, and old, late father of modern Russian letters, Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
Nations who worship youth are doomed, while those with ancestor cults last for ages.
But Mr. Saul’s “new elite” is in fact comprised of mainly utterly conventional, Canadian taxpayer-dependent academics, “activists”, Indian industry lawyers, artists and writers, all unelected to any public office and all with no discernible qualifications, experience, skills or interest in the arts of government. Thomas King and Richard Wagamese are included. A young early twenty-something, baggy jeans and ballcaps-on-backward, musical group, A Tribe Called Red, originally from the North Bay area, “champions of urban youth, blending pow wow vocals, drumming and electronic music.” is included. Even former Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence seems to make Mr. Saul’s list, so that should doubly reassure Canadian taxpayers that his proposed, no-strings-attached “serious transfer of responsibility and money” solution will work out just fine.
This in fact fully-assimilated, fully integrated, “new elite” group of Indian-Canadians listed and pictured in Mr. Saul’s book do indeed appear, in the main, to be intelligent and talented, with a lot to offer our country. So again, it’s such a wasteful shame that such good and worthy individuals all seem to be working for the harmful goal of more segregation and more “separate but equal” status for Indian-Canadians, rather than for the fulfillment of Nelson Mandela’s goal and vision of one set of laws for all races.
The Comeback, and another book partially about the aboriginal “issue” by a very famous and able Canadian politician, Bob Rae, What Happened to Politics?,illustrate the depressing and tragic reality that ordinary, marginalized, powerless, much-put-upon aboriginal Canadians have no true champion- no true advocate- no Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or William Wuttunee- amongst the ranks of Canada’s intelligentsia- Canada’s social, political and meritocratic elite.
If anyone could have been that true champion- that true advocate- it could have been Mr. Rae- brainy, articulate, influential, committed to social justice, immensely capable- for decades a charter member of all the country’s various aristocracies- a true “progressive”- a gentleman seemingly always on the right side (that being the slightly left side) of every important Canadian social and political issue that has arisen over the past fifty years.
When Bob Rae talks people listen.
He has the position and the capacity to be a true champion of the cause of Aboriginal peoples, in the way of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. As a respected elder statesman of Canada, he is amongst a small, select group of people “who have it in their power effectually to arouse and enlighten the public sentiment,” a phrase from Bind Us Apart, above. There, a young, idealistic Edward Coles remonstrated with Thomas Jefferson in 1814 for Jefferson’s refusal, on the basis of his old age, to advocate publicly for the emancipation of slaves, even though he privately believed in it. Coles wrote to him, saying:
Elder statesmen are, in fact, “the only persons who have it in their power effectually to arouse and enlighten the public sentiment.”
Ironically, in Canada today, the public sentiment is already enlightened. Tragically for the vast majority of our Aboriginal peoples, it is our elder statesmen who are not.
In Canada, it seems that to be “enlightened” or “progressive” on this issue, in the usual, accepted sense of these words, is apparently to advocate what is essentially merely a new and improved utopian version of the oppressive and always dysfunctional no-matter-what status quo, involving (perhaps) the abolition of the Indian Act, but with, at the same time, more “self-government” for Indian bands permanently back-stopped by either the Canadian business sector or the Canadian taxpayer, and new relationships based somehow on an ever-elusive, never defined “nation to nation” concept, and on Indian bands constituting a virtually co-equal third fount of constitutional sovereignty. (on this latter point, see for example, The Haida Nation Case, c. 23, below.)
And Mr. Rae, tragically for the vast majority of ordinary, powerless, aboriginal Canadians, fits this definition of “enlightened” or “progressive” exactly.
What a waste and a loss. Had he been an American in the 1960’s, especially given that he is a lawyer, he would have been fighting for desegregation. Had he been a South African at that time he would have been fighting to end apartheid. Had he been an Indian (from India) he would have been fighting the caste system.
But here in Canada, he’s in essence a supporter of benign versions of all those scourges, and thus he personifies the great mystery and paradox of Canada’s elite on this issue- the “Aboriginal issue”- that they all virtually unanimously come down on the side of quasi-segregation- on the side of the “separate but equal” (enhanced) status quo- on the side of illiberalism generally.
What’s Happened to Politics? sets out Mr. Rae’s views and opinions on the current state of Canadian politics.
On general issues he says all the right things- that there be trust in the polity- that the citizenry needs to be engaged- that the language of political discourse should be non-Orwellian- that politicians should have and show some respect for the public mood- that politicians show courage- that their decisions be based on “evidence”, not ideology or self-interest- and finally, that the aboriginal situation is a “national shame”, is based on a broken model, and that the status quo in relation to it is “unacceptable”.
Sounds good. So true. Nothing to disagree with so far.
But when it comes to applying, rather than merely stating, these self-evident truths- these reliable bromides- Mr. Rae eschews them all.
In the chapter of his book called What’s Happened to Aboriginal Peoples in Canada? he eschews them all in favour of a non-evidence-based, racism-accusing, “colonial duplicity”, simplistic, blinkered view of Canada’s past- more or less mirroring John Ralston Saul’s shallow and irrational The Comeback– the view that would constitute Mr. Rae’s own immigrant grandparents as malevolent land thieves and participants in or supporters of “institutional racism,” and “cooked up”, “ugly” and “dubious” treaties.
Not content with, as did Mr. Saul, blithely insulting our forefathers and denigrating and discounting our heritage, ( a heritage that he personally has so hugely benefited from), he insults the majority of present-day Canadians by falsely stating that “a majority of Canadians do not see (solving aboriginal issues) as a priority”.
He states that “the purely majoritarian theory of democracy is not good enough”, implying that the majority of Canadians possess a mob-rule mentality, are reactionary and essentially anti-Indian, and would stifle his and his fellow elites all-wise and beneficent approach to bettering the condition of aboriginal Canadians. In this, he treats one of the founding principles of the Western Enlightenment, equality under the law, as an inconvenience- an impediment- and:
…tries to overcome the other strand of our political heritage, majoritarianism, in favor of a nation of minorities and groups each following its own beliefs and inclinations. In particular, the intellectual minority expected to enhance its status, presenting itself as the defender and spokesman of all the others.
In fact it is the majority of Canadians who are more liberal and truly progressive than Mr. Rae and his fellow minority elitists who are dictating the agenda and calling all the shots.
The majority of Canadians simply don’t share Mr. Rae’s minority elitist approach, which they see as unwise and ineffective. They want race-free equality across the board with aboriginal Canadians. They want legal integration. They reasonably believe that this is the best path forward for Canada’s Indians. The majority is not being heard- is not, contrary to two of Mr. Rae’s bromides, being either “engaged” or given “trust”. The majority is not being heeded- in fact is not even being allowed to voice its views.
In fact this issue is being driven and dictated by a minority comprising Canada’s elites- including Mr. Rae- is being driven by a minority elitist theory of democracy- where on a issue of this importance, the majority is being asked for and being offered no say.
Mr. Rae’s stated views, largely unsupported by any references or authorities, like Mr. Saul’s The Comeback, comprise mainly easy, moral high-horse, insulting, unargued persuasion. In substance, Mr. Rae’s message, like Mr. Saul’s, is a ringing call for more “separate but equal” laws, more quasi-apartheid “arrangements” involving Mr. Saul’s “serious transfer of responsibility and money”, all with more racial apartness and discord between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians inevitably resulting.
Mr. Saul’s and Mr. Rae’s books are illustrative of the sad fact that rarely before has an oppressed minority in a liberal society been so let down- so ill-served- so abandoned- albeit unintentionally- by their social, political and meritocratic elites- as have been Canada’s aboriginal peoples.
The Comeback and Mr. Rae’s What’s Happened to Aboriginal Peoples in Canada? epitomize the irrational rejection by our non-Indian elites of our Western Enlightenment heritage and values, a heritage and set of values which have created one of the greatest, most humane civilizations in the recorded history of the world: Canada.
One of the greatest aspects of this fundamental humaneness of our heritage is its self-correcting capability- its ability to self-examine, self-criticize and make course corrections.
An example of this is the very subject of this essay- our troubled history with our Indigenous peoples.
Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that all of the one-dimensional, finger-pointing authors discussed above, including Messrs. Saul and Rae, are right about European racism, colonial duplicity and all the other sins of omission and commission alleged, because of the inherent nature of our Enlightenment-based culture and heritage, we have gone a long way towards recognizing and acknowledging our wrongs and mistakes and attempting to correct them.
No other culture in world history, to my knowledge, has done that, or today, even exhibits the capacity to do it.
Robert Hughes, (from whom this insight derives), wrote in relation to the abolition of slavery in Western Europe and North America:
Africa, Islam and Europe all participated in black slavery, enforced it, profited from its miseries. But in the end, only Europe, (including here, North America), proved itself able to conceive of abolishing it; only the immense moral and intellectual force of the Enlightenment, brought to bear on the hideous oppression that slavery represented, was able-unevenly and with great difficulty-to bring the trade to an end.
The brilliant, humanist American playwright, Arthur Miller, made the same point, observing that no other culture in world history has better evidenced “mankind’s will to evolve”, or experienced so many positive eruptions of this glorious trait.
These same thoughts apply to Canada’s recent and present uneven, difficult but best-intended efforts to ameliorate, however imperfectly, the still playing-out effects of our ancestors’ relationships and dealings with our indigenous peoples.
These best-intended efforts are a product of a culture and heritage that should be, rather than so denigrated by our elites, extolled and celebrated far more than it is. We have something rare here, which we could lose if our elites, including our political, academic and intellectual elites, don’t stand up for it more.
The Comeback criticizes the “delusional European belief in the centrality of race.”
But in fact Western Europe and Canada are trying to move past and beyond the belief in the centrality of race, as a casual glance at a newspaper and at Europe and Canada’s immigration statistics show every day. Europe and Canada, overall, are trying, however haltingly, to become racially indifferent. (Again, in the case of Canada, with the inexplicable exception of our First Nations peoples!)
No, it is Mr. Saul, and his aboriginal “new elite”, and Mr. Rae, and all their supporters and ideological kin who are race-obsessed, who insist on viewing life through a “racial lens”, who reject our supreme Western values of racial harmony, inclusiveness and equality, who deny the common, imperfect, but fulsome and beneficent, humanity of all Canadians, regardless of mistakes made in the past, and regardless of race or origin.
Canadians want to move on from all that. Canadians want to dispense with the “civilizational boxes”, (Amartya Sen, in Common Themes, below), based on race , religion and ethnicity, that Mr. Saul and his “new elite” and that Mr. Rae seemingly want us all to be forever confined in.
Canadians want to move on towards a united, race-free, William Wuttunee- Nelson Mandela-inspired, civic and political future where Canada is one big, single, equal home for all. It’s time for Mr. Saul, Mr. Rae and the rest of our elites, Indian and non-Indian, to cease all this insulting, divisive, glass-always-half-empty, race-obsessed talk and to start aligning themselves with these higher, superior values and aspirations.
Thanks for reading. For more from this author read Reflections on Reflections: The Relevance of the Writings of Edmund Burke to the Passage, Interpretation and Implementation of Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982
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Jan Morris. Pax Britannica. The Folio Society, 1992
From Unforgiving Years, above.
Lapham’s Quarterly, Winter 2015.
Letters to a Young Contrarian, above
Rambler Essay No. 60,Samuel Johnson, Selected Essays, Penguin Books, 2003
Quoted in Judas, by Amoz Oz, Penguin Random House, London, 2014 (italics added) A novel of the “ruthless realism” and the terrible, insolvable moral complexities involved in the establishment of the State of Israel.
From his essay in Reappraisals; Goodbye to All That? Leszek Kolakowski and the Marxist Legacy.
In Reflections on a Ravaged Century, above.
Saul Bellow, from his essay My Man Bummidge, in There Is Too Much To Think About, above
Tony Judt, from his essay The Elementary Truths of Primo Levi, contained in Reappraisals, above
From From Tolerance to Tyranny- A Cautionary Tale from Fifteenth Century Spain, by moral heroine and historian Erna Paris, Cormorant Books Inc. 2015.
Allan Levine. Scattered Among the Nations: The Jewish Diaspora in Ten Portraits. Toronto: McLelland & Stewart, 2002.
Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century,
Nobel Prize-wining poet Czeslaw Milosz, from Milosz- A Biography, by Andrzej Franaszek, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017
Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life- An Antidote to Chaos, Random House Canada, 2018
Consider that ancestor worship, in one form or another, has been an important spiritual component of most enduring world cultures. It seems that some people in modern Canada have become so ahistorical and spiritually disconnected from this soulful part of our essential humanity- of our human legacy- that they think nothing of engaging in this culturally almost-unprecedented, apostate-like behavior.
Victor Serge. Unforgiving Years, above
Thomas King. The Inconvenient Indian. Anchor Canada, 2013.
Douglas & McIntyre, 2012.
Both quotes from Mr. Johnston’s obituary in The Globe and Mail, Writer paved way for First Nations literature, (September 25, 2015
University of Oklahoma Press, 1989
Retired Supreme Court Justice Major gave the following wide-ranging recollections and comments in a personal email to me on April 10th, 2019:
Basil sent me a copy when (Indian School Days) was first published. I think his reflections on the football game are to my memory accurate allowing for author’s license. I don’t think I posed near the threat he describes and my memory is the Spanish team were well coached. However there was only one game which they won. The return match was snowed out…The School also had a hockey team that was usually close to being the best of the high schools. Their star player Cammanda (sic) who likely had high professional potential was killed in a mining accident.
Basil and I both went to The Jesuit College in Montreal (now Concordia) and played on the School hockey team. Whatever he says about football he was the better hockey player. But an interesting story was that Basil’s classmate at Spanish- last name Cooper- who became a medical doctor and went back to the reserve to open a clinic. I don’t know the full story but it seems internal politics soured him, the clinic closed, he moved to Timmins to practice and I was told he had no further interest in native affairs.
For one reason or another I spent some time at the school and did not see, hear or detect the failings so widely noted in the reconciliation proceedings and don’t know if any accusations were directed at Spanish.
Contemporary American poet Robert Pinsky, quoted in The Reader’s Quotation Book, A Literary Companion, edited by Steven Gilbar, Pushcart Press, 1990
Penguin Books, 2015.
Published in When The Facts Change- Essays 1995-2010, Penguin Press 2015
See Non-natives evicted from Mohawk reserve, The Globe and Mail, Feb. 15, 2010, and The Canadian town that still bans interracial marriage, National Post, May 20, 2015
Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Robert Hughes, The Culture of Complaint, above
W. Norton & Company, 1990
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014
From Throwing Shade, (National Post, May 14, 2016
From Hiking With Nietzsche, (above):
Indeed, “what if?” Nietzsche’s demon is giving voice to an age-old metaphysical suggestion, namely, that the movement of reality is best described in terms of cycles and epicycles, a snake devouring itself. Hinduism and Buddhism, each in its own varied way, express something similar in the doctrine of karma. Everything happens by way of repetition. A building crumbles and is rebuilt on the same site. Glaciers move day after day, as do rains, and lives. The old gives birth to the new, which immediately, at varying rates, becomes old….the eternal return…
Three rabbits, conjoined by interlocking ears, chasing one another in a perpetual merry-go-round. These “three hares” are everywhere: from twelfth-century Mongol metalwork in Iran, to medieval churches in Devon, England, to eighteenth-century synagogues in Germany. Shafan, shafan, shafan, in Hebrew. The symbol is radially symmetrical, fluid and ongoing. The hares are a sign of rebirth.
In his fearful fascination with unreflective spontaneity, (Ivan Turgenev’s) self-castigating Hamlet seems to anticipate liberals of the next century who were overly eager to acknowledge their moral inferiority before the “authenticity” of the Left.Aileen M. Kelly, The Discovery of Chance, above
Penguin Classics, 2012
Simon & Schuster Canada, 2015
Allan Bloom, referring to similar American elites in The Closing of the American Mind, above.
The Culture of Complaint, above
From Timebends- A Life, above