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Idle No More

In light of the recent surge of Idle No More into public awareness, one might feel a kind of cognitive dissonance; a sense of conflicted realities. We have this popular notion that Canada is one of the “good guys” of the world. We have national health care, progressive policies and the expectation of being liked almost anywhere we can travel. So what is all this about? Why are these people complaining? Don’t they get lots of handouts from the government?

You might deal with it by telling yourself that it can’t be that bad. You might remind yourself that this is all about what happened in the past. You weren’t even alive then! Oh, you know there were residential schools and some abuses and stuff, but you just don’t understand why they are coming after you. Why should you have to pay for what you didn’t do? You life has been a struggle too, and you’ve had to fight for everything you’ve got. How can you be the culprit.

That’s just it. We who are colonizers of this land feel implicated, blamed and attacked. In fact we feel threatened most of the time whether or not we think too much about it. It’s constantly in our face on the news and the newspaper stands and the talk in the office and with friends. Murders, car-jacking and theft, gangs and drug violence, and it almost always “those natives”. Oh, you’re not racist or anything. It’s not racist if it’s true, right?

Yet, these factoids and headlines, or more importantly what they suggest and even assert as the truth behind the events,  fall apart upon inspection, but chances are that you haven’t thought about it too hard. You take the explanation that is readily available; your personal crisis is abated. Why would you look for other perspectives when you already have one that fits? There is no problem here, and the fault is theirs anyway.

This is what we learned in school and likely at home. There are rules, and when they are broken the job is to find the culprit and stick it to them. We had two worlds then; home life and school. Those other students only existed in our school world. The reality of their home and life before us had no real estate in our brains. If they were bad in school, they were just bad kids. There was no camaraderie with them, no empathetic investigation into what they were experiencing, and perhaps most importantly, no thought of whether they were in fact doing anything differently than any other student in the first place. Labels are assigned and the order established.  With the attention of teacher and judgement of the class diverted, we could get back to trying to survive our day without being yelled at or teased.

Come back to the present. These days we point fingers and yell “corruption!” at the mere accusation of foul play in the aboriginal community. You know it’s justified. You can no longer remember why you are so certain, but it’s true anyway and there’s little time to waste on being “PC” about it. Society is crumbling and we need to fix this NOW! Take away their autonomy since they obviously aren’t capable.

Two plus two equals C-45.

Where does corruption really lie? Is it possible that we are grossly biased toward our own legitimacy over others, and against all facts of the matter? Should another country move in on our corrupt, robo-calling government?

Some more questions for you:
Do you remember when you started believing what you believe or why you did? Are you getting both sides of the story? Where does your information come from? Who owns your media sources? What are their interests, motivation and ethics? If their mandate is profit (which corporate executives are legally mandated to do), is there more profit in challenging popular beliefs, or in catering to them? Yes, this goes for both left and right who are both often guilty of missing the facts. Do they stand to make more in direct sales of their media, or in popular acceptance of their ideology? More importantly, why have you never been prompted to ask these questions before?

As hard as life can be for all of us, we do have a kind of privilege as the children of colonizers. It’s the ability to deny, to pretend, and to ignore. The ability to not have to think too critically about what we believe. It’s a luxury that we seem able to afford when not everyone can. Yet, nothing is denied forever. Reality is greater than our wishful thinking. or our fearful avoidance. It always finds its way.

On many fronts we are now being made to face the denied reality of those who have long since passed. Our biosphere groans under our weight, bodies and minds crumbling under an exasperated economy and stress load. None of us can afford to put our head in the sand, least of all those of us who can speak without being smothered by stigma and prejudice.

Yet do not think that First Nations peoples are weak. They do not need our salvation. Pity is also not empowerment. It’s not about feeling guilty or making restitution for the past. It’s about stopping the present character assassination through sensational, selective journalism and in the public discourse. It’s about seeking out their voice and ceasing to silence. It’s about getting behind instead of piously reaching down.

If you want to change something, start with yourself. Learn your history. Be honest about what you have done and take responsibility for what you have inherited. It may not be your fault, but you are here. Who else is going to take up the challenge. Finally, if you are going to help a community, you need to put aside your ego and serve their goals and respect their autonomy,

Since I cannot explain it better than this man. I leave you with this:

Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

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