Thursday, January 17, 2013

I'm Not Your Aromatherapist. It's Not My Job.

From my Ottawa Citizen op-ed page slot:
Two months into Idle No More, this is the sound of the rubber hitting the road: Canadians' overall level of concern about the problems plaguing aboriginal communities is unchanged from two years ago despite the Idle No More movement, Chief Theresa Spence's liquids-only fast, and everything else attending to the disquiet in First Nations communities, a new Ipsos-Reid poll shows.
I draw attention to the poll results not to suggest that the grassroots flash-mob attendees and round-dance goers should be faulted in any way for having failed to "raise the consciousness" of the Canadian public about aboriginal concerns. But I am drawing attention to the important fact that aboriginal concerns are already Canadian concerns, and this has been the case for some while. Nearly two-thirds of us want Ottawa to work to raise the quality of life in aboriginal communities, same as two years ago.  
Undertaken for Postmedia News, the poll was conducted from January 7 to January 14, the zenith of the media focus on Idle No More. The poll's sample size was just over 1,000 people, which is good enough to be reliably accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 95 per cent of the time.
So. If everybody wants forward movement, why no traction?
My Ottawa Citizen column this week is an attempt to explain a major cause of that paralysis. For a lot of perfectly decent people who have found themselves swept up in Idle No More's excitements, I'm afraid it's not going to be very pleasant reading. As for those people who talk about Prime Minister Harper in the same drooling hyperbole as the famous American celebrity crackpot Donald Trump employs when he's talking about President Obama, they will want to go and have a good lie-down.
My column concerns itself with a privileged, bullying minority of reactionary and obstructionist chiefs and "activists" who persist in their grim determination to reject, derail and sabotage every opportunity for real progress opened up by Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo. It is the main unwritten story of Idle No More so far.
I see the Macdonald-Laurier Institute's Ken Coates has come at it from a slightly different angle in today's Globe and Mail. Coates refers to "a momentous political and ideological change among first nations," with dishonorable mention going to "those who sense their power ebbing."

Since my first column on the subject of Idle No More appeared two weeks ago, I've been listening very closely to the perspectives of objectively progressive aboriginal leaders who would prefer to be building proper schools in every single First Nation community that needs one, rather than going to meetings where the first order of business is always to find some new and imaginative way to put Prime Minister Harper's name in the same sentence as the word "genocide."
I'm not at all displeased with the results of my labours, and I'm not displeased either with a comical pattern that has been repeating itself. As with that first column, and with the appearance of my column last week, and the impudent appearance of this essay, the pattern is unfolding again in all its satisfying train-schedule regularity this week. It's mainly a "social media' thing. It plays out like this.
One after the other, dizzy white hipsters parade past, calling me a racist, hectoring me about being insufficiently familiar with the history of social movements, expounding upon weighty historical subjects about which they know nothing and harrying me about the sacred contents of treaties they've never read.

It's hilarious, but it provides a perfect opportunity to repeat something serious that cannot be repeated often enough, precisely because it has been airbrushed out of all the "activist ally" propaganda attending to Idle No More. It's largely ignored by the arch-villains of the mainstream press, too. It concerns what happened the last time the "activist" Left mobilized so broadly around First Nations issues. That was in 1992, when the "social movements" worked in combination with the populist Right to defeat the Charlottetown Accord, destroying its provisions for a constitutionally-entrenched third order of aboriginal government.
No matter how you deconstruct that shameful bit of history you just can't make it fit the argument that the emancipation of aboriginal people from their shackles as wards of the state will come only after ordinary Canadians have been obliged to troop in their millions through cultural-sensitivity training programs. As the polls consistently show, the average Canadian might not understand a lot of this stuff, but nobody needs a wake-up call. We've all been awake for some long while now. Ordinary Canadians are not the problem. 
If the more degenerate outliers of the Canadian bourgeoisie want to sit around cross-legged playing pass-the-feather at teach-ins organized to examine the discursive constructions unpacked in the interrogation of heteronormativity in decolonized spaces, let them go right ahead. The rest of us need nothing of the kind.
For those of that warped disposition and temperament who have been so predictably and laughably recoiling at my trivializations of the past couple weeks, all I can say is this: You seem to have mistaken me for your wine steward.
 It's actually not my job to make you feel good about yourselves. It's certainly not my job to help you dupe angry young aboriginal people into believing the ugly and deliberately divisive pseudo-histories you've concocted. It's not my job to write things that will help you justify your Intifada-envy complex.
It's just not my job. 


Blogger Old Brooktrout said...

A fantastic piece.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Old Brooktrout said...

Excellent article Terry.

2:06 PM  

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