A reader named ‘Rob’ provided some thought-provoking comments to a VoC post entitled, “Are Aboriginals Unfairly Treated by Our Legal System?” After responding to his comments I asked if he’d be willing to answer the 4 questions I’ve asked many readers who have offered critcism of my position on Caledonia. Since Rob is the first reader to actually respond to the questions, I thought his answers deserved a post of their own. Let’s pick up at the end of my original reply…
A final request for Rob…
When people write in to offer criticism of what I or Gary McHale are doing, I often ask them to answer 4 questions for me. So far no one has. Maybe you can give it a try. Give them some thought and I’ll do a new post with your answers.
Q2: If yes, why do you believe in using violence?
Q3: What makes you think that violence won’t one day be turned against YOU by the thugs using it today?
Q4: Why would you want to live in any nation – no matter who owns the land – where the Rule of Law does not exist?
Thanks for writing, for responding and for listening, Rob.
Rob answers the 4 questions:
Interesting comments Mark, and I thank you for the lengthy reply. As an overall summary to your questions, I can state that responses to life are situationally dependent, but that the most important and radical avenue for change is by changing oneself to be free of automated responses which flow from emotional reactions. The first step to changing the world is to look within and question the inner workings of one’s own reactions to the world. However, not to digress too far into the esoteric, I would like to answer your four questions directly.
1 and 2. Personally, I do not believe in using violence to “get what I want”. However, if my family was threatened, or my country of nationality asked me too, I would probably use violence, just as Canadians serving in overseas missions are asked to do now on a regular basis. When I was a young man, I would have taken up arms for my country without question. Now I would need convincing. However, if my family was directly threatened. I’m sure I would respond accordingly.
3. Violence has been turned against Native people on a daily basis in most of Canada. This might be difficult for you to understand, but I will do my best. Imagine culture to be a tablecloth, with a full dinner set covering it. Imagine each item on the table cloth represents a part of your culture. A fork is food, a knife is kinship practices, etc. If one item is removed, say the plate, which represents, say, traditional dancing, the overall culture will probably still survive. More items could be removed, and the culture could still be viable. However, what the Canadian government attempted to do was to remove the whole damn tablecloth. Residential schools, the outlawing of traditional spirituality, and many other punitive actions were attempts to destroy the culture. This was a real violence which was perpetrated on generations of native people.
When the table cloth is yanked, people tend to loose a valid interpretation of the world. When faced with this situation, incidents of violence, suicide and substance abuse increase at an alarming rate. Emile Durkheim, one of the founding fathers of sociology, documented all of these incidents among certain tradesmen in France in the 19th century who were affected very similarly to the way Native people in Canada have been affected.
There is a fair amount of evidence that the best way for Native people to solve the problem of cultural attack is to reclaim their own heritage. This is often a difficult process.
Just as you have said that for your entire life you have been looking for a purpose, there are thousands of Native people doing the same thing. They have been stripped of purpose and identity by a nation. When they realize who they are, and what has been done to them, I am sure that many of them have an epiphany far more commanding than the one which encompassed you. Leaving the politics and legislative precedent aside, I’m sure you can understand how that moment of self-realization could move a person in ways which might seem at odds with the cultural norm. I’m sure that some of them might choose to respond violently to the thugs that have oppressed them for centuries….that’s what it is to be a young man. When we get older, we hope that a more placid form of action will prevail, but young people, especially those with a cause, are often prone to being hotheads.
4. I do not believe that I live in a land where the rule of law exists. I routinely see people excluded from society because of their race. They can’t rent apartments or get jobs because of how they look. They are targeted by the police, and are often the victims of racial violence. Given this situation, I ask you what your response would be…..Uncle Tom or angry radical?
1. First of all, I’m sorry it took so long to get your reply up. Thanks again for the patience.
2. Re: your answers to Q1&2 (Do you believe in using violence?): I couldn’t have said it better myself – I, too, would only use violence when I or my family are threatened, or if I were called to serve my country.
3. Re: your answer to Q3 (Why do you think violence won’t be turned against YOU by the thugs using it today?): Unfortunately, I worded the question ambiguously in an attempt to distance you from the thugs I call the Caledonia criminals. The context I was trying to ask the question within was this: If a native person is convinced by their leaders that it’s OK to use violence to solve problems, what restrains those same leaders from using violence against their own people? We can see that happening to the Palestinians in the Middle East – they have no rule of law and now they are turning on themselves in a civil war.
Given that I did not ask my question clearly, let me respond to the comments you provided without reference to the original question. Your table cloth/dinner set analogy is a very good one, and it really helps me understand how it must feel to have one’s culture stolen and/or devalued.
There are those who would argue that Canada has invested a lot of money and effort in programs designed to help natives reclaim their culture, and to correct past injustices. I am not making that argument. My argument is this: despite the dogmatic, over-the-top rantings of a few native ‘spokespersons’ there is no ‘genocide’ taking place in Canada. No one, including Gary McHale, is – as has been written – out to kill every native man, woman and child. I argue, therefore, in the absence of a real threat to life and limb, there is no right to use violence. It seems fairly clear to me that the violence and intimidation that is being perpetrated by a small number of native gangsters in Ipperwash and Caledonia is being used, not in self-defence, but – at best – for political gains and – at worst – for financial profit. Personally, I suspect the latter.
4. Re your answer to Q4 (Why would you want to live in any nation – no matter who owns the land – where the Rule of Law does not exist?): You said you don’t believe that you live in a country where the rule of law exists because people are discriminated against. OK, Rob, let’s get ‘real’ here…
You think I haven’t been discriminated against in my life, or had my ‘culture/identity’ taken from me? You don’t know me or what my life has been like. When you talk to me as if you believe that natives or blacks or any other minority are the only ones who have suffered, you’re making a generalization that is just as evil as the discrimination you say you oppose.
I was placed in an orphanage at age 6 because my mother wanted to marry a man who didn’t want me as part of the package. I was adopted by an honest, hardworking couple who both had to work in order to provide a basic, lower-middle-class lifestyle. My head and my behaviour were so messed up that our Sunday school teacher offered to sign any papers necessary to help my adoptive parents send me back to the orphanage.
We always had enough to eat, but there wasn’t a lot left over for luxuries. I don’t know a single person in my family who went to university or college, and even if I did want to go, there wasn’t enough money to pay for it anyway. I dropped out of school with a Grade 10 education only to return later in life to finish high school as a full time adult student. Since I wasn’t able to work during the two semesters I attended school my Grade XII diploma cost me, in effect, $30,000. I’ve been in trouble with the law, and I’ve been beaten up by the police (they’re really good at not leaving marks!).
You want to talk about suicide – I have often laid in bed beside my wife praying silently to a God I don’t really believe in to let me die in my sleep so I can stop the pain, and I’ve lost count as to the number of times that I’ve come close to actually doing it for real.
Despite all my ‘disadvantages’ it never once occurred to me to get a bunch of adoptees, high school dropouts, and victims of police brutality together so we could take land by force, terrorize innocent people, etc. and then justify it using the excuse that we were ‘mistreated.’
Does this help you understand why I will NEVER accept the argument that natives are entitled to use violence because they were once oppressed? In answer to your question, therefore, as to whether I would become an ‘Uncle Tom’ or an ‘Angry Radical,’ I would say that my life has led me to become an ‘Angry Non-Violent Radical in Support of the Rule of Law and Equality Before That Law.’
Thanks for the thought-provoking comments, Rob. I really mean that. You got me to be more open than I would have otherwise. Please feel free to comment. Regards, Mark