We survivors and the Germans of today are together united. Both of us do not want our past to be our children’s future. – Auschwitz survivor Roman Kent, 83, at the 60th annual Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, reflecting on the process of reconciling and working with his former enemy toward a common goal. 1
There was never going to be justice for the Holocaust, or a reckoning with its enormity.-Elizabeth Kolbert2
Do not grieve- misfortunes will happen to the wisest and best of men. Death will come, and always comes out of season; it is the command of the Great Spirit, and all nations and people must obey. What is past, and cannot be prevented, should not be grieved for. -Teton Sioux Chief Big Elk 3
The truth is more important than consolation, and in the long run, would be more effective. –Penelope Fitzgerald 4
I don’t believe in collective guilt- Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace prize winner Eli Wiesel
There’ll be a time, I hear tell, when all will be well
When God and man will be reconciled.
But until men lose their chains, and righteousness reigns,
Lord protect my child. – Bob Dylan, Lord Protect my Child
Canada’s Indians need to “grow up” and stop being negatively fixated on their past.
Dealing with the past, for individuals and societies, is always a balancing act. It should never be forgotten or distorted. On the other hand, it should never be clung to and dealt with to the obsessive extent that it distorts the present and constricts and hampers adaptive and ameliorative conduct directed towards the future.
As aboriginal writer Calvin Helin wrote in Dances With Dependency (above):
The current problem is that many indigenous leaders still seem to be stuck in grieving mode when the time to move on has already come and gone.
The problem with always looking back is that there is nothing we can do about what has already happened. How can the constructive future of indigenous nations be founded on festering grievances of the past? Should we not be focussing on positive, forward-looking solutions to a new polity, a new economy, rather than being anchored entirely in rancorous injustices of the past (no matter how justified such views are)? How is dwelling on historical injustices going to lift indigenous peoples out of the morass of social and political pathologies? Memories of (past) government duplicity are distant history to today’s youth who see only a systemic treadmill of misery with little hope of reform.
We should be asking, “What pragmatic steps can we take now to make the lives of ordinary indigenous peoples better”? It should be obvious that we must begin moving forward and start looking for real solutions. To paraphrase Bill Wilson, the result of simply continuing to seek blame is that we continue to “wallow in the puke of our own suffering.”
This is ironic. The tough, realistic Bill Wilson was the father of former federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, former Indian industry stalwart, (she was an AFN Regional Chief before she decided to run for office), and one of the driving forces behind the Justin Trudeau government’s pointless, (in terms of real solutions), finger-pointing, blame-seeking, grievance-obsessed inquiry into murdered and missing women.
The relationship of Canadian Indians to their past is out of balance. They are prisoners of it. Almost their whole intellectual and psychic orientation is towards what is irrevocably and unchangeably behind them, not towards their future.“We live forward but we can only think backward.”5 Their elites keep falsely telling their people that they are what their grandparents suffered. They obsess over it, constantly turning it over and picking at its scabs and finding new ones to pick at and complain about.
It doesn’t seem to matter how much time goes by. Our shared past continues to provide them with a bottomless trove of old and new grievances to fret over and blame, and often sue, the rest of Canada for.
Calvin Helin, in Dances With Dependency:
Though the system was created through no fault of their own, a host of past Indian chiefs have made an industry of pointing fingers and assigning blame.
And all for no ultimate benefit for Indians!
It’s frequently and correctly said that a person can never really reach a state of adult maturity until he stops laying sole blame on his parents for how he turned out as an adult – starts to see his parents as only human – tries to forgive them for their feet of clay, just as he begins to realize that his feet are made of the same thing – and then undertakes the task of taking responsibility for himself.
It’s the same with Indians in Canada. They will never “grow up” until their elites stop so relentlessly blaming the rest of Canada for their present plight, and start to see their history in more relative, mature terms – start to regard Canadians, past and present, as generally the well-meaning, flawed humans (just like them), that we were and are, and forgive us for that – and start to move on and away from the petulant, culturally adolescent, intellectual and psychic state they’re presently mired in.
It’s harmful for Indian elites (and for our governing classes) to be still stoking such a strong sense of present grievance and anger in relation to events that happened to Indians in their now long-distant past.
And going into the vast, limitless Canadian future, does it make sense that a hundred or five hundred years from now Indians should still be complaining to the rest of Canada about events which occurred in the 1700”s and 1800’s? It would be like France still nursing a grudge against Italy for Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, or England still harping at France over the Norman Conquest.
At some point in time what happened in the past has to become dispassionate history.
The German writer Bernhard Schlink dealt with this issue, as it applies to his country, in his book Guilt About the Past.6 No country in the modern age, perhaps in all of history, has more to be ashamed of than Germany. It had no “excuse” for what it did. It was a cultured, highly developed, middle class, bourgeois society. Its descent into the most frenzied and barbaric form of evil will always remain one of the most troubling, seemingly inexplicable, questions of history, not least because of what it chillingly tells us what “profound abysses” 7are rooted in the human psyche- what so-called modern and “civilized” humans are still capable of doing.
The essence of this profound, mysterious, and shameful conundrum was neatly caught by Argentinian literary Nobel laureate, Jorge Luis Borges, in his short, fictional narrative, Deutches Requiem, 8 His protagonist, Otto Dietrich zur Linde, on the eve of his execution for Nazi death camp war crimes, breezily writes of his life’s passion for and inspiration by Schopenhauer, Shakespeare and Brahms, and ironically and unapologetically says about these icons of enlightened civilization:
He who pauses in wonder, moved with tenderness and gratitude, before any facet of the work of these auspicious creators, let him know that I also paused there, I, the abominable.
But notwithstanding that it happened, life, resilient life, for both the perpetrators and the victims, has still had to go on. And, remarkably, after only three generations, on both sides, it basically has.
Should today’s Germans, now two or three or even four generations now down the line, still be forced or expected to bear the cross of guilt everywhere they go? Should they still be expected to show daily penitence to the Jews, and to the world generally, for what their ancestors did? Should today’s Jews, particularly Jews of Israel, still define their approach and outlook towards the world primarily with reference to the Holocaust?
Mr. Schlink, in relation to Germany, answers somewhere in the middle. He says that the past must still and always be learned and fully understood by Germans (I’d say this should be the case for Germany, for at least Hitler’s proverbial thousand years), but then, once “mastered,” Germans should expect the right to be “set free” from it.
As he writes:
The longer we live with the idea that the past is something that we can and must come to terms with, the more paradoxical this proves to be. “Bewaltigen,” which is probably translated most closely as “to master” in the original and correct sense of the word, applies to a task; it stands before us, we set to work on it, and finally it is finished and mastered. Then we are done with it. The thought that the past could and should be mastered contains not only the yearning for freedom from it; it even asserts an entitlement to such an end. As with every task, whoever works hard at it expects that the task will eventually be completed, and then demands to be released from duty once the task is finished. Whoever vigourously applies him- or herself to the work of commemorative remembrance wishes to held captive to the past no more.
As Dutch writer Cec Nooteboom wrote in Roads to Berlin: Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Germany:9
…the German miracle is not that of recovery, but of acceptance. The country has succeeded, as far as such a thing is possible, in coming to terms with the past through grief and understanding, by realizing that it will never entirely disappear.
It wasn’t easy. The process is probably not finished. The generation which caused, or enabled, or merely endured, this most obscene and horrific of national experiences, and their children and grandchildren, were all, in their own way, permanently scarred.
W.G. Sebald, in On the Natural History of Destruction, 10wrote of the survivors’ act of willful national amnesia, with attendant evasions and pretensions, as a national coping mechanism, and as a way of being able to begin and accomplish the task of national reconstruction.
He wrote of a “psychologically and socially deformed society”, which acted “as if history would proceed on its way afterwards, almost undisturbed, as if nothing had happened.”
The sense of unparalleled national humiliation felt by millions of Germans in the last years of the war had never really found expression, and those directly affected by the experience neither shared it with each other nor passed it on to the next generation.
Their tragedy- partially self-induced- was a million times worse than that of Canada’s Indians, and after only three generations, we can say that Germans have processed it reasonably well.
For the reasons set out in this essay, and to the shame of our Indian and non-Indian elites, we can’t say that about Canada’s Indians.
And clearly the victims of the Germans, the Jews, as a people, somehow managed to survive the barbaric, world-ending ferocity aimed at them. They then went on to establish their own country and to ultimately thrive there, though still in perilous, equivocal and tenuous circumstances. Miraculously and heroically, they mastered their colossal task as well as any such tragedy-burdened people could.
As William Wuttunee wrote, in Ruffled Feathers:
Indians can learn from the Jewish people, who number about the same as the Indians in Canada. Their contribution toward the economy of this country is considerable… Although they integrate into Canadian society, they still retain their own religion…They have not given up the Jewish faith or their way of life. They have succeeded in business and their children are well-educated….They have enriched their culture with these new interests and developments. The same process must be the aim of the Indian people. They must participate in the non-Indian society, bringing with them their culture and taking the time to contribute more to Canada as a whole.
Mr. Schlink’s words, as clearly suggested by William Wuttunee, also aptly apply to Indian-Canadians who, unlike the Jewish people, haven’t even tried to master their past in any proper way. Thus they, and to a large degree non-Indian Canadians, continue to be held captive by it.
If the Jewish people could do it, and they experienced unspeakable, genocidal horrors at the hands of the Germans, why can’t our Indians? After all, what happened to them was minor compared to the Holocaust! They did not suffer genocide in any way, shape or form, including “cultural.” In fact it’s an insult to the memory of Holocaust victims to even suggest that these two experiences have anything in common, or have one iota of moral equivalency. It so trivializes the catastrophic sufferings, ending with their mass murder, of those millions of innocent fathers, mothers, grandparents, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters- those millions of persons, each with a name, each with an identity, “each person a universe.” 11
This last idea and quote is from a 2016 article by Canadian civil rights giant Irwin Cotler, Jackboots and Judgment, 12on our almost sacred duty to remember these persons, and to usefully and progressively incorporate their memory and the reality of their sufferings into our civic lives.
It must be again stated that Canada’s Indians did not suffer “cultural genocide”. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (below) set up this falsehood as follows:
For over a century the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of elimination, cause Aboriginal people to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as “cultural genocide.” – Truth and Reconciliation Report, below.
Patient reader, endure what follows below, and then contrast this supposed “genocide” with:
Some ten thousand Minsk Jews were killed in the last few days of July 1942. On the last day of the month, Juanita Vishniatskaia wrote a letter to her father to bid him farewell. “I am saying goodbye to you before I die. I am so afraid of this death because they throw small children into the mass graves alive. Farewell forever. I kiss you, I kiss you.
In the winter of 1942-1943, the Germans began to separate the Jews not into two but into three groups: the men, the older women and the young women. They sent the young women into the gas last, because they liked to look at their naked bodies in the cold. By then the corpses were burned rather than buried…Women, with more fatty tissue, burned better than men; so the laborers learned to put them at the bottom of the pile. The bellies of pregnant women would tend to burst, such that the fetus could be seen inside… In the cold nights of spring 1943, the Germans would stand by the flame, and drink, and warm themselves.
It was very difficult for the victims to leave any sort of trace. Chil Rajchman had come to Treblinka with his sister. As soon as he saw the facility, he put their suitcases down. His sister did not understand why. “It’s no use” were his last words to her. He was chosen to be a laborer. Sorting through clothing, he “came upon the dress that my sister was wearing. I paused. I took the dress, I held it in my hands, I contemplated it.” Then it had to go and he had to go on. Tamara and Itta Willemberg left their bundles of clothes next to each other. Their brother Samuel, a Jewish laborer, chanced to find the clothes clinging together, “as if in a sister’s embrace.” Because the women had their hair cut, they had a last few moments in which they could speak to their fellow Jews, who might, just possibly, survive them and remember their words. Ruth Dorfmann was able to accept from her barber that her death would be quick, and to cry with him. Hanna Levinson told her barber to escape and tell the world what was happening at Treblinka.
Or compare the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s supposed “genocide” with:
The Germans had erected a roadblock near the gates of the Jewish cemetery, where documents were verified and non-Jews told to return home. From this point forward the Jews were escorted by Germans with automatic weapons and dogs. At the checkpoint, if not earlier, many of the Jews must have wondered what their true fate would be. Dina Pronicheva, a woman of thirty, walked ahead of her family to a point where she could hear gunshots. Immediately all was clear to her; but she chose not to tell her parents so as not to worry them. Instead she walked along with her mother and father until she reached the tables where the Germans demanded valuables and clothes. A German had already taken her mother’s wedding ring when Pronicheva realized that her mother, no less than she, understood what was happening. Yet only when her mother whispered sharply to her- “you don’t look like a Jew”- did she try to escape. Such plain communication is rare in such situations, when the human mind labors to deny what is actually happening, and the human spirit strives towards imitation, subordination, and thus extinction. Pronicheva, who had a Russian husband and thus a Russian surname, told a German at a nearby table that she was not Jewish. He told her to wait at one side until the work of the day was complete.
Thus Dina Pronicheva saw what became of her parents, her sister, and the Jews of Kiev. Having surrendered their valuables and documents, people were forced to strip naked. Then they were driven by threats or by shots fired overhead, in groups of about ten, to the edge of a ravine known as Babi Yar. Many of them were beaten: Pronicheva remembered that people “were already bloody as they went to be shot.” They had to lie down on the corpses already underneath them, and wait for the shots to come from above and behind. Then would come the next group. Jews came and died for thirty-six hours. People were perhaps alike in dying and in death, but each of them was different until that final moment, each had different preoccupations and presentiments until all was clear and then all was black. Some people died thinking about others than themselves, such as the mother of the beautiful fifteen-year-old girl Sara, who begged to be killed at the same time as her daughter. Here there was, even at the end, a thought and a care: that if she saw her daughter shot, she would not see her raped. One naked mother spent what she must have known were the last few seconds of life breastfeeding her baby. When the baby was thrown alive into the ravine, she jumped in after it, and in that way, found her death. Only there in the ditch were these people reduced to nothing, or to their number, which was 33, 761. Since the bodies were later exhumed and burned on pyres, and the bones that did not burn crushed and mixed with sand, the count is what remains.
At the end of the day, the Germans decided to kill Dina Pronicheva. Whether or not she was Jewish was moot; she had seen too much. In the darkness she was led to the edge of the ravine along with a few other people. She was not forced to undress. She survived in the only way possible in that situation: just as the shots began she threw herself into the gorge and feigned death. She bore the weight of the German walking over her body, remaining motionless as the boots tread across her breast and hand, “like a dead person.” She was able to keep open a small air hole as the dirt fell around her. She heard a small child calling for its mother, and thought of her own children. She began to talk to herself” “Dina, get up, run away, run to your children.” Perhaps words made the difference, as they had earlier when her mother, now dead somewhere below, had whispered to her. She dug her way out and crept away quietly. -the above extracts from Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, (below)
Or, compare the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s supposed “cultural genocide” with:
Even as the German army was advancing east in huge numbers, the German killers presented their actions as defensive. To shoot Jewish babies in Mahileu was, as one German (Austrian) explained to his wife, to prevent something worse. “During the first try, my hand trembled a bit as I shot, but one gets used to it. By the tenth try I aimed calmly and shot surely at the many women, children and infants. I kept in mind that I have two infants at home, whom these hordes would treat just the same, if not ten times worse. The death I gave them was a beautiful quick death…Infants flew in great arcs through the air, and we shot them to pieces in flight, before their bodies fell into the pit and into the water. -from Timothy Snyder’s Black Earth, (above).
A single incident, when a German soldier in a field in the Ukraine is photographed in the very moment of shooting in the head a cowering, hysterical and begging mother, clinging to and sheltering her little girl she was desperately trying to save. Presumably this manly and brave German soldier shot the little girl as well moments after this photograph was taken.13
Gas chambers, burnings, machine-gunnings, asphyxiations- of whole families, whole villages, all together, in each other’s terrified, clinging presence! Murder and starvation-purposed concentration camps!
For the survivors and their families:
They found it painful to ponder the question of the originators of the deed…For them, the events assumed mythic proportions, no longer accessible to mere mortals, an incontestable occurrence that could not be subject to human scrutiny. 14
And it feels as if your heart must come to a stop now, gripped by more sorrow, more grief, more anguish than any human being can endure… 15
Please all, this writer begs you, especially you elites, who should know better, and who should be more careful and responsible with your words and with your privileged positions, powers and media access, like retired Madame Justice McLachlin, late of our Supreme Court, (see her description of the residential schools as “cultural genocide”, below), like Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Murray Sinclair, (see below), and like Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry head Marion Buller, who ignorantly and scandalously called the random and unassociated murders of about 1200 individual Indigenous women by about 1200 individual, mainly Indigenous men a “Canadian genocide”, do not, in any way, equate or conflate the Canadian Indian experience with any of this state or quasi-state-organized and carried out, seemingly inhuman, intentional, murderous, disgusting, repellant and unfathomable evil- “this Hell…in comparison with which Dante’s Hell seems no more than an innocent game on the part of Satan.” 16
Can we not all see, from being confronted with these wracking, heart-wrenching accounts of true genocide above, how the two experiences are entirely different, and inhabit completely different moral universes?- how the experiences of the Holocaust “belong to a world of the impossible, totally outside the sphere of ordinary humanity”? 17
If, as Irwin Cotler says, (below), we should shudder to mention the name genocide, then we should shudder to use it lightly, and we should never use the word in any context other than that of Juanita Vishniatskaia or Tamara and Itta Willemberg!
For our elites to do so is for them to fail in their duty to use language competently and responsibly- to fail in their duty to be competent and responsible in this profound matter. It is to fail to keep a sense of proportion- to fail to make proper distinctions and to rank mere societal ills with evils, and to not conflate them.
Those who are unwilling or unable to rank evil may thereby become servants of evil. Those who make no distinction between such disparate phenomena as apartheid, colonialism…political correctness, the gas chambers, sexism, the 1 percent’s wealth, and air pollution serve evil with their very refusal to grade it. (Italics added)18
In all this our elites fail “to use the highest of our abilities to remember what must never be forgotten”-19to fail to carry , subjectively and outwardly, the burden of the profound sufferings of Juanita and Dina, and all the millions of others.
We fail to act responsibly and to the highest of our abilities when we permit the key word denoting and symbolizing Juanita’s and Dina’s sufferings- genocide- 20to be casually, wrongly and insensitively conflated with much lesser events of personal and collective historical disturbance- as opposed to profound, cataclysmic events of personal and collective human annihilation.
Enlarging the capacity to elaborate, carry and transform traces of violence, whether private or historical, is a responsibility…It is to carry the burden of the suffering of others in the hope of a better time to come. Paul Celan wrote: “The world is gone. I must carry you.“21
It’s insulting and demeaning to the memories of true genocide victims to even suggest that any aspect of the Canadian Indian experience was genocidal in nature- to thoughtlessly and in most facile fashion- borrow- trade off on- cheaply appropriate- falsely compare- the word and the fact of genocide– “the crime of crimes whose name we should shudder to mention”, (Irwin Cotler, above), to make some highly debatable point in some ongoing, worldly, political, power and money situation- where the original events in issue were by and large not murderous in nature, and where the present participants in the discussions on the subject are well-stroked by the powers that be, well fed, relatively well-heeled, and otherwise safely and comfortably alive.
I challenge any of these people to truly imagine standing beside the naked, breastfeeding mother at the edge of the pit of Babi Yar, at the split-second moment before she and her nursing baby were machine gunned to death, and still say that the use of the word ‘genocide” is defensible in the Canadian context!
Such moments in the consciousness of a man judge all poets and philosophers. 22
Please, can we not agree that poor, dear, machine-gunned-dead Juanita Vishniatskaia, Tamara and Itta Willemberg, Ruth Dorfman and the parents and sister of Dina Pronicheva, and all the millions of others like them who suffered deliberate, calculated, monstrous, murderous, physical extinction, should be afforded exclusive use of the word “genocide“?
And can we not show them, their horrific “world of the impossible” experiences and their sacred memories, some genuine respect- can we not better fulfill our moral obligation to carry their sufferings and carry their memories- to be remembrancers–23by not, in any way, comparing the experience of Canadian Indians with theirs?
The terrible, anticipatory dream of the Holocaust victims, during and after the camps, was that no one would listen, and if they listened, they wouldn’t believe. 24
It is the writer’s duty to tell the terrible truth of the Holocaust, ( in this case, the truth of Treblinka), and it is a reader’s civic duty to learn the truth. To turn away, to close one’s eyes and walk past is to insult the memory of those who have perished. – Vasily Grossman 25
Comparing the Canadian Indian experience with the Holocaust is a form of not listening and not believing. Not learning and applying the truth is a failure of civic duty.
Genocide occurs when a state or quasi-state deliberately acts, with specific intent, to destroy, in whole or in part, an ethnic, national or religious group. It occurs when a state or quasi-state conducts a systematic campaign to deliberately exterminate an entire nation or religious or ethnic group. It constitutes crimes that are “so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.” 26
Despite generally atypical, isolated instances of racially motivated group manslaughter, (See James Daschuk”s Clearing The Plains, above), we cannot reasonably and rationally say that there was anything genocidal about the historically tragic, (as so much of history is) relatively-commonplace experience of cultural shock and cultural-world-ending loss experienced by Canada’s Indians as the result of contact with Europeans, whose superior technological culture was impossible to resist. (See Pre-Contact Indian Culture and the Shock of the New, above)
Nor can we reasonably and rationally say that, however flawed they were in operation, there was anything “genocidal” about residential schools- which were an effect of cultural loss, not a cause of it- which were a very late manifestation of this collision of worlds, when pre-contact Indian culture had already, before their inception, been substantially lost, as so poignantly described by Diamond Jenness, Peter Newman and Richard Gwynn, (see The End Times of Indian Cultures in Canada, above).
Residential schools couldn’t have “killed” aboriginal culture. Three hundred years of contact with European culture caused that culture to tragically but inevitably diminish to the point of near-disappearance- before residential schools were ever thought of.
Richard Gwynn (above) wrote of the “cultural castastrophe” that befell Prairie Indians and that climaxed with the extinction of the buffalo herds. He quoted Crow Chief Plenty Coups describing the cultural “nothing” that ensued- the state of cultural “living death”.
Encouraging Indians to turn to farming- starting up residential schools- these generally were attempts, however flawed or misguided in theory or execution, to save human beings, not to murder them- to save human spirits, not to crush them- to provide a human body, soul and spirit-sustaining something in place of Chief Plenty Coups’ tragic, heart-rending , cultural “nothing”.
These things, with all their flaws, were the opposite of “genocidal” in intent.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report repeatedly and misleadingly describes all residential school attendees as “Survivors”.
Well, the point about genocide, is that there are no survivors.
And so, the writer begs the reader again, out of respect and reverence for those poor, dear individuals named above, and for their memory, and for the individual persons and memories of the millions of real, deliberately murdered, physically extinguished, victims of real, horrific, physical genocide- each one a human being with “a name given by the stars, given by his neighbours”- to suit your purposes and convey your simplistic message of alleged, deliberate cultural “theft”, and of, yes, undeniable (but I’m sorry, commonplace- it comes with the territory of being human) cultural trauma and loss, please stop cheaply, wrongly and insultingly, (to true genocide victims), misappropriating the word “genocide”!
Surely now, Canada’s Indians, especially their highly sophisticated elites, are sufficiently equipped with a modern sensibility, the cultural tools, the literacy and the knowledge, to recognize this master-their- task ideal – this goal – and advocate attempting to achieve it. To me, they’ve run out of valid excuses for not doing so, leaving the thought that mainly considerations of self-interest are what are stopping them from even trying.
The most familiar and recent example of this failing to “master the task” is the residential schools issue (already mentioned, and discussed further in relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and its’ Report, below). As most recently shown by Brown vs. Canada,27(see Assimilation and Cultural Loss, above) some Indians and Indian industry functionaries have a wildly inaccurate and overblown tendency to describe that program as a category of genocide, (see immediately above) and to regard second, third and even fourth generation descendants of residential school attendees as ever-continuing victims of it. In this they are supported by the media, our higher courts and our enabling governing classes, who continue to hold the hands and sympathetically and paternalistically pat the backs of Indians on this issue.
(This tendency to blame far too many current Indian problems, individual and collective, on residential schools, risks what Tony Judt, in The “Problem of Evil” in Postwar Europe (above), called their “banalization”:
the banality of overuse- the flattening, desensitizing effect of seeing or saying or thinking the same thing too many times until we have numbed our audience and rendered them immune to the evil we are describing.
Mr. Judt used this term in relation to the Holocaust. )
The assertion is that these residential school descendants are so chronically shattered by the residential school experience, even though most of them weren’t even alive when it happened, that none of them can ever fully recover their human potential as individuals and live normal lives. (And this being the case even though thousands of actual residential school attendees, probably the majority of them, lived relatively normal adult lives despite their attendance at one of these schools.) If anything goes untoward in the lives of any of these “victims”, these “Survivors”, they are invariably told it’s not their fault. He or she is told that it’s because an ancestor of theirs went to a residential school and that he or she is accordingly and inevitably suffering from “intergenerational trauma.”
On this false premise, because the stain is supposedly passed down the generations like a mutant gene, because no cure is seemingly possible, because no compensation will ever be final or enough, and because it seems that no apology will ever satisfy, non-Indian Canadians, in the minds of these people, will just have to keep paying one way or another and prostrating with guilt over this issue, seemingly forever. In the minds of these people, seemingly, the task can never be mastered.
This situation may inadvertently or not serve these people and the Indian industry well, in terms of extracting guilt-based money and power concessions from non-Indian Canadians, but such an endless emphasis on pain, blame, victimhood and loss, in addition to wearying and frustrating genuinely guiltless, present-day Canadians, causes devastating psychological harm to ordinary, young Indians.
It tends to create a self-fulfilling prophesy.
It falsely, condescendingly and insultingly suggests to them that they’re not as resilient as other members of the human family, when in fact, just as their pre-contact ancestors were as tough as nails (see Pre-contact Indian Culture and the Shock of the New, above), they might be too if only the challenge were put before them and they were allowed to take it up.
The Jewish people recovered, without having received any real measure of justice, (there was really none to be had for such enormous and unspeakable crimes), or any real “reconciliation”. Most of the human cogs in the German killing machine disappeared into civilian life after the war’s end and, until the end of their days, lived quiet, normal lives.
Elizabeth Kolbert, (above) wrote:
Approximately a million Jews were killed at Auschwitz, and along with them at least a hundred thousand Polish, Roma and Soviet prisoners…sixty-five hundred S.S. members who served at the camp survived the war. Of these, fewer than a hundred were ever tried for their crimes in German courts, and only fifty were convicted.
Ms. Kolbert’s The Last Trial focused on a ninety-three year-old German who, as a very young man, served in the administration office at Auschwitz, receiving and counting all the money confiscated from prisoners being sent to the gas chambers, and sending it to Berlin. In 2014, a time when everyone relevant to the events was dead, he was charged with three hundred thousand (!) counts of accessory to murder. Ms. Kolbert, whose great-grandmother was murdered at Auschwitz, poignantly wrote:
Is this a final reckoning with German guilt, or just the opposite? What does it say about the law’s capacity for self-correction that the correction came only when it no longer matters? Martin Luther King is eloquent on the long arc of justice (“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”), and also on the short time available for action: “In this unfolding of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.”
She concluded her wonderful, troubling piece with the thought that the ninety-three year old’s trial (it happened and he was found guilty), in order to have any meaningful purpose whatever, will have to be regarded as less a demonstration of the efficacy of the justice system and more as a “kind of public art on the theme of its inadequacy”.
Perhaps, after all this time, consolation, if possible, can only be found in the thought that “memory alone can be a form of justice”. (From Robert Kaplan’s In Europe’s Shadow, above, the writer referring to the many, many thousands of murdered victims of the Romanian fascist and communist regimes.)
Some writers, in order to attempt to mentally and imaginatively come to grips with genocide- something, with its huge and anonymous numbers, a bit like infinity- something inherently unimaginable to the normal, “civilized” mind- focus on just one or just a few named individuals, as Timothy Snyder did in Bloodlands, in a note above. When the reader, in his mind’s eye, and to his horror, witnesses the bravery and pathos surrounding the last minutes of the lives of Juanita Vishniatskaia, Tamara and Itta Willemberg, and Ruth Dorfman, and experiences an almost bodily reaction to it all, he feels that the writer has done his important job of giving a small measure of justice to those poor individual human beings- those poor victims- and to all others like them.
Vasily Grossman did it in Life and Fate, (above), imagining in fiction the last days, hours, minutes and seconds of the life of his own mother, who was gassed by the Germans in the Ukraine.
The Jews, sans justice or “reconciliation” for one of the greatest crimes in human history, despite that, are now embodied by the strong and independent State of Israel. While they properly vow never to forget, (determined to retain at least that purely abstract form of justice), they’re not claiming “intergenerational trauma” for their failings.
Millions of Ukrainians were killed by Stalin’s genocidal terror-famine, where, as in Stalin’s Russia generally, “senseless absurdity- the murder of millions of innocent and loyal people-masqueraded as cast-iron logic.” 28
The Stalin Harvests
The black earth
Was sown with bones
And watered with blood
For a harvest of sorrow
On the land of Rus. 29
Ukrainians too endured, survived as a people, and overcame. They too mastered their task. Despite persistent and ongoing threats to their national survival from Russia, and despite their difficulties establishing the basics of a functioning liberal democracy, they’re not claiming intergenerational trauma for their failings.
Millions of other Eastern Europeans were murdered by the Germans and the Russians in the World War II period (see the heartbreaking Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder30). Russia itself suffered 42 million deaths at the hands of Stalin and Hitler! 31
None of these peoples, in the midst of constant, formalized remembrance, now claim intergenerational trauma for their present problems. They knew, and know, that, like the Armenians, (see headnote to c. 9 above), resilience was all, and that, “in spite of everything, life would go on.”
American blacks, who experienced two hundred years of slavery in America, being bought and sold like horses, suffering permanent family breakups, rape, beatings and all other manner and kind of human cruelties, are overtly trying to actively master their task.
Why aren’t Canadian Indians trying to do the same?
Why aren’t our governing classes holding up these other situations as models for Indians to emulate? They should be.
It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them. 32
The Indian residential school program was relatively minor compared to what the Jews, Ukrainians, Eastern Europeans and American blacks experienced – compared to what has been experienced by countless other peoples in the countless other examples history provides of real, brutal, murderous “violence and dispossession” tragic events occurring on a massive scale.
Chinese and Japanese-Canadians endured years of racist treatment in Canada. Again, they endured it, overcame it, mastered their task, and are now successful and dynamic contributors to the Canadian experience.
The above are just a few examples, major and minor, of ethnic, religious or racially distinct peoples who were horribly mistreated, but who didn’t end up defining themselves forever as a people and as individuals solely with reference to the injustices they had suffered in the distant past. They somehow, three or four generations after the fact, processed these horrible events appropriately and maturely, without forgetting or denying them, and, by doing so, were able to psychologically move beyond them, survive and ultimately thrive.
Canadian Indians should be trying to do the same, and non-Indian Canadians should be urging and helping them to do so.
The misfortunes and injustices they suffered in the increasingly distant past have become a fixed and never-to-be-forgotten part of their cultural identity and their (and our) historical memory and narrative. This is as it should be.
But looking and going forward, these past misfortunes and injustices should no longer be encouraged to be the driving and debilitating part of their individual and collective lives that they presently are.
Aboriginal AFN founder, writer and lawyer William Wuttunee, in Ruffled Feathers:
The new breed of native cannot look at the past as a form of defeat, but only as a necessary period of transition. These people must look at today’s events and the past from a viewpoint which will keep them going ever-forward into the mainstream of society. Indians had great leaders in the past, and there is no reason why they cannot have great leaders in the future. If they continue only to cry about broken promises and broken treaties, they can never obtain much for their people.
To try to “move on” in the manner described above is the proper approach that Canadian Indians should be taking to their past. Only in that way will they break the mental chains – the “ropes of sand” that are holding them back.
(From The Collar, by 17th century English devotional poet George Herbert, part of which is:
Leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not. Forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.)
Only in that way might Canada some day have a breakthrough event in this area of our civic life – like electing a indigenous-Canadian Prime Minister! – our Barack Obama breakthrough moment!
But unfortunately no one so far is willing or able to see this or to take this approach and, until this happens, that kind of breakthrough moment is never going to happen for us.
Indian elites are encouraging their peoples to wallow in the past, with the unfortunate encouragement and assistance of our non-Indian elites- as if this is the way to be set free from it!
To be fair, a reason why Indians are unable to lift them selves out of this seemingly permanent state of cultural trauma and passivity, unlike the other cultures and societies referred to above, may be the inherently unhealthy, dysfunctional and unstable nature of Indian reserve and reserve-based culture itself.
Cultures and social groups that are inherently stable, confident and dynamic recover from stressful events- war, famine, natural disasters, economic collapse- much quicker than weaker cultures and social groups. Sebastian Unger writes in Tribes, (above):
A rapid recovery from psychological trauma must have been exceedingly important in our evolutionary past, and individuals who could climb out of their shock reaction and resume fleeing or fighting must have survived at higher rates than those who couldn’t…Because trauma recovery is greatly affected by social factors, and because it presumably had such a high survival value in our evolutionary past, one way to evaluate the health of a society might be to look at how quickly its soldiers or warriors recover, psychologically, from the experience of combat.
In this regard contrast the victim and grievance-oriented response of Canada’s Indian leadership to all the impacts of European migration discussed in this essay to the response of the traumatized Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, engaged in establishing and preserving the new State of Israel:
Many of the young men entering the new Israel Defense Forces already had endured unspeakable horrors- everywhere you turned you found people with numbers tattooed on their arms. Mothers stumbled unexpectedly on their own sons, who they thought had been murdered by the Germans, on the streets of Israeli cities. No one was encouraged to speak about what he’d experienced in war. “People who had post-traumatic stress disorder were considered weaklings,” as one Israeli psychologist put it. Part of the job of being an Israeli Jew was to at least pretend to forget the unforgettable.1
One prominent non-Indian elite very unwisely encouraging this unhealthy, grievance-oriented wallowing in the past is, as referred to above, now-retired Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, who, in May of 2015, not content with being the chief architect and author of the divisive, economically harmful, backward-looking and too much race-focused Haida Nation and Tsilhcot’in decisions, weighed in with her view that, in attempting to assimilate Canada’s Indians in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Canada “attempted to commit cultural genocide against aboriginal peoples”. 33 This was, in addition to the lack of balance, nuance and context in her statements, completely inappropriate on her part. As in her Haida Nation decision, she treated context “as an impertinence” and her certitudes “did not provide the basis for a complex or nuanced view of the present or the past”. 34
Inappropriate because, to avoid the appearance of bias in cases before them, judges are not supposed to involve themselves in current events. They’re only to speak publicly, through their written or oral legal decisions, “from the bench”. With this speech she provided another example, in a fresh category, of two-tier justice in relation to all matters aboriginal, and seriously tainted both herself and her Court, and in fact all the lower courts of Canada, (which take their lead and guidance from the Supreme Court), with an apprehension of bias in relation to all present and future aboriginal rights cases in the justice system.
Ironically, her speech was delivered to the Aga Khan’s Global Centre for Pluralism -an organization devoted to promoting the ideals and goals of universal equality- ideals and goals former Chief Justice McLachlin’s Court decisions, and her shallow and inappropriately-stated public views, do nothing to promote.
(Former Chief Justice McLachlin got away with this serious breach of judicial practice and decorum because of her reputation and charisma.
Such is the power of reputation justly acquired that its blaze drives away the eye from nice examination. )35
In fact the opposite of this fixating on the past is true. As Mr. Schlink writes:
Longing not to be chained to a traumatic past is not wrong. What is mistaken, however, is the idea that fixation on the traumatic past would somehow guarantee being set free from it. A collective past, like that of an individual, is traumatic when it is not allowed to be remembered, and is just as much so when it has to be remembered. In other words, fixation on the past is merely the flipside of repression. Detraumatisation is the process of becoming able to both remember and forget; it is leaving the past in the past, in a way that embraces remembrance as well as forgetting. This applies in the same way to the victims and their descendants as to the perpetrators and their descendants. (italics added)
These words highlight and explain why the establishment of the Indian residential schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission was properly regarded by ordinary Canadians as being, on balance, a counter-productive undertaking.
Its acknowledgment and confessional aspects were positive. We should all know and learn from our history.
Its compensation aspect was free-flowing and generous. By the end of 2014 $2,690,000,000 (yes, billion!) in financial payments had been made by Canadian taxpayers, through the federal government, to former victims of physical and sexual abuse. In addition, a “Common Experience Payment” was made by Canadian taxpayers, through the federal government, to 78,748 former residential school students, simply because they attended a residential school, whether or not they were harmed or in fact benefited from the experience.36
But in the end these positive aspects were outweighed by numerous negatives.
The Report presumes that the mind and spirit-wounding cultural loss which Canada’s Indians suffered, the loss of pride and self-respect, was a consequence of residential schools. No. In fact, this tragic loss, (see Pre-contact Indian Culture and The Shock of the New, above) mostly occurred before the establishment of residential schools, which was a response- an attempted corrective- to that loss.
Residential schools were, as stated, a consequence- an effect- of cultural loss, not a cause.
There was not one word in the Report discussing the possibility that maybe it was the Indian Act, (legislative racism according to former AFN Regional Chief Day, above), the reserves, and all that they entail, that constituted the root of the problems to be addressed.
Not one mention of this big idea, that is on the minds of so many reasonable, caring , (but forced to be tongue-biting), non-Indian Canadians, and that was on the minds of such accomplished, caring and clear-sighted aboriginal leaders as Calvin Helin and William Wuttunee.
Most of the wrongs described in the TRC Final Report occurred in the 19th and early 20th century. The last of the wrongs, according to the Report, occurred in the late 1960’s.
Indigenous writer Bob Joseph, in 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, (noted above):
While enforced cultural assimilation policies may have been abandoned decades ago, the effects and challenges are still ongoing. (Italics added.)
So we are at least 50 years past the happening of the last of the wrongs. Most of the alleged wrongdoers are dead and gone, leaving their descendants, present- day Canadians, to take the hit for things they had nothing to do with.
It’s superficially similar to the German situation described by Elizabeth Kolbert, (“no longer truly relevant” and “too late”) and it all leaves the reader of all the condemnation and outrage that suffuses the TRC Report feeling flat and frustrated.
The Report gives the impression that all Indian children since the late 1800’s onwards were shipped off to a residential school, with resulting total, all-pervasive “cultural genocide” and, because supposedly all Indians of school age went to a residential school, all their descendants have suffered “intergenerational trauma”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact no more than 25% of Indians of school age ever went to a residential school over this period. So reduce all this supposed “cultural genocide” and “intergenerational trauma by at least 75%!
In October of 1967 the federal government published The Hawthorne Report 37, a survey of, amongst other things, the educational needs of and suggested educational policies for Canada’s Indians at the time.
The Report stated that in 1962, of 146, 596 Indian students attending the various types of schools in existence at the time only 25% of those Indian students attended residential schools. Most of the others went to reserve or reserve-based day schools or integrated, Provincial public schools. In relation to the 1961-1962 school year the Report stated:
In the 1961-1962 school year 21% of all Indian school children were in residential schools far removed from the bosom of their families. How better to destroy the families as the natural and fundamental unit of a people? (italics added.)
These percentages related to the post-World War Two period, when overall school attendance by Indian children of school age was much higher than the period between 1867 and 1945. During that earlier period even less Indian children attended residential school, or in fact even less attended any school at all! In this regard the Report stated:
With the earlier policy, the Indian was expected to be born, live and die on his reserve. There was no question of his leaving. The reserve was his refuge and his salvation. Under these circumstances, the little education extended to the Indians was felt to be adequate to assure their economic and social welfare with the limits of the reserve…Academic knowledge was not considered important. This isolationist, protectionist and paternalistic ideology was largely nurtured by administrators of Indian Affairs up to the end of the Second World War.
…The policy of the federal government with regard to Indian education has evolved considerably since the Second World War. Before this time education was not considered necessary for Indians in general. Only those living near cities or towns were able to profit from it. It was felt that those living in isolated areas had no need of education to continue their traditional way of life within the reserve system. Reserves, according to the theory of the time, were to be kept free from the influence of the modern, industrial world. As a result, the system of education made available to Indians left a great deal to be desired. Few schools existed and the level of education they offered was low. Only a few hundred Indians, a number later increased to several thousand, attended school with any kind of regularity. (Italics added.)
It is a great fault of the Truth and Reconciliation Report that it gave the false impression that all Indian children of school age attended a residential school, when that was nowhere near the truth. The reality was that only a small percentage of them did. This is one of many reasons why the conclusions of the TRC Report are so flawed.
The scholarship in the Report is selective. As stated, no mention of AFN founder and residential school-attendee, (a residential school Thriver, as opposed to “Survivor”), William Wuttunee, and his idea that racial integration was the answer. No mention of his and Calvin Helin’s and Bill Wilson’s warnings about the debilitating and counter-productive effects of negative and obsessive fixations on the past. No mention of any aboriginals who had anything good to say about getting an education at a residential school, like the late, esteemed, residential school attendee, Basil Johnston, whose successful life and whose book Indian School Days, (see The Essential Humanity of the Migrators to Canada, (above), were both deliberately neglected and not even mentioned!
Mr. Johnston, clearly because of his attendance at the residential school in Spanish, Ontario, went on to become a high school teacher in Toronto, and then an ethnologist for 30 years with the Royal Ontario Museum. He became an accomplished linguist, studying and preserving his Cree-based Ojibway language. He was a residential school success story, an example of the virtue of the assimilation principle- that one can merge into and succeed in the dominant culture while still retaining one’s culture of origin. His nuanced assessment of the residential school system is as follows:
Lastly, in reply to the inevitable question, “Is there a place for residential schools in the educational system?”, I respond with a qualified yes. Some who attended Garnier (at Spanish) have said, “It was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.” However, for those going to St. Peter Claver’s ( a previous version of the school in Wikwemikong) in the pre-Garnier days, it was “the worst possible experience.” Just as private schools have a place in the educational system, so too do residential schools, but under vastly different terms, conditions and formats from those that existed in the residential school as I first encountered it.
It’s disgraceful that, being in abject service to their all-encompassing narrative of genocidal trauma, the TRC deliberately, in another example of the principled neglect of a primary text, omitted all reference to this great Canadian, and to Indian School Days, a most interesting, helpful, balanced and authoritative account and assessment of residential schools. (It was too full of inconvenient truths, I guess.)
This omission is also surprising and noteworthy, (and the following applies to the omission of any reference to Ruffled Feathers and Dances With Dependency as well), due to the fact that the head of the TRC, Mr. Murray Sinclair, is a former judge and lawyer, (now gone to his great reward in the Canadian Senate), and from those past roles he would have known that a lawyer, when making an argument to a judge, is ethically bound to advise the judge of, not only the authorities and precedents in favour of the lawyer’s argument, but those against it. He or she must distinguish the contrary authorities and convince the judge why they don’t apply.
Regretfully the TRC relied on the correct fact that they, not being in a court situation, had no such technical, legal duty, (but rather, I assert, still very much a moral duty).
And regretfully, and at some considerable cost to its credibility, (it shows bias and a lack of confidence in their argument), the TRC chose not to favour the “judge” in this situation- the Canadian public- with an instructive and inspiring demonstration of the carrying out of this integral, advocacy duty- this moral duty.
Another former student of the Spanish residential school was Cecil King, who went on to become a University Professor and Dean of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, (as it then was). His assessment was as follows:
You never get to hear about the good things that happen in these places. I do not think I could achieve anywhere near what I have been able to achieve without the resolve I learned in the residential school. I learned to speak better Ojibwe at Spanish while participating in the sub-culture of smuggling or trading cigarettes, tobacco, eggs, butter and bread. This was our world. We had created a sub-culture within the Institution’s culture. There are preconceived ideas of what the residential schooling was like and I challenge the assumption that the school was a place of horror for everyone. 38
Peter Johnson, former Chief of the Serpent River First Nation, said this about his experience at the Spanish residential school:
The residential school was the best thing that could’ve happened to me because that is where I met my wife of 45 years. The schooling I received there taught me independence. I serve as a Roman Catholic Deacon in my community. I realize many people have been hurt in the residential schools and that many native people harbor ill feelings toward the Church. I recognized the need for healing. Not some outside agency. There is a great deal we can do. Many people talk about the need for healing and the expectation is one of a massive miracle that heals all. I do not see that happening. I believe that healing will be like a soft gentle breeze that touches people at different times. 39
Retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Jack Major was a personal friend of Basil Johnston, and knew the residential school at Spanish quite well. His reflections:
The notion that pupils at residential schools were torn from happy homes is a myth. There may have been some of which I am unaware but in my experience a significant amount of children were rescued from starving on trap lines, many of whom were afflicted with TB (tuberculosis). In fact Spanish had a separate floor to care for those. It is true that English was paramount, but how else to equip the students to function off a particular reserve? It is strange that native spokesmen are reluctant to tout any success by them in the modern world…I suppose the silence reflects the motives of the vocal elements and misguided followers. 40
Shortly after the release of the TRC Report the renowned Canadian Cree residential school attendee, novelist, playwright, classical pianist and Order of Canada recipient Tomson Highway, who shamefully was not asked to testify before the Commission, expressed his view on his residential school experience:41
All we hear is the negative stuff, nobody’s interested in the positive, the joy in that school. Nine of the happiest years of my life I spent at that school…You may have heard stories from 7000 witnesses that were negative. But what you haven’t heard are the 7000 stories that were positive stories. There are very many successful people today that went to those schools and have brilliant careers and are very functional people, very happy people like myself. I have a thriving international career , and it wouldn’t have happened without that school. You have to remember that I came from so far north and there were no schools there.
Since then Mr. Highway’s expressed view has been consistently, deliberately and again, shamefully, ignored by the TRC, politicians and the media. And Mr. Highway himself, a talented, humane, brilliant and disciplined aesthete, (in the best sense of the word), has been forsaken by the remorseless, censorious Puritans of the TRC and the Indian Industry generally, for being a human being first and an indigenous person somewhere after that, and thus an embarrassment and of no use to them. For Mr. Highway, but not for these people, the beautiful in life must never be subordinated to the mere, grim, guilt-based, race-based pursuit of money and power. 42
All of the immediately above, like the use of the term “cultural genocide”, are further examples of our elites “failure to live up to the standard of competency that democracy requires,” and to deal truly with ordinary Canadians.
We depend upon one another to deal truly, to provide one another with a basis for understanding and judgment. Anyone with a higher education is likely to have an area or a role for which he or she is responsible in some degree. This is true very obviously for writers, scholars, teachers, journalists, lawyers. 43
The scholarship in the TRC Report is totally biased, somewhat lightweight and replete with “unargued persuasion” (see The Haida Nation Case, above). This is not surprising: the Commissioners, like me, were mere proselytizing, amateur academics.
The lecturing, hectoring, cold, self-righteous, partisan, constant, blame and finger-pointing tone and substance of the TRC’s conclusions, all totally devoid of imaginative sympathy, are enervating and distracting, and take away from their effectiveness, perhaps to the point of being counter-productive. In fact the Report is so partisan in nature “that it leaves the reader convinced not of his insights but of his need to hear the other side.”44
Even Harold Cardinal, in his highly influential, partisan and hyperbolic “Indian Power” book, The Unjust Society, (listed in the bibliography of the TRC Report), written in opposition to the 1969 Trudeau White Paper, unlike Murray Sinclair, gave credit where credit was due, writing:
Much can be said about the inherent good intentions of the missionaries, and it is true that without their efforts the educational level of our people might be even lower than it is today. 45
David Brooks, on the theme of healing and restoring a sense of empowerment after experiencing some form of serious trauma, writes46 of the need to see our differences as “soft”, on the need to focus on responsibility, not blame, which provides a better context for cooperation and common action, (especially relevant here, because, as stated, virtually no current-day Canadians, especially our new immigrants, can be blamed at all for residential schools), and on the need to avoid “asymmetric rhetoric”. He says:
If one person in a conversation takes the rhetorical level up to 10 every time, the other person has to rebut at Level 10 and turn monstrous, or retreat into resentful silence. Rhetorical passion, which feels so good, can destroy conversation and mar truth and reconciliation.
This is so much the case for the TRC Report, and so much the case for the Indian industry’s often insulting and relentlessly accusatory “social justice” movement generally- too much unfair rhetorical excess directed against ordinary, innocent present-day Canadians, and, increasing the surreal, counter-intuitive and damaging nature of this, with basically zero acknowledgment or credit for anything positive past or present-day Canadians may have ever done or are now doing for indigenous Canadians.
They had a “theory”, and all the data that did not fit was denied or ignored. 47
This uniform finger-pointing, hardness, denial and omission will do nothing for “reconciliation”. As Nelson Mandela, the Moses of reconciliation, wrote:
When we dehumanize and demonize our opponents, we abandon the possibility of peacefully resolving our differences, and seek to justify violence against them. 48
Granting that, at bottom, the TRC meant well, meant to ameliorate, meant to bring about “reconciliation”, one can say that what the Report represents in its devastating indictment of both our non-indigenous ancestors and present-day Canadians is a form of “ignorant kindness”, (but a kindness having an effect of significant hurt), and a “rashness of indignation which has an unpleasant likeness to the love of punishing.”49
The constant and widespread images of crying testifiers-public displays of private sorrow and grief, which, it being part of the human condition, all humans experience in some form or other,50that are usually kept private- 51 to the exclusion of any competing or different images or narratives- the overwhelming focus on personal experience and testimony of suffering and oppression, where feelings became equated with reasons and moral authority– successfully challenged and banished “the primacy of argument”, or any other form of reasoned analysis,52and made almost impossible critical self-examination, real and full discussions of socio-historical contexts, and, otherwise, “difficult” discussions generally.
The language of the Report is aggressive to the point of intellectual carelessness, sometimes bordering on dishonesty, and is excessive to the point of argumentative ineffectiveness.
For instance: Canada purportedly set out to destroy the political and social institutions of Canadian Indians- Canada purportedly seized Indian land and forcibly transferred Indian populations.
Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed.
Yes, these things happened on occasion, but not a lot. Not in the frequent general sense implied, and, generally, not with the malevolent intent ascribed by the Commission. But the TRC Report wrongly suggests that all that did deliberately occur in the frequent general sense, and that it was all indicative of the norm.
The Report’s constant harsh judging of the actions of our Canadian ancestors by the standards of the present- displaying full-bore “the enormous condescension of posterity”– 53 lacks common sense, so-crucial context, empathy and historical imagination,54 is illogical, wrong to do, unfair, and is illustrative of the lack of nuance, balance, complexity and sophistication on the part of the Commission in relation to the whole matter. In this regard the Report broke the “first rule of historians”;
…which is to fashion an explanation for different events in a way that makes sense to their own age but which is also sensitive to the beliefs and conditions of the period under study. 55
As argued in An Issue of Freedom of Speech, above, these British and Canadian people were products of their times, just like we are. (And our times are no better than theirs!) Their actions were by and large motivated by what they thought, in those seeming End of Days times for Indians, was in their best interests- by what they thought was needed to save salvage them- by what they thought was right. Certainly their actions were not ideal. Perhaps they were the product of “ignorant kindness”. They were, like us, the mixed result of inexperienced, hopeful, sometimes base, sometimes noble impulse:
…struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion. For there is no creature whose inward nature is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it. 56
George Eliot, the writer of the immediately above quote, had an “inward nature” that was as positively strong as anyone’s could be. Yet in her own writing she illustrated the dreadful strength of this dictum.
She was staggeringly brilliant. She displayed tremendous imaginative sympathy for and psychological insight into the thoughts, fears and motivations of men and women of all types and classes, powerfully relevant today and forever. Yet even she could not help being victimized by the overt and all-pervasive racism and bigotry that damnably and perdurably went to the marrow of everyone in those times, and in all past times.
Her great novel Daniel Deronda was one of the literary seeds of the Zionist movement in England at the time of writing, (the mid-1860’s- about the time of Canada’s Confederation and Sir John A. MacDonald.) It dealt with anti-Semitism and the Jewish experience in English society in the most liberal, sympathetic, supportive and enlightened manner possible, given the times. (We must always have regard to the times!)
Yet her narrative voice in the novel, not the voice of any character, refers to “the spiritual poverty of the Jewish millions”, referring to lower class Jews of London, casts a few other similar, casual aspersions elsewhere in the novel, and says this about a Jewish pawnbroker, (the archetypal Fagan/Shylock stereotype):
…and his taste for money-getting seemed to be favoured with that success which has been the most exasperating difference in the greed of the Jews during all the ages of their dispersion.
When I read these words I thought: Wow! She didn’t really mean that! But maybe she did! If even this brilliant, humane, ultra-liberal, literary Titaness, walking the sure and constant path of great human decency, a pioneer of true feminism, can trip and fall prey to this, then anyone can! We all can! We all do and we all did! We need to stop cherry-picking when judging people, and measure their lives in the balance- viewing their lives as a whole, and in the context of their times. We need to be very careful in judging, and have an operating assumption of understanding and forgiveness. We need to be better informed, wise, empathic, merciful and forgiving when judging others, past and present. We need to be, as David Brooks says, “soft” in this regard. We need to remember the biblical admonition: Judge not yet ye be judged!
By these standards, George Eliot’s minor lapses- “her barbarisms were those of her age”-57– an age when, shockingly to us, Jews were still not allowed to go to Oxford or Cambridge!- constitute even greater testimony to her overall supremely progressive accomplishments and, given her times, to her unmatched liberal and enlightened humaneness.
By these standards our Canadian forefathers, like Sir John A. MacDonald- the founders of our country and its institutions- whose accomplishments, worth and virtue posterity has generally endorsed, and whose flaws were those of their age, deserve to be judged today in a far more wise, respectful, better-informed, empathic, and forgiving manner than is presently occurring.
To not do this is intellectually childish, emotionally barren, illustrative of the racism-type mindset, (ascribing negative characteristics to all members of an entire (deceased) group or class of people), and even bears marks of pettiness and dishonor.
The New Yorker Canadian-born essayist Adam Gopnik wrote:
A persistent oddity of intellectuals is that when they’re talking about someone they actually know they offer a mixed accounting of bad stuff and good stuff: he’ll drive you crazy with this but he’s terrific in that. The moment someone becomes a feature of the past however, he is reduced to a vector with a single transit and historical purpose. If we treated our friends the way we treated our subjects, we wouldn’t have any. 58
Historian Carlo Ginzburg said the task of the historian “is just the opposite of what most of us were taught to believe. He must destroy our false sense of proximity to people of the past, because they came from societies very different from our own.” 59
Robert Hughes decried this cop-out tendency to eschew “the burden of imaginative empathy” as follows:
The need for absolute goodies and absolute baddies runs deep in us, but it drags history into propaganda and denies the humanity of the dead: their sins, their virtues, their efforts, their failures. To preserve complexity, and not flatten it under the weight of anachronistic moralizing, is part of the historian’s task. 60
Justice Sinclair and the TRC completely failed to carry out these historian’s tasks and prime duties.
The late Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel (above) rejected the concept of collective guilt- of succeeding generations being judged guilty for the wrongdoings of their ancestors. Canadians should accept Mr. Wiesel’s wise and compassionate view of this, (he lived the Holocaust and his views deserve to be deferred to), and reject the shallow, finger-pointing, anachronistic, collective-guilt accusations of Mr. Sinclair and his TRC.
The complete absence of any sense of historical proportion- of historical context- of tragic realism– of any acknowledgment or discussion of the fact that these inherently tragic events caused by the collision of cultures and differing human interests constitute but one small example amongst countless thousands of an eternal, world-wide phenomenon, of one form or another, of dispossession, that has so-tragically played out year after year throughout historical time. These crucial absences must cause the TRC Report to be condemned with the verdict of being bad history.
And this kind of bad history- this kind of obviously incomplete history-this kind of negligent, intellectually lazy ignoring of the complexity of history- this kind of myth-making, forgetful and self-deceptive history-this kind of history that mentions not one of the many realities set out in chapter 6 above, Pre-Contact Indian Culture and the Shock of the New-this kind of history that almost wilfully and knowingly demands, all in the name of achieving the higher “cause”, that all these crucial facts and realities be omitted- is dangerous history.
It’s dangerous because all it’s good for is propaganda- for creating and perpetuating Christopher Hedge’s myth of separateness- the bane of the world today, and, locally, a key cause of all the harm and dysfunction in this crucial area of our national life.61
It’s dangerous because, in its simplicity and in its self-serving close-mindedness, it exemplifies the saying to the effect that any “ism”- any race-based movement- rejects ambiguity, where truth lies, in favour of an artificial, unreal uniformity. 62
It’s dangerous because it exemplifies the shallow and harmful tendency to ascribe all the problems experienced by indigenous-Canadians today to one great cause: “colonialist” dispossession and racism.
Beware single cause interpretations-and beware the people who purvey them. 63
The TRC Report downplays the fact, and treats it almost as inconvenient, that, since the late 1960’s, mainly ameliorative government actions and spectacular Indian court victories have dominated the Canadian Indian-non-Indian relational landscape.
It ignores the present reality that, day by day, our present era offers more racial decency than any previous era, that at no point in Canadian history has there been more freedom from anti-Indian racial impediments, and that at no point in our history has there been more reason for young Indian men and women to be hopeful that investing in themselves will pay dividends for the future.64
This all leaves the reader puzzled and unconvinced that things are as bad today for Indians as the Report says, or that all the fantastically expensive (for Canadian taxpayers) “reconciliation” recommendations that the Report makes are all that needed.
Bob Dylan (above) has it right. In the Canadian context the only reconciliation worthy of the name that Indians and non-Indians should be seeking is the reconciliation of our base, lower natures and the voices of our higher aspirations- our better angels- our “God”- within, and, on a more prosaic level, the reconciliation that would inevitable follow from racial integration under a regime of “one set of laws for all.” In the present case that means shucking our ropes of sand, losing our chains, and -Wai Wah- (do it!-Calvin Helin)-integrating. (Until then Lord, protect our Indian children, because man, who always seems to put his own power and money pursuits first, apparently won’t.)
Finally, and sadly, the whole purport of the Commission’s purpose and efforts was not to attempt, a la Bernard Schlink, to set free Canadian aboriginals and non-aboriginals from the tragic aspects of our shared past. Rather, as evidenced by the TRC Report, it was to further and more tightly keep us all chained to it.
According to the Commission:
Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen there has to be an awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behavior….The way we govern ourselves must change. Laws must change. Policies and programs must change. The way we educate our children and ourselves must change. The way we do business must change. Thinking must change. The way we talk to, and about, each other must change. All Canadians must make a firm and lasting commitment to reconciliation to ensure that Canada is a country where our children and grandchildren can thrive.
This reads like the Commission condescendingly regards all non-Indian Canadians, despite the massive publicity that the residential schools issue has received over the past ten years, as being totally ignorant of it, and in serious need of mandatory political and social re-education. (Which I assert, based on all the available evidence so far, will boil down to New Age propagandist mush. Further thoughts on the wrong-headed and insulting aspects and implications of this kind of lightweight Commission thinking, which I assert will result in this educational mush, are at chapter 11, The Grant of Legal Rights to Canada’s Indians.)
The clear purport of the scolding, sanctimonious, utopian, human engineering, ninety-four point, overall “action plan” of the Commission is that the quasi-separate but equal status quo is to continue, in strengthened form, the Indian Act and reserves are here to stay, and that present-day Canadians , who had nothing to do with the happening of all the alleged wrongs of the distant past, are to continue to grovel in guilt for the alleged acts and omissions of their ancestors, including those present-day Canadians who are first-generation immigrants and whose ancestors, even more clearly and obviously, (they were living in some other part of the world at the time!), really had nothing to do with these acts and omissions), and that new laws and programs are to be passed and instituted, backed by Indian industry-supervised, “concerted material resources”, (meaning billions of Canadian taxpayers money), all to the purpose of keeping this pseudo-“reconciliation” process plaguing us all indefinitely.
This form of stubborn, almost belligerent, clinging to the past, is a tiresome and seemingly never-ending continuation of the harmful, retrograde, inward and selfish position of the Indian Industry elites described in 1971 by William Wuttunee in Ruffled Feathers:
What is the Indian cause as espoused by the Red Power (the name of the Indian elites opposing the Trudeau 1969 White Paper) advocates? It is the segregation of Indians from white people, the establishment of an administration financed by the Canadian taxpayer and run by Indian organizations; it is the promotion of a buckskin and feather culture and the attempt by Indian leaders to muzzle any criticism by their fellow Indians; it is the perpetual criticism of the Indian Affairs Branch, and the process of white witch-hunting. They believe it is the white society which is guilty and which should pay retribution for their pain and suffering. They blame everything on the white man and the Indian agents. They don’t like the word “assimilation” and “integration”, and plainly they don’t seem to like anything except the white man’s money.
Not much has changed.
And no doubt, had the TRC Commissioners been around in 1971, they would have been part of the group of Indian elites shunning this distinguished and accomplished aboriginal-Canadian and suppressing his freedom of speech.
Unlike Auschwitz survivor Roman Kent, (above), the Commission, and Indian elites generally, seemingly want their traumatic past to continue to define their children’s future and their ongoing relations with their fellow Canadians. They want to keep the complaints going, always front and centre.
Complaint gives you power- even when its only the power of emotional bribery, of creating previously unnoticed levels of social guilt. 65
And, as evidenced by the Report, they clearly don’t seem to seriously want their history, as their leaders so poorly and unhealthily describe it, to become dispassionate history, or their individual and collective tasks to be finally mastered.
For them, Indian and non-Indian Canadians are to continue on our separate, quasi-segregated, race-based paths on into the endless future, with our true and real “racial reckoning”66– our true and real reconciliation-which can only ever happen if indigenous Canadians accept a state of complete legal equality with the rest of Canadians!– Reconciliation is, in the end, a two way street!- postponed indefinitely or evaded altogether.
This is wrong and unhealthy. In fact it’s crazy.
For Indian elites the TRC Report has become their Iliad-type, foundational Ur document, charting their ill-fated course for more divisive special rights and entitlements into the indefinite future. But:
If a nation chooses a somewhat childish story for their Iliad, doesn’t it pay a high price? Does it not suggest a Peter Pan-like condition of not wanting to grow up? 67
Finally, the Commission’s Report so lacks any country-unifying and ennobling goal or end-purpose- any concrete, realistic proposals to attack the root of the problem (the Indian Act, reserves, and all the other aspects of the separate but equal status quo discussed in this essay), and thus is very unfortunately seen by most non-Indian Canadians as just a further example of the tendency of the Indian industry and our governing classes to be unhealthily, unproductively and excessively fixated on the past, and not always for the best of motives.
Despite the positive aspects of it the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and its Report, will leave no long-term, ameliorative legacy for Canadians.
Canada has and will have the same dysfunctional, quasi-segregationist, separate but equal, danegeld-oppressed status quo as before, the root causes of which the Report, so rife with moral high-horse condemnation and shapeless compassion, and so devoid of truly realistic and game-changing recommendations, completely failed to address.
In fact the Report is being used by Indian elites to reinforce all that dysfunction, to continue the stoking of the guilt-making machine behind the past wrongs done to Indians-to maintain difference between Indian and non-Indian Canadians- and thus is being seen by ordinary Canadians as being cynically used too much as merely an agent for the accumulation of more power and money in the hands of the Indian industry- seen by ordinary Canadians as being foolishly used too much as a justification to repeat over and over the same mistakes from the past.
And it is no reparation of past faults to commit new ones in the opposite direction.68
Nelson Mandela taught the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa, which he saw as being “non-racial.” His Truth and Reconciliation Commission was not, like Canada’s, an end it itself, a mere instrument, purportedly about “reconciliation,” but actually being about the further preservation of the essential status quo, which represents the opposite of real reconciliation.
Rather, his truth and reconciliation commission was the means to the much nobler goal of changing his country fundamentally – of ultimate racial unity and integration amongst all South Africans- one rainbow, ubuntu people living under one set of laws.
As he wrote in his magnificent and stirring autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom:69
The very first step on the road to reconciliation is the complete dismantling of apartheid and all the measures used to enforce it.
In her beautiful essay, Translation is an act of shared humanity,70 scholar and inspired and passionate humanist, Kim Echlin, wrote:
My friends in South Africa tell me that the Nguni word ubuntu, which was brought to international consciousness by Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the countries Truth and Reconciliation Hearings, is common now. I love this word, which describes the interconnectedness of our well-being-something like, “I am well if you are well.” It is an important, complex ideal. The best I can do as an English translation is “shared humanity.” Our thought, and action, will continue to deepen as we all learn the words for ubuntu, our shared and interdependent humanity.
It’s tragic that Canada’s truth and reconciliation effort didn’t emulate South Africa’s ubuntu spirit and philosophy. Their new Constitution does not privilege in any way one particular race. It’s tragic that Canada’s does and that our Truth and Reconciliation Commission wants to single out and privilege one particular race even further.
A great, ennobling, country-changing opportunity was squandered.
And as usual in these situations, the ones who suffer from the limited, squandered nature of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s efforts are not the ones promoting it- our Indian elites, the Indian industry generally and our enabling media and governing classes- but rather the Janices- the “murdered and missing”- and all the other vulnerable, marginalized, powerless, vast majority of Indian people.
Because the false message sent to ordinary Indians in relation to all this – especially the message that those vulnerable, impressionable younger ones get – is that, because Indian Canadians are still supposedly suffering and disabled because of “colonialism” and such events as the residential schools experience – because they still need to be “reconciled” – because of “cultural genocide” and the “broken treaties”, even though all that allegedly happened generations ago – they don’t have the same abilities as other peoples to properly process and overcome their history – they can’t do what the Jewish, Ukrainian and Eastern Europeans peoples did – what American blacks are trying to do. They can’t do what Chinese and Japanese-Canadians did- what all the other peoples throughout history who found themselves in the same tragically-dispossessed situation had to do- and did-they can’t master their task.
Unlike those other peoples with a far harsher and tragic past of sorrow and pity, the message from our non-Indian and Indian elites to ordinary Indians is that they are forever crippled and dependent and therefore hardwired to fail.
What a sad, wrong, condescending, defeatist and irresponsible message.
What a classic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations.
It’s a sure recipe for the continued segregation, demoralization and social and economic failure of the Indian peoples of Canada.
- Melissa Eddy. For 60th Year, Germany Honors Duty to Pay Holocaust Victims,The New York Times, 19 November 2012.
- The Last Trial – A great-grandmother, Auschwitz, and the arc of justice.Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker 16 February 2015
- quoted in Calvin Helin’s Dances With Dependency(above)
- Human Voices, Fourth Estate, London, 2014
- John Lukacs in At the End of an Age. A problem all humans have to struggle with.
- Harper-Collins, 2009.
- From D.M. Thomas’ Alexander Solzhenitsyn, above. Mr. Thomas quotes a former Communist party apparatchik, Raisa Orlova, a minor participant, of “necessity”, in Stalin’s mass murders, deportations and enslavements. In her memoirs, trying to come to terms with all the “unrestrained lawless power” and “rational evil” she had condoned, she wrote:
All the time I keep seeking rational explanations. I keep seeking a comparatively simple, in any event basic, connection among the facts. Yet there is always something more important out of the realm of the irrational that does not submit to any “computation.” There are some kinds of profound abysses in a person that Dostoyevsky knew about and that comtemporary writers and artists know about.
In our falsely rational world we have denied this and continue to do so. I know that this world abyss does exist. I know it in my mind. And I don’t know how to live with the knowledge that it does exist.
We modern Canadians forget this. Or maybe, lucky us, we never had to learn it. We embrace a solely “sunny ways” approach to public matters at our extreme civic peril.
- (published in Labyrinths, Selected Stories & Other Writings, New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1964).
- Cec Nooteboom. Roads to Berlin: Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Germany. MacLehose Press, 2013.
- Hamish Hamilton, 2003
- Vasily Grossman, quoted in Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century, (above):
Dead are the violinists and pianists; dead are the three-year olds and the two-year olds; dead are the eighty-year-old men with cataracts in their hazy eyes…Dead are the noisy newly born who suckled their mothers’ breast until the last minute…All have been murdered, many hundreds of thousands, a million Jews in Ukraine. This is not the death of armed people during the war, of people left behind a home, a family, a field, songs, books, traditions, stories. This is the murder of a people, murder of a house, of a family, of books, of faith; this is the murder of the tree of life, this is the death of roots- not of branches and leaves; this is the murder of a people’s soul and body, murder of great skillful experience created by generation after generation , by thousands of clever and talented craftsmen and intellectuals. This is the murder of a people’s morality, of customs, humorous stories, passed on from grandfathers to their sons, this is the murder of memories, of a sad song, of people’s poetry about a merry and bitter life, this is the destruction of a hearth, of cemeteries, this this is the death of a people, which lived for centuries beside the Ukrainian people, worked, sinned and did good deeds, and was dying on the same land.
- National Post, May 5, 2016
- This obscene, rage-inducing and heartbreaking photograph was published in the New York Times to accompany the article by Lev Golinkin, How the Holocaust Haunts Eastern Europe, January 26, 2018
- FromAt the Border of Memory and Truth, by Marci Shore, a review of the Holocaust remembrance/meditation book, Maybe Esther: A Family Story, by Katya Petrowskaja, the latter from which the quote is taken (italics added.)New York Review of Books, November 8th, 2018
- From The Sistine Madonna, from The Road- Stories, Journalism and Essays, Edited by Robert Chandler, New York Review of Books Classics, 2010
- Vasily Grossman, The Hell of Treblinka, from The Road- Stories, Journalism and Essays, above
- A quote from Italian death camp survivor Franco Schonheit in Tony Judt’s essay, The Elementary Truth of Primo Levi, in Reappraisals(above)
- Amos Oz, Dear Zealots- Letters From a Divided Land, above
- Harold Bloom, from an essay on Romanian poet and obsessive Holocaust remembrancer Paul Celan, inGenius, A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds, Warner Books Inc. 2002
- …spurned word, forgotten word!…
Do not let it be ill-treated! Do not!
Because it will spring from the earth like a pillar of fire
An accusation from the dead that we betrayed them.
From Czeslaw Milosz’ poem Prolog, quoted in Milosz, A Biography, above
- Brad Evans and Bracha L. Ettinger, Art in a Time of Atrocity- Art can heal and restore memory when witnesses have been erased– The New York Times, December 16, 2016
- From Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind, quoted inPole apart, The Struggles of Czeslaw Milosz, by Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker, May 29, 2017
- In Vasily Grossman and the Soviet author Alexandra Popoff quotes philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin: “It is more arduous to honour the memory of the nameless than that of the renowned.” True, but we must try. George Steiner proposes, (inOriginal Minds, above) that, to be a remembrancer, we should each learn by heart the names of a set number of Holocaust survivors, or survivors of any other such senseless slaughter, and “once a month recite them to yourself, or to anyone you love or who is near you so that someone on this earth remembers.” ...Tamara Willemberg, Itta Willemberg, Ruth Dorfman, Juanita Vishniatskaia…
- Tony Judt, The Elementary Truths of Primo Levi, from Reappraisals, above.
- From The Hell of Treblinka, above
- American lawyer Robert Jackson- part of the prosecution’s opening speech at Nuremberg, November 21, 1945. Quoted in The Lion, The Fox & The Eagle, by Carol Off, Random House Canada, 2000, a study of the Rwanda and Bosnia genocides.
- Brown v. Canada 2010 ONSC 3095, May 26, 2010.
- From Everything Flows, by the morally titanic and brilliant Vasily Grossman, New York Review of Books, 2009
- From Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow- Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, The University of Alberta Press, 1986
- Timothy Snyder. Bloodlands. Basic Books, 2010.
- This astounding, unimaginable number, (19 million soldiers and 23 million civilians), from Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century(above).
- Jordan B. Peterson,12 Rules for Life, above.
- See McLachlin: A history of cultural genocide, Sean Fine, The Globe and Mail, May 29, 2015.
- Properly borrowed from Marilynne Robinson’s essay, Who Was Oberlin?in When I Was a Child I Read Books, above.
- Samuel Johnson, in his essay, Milton.
- Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada- Volume One: Summary– Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Toronto, 2015 (“the TRC Report“, or, “The Report“.)
- Found at the website of the Government of Canada, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and/or Indigenous Services Canada, Library Services
- From the display, The Anishinaabe Residential School Experience- Reflections of Former Students, July, 2019, Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, M’Chigeeng, Manitoulin Island
- Anishinaabe Residential School Experience display, M’Chigeeng, above
- From an email to the author July 17th, 2019
- From Lorrie Goldstein, In Defence of Senator Lynn Beyak, Toronto Sun, March 29, 2017
- Idea and the phrase “remorseless Puritans” from Harold Bloom’s essay , Woolf’s Orlando, Feminism and the Love of Reading,in The Western Canon, The Books and School of the Ages, Riverhead Books, New York, 1994.
- From Decline, in The Givenness of Things (above)
- From Kenneth Roth, A Case Against America, The New York Review of Books, June 9, 2016, a book review of Noam Chomsky’s latest leftish screed against American foreign policy, Who Rules the World?
- Harold Cardinal, The Unjust Society, Douglas & McIntyre (2013) Ltd.
- The Year of Unearthed Memories, (New York Times, December 15, 2015
- Hannah Arendt, Lying in Politics, above
- Quoted in The Coddling of the American Mind, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, Penguin Books, 2018
- George Eliot,Daniel Deronda
- Amos Oz, inDear Zealots- Letters From a Divided Land, (above):
No one in the world is a stranger to pain…Pain is probably the broadest common denominator in the human race. Who among us has not experienced it? Pain is a great democratizer, It might even be a bit of a socialist: it does not distinguish between rich and poor, between strong and weak, between renowned and anonymous, between Jew and Gentile, between black and white, between ruler and subject. There are those whose pain has extenuating circumstances and those who are less fortunate, but nevertheless, pain is probably the most comprehensive experience we all share.
- There’s a reason private sorrow is generally kept private. It’s universal. It’s part of the human condition. To extravagantly publicize individual grief is to unintentionally denigrate and diminish the similar, restrained grief and sorrow of all others.
- Ideas in this paragraph from Ulrich Baer, What “Snowflakes” Get Right About Free Speech, the New York Times, April 24, 2017, and Kelly Oliver, Education in the Age of Outrage, The New York Times, October 16, 2017
- From Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Café, above
- Why talk of the divagations of other decades? Context cannot catch revelation in its snares.
– Marilynne Robinson, Decline, from The Givenness of Things, (above)
- A. Drake, Constantine and the Bishops- The Politics of Intolerance, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2002
- George Eliot,Middlemarch, italics added.
“What a loss to the esthetic, intellectual and moral fibre of a society to have no time or inclination to know the genius of George Eliot.”– Paula Marantz Cohen, in her essay on George Eliot, from Literary Genius, 25 Classic writers Who Define English and American Literature, Haus Books, London, 2009
- The actual quote is “Hisbarbarisms were those of his age”, by early 19th century English critic and essayist William Hazlitt, in his essay On Shakespeare and Milton, see William Hazlitt, The Fight and Other Writings, Penguin Books, 2000, referring to William Shakespeare. Neither of these geniuses committed “barbarisms”, but the point is made.
- From The Illiberal Imagination, Are liberals on the wrong side of history?– above
- Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly, Trade, Spring, 2019.
- The Culture of Complaint, above.
- The phrase “tragic realism”, and the idea that the less serious history people know, then the more they are prey to the dishonesties inherent in tribalism and nationalism, and, conversely, the more serious history they know then “the greater the danger to national myths”, comes from Robert D. Kaplan,In Europe’s Shadow, (above).
- This idea of artificial uniformity is from Robert Kaplan’s In Europe’s Shadow, above. The actual quote from Mr. Kaplan is:
Nationalism in its vulgar form eschews ambiguity. It craves for uniformity.
I believe that, appropriately adapted, this quote correctly applies to the well-meaning but simplistic and ultimately self-serving Truth and Reconciliation Report.
- .Jordan B. Peterson,12 Rules for Life, above.
- I paraphrase here Professor Randall Kennedy’s words in In Defense of Respectability, cited above, relating to the present day situation of Blacks in America.
- The Culture of Complaint, above
- FromRace and Reunion, The Civil War in American History, David W. Blight, The Belknap Press, 2001
- Czeslaw Milosz, fromMilosz, A Biography, above.
- Tony Judt, The Burden of Responsibility, above
- Little Brown and Company, 1994
- The Globe and Mail, August 12th, 2015