Janice started abusing solvents when she was 10, the same year she spent the first of many nights in a police cell. At 12, she first attempted suicide. In the next few years she was transferred more than a dozen times between her Pikangikum First Nation Home in northwestern Ontario and foster homes, treatment centres, hospitals, youth facilities and jails outside her community. Janice didn’t go to school, received no ongoing therapy and abused alcohol and solvents until she killed herself at age 16. – Canadian Press1
“The themes are constant and they re-occur” Nishnawbi Aski Grand Chief Stan Beardy said in an interview, “There’s this whole issue of substance abuse in the parents, lack of school engagement and attendance, domestic violence in the home, suicide in the nuclear family and beyond, some will have had a history of mental health issues.2
There are more First Nations children in care right now than at the height of the residential school system… A disheartening mix of poverty, addiction, history and politics has conspired to separate First Nations children from their parents… The federal numbers don’t take into account the children who are in the hands of provincial agencies. “And there are pervasive reports of widespread disillusionment and despair at the local level,” says John Beaucage, the First Nations leader …hired by the Ontario government to look into aboriginal child welfare…”We’re going to have to measure our success (in improving the situation) in decades and generations.” (italics added) -Canadian Press3
Without significant improvement to living conditions on reserves, new “unnatural” pathologies such as AIDS, diabetes, and suicide have emerged under physical and social constraints experienced by aboriginal communities.- James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains
We, governments and First Nations, are captives of our past. We are indeed all treaty people, and it is time to revisit our treaties. Tying our collective futures to communities with no chance of jobs and opportunity is unfair to not only this generation of young people, but also future generations. The social dysfunction in First Nations communities cannot be fundamentally changed with money. People need jobs and hope. Our political leaders, both First Nations and at all levels of government, need the courage to rethink our treaty relationship for the good of First Nations youth. – Former Manitoba Minister of Northern Affairs, Jerry Storie4
The supreme value is not the future but the present. The future is a deceitful time that always says to us,” Not yet,” and thus denies us. The future is not the time of love: what man truly wants he wants now. Whoever builds a house for future happiness builds a prison for the present. –Octavio Paz5
No good is come, no evil is ended.
That is your peace.
Without vision the people perish.-Marilynne Robinson6
Why not continue with and enhance the status quo? Why not stay on this path of least resistance, as our servitude-mesmerized Indian elites want, and as our timid, risk-avoiding-to-a-fault politicians and governing classes are keeping us on?
Ask Janice, if you could.
Too bad she couldn’t wait the “decades and generations” (!!!) the shockingly irresponsible and unhurried government stipender, Mr. Beaucage, said it’s going to take to improve things.
She needed action – she needed hope for change – now!
The essential passivity on the part of our Indigenous and non-Indigenous elites in the face of all this present suffering, epitomized by Mr. Beaucage’s remarks, deserves a caustic reproach, similar to the reproach given in 1780 by New Jersey slavery abolitionist John Cooper to “gradual emancipationists” i.e. those who said… “Let’s do it gradually, over decades, and accept all the present suffering as inevitable”…in the following passage, apt to the present situation, from Sean Wilentz’ No Property In Man- Slavery And Antislavery At The Nation’s Founding:7
Gradual abolition, the New Jersey abolitionist John Cooper remarked, told the slaves that “we will not do justice unto you, but our posterity will do justice unto your posterity.”
Ask little Makayla Sault, if you could.
But of course, you can’t. She was allowed to die by her “elders”, her “community”, by Indian and non-Indian elites generally: “politicians too craven to admit that the reserve system has failed; elders… cynically willing to let a child die from treatable cancer in order to promote Aboriginal rights.”8
The status quo is morally wrong and a disastrous failure. It completely failed Janice and Makayla and it continues and will continue indefinitely to fail the vast majority of all the other ordinary, powerless, voiceless, vulnerable Indians.
It’s a universally accepted fact that Canadian Indians are at the bottom of almost every performance-measuring social and economic indicator. Amongst Indians the suicide rate, the poverty rate, the rate of alcoholism and drug dependency, the rate of criminality and incarceration, the rate of educational and economic achievement, the rate of incest and child abuse and neglect – all such grim rates and measures of human health and welfare – clearly demonstrate that the status quo, centered on the reserve system, is inflicting Indians with an unconscionable amount of human suffering.
In Manitoba, nearly 90% of children in government care are Indian children.9
During a one week period in March of 2014, on one Alberta reservation alone, three Indian women killed themselves. In 2016 another rash of youth suicides and suicide attempts broke out in Attawapiskat.
Where were the parents and family of these poor women and children? Where were their men? Where were their “elders”? Where was their “community”? Why are their leaders content to wait “decades and generations” in the midst of all this immediate, ongoing horror? No one ever asks! It seems that no one dares to ask these most obvious questions!
The mere asking of these questions, which always come immediately to mind when reading or hearing about these situations, might suggest the seemingly unspeakable thoughts that these parents, family, elders- that the Indian communities as a whole- just might bear some personal and collective responsibility for these tragedies- that the reserve system itself just might be the root cause of these horrors.
But that would appear to be off-limits, part of the relentless censorship, self and otherwise, of free speech in this profound area of Canadian life- part of the fear at the core of the consciousness of caring Canadians- part of “the web of moral absolutes-taboo words, sacred speakers, forbidden arguments- that often-illiberal identity politics seeks to weave around left-liberal discourse”. 10 (And see An Issue of Free Speech above).
Indian “activists” protest the unsolved disappearances of the hundreds of Indian women who fatally choose the risks of life on the Desolation Row-like, mean streets of urban Canada over their lives of abuse and despair on their reserves. These activists, many of whom are also, like Mr. Beaucage, unhurried government stipenders, (direct or indirect), demanded an “official enquiry” into so-called police racial neglect .
In response to these essentially baseless and insulting charges the RCMP conducted a study of the phenomenon of the so-called “missing aboriginal women” and published their report in May of 201411
The Report indicated that, while, in 2011, aboriginals represented about 4% of Canada’s population, aboriginal women represented about 16% of Canada’s female murder victims, a statistical “over-representation”. This is no surprise because of the abysmal and dangerous social conditions all too prevalent on Canada’s segregationist, ghetto-like Indian reserves.
More importantly, the Report did not support the view that the murder of aboriginal women goes unsolved at any different rate than the murder of non-aboriginal women. As the Report stated: “The majority of all female homicides are solved (close to 90%) and there is little difference in solve rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women.”
Most importantly, the Report implicitly blasted into oblivion the notion that the murder of Indian women is in any way connected with systemic racism or neglect on the part of non-Indians.
In fact it stated the opposite, clearly concluding that the vast majority of the murders of Indian women are perpetrated by Indian men! Under the heading, Offender’s relationship to the victim, the Report states:
Female homicide victims generally know the person who kills them-more than 90% had a previous relationship with them; spousal, other family, other intimate relationship, acquaintance. This is true for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims. Aboriginal victims were more often murdered by an acquaintance. Spousal relationships (married, divorced, common-law and separated individuals) were also prominent…Investigators more often cited a known history of previous violence (which may or may not have been reported to the police) between Aboriginal female victims and their offenders…Offenders accused in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal homicides were mostly male. The most frequent motive in Aboriginal female homicides was “argument or quarrel” … “Frustration, anger or despair” was the second most frequent motive identified in Aboriginal female homicides.
As writer Scott Gilmore12 summed up the Report in December, 2016, long after the dust from it had settled, and long after the time for rational rebuttal had passed:
Commissioner Paulson was right. The overwhelming (71 per cent) of Indigenous homicide victims knew their attackers. They were killed by members of their own community, family members or friends…While Indigenous Canadians are six times more likely to be the victim of murder, they are eight times more likely to be a murderer.
Barack Obama, in his famous 2008 speech on race in America, while acknowledging the burdens of African-Americans’ legacy of slavery and institutional racism, said that they needed to take more responsibility for their own communities, by “demanding more from our fathers.”13It’s time for Canadians, Indian and non-Indians alike, to, in addition to attacking the root causes of Indian inequality in Canada (the main purpose of this essay), start naming, shaming and blaming the preponderantly Indian men who assault and murder Indian women- start demanding more of Indian men generally- start holding them to account.
It’s a sterile, unproductive and infantile form of political correctness, which is causing real harm to Indians, particularly, in the circumstances being discussed here, Indian women and girls, to ascribe this Indian-on-Indian violence solely to increasingly distant and abstract things like “colonialism” or the “intergenerational trauma” caused by residential schools – to insist that we “see absolutely everything as a very special case produced by specific historical circumstances.”
The quote is from David Denby’s Great Books: Hobbes and Locke 14– referring to his encounter with liberal, idealistic Columbia journalism students refusing to acknowledge any relevance of the Hobbesian view of man and society, (all humans have the capacity to do evil, and life generally is “nasty, brutal and short”), of the existence of African-American inner-city “cultural failure”, and their refusal to personally blame, even a little, the African-American perpetrators of inner city crime. To them, all these things were solely the product of slavery and its inevitable socio-economic consequences. Nobody in the present was to be held to account or blamed for anything. That would be “victim blaming.”
We have the same situation in Canada. Just substitute “Indians” for “African-Americans”, and blame all Indian social dysfunction and failure on “colonialism”, “racism”, “intergenerational trauma” and lack of “sovereignty”, (the mirage-goal supposedly to be reached after “colonialism” has been “de-constructed”), and block your eyes, ears and mind to everything else.
All this seems increasingly more and more like a cop-out and an excuse to avoid truthful talk.
Mr. Phil Fontaine in his bank tower office, or on one of his franchised marijuana plantations, Chief Nepinak on his road blockade, former Chiefs Day and Mahdabee at the head of their fantasy, utopian, financed-by-Canadians “sovereign nations” -all the chiefs- no advocates them of The Fierce Urgency of Now– (a phrase made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King)- who do nothing but talk in expensive, expense-account, big-city hotels, and accuse and blame everyone but themselves, while their people on their faraway, remote, violence-prone reserves suffer and die-all poor and shortsighted leaders “inadequate to the tragedy of their peoples and the tasks facing them” 15– all the lucre surrounding impact benefit agreements- racially segregated schools (shame on them all!)- obsessing and wasting their time over so-called “cultural appropriation”: an Indian elites-only issue- seeing with a “native eye,” the mental and physical quasi-ghettoes that are reserves, the all-too-many sham bellicose, artfully angry, finger-pointing Indian leaders who, it would seem, would rather be expense-account living on the road than staying back on their reserves and really, as real leaders of real suffering people, try to hands-on come to grips with all this human suffering and wasted potential- try to save their Janices! – none of this gets to the root of why Janice and all these others commit suicide or otherwise falter and fail in life so badly.
William Wuttunee, having spent years in the trenches of Canadian Indian politics, and having seen it all from the inside, was all-too-aware of this kind of deliberately planned, fake-angry and theatrical form of political oneupmanship. He used the term “verbal tomahawks.” Ordinary Canadians cringe in embarrassment to see our non-Indian elites continually abase themselves and cast away all their (and our) dignity as they continually seem to fall for this.
All the money and power pursuits Indian elites are engaged in are completely divorced from and has no bearing on the on-the-ground, behind-closed-doors, fist-to-face reasons why those hundreds of poor, dear, missing women – those “daughters of famine and chaos with nothing to sell but (their) youth,16and too much thirst for life to join the suicides,”17acted with such fatal desperation in fleeing from their reserves –where the morning brings no hope…seeing only future scenes of home sorrow18 -why those other poor young souls, male and female, their thirst for a safe and purposeful life too parched for too long, were driven, in their final respective acts of mind-numbed, nihilistic despair, to kill themselves.
“Insignificant” people, whom you pass unnnoticingly on the road every day, have their tragedy too; but it is of that unwept, hidden sort, that goes on from generation to generation, and leaves no record- such tragedy, perhaps, as lies in the conflict of young souls, hungry for joy, under a lot made suddenly hard to them, under the dreariness of a home where the morning brings no promise with it, and where the unexpectant discord of worn and disappointed parents weighs on the children like a damp, thick air, in which all the functions of life are depressed… 19
The suicide epidemics break out again and again- the shocking and senseless violence. The handwringing, “compassionate” politicians fly in again and again, all the right photos taken. The emergency extra funding is found, and additional psychologists and social workers, earning huge per diems, are flown in , and all is temporary excitement and focus. But eventually everyone who can goes back down South, the hustle and bustle is over, and all reverts to the old deadening-killing- quiet and sameness. The old despair and danger, put on hold by all the big-shots’ fleeting fuss, returns.
There is something sustaining in the very agitation that accompanies the first shocks of trouble, just as an acute pain is often a stimulus, and produces an excitement which is transient strength. It is in the slow, changed life that follows- in the time when sorrow has become stale, and has no longer an emotive intensity that counteracts its pain- in the time when day follows day in dull unexpectant sameness, and trial is a dreary routine- it is then that despair threatens; it is then that the peremptory hunger of the soul is felt, and eye and ear are strained after some unlearned secret of our existence, which shall give to endurance the nature of satisfaction.1
Those Indians who achieve elite status, with its attendant energy, purpose and travel, can escape some of this. They’re smart, strong, aggressive, intimidating when required, sophisticated and basically assimilated people. That’s why they get to the top. That’s why they interact so well with non-Indian elites. They rule their tribes, bands and reserves with powerful, often-oligarchic and “extractive” hands.
Calvin Helin wrote in Dances With Dependency:
Many Aboriginal youth feel that they are “conquered subjects” of a systemic and antiquated form of government suited to the benefit of the elites and paid for on the backs of the suffering grassroots indigenous people.
Year in and year out they stay in their positions of power. Year in and year out those they govern, comprising the vast majority, remain poor, disadvantaged, desperate. weak and powerless, like Janice and the missing hundreds of women- like those lost Attawapiskat youth.
They profess to be good leaders. But good leaders avoid their will to power taking the place of their will to justice.20 They put the interests of their people ahead of their own, and encourage truthful talk. These leaders- “elemental in their might and their immaturity”–21 put their own interests first, the desperate needs of their people a distant second, and disgracefully charge that people who disagree with their selfish and failed solutions and views are racist or indifferent to the situation, a manifestation of their disturbing and unjustified presumption of legitimacy, disturbing “not least because their solutions then become the issue while the reality of the problems is forgotten, except by the police, the courts and the coroners“.(italics added)22
We see now that too little of the billions of dollars now paid annually by Canadians to Indian bands flows down to and benefits this vast, dispossessed Indian underclass. The “strong men rule” nature of the tribal/reserve governance system, with its inherent lack of accountability, with its tendency not to nurture all the excellences of which human nature is capable, ensures that, even with all the new consult and accommodate monies and entitlements flowing into the possession and control of these elites, this will always remain essentially the case. 23
Joe Wild, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, as he then was, in a passionate and well-meaning address at the St. Andrews conference on aboriginal law held in late 2016, (noted above), in the midst of declaiming on behalf of the federal government that Canadians must “respect UNDRIP” and “respect the bargain that is section 35” on our collective, so-called “journey of deconstructing colonialism”, and that “reconciliation is a process, not an event”, in a refreshing and unusual moment of candour and realism, said:
For the past 40 years we have been plowing money into programs. We have no evidence that it’s working.
At the 2018 Advancing Reconciliation conference, 24 three of the eminent speakers had revealing bursts of candour.
Mr. Justice Harry Laforme, the first indigenous person to sit on the Ontario Court of Appeal, said: “I don’t know what deconstructing the colonial regime means.”
Regarding UNDRIP, indigenous speaker John Kim Bell said: “It would likely paralyze the Canadian economy.”
Associate Professor Karen Drake, of Osgoode Hall Law School, epitomizing academia’s concern with “Big Ideas” rather than real thinking,25 said of the concept of the “nation to nation” relationship: “What does it mean on the ground? I can’t give you that answer.” For the earnest, sincere but intellectually inarticulate Ms. Drake the solution had something to do with getting “inside the indigenous world view”, which view, other than saying that it involves “sharing”, and “only taking what you need”, (which we all told our children when we dropped them off on their first day of kindergarten), she was quite unable to describe. Given that, being an associate professor she is presumably an advanced and clear thinker, this was a poor show. And it left the listener with the reasonable conclusion that her thinking was mainly emotion-produced mental content which is inherently not capable of being rationally verbalized.
(Come on good people! if you can’t put meat onto these trendy word concepts by now, you’ll never be able to. And that’s because there’s no meat there… there’s no real there there!) 26
The status quo will only persist if we stay on Mr. Wild’s failed 40 year path- if we stay on this illusory, mystical, utopian, purely verbal, purely abstract, “nation to nation”, “deconstructing”, “reconciliation” path- something that, if it ever comes to pass, will inevitably, primarily, be the status quo dressed up with more wasted taxpayers’ dollars and fancy empty phrases to merely look like something else- to look like whatever the ultimately abstract and meaningless phrase, “deconstructed colonialism”, is supposed to look like.
No one can, or will ever be able, to say. But there will be a lot of money made, and many more earnest conferences in downtown Toronto, and much pointless but gainful employment in the attempt. And, during this pursuit of so-called “reconciliation”, which is turning out to be merely the faux rationale and main marketing motivator for quite a cynical power and money grab, while well-meaning and well-fed people like Mr. Beardy, Mr. Beaucage, AFN Chief Bellegarde and Mr. Wild continue to jaw endlessly at meetings and conferences and intoxicate themselves there with their empty words and phrases- which they seem to take for real things– more and more tragic, despairing and dysfunctional events will occur, -(Isn’t life really about events, and not words, phrases and processes?)– where another lost, indigenous young person will climb up onto a chair, put a rope around her neck and step off.
Everywhere there is abstraction, abstract duty…official, rhetorical morality without any relation to practical life…a doctrinaire earnestness which excludes all forms of self-questioning.27
And everywhere there are mere words, words, words! “Words used mostly to cover the sleeper, not to wake him up!” 28
Stick-all in all- to words. Then through
The safest gate you’ll pass into
The Temple of Certainty.
But there must be some meaning in the word.
No doubt. But don’t torment yourself too hard.
For where a meaning’s wanting there precisely
Up pops, on cue, a word.
With words first-class disputes are possible,
With words a system can be elevated,
Words are eminently believable,
Not one jot of a word can be abated. 29
And everywhere- emanating from our sanctimonious, well-fed elites- Indian and non-Indian- there is a fundamental, sickening, demoralizing, kick-the-ball-endlessly-down-the-road, detachment from the immediate, urgent, life or death needs- imperatives!- of these desperate young Canadians!
Whence this detachment? One day it would seem the very soul of the matter: a failure to imagine will make us die. 30
The “servitude”- mental and physical- the “sickness” described by Gordon Gibson- will only persist and worsen.
In Long Walk to Freedom (above) Nelson Mandela wrote of the debilitating effects of apartheid laws:
A person’s life is circumscribed by racist laws and regulations that cripple his growth, drain his potential and stunt his life.
These debilitating effects of our version of apartheid laws will only persist and worsen.
And to continue to support the status quo, however it is dressed up, is to recklessly and indifferently support more of this disgraceful, immoral, institutionalized failure and harm. It’s to be like a person driving by endless car crashes involving Indians, seeing them suffering on the side of the road and refusing to stop and help, but instead, looking the other way – pretending not to see and driving on by – a variation of the “bystander effect” – where people see or hear someone being victimized and harmed, pretend they’re not aware of it, and neglect to intervene. At best the present efforts to improve the situation are basically like that person driving by, throwing bandaids out the car window, and stepping on the gas.
We need to stop allowing efforts to remedy the situation to be restricted to top down measures conjured up by Indian and non-Indian elites and implemented only through those elites. Gandhi reminds us to:
…recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore to him a control over his own life and destiny…? 31
The continuation of the status quo here means a big “no” to Gandhi’s questions.
To continue on as we are going is simply wrong. It’s to stay fundamentally detached. It’s to act dishonourably towards Indians- towards Janice-and all the other tragic sufferers like her. It’s to continue with a course of conduct that’s offensive to our core values and destructive to the general welfare and ultimate best interests of all our citizens, particularly our Indian citizens. To continue with the status quo-to attempt to enhance it and further entrench it – is to live a national lie – to let grow a bigger stain on our honour.
For the long-term health of our country and our citizenry, Indian and non-Indian alike, we need to expunge the stain. We need to expose and expunge the living lie. We all need to stop being drive-by bandaid throwers. To continue as we are is to live in a state of permanent psychic unease, where eventually not just the mind but the body sickens. The Indian part of the Canadian body politic is already sick and getting sicker – with nothing happening that can reasonably be said to be any kind of cure.
Countries, like individuals, to live right and well, need to consciously and expressly strive to live up to their higher values, no matter how difficult and wearisome that seems to be. In Nation Maker, Richard Gwyn describes how Sir John A. Macdonald, originally a champion of Indian rights (at least in the context of his times), towards the end of his career, when he was tired and overcome by events – the Riel rebellion and the rising tide of ethnic and racial intolerance triggered by it – let the darker forces of Victorian intolerance win by default, hence his wrongful neglect of the tragedy befalling the Prairie tribes, described by James Daschuk in Clearing the Plains (above). “His dominant mood became one of sheer weariness with “the Indian problem.” And that weariness, perhaps magnified nation-wide, partially allowed Indians to gradually slide into that almost one hundred year-long state of invisibility and neglect referred to above.32
Ordinary Canadians are similarly feeling weary and disconnected today. We’re weary of reading about the suicides epidemics and all the poor, criminally-neglected Janices and the Kashechewans and Attawapiskats, and hearing our Indian and non-Indian elites solely blame ordinary Canadians and our “colonialist-imperialist” ancestors for it – all to no good end and making little difference.
We’re weary of being held hostages to guilt.
We’re weary of our Indian and non-Indian elites continuing to pretend that the reserve system itself- the “disease at the root of aboriginal suffering”- (Michael Den Tandt, above), is not the real cause of the problem and that any public discussion of that fact is forbidden.
We’re weary of these elites, wielding the “destructive power of ideological abstractions over human lives”, 33 continually sacrificing present generations of aboriginal citizens for the sake of a utopian future- the “nation to nation-sovereignty” chimera- that is nothing but glorified, messianic nonsense and that will never come!
Utopian thinkers reason (that) no finite sacrifice is too great for an infinite payoff…The skeptic (this writer) counters: we must recognize that every moment, like every culture and every person, is an end in itself…An end that is infinitely remote is not an end, but, if you like, a trap. An end must be nearer. 34
Or, as Octavio Paz writes above, an infinitely remote end is just a perpetual prison for the present.
We’re weary of the bandaid throwing and the bandaid solutions generally.
Like W.H. Auden, we’re weary of:
How everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster. 35
We’re weary of the status quo being afforded moral recognition by our elites.
We ordinary Canadians are weary of being marginalized and made to feel invisible, as our governments, higher courts, media and the Indian industry push us further away from our and John A. Macdonald’s vision of Canada as a unified country governed by one uniformly-enforced set of laws for all, where values govern, not race.
For the sake of us all we need to fight our weariness and our seeming invisibility and resume the good fight for the upholding and promulgating of our fundamental liberal values in this crucial area of Canadian life. “The time is fitted for the duty.”36
- Ontario Coroner examines spate of First Nation youth suicides, Canadian Press, 17 July 2011
- Canadian Press, 31 July 2011.
- Letter to the Editor, We are all treaty people, The Globe and Mail, October 29, 2016
- The Other Mexico, from The Labyrinth of Solitude, above
- Prayerful admonition of one of her characters in Gilead, Harper Perennial, 2004.
- Harvard University Press, 2018
- Scott Gilmore. Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Canada has a race problem worse than America’s. Why is this not a national crisis? MacLean’s Magazine, 2 February 2015
- Manitoba on track to end hotel placements.Kathryn B. Carlson, The Globe and Mail, May 21,2015
- Ross Douthat, The Crisis of Liberalism, The New York Times, November 19, 2016
- Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview.Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 16 May 2014.
- Canada’s Unspoken Crisis, Maclean’s Magazine, December 19, 2016
- Kalefa Sanneh-Don’t Be Like That: Does black culture need to be reformed? The New Yorker, 9 February 2015.
- Simon & Schuster, 1996
- Tony Judt, in Amos Elon, an essay in When the Facts Change, above, referring in his essay to Arab-Palestinian politicians- but the quote fits First Nations elites, who, like Arab-Palestinian leaders, are leading their peoples down the Road to Nowhere
- You said you never compromise with the mystery tramp
But now you realize he’s not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say, “Do you want to make a deal?’
How does it feel?
How does it feel?
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
No direction home
Like a rolling stone. Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone
- Victor Serge- Memoirs of A Revolutionary,New York Review Books, 2012. A remark made in the context of the roiled and desperate social and economic circumstances prevalent in Russia in the late 1920’s. Mr. Serge, a brilliant and hopelessly high-principled and romantic utopian-communist, participated in the Russian revolution in 1917. Persecuted and forced into exile by Stalin, he died in Mexico. His stubborn adherence to his principles and values, through all his travails, was heroic. His memoir is an inspiring and intellectually thrilling read.
- George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, above
- George Eliot, from her novel, The Mill on the Floss,(parentheses aroundinsignificant added)
- From Robert Conquest’s Reflections on a Ravaged Century, above: “Albert Camus wrote of the type, “The will to power came to take the place of the will to justice, pretending at first to be identified with it and then relegating it to a place somewhere at the end of history.”
- Alexander Herzen, from The Discovery of Chance, above, referring to the forces of reaction in 19th century Russia.
- Marilynne Robinson, Puritans and Prigs, from The Death of Adam, above.
- In some people I see great liberty indeed; in many, if not the most, an oppressive degrading servitude. –Edmund Burke
- Noted in c.3 above
- Robert Conquest’s acerbic take on modern academia, from Reflections on a Ravaged Century, above).
- “The lack of clarity is sometimes a device to mask the fact that the conclusions sought could not be arrived at by logical means.”- Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century, above.
- Alexander Herzen, The Discovery of Chance, above
- American Black writer James Baldwin, quoted in David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass- Prophet of Freedom, Simon & Schuster, 2019, a magisterial biography of how Frederick Douglass, a runaway slave, transformed himself into a world renowned abolitionist, orator, journalist and diplomat.
- From Goethe,Faust, Apart 1, Penguin Classics, 2005
- Arthur Miller, Timebends- A Life, above
- Quoted in Great Soul, above.
- . The same thing happened in the U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, a long-admirer and would-be protector of American Indians, (as well as Jews and newly-freed slaves), similarly and resignedly basically threw in the towel as well. As Ron Chernow wrote in Grant, (above), “His genuine concern for Indian justice had to reckon with an incessant clamor from railroads, ranchers and miners for more troops and frontier forts.”
- From Aileen M. Kelly, The Discovery of Chance- The Life and Thought of Alexander Herzen, above
- Nineteenth-century Russian philosopher Alexander Herzen, from the book review of The Discovery of Chance, above, Herzen: The Hero of Skeptical Idealism, by Gary Saul Morson, The New York Review of Books, November 24, 2016
- From Musee des Beaux Arts. Also:
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along…
- Edmund Burke, Reflections