Sunday, June 25, 2006

Settlers: Mythology of the White Prolateriat

Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat, by J. Sakai, is one of the best books i have ever read. It is a no-holds barred examination of capitalism’s crimes in North America and the complicity of even the white working class – from the genocide of the First Nations and slavery right up to the 1970s.

I don’t agree with anything i read 100%, but in terms of education i have never learnt so much from one book. And it is well written, actually history that is exciting to read!

While Sakai is dealing with the American white working class, and to the best of my knowledge nobody has undertaken a similar study in the Canadian context, i think his argument and observations are broadly applicable here too. Indeed, my guess is that they are sadly relevant in settler societies around the world.

Specifically, in thinking about Caledonia (or Chateauguay fifteen years ago), it is difficult not to make those connections.

So, if i only post one thing today i want it to be this: somebody has scanned in Settlers and uploaded it as a PDF! That’s right, you can download this book and read it for free!

The book is up on the Indybay site (where you an also check people’s comments, which kind of mirror the range of opinions expressed whenever anarchists discuss this book) or you can just click here to get the pdf. (i am mirroring it on the Kersplebedeb site here too)

(i should also point out in this regard that some other writings of Sakai’s are already up on my site – you can check them all out here).


  1. wendy maxwell?

    if so write me an email:

  2. It's very interesting you should bring this subject up. I have a dear friend who is something like 1/16th or so Algonquin (sp sorry) -- and until very very recently, his family primarily Anglophone Protestant white, with some French Canadian ancestry in the past, did not ever even talk openly about this.

    My friend was over last night for dinner with us, and we were discussing the low-subtle toxic shame (towards non-white people) that exists in this country that if one is white they will sometimes never pick up on.

    It's not the BIG broad strokes with the huge crayon Zundel stuff that errodes at one's soul as a young person growing up in this millieux of mixed messages about Aborignals, or different ethnicities, (now Muslims) it's the little slight that one experiences on nearly a day to day basis that are corrosive and ultimately lead to things like the high rates of suicides amongst our teens (in the Aboriginal community anyways)

    Anyways, this guy who used to be a conservative let it slip out to some of his conservative friends that he was part native. That was it. From then on in, there was a protracted and prolonged effort on the part of the bigotted elements of the party to drum him out.

    He is still wounded by this experience, by the words said, by the actions taken, by the slights, jabs, jeers and such that were part of his daily interaction with these people.

    We talked about this, about how one can find healing when they confront this ugly aspect of the darker side of the psyches of some Canadians with respect to Aboriginals and other ethnic groups in Canada. I had no answers for him really, but to share my own story of coming home to Cowichan and how it still took a couple of years for these years of messaging from the dominant society to be washed off and away.

    The way I see it, the predominant message from non-natives such as my friend encountered is "Aboriginal people aren't real people. They don't exist anymore. If you claim to be Aboriginal, you are full of it. What? You say you are still Aboriginal? Well, you're not. You're supposed to be dead, and your culture is supposed to have vanished from the face of the earth 100 years ago. What's wrong with you? Why aren't you dead yet?"

    It's never said exactly in those terms.

    It's like these people (whom my friend encountered) have this image in their mind of what Indians are. And if you don't meet that stereotype, then by gum, according to their standards, there's no way you can actually be Aboriginal or Indian, and furthermore, there are no such things as actual Aboriginals. They were wiped out a long time ago.

    This is a lot longer than I intended.. but your post just got me thinking about the pain that I saw in the eyes of my friend last night, when he told me about what happened to him. Definately looking forward to reading this book, now, and perhaps passing it on to him.