Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gymnaslaerer Pedersen (Comrade Pedersen)

GYMNASLAERER PEDERSEN (COMRADE PEDERSEN) (PI) Norway / 2006 / 35 mm / Colour / 110 min / Dir.: Hans Petter Moland, Cast: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Anne Ryg, Jan Gunnar Røise, Jon Øigarden, Stig Henrik Hoff, Silje Torp Færevag, Fridtjov Såaheim In 1968, it seemed as if all of European youth was infected with revolutionary fever. When young high school teacher Knut Pedersen arrives in a small Norwegian town he discovers that Maoism and sex are uncomfortable bedmates.

I saw Gymnaslærer Pedersen (“Schoolteacher Pedersen,” though in English the movie was released as Comrade Pedersen) at the Montreal World Film Festival back in August. The movie – based on a book by former Maoist Dag Solstad – is an interesting mix of beautiful cinema and one-dimensional anti-communism…

The film opens as a bedraggled and ageing Knut Pedersen boards a train, on a trip to revisit his youth. Sucking on a cigarette he cracks open the train window for air, and loses himself admiring a woman’s legs as her red skirt flutters.

Chilled by the draft (this is Norway folks!) Pedersen closes the window… only to notice that without a breeze no skirt flutters…

After a moment’s thought our protagonist breaks out in a great big grin, pushing the window open as far as it will go, letting in such a gust of air that the woman’s skirt is blown clear above her waist.

The director is telling us that, on second thought, this grey haired man is choosing pleasure, choosing freedom, choosing life.

The soundtrack breaks in and the red “skirt” is shown fluttering out the window, now become a giant red flag…

Comrade Pedersen is full of scenes like this. Half-imagined, dreamlike, sending the audience messages that dry realism would have to struggle with. Yet it’s well done, at times even beautifully done, and these scenes come in measured doses. Neither distracting from the narrative, nor coming off as cheap ploys.

Which is not to say that Hans Petter Moland’s latest film has no cheap tricks. In fact, it is only Moland’s skill as a director which half-rescues this film from his bad politics, his superficial and cartoonish anti-communism. (Interesting side note: Norwegian comrades seem to hold high opinions about Solstad’s book, while really disliking this adaptation…)

The film’s story is told as its title-character, schoolteacher and former Maoist Knut Pedersen, relates his pathetic youth to a classroom of modern young Norwegian teens. It all takes place as one long string of memories.

Pedersen explains how he joined the AKP (ML), Norway’s main Marxist-Leninist party in the 1970s, largely due to his weak personality and strong desire to “be one of the gang.”

In another one of those very clever, half-real half-symbolic scenes, we see this happen, as a young schoolteacher Pedersen is challenged by one of his students, the Maoist student Werner, who insists that the whole class should sit in a semi-circle to undo the authoritarian nature of the education system. Next thing, the entire class has broken into a stirring rendition of Polyushko-Pole (O, Field, My Field by the Red Army Choir), as the spellbound schoolteacher looks on, not really sure what the hell is happening.

We then cut to his being gently interrogated by the school principal, who asks why the students were sitting on the floor and what they were singing. She is particularly interested in knowing if Pedersen sang too, if he mouthed the words, if he even felt like joining in.

“It is easy to get carried away by such a tune,” she notes, and we know she is not just talking about music here.

Scene after scene, conversation after conversation, this is a very smart movie by a very good director. And as far as that goes, it was a pleasure to watch.

But that’s just half the story.

Moland has given us a movie which is not only beautiful, but also thoroughly political. Thoroughly dishonest politics at that. Not that it’s even necessary, but he makes his message explicit near the end, when (the old) Pedersen tells his class that if he has any advice for them, it is “to beware of communist groups.”

It is a message which was obviously understood by the small crowd which gathered around the director after the Montreal premiere. As one of them said, “I just want to say thank you for making this movie.” Another, who had come to Canada in the fifties, asked him, “What happened to my Norway, so that such things could happen?”

Sensing perhaps that i had seen the product of a convert’s zeal, i asked him if he had ever been a Maoist, if the movie was in any way based on his own experiences. “Completely fictitious,” i was told. And no, Moland was never a communist. “Though the communists made a lot of problems for me,” he added.

Ah so…

Nina Skåtøy, representing first eros
and then its denial by revolutionary politics...

In the movie, the young Pedersen is seduced into joining and staying in the AKP(ML), first by his student Werner, and then by the earnest and sexy cadre Nina Skåtøy. The movie shows us snapshots of his ten years with the AKP(ML), allowing Moland to exploit almost every stereotype of the “left-wing cult.”

While i am not a Maoist, i think it is nevertheless important for all of us who dream of revolution to pay attention to how anybody gets dissed in films like this one. Because there is nothing about these “criticisms” to prevent them from being used against anybody else, ourselves included, who might try to break out from the capitalist routine.

So – keeping in mind that i liked this movie, that it was enjoyable to watch – i’m going to take a second look at how revolutionaries are presented here.

  1. Revolutionaries are disconnected from reality. The unreasonable and embarrassing zeal with which the cadre carry on is matched only by the disdain they receive from the very proletariat in whose name they are fighting. This point is driven home by Nina, who fucks Knut and then in the height of passion shouts out “Oh comrade!” – and by Knut himself who after one late night romp exclaims that Mao would appreciate their ardour. Yet as the more committed revs leave their professional jobs to work in the factories they find themselves isolated and unappreciated by the working class. Nina is devastated by her isolation, as her fellow workers care more about the soap opera of Norway’s royal family than any communist propaganda. She is stripped of her illusions, and finally there remains nothing for her to fall back on. The film’s climax is in fact a climax of disillusionment, which reaches its logical conclusion when Nina kills herself.

  2. yet another schoolteacher
    wasting his time in the bottling plant...

  3. Revolutionary organizations interfere in members’ personal lives. In Comrade Pedersen, after a late night quickie in the snow Nina actually breaks up with Knut in a criticism/self-criticism session (“I have been having a petit bourgeois adulterous affair, the man is married to a woman of the people, she is being oppressed,” etc.) Schoolteachers and social workers are pressured to give up their jobs and go work in the factories. (Note that the same anti-communists who insist capitalism is so great are horrified at the idea of middle class revolutionaries “wasting their potential” at working class jobs!) Members are told to not drink with their friends at the bar, but at home, so that the saved money can be donated to the party. At one point Nina quips “After the revolution, everyone will drink tea” – a ridiculous point which echoes the cell leader Jan Klåstad’s claim that every good communist should prefer plastic goods, as plastic is the “truly communist” material…

  4. There is no reason to be a revolutionary. At no point in Comrade Pedersen do we see anything worth fighting for. Apart from the middle class Maoists, the workers all seem content with their factory jobs. Women are not oppressed in any horrible way. Vietnam is mentioned, but nothing is shown or discussed to explain what that was all about. We see this small town in Norway, perhaps not the most exciting corner of the world, but not a bad one either. Given that there seems to be nothing in society to justify political revolt, it is implied that the cause must instead be found in the pathologies of the individual radicals. Indeed: we see that the only thing worth rebelling against in the 1970s must have been… the Maoists!

Of course we can see revolutionaries portrayed in much the same way in all manner of cultural products – television programs, movies, books, etc. – and yeah, there is grain of truth in some of these characterizations.

Revolutionary groups are not above reproach, and some did (and do!) perhaps at times conform to the worst of these clichés.

The problem is that by presenting these facts on their own, devoid of context, anti-communists are sneaking in some definite untruths.

For instance, the implication that most people were somehow more connected to reality than the hapless revolutionaries. Or that outside of the bounds of the revolutionary organization, people were free to live their lives however they pleased. Or that there were not real gains and changes as a result of people fighting for them.

If we think about it, none of these things are even close to true. Keeping that in mind, the choices of yesterday’s Maoists – while perhaps not correct – nevertheless appear far less cultish and bizarre.

Take point number one, the way in which revolutionaries were “disconnected from reality.” Looking back on the world as it existed before the revolutionary upsurge of the 60s/70s, who could have predicted the incredible changes that have taken place since? Given how much has changed, and in so many unpredictable ways, was someone who thought that politics had nothing to do with their life, or that it was best to trust the powers that be, really more “connected with reality”?!?

Jog your memory: queer and women’s liberation, the fall of the Soviet Union, the defeat of colonialism and the emergence of global neo-colonialism… the United States scrapping the Geneva convention as it unilaterally declares war on this and then that neo-colony… social control through mass incarceration… a plague which was allowed to take hold because the right-wing held power, and which today has life expectancies plummeting across Africa… the rise of the far right both within the metropoles and in bits of the former colonies… global warming and genocide around the world… these are just some of what the past decades have brought us…

Was not thinking about politics, or accepting the rules of the system, really more “realistic” than doing otherwise?

The people who joined revolutionary organizations in the seventies were not living in a static world at all, but rather one in which everything was changing all at once. (One which continues to do so even today...)

Yet the message of films like Comrade Pedersen is that people had no reason to be frantic, to be passionate, to throw their lives into a project to change the world. The world changes on its own timetable and there’s nothing we can do one way or another. We may suffer its effects, but to try and make a difference is to simply tilt at history’s windmills.

So when people do act radically, do make sacrifices, do get all crazy with ideas that have them seeing things from a perspective different from anyone else… we are told that this is an illness, an unhealthy delusion, a cult.

To note that this propaganda, trumpeted by capitalists and their right-wing cheerleaders, is transparently self-serving… is really to state the obvious and nothing more...

Suffice to say that while the revolutionaries of the sixties and seventies failed to make revolution anywhere in the metropoles, looking back at the changes of the past thirty years they were certainly no more “disconnected from reality” than anyone else.

in one of the films many "subtle" scenes,
Pedersen thanks the thuggish AKP(ML)
leader Jan Klåstad for tearing up
photos of his estranged wife and child...

As for the second point, interfering in people’s lives, this is another cliché in depictions of “crazy leftists.” And one which some groups have deserved, as stir-and-add-water leaders imposed the most ridiculous rules on members. The most famous examples are of course sexual, where people were told that a certain type of relationship was the only type appropriate for “real revolutionaries,” generally (though not always) one which “coincidentally” mirrored the kind of patriarchal heterosexual relationship that predominates in capitalist society.

But while top-down coerced personal politics are obviously a bad idea, here too there’s a heaping dose of hypocrisy when leftists are singled out by anti-communist “freedom-lovers.” After all, it is the capitalist State which has engaged in the most radical social engineering, criminalizing all sorts of sexual activity, legislating how a woman may use her womb, using its schools to indoctrinate children with capitalist values, and throughout the colonies using the most brutal methods to regulate even the most trivial personal matters.

Furthermore, a whole slew of non-state institutions – churches, benevolent associations, clubs and charities – impose all manner of codes of personal behaviour on their members. And throughout history – at least here in Canada, and i imagine the same is true elsewhere too – many of these predominantly middle class associations have also concentrated on coercing or manipulating the personal choices of the working class, though this is normally presented as some kind of charitable “uplifting” or “improving” of the lower orders.

What sets revolutionary leftists apart from these pro-capitalist busybodies is that in theory at least their personal politics were predicated on making life better for the oppressed. Whereas most “social reformers” are more concerned with making the oppressed “better” for capitalism.

But in a world in which we are taught that our “private spaces” are our only real recompense for the alienation and oppression we experience in the “real world” – no matter how alienating or oppressive the private sphere may in fact be – even “progressive” interference in people’s personal lives seems almost blasphemous.

I should make something clear: i think that leftists telling other people how they should live their lives – their “personal” lives, i.e. what they eat and how they fuck and what they do to relax – is normally an extremely bad idea!

Many radical organizations carry within them the same patriarchal and racist and middle class values that exist throughout capitalist society, so this kind of repressive personal politics can often appear as much right-wing as left-wing. But even when that is not the case, the kind of organization which may be best suited to mass intervention is often not the best for leveraging “cultural” (for want o a better word) change.

Imposing “revolutionary values” can become a form of etiquette, or a code, that serves to discourage people with different lifestyles and experiences from joining the movement – becoming a mechanism which replicates and concentrates the very repressive traits that were (sometimes incorrectly) deemed radical in the first place.

The personal is political – it cuts both ways!

Which is what people are picking up on when they feel that radicals are like members of some cult.

That said, we’re obviously in a bind. Because ignoring the “personal” as a terrain of political battle basically amounts to throwing in the towel. The personal is, after all, what is most important to many of us. It is the place that the heaviest repression and the most meaningful liberation can take place – most obviously for women and children and queers and old folks, but if you think about it or half a minute i’m sure you’ll see that not even straight men in their prime are exempt.

Family, kids, friends, community – take these out of the equation and there’s not much left worth fighting for or against. Accept the capitalist-patriarchal definition of these terms and you're sunk. And a sense of personal meaning, that one’s personal decisions have a relationship to one’s values, and to a particular social project… this is such a basic need, such a fundamental element of social chemistry… abandoning the personal terrain would mean limiting oneself to the sterile world of official bourgeois politics.

Like i said: we’re in a bind. How do we fight on the personal terrain while not becoming an insular and isolated bunch of wackos? How – for instance – to promote veganism and animal liberation without making everyone who eats meat or wears leather feel that they have been consigned to the camp of counter-revolution? (and i write this as a non-vegan) How to oppose patriarchal relationships while not telling people they have to reconfigure their lives to live in what Chairperson X or Guru Y have decided is the model “unoppressive” relationship? How to subvert language in a way which empowers people, not a way which makes them feel that they’ve encountered some juvenile pranksters copying jargon from the Sekret Kommie Kodebook?

I have no blueprint or pat answer. But i do observe that those radical movements which focused on the personal in a less centralized and more autonomous manner (think feminism, queer liberation and the animal rights people) have had a far greater influence on popular culture and the way people live their lives than those card carrying comrades who tried to use their organizations as cudgels to hammer “the correct behaviour” into cadre.

Of course, the “social movements” can also be arrogant and self-righteous and riddled by bullshit and ego… but by keeping their interventions more decentralized, by leaving the decision on when and how to intervene up to smaller local groups rather than larger centralized ones, by keeping such “cultural” interventions grounded in the grassroots, there has been less risk of surpassing the bounds of what is realistic and appropriate.


Comrade Pedersen is just one of a whole slew of movies and tv shows which make anyone who wants to change the world look like a nut, and any group with such a goal look like a cult. It’s a winning formula, especially in the current right-wing atmosphere, so there’ll likely be many more to come. The only thing that sets Moland’s film apart is how nicely it was filmed.

Those of us who do want to change the world should not be discouraged by such propaganda, but nor should we dismiss it as completely unrelated to the tasks at hand. If this “critique” is such a popular formula, it is in part because the way in which we are depicted in these films is not completely unconnected to how we are already seem. Embarrassingly, not even disconnected from how we can sometimes be.

So while we should note the political agenda behind films like Comrade Pedersen, while we should condemn their hypocrisy, we should also remember that the question of “how to intervene” personally and culturally is one we have not yet resolved, but which remains tied to the heart of our project.

Maoism in the metropoles crested along with the advances of the 1960s and 70s – indeed, it was just one of several First Word echoes of the tremendous struggles taking place throughout the “periphery.” While the right-wing neutralized this revolutionary upswing, and today presents capitalism as “victorious,” it doesn’t take a historian to see that this is a pyrrhic victory indeed. Around the world the choice between barbarism and communism is as stark as ever, and the fact that the former seems dominant in no way discredits the choices of those who fought for the latter…

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Caledonia Group Plans Public Forum in Support of Six Nations

*Please forward widely*

On Saturday, September 30, the Caledonia based group Community Friends  for Peace and Understanding with Six Nations will be holding a public  forum in Caledonia entitled “Moving Beyond Conflict and Blame: Why  Canadians Should Support Six Nations Land Rights.”  The meeting is aimed  at bringing together people in Caledonia and surrounding communities to  discuss the Douglas Creek reclamation and the larger issue of indigenous  land rights in Canada.

The event will be held from 1-4 p.m. at the McKinnon Park Secondary  School (91 Haddington Street) in Caledonia. It will begin with a series  of presentations that will include: Jan Watson a Caledonia resident and  spokesperson for the Community Friends group, Andrew Orkin a lawyer  specializing in indigenous land claims, and Rolf Gerstenberger the  President of United Steelworkers Local 1005.

According to Community Friends spokesperson and Caledonia resident Jan  Watson, “we are holding this event as a way to try overcome the tension  and conflict in our community as well as to show that there are good  reasons why Canadians should demand that the government honor the  treaties and obligations it has made with First Nations peoples."  

The objective of this meeting is to provide a forum for peaceful and  respectful discussion on the issue of the Douglas Creek reclamation and  the larger question of indigenous sovereignty and land rights in Canada.  As Watson notes "the primary aim of the meeting is to show that the  standoff over Douglas Creek Estates should not be simply portrayed as a  conflict between native people and non-native people, but rather one  based on larger questions of human rights, social justice and nation to  nation relationships.”

For more information about the event, please contact the Community  Friends group at or by phone at  289-284-0154. The group's web site can be found at



Community Friends for Peace and Understanding with Six Nations Presents:

Moving Beyond Conflict and Blame: Why Canadians Should Support Six Nations Land Rights.

A panel discussion on the background to the Douglas Creek Estates reclamation and the possibilities for peace, justice and reconciliation between Canada and Six Nations.
September 30th 2006, 1pm-4pm

At the McKinnon Park Secondary School (91 Haddington Street) in Caledonia.

  • Jan Watson, Caledonia resident, member of Community Friends.

  • Andrew Orkin, a lawyer specializing in indigenous land claims.

  • Rolf Gerstenberger, President, United Steelworkers Local 1005.

This event is being put on in the spirit of peace and togetherness and is designed as a safe environment for discussion and exchange of ideas about the possible ways that the issue of Six Nations land claims can be peacefully and justly resolved.  All open-minded people interested in genuine discussion and dialogue are welcome.

[Toronto] Demonstrate in Support of Six Nations' Struggle for Land and Sovereignty




Please join us:
Monday, September 25, 2006:
Queen’s Park
12 noon

Speakers will include:
Chrissy Swain, Grassy Narrows
Zainab Amadahy, Indigenous Caucus of the Coalition in Support of
Indigenous Sovereignty


On Monday, September 25th, the Ontario Court of Appeal will revisit the ruling made by Justice Donald Marshall on August 8, 2006. In his ruling, Marshall stated that the government should refuse to negotiate with native leaders until court orders are respected, all contempt charges laid in the early spring are enforced, and the land reclamation has ended. As part of his order, Marshall stated an injunction obtained by Henco Industries in March would not be dissolved until people were removed from the site, part of ‘Douglas Creek Estates’.

The Attorney General of Ontario promptly filed for an appeal of Marshall’s decision. On August 22nd, the Ontario Court of Appeal stayed the decision, pending a full appeal. On Monday, this appeal of Marshall’s order will be heard. The proceedings are scheduled for two days, and a decision is expected on Tuesday, September 26

During the August 22nd court proceedings, a three-judge panel of the appeal court did rule that a contempt order against the people of Six Nations reclaiming the land now called Kanonhstaton (The Protected Place) ran out on July 5, when the province bought the Caledonia property from Henco Industries Limited.

“The province owns Douglas Creek Estates,” the panel wrote. “It doesn’t claim the protesters are on its property unlawfully. It is content to let them remain. We see no reason why they should not be permitted to do so.” The judges rejected Ontario Superior Court Justice David Marshall’s opinion that people had to be evicted from the site, in order to restore the rule of law in Caledonia.

The aboriginal protesters occupying a disputed land development site on the edge of Caledonia “are not there unlawfully,” a lawyer for the province told the Ontario Court of Appeal in August. The negotiations, which began again on September 11th, went ahead without fear that any party to them—the federal and Ontario governments, the elected chiefs of the Six Nations or the traditional band council—would be found in contempt of court.
In fact, the Court of Appeal found in August that the court order arising from the judgment, signed by Judge Marshall, made no mention of the negotiations.

“As events turn out, what Justice Marshall said is nothing more than an expression of his opinion,” said Chief Justice Dennis O’Connor. “There is no legal effect.” But lawyers for Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General wanted the Appeals Court to stay the order anyway, to clear up any confusion over the ruling.

The court proceedings on Monday will finally resolve what impact, if any, the Marshall decision can have on the people of Six Nations and the talks that continue between representatives of their Nation and Canada. Come and stand with us on Monday, to show our support for the continued and resilient resistance of the Six Nations people. Come out to show your recognition for the demand of the Onkwenonweh people that: “In order to resolve the outstanding land issues concerning Onkwehonweh Territories including the Haldimand Tract, full negotiations with the Six Nations people, on a nation-to-nation basis, must continue”.

Please join us:
Monday, September 25, 2006:
Queen’s Park
12 noon

Speakers will include:
Chrissy Swain, Grassy Narrows
Zainab Amadahy, Indigenous Caucus

Write a Letter to Support the Reclamation at Kanonhstaton




Find out how you can support - a sample letter is included below.
Scroll down to read a more recent update from the Reclamation Site, Six Nations.


Scroll down for the sample letter.

To voice your concerns send an email, phone or fax:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa K1A 0A2
Fax: 613-941-6900

Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and
Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians
Parliament Hill: House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Telephone: (613) 992-4275
Fax: (613) 947-9475

Barbara McDougall, Federal Negotiator
Former Cabinet Minister
c/o Jim Prentice

Jane Stewart
Provincial Negotiator, Province of Ontario
Former Brantford MP and former Federal Indian Affairs Minister
c/o Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A1
Phone Number: (416) 325-1941
Fax Number: (416) 325-3745

To send your thoughts and suggestions to Premier McGuinty, go to this site
and send your message through the secure online form.

Find and contact your own MP!


To: Stephen Harper Prime Minister
Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
And Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians

I am writing to you for two reasons both are in regards to the current land reclamation taken by the Six Nations at the portion of the Haldimand Tract known commonly by many as Kanonhstaton and known to others as the Douglas Creek Estates, Caledonia.

First, the group known as Caledonia Citizen’s Alliance, actively and openly promotes acts of violence and race based hate crimes as defined within the Criminal Code of Canada against the Native people of the Six Nations Territory. Their (Caledonia Citizen’s Alliance) actions are considered acts of terrorism, which in turn perpetuate colonialism. I urge you to address both the threats of violence and the actual acts of hate and violence being conducted by Caledonia citizens and their supporters against the people of Six Nations during this historic event.

Secondly, I am also writing to demand that the corporation known commonly as the Canadian government, as an agent of the British Crown, uphold its responsibilities to honour treaties and land rights and return full title of Kanonhstaton AKA Douglas Creek Estates, Caledonia to the people of Six Nations. Land rights as part of Aboriginal rights are protected by law in the Canadian Constitution.

In order to resolve the outstanding land claims concerning Onkwehonweh Territories including the Haldimand Tract, full negotiations with the Six Nations people, on a nation-to-nation basis, must continue. We understand that the precedence for this process has already begun and commend the corporation known commonly as the Canadian government, as an agent of the British Crown for your attempts to reverse the colonialism endured by the Onkwehonweh since/around the time of European contact, by continuing negotiations with the traditional Royani representatives of the Six Nations Confederacy.

I strongly urge you to heed these words and take action to ensure continued peace and individual accountability during these talks and deal fairly with the Onkwehonweh.


September 22nd Update from Hazel Hill

Well, did everyone get to watch the 2nd part of the show 'Indian Summer, the Oka Crisis' which aired tonight on CBC. I am so emotional right now and my thoughts are everywhere I don't know where to begin. Watching them come out of the pines and the brutality used against our people who were only doing exactly what we have all been doing or trying to do, and that is to uphold our Law, and protect the future of our people. I cried so hard it made me sick. Sick to know that nothing, in the last 16 years has changed in the thinking of the canadian government. Nothing in their attitude toward the original people of this land. The force they used then is the same force they used on April 20th when they came in to Kanonhstaton. They beat people, they had weapons drawn, and they had no care of whether or not we were entitled and justified in our stand.

I think the trauma of being tackled and kicked and kneed by the police on April 20th has finally surfaced. I had the opportunity to speak at Guelph University a couple of nights ago, and recounting what had happened on the day of the raid; and then watching the Oka movie tonight brought out all of that mixed emotional baggage I've been carrying around since then. What do you do with those emotions but let them go, and gain strength in knowing that the power that they give to each and everyone of us by their actions will be what defeats them. I didn't recall the date when the people came out of the pines in 1990, but when I noticed the date tonight when watching the show, and realized that the appeals court date is September 26th, it resounded deep within the pit of my stomach and the date echoed throughout my mind like the ripples from a rock being dropped in the lake.

Co-incidence? Who knows. Perhaps another attempt at utilizing certain dates in history in the hopes of re-creating an outcome that absolves them from having to take any responsibility for their actions. They never resolved anything then, and they have no intention of resolving anything now.

I am filled with such an unbelieveable anger at the ignorance of this so-called country of Canada and the treatment of our people that I am left with an emptiness and numbness inside. They have no remorse because they continue with the same practices today. They would rather kill us than look at what they have done to the very people who welcomed them, fed them, and who supported their very existance since their arrival. Why is it they can't see that the lands which they built their country, the resources that financed their empire, and the freedom that they enjoy today, was built on the backs of the Onkwehonweh, our ancestors. They call us criminals and terrorists and yet they forget that they are the decendants of people who were considered criminals and diseased and were sent to this continent because they were unwelcomed in their own. They are afraid to look in the mirror because they cannot handle the truth of what is staring back at them.

Today, we sit at a table and we talk, we negotiate, about trivial things like the return of a bobcat, about the noise and lights that bother our caledonia neighbours, about police buffer zones, and relationship building; and always, always it is about their needs and in the best interest of their people who are now occupying stolen lands. Since 1784 when the land was granted through the Haldimand in one hand, they stole it and gave it away from the other. Even the so called Indian Agents at the time who were suppose to be looking out for the interests of the Six Nations, were looking out solely for the interests of the squatters and their compensation of improvements that they made to the land. It is exactly the same policy they are working with today.

Never mind the fact that we didn't ask them to improve anything. We didn't ask them to come and squat on our land, and honestly, we don't give two squats on whether or not they've been compensated for it. They don't give two hoots about what they did to our people, the frauds they committed or the negligence and downright theft of the lands, our trust monies and our resources. It is and always will be what is best for, and how it serves them. Not once have they ever considered how their genocidal and assimilation practices have effected our people. Not once in their manipulative ways of frauding away our lands did they consider the effects that it would have on our environment, on our hunting and fishing and our respect and relationship with the land. Today they want us to consider our neighbours on how the land will be used and how it will effect them. Did they ever give consideration to our people when they stole our lands, built their towns and townships and left us boxed in on a little 'reserve'. Did they ask us before they stripped the earth of our trees and polluted our rivers with their industrial waste? Do they ask us as they continually develop lands that they know they have no title to. And yet they want us to consult with and work together with the people of caledonia before we even plant a tree at Kanonhstaton. They want us to bring down the flags because some people don't like the looks of them, or they find them offensive. I guess when they bring down all of their canadian flags flying around our country we may consider it. I don't know if they've learned anything or not over the past several decades. I know they hoped that by now we would have been good little Indians and succumbed to the ways of the white man because afterall, they were the dominate and better race. They had to save us from our heathenistic ways, even ordering fumigation of our community hall after any of our gatherings and ceremonies. They had to beat our children out of using our language because it was for our own good. Why, they even had to steal our children and place them in residential schools so their ministers could rape our young women and educate us to their ways to make us a better people. They had to use their guns and force to bring in their Indian Act because it would help us to govern ourselves in a way that was more appropriate and more civilized than the Kaienerekowah, the law given to us by the Creator. They had to save us from our spiritual practices because they were considered evil.

Today, that word is still being used by some when referring to our Confederacy Council and the Onkwehonweh. We are an evil people because we dare to resist colonialism and oppression. We dare to hold on to the original teachings and Law that supercedes any man made laws. We dare to uphold our obligation and responsibility that was given to us not only for our own good, but also for the good of all of Creation, including all of the other races of the world. We are an evil people because we dare to resist the Indian Act and the imposition of foreign laws by our modern day indian agents. If upholding and respecting the oldest and purest law of peace and light and love makes us evil, then I guess that is what we are.

That Indian Act is still their trump card because they're hoping that that is what will continue to divide our people. It has been working since 1924, and they are counting on that to hold true. They are counting on us to get tired of the stall tactics that they use at the negotiations. They are hoping that if they wait long enough, we'll turn on each other and this will all go away. But I have faith in the people of Six Nations. I have faith that our people will realize that this fight is not between the Confederacy and the Band Council. This is about centuries of spiritual, mental, emotional and physical abuse and manipulation. It is about the arrogance and downright superioristic attitude of a race of people who abandoned the very Peace that we are trying to protect, who turned their back on their Messenger and hung him on a cross; all for a semblance of power and righteousness. Not in the spirit of which it was intended, but in the means of dominance and control and monetary gain.

They take innocent men and women and create armies and invade other countries all in the name of Peace. They have not learned that all of the riches of the world will never give them the peace that is suppose to come from within. I am asking all of the Six Nations people and our supporters to remember and look to that Peace that is within. Remember that if we continue to walk the path that the Creator set us on this earth to do, to uphold and respect the Peace with each other as we were instructed, and to remember those 5 arrows that He bound together as ONE in UNITY; that we will succeed in our duties of protecting the future for our generations to come, and we will have honoured the Creator in doing so. It does not matter if you support the elective system or confederacy council. If you go to church or follow the traditions of the longhouse. It doesn't matter if you're Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneido or Onondaga, Tuscarora or any of the other Nations who have taken shelter under the umbrella of that great tree. As Onkwehonweh we have a responsibility that cannot be left to our children or our grandchildren to deal with. We are the original united nations, the keepers of Peace, and we must continue to inflict peacein whatever we do. Having said all that, I only have one thing left to say, Peace on you Canada!


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Crickets, Science and Rape

Segments about animals are some of the most interesting and subtly political pieces in Quirks and Quarks, the CBC’s national science show. One segment i listened to over the past week – a piece from summer 2005 – provides a case in point.

Under the heading Some Crickets Like It Rough host Bob McDonald interviewed Dr Karim Vahed, a Reader in Behavioural Ecology at the University of Derby, who studies “reproductive conflict” amongst insects.

Dr Vahed has studied a rare kind of Alpine cricket which has abandoned the regular cricket practice of singing for sex, and instead relies entirely on what Vahed and McDonald refer to as “coercive copulation”; what we would normally call violent rape.

No anthropomorphizing here, obviously as insects not people whatever these bugs are doing i have no idea how it is parsed by their consciousness… but i doubt that two woman science-geeks would have the same jovial humorous androcrentric discussion of “coercive copulation.”

Also fizzing in my brain was that if (as Vahed seems to suggest) a reproductive culture based on coercion or consent can be established amongst the same population of insects depending on environmental factors, how much greater must the options be for us humans…

Quirks and Quarks has many many such segments, about spiders or hyenas or whatever and how they fuck or eat or die, and again i gotta stress that i’m not suggesting any socio-biological argument, like “Well, the red back spiders are obviously a matriarchy and the crickets a patriarchy” or any such. But the way in which these different animals are studied and spoken about is of social significance, because whether we like it or not it either reinforces (or subverts) tendencies within our human society to view certain things as “natural” and this superior, or at least unchangeable.

For example, citing the same cricket study by Dr Vahed, BBC published an article under the title Alpine cricket is 'rough lover' in which the male crickets who force sex on female crickets (and even infants) are referred to as a “lothario” and “stallion of the insect world,” in much the same way that McDonald himself referred to their lack of song as a result of their being “so virile they don’t seem to have any time for any of that gentlemanlike behaviour.”

Buttons, Quirks and Quarks and Women and AIDS

Goddammit it can be difficult to keep up with this blogging thing…

Especially as a sense of propriety really makes me feel like i have to mention some things, even things i may have nothing particularly intelligent to say about.

And of course, as i may have mentioned earlier, there is a lot i have wanted to write about but i just haven’t had time. I am going to be doing stuff later this month up until late October which should make it impossible fr me to do my regular work, little own blog, and i’ve received several large orders for buttons over the past few weeks… all of which is just to say that i have been busy.

Over the past couple of years, button making has become so much more enjoyable as i have discovered some neat stuff on the internet to listen to as i work. Most notably, CBC’s national science show Quirks and Quarks – it’s just interesting enough to keep me engaged, but also is not dealing with anything important enough that i feel i have to be following every word.

I’m mean, it’s just science, right?

That said, if you’re making thousands of buttons, you get through a lot of old shows, and you find some interesting things. Things which intersect with the real world in a political way not always evident when discussing buckyballs or dark matter. Perhaps i’ll upload some of my thoughts on these over the next little while, we’ll see…

One thing i did hope to blog about some time over the past week – but which i have been unable to find a spare hour for – was the September 9th show, which devoted quite a bit of time to the XVI International AIDS Conference which was held in Toronto last month, specifically to scientific advances in HIV prevention, and issues pertaining to women and AIDS, particularly in Africa.

I found these segments to be pretty lacking – sure some science was there, but how scientifically complete can it be when so little attention was paid to the political and social realities which have shaped the AIDS pandemic every step of the way?

Not that a social analysis was completely absent, just that it was watered-down-weak. Misleading even.

And i wanted to comment on that, to provide greater perspective.

But i didn’t have time.

So… what i am doing is just giving a heads up: you can listen to last week’s show on the Quirks and Quarks archive page – the segments to listen to are the ones on the Toronto AIDS Conference and on Women and AIDS.

September 16th Update from Hazel Hill

I received this update from Hazel Hill on September 16th. As i sometimes do, i have taken the liberty to add a few paragraph breaks in the text for readability:

Sago from Grand River.  Today was our 200th day on the Land Reclamation of Kanonhstaton.  

Interestingly enough, it was also the day that CBC aired Part 1 of the movie "Indian Summer, the Oka Crisis".  To say the least, it was definitely a good reminder of how things work for our people.  It brought to surface all of the feelings we've all been having for the last 200 days right up to the forefront again.  There is alot of similarities in what happened in 1990 to what's happening today and it is hard to watch to say the least.  Watching this first part leaves me wondering what's going to happen.  There is no question that our people have learned from the past.  The question really is, has the government of Canada?  I know that our people never forget, and seeing the backdoor meetings of the government officials, watching the treatment of our people by the SQ, and witnessing the racist behaviours of the people in Chatequay are not much different than what's happening today.  It really makes you think about what really is going on.  The resolve of the people is no different.  The focus of title and jurisdiction and the Sovereignty of the Haudenesaunee is forefront in the minds of all who have made this stance.

We have our delegates meeting with representatives of the Crown and they are meeting in good faith, but it does bring to question whether or not the Crown has a real understanding of the enormity of this reclamation, and the support of the Onkwehonweh around the world.  At the last meeting of the main table I requested that each of the parties involved in the negotiation process watch this movie.  I asked because from our perspective we knew that the tactics of the government of canada and the similarities of the negotiation process haven't changed much.  I wanted them to understand that to our people, the land is as important as the air we breathe.  We are part of the land.  There is no separation.

We have gone through the demands of removing the barricades and we have gone through the backpeddling of the government on promises made, and then changed or broken to suit their needs.  We are continually being met with demands of disengagement when we ultimately know that when we walk away from the land, they will walk away from the table.  It does not take a genious to figure out that our Confederacy representatives are at the table because of our reclamation. It also doesn't take a genious to figure out that all the while they are negotiating with our Chiefs and delegated representatives of the people, that behind closed doors they are making simulataneous deals with individuals of the illegal entity known as the band council and are strategizing on how to get our people off the land so that they can go back to working with the party they created as an arm of the federal government.  

Elected Chief Dave General has made it clear that he does not support the reclamation and ultimately does not support the people. He continually pushes the land exploration process that the government of canada has designed that does nothing to have the land returned to our people, does nothing to recognize or hold accountable the Crown for the theft, nor does it address the underlying title and jurisdiction; but instead offers minimal monetary compensation that secures nothing for the future generations.  

Now mind you, not all of the band councillors are party to this deceit.  Some of them are working just as hard and have recognized the need to have the Confederacy deal with the long out-standing theft of our land and the misappropriation of our trust because they recognize that they are the only ones who can represent our treaties and our sovereignty.  This is something that our people have waited over 80 years to be able to deal with.  Not with the interference of the Crown, but within the Six Nations ourselves.  It is the governance of Six Nations.  

The initial meeting to begin that process will happen tomorrow morning.  We will begin the long process of hashing out and undoing the mess that was created by the undeniable interference of the Crown in our internal affairs.  From my perspective, there is no doubt that the only true government of the Haudenesaunee lies within the Great Law, and that is with the people.  The avenue from which the Confederacy Council takes it's direction.  The band council is and always will be an administrative body.   That should be it's only function. It mimics canada's parliament and does not truly represent the people.  It is the people within Six Nations who have to make that position loud and clear.  It is not for Ottawa to decide.  

Recently I was given documentation from someone who's uncle had kept for years.  It was a declaration of resistance by the people at Six Nations against the illegal imposition and invasion of the Imperial Government of Great Britain in their attempt to impose foreign made laws upon us.  This document and petition was dated in July of 1923 and had the signatures of 100's of our people.  It was definitely a voice stronger and larger than the 9 or so signatures of people who the crown used to bring in their Indian Act council in 1924.  It really makes it clear that back then, just as now, the crown will use a minority of people who they can manipulate or buy to suit their needs.  

Today, we have to show the crown that their interference in our side of the Two Row will no longer be tolerated.  We have international recognition for our Sovereignty as a Nation and must utilize that recognition and demand the Crown uphold it's responsibilites not only to the treaties but also in its responsibility of having created the situation we are in today.    

As far as whats been happening at the site, things have been relatively quiet.  There have been a few incidents of individuals from the Caledonia Citizens Alliance trying to create violence by taking down signs along the roadway in front of the site, and trying to come into the site on the pretense of having a picnic and in the spirit of peace, in the meantime being intoxicated and ultimately looking for a fight. Their latest move was a letter written to Premier McGuinty requesting permission to have a 20,000 person rally on the land at Kanonhstaton on October 15th.  Their reasoning?  "The Indians have had use of the land for 6 months, we're entitled to 1 day".  They've invited Jane Stewart, the lead Provincial negotiator to partake in their plans, but we have been told that she declined because of her involvement in the peaceful negotiation process.  

It would be good if the canadian government reminded the CCA that the land at Kanonhstaton is not public land.  It is being held in trust by the Province at this time, yes, but it has been reclaimed by the people of Six Nations.  

We have remained peaceful, in spite of the gossip and rumours pegging us as terrorists, and we will continue our unarmed reclamation of our land while this process continues.  The whole issue of lights and noise, atv's, fireworks and police buffer zones continues to take precedence over the land at the table, even though we have respected the concerns of our Caledonia neighbours months ago, and even created a buffer zone well in excess of 100'  which our people have respected, but the government fails to recognize.  They want it in writing.  Well, we all heard how that plan works.  Continually demand further encroachments of police lines until they have you boxed in.  Wasn't that Bourassa's plan in 1990?  Whichever government rep it was, we're not buying into it.  The 100' buffer zone exists.  All the Crown has to do is remind the individuals within caledonia who haven't respected it.  

The OPP have told the government that it is a policing issue.  They  have also re affirmed our position that we have been most respectful of boundaries, there are no incidents of loud noises, atv's driving around all night, or lights being shone in windows.  The only threat of violence is coming from the CCA.  It could be just another of those government tactics to justify an invasion, or it could be individuals who don't have an understanding or respect for the truth.  Whatever and whoever it is, the onus is on the crown to deal with it.  It is clearly on their side of the wampum and if nothing else has been learned to date, our delegates have been consistent in reminding the crown exactly how that Two Row is suppose to work.  

Today CCA representative Jim Smith and a few others held a protest against the OPP and what their terming as a "two-teared" justice system. I don't know if they meant 'two-tiered' but again I have to admit, Jim Smith is absolutely right.  That justice system that he refers to is two-tiered and biased.  The only people being charged are from Six Nations, inspite of overwhelming evidence and facts clearly indicating that the violence and openly admitted possible use of weapons as a resolve, is coming from within the CCA.   I think 1 Caledonian compared to over 50 or more from Six Nations has been charged so I guess Jim's claim's that the Onkwehonweh have been receiving 'special treatment' are true to a certain degree.  It's just that, that treatment of the Onkwehonweh, is nothing new, special, nor is it surprising.  It just is.

It would  be good if some of the people who truly believe in justice, who truly want to see racism and violations of human rights be stopped, and who truly believe in a peaceful resolution process; begin calling Jane Stewart, Dalton McGuinty, Stephen Harper, Barbara McDougal and Jim Prentice just to name a few, and demand that the idiotness of the 20,000 person rally be stopped immediately to prevent a possibly volatile situation, and that the Federal Government pull up its briches and begin taking an active role in this resolution process and stop passing everything off over to the Province.  As duly representatives of the Crown, and as recently pointed out to me, representatives of Her Majesty's Privy Council, it is not a choice, it is an obligation.    

In Peace, Love and Light,

Four Days Ago

Just to get it out of the way – because i do feel it is in the way at the moment – for those who haven’t heard – Kimveer Gill, a hitherto unknown fellow from the north shore of Montreal, decided to attempt a spree killing in downtown Montreal last Wednesday. At a major Montreal cegep. One which is attended by someone very close to me, to say the least.

One of my kids.

Who, luckily, didn’t have classes at the time. But of course, other people’s kids were there…

Apart from Gill, there’s one dead so far, four in critical condition, and several more still in hospital.

What to say? Nothing, and everything, and nothing again.

I try to make this blog focus on patriarchy and how it intersects with capitalism, imperialism, and this slab of rotting meat we call a culture. So one might think that a young guy ending up so fucked up and isolated and unhinged that he ends up expressing his reality in a hail of bullets aimed at kids, killing a girl in the process, might be something worth talking about.

And i’m sure it is.

Later, perhaps…

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Moment of Silence Before I Start This Poem

Before I start this poem, I'd like to ask you to join me
In a moment of silence
In honour of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last September 11th.
I would also like to ask you
To offer up a moment of silence For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,
For the victims in both Afghanistan and the US

And if I could just add one more thing...

A full day of silence
For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of US-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation.
Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year US embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem,

Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,
Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.
Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin
And the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam - a people, not a war - for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives' bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of a secret war .... ssssshhhhh....
Say nothing ...
we don't want them to learn that they are dead.
Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,
Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.

An hour of silence for El Salvador ...
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua ...
Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos ...
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years. 45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.
And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west...

100 years of silence...

For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness ...

So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won't be.
Not like it always has been.

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:
This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.
This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977.
This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York, 1971.

This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.

This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton's 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it NOW,
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all... Don't cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime.
But we,
Tonight we will keep right on singing...
For our dead.

11 Sep 2002

One of the best pieces of poetry i have ever heard.

Emmanuel Ortiz is a third-generation Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish-American community organizer and spoken word poet residing in Minneapolis, MN. He is the author of a chapbook of poems, The Word is a Machete, and his poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including two books published in Australia: Open Boat - Barbed Wire Sky (Live Poets' Press) an anthology of poems to aid refugees and asylum-seekers, and Passion for Peace: Exercising Power Creatively (UNSW Press). His poetry will also appear in the forthcoming FreedomBook, an anthology of writings in support of Puerto Rican political prisoners. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Minnesota Spoken Word Association, and is the coordinator of Guerrilla Wordfare, a Twin Cities-based grassroots project bringing together artists of color to address socio-political issues and raise funds for progressive organizing in communities of color through art as a tool of social change.

You can download this poem as an mp3 by clicking here.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

September 7th Update from Hazel Hill

Good Morning from Grand River.  The sun has just peaked over the tree line and the world is looking beautiful and serene.  Inside my house everyone is busy getting ready for school and work.  Bus schedules are getting used to and the need of school fee's for art, drama, science, music etc. is being discussed while lunches are being prepared.  That little glance outside is a gentle reminder, and helps bring about the balance inside of me, for the sometime chaos we feel in life.   But that is the type of chaos we would never do without.  The simplist things in life that might at times feel like chaos, but they are exactly what and who makes this life worthwhile.  Our children, and the time that we get to spend with them.  The time that while we may think we're teaching them all the valuable lessons in life, they are in fact teaching us.  As I watch them go off to school and think about the sacrifices even they are making for the future of our people, I am filled with pride but also sorrow.  How much of 'our' time has been taken away for meetings and interviews and time spent on site.  In the end when we talk about it, we can all agree that we would have it no other way.

Yes, school is back in and all of the concerns about the school nearest the reclamation site have been voiced, from parents who feel threatened by our presence, to others who claim the terrorism and violence has put the fear of life into their children.  But when the school bell rings, and the silence echoes through the site and school yard, i have to wonder what exactly is there to fear.  I was always told the only thing to fear, is fear itself..........and of course the boogey man.  I never once thought that I was going to be the boogey man!   The fact of the matter is, the boogey man is being created in the minds of a few who, like when we were children, let their imaginations get the better of them, start telling their friends the made up stories in their head, they in turn tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on until pretty soon the story is has now become quite a tale and is presented as factual and posted on their blog site.  What makes it worse, is people also report to newspapers as if it were facts and rather than check it out or try to verify it, the papers run it!  We had our side table talks interrupted on Tuesday because the minister was 'scrummed' with gossip about the school yard fence that was being built having been halted because the workers were threatened by the people on the site.  But action on the site spoke a different story.  The workers were busy cementing in the posts, police were on hand watching the work progress, and our security went over to verify that none of the workers had been bothered and to make sure everything was ok.   The newspaper who printed the story about work being stopped obviously didn't go and gather the facts, they printed what was going to sell their papers.  And that has been what we've been dealing with since the reclamation began.  No matter how we try to get the truth from our perspective out there, we are overwhelmed with gossip, rumours and fairy tales about how the poor people of Caledonia have had enough of the noise, lights and visibility of those 'terrorists' or 'occupiers' at the site. Gossip and rumours. These are the things that hamper our daily lives.  But it is also what has plagued the actual Truth about the reclamation from being printed, and unfortunately,  it is also what that the three panel of judges will be looking at when it is determined whether or not the appeal should be granted.  And that my friends, is exactly what is being counted on.  If the judges squash the appeal because of whats being printed, then the negotiation process has in effect been stopped, and it is only a matter of time before the opp or whatever armed force is ordered to remove us from our land.

   I want to take a minute to share a bit of what hasn't been printed and what is really going on.  Last Thursday, Ministers Ramsay and Prentice released a joint letter, through the media, to Chief Alan MacNaughton and our Confederacy Council demanding that the atv's stop, the noise stop, the fireworks stop and the lights stop at the site.  It was a political tactic to gain votes, but it was also a tactic to give the impression to the rest of the world watching that this is actually what is happening on the site, continuously!  First of all, the men and women's council at Kanonhstaton have already reduced patrols, have been respectful of neighbours, have pretty much respected and addressed every concern that is brought to our attention by the OPP or the provincial and federal reps at the negotiating table and we do so immediately.  We have counselled over many issues, and have even had to ask some of our own people who have violated that peace to remove themselves from the site.  We are doing our best to conduct ourselves in accordance of the Kaienerekowah.  But what happens when our concerns are put to the other side.  Who brings those people to task?  Since the release of the ministers letter which in effect threatens the peaceful negotiation process on Thursday, we have been on a continual yellow alert.  Friday night we received a telephone call from the OPP advising us that two busloads of non-supporters were headed our way from Hamilton.  Caledonia residents were shooting off fireworks randomly, and people began gathering at the Canadian Tire plaza and Tim Hortons again.   Saturday night it was pretty much the same with a report of 40 or more carloads of people threatening similar action.  An Onkwehonweh couple who stopped in at Tim Hortons for an evening cup of tea which they were trying to enjoy in their vehicle, had a woman with a video camera in their face presumably to get 'evidence' that they were somehow threatening their lives by being there, and another Onkwehonweh woman who was trying to enjoy a meal in Ancaster overheard a conversation of another non-native party who mentioned 'give me 15 good men and there won't be an Indian problem and I have my alibi because my wife will verify that I was home all evening'.   Around the same time, the Globe and Mail runs a story in which Caledonia resident Steven Tong was quoted as saying that he has his gun out with the safety off, ready to use it on the protestors at the site.  Meantime, Mayor Trainer is on national televsion stating that two women from Haldimand Township come into her office making a similar statement about the use of weapons if the government isn't going to remove the people from the site, they will.  Exactly who is threatening the safety of the people not only on the site, but also the children that they claim to be protecting and the people in their neighbourhood. And again, who is taking these people to task for their threats.  The threat of violence is real, but it is not coming from the people on the site.  The ministers who jointly made the demands of our confederacy council had better take a look in their own backyard and get that message out to their own people including MP's such as Toby Barrett who I understand was right amongst the people who were gathering on the week-end to take matters into their own hands.  

  Which brings me to a request from Kanonhstaton.  We're asking all of you who are supporting the PEACEful negotiation process, to bombard all of your MP's offices, the Ministers' offices, the Prime Minsters office, the lead negotiators Jane Stewart and Barbara McDougal, and any and all government offices including the Governor General and the Queen, with letters demanding that these threats of violence by Caledonia citizens and their supporters be addressed, and that Canada uphold their responsibilities to the Treaties that have been handed them through the Crown.  The reclamation of our land and all of the fraudulent land transfers and sales of  Onkwehonweh land will only be addressed if the people of Canada and all of our world wide support demand that Canada take responsibility for its' actions.  We didn't create the situation, we are only trying to rectify it, for our children and future generations.  We have taken action and have re-claimed land that is rightfully ours.  We are there in Peace, and have been since February 28th.  Now that the Crown has finally recognized and agreed that the land at Kanonhstaton is in fact on the table and needs to be addressed, they also need to hear from their constituents that so too is the honour of the Crown.  Will Canada allow the hatred and violent displays of racisim of its citizens to continue and possibly create another Ipperwash, or will it use the lessons of the past to ensure that the violence stops and admit to their citizens that it is through their own actions and abuse of assumed power that we are in this situation today.

In Peace, Love and Light,

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Violence Against Indigenous Women: Canada's Highway of Tears

Heads up: journalist Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has written about Canada’s Highway of Tears – the stretch of road in northern “British Columbia” where so many indigenous women have been disappeared over the past decades.

Since 1988 over 500 indigenous women have “gone missing” across Canada. Victims of racism, victims of patriarchy, victims of capitalism… all dimensions of Canadian colonialism. Of Canadian nationhood.

The murder and disappearance of so many indigenous women is simply another manifestation of the same process which sees First Nations women (who represent 2% of the “Canadian” population) making up almost one out of every two women incarcerated in a maximum security penitentiary.

A manifestation of the same cold hard facts which see indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44 being five times more likely than other women to die as a result of violence.

Born in Karachi, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy was the first woman in her Pakistani family to receive a Western education. You can read more about her and about her recent film highway of Tears on her website here.

For more information about violence against indigenous women in Canada, one might also want to check out the October 2004 report from Amnesty International: Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to discrimination and violence against Indigenous Women in Canada and the Stolen Sisters page they have up on their website.

Wish Me Luck!

I have no idea if i am going to get around to blogging today… i have a bit of too much work at the moment, and i’m running out of time to do it all in… but just for the record, and for myself, here is a list of what i’m hoping to write about shortly:

  • Films about Maoists at the World Film Festival

  • Documentaries at the World Film Festival (esp. Maid in Lebanon, Dia de Fiesta and El Comite)

  • Thoughts about Matthew Lyons’ Further Thoughts on Hezbollah

  • Jewish school firebombed in Montreal

Hmmm… anything else? Probably…

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Breakdance Hunx (Market Value Mix) by Kids on TV

Checking out how to blog a Youtube video - this is Kids On TV's latest...

note to self (and others!): doublecheck html afterwards as the first time i did this youtube screwed up the permalink...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Blue Diamond Society Questions re: New Nepal Constitution

I spotted the following on a mailing list i am on, and i thought it worth reposting here.

The new Nepalese constitution represents a radical leap forward for the people of Nepal, yet questions remain about how far the changes will go. Especially of concern is how trans people, queers and sex workers will fare, as these groups have suffered oppression and marginalization both under the monarchy, but also are viewed less than sympathetically by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the most important progressive organization in the country.

What follows is a statement released yesterday by the Blue Diamond Society, an LBGT NGO based in Kathmandu:

Blue Diamond Society: Rights of sexual minorities and others

Nepal Interim Constitution, Will PLWHA, and other vulnerable communities have rights?

The Nepal's interim constitution have failed to ensure the rights of sexual minorities, gender minorities, PLWHA and Sex workers and provide any protection despite of our continuous lobbying and providing written recommendation to the drafting committee. Now we its time we need to do more and we call for your support and solidarity.  Comments/questions on the Interim constitution of Nepal Part 2, 3 and 11 Citizenship

Part 2
1. Every Nepali citizen shall have the rights to citizenship, and no one shall be deprived of the rights without proper reasons.

(comment: will Nepalese Gender minorities like Metis (effeminate cross dressing males and other trans-gender) will have right to citizenship as trans-gender person? As in the past many transgender persons have been denied citizenship.)

Part 3
Fundamental Rights and Duties
1. Fundamental Rights
i. All citizens shall be equal before the law. No discrimination shall be made against any citizen on the grounds of ethnicity, class, gender, region, language, culture and ideology or conviction.

(Comments: No mention of sexual orientation, gender identity. health condition, profession etc. marginalized groups like Sexual minorities, gender minorities, sex workers and people with health condition like HIV positive people thus are not protected against discrimination)

ii. Every citizen shall have freedom to express and publish opinions, establish associations and organizations, elect representatives and be elected, move across the country, assemble and carry on any occupation. No person shall be deprived of their personal liberty save in accordance with the law.

(Comment: will this article allow sex workers to work freely with out prosecution and coercion? And will Metis (effeminate cross dressing males), homosexual males and females and transgender, PLWHA who are deprived from education, getting job, housing and brutally abused even walking in the public places be free from discrimination and such abuses ?)

iii. Education, health, shelter and employment shall be the birthrights of every citizen.

(comment: will this ensure health care and treatment to every one including people with HIV and many other with specific health conditions? will Metis and other vulnerable/marginalized groups be able to go to school and get jobs? )

iv. Every citizen shall have the right against untouchability, social discrimination and exploitation.

v. Patriarchal exploitation of women in all forms shall end. Daughter shall have equal rights to parental property at par with son. Women shall be entitled full freedom in the issues of marriage, sale and purchase of properties, divorce or conception or abortion of pregnancy. Special rights shall be guaranteed for women in all sectors including their representation in state bodies.

(Comments: What about Metis (transgendered), their rights to property, marriage etc.)

Part 11
Constituent Assembly
1. As decided by the Interim Government, the elections to the Constituent Assembly shall be held within a year from the date of enforcement of this Constitution.

2. Ensuring inclusive and proportionate representation, the Constituent Assembly shall have a total of 225 members, including ten each from the nine autonomous republic states totalling 90, 125 directly elected with one seat equivalent to 200,000 people as well as ten nominated from among experts and the endangered and marginalized
ethnic groups.

3. Women, oppressed nationalities, dalits, the disabled etc. shall be included in the Constituent Assembly in proportion to their population.

(Comment: Representation from Sexual Minorities and Gender Minorities and other vulnerable groups must be ensured!)

In Solidarity
Sunil Pant
Blue Diamond Society

(this statement can also be viewed on the International Nepal Solidarity Network site)

[Movie Review] Guan Cha Mosuo - Mosuo, The Last Matriarchy Family

GUAN CHA MOSUO (MOSUO, THE LAST MATRIARCHY FAMILY) (PI) Chine / 2005 / Vidéo / Colour / 60 min / Dir.: Weijun Chen In a remote region of southwest China, there lives the Mosuo ethnic group who have a matriarchal and matrilineal society. A young Mosuo girl wants to liberate herself from the primitive Mosuo social system.

And no, the above is not a joke, nor is it a misleading description of this poorly translated crappy documentary.

Mosuo, the Last Matriarchy Family falls just an inch short of being a parody, as director Weijun Chen (whose previous work about AIDS in China got rave reviews) introduces us to the “backwards” Mosuo nation, where women are burdened with doing hard manual labour and making all the decisions in their households, and men just sit around being useless all day long.

I am an ignorant dumbfuck when it comes to Chinese history or society, but looking through my Canadian eye, reading stuff on the internet and such, i get the impression that groups like the Mosuo are like indigenous nations trapped within the Chinese State. Survivor peoples, who have made it through the contortions and distortions of living “in” China without really being “in” China, if you know what i mean. Like one of the first scenes in this film, where (as much to show how ignorant these folks are as anything else, IMO) each member of a Mosuo household is asked who the chairman of China is today – not only does nobody know, most don’t know who Mao was either!

The Mosuo are a relatively small ethnic group, numbering between forty and fifty thousand, living in villages around Lake Lugo in Yunnan province, in southern China. Until recently they were partially shielded from the outside world through their isolated location – it used to take a week on horseback to be able to reach Lake Lugo, and there were no paved roads for cars. But in 1993 the Chinese government decided to invest $2.3 million to develop tourism in the region, and today a one week trip has been cut down to less than twelve hours, the village of Luoshui – the most accessible Mosuo community – now welcoming 300 tourists every day. (As capitalist development has allowed a middle class to grow from the exploitation of the Chinese proletariat, internal tourism is becoming an increasingly important sector of the Chinese economy, one in which – as elsewhere in the world – indigenous peoples and cultural diversity suddenly become potential sources of great wealth. Tourism is one of the four pillars of the economy in Yunnan province.)

Now i must point out: these facts were found on the internet. There is very little information actually contained in The Last Matriarchy Family!

The Mosuo are themselves a key part of the expanding tourism industry around Lake Lugo, and key to their “appeal” is the fact that traditionally there are no monogamous marriages within their society, and sexual and (on a family-level) economic power are concentrated in the hands of women.

The Last Matriarchy Family does show us how this non-patriarchal society works, with the role of Dabu, or family manager, being passed down from mother to daughter, generation after generation. Any cash earned is handed over to the Dabu, whose responsibilities include redistributing it based on need. Brothers and sisters live together with their mother and maternal grandmother (and even great-grandmother) for their entire lives. Hetero-sex happens when a woman over the age of fifteen invites a man to visit her in her private bedroom; he can show up, but only for the evening. This is called a walking marriage, as in the morning he must head back to his home, which is with his grandmother, mother, sisters and brothers. (Sorry to say there’s no queer sex in this movie…) Children are raised by their mother (who in bourgeois family terms we would say “has sole custody”) and uncles.

According to John Lombard of the Lugu Lake Mosuo Cultural Development Association, “women still wield most of the power. The oldest matriarch in each house is the head of the house, and controls house finances, as well as owning all family property. When she dies, property and leadership is passed down through the female side of the family. In conflict resolution, business decisions, etc., the women tend to have greater say than the men.”

This kind of arrangement is certainly much better than what capitalist patriarchy offers – either in China or Europe or North America – but this documentary tries to milk the “exotic primitives” angle for all it can. Leaving us with a film both dishonest and empty.

For instance, there is no real discussion of how the Mosuo have either survived or developed in the midst of patriarchal empire. Nor is there any discussion of their herstory or political structure.

It took the internet for me to learn that there is a Mosuo queen (no idea if this is a real ruling class function or not). Or to learn that at one point the “socialist” State outlawed the walking marriage, attacking it as a “decadent vestige of feudalism.” Men and women were forced to live together if they were having a sexual relationship. According to Lama Luo Sang Yi Shi, “during the Cultural Revolution, the governor of Yunnan came to Yongning. He went into Mosuo homes and cursed us, saying that we were like animals, born in a mess without fathers. At that time, all of the Mosuo were forced to marry and to adopt the Han practice of monogamy; otherwise, they would be punished by being deprived of food.”

Gotta say… sounds like colonialism to me!

But times change, and so did politics, and this rule was rescinded, most of the men returning to live with their mothers.

Today such heavy-handed repression has been replaced with the implicit corrosion that comes with the tourism industry. The same industry which is presented in The Last Matriarchy Family as something that will benefit the people indigenous to the Lake Lugo area… by creating pressure on people to abandon or water down their traditional ways of life… all of which makes this a low-quality, badly-done, smiley-face advertisement for both patriarchy and ethnocide…

Take the village of Luoshui, the Mosuo community most effected by the cash economy. Thanks to tourism, this village now has a nascent sex industry revolving around karaoke bars. Horny male tourists are attracted by what they have been told about the “sexually liberated” women of the area.

Matriarchy as gimmick – and why not? Don’t we have the same phenomenon all over? (Just think of that “feminist” tv show, Sex in the City!)

Of course this “want-to-fuck-the-free-woman” fetish has its obstacles, as growing up female in a society where women hold so much power is not the kind of background that tends to push one into sex work. The fact of the matter is that many of the “Mosuo” women in these bars are in fact from other ethnic groups, told by the pimps to pretend to be Mosuo to fulfill the customers’ fantasies. Traditionally there is a strong taboo regarding sex with outsiders amongst the Mosuo – little wonder given what we know about the importance of sex in extending patriarchal relations into non-patriarchal societies. (Quoting one Mosuo woman: “Tourists are welcome here so they can witness our way of life, but for those who come here looking for free sex, we do not welcome such people.”)

Yet things like this were completely absent from The Last Matriarchy Family. Instead, we are introduced to a young woman who works in the cash economy, and is eager to leave her mother’s home and marry a man. This is explained by the narrator as a result of her being “enlightened” by the Han culture of the (mainly male) tourists she meets.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no clue what it’s like to be a member of the Mosuo nation, and i have no idea what the “right” path might be for a young Mosuo woman as the capitalist whirlwind that is modern day China closes in. But for me that’s just the point – the director obviously feels that he does know what the right decision would be, and so this film ended up reminding me of those racist documentaries about “primitive” people that get made by Christian missionary types.

And like all such cheap-ass propaganda films, half of the lie is in what is left out. The alternative, “more enlightened” patriarchal culture that is absent-mindedly “liberating” the Mosuo. This is China, an economic dynamo leading the way in capitalist productivity – on the cutting edge of progress, as one might say. And like all class societies when they’re revving their engines and taking off full speed ahead, this “progress” spells heightened exploitation and misery for whoever is at the bottom. Which in a patriarchal society means poor women.

Most people know that China’s rapid economic advance is fuelled by the labour of its highly exploited working class. But to say this and leave it at that is still to only tell half the truth, for in fact it is primarily the female working class which is producing the wealth pushing China to the capitalist fore. According to the China Business Review, “Though statistics show that the migrant labor male-to-female ratio nationwide is 2:1, in the Pearl River delta [the Special Economic Zone in Guangdong province, a key driver in the Chinese economy -K] the ratio is reversed. Job segregation in the delta pushes women into the unskilled, labor-intensive, and lower-paid apparel, footwear, and toy industries.”

So as the “People’s Republic” has lurched ahead over the past twenty years, even the government-affiliated All-China Women's Federation has found that women's social status has declined.

Today the female proletariat is sometimes paid as little as half a male worker’s wages while often working longer hours, on top of reproducing the larger working class by looking after children and men in the home… realities which form the lifeblood of all capitalist factions in this shiny 21st century – which is why the above observation about the Pearl River Delta could just as easily have been written about Canadian sweatshops in Haiti or American sweatshops in Mexico.

This is the reality which makes possible those “enlightened” middle-class tourists spending their vacation time trekking in to check out the “pristine,” “timeless,” “exotic” indigenous people of the world… people like the Mosuo…


“When your children will come here asking about the Kingdom of Daughters, my children will tell them that it was just a beautiful legend from the past.”
- Zaxidi, an old woman from the Mosuo nation

“Is it true that there are places where men beat women?”
- Zumaci, a member of the Mosuo nation

Disappointing though it might be, The Last Matriarchy Family did clue me into the existence of the Mosuo, and got me reading up on them via google and such. I learned some interesting stuff… things that – with the caveat that anthropologists and the like must be taken with a grain of salt – are worth repeating here. (For those interested, the most informative place to go seems to be the Lugu Lake Mosuo Cultural Development Association, founded by John Lombard, a “Canadian businessman who has lived in China for almost 13 years, and specializes in cross cultural consulting for multinationals”… makes you wonder what kind of angle he’s working, mind you…)

For one, by all accounts Mosuo society is not simply matriarchal in the sense that women have the power, but also exhibits many qualities common in non-capitalist indigenous societies the world over. Property is held in common, there is very little violence, and no great class differentiation. So matriarchy is not just like patriarchy with the roles reversed – men are not being beaten or raped or forced to do all the work “out of love” or any such thing. They’re not earning eighty or seventy five or fifty cents to the female dollar!

Instead, what we are told makes us think of a classless society.

Or at least that’s how we are told things were traditionally.

This classlessness is so alien to capitalist society that it is shaken up from the get-go by the current “modernization” and tourism development. According to John Lombard:

The rapid pace of change at Lugu Lake has resulted in a small number of Mosuo who have profited greatly, and many more who look on with envy/jealousy. Competition has led to the dissolution of strong community bonds, as people that once worked together for the community's good now vie with each other for personal benefit. Murder rates (many of which are never reported to the authorities) among Mosuo have increased greatly.

Sure as hell didn’t see anything like that in The Last Matriarchy Family!

Lombard quotes a Mosuo woman who explains that “Twenty years ago, we had much less than we do today, but we thought it was so much, and we were satisfied; today, we have much more, but we see it is so little compared to other people, so we are not satisfied.”

(This reminded me of another indigenous woman from the other side of the world, quoted in Marilyn Waring’s book Counting for Nothing: “In the old days,” said Maya Indian villager, Dona Ettelvina, “we were poor but there was plenty of food. Now, we have money but nothing to eat.”)

The Last Matriarchy Family pays no attention at all as to why the Mosuo might have this matriarchal society while other indigenous peoples in the region do not. In this regard, i found the story put forward by the Lugo Lake Cultural Association to be far more fascinating than the “living fossil” line put forward by tourism agents.

According to this story, the matriarchal system was in fact specific to the Mosuo peasantry. They were exploited and oppressed by a feudal patriarchal class of nobles. We are told that “It has been theorized that the ‘matriarchal’ system of the lower classes may have been enforced (or at least encouraged) by the higher classes as a way of preventing threats to their own power. Since leadership was hereditary, and determined through the male family line, it virtually eliminated potential threats to leadership by having the peasant class trace their lineage through the female line.”

A ruling class ploy subverted by the oppressed…

This account may be true or may simply be some anthropologist’s ticket to an academic posting… i have no idea… but if it is true i find it inspiring. We know from stories and reports and survivors’ accounts from every continent and time period that people have lived better lives in non-patriarchal societies. And we also know that patriarchal class societies are able to corrode these “matriarchies,” not only colonizing them but also distorting and overthrowing their traditional gender dynamics and communal egalitarianism, turning them patriarchal and capitalist.

What we do not have loads of stories about are societies which transitioned away from patriarchy. Societies where women reclaimed or regained power, and held it, and established sustainable systems which escaped the orbit of patriarchy.

So if this version of an egalitarian matriarchal society emerging from a patriarchal feudal one is true… it is something to take heart in. (And also to wish for more details about – like what happened to those patriarchal nobles?)


All of which makes for a weird post.

I don’t like writing about other people’s cultures. Especially not when i don’t trust any of the information i am passing on. Learning about people via anthropologists and documentary film-makers is at best like playing a game of broken telephone. At worst, you know (or more precisely, you don’t know!) you are being duped into believing the latest fairy tales being spun by your own culture.

Nevertheless, other people do exist. It would be stupid to pretend otherwise, no matter the serious distortion between them and what we are told about them. All over the world, people are people – human just like us – and yet their ways of life seem in some ways so much better than our own. Whether they like it or not, so often we look at them and come away feeling that we were not intended for this kind of life.

So there you have it. The story here is as much “Folks in patriarchal China and North America are fascinated at tales about matriarchy” as anything going on around Lake Lugo.

And the reason why we’re fascinated, and how our fascination increases as the degree of patriarchal domination in our home-societies increases… that is just plain obvious.