Monday, January 25, 2010

Strike while the iron is hot

It appears that AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo may be more open to progressive proposals for change than originally thought.
In a recent story published in the National Post, it was stated that, "Mr. Atleo did indicate he would not stand in the way of moves allowing native Canadians to own freehold title over more on-reserve property, which has been suggested as an encouragement to entrepreneurship."

Monday, January 11, 2010


For the past while I have been fuming about something. 
It's not a particular policy issue, but a film.
On Christmas Day, I watched the movie Avatar. Besides being a breathtakingly beautiful picture, it is also a clear example of pure political propaganda, which makes it that more insidious. 
Of course, how do we accept negative or even evil things if they are not packaged in beautiful wrapping.
I bring this review here because the movie attempts to make a parallel between an alien civilization encountering humanity and European contact with indigenous peoples.
First of all, I do not make any pretense that indigenous-European relations have been peachy over the last century. Often times, relations were deceptive and downright coercive. 
What makes Avatar wrong is its over-simplified portrayal in order to form some kind of critique of Western civilization and modernity in its entirety. 
First of all, Europeans did not enter into a war of destruction from the start against indigenous people. Historically, relations were characterized by trade relations and later treaties that allowed First Nations to remain largely on their traditional territories. Thus, the portrayal of those relations is misleading.
The problem is some people learn history from films and this film teaches false history. 
The second problem is it over-romanticizes indigenous peoples. There is no violence. There are no gender relations problems. There are no issues over individual rights. Torture and violence were pre-dominant among some indigenous peoples. Of course, you wouldn't know that watching Avatar. You leave with the false impression that indigenous people lived an idyllic existence and Europeans were all evil. Also, a principle problem is the way it romanticizes primitive spirituality and appears to disparage science and modernity. A belief in a pantheistic deity is apparently much more important than science, medicine and technology. I am theistic, but I find this simple-minded dichotomy to be inaccurate and childish and ignores the infinite benefits modern civilization has brought to all of us, indigenous people included. 
One friend of mind commented that the movie would be quite long if it featured all the true nuances of history. Respectfully, I disagree fully. I have a large collection of films and one can capture points of nuance in half-hour sit coms better than Avatar. 
The other point is the cheap shots against American foreign policy. The one line "fight terror with terror" is an obvious cheap shot at the Bush Administration. This, of course, misses the entire nuances of why America and Canada went to war against the vicious Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. 
Thus, I think the negative effects of its propaganda far outweigh its artistic and aesthetic value. I think this cartoonish and simple-minded crap is one of the reasons relations between indigenous people and newcomers continue to be mired in misunderstanding and deception. 
Contact between indigenous and Western societies was not perfect, but it was one of give and take, where technologies and concepts were shared. Native people still live here. They still have a civilization worthy of honour. They can maintain their language and their culture, as well as their spirituality. 
Like I said, things ain't perfect, but modern civilization has brought many blessings to indigenous peoples. 
I rarely think of walking out of movies, but Avatar was a close-call exception. The propaganda became almost too much to bear. 
I hope and pray if people see it, especially indigenous people, they realize it is far from the reality of history, but is more about a constructed reality Hollywood liberals want to impose on all of us.