Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard, "Exposing the aboriginal industry," April 25, 2009.

[This is not a review but a "special" by the men who wrote the book. There is a real problem in the vicinity of this discussion, but it is much larger than Widdowson and Howard appear to believe.

For example, the authors imply that Canadian policy encourages Christians to approach myths in the Book of Genesis critically and not to believe that they are "just as valid as scientific theories." Would that it were true, alas.

They conveniently ignore, at least in this brief form of their argument, that Canadian policy on poverty and homelessness downtown is only slightly less disastrous than it is on the reserve.

That policy blindness concerning poverty is mirrored internationally by a system of rich imperial donors and highly indebted poor countries that has left nearly a billion--largely aboriginal people--to starve in a changing climate without clean water and certainly without self-government. From Walkerton to Waziristan, it's a familiar story. The whole self-righteous collection of ideas on the subject stinks.

It may just be, as the present economic crisis suggests once again, that the real crooks are the exalted ones. Blaming lawyers, consultants and corrupt other guys doesn't quite get to the heart of devastating class, race and gender discrimination which we tend to think of as a serious problem--elsewhere.

Richard Nixon's remark that anything the President does while in office is legal has recently been cited in discussions about the prospect of torture prosecutions in the US. This self-serving notion bears a striking resemblance to both the Divine Right of Kings and Papal infallibility. Yet, Widdowson and Howard express the opinion that we gave up at least the former along with blood-letting and burning witches at the stake. Speaking of which, it seems to me that we let the blood of our demons at Guantanamo or Syria, Abu Ghraib or Bagram, in the Vancouver Airport terminal or in a ditch outside of Saskatoon, whichever we think is farther from prying eyes at the moment.

"Exposing the aboriginal industry" is just the most recent in a long line of texts that aim to "civilize natives" so they can lead lives more like ours. If you are among the right race and class, you might not notice what a brutal civilization it is for others. It would certainly be cheaper to allow the old apartheid reserves to "wither away", but what would be a fair disposition of these Canadian allies' legitimate claims to land that has never been ceded?

It is strange that Widdowson and Howard hail the private provision of housing in Canadian as a success story at a time when the disastrously high cost of buying or renting accommodation and a shortage of publicly-funded "affordable housing" are driving more and more Canadians of all backgrounds to live under bridges and in homeless shelters.

Like Widdowson and Howard, I believe that the aboriginal version of this problem is even more serious than its variants in other parts of Canada. But stripping Indian people of their culture and then treating them the way we treat the rest of us is nothing at all like a solution. -jlt]

CALGARY–One of the most pressing problems in Canada today is the terrible social conditions that exist in many aboriginal communities. It is well known that the rates of poverty, substance abuse and violence are much higher for the native population, and that health and educational levels remain far below the national average. Even more disturbing is the fact that the alarming statistics persist despite billions of dollars being spent on programs and services to alleviate these Third World conditions. Why has so much government funding had so little impact?

Fifteen years ago we decided to try to provide some answers to these perplexing questions. The result is Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry: The Deception Behind Indigenous Cultural Preservation, a book that combines our own experiences with 10 years of additional research to investigate all aspects of aboriginal policy. It shows that the reason for the massive policy failure is that current initiatives are being formulated and implemented by a self-serving "industry" that works behind the scenes in aboriginal organizations.

Read the rest here =>
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