In the Nineties, a change began to take place. Reviewers and interviewers started describing Flashman (and me) as politically incorrect, which we are, though by no means in the same way.
This is fine by me. Flashman is my bread and butter, and if he wasn’t an elitist, racist, sexist swine, I’d be selling bootlaces at street corners instead of being a successful popular writer.
But what I notice with amusement is that many commentators now draw attention to Flashy’s (and my) political incorrectness in order to make a point of distancing themselves from it.
It’s not that they dislike the books. But where once the non-PC thing could pass unremarked, they now feel they must warn readers that some may find Flashman offensive, and that his views are certainly not those of the interviewer or reviewer, God forbid.
I find the disclaimers alarming. They are almost a knee-jerk reaction and often rather a nervous one, as if the writer were saying: “Look, I’m not a racist or sexist. I hold the right views and I’m in line with modern enlightened thought, honestly.”
They won’t risk saying anything to which the PC lobby could take exception. And it is this that alarms me – the fear evident in so many sincere and honest folk of being thought out of step.
I first came across this in the United States, where the cancer has gone much deeper. As a screenwriter [at which Fraser was almost as successful as he was with the 12 Flashman novels; his best-known work was scripting the Three Musketeers films] I once put forward a script for a film called The Lone Ranger, in which I used a piece of Western history which had never been shown on screen and was as spectacular as it was shocking – and true.
The whisky traders of the American plains used to build little stockades, from which they passed out their ghastly rot-gut liquor through a small hatch to the Indians, who paid by shoving furs back though the hatch.
The result was that frenzied, drunken Indians who had run out of furs were besieging the stockade, while the traders sat snug inside and did not emerge until the Indians had either gone away or passed out.
Political correctness stormed onto the scene, red in tooth and claw. The word came down from on high that the scene would offend “Native Americans”.
Their ancestors may have got pie-eyed on moonshine but they didn’t want to know it, and it must not be shown on screen. Damn history. Let’s pretend it didn’t happen because we don’t like the look of it.
I think little of people who will deny their history because it doesn’t present the picture they would like.
My forebears from the Highlands of Scotland were a fairly primitive, treacherous, blood-thirsty bunch and, as Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, would have been none the worse for washing. Fine, let them be so depicted, if any film maker feels like it; better that than insulting, inaccurate drivel like Braveheart.
The philosophy of political correctness is now firmly entrenched over here, too, and at its core is a refusal to look the truth squarely in the face, unpalatable as it may be.
George MacDonald Fraser, “The last testament of Flashman’s creator: How Britain has destroyed itself”, Daily Mail, 2008-01-05.
January 31, 2017
January 29, 2017
Published on 28 Jan 2017
Another exciting episode of Out Of The Trenches – this week Indy talks about Native Americans in the war, soldier superstitions and custom paint jobs for vehicles.
November 23, 2016
Answer: when federal bureaucratic rules interact unhappily with state-level bureaucratic rules. Eric Boehm explains why an artist is not legally allowed to market her beadwork as “American Indian-made”:
Peggy Fontenot is an American Indian artist, of that there can be no doubt.
She’s a member of the Patawomeck tribe. She’s taught traditional American Indian beading classes in Native American schools and cultural centers in several states. Her work has been featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the Native American.
In Oklahoma, though, she’s forbidden from calling her art what it plainly is: American Indian-made.
A state law, passed earlier this year, forbids artists from marketing their products in Oklahoma as being “American Indian-made” unless the artist is a member of a tribe recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Patawomeck tribe is recognized by the state of Virginia, but not by the federal government. Fontenot says she can trace her Native American heritage back to the 16th Century, when the tribe was one of the first to welcome settlers from Europe who landed on the east coast of Virginia. She’s been working as an artist since 1983, doing photography, beading, and making jewelry.
According to PLF [Pacific Legal Foundation], Oklahoma’s law could affect as many as two-thirds of all artists who are defined American Indians under federal law. The state law also violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause by restricting the interstate American Indian art market, the lawsuit contends.
September 29, 2016
Published on 1 Sep 2016
After getting the Seneca to join the Great Law of Peace, Hiawatha came up with a plan to convince Tadodaho. But it took Jigonsaseh to confront him and make him become a true leader. Now united, the Five Nations created a participatory democracy rooted in the Peacemaker’s ideals, one that still lives on today.
Three nations had united under the Great Law of Peace, but the Seneca and Onondaga remained outside it. Both nations relied on war for their power – but also for their safety. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker came to the Seneca expecting an argument, but Jigonsaseh had already convinced them since she was Seneca herself. All but two of the chiefs were ready, but those two chiefs feared what would happen if other nations brought war to their borders. The Peacemaker called a council to discuss their concern, but it quickly dissolved into in-fighting and arguments. To solve it, he established a bicameral legislature where each tribe had a turn to speak. Hiawatha joined the Mohawk and helped legislate a solution, putting the Mohawk and Seneca in charge of the borders with the authority to call the tribes together in war if outsiders threatened the confederacy. The envoys also agreed to follow his plan for Tadodaho. They returned to the Onondaga nation and offered to make Tadodaho their leader, with veto powers over every law. He immediately saw the potential to grow his power, but Jigonsaseh confronted him for his greed and cruelty and convinced him to use his power responsibly. With him, the Onondaga joined the Great Law of Peace. Now Jigonsaseh sat with the women’s councils and selected the League representatives, for the women owned the council positions and chose the men who served in them. Those representatives met the Peacemaker on the shores of Onondaga Lake, where he demonstrated how a bundle of five arrows, like the five nations, could not be broken. Then he had them bury their weapons under a white pine tree guarded by an eagle. Those symbols would later be adopted by the United States, whose Founding Fathers studied the Great Law of Peace and adopted many of its principles into their own Constitution. The original Haudenosaunee League drafted laws based on the Peacemaker’s teachings, creating a government that served the will of the people. Hiawatha commemorated each of these laws with a series of wampum belts, most notably the Hiawatha Belt which symbolized the five nations coming together in peace. The government they created has lasted for centuries, making it one of the longest lasting participatory democracies in the world.
September 24, 2016
Published on 25 Aug 2016
Hiawatha wanted peace, but a more powerful chief named Tadodaho opposed him. So he joined forces with a man called the Peacemaker and a woman named Jigonsaseh, who dreamed of uniting the five Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) nations under one Great Law of Peace.
CORRECTION: Art for this series was incorrectly credited. This art was done by Lilienne Chan.
Long before Europeans arrived in North America, five nations formed a confederacy guided by a Constitution called the Great Law of Peace. Though they are often called Iroquois, their name for themselves is Haudenosaunee, People of the Long House. One of the founders of their confederacy was Hiawatha, an Onondaga chief who lived under the thumb of a brutal war chief named Tadodaho. Hiawatha attempted to convince all the other Onondaga that they should embrace peace, the way their neighbors the Mohawks recently had, but Tadodaho thwarted his efforts. Hiawatha left his home to travel to Mohawk territory and meet a man called the Peacemaker, who had brought peace to the Mohawk. He gave the Peacemaker a string of wampum beads to symbolize his desire for peace, and it soon became clear that they were kindred spirits. The Peacemaker wanted to bring the Five Nations, who had once been brothers, together in peace, and he joined forces with Hiawatha to make it happen. Their first goal: to recrut Jigonsaseh, a Seneca woman already famed for her efforts to establish small, local peace agreements between the warriors who frequented her long house. The Peacemaker described to her his plans for a government where women like her, as clan mothers, played an important role, and she embraced his message. Together they traveled to the Oneida to recruit their first ally. The Oneida debated the wisdom of accepting peace for a full year, but the Peacemaker’s passion convinced them and at last they joined. Hiawatha hoped that this alliance would impress Tadodaho enough to get him to join the peace as well, but when they returned to Onondaga territory, Tadodaho made it clear that he still had no interest in their peace. The Peacemaker encouraged Hiawatha to keep thinking about this problem, and meanwhile they traveled to recruit the Cayuga nation. As “little brothers” of the Onondaga, they had suffered greatly from Tadodaho’s demands, and an alliance with two other nations struck them as the perfect way to free themselves from him and create a new path for their people. Now only two tribes remained to recruit: the Seneca and the Onondaga.
July 19, 2016
Published on 18 Jul 2016
Francis Pegahmagabow was not only the most successful sniper of World War 1, but he is also among the most decorated aboriginal soldiers in history. He joined the Canadian Army in 1914 and quickly made a name for himself as a sniper during reconnaissance missions.
June 24, 2016
Jonathan Kay on the problem with discussing First Nations people as if they are “Magical Aboriginals”:
… the path toward reconciliation doesn’t always run through Ottawa or Rome. Reconciliation also can take place at the level of friends, family members and neighbours. In a newly published collection of essays, In This Together, editor Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail brings together fifteen writers — some Indigenous, some not — who describe how this process has played out in their own lives. “[The authors] investigate their ancestors’ roles in creating the country we live in today,” Metcalfe-Chenail writes in her introduction. “They look at their own assumptions and experiences under a microscope in hopes that you will do the same.”
In This Together is a poignant and well-intentioned book, and one that deserves to be bought and read. It is also informative and unsettling — though not always in the way the authors intend. Taken as a whole, the stories betray the extent to which guilt, sentimentality and ideological dogma have compromised the debate about Indigenous issues in this country.
In describing the stock “Magical Negro” who often appears in popular books and movies, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu once noted that this type of character typically is shown to be “wise, patient, and spiritually in touch, [c]loser to the earth.” (Think of Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding in The Shawshank Redemption.) In This Together contains a menagerie of similarly magical-seeming Aboriginals who are “soft-spoken” and “insightful.” A typical supporting character is the hard-luck Aboriginal child whose “entire face seemed to radiate a quiet knowing.” Older characters speak in Yoda-like snippets such as “There is much loss — but all is not lost.”
White characters in this book mostly are presented in the opposite way. They tend to be cruel, obese (“bulging,” “fat, red-faced,” “plump”), and soulless. Streetly goes even further, describing outsiders who come to Tofino as “faceless, meaningless” — as if they were robots. In a story about a First Nations woman with the dermatological condition vitiligo, Carol Shaben casts whiteness as an imperial disease — “an ever-expanding territory of white colonized the brown landscape of her skin.” In matters of economics, whites often are depicted as amoral capitalist marauders (“quick to brand and claim ownership”), while Indigenous peoples are presented as inveterate communitarians — gentle birds who “soar above the land, take stock, perch without harming, settle without ownership, and be grateful without exploitation.”
For decades, it has been a point of principle that Indigenous peoples in Canada must chart their own future without interference from outsiders. Our First Nations will have to make difficult decisions about what mix of traditional and modern elements they want in their society; and address wrenching questions about integration, relocation, language use, and education. Addressing these hard questions will be all the more difficult if Canada’s leading thinkers — even those with the best of intentions, such as the authors of In This Together — build the project of reconciliation on a foundation of attractive myths.
It is our moral duty as a Canadians to acknowledge the full horror of what was done to Indigenous peoples. But we must not respond to this horror by seeking to conjure an Indigenous Eden of postcolonial imagination — a society that never truly existed in the first place.
October 7, 2015
Ralph Peters on the history of Argentina during the colonial era:
In the 19th century in the Western hemisphere, two states fought a protracted series of wars to subdue their frontiers, the United States and Argentina. Others, such as Chile or Canada, saw lesser violence, but the great wars of conquest were directed from Washington and Buenos Aires.
And the Argentine conquest appears to have been the crueler.
Settlers in the Spanish territory that became Argentina faced Indian threats from the beginning, but as the population swelled and expanded its territorial claims, the violence grew more frequent and extreme, with Indian raids on settlers similar to those experienced on the American frontier. Finally, in 1833, Juan Manuel de Rosas — a man of great vision and spectacular brutality who would rule Argentina as dictator — launched his “Desert Campaign,” which pushed back the frontier to Patagonia. Still, Indian raids continued, on and off, as did minor punitive expeditions, until the 1870s saw the years-long campaign, the “Conquest of the Desert,” that finally mastered all of Patagonia — which would become Argentina’s agricultural heartland, facilitating a turn-of-the-century economic boom.
Those wars saw a long list of massacres, atrocities, forced removals and the treatment of Argentina’s aboriginal peoples as animals, rather than humans.
When the Pope told Americans not to judge the past by today’s standards, we thought of our “Trail of Tears,” or of the last, murderous drives to contain our Indians on bleak reservations. But the Pope saw mounted troops in Argentine uniforms hunting down natives like game animals.
November 2, 2014
The Washington Redskins are in Minneapolis today to face the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams have 3-5 win/loss records and both are coming off wins last weekend. However, this weekend’s pregame festivities will include protests against the Washington team name:
People who want Washington to abandon the Redskins nickname are taking their protest to the streets.
After a rally at David Lilly Plaza, several hundred people are marching through the University of Minnesota campus to TCF Bank Stadium, where Washington plays the Minnesota Vikings. Four men banging a traditional drum and women carrying a banner reading, “No Honor in Racist Nicknames or Imagery” are leading the March to the stadium, about a mile away.
“Today it’s going to stop,” Clyde Bellcourt, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, said before the march began.
— Steve Wyche (@wyche89) November 2, 2014
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 2, 2014
July 5, 2014
When I saw the initial reports on the Supreme Court’s decision in Tsilhqot’in Nation versus British Columbia it sounded like the Supremes were ordering the province to pack up and move out … that most (all?) of the land previously known as British Columbia was now to be handed back to the First Nations bands. I guess it’s not quite so apocalyptic, although it will complicate things. Colby Cosh talks about the historical record that informed the decision:
Like everyone else who has studied the Supreme Court’s dramatic decision in the case of Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, my response largely amounts to “Well, sure.” “Tsilhqot’in” is the new accepted name of the small confederacy of B.C. Indian bands long called the Chilcotin in English. They live in a scarcely accessible part of the province, and one reason it is scarcely accessible is that the Chilcotin prefer it that way. In 1864, they fought a brief “war” against white road builders, killing a dozen or so. The leaders of the uprising were inveigled into surrendering and appearing before the “Hanging Judge,” Matthew Begbie. True to his nickname, he executed five of the rebels. But that road never got finished.
In most of Canada, occupancy by “settlers” whose ancestors arrived after Columbus has been formally arranged under explicit treaties. There is a lot of arguing going on about the interpretation of these treaties. But, broadly speaking, most of us white folks outside B.C. have permission to be here. Our arrival, our multiplication and the supremacy of our legal system were all explicitly foreseen and consented to by representatives of the land’s Aboriginal occupants. The European signatories of those treaties recognized that First Nations had some sort of property right whose extinction needed to be negotiated.
Oddly, this concept was clearer to imperial authorities in the 18th and early 19th centuries than to those who came later. The Royal Proclamation of 1763, for instance, recognized the right of Indians to dispose of their own lands only when they saw fit. By the time mass colonization was under way in British Columbia, the men in charge on the scene had absorbed different ideas. Concepts of racial struggle were in vogue, and so were straitlaced, monolithic models of human progress.
And the problems going forward?
The biggest problem for large infrastructure projects in the B.C. Interior may not be the collective nature of “Aboriginal title” alone, but the fact that it is restricted in a way ordinary property ownership isn’t. “It is collective title,” writes the chief justice, “held not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations. This means it cannot be alienated except to the Crown, or encumbered in ways that would prevent future generations of the group from using and enjoying it.” The special category of legal title devised for First Nations turns out to have a downside: Even completely unanimous approval of some land use by a band or nation may not suffice if people who do not yet exist are imagined disagreeing with it. Would you care to own a car or a house on such terms?
Update, 11 July: Perhaps I spoke too soon that this ruling didn’t mean the non-First Nation inhabitants need to move out of the province.
British Columbia First Nations are wasting no time in enforcing their claim on traditional lands in light of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing aboriginal land title.
The hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan First Nations served notice Thursday to CN Rail, logging companies and sport fishermen to leave their territory along the Skeena River in a dispute with the federal and provincial governments over treaty talks.
And the Gitxaala First Nation, with territory on islands off the North Coast, announced plan to file a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Appeal on Friday challenging Ottawa’s recent approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta.
The Kwikwetlem First Nation also added its voice to the growing list, claiming title to all lands associated with now-closed Riverview Hospital in Metro Vancouver along with other areas of its traditional territory.
They cite the recent high court ruling in Tsilhqot’in v. British Columbia.
In the short term, the ruling will impact treaty negotiations and development in the westernmost province, where there are few historic or modern treaties and where 200 plus aboriginal bands have overlapping claims accounting for every square metre of land and then some.
“Over the longer term, it will result in an environment of uncertainty for all current and future economic development projects that may end up being recognized as on aboriginal title lands,” wrote analyst Ravina Bains.
July 3, 2014
The coalition of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans* people has a problem: the big tent approach requires that they acknowledge the members of their coalition more directly, leading to a situation where they’ve “had to start using Sanskrit because we’ve run out of letters.”
“We have absolutely nothing in common with gay men,” says Eda, a young lesbian, “so I have no idea why we are lumped in together.”
Not everyone agrees. Since the late 1980s, lesbians and gay men have been treated almost as one generic group. In recent years, other sexual minorities and preferences have joined them.
The term LGBT, representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, has been in widespread use since the early 1990s. Recent additions — queer, “questioning” and intersex — have seen the term expand to LGBTQQI in many places. But do lesbians and gay men, let alone the others on the list, share the same issues, values and goals?
Anthony Lorenzo, a young gay journalist, says the list has become so long, “We’ve had to start using Sanskrit because we’ve run out of letters.”
Bisexuals have argued that they are disliked and mistrusted by both straight and gay people. Trans people say they should be included because they experience hatred and discrimination, and thereby are campaigning along similar lines as the gay community for equality.
But what about those who wish to add asexual to the pot? Are asexual people facing the same category of discrimination. And “polyamorous”? Would it end at LGBTQQIAP?
There is scepticism from some activists. Paul Burston, long-time gay rights campaigner, suggests that one could even take a longer formulation and add NQBHTHOWTB (Not Queer But Happy To Help Out When They’re Busy). Or it could be shortened to GLW (Gay, Lesbian or Whatever).
An event in Canada is currently advertising itself as an “annual festival of LGBTTIQQ2SA culture and human rights”, with LGBTTIQQ2SA representing “a broad array of identities such as, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirited, and allies”. Two-spirited is a term used by Native Americans to describe more than one gender identity.
Note that once you go down the rabbit hole of ever-expanding naming practices for ever-more-finely-divided groups you end up with the 58 gender choices of Facebook and instant demands to add a 59th, 60th, and 61st choice or else you’re being offensively exclusive to those who can’t identify with the first 58 choices. I’d bet that one of the criticisms Julie Bindel will face for this article is that she uses the hateful, out-dated, and offensive terms “transsexual” and “transgender” when everyone knows the “correct” term is now “Trans*” (perhaps deliberately chosen to ensure that you can’t successfully Google it).
June 19, 2014
March 5, 2014
Adrianne Jeffries talks about a Bitcoin-like currency that the Lakota have adopted as their official currency:
The programmer and Native American activist Payu Harris raised a gavel Monday night and vigorously banged the bell to open trading at The Bitcoin Center, a meeting space for virtual currency geeks that looks like an empty art gallery in the middle of New York’s Financial District.
Harris was there to promote MazaCoin, a cousin of Bitcoin that is now the official currency of the seven bands that make up the Lakota nation. After an hour of questions, Harris thanked the small crowd and was promptly accosted by a tall man and a woman in red who wanted to buy some MazaCoin, which Harris was selling for 10 cents apiece. The two trailed him around the room as he hunted for a printer so he could issue the digital currency on paper. MazaCoin is a month-old cryptocurrency based on the same proof-of-work algorithm as Bitcoin, the virtual currency that approximates cash on the internet — but no one in the room was equipped to make a digital trade.
There have been a slew of copycats since the rise of Bitcoin in 2009. The first wave attempted to improve on the basic Bitcoin protocol. The second wave, which includes the meme-based Dogecoin and the Icelandic Auroracoin, are catering to specific groups.
October 17, 2013
Damariscotta, Maine, is a village about forty percent of the way to Canada along the Atlantic coast, with about 2500 people living in it, and at least that many gawping at it at any given time. It’s cuter than a baby trying to eat an apple.
Damariscotta is an Indian name that means something in Indian, I suppose. I don’t speak Abenaki, and neither do Abenakis, so there’s no use askin’, but I think it means: “Place we’ll burn down during King Philip’s War, and again a few times whenever we’re bored and the sheriff’s drunk during the French And Indian Wars.” The colonists got jealous of the Indians getting to burn the place down fortnightly, and burned the place down themselves so the British couldn’t occupy it during the Revolutionary War, or maybe so the bank couldn’t repossess it, I can’t remember, I was very young back then.
The restaurant was identified to me as haunted, anyway. I was likewise informed that there’s a tour that points out all the local haunted houses, which includes most every building in town but the Rexall. No one ever wants to die and haunt a Rexall. It ain’t dignified. I believe to a certainty that I was supposed to be interested in the fact that the building I was in was haunted by someone besides a man with a liquor license, but I have a defective nature and I wasn’t; but I was fascinated to learn that out-of-plumb doorframes, squirrels in the attic, and a hint of cupidity is enough to get you a paying job lying to people “from away.” And to think I’ve been lying to strangers for free all these years, and on more diverse topics.
There’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed in small cities in the East. The really nice looking cities are made of brick, and all the buildings look like one another, because everything that was there before burned down eleven or four or nine times, until the residents all decided brick buildings were cheaper than a fire department, and built everything at the same time under a regime of architectural and intellectual coherence that is not abroad in the land just now. Damariscotta’s like that; Providence, Rhode Island, parts of Boston, and Portland, Maine are too.
One likewise cannot help but notice that in Damariscotta, the rhythm of the lovely brick buildings, with the occasional gawjus neoclassical residence smattered in, is broken only by the public library, which is fairly new, and built in the Prairie/International/Cow Barn/Reform School style, because reasons. There’s a plaque on the sidewalk that declares the entire downtown a member of the National Register of Historic Places, so you have to check with someone official about the color of the mortar you’re using to fix a brick on your haunted ice cream parlor or haunted Kinko’s or whatever you’ve got, but the town can hire Frank Lloyd Wrong to design the library and place it there like a dead cat at a picnic.
June 12, 2013
David Akin in the Toronto Sun:
The Canadian government announced new measures Tuesday that will force oil, gas, and mining companies to publicly disclose every penny they pay to any government at home or around the world.
The move is seen as an anti-corruption measure and one that many activists groups that work in the developing world, such as Oxfam, have been demanding for years, particularly since Canada is home to a majority of the world’s mining companies.
The European Union and the United States have already moved towards mandatory reporting requirements for their mining companies.
There have been cases in some developing countries where multinationals pay a host government substantial sums for the rights to oil, gas or minerals, but the local population complains that they do not know how much their governments are getting and, as a result, cannot demand their governments spend some of that wealth on them.
It’s not just in developing countries, either, as some First Nations activists have complained that they can’t get information on what their band councils receive in various resource development deals here in Canada. Of course, some (many?) deals get done with a bit of bribery to sweeten the attraction, but not every country will have (or enforce) rules like this.