In a matter of hours, Tom Flanagan’s professional life came crashing down around him. The Wildrose Party of Alberta cut all ties, formal and informal; his friends at the Prime Minister’s Office denounced him; the CBC no longer felt the need for his ‘expert’ opinions; and his long time employer, the University of Calgary, announced he would no longer be on their staff. Everyone pushed to create as much distance as possible from him in the face of overwhelming public outcry. The reason? A recent talk at the University of Lethbridge where he unequivocally stated that child pornography was just “pictures” that didn’t harm anyone.
Many have spoken out about the recent comments, the most important of which have easily demonstrated how child pornography is not only morally repugnant but also harmful to everyone involved, especially the children who are exploited and violated in the making of it.
What has been lost in the uproar over Flanagan is how he has made a career of speaking and advocating for positions that exploit, violate, and advocate violence. These recent statement are not an aberration or mistake, but part of a larger pattern of violence that has been normalized. What Flanagan’s fall from grace represents, as much as society’s intolerance for the exploitation of children, is how far the line has been set in terms of acceptable dialogue and exploitation of others. When CBC’s official statement cited that Flanagan’s comments “have crossed the line”, it’s a chance to understand where the line of acceptability had been set. And what falls on the side of ‘acceptability’ is a scary sight.
On November 30th, 2010, on the CBC show Power & Politics where he was a frequent contributor, Flanagan boldly called for the extrajudicial drone assassination of WikiLeaks head Julian Assange. When questioned on the appropriateness of the action, he responded: “Well, I’m feeling very manly today.”
While the Assange comment is perhaps the most titillating example of Flanagan’s pattern of violent rhetoric, the most damaging impact that he has had is on Indigenous peoples. Flanagan was one of the most public figures and government ‘experts’ in the fight to assimilate and decimate Indigenous peoples and rights within Canada. While his supporters argue that he only fought for the implementation of Indigenous private land ownership rights, as I’ve written elsewhere, the debate over land rights is more than a simple policy disagreement or point of debate – when land is threatened, Indigenous existence is threatened. As Wab Kinew (Anishinaabe) states: “This is about our ways of life, about the integrity of being Anishinaabe. If the land’s integrity is compromised, our integrity is compromised.”
As Indigenous writers have argued, the intent of privatizing Indigenous land ownership, is to not only once and for all “Kill the Indian to save the Man” but also to abdicate any responsibility Canada might have for both a long history of colonialism and oppression, as well as continued neglect for Indigenous peoples and their rights, neglect that accepts the ongoing violence against Indigenous women.
Privatization of Indigenous land rights not only seeks to assimilate Indigenous peoples but looks to open up the last slivers of protected land for resource exploitation. Flanagan’s denials that Indigenous rights do not exist are part of a longer history of denials that Indigenous peoples should not exist. His desire for land exploitation, part of a long history of taking from the land with little regard for the consequences.
Tom Flanagan has a long history of behavior that is steeped in the ‘manly’ beliefs that violence and exploitation are the answer to every problem. Be disgusted at his remarks on child pornography, but do not be shocked. Indigenous communities have long known the perverseness and depths of violence that Tom Flanagan advocated for, speaking against him at every opportunity. It was Indigenous activists who questioned, filmed, and exposed Tom Flanagan for all to see. For many who have fought against Flanagan and his work, they are happy to see his dismissal. But, aside from the removal of the individual, his handiwork – the long history and groundwork of exploitation and violence – remains. What are we going to do about that?
Nearly two years ago I began all-grain home brewing and, in that time, each batch has been produced in the same way, with the same equipment and with my friend-in-brewing under the moniker of Cat Burglar Brewing. We brew outside on a propane burner and, as you can imagine, when winter arrives brewing ceases to be any fun outdoors (though this year, we did brew into December including one nearly-zero night…). So, I decided to take it inside on my own this winter and see if I could transfer my skills and craft a brewing method made from equipment I already had.
So, with a few stock pots and a large strainer (more or less…), Tamarind Estate Ales (TEA) was born. Why the name? No idea really. I was at the zoo with my kids last fall and the tamarinds caught my eye – a cool looking primate! Estate ales would be an ideal (though mostly unrealistic) goal in my brewing, and the moniker T.E.A. seems cool in an understated hipster sort of way (it also hold marketing possibilities! “Have a cold TEA!”)
Inside, I am brewing in smaller batches. Outside, we were brewing 5 gallon batches while now I am brewing 1.5 gallon batches. Why? That’s the most I could do with the size stockpot that I already had… 1.5 gallons should give me 12-15 standard 12oz bottles or so.
I brewed my first beer to try and get a handle on the process, a basic hop-forward pale ale. I was happy with the process, though there will always be some tweaking to see if I can get it a bit better. For the brewers out there, I’ve hit about 75% efficiency on both go-arounds so far, which I’m happy with for now.
The spent grain from the beer even gets used to make my super mean granola (recipe here)! My second beer, a coconut porter, is bubbling away in the carboys (1 gallon jugs from grape juice).
As you can see, I’m having quite a lot of fun with hobby of mine!
A recent advertisement from Royal Bank of Canada, advertising absolutely nothing to do with Hawai’i:
A quote from Haunani-Kay Trask’s classic From a Native Daughter:
In the case of Hawaiian women, the definition of us as alluring, highly eroticized Natives is anchored by a tourist economy that depends on the grossest commercialization of our culture. Because of mass-based corporate tourism, our women have become purveyors of our dances, our language, our islands, in other words, all that is beautiful about us. This is cultural prostitution.
The latest affliction of corporate tourism has meant a particularly insidious form of cultural prostitution. The hula, for example, an ancient form of dance with deep and complex religious meaning, has been made ornamental, a form of exotica for the gaping tourist…Hawaiian women, meanwhile, are marketed on posters from Paris to Tokyo [and Canada] promising an unfettered “primitive” sexuality. Burdened with commodification of our culture and exploitation of our people, Hawaiians exist in an occupied country whose hostage people are forced to witness (and, for many, to participate in) our own collective humiliation as tourist artifacts for the First World.
This cultural appropriation and occupation of sacred culture will even sell online investing…
The first few pages of Notes From a Native Daughter (and even the whole book) should be required reading for anyone thinking of going on a vacation to Hawai’i…
Canada’s First Nations don’t want your pity, your humanitarianism or even your grief. Contrary to popular Canadian belief, they don’t even want your money.
They don’t want your humanitarianism because they’re not some pity case, some group that has had a rough lot in life and needs assistance to help them out of it. Humanitarianism is far from innocent; it implies a giver and a receiver, a relationship in which there is a large power and value imbalance.
Indigenous peoples don’t want your humanitarianism – they want promises honored and respectful relationships practiced. They want their nations recognized.
The deplorable conditions of Attaawpiskat, of which Chief Theresa Spence is (in part) protesting with her hunger strike, won’t go away with an infusion of cash. We can’t send the Red Cross and hope the images of suffering will go away.
Why would we want the images to go away? They remind us of the failed promises, of how Canadians have trampled on Indigenous peoples and attempted to erase them in order to claim legitimacy in Canada. The images remind us that our ‘discovery’ of Canada was actually a brutal conquest. A reminder that the so called ‘savages’ had civilizations and knowledges that have sustained them through genocide.
Indigenous peoples want respectful relationships, sovereignty, and – most of all – land. Which is also why you want them to go away. Land is wealth and that’s why we want to give our cash – we can always make more of that off the land. Land is control and that’s what we don’t want to give up. We want to make sure we remain in power, we want to keep privilege, we want to be the humanitarian giver. It’s all about power and control.
And that’s why treaties remain unhonored, why Indigenous peoples are still treated like wards of the state rather than sovereign nations (which they are), and why oppressive stereotypes (‘drunk’, ‘lazy’, ‘violent’) abound. They’re not Canadians and have very little desire to be ‘just another minority’ in our multicultural quilt. Their nations existeded long before we arrived and continue to exist today. To recognize Indigenous nations as equal would be to lose the top spot, to recognize that Canada is not the humanitarian, peace keeping beacon it imagines itself to be. It would be to admit that you are complicit in genocide, complicit in creating the conditions where hundreds of Indigenous can silently go missing, the conditions where Indigenous women don’t feel safe walking down the street.
I write this because the current protests under the banner of Idle No More are very much about the ‘we’ of this article, those of us who are non-Indigenous, those of us who are Canadians. It is about wresting equality, fighting for respect – things that we pay lip-service to daily (at least some of us). Things that shouldn’t have to be fought for.
So what can we do? I believe the answer, in part, is “co-existence through co-resistance” (and I highly encourage you to read this article in whole). It begins with individuals who are willing to act, to resist, and to stand up and demand that treaties be respected, people treated equitably, and sovereignty honored.
I encourage you to read and learn more. But don’t stop there. Stand up, act out.
To learn more:
This is an imagined conversation. It begins with a painting by Robert Houle, a Salteaux artist, of a Mississauga Indigenous man, where I imagine I am the ‘photographer’. I imagine a photographer because I read his painting as ‘painting against’ White photography projects of Indigenous representation, projects like those of Edward Curtis, who was known to travel with props to make his participants look more ‘Native’ to his Western audience, regardless of whether the props were relevant/native to that nation. It is purely an act of imagination, one in which the White projection of Indigeneity is explored and confronted with the reality of Indigenous sovereignty. I don’t presume to speak for Indigenous peoples, that’s not my place.
Photographer: That’s right, just a little to the side. Head up. No, no, look to the side, when you look right at the camera you give away too much, you need to be mysterious, leave something to the viewers imagination.
Mississauga: Why am I wearing this damn headdress, I’ve never seen one before in my life. And I think it’s going to mess up my hair.
Photographer: Stand still. Perfect. The necklace and the headdress contrast so nicely with what you’re wearing; a little bit of the old, a little bit of the new. Show the world how modern you’ve become. Smile a little.
Photographer: Actually, the stare is perfect, a little savage still. Or maybe resolute in the face of overwhelming odds. Or cold and devoid of emotion. So much to read into it. Just perfect.
Mississauga: Are we done yet?
Photographer: No no, just a few more shots – I’ve got a couple other things I’d like you to try on.
Mississauga: Do you think anyone is actually going to believe this dress-up game?
Photographer: Believe it or not – they’ll love it. Don’t you want to be loved?
Photographer: You’re lying, everyone wants to be loved – we’re all the same. You and I, we’re not so different. Just men wanting to be loved.
Mississauga: No. We’re not. We’re not the same. For one, I am in front of the camera with this hat on and you are behind it with that hat on. No one is taking pictures of you. Wait, that’s a good idea. How about you put on this hat on and I take a picture of you?
Photographer: No way, that would look ridiculous…and besides, I’m not nearly as interesting as you.
Mississauga: Exotic you mean.
Photographer: No no, I just don’t have the same history, the same story behind me.
Mississauga: You have a story. Your story is about how you took away my story, told me that my story was false and worthless, and then replaced my story with a savage void for White people to fill. And fill it they did. With head dresses and necklaces made of wild animals. With savage stares. With well meaning platitudes. With pain and displacement. With uncertainty and oppressive violence. With these damn missionary clothes you make me wear to appear modern and reformed. With genocide. With war whoops and scalps. With empty land for the taking and worthless land for the giving. With everything that your story was not. Dont be mistaken; you have a story and it is only because it is so closely intertwined with mine that you say you have no story.