This post is a bit of a con and a cop-out. I haven’t felt like posting anything on here for the last few days. And certainly not anything makeup-related, or any other follies. These have been serious days, and the next few will be too.
Serious years, since 2011, since 1996, since … Well, for many people here: for their whole lives and those of generations of their families.
Imagine that you and all your relatives, back to the 1840s, had been forcibly put through Residential Schools. That’s around about the “Seven Generations” after which, yes, the “green” household products company was named. For the original, I refer you to the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy and, more recently, to Chief Oren Lyons. At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission events here in Vancouver (see <a href="http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Event+brings+residential+school+stories+light/8926721/story.html" title="this short superficial article in the Vancouver Sun” target=”_blank”>, and the TRC website), families have had five live generations present and all too often ancestral generations too, all affected by the national and international horror and shame that was this attempt to annihilate not just individual persons but languages, arts, technologies, cultures, religions, socio-politico-economic systems, peoples, and race.
Seven generations is a significant time: in the sense of duration and extent of duress, and in that of resonant symbolic meaning. It is remarkable that people are not in fact altogether destroyed after seven generations’ suffering. That, despite decimation and destruction, there may be hope and there’s evidence of courage and strength.
Traumatic loss and the biggest class-action case ever brought in Canada–and one of the biggest in the world ever–might lead to a strengthening of First Nations, and to an increase in wisdom, respect, courtesy, understanding, honesty, truth-telling, and sisterly love: fundamental human values desperately needed in the whole population; core to many Nations and to many other peoples worldwide (we’re all human); in dire need of revival and reinforcement in floppy relativist times. Strength and light out of darkness, damage, and despair.
We’ve listened a lot and, hopefully, learned; cardinally, the seven sacred teachings: love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility, and truth. These are core human values, of all nations, creeds, and cultures. Of feminist anarchist atheists too. That’s what makes them, and us, “human.”
We’re listening to stories and learning about gathering, telling, remembering, and retelling truths; in a virtuous circle that helps, salves and smoothes scars (though scars will and must remain, and scars can be ennobling and beautiful), heals, and as in all good history; that uses the past to build a future; that learns the lessons of the past, does not forget them, and yet moves on, but not in a “moving on” of erasing the past or declaring universal amnesties. It’s a moving on that is enriched by experience, that includes that knowledge: for a wiser future. I hope.
One of the moving things about the last few days here has been the sense of history: past history, generations of past history, histories plural–and/as individual stories, that build into a collective patchwork without losing any individuality in a throng or a general pattern–and also the sense of history of being, right here right now, in a moment deemed “historic” and accentuated as such by the design of ritual around it, by ceremony weaving through it. There has been a lot of talking and listening, which is a very “present” sort of activity: here and now, active and interactive, with “presence” physically and attentively of all concerned. Story-telling is important: for healing, for cultural transmission and/as education, for culture full stop. It’s important to the cultures present here at this Event. It’s also important to other cultures, its importance (ethically, politically, socially, educationally, historically, culturally, for identity…) understood by all of them. Story-telling is a great bridge to cultural divides, even with the cultures of oppressors, of those responsible for great evils here in Canada. That may help. I hope.
I’m reminded of an older fluidity across story-telling back in Europe, in the pre-modern, pre-colonizing era. But still not Eden-idyllic and innocent. Let’s not kid ourselves.
When the divide between “history” and “story” was more permeable, allowing greater sophistication and, through deliberate ambiguities and gaps for interpretation, making post-story-telling discussion essential and an essential part of the story itself, outside its confines, continuing it into future learning. When “truth” was in many places and many kinds of narrative, and in metaphorical forms like poetry, music, and dance too. When a piece could deploy any or all of these, and play with them, in a way to play with its audience and help them think, engage, discuss, and learn; in a way that is now more often associated with the post-modern. This is good: it might mean we’re through with many of the less positive aspects of modernity. Of course, no throwing out Modern babies with bath-water: no forgetting or erasing the past here either…
When arts could tell truths that might otherwise stay hidden, deep inner truths. Truths aren’t just facts, figures, data, photos of physical injuries, doctors’ reports. They’re intangible feelings too, with or without tears and other observable signs of pain. 21st-century medicine has come to recognize this, moving in more holistic directions, often informed by non-Western medicines (and indeed older Western, marginal medical non-systems, such as oral women’s traditions).
The arts can and do still serve this vital human and humane, healthy function: arts that move people, and also arts that are about those outer/inner differences. Commentary and criticism. All comedy. Satire. This Vancouver Truth and Reconciliation event has featured humour, music, dance, story-telling as truth-telling: a beautifully-crafted and significant work. May it be as therapeutic as the Early Modern Rabelais and Erasmus might have foreseen, and Montaigne–especially the Montaigne of Des Cannibales–for some Dead White European Males were also Men For All Seasons, humans and humanists, and quite the opposite of all that “Europe” too often symbolizes here, European colonization, its continuations, its negative associations. Rabelais, Erasmus, Montaigne and their ilk aren’t just Europeans of a certain place and time; they are also parts of world literature, of global universal human culture.
Back to our common bridge again, previously labelled as story-telling: take a second look and it’s grown, it’s the idea of culture itself, and of its humanity. Of how the arts and the humanities are one single thing, a grand great wondrous wise thing. Yes, the tables are turned and it is now the turn of the Old World to ask what-they-called-the-New if some of their own, European, culture might be included in what counts as “civilization,” and what “counts” and should be “valued.” Europe has a lot of healing to do too: and one of today’s sessions brought the Holocaust into the conversation, as “Survivors in Solidarity.” Cultural matters aside, Europe has to ask itself a lot of serious questions, and talk to other people outside Europe about them. Having the courage, humility, and respect to go to someone else for help? A first big step towards healing. Next step, talking honestly and telling the truth, however much it might hurt the teller, the listener, or both. Eventually, through subsequent discussion: the building of friendship. I hope: moving to love and wisdom.
The BC National Event here in Vancouver centres on the theme of honesty. It is the second-last of the seven; the final Event, next year in Alberta, might at long last be the one that brings Truth and Reconciliation to world headlines (and shame on journalists and their publications for not doing so most prominently: my beloved BBC, for one). There will be connections to protests against the tar sands. I hope.
This is now at least generation seven for many of those I was able and graciously allowed to listen to, so that I, like others there, could bear indirect and very passive distant witness to their martyrdoms. Yes, the religious terms are appropriate here: not least in reminding the Churches associated with the Residential Schools of the depth of their culpability and of how un-Christian it is to forget what passion, sacrifice, martyrdom, and witnessing are. See also, on Church lies and evil: Kevin Annett. And meet the TRC Honorary Witnesses. Meet also the delicate question of 21st-century conversion: collaboration, corruption, and the Church of Mammon.
Mascara: if you’re looking for one that withstands copious weeping well, for hours; and that is made by virtuous people with minimal harm to others (animals, earth); not by Big Bloody Business: Herban Luxe vegan waterproof mascara. The last thing on one’s mind in such circumstances. And thus the last thing in this post.
For more, and more important matters that matter, see previous post and its links. And the one before that. We’re now well into BC’s Year of Reconciliation, which continues into June 2014. This blog may well silence all follies, apart from ranting and raving and railing against them, until at least then. Ditto other online activities other than those that have some association, such as feminist comment. In these times, with these events, anything else would be beyond folly: crass, disrespectful, unconscionable, and inhuman.