Thursday, January 31, 2013

We are better than that

The thing about abortion is that it doesn't empower women.   Women don't choose abortion like they choose which dress to wear, they choose abortion as a last desperate action because they see no other option.  Instead of cultivating respectful, responsible relationships between men and women, abortion makes it a lot easier to be irresponsible and selfish.

Feminist activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns writes this article: The time I told a group of anti-choice teenagers about my abortion.

"I could never get past the terrible trap that an unwanted pregnancy must seem to be to the person enduring it. I spent a lot of time, back then, thinking about imprisonment and escape."

Dealing vs Deleting

When you choose to deal with the curve balls life throws you, the bars of a cage disappear.  Nothing can hold prisoner the person who chooses to deal with a thing.  In order to advance in life, you must overcome the obstacles and challenges thrown at you.  Sometimes, those challenges come from bad choices you made, so facing up to that and taking responsibility for it seems to me, to be the obvious thing to do.  Abortion does not deal with the curve ball, it seeks to make it not exist.  The problem with that is that it does not make the child non-existent.  It just makes you the father or the mother, or the sister/brother/grandparent of a dead child.  You did not make him not exist.  You made him die.

Sometimes challenges come from something external to us.  The characteristic of the hero is that he or she rises to the challenge and sacrifices something of him/herself for the better good.  Personal sacrifice actually brings rewards.  There is no good in this world that has not been brought about by some personal sacrifice on the part of someone.  The good outweighs the sacrifice.  Abortion simply implies that women are weak-minded creatures, incapable of heroism.  To choose to do what is right, to cross the hurdles, to climb the cliffs, to make it to the top, despite what you thought (or others thought) you could do, that is empowering.  To hide is not.  What do parents teach their children these days?  That there are no consequences for our actions?  That we can just go on making bad decisions and never have to deal with unhappy things in our life?  Life is not consequence-free.  Even abortion has its consequences: guilt, depression, infertility, problem pregnancies and death.  Yes, even death in a legal clinic.

Feelings don't Make a Wrong Action Right

I had an "unwanted" pregnancy once.  That is to say, I certainly did not want to be pregnant at the time.  My child was never "unwanted".  Just the circumstances of pregnancy.  I know the feelings of just wanting it not to be.  How could I face up to my family, friends and the Catholic group I was in at the time?  How would I finish university?  How would I support a child, alone?  The shame of it was the worst.  How could I be a single mother?  This was not how I had foreseen my life at all.

Feelings do not make your actions good or bad.  Feeling hurt that your boyfriend is cheating on you, for example, does not make murdering him or the other girl okay.  Feelings are temporary.  Actions are permanent.  The feelings go away, the action NEVER WILL.  You may be feeling trapped, scared, ashamed, helpless, or depressed,  That does not mean that there is no help or hope for you.  If you really do not want a child, there are worse things in life to suffer than a nine-month pregnancy, and there are whole lists of people waiting to adopt.

I chose to keep my child, and I have never felt imprisoned because of it.  I have never regretted it, not once.  I went back to university, I crossed that hurdle, I finished my degree.  I always had help and support.  To say that pro-lifers only care about ensuring that the fetus survives then forget about the child and mother is nonsense.  I had support well past my son's birth.  Sometimes I would come home and find bags of groceries waiting at my door.  People babysat for free.  Others gave me free furniture.  Children are not the end of your life, they are the beginning of a new chapter.  My children do not keep me from accomplishing things, to the contrary, they are often my source of inspiration.  I can say that I am a stronger, better person today for taking on the hurdles life has put in my way.  How many women can say abortion has made them a stronger, better person?

"It’s true I was troubled when I was eighteen. When I found I was pregnant, I told my boyfriend that I would kill myself, but if he wanted to raise a child, I would wait to give birth, and then kill myself. I had attempted suicide before, ending up hospitalized, at thirteen, for weeks. By eighteen it had begun to seem I might survive my childhood, but I didn’t believe I could survive being responsible for someone else’s."

A Terrible Childhood does not Make a Wrong Action Right

I'm sorry she had a hard childhood.  Truly I am.  I did not have an easy childhood myself. I was ostracized, picked on, put down, laughed at, left out, told I was undesirable, randomly kicked or punched in passing, and was constantly told that I was no good for anything.  Shall I go on?  My father had to come and pick me up after school twice a day, every day in grade four because a group of 5 or 6 boys waited outside the school door every day so they could beat me up.  Secondary school was slightly better.  If I had not had loving parents, I might have tried to commit suicide myself.

I got over it.  I have (mostly) moved on.  Having an abortion does not "save" you from an unhappy childhood or a desire to commit suicide.  Seeing a psychologist and dealing with it does.  Once again, an action is not made good or bad by the childhood of the person committing it.  It may help to understand why the person may have done a thing, but it does not change the nature of the action. If I were to go back and beat up all the people who once beat me up when I was a kid, it might be understandable, but it would still be wrong.

The Pro-life Generation, Shallow?

Ms Kinsey-Bruns assumes that she is like the teenagers who go to the pro-life march in Washington DC.  Or rather, that they are like her.  Just kids who aren't really pro-life; they're only in it for the field trip.

I don't deny the possibility that some teenagers may have been along only for the field trip. Certainly, the idea of going on a trip is appealing.  But that is not all that they are there for.  These young people are defiant and enthusiastic in their protest.  Not the kind of sentiment one would expect from people who are just there for the field trip.  These young people are the survivors.  Any one of them could have been legally aborted.  They are the lucky ones. That gives a person a different perspective in life.  Even in a public school, my 18 year old son said most of his friends were against abortion.  The tide is turning.

"As long as there are field-trip-loving Catholic-school kids, there will always be a March for Life."

Assuming that they may be more interested in the trip than the actual March proves nothing, as the same could be assumed of any teenagers attending any protest, anywhere, including the pro-choice protests.

Many of the young people at both the March in DC as well as in Ottawa are in their twenties and thirties, college-age, or working.  They've had plenty of time to be re-educated by today's society.  Yet they haven't been convinced.  The March for Life does not depend on field-trip-loving Catholic high-school kids.  How many of them are even Catholic?  Did you know that atheists also march for life?  Because "life is all there is and all that matters, and abortion destroys the life of an innocent human being."  Did you know feminists also march for life (with never a mention of God)?  Because "women deserve better."  Did you know that gays and lesbians also march for life?  "Because it is "consistent with the gay and lesbian struggle for human rights." Ms Kinsey-Bruns' statement sounds like the last-ditch attempt of a pro-choicer to convince herself that she is not on the losing side.

"So most years, I’m there at their March for Uterine Conscription too, in front of the Supreme Court with friends and like-minded strangers, holding pro-choice signs and arguing with dozens of adolescents—puffed up on privilege and inadequate adult supervision—who believe they are experts on sexuality and fetal development and parenting and medical tragedy and rape and regret."

The "March for Uterine Conscription"

I find it really sad when women become so delusional that they compare pregnancy to "uterine conscription".  It shows a lack of understanding of the beauty of life, and the beauty of motherhood.  It is not necessary to want to be a mother in order to understand the beauty of motherhood.  My own sister is a good example of that.  What I find ironic is that many of these same women probably also consider themselves very "pagan", nature-centered, environmental etc. For pagans and ancient cultures, fertility was up there in the realm of the gods. I'm pretty sure abortion would be sacrilegious.

Adolescents and Fetal Development

Ms. Kinsey-Bruns seems to think she is more of an expert than "dozens of adolescents".  Oh wait, did she really write dozens of adolescents?  There were over 600 000 people at this year's March for Life in DC, and she only saw dozens?  Interesting.  Back to the point.  Science teaches us that new life starts at conception, and that this new life has a DNA separate from the mother's DNA.  It is not a part of the mother's body, although it is being nurtured by the mother's body.  High school students learn this in biology class.  Is she going to refute biology then?  Does she have a different scientific theory on fetal development?  Even certain pro-choicers admit abortion terminates a life:

"This pro-life versus pro-choice dynamic often leads to intense clashes in the public sphere, with both sides accusing the other of restricting rights and advocating damaging policies. In a new piece that was published this week, Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams, a pro-choice adherent, decides not to steer clear of the “life” issue and asks: “So what if abortion ends life?”" (The Blaze)

Experts on Sexuality and Parenting?

Does Ms Kinsey-Bruns know that the many different people marching for life actually have many different views on sexuality and parenting and that likely very few of them consider themselves experts on the matter?  Oh right, probably not, since she only saw dozens of them, and they were all brain-washed Catholic high-school kids there for the field trip. She probably also thinks they are all perfect clones of each other.  Never mind, when it comes down to the basic question; whether abortion is the killing of a person or not, a person's views on parenting and sexuality don't really matter anyway.

Medical Tragedy, Rape and Regret

I think I will let the true experts; the ones who dealt with medical tragedy, rape and regret, and overcame them, (instead of pretending they didn't exist) speak:

On Rape:

"Joyce Ann McCauley-Benner was raped at 20 while working her way through college and chose not to abort, not knowing if her unborn son was the result of rape or of her relationship. She says, "I know what it's like to want to run as far away as possible from a problem, how it feels to hang on to 'if I wasn't pregnant anymore, it would all be OK again.'" Ms. McCauley-Benner, who graduated from college while raising her son, worked on a racial justice task force and has worked with victims of sex trafficking." ( Feminists for Life Speakers)

"Pregnancy can be punishing, but a child is not a punishment. When Julie Makimaa was reunited with her birthmother, Lee Ezell ("Victory Over Violence," The American Feminist, vol. 5, no. 3), Julie asked her if it would have been better for Lee if Julie was never born at all. Lee told Julie that she was the “only good thing to come out of the rape.”
When someone asks about exceptions for rape and incest, we must also consider how that makes those feel who were conceived through sexual assault. Well-meaning statements can hurt. As one UC-Berkeley grad student said to her pro-choice peers, “I have a right to be here.” They responded, “We didn't mean you!” She asked, “Who did you think you meant?”
My mother told this story to a coworker who agreed and said, "People never think they are talking to an exception—like me.” Could you look at someone conceived in violence and tell her that she never should have been born? What if it turned out to be your best friend—or a relative? Would that change the way you felt about her? Would you think less of her mother?
Rebecca Kiessling, a young attorney and mother who was conceived through sexual assault, asks “Did I deserve the death penalty?”" Can you imagine if we ranked the value of people based on the circumstances of their conception?" " (Feminists for Life Q&A)

On Regret:

"Jewels Green discovered she was pregnant at 17 and was pressured into having an abortion that led to depression and a suicide attempt. She then worked in an abortion center much of her young adulthood and became pro-life years later. She offers insider information from behind the closed doors of the abortion industry and unique insight into the highly personal journey of conversion. FFL was the first pro-life organization Jewels joined and worked as a volunteer before coming onboard as the Editor of FFL's magazine, The American Feminist."  (Feminists for Life Speakers)

Even Jane Roe (Norma McCorvey) of Roe vs Wade regrets her abortion and has her own pro-life movement called Roe No More Ministry.

There are forums at Feminists for Life for women who mourn their aborted children, not to mention Project Rachel, Rachel's Vineyard, Ramah International and Silent no More.  To imply that "regret" is not a problem post-abortive women face is gross ignorance of the facts.  These support groups simply would not exist if regret were not a problem.  A woman who says she had an abortion and does not regret it or at least think that it was a terrible thing even if "necessary" is deluding herself.  She is either lying to herself or she is totally oblivious of what abortion is.  It is these hardened people who come up slogans like "the March for Uterine Conscription" or "the fetus fetish" and consider fetuses to be parasites and children to be "snotty, disgusting brats".  This is the kind of thing that happens to people who live a lie.  They start to live in their own demented world.

On Medical Tragedy:

Pro-life people do not insist that a mother die in order to save an unborn child's life.  When a mother's life is in danger and the secondary result of a procedure to save the mother's life causes the death of the unborn child, it is not considered immoral.  The death of the mother would inevitably cause the death of the unborn child anyway.  Pro-life people only ask that doctors try to save both.  With technology advances these days, there is almost no reason why both cannot be saved.  Ectopic pregnancies are one exception.  If allowed to continue, both mother and child will assuredly die. We don't ask mothers to become martyrs but some mothers did it anyway, with no regrets.  To them, the life of their child was worth their own. Angelica Rosales Talavera's mother chose to carry her to term despite being at risk.  She gave birth to a healthy child and lived.

Just how many abortions are done in order to save the life of a mother?  In the UK, for example, between 1968 and 2011 only 0.006% of abortions were done in order to save the life of the pregnant woman or to prevent grave injury to her physical or mental health. (Parliamentary Business, UK July 19, 2012)


Ms Kinsey-Bruns walks into the reserved car full of students, assuming that they are all like her.  She manages to get out that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion, that she is one of them, and it saved her.  She tells them they can't tell others how to live their own lives (actually, yes we can, we do it all the time for things like rape, murder, theft, honesty, general decency and good will to others), she thanks them for coming to Washington DC, asks them to put their efforts into some other cause, repeats the 1 in 3 thing, says she's proud of it, tells them to have a safe trip, and leaves.  No dialogue.  No one else has a chance to say anything.

She thinks she may have made a difference.  How would she know, since she didn't hang around long enough to find out?  The comments on this are all about how brave she was and one person even congratulates her: "THANK YOU for your thoughtfulness and bravery. You put an adult face on the issue and definitely reached more than a few of the students. BRAVO!"

Once again, how would any one KNOW this, since she didn't bother to hang around long enough?  I know kids who have been to the March for Life in Canada, NONE of those I know were just in it for the field trip, and none of them would have been impressed by someone coming by, blurting out a short monologue and leaving in a rush.  They know their facts.  They would have easily stood by them.

"I put a call out on Facebook, asking if any friends could board in Washington with a Flip cam, for posterity and maybe for safety too. What if nuns came at me with rulers? Or maybe the kids would fall upon me and rend my flesh once they had heard my confession—Catholicism is pretty bloody. No one stepped forward to volunteer, but I decided that if the students were indeed marchers, I would do my speech anyway, alone."

"Nuns with rulers"?  Forgive me for laughing.  This is too stereotypical of a person who is having an adolescent crisis with the Catholic Church.

"Catholicism is pretty bloody."

Because abortion isn't.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Domestic care of the home - a profession?

I was given these questions to answer, some of which I answered rather briefly, as I'm not sure what anyone expected to learn from me, I am neither an expert nor very professional in the way I keep up my home, but I thought I'd post my answers here anyway.  I did try to be, if nothing else, honest.

Check out From Chore to Job, where housework is taken seriously.

  1. Do you see the domestic care of the home as a profession, and if so, how does one make it "professional"?
I see domestic care of the home not so much as a profession as a vocation.  Even then, it all depends on what we really mean by domestic care of the home.  If by that, we mean caring for our family and making it a good place to be, then it is a vocation.  If by that we mean keeping it neat and tidy and perfect-looking, then it is a chore.

I am not professional in any sense of the word when it comes to my home.  I am disorganized and somewhat inconsistent.  The only real professionalism I may have is the insistence that when you do a thing, you put some effort into it, and you do it properly.  The rest is trying to keep a balance between accommodating school, work and activities outside of the home with time to relax and time to do chores.

  1. When you decided to stay home to take care of your children, were there negative reactions from family, friends or colleagues?
Staying at home was a default choice.  I did not have a career to begin with.  We moved shortly after getting married and I had no job in the city we moved to.  No one said anything to me.

  1. What, in your personal family history, influenced you to make this decision?
My mother was a stay-at-home mom.  We never missed out on anything because she didn’t work outside of the home.  In fact, I think we had a richer childhood because she was consistently there for us.

  1. How do you manage to fit everything in: cleaning, cooking, kids, soccer games and school work, time with husband, friends, your own blog and novel writing?  Does something suffer or do you have a working plan with your husband and kids so that everyone is involved?
I don’t fit everything in.  One week my house may be cleaner than the next.  One week might see more gourmet meals than the next.  The only consistent things are the outside activities, such as soccer, swimming, catechism and mass.  I don’t set a time a part every day for working on a novel, I work on it when I have time.  I don’t keep up with my blog consistently, I write when I really have something to say.  I find that I can always fit in time for activities with friends and family, but then it is the housework that suffers.  Having some kind of routine does help; doing the same thing at the same time, if possible, ensures that the thing does get done.  Saturdays are usually chore days in our house. 

Priorities are important.  There are some things that are more important than a clean, perfect house.  Sometimes, you have to let go of that perfect dream house you had in your mind.  You don’t live alone.  The people you live with have different tastes and priorities.  Letting go of perfection is sometimes the best thing you can do.  This does not mean not insisting on good workmanship, or not making the children do their part.  It just means that sometimes, you do have to lower your standards, or risk going crazy.  I have one room in the house that I usually keep uncluttered.  The children do not bring their toys in there.  It is my space.  If I feel I am about to go insane, I retreat there.  There is at least that one place that is almost always up to my standards.  Any other room might be clean and uncluttered in the morning and by nightfall look like an earthquake hit it.

  1. Do you have hired help?  If not, would you ever consider it?
I do not have hired help.  I do not think I would ever consider it, except in cases where the job is something I can’t do, like electrical wiring, plumbing, construction, things like that.  I would not want to have a maid come in my house, for example and have to scrub my dirt.

  1. Have you ever felt envy for those out in the workplace, bringing home a salary?  Have you ever felt less accomplished as a woman, as a person?
I have never felt envy for women out in the workplace.  I think they should rather envy me.  I have had jobs from time to time, more recently, I had a part-time job, working mornings at a coffee shop.  I was always very tired, as I got up early, and went to bed late.  I would sleep in the afternoon, because I knew I’d be in bed late, because of all the evening activities, and homework.  Even so, I was often tired, and because I was sleeping in the afternoon, I lost out on that time in which to do anything.  My house was a mess.  I lived in horror of anyone visiting, I no longer wished to do birthday parties for the children, I didn’t have the energy, and there was the extra dirty house to be cleaned.  I put a lot of effort as I usually do, into Christmas but was too tired to enjoy it.  I have not looked for a new job since losing my job at the coffee shop.  I continue to do hairdressing at home, as I have always done (even when I was working at the coffee shop) and I have been doing some sewing as well.  I don’t feel less accomplished.  In a way, I feel more accomplished.  My house is much neater.  I don’t dread Christmas and birthday parties anymore.  I have time to repaint rooms and make improvements to the house.  But a part of me always feels guilty that I am not actually bringing in much money at all to pay for the bills.

  1. What, in your opinion, is the greatest obstacle to placing sufficient value on the professional running of a home?
I think the greatest obstacle to placing value on the running of the home, is that it is not a paid job, and in our society, unless you are paid for the work you do, or unless it is volunteer work you are doing for the whole community, then there is no value to it.  Taking care of the home is almost considered a “hobby” or a chore, something you do in your free time, when you are not contributing to society.  It is not considered a contribution to society to have happy, well-balanced kids with a stable atmosphere at home.  It is not considered a contribution to society to have a husband who, when he comes home from work, does not have to do a major part of the housework, homework with the children, and cooking.  He may still do some of it, but most of it will have been done already, if he has an organized and consistent wife capable of planning ahead (which I do not claim to be).  Society is too worried about money and things and not worried enough about well-being.

  1. What advice would you give to a couple starting out on the adventure of family life who are anxious to have one of them stay at home, but who don’t want to suffer financial stress?
Live according to your means.  Live on a budget.  Decide what your priorities are and what you can live without.  Almost everything can be bought second-hand.  There are countless ways of living frugal.  Learn simple things like mending and repairing so you don’t have to hire other people to fix things for you.  Do not be afraid (or embarrassed) to either accept or give charity.  Celebrate small things in small ways.  There is no need for extravagance; it is the people you are with, not the amount you spent on a thing that will make you happy.  Turn the heat down in winter and wear sweaters.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Exchange services with other people.

You can check out the interview on their site here:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

101 Reasons to be happy, Reason number sixty-three

Chicken soup

Chicken soup is only chicken soup to the sad, empty realist.

There is something in the marrow of the chicken bones that can only be released when boiled, some small magic, that, when released into the broth, becomes life-sustaining.  It brings comfort to the soul, soothes the mind, and puts a new spring into the steps of a weary traveler.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Idle No More - My two cents

I am a White woman, who grew up in Moose Factory, just south of Attawapiskat.  This is my perspective on Idle No More.  There are a lot of things, besides the problems with how First Nations are funded, or the problems with the Indian Act that Ezra Levant has pointed out; there is also the fact that whatever privileges Native peoples have, they need to stay on the reserve to receive them or to even be considered Status Indians. They lose their status if they leave. So they feel like prisoners. They hate the reserve, hate being stuck there, but are forced to stay there if they want their treaty rights.

At the same time, even if they do decide to leave anyway, White society is an extroverted society. Introverted whites grow up in that, and they learn to deal with it. Native society is much more introverted. So it isn’t just another culture, it's also another personality-type of culture.

I stayed for 6 months in Paraguay in 1993.  The similarities in culture between Paraguayans and people I knew in Moose Factory was actually quite amazing. Paraguay is mestizo, so it is very Aboriginal in its culture and way of thinking. It is very laid back, (in fact, Paraguay’s unofficial motto “Así no más” could very well be Moose Factory’s as well).  It is very quiet spoken, very extended-family oriented and community-solidarity oriented.  It is very macho, but at the same time, mothers/women have a big place. Very much like Moose Factory.

There were so many things people who went there with me questioned that I didn't even notice until they mentioned them! For example they would misunderstand "We should do this" for "Let's do this" and wonder why the Paraguayan never showed up.  Just the way they laughed was similar, or the way an event was supposed to start at a certain time, but that's only when people STARTED to arrive, and things really started 1/2 an hour later, once everyone was there, and they'd all had to time to greet each other first and chat each other up; get all the latest gossip.

Unless you are naturally an extroverted Native, or you have had frequent contact with white society, it is really hard as a Native, especially if you are naturally introverted, to leave the reserve and do well in white society. It can be very overwhelming. I know it wasn't easy for me to leave Moose Factory the first time I left, and I was brought up in a White family! Societal norms are different, the way of thinking is different, Whites are economy oriented, Natives are community oriented. It can be hard to sell yourself to get a job, because you're "not supposed to brag”. I STILL have that problem. I am always afraid of being too pushy, so I never really go out and get what I want, because you're not supposed to be pushy. Even after 22 years (over half my life) living in a White world, I STILL think that way, and I STILL can't get over it.

So, people who wonder why those in Attawapiskat just don't leave?  Well, they do.  They try.  But they come back. They love their land, and... living in a White world is hard.

Also, the way Native people negotiate is not the same way White people negotiate.  Without getting into the fact that Native people spend a lot more time discussing and making sure that everyone gets a say (which can be very frustrating for a White person who wants this taken care of yesterday), The Native person will tend to accept a deal for what they can get for now and then come back later.  The White person will refuse a deal if it does not give them all they want, (the all-or-nothing mentality vs the I’ll-take-what-I-can-get mentality) so when the Native comes back again, to the White person, who thinks it was all done and settled, it looks like the Native person is just never happy.

I have been doing a lot of observing recently, and I’m getting the impression that both sides are speaking the same language, but without understanding each other.  It’s like a marriage gone wrong.  Two people, one male, one female, one introverted, one extroverted, with opposite personalities, each with their strengths and weaknesses, different value systems and different needs.  Neither one is a bad person.  They are just both very different.

In order to find peace with each other, they need to discover how the other thinks, where he/she is coming from, and most importantly, what they really mean when they say this or that.  As in any relationship, blaming the other side is not going to work.  I am seeing a lot of this, and very little in the way of actual facts or explanation.

It is time to stop the blaming and start communicating.  It is time to seek out couple’s therapy.  A person, or people who have lived in both societies for a long time and are capable of understanding both cultural baggages need to be brought to the negotiation table.

Edited to expand on the "Whites are economy oriented, Natives are community oriented" idea:

Whites are economy oriented.  This is especially evident in the saying "business before pleasure." With Natives, the opposite is actually true.  In Moose Factory, it would be tea and bannock before business. You sit down, drink your tea, chat about the latest news (and I don't mean what you read about in the National Post, I mean what's going on in the community), and then, eventually, you get around to business.  It probably takes 2 or 3 hours to conclude an agreement that might take two White people half an hour or less.  But you built social ties that make that community bond even stronger.

I remember walking across the river from Moosonee to Moose Factory one day when I was a teenager.  I was offered a lift by a taxi driver who was also going over.  Since it was high tide, and there was water on the ice near the banks, I gratefully accepted his offer, which meant I didn't have to wade through water or try to find a way around it.  He dropped me off on the other side of the river and there was never any mention of payment.  It never even occurred to me to offer payment, even though this was a taxi, and he had customers at the time in the car, who were going to pay for his services.  Because what comes around goes around in Moose Factory.  Today, you gave me a lift across the ice.  Next week someone else will help you with something, and next month, you might help an elder bring her groceries home because her bags are really too heavy for her, and next winter someone else will help you dig your car out from the snow bank you slid into, on the icy road.  No mention of payment, ever.

In Paraguay, to offer payment for a service offered to you was a little like a slap in the face.  Kind of like implying that the only reason the person was offering in the first place was for the money.

When I moved to Québec, it took me years to finally understand that pretty much every single time someone offers to do something for you, you must offer money for it.  And this is not necessarily because they want the money, but because this is how gratitude is shown, and not only that, but how generosity is shown.  Because you will offer the money, but the person will most likely refuse it.  It doesn't matter.  In order to be able to refuse the money, it MUST first be offered.  And if you do not offer, the person will think you ungrateful.

I still, 22 years after moving away from Moose Factory, enjoy sitting down to chat before talking business.  I still have trouble accepting payment from friends even when it is my job.  They are my friends!  It feels wrong somehow.  Were I still in Moose Factory, I might provide free hair cuts to my friends, but maybe my friends might get a hold of a moose hide from a family member who hunted it, and they might make me a pair of slippers, for free.  So in the end, I'd still receive payment in a way.

There is more I could say about how bad of a business person I am in the White world and all the discreet nuances between the way White people do business and the way Native people do business, (and I am much more Native than White in that way), but suffice it to say that for Native people, unlike White society in general, relationships and community come before business.  Native people tend to build relationships and do business while they are at it.  White people build businesses and often leave relationships out of it.

Edited again in regards to equality vs assimilation:

When negotiating with First Nations, one really must remember that there are a lot of unforgotten issues that First Nations have with White people, (especially Government and Church) among the most important of which is the issue of residential schools.  Children were taken away from their parents with no regard for the desires of either and put in schools where White people basically tried to take the Indian out of them.  Imagine you are 5 years old and you are taken from your parents to live in a place where you are punished for speaking your own language or doing anything Indian.  Imagine then, returning to your home, after years of residential school, never having learned the traditional ways.  You haven't become White.  But you no longer fit in at home either.  You fit in nowhere.  Imagine the resentment towards White people that this would create, both from the children who lost their identity, and from the parents who lost their children.  Generations later, this continues to influence life in Moose Factory.  When I grew up, "White man" was the worst insult you could come up with.  You were not allowed to be proud of your achievements at school, because that was somehow "White".  If you did well, you would be brought down.  I know lots of people who moved out of Moose Factory, so that their kids would not have to go through the same kind of bullying they went through.  Suicide is a terrible thing that Moose Factory has to deal with all too often. This colours First Nations relationships with Whites today.

In itself, desiring all people to be equal and not have any special rights is not a bad thing.  I know black people in the US who say that to treat blacks preferentially is just as racist as apartheid was.  Every people should be treated with equal respect, European peoples included.  We are all human.  We are all brothers and sisters.  But say this to First Nations and they are not thinking "Abolish the Indian Act and give power to First Nations so they can have self-government, etc, etc...  No.  They are thinking assimilation all over again.  That is their greatest fear.  That the government will swoop in again and try to make them White.  It truly backfired the last time.  I think most White people know this.  But it is still the number one fear, from what I can see.  You cannot force a people out of their culture and customs.  You can treat them equally, you can give them the same rights, you can demand the same responsibilities of them, but you cannot assimilate them.

I think this is one of those issues that White society does not understand.  Between the French and the English, there was only very gradual assimilation in some cases, as French people married English people and generations lost the French language and culture outside of Québec, and sometimes the opposite happened inside Québec.  But this was not forced assimilation.  There was never any sense of loss, never any sense of not belonging anywhere.  For White Canadians, to treat everyone equal does not mean that suddenly either the French-Canadian or the English-Canadian must give up his or her language, culture and customs.  It does not even occur to them at all to think that.  They mean no harm at all in promoting equal treatment for all.  But to the First Nations, who have not yet forgotten Residential schools, "equal treatment" does not mean "equal rights" it means "assimilation".

Which is why, I reiterate again, the importance of the presence of people who understand both cultures during negotiations.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Who IS this person?

Every once in awhile, I come across a person, seemingly of little distinction, who I may enjoy a few short conversations with but spend the rest of my time thinking of other things.

And then this person says something, mentions something, or does something that catches my attention.  It may not be significant at first, but he or she will come up with something else, and yet again another thing.

Then comes the day when something really makes me sit up and take notice.  It may be a small thing, but it brings all the other small things together and I think: "Who IS this person?"  And I am suddenly filled with the urge to discover him or her.  How does he think?  What does she do?  What are his interests?  What does she think of this idea or that event?  Where does he come from?  Where is she going?  What are his dreams?  What are her favourite past times?

I imagine it must have been something like this for Jesus's disciples.  They liked him well enough, he was a brilliant teacher, a good man, a wise philosopher, kind and gentle but firm, generous and loving.  They enjoyed being around him.  He taught them a good deal.  He changed the way they thought about things.

And then suddenly, one day, he did or said something that made them really stand up and take notice.
And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matt 8:27)
And even though they didn't always understand everything he did or said, they wanted to know more.  They wanted to know everything, they wanted to follow him to the ends of the world.

We know that following him, even unto death, wasn't an easy thing.  They weren't quite ready at first to follow him to his death.  But when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, they did go there; to the ends of the world and even unto death: for him, with him, in him and through him.

Reading the gospels and the epistles, studying the word, learning from other people teaches us a lot about Jesus.  But then comes the day when some event in our own life, some answer to prayer, some conversation with another suddenly brings new meaning to what the Bible says.  And then we MUST sit up and ask ourselves: who IS this man?

Most of the time, when I do marvel at the awesomeness of a few people in my life, when I am amazed by their strength, and their will, and their character, when I "fall in love" with the way they think, it is precisely because these same people have let themselves be transformed by this man Jesus.  In admiring these people, I also sit up, take notice and marvel at Jesus through them.