March 21, 2015- I was at a public forum this afternoon put on by some people who wish to promote the aboriginal rights and land claims issues. Much of the motive seemed to be about selling John Ralston Saul's recent book on the subject.
I am not as impressed by Saul as some are. He seems good at popularizing post modern ideas which originate elsewhere. While there I scanned through his 2009 book about the collapse of globalism and the re-emergence of choice. Well, globalism has not collapsed yet and choice has not yet re-emerged.
We did not have a lot of choice before what we have been calling "globalism" got going. It is not clear that the collapse of globalism will not lead to an even bigger lack of choice; an outright fascist regime. I do not think aboriginal peoples are making the kind of come back implied by the title of Saul's latest opus.
But this is the first time I have seen Saul in person. He even blinked at me after I got hollered down by one of the speakers at this event when I asked a question about Basic Income. That is my big thing these days, go to events to snaffle some sandwiches, get BI into the discussion, and sometimes pass out my little leaflets about it.
The reaction I got about BI shows the problem that will emerge as people get over the "beautiful idea" phase of Basic Income and get to the brass tacks. What I asked was, what is the aboriginal activists reaction to the concept of a Basic Income. What I got was a snark about how I am on aboriginal land right now. No shit.
So, is it your idea that you do not want to accept anything from a government you do not recognize? Now she really got going. She was not totally coherent but was talking about six or sixteen something, trillion dollars perhaps, that was owed to her. The audience was fairly shocked by this freakout. The mike had finally reached me and I just handed it back.
No one had many more questions for this lady and I think she sensed she had shit on the floor there. My own feeling about it is that she can go right back to British Columbia and maintain whatever delusions she is entertaining there. I have some views of my own about aboriginal rights, but there was not the place.
I think a lot of people, including a lot of aboriginals, understand the basic flaw in much aboriginal advocacy. It is the flaw in most self interested identity politics advocacy and "power of powerlessness" campaigns. Usually, there is a just cause there. But because the victims are powerless, their cause gets taken over and exploited by opportunists, cause pimps, who discredit the cause.
I am not going to get into depth about the aboriginal rights issue in Canada. We have had the vicious racism of the residential schools and the reserve system. Yes, aboriginal women tend to "disappear" more often than white women, as per the current hysteria.
Most of the female aboriginal speakers in this event kept coming back obsessively to this problem. But everywhere in the world, women of lower classes or "outclasses" tend to disappear. Consult Dalit women in India, negro women in the states, or even poor white women in this country. How about Russian speaking women in Ukraine these days? How about Yazidi and Christian women in the "Caliphate?"
It is called class war and racism, all of which derive from psychopathy. The only thing that ultimately reduces this kind of situation is the reduction of the pervasiveness and scope for psychopathic personalities and networks in society. That is another topic.
My view of the conflict between aboriginals and the rest of Canadian society is like this; it is a clash between the privileged elite of Canada and a previous privileged elite, with the underclass of the aboriginals suffering as much from the arrogance of their own elite as from the campaign to suppress legitimate aboriginal rights.
Later at the venue I got into a much more low key but just as intractable exchange with someone who agreed with the idea of a Basic Income but still had the idea that aboriginals hold ownership of all land in Canada. She thinks there is a legal argument for this but I do not hold with legalistic arguments.
By legalistic, I mean the idea that abstract legal arguments or laws from centuries past, trump human needs and human necessities in the here and now. Even basic legal principles do not hold to this; human needs and fundamental justice come first. That is why all land title derives ultimately to the sovereign power, which in a democracy is the people as a whole.
Thus, I do not care what anyone decided two centuries ago, or what the ownership situation was then. Realistically, the small fraction of the population who are the aboriginal people of the country cannot claim land ownership over the entire land base of the country or even a large part of it. It is an extravagant privilege. No government relying on the consent of the mass of people will ever consent to this.
But this is what the aboriginal land claims conflict is rally about. Two centuries ago there were not much except the aboriginals in the country. The colonial governors needed them for their auxiliary military power and because they were the only market then for goods and the only suppliers of products.
With the settlement of the country and the devolution to home rule, that changed. The settlers resented all groups of people who had been granted exorbitant privilege by the previous military/administrative regime. That meant the family compact types, church authorities, and the "Queen's Indians".
So, in the 1850s in Central Canada, the aboriginal peoples had their land taken away from them and they were left with reserves. This was for the same reason that large estates were broken up and church lands were sold off. To the settlers, the indians were just another privileged elite, whose "chiefs" received British army pay and commissions and went around in military officers uniforms. To boot, they were often used to threaten uppity settlers.
The land was taken away from the Indians by chicanerous means, because it could not be done by legal means due to the privileges that were still granted by "The Crown" back in England, even though they were no longer justified. Most of these aboriginals would have been better off to have simply integrated into white society and their negotiations might have been about doing this on equitable terms.
However, that did not suit an aboriginal elite who were accustomed to a privileged position and did not want t give it up. Sociologically based historians find that such a grudge about lost privilege is very implacable and can be maintained in the face of persecution over many generations. This is what aboriginal rights is really about and it is as much a clash of the divergent interests of tribal elites and the commoners.
Aboriginal societies were never the utopias which the repressed aboriginals imagine. There were social classes, hereditary chiefdoms, and slavery. There is a whole indian tribe called "The Slaves".
My feisty interlocutor from B.C. acknowledges that her tribal ancestors had been slave traders before about 1800, when they decided that was not a good thing to do. No doubt the trading posts and later, military garrisons, which appeared on the Pacific coast of Canada in those times helped them to decide. A slave trade is usually not helpful for other kinds of trading.
So, to sum up the aboriginal issue, these Joe Crow and Joan Crow aboriginal rights people do not speak for ordinary aboriginal people. I strongly suspect that the latter are much more interested in a decent life for themselves and their children than in playing political games for control over resources, the exploitation of which will only benefit an elite among aboriginals. They would probably be okay with a Guaranteed Living Income and to get the government bureaucrats and the rights activists both out of their lives.
So, sixteen trillion woman; you did not make the land. You were just there when the rest of us showed up. The land was there when you arrived and displaced or assimilated whoever had been there before you. You deserve what the rest of us have, nothing more and nothing less.
But what is the take away from that for BI advocates? Here is an example of the kind of resistance which will be encountered when a campaign for a BI or Livable Income gets serious. It challengers existing systems of control in a great many ways.
Can you imagine putting one of these Joe Crows in a pit with one of these Georgist or Social Credit types? Yes, fund a BI with a land tax or resource revenues. Whose land, whose resources?
The next interest group I look forward to putting the "Basic Income for Everybody" idea to are the "No one is illegal" types. How do we deliver a BI to someone who is in the country illegally? And what about a Guaranteed Living Income if these yoyos get what they are advocating, which is a wide open border?
Remember the BI experiment in Otjivero, Namibia? One of the biggest problems with it was that even though only long time residents of the town could get the income, desperate people from all over Namibia started migrating in, to take advantage of the "trickle down" from the prosperity created by the grants. The long time Otjivero residents were in danger of becoming a privileged elite.
Are new immigrants to be entitled to a BI as soon as they arrive here? Or will there be a waiting period? How will people survive in a post industrial Canada until they get their own BI? Will they be an underclass, required to do the dirty jobs for us long timers?
If everybody gets the BI as soon as they stop off "the boat", will they be accused of coming here just to live of a BI, or to take advantage of our enlightened social policies? What about temporary workers? what about people on student visas, if they run into difficulties?
So you see, there are a lot more important things to talk about related to a BI, than how much it should be or who should fund it or whether it violates some philosophical abstraction. But these are the tough questions. This is what we get into when we get past the dilettante stage of Livable Basic Income for Everybody.