The extent to which Canadians have been, and in many cases remain, unable to meaningfully acknowledge, feel and remedy the crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Indigenous people is commensurate with the depth of trauma that is embedded in the fabric of Canadian society.
Nobody allows their children to dance and to sing and to shout and to jump. For trivial reasons – perhaps something may be broken, perhaps they may get their clothes wet in the rain if they run out; for these small things – a great spiritual quality, playfulness, is completely destroyed.
The obedient child is praised by his parents, by his teachers, by everybody, and the playful child is condemned. His playfulness may be absolutely harmless, but he is condemned because there is potentially a danger of rebellion. If the child goes on growing with full freedom to be playful, he will turn out to be a rebel. He will not easily be enslaved; he will not be easily put into armies to destroy people or be to be destroyed himself.
The rebellious child will turn out to be a rebellious youth. Then you cannot force him into a particular job; then the child cannot be forced to fulfill the unfulfilled desires and longings of the parents. The rebellious youth will go his own way. He will live his life according to his own innermost desires, not according to somebody else’s ideals.
For all these reasons playfulness is stifled, crushed from the very beginning. Your nature is never allowed to have its say. Slowly, slowly you start carrying a dead child within yourself. This dead child within you destroys you sense of humor; you cannot laugh with you total heart, you cannot play, you cannot enjoy the small things of life. You become so serious that your life, rather than expanding, starts shrinking.
Life should be, each moment, a precious creativity. What you crate does not matter – it may be just sandcastles on the seashore, but whatever you do should come out of your playfulness and joy. OSHO
“Do you remember as a child being told that if you wanted to make it in life you would have to work hard? That life involved pain and struggle, that you would have to earn love and acceptance and that you would have to put in an incredible effort just to come out on top? I certainly remember my mother saying to me, ‘Struggle ennobles the soul.’
Yet who says this is true? Look at nature. It expends a certain effort in sustaining itself but it does not struggle. Does the tiger get up in the morning and say, ‘I’ll struggle like crazy today and hopefully by supper time I’ll get something to eat’? No way. It just rises, has a little sniff under its tiger armpits and does whatever tigers do at breakfast time and heads out. At noon there on the path is lunch, provided courtesy of the Great Spirit. OK, the last thirty yards involves the tiger in a bit of rushing about. But that can hardly be construed as struggle. There is a great difference between struggle and effort. Our physical condition is effort laced with emotion and desperation.” Stuart Wilde
“As creatrix, woman addresses an inescapable challenge to a man to justify his existence. She gives birth to meaning out of her body. Biology alone assures her of a destiny, of making a significant contribution to the ongoing drama of life. A man responds to her challenge by simulating creation, by making, fabricating and inventing artifacts. But while she crates naturally and literally, he creates only artificially and metaphorically. She creates from her corpus; he invents a “corporation”, a fictitious legal body with endowed rights of a natural person. Her creation sustains the eternal cycle of nature. Each of his artifacts contributes to making history a series of unrepeatable events. (Sometimes I imagine that the hidden intent of technology is to create a perfect mechanical baby – an automobile, a machine that moves by itself, is capable of perpetual motion, is fed its daily bottle of petroleum, and has its pollution diapered.) In response to the power of the goddess, man creates himself in the image of a god he imagines has fabricated the world like a craftsman working with a blueprint to shape matter into meaningful objects. Much of the meaning men attribute to their work is a response to the question posed to us by woman’s capacity to give life.” Sam Keen
This is a follow-up to the first article entitled, Senator Lynn Beyak & Residential Schools: An Invitation to Dig Deeper. Please read that first to better appreciate this post.
What follows is my response on Facebook to a gentleman who took issue with the contents of the first article. Here is what he said:
“What a long winded self serving and completely irrelevant pile of academic drivel! Its the paternalistic, self righteous misguided bleeding hearts like this that brought us the Residential school system in the first place! Who were they? They were by the conventional wisdom of the time the most ethical and morally righteous segment of our society. The churches.. Take a look at the children in this picture, clean, clothed , healthy sitting at desks with books and school supplies. Then take a look at the following picture of naked Jewish women (some with babies in their arms) waiting to be shot in a ditch. And then tell me the intended outcome for the victims in both pictures are the same! Genocide?…Books and bullets have the same intended outcome?”
“You think the intended outcome of this Genocide was to prepare these women and children for a better life? If these two examples are equally heinous (“Genocide”) which would you prefer? …the contents of a book implanted in your head or the contents of a bullet? Books and bullets do not have the same intended outcome and to assert that they do trivializes true genocide. To suggest that that term applies to the residential school system is arsine! Before condemning Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak for saying a lot of good was done in residential schools, consider two things. First, the views of renowned Cree novelist, playwright, classical pianist and Order of Canada recipient, Tomson Highway, when the Truth and Reconciliation Report on residential schools was released in December, 2015. Here’s what Highway said, quoted by Joshua Ostroff in The Huffington Post, in a column headlined: “Tomson Highway Has A Surprisingly Positive Take On Residential Schools”. “All we hear is the negative stuff, nobody’s interested in the positive, the joy in that school. Nine of the happiest years of my life, I spent it at that school. I learned your language, for God’s sake. Have you learned my language? No, so who’s the privileged one and who is underprivileged? “You may have heard stories from 7,000 witnesses in the process that were negative. But what you haven’t heard are the 7,000 reports that were positive stories. There are many very successful people today that went to those schools and have brilliant careers and are very functional people, very happy people like myself. I have a thriving international career, and it wouldn’t have happened without that school.
This year the residential school system was called “cultural genocide” by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after collecting hundreds and thousands of stories of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse against first nations children. But one Chief from the Northwest Territories is telling a completely different story. “Those were the best years of my life. My family says the same thing, my sister swears by it. We were treated wonderfully.” Chief Cece Hodgson-McCauley, of the Inuvik Dene Band, spent 10 years at a residential school. That she was taken in as an orphan. Speaking to Gormley on News Talk Radio, she said they learned many things there. “They taught us how to sew, make our own clothes, they even showed us some neat arts like sewing quilts and beads and things like that. And we worked in the kitchen, learned how to cook.” Hodgson-McCauley claims that a lot of the bad stories told about residential schools are a lie. “They’re only reporting the bad side, and the more you lie, the more you say it’s bad the more money you make, and the lawyers are making money because they’re pushing people to tell their stories.” She said some people have contacted her, wanting to tell their positive stories about the schools, but are too scared to come forward. Hodgson-McCauley wants the truth to come out, and she plans on being the person to start it.
“Truth” requires objectivity and will withstand scrutiny. We’re not getting that with the conventional politically correct narrative Dissenting opinions are censured and branded as raciest when in truth just the opposite is true.”
Here is my response:
Ken, I do not doubt the sincerity of what you have written from your perspective. But there are many truths hidden within truths.
For example, it’s interesting that you posted the picture of the children in the classroom as a way of bolstering your argument. Because someone else could easily look at that same photograph and see how incongruent it is. Do those children make sense in those clothes, in that room, with such sad appearances? This picture tells a many stories.
It’s also instructive that there is really only one other event you can reach for to knock the Indigenous people down to size – the Holocaust. After all, what can compare with mass extermination? That the suffering of the Indigenous people is in the same conversation tells us a lot about our relationship with the Indigenous people.
Besides, there is a big deflection here, which is myopically focused on the quality of the schools and those that ran them – for good reason. That ‘quality’ question, as we can see from the comments, is a subject of great debate, though from my perspective, if there is any good to have come from the residential school system, when we look at the state of the Indigenous people, in general, hasn’t the enforced system failed miserably?
Are there some Indigenous people who are doing well? Most definitely by some measures. However, when the success rate is so low, isn’t it disingenuous to focus on the good when it’s pretty clear that the enforced system did not and has not been effective in its proselytization of the Indigenous people?
Of course, one can cherry pick this and that reason in order to make a case that the fault for this failure falls at the feet of an incredibly diverse and storied race of people who are just, unfortunately, not smart or capable enough to get it.
Ken, you have made a solid case that is, nevertheless, easy to counter but what we are doing as a left-brained culture is leaving out the most important criteria of all; the crux of the matter.
Underlying all of the distractions in the debate over the quality and nature of he care is one simple fact: Indigenous children and their parents were ripped away from each. Even if we were to agree that the British system was better; even if we could convince ourselves that ‘they’ would really do better under this new system, there are no humans on earth that would have fared better under this violent coercion.
Outside of a small percentage of Indigenous children who were in extremely abusive homes, the vast majority of children would have been devastated by the sudden loss of their parent(s). As most people will agree with, parents are children’s everything; their Gods, however imperfect.
Ken, let me ask you this. Hopefully, you’ve had children because then this will be relevant.
Imagine one day you, you Ken, with who you are at this moment, if there was a knock at your door and there were people there to take your 6 year old son away from you. You look at these people who are removing your child and they look totally different than you, in every way. So foreign. Your boy, he doesn’t want go to go. Really, who would? But it doesn’t matter what you think. Or what your boy is feeling. Because you don’t have a choice. Ken, how do think you would react to that right now? If someone came to you door and demanded you hand over one of the precious people in your home? Your boy. Your pride and joy. No choice.
And then the ensuing pain for so so many parents and so so many children. Imagine that same boy of yours suddenly thrust into an existence in which every single thing is different. How can this be anything but frightening?
Imagine your 6 year old. How would he be reacting to this insanity? How could he understand at that age that it’s really all for the best? The reality of this kind of situation is such that the stranger’s twisted logic cannot compete with the feelings of abject fear and confusion that will have overtaken your child. How else would it be when your boy has gone from always having your love and protection to be overwhelmingly alone in a place filled with people – strangers?
However well-intentioned some of those strangers were, their impact would been severely limited by the abyss that your boy is toying with, as he works feverishly to create a strategic survival personality to contain his rampant fear because… You, Dad, are your boy’s touchstone and you have effectively fallen off the side of the earth.
Meanwhile, Ken, as your boy goes through unimaginable turmoil at school, you’re at home. Emasculated. Humiliated. He’s your boy. You know how bad this is. Your own frailties and faults shoot up with a vengeance. Your powerlessness in the face of such absurd injustice. And there’s nothing you can do but shut your mouth and get on with it and hope, against all hope, that somehow, some way, your boy will be okay – that he’ll thrive. Even though you know better of course. Because you were taken to that place as well.
The strangers say, ‘Don’t worry, Ken. Your boy will be just fine. In fact, you’re welcome, in advance, because our system is clearly superior to your millennia of traditions. We’re saving your boy and your people. Best if you just forget about the past and read these books and wear these clothes and speak our language. Trust us, it’s way better and as you can see, you don’t have a choice anyway. So, shut your mouth and get back to work.’
Ken, you might not even have anything against these people living with their own system. But you just can’t understand why they won’t just let you live with yours – with your boy. You know, live and let live and all.
Granted, Ken, all of your concerns about your boy and him being stolen from you make incredible sense from your backward perspective, but that’s not really relevant because we have deemed ourselves to be correct. Therefore, you are incorrect. Off you go.
Ken, could you imagine a scenario in which after this goes down you maybe sit and have a stiff drink, then maybe another one?
Meanwhile, Ken, you and others, including a few Indigenous people, have pointed out in these comments that some children did manage to do well in residential school and life. This is true, though by far the exception rather than the rule. But still true to a degree.
So, let’s focus on the success stories. Once again, our left-brained system always seeks to evaluate results within a closed framework. A much fuller truth lies beyond these limited metrics of the ultra-rational mind; a myriad of emotional criteria that is difficult to comprehend for those who have personally and generationally compromised access to our feelings.
(Sidebar: Ken, even if you know that some have done well, I can’t help but note that you have so little compassion for the many Indigenous people who have clearly not done well – even if its ‘their own doing’. Think of your boy, ripped away from you… )
Ken, let’s return to that day when your boy was taken away and had to figure out, at 6, how to navigate that strange place.
As we see from history, humans are outrageously resilient. Whatever our age, we will do our utmost to make the best of even worst situations. When humans experience situations as traumatic as those experienced by Indigenous children, it entails engaging with unprecedented levels of denial, avoidance and revisionist history in order to just function.
So, what are we to make of those Indigenous people who have succeeded within this RMP system?
Again, this is complex. The permutations are so many that they could fill an entire book. However, Ken, here are some things to consider as your 6 year old boy tries to find his way. Children invariably take on responsibility in the face of trauma, at home and away. In the case of your boy, he’ll be wondering why he’s been put in this place. Why has he been taken away from his family?
Maybe my family doesn’t love me anymore. It must be that my Dad doesn’t love me anymore. Otherwise, how could he let this happen. If my number one protector has allowed this to happen doesn’t it mean he doesn’t love me? It must be because I’m not lovable. There must be something wrong with me. That’s why I’ve been put in this place.
Also, I’m being told that I’m fortunate that this is happening but it doesn’t feel that way to me. It feels like the opposite. But I’m just a kid. What do I know? My parents – my gods – have allowed me to come here and the people who work here say it’s great. So, my feelings must be incorrect. My feelings are clearly not to be trusted – and the more I feel, the more insane all of this feels.
Your boy is making all of these evaluations in the first few days, the upshot of which is the necessary banishment of feelings behind a wall – to a place where they will be paradoxically protected but also won’t keep inconveniencing the poor lad because, after all his feelings are no longer relevant or to be trusted – and they are brutal and incomprehensible.
They’re too painful to keep feeling in this place. If your boy shows vulnerability, he will suffer more, at the hands of the administration, as well as some of the other children who are exactly in the same situation and who adjust by becoming bullies – bullying being a result of deep insecurity and fear. Dad and Mum have disappeared. No one is there to hold me and let me know that everything is going to be okay.
So, your boy feels your abandonment and betrayal, without understanding the reasons. Then comes the ultimate betrayal; in order to survive, the boy betrays himself – and his heart. Anything to avoid touching into the abyss that is now a constant companion. The soul-crushing ramifications of this self-betrayal cannot be exaggerated or understood by those who have not experienced it.
This is the default initial position for every child put into such absurd circumstances. Based on a host of reasons, children will react differently. Some will fare better than others. Will your boy become a bully, a victim, a joker? Will he give himself over to this new system? Will he be unable to adjust and instead of resigning himself resist – and become a whipping boy for administrators who are involved in such an inhumane activity that they cannot brook resist that shines a glaring light on what is being perpetrated? Those children who were more sensitive; who felt the incongruence more keenly; who knew that something was very wrong; who could not sit still and say nothing… these children will have suffered the most. They will have made up most of the children who were beaten mercilessly; who were most violently sexually abused. It’s unfathomable really. These were children. Only left-brained logic, devoid of the heart connection, can attempt to make heads or tails of this insanity.
What will become of your boy Ken? Without the necessary presence of his Dad, what will you boy do? Resignation? Submission? Adherence?
Ken, are you the product of the same coercive system? Were you also taken away by those same strangers? Did you lose your parents and your way of being? Have you done your very best to make a life for yourself under such impossible circumstances? Have you struggled? Was your boy born into this and because of your effed up life did you have trouble being a good parent?
At the risk of offending some Indigenous people – who are sincere when they say they thrived under the residential school system (there are very few) – as Mary Dale has pointed out in a comment, “I know hundreds of Indigenous people who attended residential schools, many who are successful and all were traumatized.” Based on what I have described as the process that a young child undergoes to adjust to the residential school life, how could it be otherwise? Furthermore, Mary says, “They are not successful because of residential schools, they are successful in spite of [them].”
And some of these ‘successful’ Indigenous people will have sacrificed their parents and their ancestry for that success. If they’re parents were damaged from the same system and so were unable to be good parents, and then they were taken away as well, how many Indigenous children decided that they’re parents and culture were a failure and that the way forward was to give themselves over to this dominant system?
Ken, a couple of times you have mentioned Tomson Highway and his apparent support of the residential school system. Not sure where you got that quote, and in what context it was presented, but his renowned novel, the “Kiss of The Fur Queen” held no punches in describing the sexual abuse of Indigenous children at residential schools. Did residential school teach him skills that he’s used in his life. Of course. But at what cost? As for the other quote from the Lady Indigenous Chief you also quote, yes, she has spoken positively about her personal experience in ONE residential school. She first spoke out in 2012 and even though she opened the door wide for others to step forward. Few have done so. I’d submit that while some Indigenous people did on the whole have positive experiences, they are clearly in the tiny minority. Furthermore, in keeping with my other commentary in my previous and present post, when we are traumatized as children, especially with the initial abandonment, some people do a better job adjusting; of making the best of things. Meanwhile, many children from all walks of live will also create revisionist history to make the past more palatable. Either way, it’s complicated. The full picture of the state of the Indigenous people tells the story.
Most potentially controversially, I’ll say this final piece – with great respect and empathy for the suffering of the Indigenous people. Those Indigenous people who do speak glowingly of the residential school system are likely among the ranks of children who in order to survive that horrendous place created, as so many of us do in our regular lives, revisionist history in order to avoid touching into the pain of it all. In the face of overwhelming trauma, memory is entirely unreliable.
A perfect example of this avoidance and denial on the part of both White man and Indigenous people is a comment contributed by Dennis Laughton who says, “Some [Indigenous people] experienced abuse, but I also have had conversations with some who other than being lonely due to separation from their family suffered no further abuse of any kind. Point is NOT ALL SUFFERED. It is not all black or white.”
Firstly, again I do not doubt Dennis’s sincerity in sharing his experience. It is undoubtedly accurate. But based on what I have laid out we can see the overarching disconnect: “other than being lonely due to separation from their family”. The dominant culture, in general, doesn’t have a clue what it feels like to have their child stolen from them. The perpetrator and their ancestors will go to great lengths to lessen the victims’ suffering – for obvious reasons. In this case, the threshold of ‘real’ suffering is if you were sexually abused. Otherwise, sure it was probably bad, but not THAT bad. Meanwhile, many Indigenous people, understandably divorced as they had to become from their feelings in order to survive, cannot feel the true devastation of their experience. And those who were not sexually abused have to somehow feel lucky about that. It could have been worse!
Long story short, there is much more nuance to all of this than can be entertained by our RMP system that is itself suffering from the traumatization inflicted on the Indigenous people. The western world is still dealing with its colonial ways that have left destruction in their wake in Africa, North America, India and the Middle East – with ongoing repercussions. While some westerners wonder about all of this terrorism in the world, no culture is even in the same stratosphere as the western countries when it comes to historic inflicting of death and destruction.
The British colonial way was the same in every instance mentioned above. Make contact with the natives, make friends and partnerships and eventually betray the natives, via divide and conquer, in order to steal the natural resources that they would use to build and maintain the empire. For a more thorough reading on this subject you can read my Brexit piece available at boardingschooltrauma.info.
Ken, please forgive me for singling you out here. There are many commenters who have relayed the same type of information you have. You are a legitimate representative the ‘silent’ majority who simply don’t know and, understandably, don’t want to know the truth of Canada’s dealings with the Indigenous people – so insane it is. You are imparting what you know and feel to be correct. However, I will repeat what I said in the piece, “The extent to which Canadians have been, and in many cases remain, unable to meaningfully acknowledge the crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Indigenous people is commensurate with the depth of trauma that is embedded in the fabric of Canadian society.”
When I see how many commenters have taken my piece as somehow supporting Senator Beyak’s position; that I’m somehow revealing her as some kind of superhero, it lets me know where we are at in our national healing process. We have a ways to go. After all, hundreds of years of abuse and betrayal will not be remedied in a matter of a few years. We are all doing our best in this difficult process. We are encouraged to be open to the idea that, despite our own experiences, there are deeper truths that we may not have access to because of our own personal generational traumas that have produced blind-spots.
We are encouraged to listen with as much compassion and non-judgment as possible. Ken, if you come to Toronto one day, I’d be glad to sit and have a coffee with you and chat. Our backgrounds are, no doubt, quite different but I’m guessing we’d have much more in common that you might guess. I know we both want what is best for our families and our country. But, in the end, I’m not here to convince you or anyone else of anything. I’m presenting a different perspective. It’s up to readers to decide if they want to be open to it.
“The extent to which Canadians have been, and in many cases remain, unable to meaningfully acknowledge the crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Indigenous people is commensurate with the depth of trauma that is embedded in the fabric of Canadian society.”
Over the last month, Senator Lynn Beyak has been excoriated for her perspective on the residential school system. Condemnation has come from almost all quarters, especially coming on the heels of the Truth and Reconciliation Report (TRR), which has shown, in no uncertain terms, the horrors of the residential school system. Indigenous leaders have also, understandably, piled on Senator Beyak, who could scarcely be an easier target.
By most accounts, she deserves to be on the receiving end of the scorn that has been hurled her way by millions of Canadians. Indeed, her apparent audacity is such that instead of backing down, she has double and tripled down on her seemingly absurd stance. Accordingly, we have relegated Senator Beyak to the ‘bad’ column because, after all, isn’t it an open and shut case?
On the contrary, if we dig deeper we might recognize that Senator Beyak is revealing deep truths about where Canada’s relationship really stands with the Indigenous people.
Why can’t we feel the pain of the Indigenous people? Why can’t we treat our Indigenous brothers and sisters with compassion, respect and honesty? Why do we as a society have such trouble feeling much of anything at all other than anger, anxiety, sadness and apathy?
As we go about our adrenalized day to day lives, many of us are unable to delve into our own personal and generational traumas, so painful they are, let alone to engage with what hangs over our country like perpetual second-hand smoke that we can’t escape.
For many of us, our programmed response to Senator Beyak is unmitigated rejection because we want nothing to do with the exceedingly uncomfortable feelings that she elicits. Senator Beyak has upset our Febrezed culture that deals with ingrained and nasty odours by simply covering them up. Anything to avoid having to do the actual work of wading through the muck and cleaning things up.
Indeed, what if Senator Beyak is doing us a big favour by shining a spotlight on the continued failure of Canada to do right by the Indigenous people? The problem is that unlike The Truth and Reconciliation Report, which approaches the subject from the acceptable victim’s perspective, Senator Beyak speaks on behalf of the perpetrator, which is politically-correctly verboten. Coming via the perpetrator’s perspective, the spotlight is blinding and stomach-churning – a challenge to the formidable, generational defenses that we have put in place in order to avoid feeling, acknowledging and remedying the unfathomable crimes perpetrated against the Indigenous people, especially their children.
What is at the root of this system-wide disconnect? The Rational Man Project (RMP). The RMP involves a brain that is “over-trained in rationality, has turned away from empathy and has mastered and normalized dissociation in its most severe dimensions; it is consequently incapable of recognizing the fault in its own system.” (Nick Duffell, “Wounded Leaders: British Elitism and The Entitlement Illusion”, 2014) “Rational Man was (and still is) permanently at war. He was at war with himself and with the world he created. The self he was at war with was his own indigenous self, the natural, emotional, innocent, spontaneous, sometimes lazy, sometimes erotic self.” (Duffell)
To varying degrees, Western man and woman have exiled this poor self, who fills the void with a cornucopia of addictions (food, shopping, illegal drugs, sports teams, sex, cell phone, pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, working, pain, working out, coffee, surfing the internet, Facebook, soft drinks, pornography, sugar, television, video games).
With the arrival of the ‘The Age of Reason’ in the 17th century Western world, spirit was supplanted by science and reason. Man now controlled his own destiny. Regardless of circumstances, when God was at the centre of most people’s lives there was a direct connection with the unknown, the mysterious, the feminine. The Rational Man Project ‘civilized’ and sanitized the misogyny and racism which had always been there, and then exported it to the colonial world.
“The fallout from the British Rational Man Project is alive and well” in Canada. “It causes our society grave problems as: (1) It maintains the inherited class structure with its… male elitism intact (2) It prevents emerging new paradigms” from coming to the fore – “due to fear of foreigners and fear of losing the status quo. (3) We do not notice the Rational Man Project’s grip on us because we are too close to it, like the fish who do not know the water; identified with it, we believe it to be our hallowed tradition.” (Duffell)
The main pillar of the British RMP was, and arguably remains, the boarding school system, upon which the residential school system was based. The British boarding school system had two roles: (1) churn out men who would be sent around the world to run the greatest empire the world has ever seen (2) be a ‘home’ for the children of these very same men who were far away from England.
With succeeding generations of abandoned and betrayed boys running the world, including Canada, logic became bereft of feeling. When you have a system in which the elite have for centuries sent their own children to boarding school, it should not be surprising that the Indigenous people were subjected to the same training. Naturally, the powers-that-be would have believed that they were giving the savages a gift by converting them to the most superior system of existence yet devised by man.
Further to the alienation of the feminine, Psychiatrist and Oxford Professor, Iain McGilchrist, writes in his book “The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World”, about the respective roles of the left- and right-brains and how our culture, having been overrun by the Rational Man Project, has become predominantly left-brained. Unfortunately, while the left-brain approach “facilitated the accumulation of knowledge and skills, its downside has resulted in a crisis of Compartmentalization.” Duffell on McGilchrist, “there is a precise order to how the two hemispheres work: thought and language are born… on the right, then grow up… on the left, to provide the ‘necessary difference’ for self-reflection.” Crucially, what is sent to the left then returns back to the right, “where a new synthesis can be made.” (Duffell)
The right-brain is more concerned with the feminine, visual, non-linear, heart connection, receptivity, softness, sensitivity, creativity, the instinctual, the unexplainable, the conscience, the feelings, emotional IQ, big picture, cooperation and doubt. The left-brain is more concerned with the masculine, verbal, linear, logical, details, organization, structure, labeling, analysis, specialization and hierarchy.
So, we men – and women – grow up in a saturated Rational Man Project environment, which is overwhelmingly persuasive in pulling us into the left-brain. Throw in our own personal traumas on top of that, especially ones from childhood, and we’re left with a population of people who have had to create Strategic Survival Personalities (SSP) in order to cope (The SSP is a façade, a wall; to mask trauma, to protect the heart). The issue is that the SSP might have served us well as children but is problematic if we don’t recognize and jettison it as adults. If the protective wall remains in place it makes it challenging to become mature and balanced adults. This is why so many of us become defensive so easily. It’s our SSP kicking into action when we feel a threat. Depending on the level of our trauma our facade is that much more convincing – and impenetrable – which can and does lead to isolation, violence (especially against women) and an epidemic of mental illness in our society.
Hence, we have a culture in which so many people, especially men, have little regard for and understanding of women – or the feminine energy within themselves – or cultures such as the Indigenous people that do honour the feminine.
Periodically, we single out one or another of our institutions – Media, Corporate, Banking, Legal, Police, Health, Government – for their failings and excesses. Unfortunately, meaningful change is predictably problematic because it invariably does not align with RMP dogma. And yet, we the people have created these institutions. We work in them. They represent us. We are tacitly, and in most cases unwittingly, complicit in their actions.
From my piece on Brexit:
“RMP failings are most visible in the hands of our leadership. It’s easy to sit back and scrutinize our leaders for their shortcomings, but if that’s all we’re doing we’re missing the boat. Granted, it’s difficult to admit that they are an accurate representation of us within the political sphere. Many of us don’t want to see that, or can’t see it, in the same ways that we create revisionist history – and denial – in our own lives in order to avoid pain; to avoid looking at the past; to avoid looking within and taking responsibility for how we are living and what we are putting out into the world.
How many of us regularly take the opportunity to unleash our incredulity or anger on a random person, even over a harmless infraction? As pedestrians, cyclists and drivers we are ready to wag an accusatory finger at one another over some apparent advantage taken, or a moment of unawareness, that might have delayed us from reaching our destination by thirty seconds? No worries. We’re on it. We’re on high alert at all times for these situations where, based on one moment, we can identify a person or a group of people as being lesser than us. Less intelligent. Less aware. Less considerate. And while we are fiercely condemning them for their act, we instantly take in their appearance, their race, their gender, their age, their sexual orientation, their fitness level and come up with a personality profile that is born of ego, fear, judgment and bias; that conjures vulnerability in the other; to make us feel better; superior; to give us the justification we need to avoid recognizing our role in creating that very experience; to show us our state of consciousness.
Meanwhile, on some other occasion we’ve likely made the exact same unforgivable mistake as the moron who is currently invoking our wrath. But it was probably okay when we messed up. Oopsy. Whatever. We wonder why the accuser is getting so bent out of shape. “No big deal. Take it easy. Oh really? Well fuck you too…”, as we size them up and concoct a violent insult cocktail to deflect and protect from the over-the-top reaction that is being hurled our way. “Served them right!”
Empathy on life-support. Ready to defend. The need to feel a semblance of control over something… anything that’s easier to latch on to than the confusion that reigns when we have a wobbly relationship with our right-brains. We are perpetrator and victim all rolled into one, based on a recipe consisting of systemic, collective and personal betrayal and trauma; masculine and feminine, dissonant.
Our leaders? They are like you and me though the higher they go, and the deeper their childhood RMP training, the greater the RMP commitment. Regularly, we witness our representatives’ embarrassing behaviour in Parliament. Then again, what can we expect from our leaders when so many of us barely behave like adults in our own lives? Projecting our frustrations on to others; left-brain justification on over-drive; self-reflection and empathy an afterthought. There is a straight line between this low-level type of buck-passing and the mass-scale obfuscation and violence practiced by our leaders, in government and corporations.”
Is it any wonder that as a country we have been so incapable of doing right by the Indigenous people? With that in mind, let us examine some of Senator Beyak’s most controversial assertions, for which she has been denounced by most people.
SENATOR BEYAK’S STATEMENTS
She said that the people who worked in and ran the residential schools were ‘well-intentioned’. On first blush, especially in light of the TRR, this seems tough to swallow. That is, until we understand the residential school system as a perfect representation of the overt colonial racism employed by the British throughout the world. The Indigenous people of Canada were regarded as lesser-than humans by the vast majority of British. They were savages who needed saving and civilizing. The abuse that was heaped on them was justified under this ignorant framework. Whatever the costs were from the abuse, for victim and perpetrator, these surely paled in comparison to the eternal damnation it was believed the Indigenous people would suffer if they didn’t assimilate. From this position, it is certainly not a stretch to say that the residential schools, run by the Clergy, were ‘well-intentioned’. After all, look at the suffering Christ endured. He was the template for the suffering that some might have to experience, especially the lesser-thans, in order to be saved.
This brings us to another statement made by Senator Beyak, who grew up in Northern Ontario, in which she suggested that she has suffered alongside Indigenous people who were sent to residential schools. “I’ve suffered with them up there. I appreciate their suffering more than they’ll ever know.” Surely, this is outrageous. Once again, on its face, this seems absurd… until we dig deeper.
The suffering of the Indigenous people is incalculable and devastating. However, in this equation, the suffering of the perpetrator is always, and logically, overlooked. Suffering of the perpetrator you ask? How on earth can we place these two seemingly disparate positions in the same space? We can and we should. Because what the perpetrator inflicts on others, he inflicts on himself. If this goes on long enough, the perpetrator becomes a slave to shame and guilt inflicted on the victim (ie) present day Canada.
It’s easy to paint all of those who ran the residential schools with the same vile brush. It goes without saying that some of the school administrators were mean-spirited and cruel. But surely ‘good’ people were also involved. Unfortunately, all of them were at the mercy of the overwhelmingly racist and arrogant influence of the RMP Church, government and culture-at-large. How many of these people did their thankless jobs with lumps in their throats, the official justifications constantly at odds with their deeper humanity?
The administrators of the residential schools fulfilled, what they were told was, a necessary and significant role in the building of the country of Canada. They were at the front lines. They took one for the team – and paid a monumental price in the process. Because, however well-intentioned or otherwise they might have been, their mere presence in a system that ripped children away from their parents – and annihilated their identities – cannot have been anything other than soul-crushing for them on a deeper level. Try to imagine the mental and spiritual gymnastics that some of them must have employed to survive living and/or working in such an awful environment.
Regardless of their level of consciousness, these poor people lived with that shame and guilt – in most cases unacknowledged – and passed it down to their offspring and so on… and so on… until the present day. It’s still happening. If we actually require studies to confirm what is obvious, a “study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children’s genes”. Centuries on, Canada lives in a calcified state of generational shock. It is only very recently that we’ve begun to scratch the surface of the centuries of disowned brutality that victim and perpetrator have experienced.
So, yes, anyone who worked at these institutions , or was related to those who worked there, or lived close by, or who lived in Canada, suffered to varying degrees. The closer the association, the more direct the suffering. For many northern communities, this suffering is still ongoing, as the Indigenous people undertake the grueling process to recover from hundreds of years of having a giant thumb grinding them into the ground.
The extent to which Canadians have been, and in many cases remain, unable to meaningfully acknowledge the crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Indigenous people is commensurate with the depth of trauma that is embedded in the fabric of Canadian society.
In light of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, what steps are being taken to right some of these wrongs? Again, Senator Beyak lets us know, though in keeping with our general cultural denial, we’ve managed to ignore yet another inconvenient truth that she has revealed.
PRACTICALLY NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE SINCE THE RELEASE OF THE TRR
At a recent meeting of the Senate’s Aboriginal Peoples Committee, of which Senator Beyak was a member, until she was removed last week, “She said the commission proposed few new solutions to address the poor socioeconomic conditions faced by many First Nations people today. ‘There are excellent calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Report, but, frankly, I did not see any new light shed on these issues.’”
Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister shortly before the Truth and Reconciliation Report was made public in late 2015. The TRR contained 94 calls-to-action. One year on, at the end of 2016, “The head of the Assembly of First Nations [Chief Perry Bellegarde] says he has seen zero movement on the government’s promise to implement 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, more than a year after the commission’s conclusion. Opposition critics, Romeo Saganash (Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, Que.) for the NDP, and Cathy McLeod (Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, B.C.) for the Conservative Party, also say there has been nothing but silence from the government benches about its commitment to the document.”
Partisan party politics being as pathetically tiresome as it is, the protestations by opposition critics, including from Romeo Saganash, ring hollow since no political party of any stripe, provincially or federally, has done much of note when it comes to doing right by the Indigenous people.
The reality is that, after hundreds of years of Canadian betrayal and abuse, the historic lesser-than status of the Indigenous people has become baked into a generational bureaucratic inertia.
I honestly don’t doubt that the Prime Minister, and others in government, is sincere and well-intentioned when it comes to the welfare of the Indigenous people. I take at face value his Indigenously-appropriated forehead-to-forehead greetings and his occasional moist eyes when attending Indigenous events. Sadly, while good intentions are great, Senator Beyak has pointed out the reality on the ground.
Case in point: Water. How is it that in 2017 upwards of 100 Indigenous communities have water advisories? ‘Water advisory’ is classic, euphemistic, bureaucratic double-speak for what in Toronto would be called a ‘water emergency’. When ‘water emergency’ is not taken seriously over a period of decades, it eventually transforms into ‘water advisory’, which gives the impression that it’s a temporary situation.
How is this possible in a country which ranks in the Top 5 in the world in access to fresh water? The answer is succinctly summed up by this Globe and Mail headline: “Why is Canada denying its indigenous peoples clean water?” It is not that clean water is not available, it is being withheld, as are compassion, respect and land that is theirs under treaties that have been reneged upon by all Canadian governments.
While there is no doubt that some Indigenous communities have contributed to this ongoing water fiasco, once you delve into the record, it’s clear that the lion’s share of responsibility lays at the feet of an unconscious RMP system that still views Indigenous people as third-class citizens. This perspective is self-perpetuating because so many Canadians, steeped as they are in the historic lesser-than narrative, look at Indigenous people and wonder why they can’t just get on with it; get over it.
Besides, how quickly and well do most of us deal with our own personal and generational traumas? How quickly should we expect hundreds of years of trauma to dissipate, and for the Indigenous people to start to thrive instead of just survive?
If we did a Vulcan mind-meld with literally any Indigenous person we would not only unequivocally feel the trauma of that generational abyss, we would likely crumble in the face of the horror of it all. At that point, we might begin to understand both why the Indigenous people cannot just move on, as well as the unbelievable strength and perseverance they have displayed in surviving the onslaught. From this perspective, it’s fair to say that less than two generations removed from the end of the residential school system, Indigenous people have been bent to max but have not broken. Meanwhile, though it is easy to focus on the plight of the Indigenous people, they are now on the move. Incredible strides are being made every day by Indigenous peoples through the country. Nevertheless, healing takes time, especially when you don’t have support.
It goes without saying that Indigenous/Government relations are outrageously complex. But, is that not also the case with the intersection of municipal, provincial and federal governments? Question: If there was suddenly a ‘water advisory’ in Toronto, how quickly would these three levels of government come together to fix the issue lickety-split? How much outrage would there be for delayed action, and how would a delay influence any upcoming elections? If only there were enough Indigenous people for their votes to matter in elections.
That is the difference. The Indigenous people are like the ‘low class’ people of Flint, Michigan, multiplied by a racist-million. The Canadian caste system is as follows: upper-class, middle-class, low-class, Indigenous-class – at the very bottom of the Canadian totem-pole of priorities. Hence, why even with the very public release of the TRR little or nothing has been done, even with an apparently keen Prime Minister at the helm.
‘A SILENT MAJORITY AGREE WITH ME’
Senator Beyak’s coup de gras came after she was removed from the Senate committee on Aboriginal Peoples, when she suggested that, “a silent majority of Canadians agree with what she said — that there were “good deeds” and other positive elements that emerged from the country’s residential school system”. Previously, on March 27th, Senator Beyak said that she had received hundreds of positive remarks. By this point, that must be well into the thousands.
‘A silent majority’? This lady is off her rocker, right? What she has said is absolutely unacceptable, right? Well, let’s put it this way: If the majority, silent or otherwise, really cared for the Indigenous people, would Canada still be doing so little? Ultimately, on the odd occasion that the majority make their wishes known, government is usually forced to act, so beholden it is to maintaining power. Government has not acted because the people are not remotely in the vicinity of wanting it.
While a majority may not exactly or consciously agree with Senator Beyak’s statement, if we take the blinders off we could conclude that the majority of Canadians (1) do not really support the Indigenous people (2) are such adherents of the RMP that they cannot adequately comprehend or feel the suffering that the Indigenous people have endured – to this day.
But, again, this unfeeling, ultra-patriarchal, neo-colonial approach is par for the course in all aspects of Canadian culture, including in the treatment of women, the poor and our traumatized soldiers. So, in a way, it’s not personal. It’s not on purpose. It’s simply systemic.
Our collectively compromised heart connection means that, on a profound level, we know not what we do. If we did, we would be mortified. The vast majority of us are well-intentioned. It’s just we have been on generational autopilot for 300 years. The reason for the inertia, with respect to allowing feelings back into the equation, is self-preservation for the perpetrator. The truth is too much to bear so the system vigorously resists change. Because change will mean having to go through a terrifying cleansing process. Ironically, guess which people have the traditions and methods that could help Canadians with that cleansing?
If we look from a different angle, Senator Beyak has provided a needed jolt to this RMP inertia; another opportunity to evolve our wonderful country to the next level. Let us not succumb to the easy vilification of Senator Beyak. That she has been removed from her position on the committee is an attempt to make the icky feelings go away. It’s a typical RMP band-aid solution to dealing with circumstances that don’t fit within neat and tidy boxes. Pretend it’s not there. Take a pill. Spray some Febreze. Moving right along. Nothing to see here.
Some may ask what the solution is to this generational impasse. What 10-point plan can we come up with to address the situation? Well, how many plans have there been over the decades? And what has changed? Very little. Shall we commission yet another study whose recommendations neither we nor our representatives will have the consciousness, will or courage to implement? Unfortunately, progress has not, and will likely not, come via left-brained institutional solutions. As we can plainly see from decades and centuries of poor results, RMP solutions are largely self-defensive obfuscations.
It may be time we stopped looking to our leaders to be progressive and to do right by the people. It hasn’t and will not happen. Why? Because they are more steeped in the Rational Man Project than the average person. They are too beholden to corporate power, too obsessed with gaining or maintaining power, too lost in the RMP maze. One cannot reach the upper echelons of government, business and the judiciary without sacrificing important parts of themselves; without embracing the very thinking that makes it so difficult to lead in a holistic manner. Institutional avoidance is predictable, understandable and stifling – in every area of our society.
So, pointing out the ills of our RMP system is one thing, but how do we move forward, for ourselves, our country, and this case, in a fashion that brings the Indigenous people into the fold as partners? This process is, first and foremost, personal.
THE WAY FORWARD
This from the conclusion of the aforementioned Brexit piece (which is underpinned by the very same RMP approach):
“Many of us will say we’re not addicted to the RMP way, as we fill our every waking hour with something: coffee, get the kids ready for school, work out, eat, work, surf the web, coffee, email, snack, Facebook, cigarette, coffee, eat, work, snack, pick up the kids from daycare, have a toke, make dinner, clean up, Facebook, bathe the kids, put them to sleep, collapse on the couch in front of the TV, have a drink, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TV, news, have a drink, late show, stay up way past when we should because we don’t want to go to bed. Oh, it’s morning again. Oh God. Whatever, gotta keep moving; to escape the pain. Weekend? What weekend? What rest? Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Are we not addicted? We frown upon those who shine a light on our collective malaise by abusing a specific addiction, especially one that has arbitrarily been deemed unacceptable, such as drugs. Apparently, these people don’t know how to colour inside the lines; and it’s awkward for the rest of us to have to witness that, especially as we are working double-time to escape the pain. The reality is that most of us find ourselves somewhere on the Addiction Continuum, our location correlating with our level of disconnect from our feelings and with the depth of our trauma.
As the untenable nature of the RMP approach comes into sharp relief, more of us are wondering if this state of affairs really is inevitable. More of us are starting to recognize that this mass confusion, mollified by our normalized addictions, is no longer sustainable. How much longer can we maintain this exhaustingly addictive façade?
We are approaching the nexus where universal and inconsolable stiff-upper-lipping-it meets a place we have not experienced before. We get snippets here and there of this mythical place, but we don’t know what it looks like. We think we need to know what it looks like before taking the plunge. But looking, and the left-brain evaluation that accompanies it, is not remotely as effective as feeling it.
Here’s the mission should we choose to accept it:
(1) Forgive ourselves;
(2) Forgive our parents;
(3) Forgive our ancestors;
(4) Regenerate the pathways back to the right-brain; back to our hearts; back to our long-lost feelings.
(5) Make amends where possible
But before that can occur there is one critical component of courting a viable and juicy dance with compassion and non-judgment, without which little changes: space. We have so little space in our over-scheduled and addicted lives to invite in something new. How can anything change while we suckle at the teat of our permanent hyper-adrenalized state? There is a violence to this routine of addiction. When we engage with our protective walls from this place we are met with a corresponding resistance; a painful rebuff that serves to confirm for us the improbability of safely reconnecting with that far-off place. We are owned by the things we resist most. As with our relationship to the trauma inflicted on the Indigenous people, the greater the resistance to anything, the more in common we have with its energetic signature; not with the exact characteristic but with the feeling underlying it.
Courage is required to create the space needed to reconnect with our hearts – and compassion for what will arise from this place. Crucially, as Dr. Gabor Mate, says, “Real compassion doesn’t have to do with helping somebody feel good. It has to do with guiding them to the truth because it’s the truth that will liberate them.” A friend of mine took a course with Dr. Mate last year and she asked him about “joy” – because when you look at him over the course of many videos he doesn’t seem to exhibit much joy and lightness. He responded in a way which is entirely congruent with what he is sharing with the world. Uncovering joy and happiness is a process. Many of us don’t even know what joy really feels like. We are attempting to manufacture it from out of thin air. We haven’t known how to be joyful. So, extracting it is not easy. But the more of it we extract, the easier it becomes.
The introduction of this space, and the accompanying gentle pace, into our lives is a path through which we can gain access to the heart side. Of course, this cannot happen without making some changes.
Despite the sway of infinite growth, we can take a step back: maybe downsize our home; change our job; simplify our lives; reduce our addictive consumption; limit our exposure to unhealthy relationships. No doubt, this is hard to do when confronted by our peer group and family when they are still operating at warp speed. Hence, courage, to slow down, in order to feel; to be able to deal with the fear that comes with change. When the fear comes, as it always does, we acknowledge it and feel how it is affecting us and then reach for the better-feeling thought.
The endgame is to feel. Feel the bad stuff and release it. Feel the good stuff and invite it to stick around. Sustained clarity comes from maintaining and nourishing these newly forged channels to our feelings; knowing all the while that this is a life-long process that will sometimes feel like one step forward and two steps back or two steps forward and one step back. At all times, we are encouraged to be as compassionate with ourselves as possible; to cut ourselves continual slack because we are doing the most demanding and honourable work there is.
An antidote to the confusion that is so prevalent in humanity is the process of gaining access to our feelings. It is only from the increasingly balanced place where right-brain feeling has been re-integrated that we can recognize the patterns, destructive and otherwise, that are governing our lives. Moreover, this personal journey becomes a conduit to decoding larger scale unconscious patterns that dictate our familial, national and global behaviour (eg) the Indigenous people.
Questions we didn’t even know we had, or have been avoiding because they are so vexing, can suddenly be asked and explored. Why did I marry my wife? Why am I an alcoholic just like my father? Why is my brother in a terrible relationship with his partner… again? Why am I sick… again? Why am I going through the motions with my job… again? Why is my relationship with my mother so problematic? Why am I perpetually unsatisfied and unhappy? What is up with the world?
Over a period of months and years of accessing our long-dormant feelings the dots begin to be connected as we experience revelatory moments of really understanding the programming behind the scenes. But what’s really fascinating and exciting is that the more insight we gain into our personal patterning, the more we see the generational patterning at work within our own families and our world. Trauma is trauma and betrayal is betrayal, regardless of class, race or religion. With this felt understanding, the artificial walls that separate us begin to fall away. We see ourselves. We see each other.
We can stop running. We can rest. We can feel the exhilarating liberation of letting things go. Letting go of the illusion that we are defined and judged by our trauma, most of which doesn’t belong to us anyway. We can feel the power of peace and gentleness. We can feel that it’s going to be okay. “
The more Canadians engage with this kind of personal healing, the greater the available empathy for the suffering of others, including the Indigenous people. Real change takes time, courage and effort. The deeper we go, the more we’ll recognize that Senator Beyak, the Indigenous people, you and me… we all have far more in common than we have differences. We’re all in this together, so let’s consider putting down the Febreze 🙂
A week after this post I wrote a follow-up piece in response to a gentleman on Facebook: Senator Lynn Beyak: Epilogue
The Ghomeshi Case, and the treatment of women in Canadian culture and the judicial system, is underpinned by the very same RMP forces. You can read that article here.
American culture and politics is also underpinned by the same RMP forces, the extremity of which we are now witnessing with The Trump Presidency. You can read that article here.
The aforementioned and quoted piece is entitled, Brexit: An Invitation to Dig Deeper – Reflections on the Patterned Role of Betrayal, Trauma and Boarding School on British Politics and Culture. Great Britain being mother and father to Canada, America and Australia, the very same foundational forces are at work in these countries, as illustrated in the above Ghomeshi & Trump articles. The Brexit piece started as an article but turned into e-book. However, you can read the entire work for free at boardingschooltrauma.info
How many of us, including those who are public figures, behave badly but then claim that it was ‘out of character’. “It’s not who I am”.
Personal, generational and cultural trauma has forced so many of us to build a wall of protection that we are deathly afraid of the self-reflection required to understand that the most sure-fire way of knowing who we are is to see how we act under duress. Those are the moments where we reveal to ourselves and others exactly where we are in our development; our level of consciousness.
When we embrace the courage necessary to dig below the automatic denials of responsibility – the deflections – we understand that when people show you who they are believe them. Believe your own actions and reactions. They are the truth.
Be aware of how quickly the ego turns its focus to the explanation – to the excuses – that follow. That is the place to look. That is the opportunity for growth. And most importantly, be compassionate with yourself in this process.