Friday, February 29, 2008

put up your dukes

So, I've been on a bit of break, nearly three months. I've decided to end seclusion, however I'm afraid of two things: 1. No one will even have noticed I was gone or that I am back and; 2. I don't have anything wonderfully profound on this, the occasion of my return to the land of ones and zeros.

But, I do have something to ramble on about. I was at a workshop this afternoon about "Fighting Oppression." During the question and answer period, an indigenous sister raised a concern over the use of the word, "fighting" and the overtones suggestive of conflict. This is not uncommon. There seems to be extensive apprehension of conflict within indigenous communities. By no means, have I adequately worked this issue out but I know it bothers me.

Now, perhaps as a "guy" I cannot fully appreciate her perspective and perhaps as a "man" I'm predisposed to the fight, but I know plenty of pacifist dudes and plenty of rowdy women who would relish nothing more than to get it on and start kicking some ass. While I suspect gender is part of it, I am reluctant to make any broad generalizations.

Now, I'm going to make a generalization. Generally speaking, from my experience lately, we Indians are afraid of the fight and conflict in general. Oddly, we seem to really be into fighting each other. How many times did I hear the term, "lateral violence" when I worked for the Tribal Council? And when we do fight the colonials, it's more often than not in court, which is really like getting good white people (who are good to us, especially when we give them oodles of money) to fight the bad white people. Speaking of white people, I had another "half-white" friend express concern over my use of the term "white people." I wasn't even using it in an overly derogatory manner, unless you consider the whole phrase as somehow offensive to your communist/anarchist sensibilities: I was speaking of "rich white people" writing modernist American literature in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century.

How about I use the term "immigrant" or "settler?" Then I might offend my Canadian friends. Sigh, there's no winning the semantic game.

So anyway, back to the fighting issue. Are we afraid of fighting? Have we become soft? Perhaps we have evolved. Perhaps we are more civilized now. Perhaps we have seen the Gandhi-esque light and should know better. I'm not so sure. Perhaps we are afraid. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be flippant about the very real and devastating effects of war. I would hate to naively romanticize fighting, but surely we cannot achieve our goals without at least a little bit of friction. I know deep down we may truly all want to "get along" but surely we must strive for more. Surely, our goals must include justice and freedom, and I mean true justice and freedom, not the mere facades being able to go to court and shop at Wal-Mart.

What's wrong with a little scrappiness? Have we been forever pacified? I'm not equating non-violence with non-fighting either. We can be non-violent and damn confrontational, or at least place ourselves in a position where The Man is gonna be itching to pepper spray us. Fanon suggested a certain cathartic and therapeutic element to the act of the indigenous person standing up and fighting for themselves. I think he was on to something. Again, I AM NOT ADVOCATING VIOLENCE, but I should be able to live my life, to live an indigenous life. Unfortunately, doing so in the current day and age is certain to bring that way of life in conflict with another and the power of the state. So what do we do? What do you do?