Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Victimology 101

Sam Sidlofsky used to toodle around town in his Mercedes 450SL, sporting the licence plate "IAMSAM."

Sam wasn't shy about being a Jew driving a German car.

I'm thinking about Sam because I went to witness the burial of my dear Tante Gisela this afternoon. Sam passed away a few years ago, but his wife Shirley shares a page with my aunt at the McIntyre and Wilkie Funeral Home's website.

Condolences to Shirley's (and Sam's) family.

And to Steve and Inge and Tom and Linda. And especially to my uncle Horst.

But this is not about them. And it's not really about Sam either.

Sam was a Sociology prof I encountered in my journey through higher education. I liked him, and even though I was a student who completely failed to internalize the prevailing certitudes of the time, I got great marks in Professor Sidlofsky's classes, so at some level he must have liked me too.

Page A13 of today's Globe and Mail, the national newspaper of record, offers up two divergent takes on the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I would love to hear Sam's take on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

As a Jew, he'd be well acquainted with the legacy of victimization.

As a Jew who drove an up-market German car, he was obviously a guy who wasn't going to let that legacy get between him and driving that Mercedes.

In my newspaper I've got Ry Morgan, Director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, spelling out why Indians can't "get over" the injustices inflicted on them by the invaders, the conquerors... the White folks.

On the same page, we've got Jeffrey Simpson, a Globe and Mail bigshot, warning of the dangers of wallowing in the legacy of victimhood.

Morgan and Simpson are both right. And they're both wrong.

First of all, the European conquest of North America is long done. It's over. That's not to say that an inferior culture was displaced by a superior one. Far from it. In fact, the more we know about native collectivism the more we can learn from it. But it does mean that the interlopers had the guns, germs, and steel on their side, and they triumphed.

That's a fact.

It's also a fact that many native Canadians are prospering today. Unfortunately, it's only "news" when they don't. That's why we hear lots and lots of sad stories about substance abuse and poverty and failure. That's the nature of the news business.

We don't hear much about the many Indians who are successfully integrated throughout the social spectrum, nor do we hear about the many successful native communities that prosper without wholesale integration. They're out there; we just don't hear about them because it's not part of the news business to report good news.

The news business is based on maximizing the disaster stories. That's why missing aboriginal women and gas-sniffing ten year olds are such big items in the news.

To be sure, the stats on poverty, suicide, homelessness, unemployment and so forth should snap every Canadian, native and non-native, to attention. There is certainly much to be done.

But that's not the whole story.

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