Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Pam Palmater explains the historical background to Idle No More:
(M)ost Canadians are not used to the kind of sustained, co-ordinated, national effort that we have seen in the last few weeks — at least not since 1969. 1969 was the last time the federal government put forward an assimilation plan for First Nations. It was defeated then by fierce native opposition, and it looks like Harper’s aggressive legislative assimilation plan will be met with even fiercer resistance.

In order to understand what this movement is about, it is necessary to understand how our history is connected to the present-day situation of First Nations. While a great many injustices were inflicted upon the indigenous peoples in the name of colonization, indigenous peoples were never “conquered.” The creation of Canada was only possible through the negotiation of treaties between the Crown and indigenous nations. While the wording of the treaties varies from the peace and friendship treaties in the east to the numbered treaties in the west, most are based on the core treaty promise that we would all live together peacefully and share the wealth of this land. The problem is that only one treaty partner has seen any prosperity.

The failure of Canada to share the lands and resources as promised in the treaties has placed First Nations at the bottom of all socio-economic indicators — health, lifespan, education levels and employment opportunities. While indigenous lands and resources are used to subsidize the wealth and prosperity of Canada as a state and the high-quality programs and services enjoyed by Canadians, First Nations have been subjected to purposeful, chronic underfunding of all their basic human services like water, sanitation, housing, and education. This has led to the many First Nations being subjected to multiple, overlapping crises like the housing crisis in Attawapiskat, the water crisis in Kashechewan and the suicide crisis in Pikangikum.

Part of the problem is that federal “Indian” policy still has, as its main objective, to get rid of the “Indian problem.” Instead of working toward the stated mandate of Indian Affairs “to improve the social well-being and economic prosperity of First Nations,” Harper is trying, through an aggressive legislative agenda, to do what the White Paper failed to do — get rid of the Indian problem once and for all.
- And Native Writes Now notes that Christie Blatchford for one isn't shy about saying that she considers the project of eradicating any distinct First Nations culture to be complete:
What Christie Blatchford wrote is offensive to the highest degree; but it should be remembered as the most honest interpretation in a national journal of the ultimate goal of the last 150 years of cultural genocide. Once Native Peoples no longer have any of the characteristics of a nation their claim to any Aboriginal Rights and Titles no longer exist. Christie Blatchford is laying claim to the success of the Canadian governments policy of cultural genocide through assimilation.

They haven't won, but we cannot deny that they are winning. We have to acknowledge Christie Blatchford for publicly announcing the motive. We have another battle and that is the one within our communities, our homes and our minds and spirits. It is our responsibility as Native people to remain idle no more in reclaiming, protecting and preserving our identity by learning and sharing our languages, cultures, traditions, rights and history. This is where most of the battle lies, this is the victory that cannot be taken away. This is it. This is the line in the sand. Idle no more.
- Meanwhile, Naomi Wolf writes about how the previous movement which rallied significant numbers of people in pursuit of a fairer and more equal society was systematically dismantled through collaboration between governments and the corporate sector.

- But Hugh Mackenzie points out that the right-wing propaganda mills seeking to declare inequality a dead issue don't have any basis in fact for doing so:
One of the hallmarks of liberal democracies post-Second World War has been the shared sense that we are all in this together. The breadth of the middle class meant that while there are differences in the way people live, people could still remain connected to one another in fluid social relationships. The middle class has been the glue that binds.

As income inequality worsens, Canadians have become increasingly polarized. We’re divided between a tiny but immensely powerful elite that consumes a wildly disproportionate share of society’s resources and the rest of us.

We are losing that connectedness. We tend not to live in the same neighbourhoods, and when we do, figurative and literal gates that separate us mean that we might as well be living on different planets.
Our kids don’t go to the same schools. They don’t study the same things in college or university. They move into the workforce with wildly disparate life expectations and graduate with wildly different debt burdens.
There has also been a dramatic shift in the share of those costs borne by different social groups: Elite Canadians are paying less at the same time they are castigating our public programs. They also happen to be largely insulated from the impact of the decline of public service in Canada. They don’t feel our pain.

Most Canadians, however, are affected by reduced investments in education, which has long been cast as the ticket to income mobility. The majority are affected by inflation in tuition. But those at the top of the income scale have choices. They can pay the higher fees. They can avoid the consequences of under-investment by sending their kids to private schools or to private universities in the United States.

The rest of us have to live with the consequences.

And the richest of the rich have the ultimate social choice. They can choose what society to be part of.

Thanks to global economic integration and the greater mobility that goes with it, those with means can choose which country to live in, which country to earn their living in, which country to send their children to school in, and which country to pay their taxes in, and there is no need for those countries to be the same. They have similar options in terms of gated communities and private programs tailored to those with deep pockets.

This matters at an individual level, because it says to the 99 per cent that the system isn’t fair. The physical and social infrastructure that makes our society work depends on everyone contributing their fair share of the cost, so that the majority benefits from this collective investment in one another.
- And Jordan Brennan and Jim Stanford also argue that broad-based prosperity makes for a better result for everybody than a society that exacerbates the gaps between social classes:
(T)he growing gap in income distribution — and the myriad costs it imposes on society and our governments — is not inevitable. It reflects changes in economic and political power among the different stakeholders in society. Measures that limit the power and wealth of those at the top, and reinforce the structural bargaining position of those at the bottom, can ensure a broader distribution of incomes and wealth, and allow us to capture an important economic and fiscal “equality dividend.”

Inequality need not be a partisan, left-right issue. If we learn from the scientific evidence regarding the multi-dimensional costs of inequality, we will realize that creating a shared prosperity benefits all sectors of society (not just poor people). And then policy-makers from both ends of the political spectrum can join in building a more balanced and efficient society.

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