Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« Vote Omar for grand poobah of the blogosphere! | Main | Lemieux: The mirage of state morality »

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Canada's "differently civilized" folk

Here is an open-minded quote from the preface of an old book on Canada's natives that I picked up at a library book sale recently. You would think that it might have come from a modern textbook, which makes it quite progressive for a book first printed in 1896:

....the wealth of their languages and literature are interesting to us, as belonging to a people who were the pioneers of our land, and they open up a new world of myth, religion and native culture. Close contact with our native tribes shows us the mistake we have been making in deciding that ignorance, superstition and cruelty belong to these people, and that there is no wisdom, truth or beauty in their belief or manner of life....

The author, John Maclean, goes on to explain the good and the bad of native cultures, based on first hand study.  This should not be that controversial, as the first step in promoting racial amity should be learning about and studying other cultures.

But, alas, Mr. Maclean would be branded a racist today, due to one word. You see, the book that exemplified a laudable desire to help white readers understand more about the natives living around them is titled Canadian Savage Folk: The Native Tribes of Canada.

Oh dear. For using "savage" and other similar words, Globe and Mail columnist  Margaret Wente has over a thousand people calling for her dismissal from the newspaper. Her offense? Citing a newly published book in a column last month, she defended Olympic official Dick Pound. (In a interview with La Presse, Mr. Pound, in attempting to defend China from human rights critics, began to compare the histories of Canada and China, remarking that several centuries ago Canada was "un pays de sauvages"--" a land of savages" ) Ms. Wente, after talking to one of the authors of Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry,  proceeded in her column to argue that , well, several centuries ago "a land of savages" is what Canada was...

Author Maclean did make value judgements in his book. While there is much that Maclean liked of what he saw, there is part of native life that he saw as superstitious and uncivilized. The word "savage" is used throughout. The book, I am certain, cannot be that egregiously racist, as my copy of the 1896 book is a 1971 paperback reprint from a mainstream Canadian publisher. I doubt, however, that the book could be reprinted in 2008 without some serious editing. A new title would be a must. How about Canadian "Differently Civilized" Folk?

Before I take a marker to my copy of Canadian Savage Folk and cover over all the times Mr. Maclean used the word "savage" in his book, I would like to note that it is sad that it is increasingly difficult in Canada for both whites and non-whites to take an honest look at our shared history and realize that there is good and bad in everyone and that, quite frankly, certain ways of organizing society are better than others.

Should Ms. Wente's critics win, it would be a step towards a Stalinist view of history where bad things are made to disappear...in the same way that disgraced officials, after being sent to the Gulag, were removed from official photos so that Stalin could pretend to Russians that they had never even been born.

Posted by Rick Hiebert on November 11, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Canada's "differently civilized" folk:


I dunno, I checked around and it looks like in Southern Ontario some Indians are still savages. Or at least, behave as such.

North End of Toronto is getting pretty savage too, but those are different savages. We imported them mostly from the Caribbean.

What's with Ontario anyway. What will take to civilized that province?

Posted by: John V | 2008-11-11 2:38:07 PM

Ontarians argue that they're the civilized ones - others are not. Guess what: they're lying.

I'm not sure the right question is "What will it take?" I'd rather ask "Is it worth it?"

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-11-11 3:05:09 PM

North End of Toronto is getting pretty savage too, but those are different savages. We imported them mostly from the Caribbean.
Posted by: John V | 11-Nov-08 2:38:07 PM

You're not supposed to speak badly of the Punk's brotha's and sista's. How much you want to bet that 9 months from now half the kids born in that "area" will be named Barak?

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-11-11 3:26:27 PM

You can bet that there won't be many named "David" (Miller) or "Dalton" (the Great McGuinty")!!!

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-11-11 3:39:33 PM

Nice as usual to see that the usual suspects are hijacking the thread to hurl their expected insults at Ontario.
Appropos of this posting, I dont give a shit what the Indians say, do, or think until they start acting in a responsible manner and quit using the white-man's guilt as a way of perpetuating their
grievance ridden way of life.

Posted by: atric | 2008-11-11 3:57:32 PM

You can bet that there won't be many named "David" (Miller) or "Dalton" (the Great McGuinty")!!!
Posted by: Zebulon Punk | 11-Nov-08 3:39:33 PM

The other half will be named:


And nobobdy will be named Zebulon.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-11-11 4:30:37 PM

Is there something wrong with those names? Why should they take the oppressor's names?

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-11-11 4:41:13 PM

Why should they take the oppressor's names?
Posted by: Zebulon Punk | 11-Nov-08 4:41:13 PM

They can easily go back to the "Islands" if they don't like it here. What a fucking asshole.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-11-11 5:17:30 PM

Why should they? Believe it or not but Toronto is better for them. However, white Toronto better start living up to their promises of prosperity. Each immigrant is basically a slave to the white majority. Well done, "progressive" Toronto has actually regressed and become a slave society. Time for another Emancipation Proclamation and a March to the Sea where we burn Toronto to the ground.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-11-11 5:23:18 PM


" I would like to note that it is sad that it is increasingly difficult in Canada for both whites and non-whites to take an honest look at our shared history and realize that there is good and bad in everyone and that, quite frankly, certain ways of organizing society are better than others."

That's the nub, isn't it? Well, that and not all peoples are equally gifted in every aspect of culture, genetics, etc but all peoples have at least some who are gifted in each.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2008-11-11 6:05:11 PM

"certain ways of organizing society are better than others."

J.S. Mill,

"Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities.[...]

If it be said that so broadly marked a distinction between what is due to a fellow-countryman and what is due merely to a human creature is more worthy of savages than of civilised beings, and ought, with the utmost energy, to be contended against, no one holds that opinion more strongly than myself. But this object, one of the worthiest to which human endeavour can be directed, can never, in the present state of civilisation, be promoted by keeping different nationalities of anything like equivalent strength under the same government. In a barbarous state of society the case is sometimes different. The government may then be interested in softening the antipathies of the races that peace may be preserved and the country more easily governed. But when there are either free institutions or a desire for them, in any of the peoples artificially tied together, the interest of the government lies in an exactly opposite direction. It is then interested in keeping up and envenoming their antipathies that they may be prevented from coalescing, and it may be enabled to use some of them as tools for the enslavement of others."


Posted by: DJ | 2008-11-11 7:03:01 PM

The debate is pointless because the premise is flawed. If you see the world history in stark contrasts like savage and civilized, you negate the realities of human society.

The family unit is "civilized". It is the core reflection of human love, sacrifice, loyalty and empathy ... larger social units outside the family are put together for exploitation of productivity, common defense and division of labor....primarily by the ruling elite to serve the ruling elite. This is "organization" not necessarily civilized and fair by family unit standards, but certainly formidable. Civilized does not denote the abscence of injustice, crime or savagery...it simply denotes a degree to which these things are organized and focused/utilized. There have been many kleptocracies, pathocracies, kakistocracies and tyrannies which were "civilized (a structured. organized social order)..but none were as "civilized" as the family unit.

Those they called savages also have the family unit and clan/tribe but lack the wider organization and ruthless efficiency of more organized societies...Tribal/clannish justice, commerce and wars may seem primitive but are in reality just primordial examples of what highly organized societies do on a larger scale with more efficiency.

Looking at global history it seems to me it is less a matter of the conquest of civilization over savagery but of the conquest of the most efficient organized savagery over lesser organized savages.

This is the difference between an Atlatl and a musket or a buffalo jump and an abattoir or between a war party and a colonial army or a tribal war council and the NATO security council or even between Sharia fatwa stonings and capital punishment. Same savagery demanded by social organizers, one is just more co-ordinated/engineered/orchestrated and efficient than the other.

So I hope this spartan analogy serves as a warning to the primitive savages out there not to piss off the highly organized and efficient savages, you always lose when that happens.

Posted by: WL Mackenzie Redux | 2008-11-13 7:40:19 AM

If he wrote those words today he would indeed be a racist, as the ranking of cultures from savage to civilized no longer seems motivated by science. Since he wrote them a hundred years ago when such rankings counted as the science of the day, when say he was not. Wente has no such excuse.

Also, can the baloney about Stalinism. If Wente's critics win its because they persuaded the G&M that it would be a bad business decision to keep her on. Sounds pretty capitalist to me.

Posted by: bigcitylib | 2008-11-13 11:09:03 AM

The Prime Directive would lead one to conclude that noble savages have no need for any type of wealth transfer from more advanced civilizations.

At some point and left alone, they too could have invented the Internet, as did Al Gore.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-11-13 11:17:29 AM

What a joke. It's you right wing wing bags who seek to rewrite history. That's what your ancestors did when you colonized countries. They did so to justify their presence. Between that column about Sarah Palin that was effectively censored by the CBC, and then George Galloway (yeah, I'm sure he'll blow up the country if he comes), the right seems to be doing the most censoring.

Posted by: John | 2009-03-31 4:48:32 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.