PART 1 The Center of the Empire is a magnificent city of stone buildings, on the shore of an inland lake – no, not Ontario, this is not another Contrarian rant against Toronto. The lake is in the middle of a desert and was created by using elaborate, sophisticated miles-long stone aqueducts to bring melt-water from glaciers in the surrounding mountains. A large, shallow lake, in a stable, comfortable sub-tropical climate.
The society supports itself by agriculture carried out on giant beds made of reeds, floating in the lake. The reeds or bulrushes grow in hundreds of acres in the shallow lake, and are used to form and maintain those beds, gardens if you will, new reeds added to the bottom and night soil and animal manures composted into the top, with housing for the farmers right on the beds, and boats to transport the food produced to the shining city on the shore.
The social structure is based on family; if you are born into a family of reed-harvesters, you will be a reed harvester; if into a noble family, you will be a nobleman, if a family of boatmen you will be a boatman, if night-soil attendants, you get the picture. They are beautiful people, no facial or upper body hair, nice uniform features, and athletic bodies. They bath every day and wear clothing appropriate to such a climate, embellished to show their rank of course. Highest level of embellishment is a veil made of hummingbird feathers skillfully sewn together into a sheet which glows in the sun with the iridescence of the hummingbird and floats like magic in the very mild breezes which pervade, the larger the sheet or veil, the higher the rank. Hugely expensive, think of the time and work in raising or catching tiny hummingbirds, and in sewing the feathers together.
It is a sophisticated society, with a well-developed language including a written language and a main library in the central city, with an all-encompassing religion and an elaborate social and governance structure. Main form of art other than wall paintings is sculpture, usually in solid gold which is mined in the provinces and being easily worked allows very intricate and sophisticated pieces to be created.
The Empire is divided into many provinces, each with a noble family at the top, each producing what it is best at, and each paying tribute to the Emperor in the central city. The Emperor’s imperial army is tasked with protecting the city and the provinces from invaders or barbarians or revolutionaries.
Other than gold, no metals are used; their source for cutting edges is obsidian, a form of natural glass mined in one of the provinces. If chipped properly, it is sharper than any metal; in fact the very best modern surgical tools are still edged with obsidian. Their main weapon for warfare is a heavy wooden sword edged with obsidian chips, it can easily take a man’s head off with a single swipe, but is seldom used, their warfare is pretty sophisticated, more a show of strength than actual mass murder.
Of course there is unrest among people, there always is, and rebellions can generally be put down by a show of force of the Emperors army equipped with those magnificent weapons. An exception happened several generations ago, when the royal family of one of the provinces was able to avoid the main force of the Emperor’s Army and invade the city, kill the royal family and install their leader as the new Emperor. Unfortunately they came to power too recently to be thoroughly accepted and popular, allowing the events in part 2 to happen.
PART 2 Consternation in the city! There were reports from one of the seashore provinces of arrival of a fleet of magnificent alien craft! Some had landed, and creatures had descended from the craft! Incredibly ugly creatures all covered with hair and grime and smelling something awful, heavily garbed in spite of the tropical climate in what appeared to be animal furs and hairs woven into fabric, and speaking an inelegant kind of alien language, full of grunts and snorts. When confronted by the citizens the Aliens unleashed some kind of super weapon which totally demolished the main building on the town square in one loud explosion of noise and dust. That intimidated the town into accepting the Aliens as its new leadership.
More consternation! New reports say the Aliens and the provincial townspeople had managed to work out a compromise on language and were actually able to communicate with each other. The entire province had made a pact with the Aliens against the Empire and was advancing on the city! Other disgruntled provincials were joining the cavalcade! Horrors!
Even worse, a new ailment was sweeping through the land, people were getting sick and dying by the thousands, and the doctors were powerless to do anything about it! And the Emperor was being blamed!
The ragtag band of Provincials assembled at the edge of the city, and the Emperor’s army was occupied in keeping an eye on them. The Aliens were welcomed into the Emperors inner sanctum as befits visiting royalty, however, they proved themselves to be entirely uncivilized, killing a number of the Emperors courtiers and taking the Emperor himself prisoner, and working from there in their uncivilized aggressive fashion were able to take control of the entire Empire. A few hundred savage aliens taking over a nation of millions of educated, civilized souls!
They ravaged the land, as only an uncivilized mob can do, destroying the aqueducts so the lake would disappear and eventually with it the city, except those magnificent stone buildings. They mindlessly destroyed priceless works of art including the massively expensive hummingbird feather veils. They burned the libraries, they seemed to be obsessed with destroying any evidence of the existing culture, and desecrated all the religious sites and condemned anyone following the traditional rituals. Incredibly, they relentlessly hunted down any gold carvings and melted them down, destroying works of art that took thousands of skilled and talented hours to make. They took the gold back to their alien craft, which by now you will have recognized as Spanish Galleons. And so Cortes’ and his mob of Spaniards and Moors destroyed Mexico, one of the more advanced and civilized empires in the world at the time.
You probably haven’t seen this story written in quite this way before, but this is as accurate as any of the conventional historical accounts. The prejudice was that the only civilized form of government was the Roman Empire model which prevailed in the Middle East and Europe for several thousand years. Any form of belief other that Christianity was to be treated with utter contempt and destroyed as quickly as possible. The victor gets to write the history, and so history recorded the Spanish as heroes, and the Mexicans as primitive tribesmen, when arguably it was the other way around.
PART 3 I visited my friend (perhaps acquaintance?) Ruben Cantin some decades ago when he was Chief of the Wabigoon Band and I was trying to be a politician. He started on the “noble children of the forest, caring for the environment, you white guys took it all away, etc.” rant; — we both had a good laugh when he saw me realize he was pulling my leg.
I apologized if he saw my being there as inappropriate, and he brushed that aside. He said the guy he really hated to see was the educated city type, dressed in a buckskin jacket or other inappropriate gear adapted from a Lone Ranger movie, gushing about wild rice and bannock. The oh, so paternal fellow, here to help the noble children survive in a modern world. The oh, so politically correct guy, determined to let Ruben and the world know that he is oh, so ‘tolerant’.
Of course what the city guy was really showing was raw prejudice, he saw Ruben and his people as different, perhaps not fully human, certainly less than equal. Like the Spanish and European attitude toward Mexico 500 years ago.
Tolerant means ‘you stink, but I can ignore that’, when what is really needed is not Tolerance, but Acceptance as another human being. An equally valuable, equally interesting human being, a Canadian, not some kind of ‘other’ or different or pet. Equal, in that we all have talents and abilities, we all have disabilities and frailties, but in the overall measure, we are all equally valuable citizens.
We have a problem, in that the city guy’s ‘Tolerance, you stink but I can hold my nose’ attitude is fashionable among our educated elite. It is at the root of the Indian Act, which arguably is the source of all our aboriginal people’s problems. It pervades what some would call Progress or Progressive thinking. It permeates the overpowering paternalistic system we have put in place, which makes it very difficult for Canadian aboriginal people to live modern lives, to live useful lives, to matter. Ordinary aboriginal people, the superstars of course do well.
It has been said that you can carry live crabs in an open pail and none can escape because if one tries to climb out, the others will reach up and pull him down, a nice metaphor for the situation native people find themselves in when they try to step outside the mold, a nice explanation for the social disorder and unrest so common on our reserves.
Get that city guy and his prejudices out of here, and allow everybody to be free to live useful, productive lives.