Proudly Canadian: Doing Right by all our Pets

by Kevin D. Annett 

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 My bleeding Canadian heart was so relieved the other day when I read that a government forensics team has hurried to our west coast to disinter and properly bury the remains of some of those adorable Husky sled dogs that were executed by a firing squad soon after the Vancouver Olympics. And while nobody is saying, well, why exactly the pups were shot, hell! Never let it be said that we aren’t a well-intentioned people! We know how to appear to do the nice thing, after the fact – at least when it comes to our animals.

It’s no doubt true that we come by our nice gestures honestly – and by way of the British. For example, sometime around the time of the Great War that Didn’t End a Single War, when over a thousand miners in South Wales had died from pit explosions and on the job accidents, King George the Fifth wrote an indignant letter to the mine owners of the region, demanding that they treat their pit ponies more humanely.

The mine owners complied, naturally, being a caring group of chaps.

A few years earlier, after deliberately starving the whole Irish nation and shipping out record boatloads of wheat and cattle from their lands, Queen Victoria and her Church of England sent caring Christians to Cork and Dublin to see what aid could be brought to the ravenous multitudes there in the form of workhouses for the poor. The Irish, like the mine pit ponies or any other workaday animals, were worthy of compassion, what?

Well Gosh darn it people! Considering this inspiring tradition of our superior Anglo-Saxon civility, I suggest we all pitch in and give a hand to those nice forensic investigators, and get to the bottom of that horrible crime committed against a bunch of innocent sled dogs! After all, being from Ontario the diggers might not know their way around coastal British Columbia, and they may end up disinterring the wrong mass grave: like one with Indian women and children in it. And that wouldn’t be very nice at all.

You know, I once had it all wrong about my country. I thought that Canadians just didn’t care about dead Indians. Back in the spring of 2010, when not a single cop, politician or reporter replied to my published list of 28 mass grave sites near former Indian residential schools, I assumed that it was because they were all indifferent to aboriginal people. I thought, with typical liberal arrogance, that when hundreds of native women went missing and the RCMP said there were only nine unaccounted for, it meant that the Boys in Red were trying to cover up murder, including their own misdeeds.

How wrong I was! Of course we care! Being not citizens under our law but wards of the state, the Indians are less than human, after all, and therefore are worthy of our long tradition of care and animal husbandry. 

We’ve allotted the aboriginals the kind of care they legally and morally deserve, as we do to all our pets. First, after eliminating and breeding out the savage ones among them, we domesticated, neutered and trained the rest to do our bidding. Today, we confine them to kennels called reservations and toss them some of our scraps. When we decide that a wrong has been done to them, we establish a Royal Commission to study the problem for many years and then shelve its report in Ottawa. Then we pat them on their heads and toss them a treat.

Of course, sadly, sometimes animals go astray, and need to be hunted and put down. The herd has to be kept managed, after all. The Indians aren’t like you and me, and they haven’t exactly been chomping at the bit to dig up the remains of their own people who have died. We wouldn’t let them, of course, but that’s beside the point. A house broken animal knows its place.

Again, thanks to our own special Indian Act, the red skins have no need of the prerogatives of citizenship, like the right to refuse medical treatment or enjoy due process. We take care of our Indians. We know their needs better than they do. We will provide them all the compensation and apologies and healing and reconciliation that they will ever need.

So why in God’s name should we disturb this special, thoughtful arrangement by digging up the wrong mass grave?

You know, it’s so good to live in a country like Canada, where animals get treated the right way – and where even the lowliest creature can receive a proper burial and a criminal investigation. We care that much.

Table Talk No. 7 – Keeping the Long View and Being our own Best Hope:

An Unrelenting Remembrance

by Kevin D. Annett

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No one can prevent you from living in accordance with your own nature; therefore what is sacred lies within your own mind and its capacity to direct your life according to justice and integrity. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Someone asked me the other day whether I mind all the smears and slagging I’ve taken in the Canadian media. Why should I? came my reply. I was first attacked as a public enemy by the Vancouver press when I was only seventeen.

Forty five years later, I cherish how early in my life I learned of the power of the Establishment to fabricate hysteria, lies and mud slinging – and of my own capacity to overcome all of it. That knowledge is part of my inner ballast whenever the panic and madness of those around me threatens to overwhelm my little ship.

None of what we endure today is new. Any genuine radical who understands their own experience over a lifetime can recognize how completely vulnerable are the Powers That Be Not to the simplest act of defiance by any of us. I first learned that up close as a teenager when I made the headlines and earned the hatred of many simply by trying to democratize the public school system against every vested interest in sight.

I relate some of this voyage of discovery in my autobiography Unrelenting: Between Sodom and Zion. (Amazon, 2016) I re-read it last night and recalled like a warm wave in my guts the shining truth that I have always been my own rock and foundation, and thereby have remained unfailing and endured. As much as I love creation’s mystery and what some call God, I have always felt that divinity is as close to me as the pulse of my own compassion and the reach of my integrity. Otherwise, how can it be real?

Such soulful self-reliance is a difficult idea for many of today’s prospective freedom fighters who lack the courage that comes from knowing and believing in oneself after having gone through the fire. We encounter who we are only on the firing lines of life, where we must make a sudden choice whether to either hold on to or surrender our selves. Human conflict is at its core a mere stage setting for the playing out of such a higher drama of soul contest.

Sadly, a narcissistic culture like ours bars even the most devout seeker of good from experiencing such life-wrenching tests. Is not the most continual refrain of well-wishers towards me the admonition to “Stay safe”, rather than to “Stay true”? How many times has the bravest and most committed companion fallen away on the eve of our battles with church and state when personal danger or loss suddenly becomes possible? Too many times to recount.

Part of the malaise, too, is that we occupy a sad, discouraged age that sees only what is wrong while finding no capacity in a single human life to create meaning and justice. The enormity of evil seems to squelch anything that you or I might do. But the problem is not the apparent power of our adversary but our general refusal to engage it directly on our own terms rather than its terms. For few people today understand how within themselves and all of us lies the full potential and majesty of the universe, which finds expression through right action once we have broken free of fear and complicity. And such action can break down the mightiest tower of wrong, over time. I know this to be true, because I have achieved it.

I don’t doubt that this estrangement of people from their own innate power is why so many of them can’t accept that alone and neglected, I sparked the process that brought down a pope and three cardinals in Rome, and forced Canada’s war crimes to light. When asked how I accomplished this, my answer comes by remembering the void that faced me the morning I conducted my first exorcism outside the Vatican: I faced not a living entity but a dead nothingness. When I withdrew my inner adherence to its illusion it began to crumble: not just spiritually but in the world.

The tornado that struck Rome the next day was creation’s reminder to me that nothing has power over us once we find our own; and that if we form the ground of any battle, even the strongest enemy must respond, and thereby be weakened.

Nobody can learn this lesson if they are caught up in the moment and ignore the lessons of history and their own experience. The long view dispels our fears and strips the mask of power away from the corporate system that needs to have us feeling alone, cornered and powerless. In truth, through the lens of a wide view of our own history and what we have achieved, the rulers of the world, visible and otherwise, are stripped naked and exposed as nothing. Acquire such sight and no power on earth can hinder or oppress you any longer.

As the end of my mortality approaches I see with a deep and calm clarity how my life’s purpose has been to witness to the inherent power within one man or woman to overturn whole systems through the forceful integrity of their own self-sacrificing actions. A Cromwell, a Moses, a Jesus or you or I are set apart by our consecrated devotion to the mind and will of God that is in truth our very own. Let that light shine in you and all things are possible.

At the first press conference I ever held, just after my seventeenth birthday, a battery of paid-to-be -hostile reporters confronted me and my comrades who were organizing Vancouver high school students into a union that would overturn the power structure in the schools. After an older guy berated us as “little Red Guards trying to tear down the system”, he asked us,

“What is it that you young people ultimately want, anyway? Is it money? Power? What?”

I couldn’t refuse such a gleaming straight line. Sporting my impish grin that seems to infuriate the shit out of my enemies, I said to the sweating Neanderthal,

“None of that. We want a new world”

And none of them knew what to say. 

………………………………..

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Table Talk No. 6 – The Crystal Spirit: With Farid in a British prison

Fallen reading

by Kevin Annett


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I wear as a badge of honor my deportation from a country of liars and cut throats.
- Big Bill Haywood, labor organizer and revolutionary, 1920

 

Old Peter Annett would have been proud of me, I suppose. 

Like my free thinking ancestor, I was tossed into a British prison for thinking certain thoughts.

It happened in May of 2011, just a few days before I was to speak of state-sponsored child trafficking at the annual Against Child Abuse Rally in London’s Trafalgar Square.

My closest loved ones like to joke that I must be Peter’s reincarnation, considering our parallel lives, and of how he was jailed and pilloried in London at the age of 70, in the year 1763, for writing “seditious blasphemy” against the Church of England.

How little changes over time. For just like two and a half centuries ago, a blood stained fiction called the Crown of England and their wealthy private contractors still catch the innocent in their claws, the rule of law be damned.

Here is what happened to me, as I recorded the day after my imprisonment:

 

The room is small, unventilated, and foul-smelling, and crammed with ten of us. I am the only white person there.

A Malaysian mother with her four year old daughter sits in one corner, sobbing uncontrollably. Incarcerated for half a day, she’s one of the luckier ones. A young Turkish man called Farid has languished in here for over three days, isolated from his four children. Farid has lived in England for eleven years, doing sweat jobs for shit wages and loyally paying his taxes, but tomorrow he’ll be deported over a technicality in his work visa.

There is no appeal allowed. His children will not accompany him.

This is the Immigration Prison in Stansted airport, outside London. The time is the early hours of May 30, 2011.

The net fell on me suddenly the night before, as I made my way through the border control desk after disembarking from the Netherlands.

After asking me why I was coming to England, a banal twit in a uniform scanned my passport through his computer, and quickly looked shocked as he peered through thick lenses at the screen. He scuttled off to speak to his supervisor, who I watched through the glass window of his office as he looked at his own computer, nodded his head and said something to his crony.

Triumphantly – I guess that as an employee of the private company Reliance Limited that runs British immigration services now, he gets extra points for jailing and deporting someone – The Twit returned and informed me with a whine of condescension that my giving public lectures was “unusual” for a tourist, that I was “suspect” (he didn’t say of what) and would therefore be barred from entering England.

“What exactly am I suspected of doing?” I asked him.

But first you are to come this way” he motioned, ignoring my question like I hadn’t said anything. We walked to a tiny holding cell. The Twit left me alone in there for a half hour, I guess to make me sweat, but when he returned I was calmly whistling an Irish melody that seemed to annoy him to no end.

I bet you find your job difficult, you know, putting people through all this” I ventured to The Twit as he fiddled with his papers.

Attempting a smile, he answered,

No, no, I enjoy it, actually. One meets very fascinating people in this line of work”.

If only you knew, I thought.

The Twit refused to give me his name when I asked, nor could I know the name of his supervisor or even use the telephone. He also wasn’t wearing a badge number, although later he made a gaff when he donned another coat and I saw his number: 6676.

You’ll be in here tonight, until we can send you back from whence you came” the pallid Twit informed me, smiling at his pretended eloquence and gesturing to a white door. He knocked, and a stern young guy answered and glared at me like I was yesterday’s trash. Then I was locked in with a whole crowd of dark skinned people.

Despair stared back at me from the sad eyes of my fellow prisoners who lay or sat around the room. They were all deflated, tired and beaten. A TV was blaring mindless crap at them so I walked over and switched it off. The young Turkish guy whose name was Farid looked surprised at my action, but then he smiled at me weakly, and nodded.

After my obligatory finger printing and photographing – I asked the Reliance company goon if I could have a copy of the picture, since I looked pretty good, but he said no – I was locked back into the sparse room with my fellow detainees. I was told not to speak to any of them since that was against the rules. I just smiled at the goon, and I ignored him.

Most of the detainees didn’t want to talk. It was nearly midnight by then, and like prisoners do, they had adapted to their incarceration and were mired in themselves. But Farid was too filled with grief about being robbed of his children to settle into apathy.

I will never see them again. They will be put with other families and then anything can happen to them. My youngest son is only a baby.”

I remembered reading the day before how 586 children placed in the foster care system in England had somehow disappeared over the past year. Just vanished. Local child welfare officials had no explanation, apparently.

To ride out his pain and the dull hours, Farid taught me of his life in Turkey: how he had run a small shop in Ankara until he couldn’t afford the back handers to the local cops. He’d worked every shitty job imaginable in London since arriving, to feed his growing brood of children. His eyes bore a thousand scars but they glowed when he spoke of his kids.

Farid seemed on the verge of tears at that point, so I tried telling him some jokes but they fell flat. So he politely shifted the topic by teaching me some Turkish words, starting with “I love you”. The phrase sounded like “selly sev yurum”. He commented how the phrase might come in handy if I ever came to his country, but not if I said it to another man, of course.

That’s not what I hear” I replied, and he laughed uproariously.

We held back the demons like that during those slow and weary hours, as the others tried to sleep and didn’t. The Malaysian woman sang to her daughter while the Reliance thugs stared at us through a thick pane of glass. But it felt to me like I was free, staring in at them in their little box.

It all ended for me the next morning, when I was taken to a plane that would fly me back to Eindhoven in the Netherlands. I said goodbye to Farid and wished him luck, and gave him a strong bear hug.

The man stepped back and took my hand gently. He said “Allah”, pressing his other hand against his chest, and then pointing to my heart.

I recalled just then the last words in George Orwell’s book Homage to Catalonia, in which he describes briefly meeting an Italian militia man who like Orwell was fighting to defeat Franco and his fascists during the Spanish Civil War. Orwell and the Italian couldn’t speak one another’s language, but they embraced and shook hands before departing in different directions for the war-ravaged front lines. Orwell never saw the Italian man again.

In memory to this unknown stranger who had briefly taken his hand in comradeship, and who had probably died, Orwell wrote a poem to him that concluded,

But the look I saw in your eyes, no power can disinherit.
No bomb that ever burst shatters the crystal spirit.

The night after my deportation, I stood in a crowd of singing and laughing revelers in a pub, tasting my freedom like a soothing ale but wondering where Farid might be, and grieving for him and his children in that part of me that never rests. I never felt imprisoned in jail; nor did Farid’s own agony stop him from taking my hand in his and blessing me.

Down the years, I’ve learned from so many Farids that the more they repress us, the sharper and stronger some of us get, like the sharp point of a spear. The criminals in power are afraid of us now and are striking out in their fear, knowing that their time is over, be they ever so high.

So be of good cheer, and let this knowledge propel your body and your life to accompany your words. But never forget Farid, and his children, and that Thing that is trying to imprison all of us in these final days of decision and revelation.

……………….

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Villawood Immigrant Detention Center, England, 2011