Our Shared Humanity Already Makes Us Equal, No Need for Odious Perplexities

January 17, 2022 Updated: January 17, 2022


I have just read an article by an illustrious academic fellow stating that, when it comes to guest speakers at our colonial-sodden universities, the university should ask permission if that man or woman may speak. In his view, a university should be required to seek permission from the local indigenous communities.

If permission is given, fine; if not, the speaker in question should not have their moment on the podium. That is, we give our power of free speech over to the First Nations. Though this may seem completely ludicrous to ordinary Canadians, it should not surprise those of us who have seen the wonderful benefits of an academic education at such places as Western University, where this academic teaches and does research.

Still, we have been told so very often by exceptional people that we are such racists and colonialists, perhaps we cannot see how beneficial this will be to our forging a new and better relationship.

We are, as this academic suggests, simply foreign occupants on indigenous lands, uninvited guests and foreign denizens. How meaningful that must be for this gentleman to spout. And the treaties, so many with Britain, not with Canada, provide us with ample evidence of our continuous callous disregard. For you see we shouldn’t, he suggests, be thinking of ourselves as Canadians at all but as interlopers.

Besides, some of us who haven’t yet completely submitted to the notion that whatever we thought and said in the past, or about the past, is a terrible colonial lie, may think that freedom of speech cannot exist under such a sanctimonious and arrogant subjugation. Nonsense. We should examine this.

All men and women will be free to speak but some will simply be freer than others.  We have largely gotten rid of the invention that any white persons have suffered in any degree through history, and given up the appalling concept that individual integrity, no matter who one might be, matters within the framework of a compassionate human intercourse. For the grander ideal now in fashion and held up by mimicry is that certain identities have more right than others to express their suffering. We have given up the idea that the only thing that makes people equal is one’s distinct soul and our shared common humanity, for the same kind of deplorable systemic racism some speciously believe they are trying to rid our country of.

But all of this seems completely fine to me. That is if, for instance, anybody wishes to give a talk on William Faulkner’s “The Bear” and the university would ask the chief of the nearest reserve to make his or her decision (although I really think few professors would invite anyone to give a talk on this topic anymore, given the story’s relationship to the end of the Old South and what was once noble and not so noble about it). The chief may not have read “The Bear,” and perhaps wouldn’t want to sit up at night and read it. It is Faulkner’s greatest story—the only thing of Faulkner that Hemingway applauded—but it is ponderous and does digress.

Perhaps the chief, because of his or her own innate humanity, would feel ashamed that anybody required him or her to hold direction over the speaker. Perhaps the chief would have the gentle notion—like dozens of First Nations men and women I grew up with—that people’s main responsibility is to direct themselves.

Still, by some new law, we would all have to await the chief’s opinion on the matter.

The gentleman who proposed this (and the rent one must pay to live in Canada now—for what does Canada matter to a professor like him), co-wrote a book called “Winning and Keeping Power in Canadian Politics.”

There is not one demigod from history who wouldn’t agree with this odious perplexity as a fine starting point. And there are always enough mimics in the crowd to applaud.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

David Adams Richards is an award-winning novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and poet based in New Brunswick. He has won the Governor General’s Literary Award in both the fiction and non-fiction categories and he is a winner of the Giller Prize. He is a member of the Order of New Brunswick and the Order of Canada, and was appointed to the Senate in 2017.