Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What's In A Name? - Hip No More or The Tragically Idle (editorial)...

* what's a blog for if not to get a few things off one's chest and as I've always said: you'll never please everyone - I've also come to embrace my contrary nature, as I've also often said: if everybody's doing something it can't be that good - this is more of a flippant generalization but seems unfortunately to hold true often enough from the lens through which I view the world. 

The Tragically Hip? Great band, terrible name. I'd bet my left one they (the guys in the band, that is) feel the same way. There are those of us who could never figure out why they could never crack the American market, but with a novelty name that seems to go for the ironic, detached aloofness the guys are well-known for, I remember early interviews with Gord Downie (see, me and my pals saw them at a hotel club in Calgary way back when they were a mostly cover band and we had gone because of the ironic name, they had to be a novelty act) after a couple records when taking the world by storm seemed imminent and he would decry the fact that, at that point, playing in the US always meant a loud and demonstrably proud contingent of Canadians seemed to follow their every move. He was already by that point clearly less than enthralled by such solid support from fellow Canadians, he seemed in fact to take it for granted that, critically speaking, Canadians were blindly cheering fellow citizens rather than responding in the affirmative to what they might be regarding as good music. Well, all these years later, and The Tragically Hip could easily sellout multiple dates at every fifteen  thousand seat arena in every major city in Canada (all 10 or so of em) yet they have failed to garner a notable following in the US market outside of Detroit/Winsdor, a single American city that geographically is actually located north of Windsor Ontario by strange circumstance and Hip shows are comprised mainly of Canadians. Everywhere else in the states, the Hip play small clubs the size of The Commodore ballroom or smaller. But it's hard to market a glib-sounding name like The Tragically Hip, what does a name like that do to your imagination? And, let's face it, Downie's stream-of-conscienceness, likely, meaning little-or-nothing lyrics are hard to find real meaning in. Yeah, I know, patriotic hosers at this point will defend their heroes as representative of pure Canadiana, that is, lyrical content full of references to Hugh Maclenan, hockey, hockey players and various if obscure Canadian geography (I'm sure Bobcaygeon Ontario is prepared to name a street after them if they haven't done so already) - but the references are vague and if people want to write university papers on Hip songs citing their relevance and importance, be my guest, but I'll bet my right one, Uni professors won't be as open-minded on the subject - don't get me wrong, some of their songs are timeless, original and they have a vibe full of ominous character and vitality - and they rock!. If they haven't by now, it seems less than likely that The Hip (as they probably wish they were called) will break ever internationally or have any notable following outside Canada. It is tragically so.

Now, the one that's going to have people all across Indian country PO'd  - Idle No More? Great time in history for a movement, absolutely terrible name for one...Idle No More is poor choice of name for any kind of active political or cultural movement (or this one in particular). It's because, without subtext, the phrase Idle No More implies so many negative ideas and notions and seems to validate so many ill-formed and preconceived conclusions about Native people already at work in the mainstream consciousness. If I didn't know that the movement's name came about because a few individuals spontaneously called their message thread Idle No More on the Internet, I'd almost think it was created by non-native media manipulators with an agenda. First off, the name implies (that means: seems to mean) that Native people have been idle (not-active) until this point in history. The mainstream mindset believes this about native people anyways and it is the rhetorical argument you always have thrown out in any discussion with someone who's mind is already made up and is completely unwilling to consider any historical background, circumstances or cause and effect scenarios. In my mind countless Native people have been working their asses off lo these many years (and generations) to defend, educate, protest and ensure that there is ANYTHING left of Indian people, culture, history and that there is even a need to not be idle any longer as the name seems to imply. The idea that in 2012-13, Native are perhaps, for the first time, somehow, coming to an awareness that things are not fair and injustice is manifest must come as a surprise or a symbolic slap in the face to the families of George Manuel, Vera Kirkness, Elijah Harper, Big Bear, Jeanette Armstrong, Harold Cardinal, Alanis Obamsawin, John Trudell, Winona Laduke, Vine Deloria, Anna Mae Aquash, Luthee Standing Bear, Louis Riel and so many others. For anyone not to acknowledge the tireless commitment to their own and all Native people by so many before our time is ignorance pure and simple and disrespectful. 

That the current groundswell (though, it's debatable whether at the time of this writing the movement is already a spent force) seem to believe they invented activism is not surprising. Every generation seems to believe they invented indignation, seems to think they are the first to experience inequity, injustice, intolerance or any other socially negative experience or circumstance. Idle-No-More in my neck of the woods seemed to represent more of an opportunity to see and be seen rather than a hot bed of ideas around organizing and political or grassroots strategies. The idea that Native people are generally waking up for the first time to racist, exploitive and inhumane policy is simply not true. And one also need consider the men and women all across the land who today educate, organize, heal, nurture and demonstrate either within their own sphere of influence or in some larger communal capacity or those who simply live exemplary, dignified lives and work hard each day to do so.

It is always a good thing to get lots of Indians together so in this regard I love what Idle-No-More represents - but mostly, I believe, there are tons and tons of Native people out there who have NEVER BEEN IDLE.

© 2013 Champsteen Publishing

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