When I hear of oppression, this is what I think of

I was listening to CBC radio, a while back, to young articulate Canadian Indians (aboriginals) talking about how incredibly hurt they had been by aboriginal schools and how angry angry angry they were about their oppressed existence.

Aboriginal schools of a certain era were Edwardian light-security concentration camps for youth, such as the one I went to in the 1950s and 60s at great expense to my parents. You could be beaten by teachers for failing to know rules you had never been taught ( I will kill you, Roger Reynolds, if I ever find you). You were instructed in grammar and maths and expected to know subjects, conjugate irregular french verbs, learn Shakespeare, write clearly, and be imbued with patriotic fervour for the British Empire, the Dominion, and Victorian ideals. The food was bad but we were allowed home.

The Indian residential schools probably taught less French and more Christianity than we were. Nevertheless, I am skeptical that residential schools of the 1920s or 1950s were any tougher than what white people were undergoing in the 1920s and 1950s: regimentation, obedience, education, hierarchy, and a very strong inculcation into the idea that the world did not centre on you. It was not child-centred learning.

For me, words like “racism” connote picking up a machete and massacring your neighbours if they belong to the wrong tribe.  Never hiring a man of proven worth because he is of the wrong tribe, that would count to as real racism. Forget “microaggressions”. I find myself micro-aggressed by people who are badly dressed; by people who whine on public radio, by slovenly thought, by pompous know-betters, by cross-country skiers who complain about trails being used by snow-shoers: name your pet hates; you have them too. A sensitivity to Micro-aggressions are the sign of how nice everything is becoming.

You want to read about real oppression, practised by the experts of a police-state? Read this narrative about growing up in Ceausescu’s Romania as the child of a dissident. (“How the Secret Police Tracked my Childhood”) Then talk to me about residential schools, if you dare.