215 Little Indians: Or, How is Chevron like the Vatican?

“an act … committed for a political, religious, or ideological purpose that is intended to intimidate the public, or a subset of the public … or to compel a person, government or organization (whether inside or outside Canada) from doing or refraining from doing any act, and that intentionally causes one of a number of specified forms of serious harm, such as causing death or serious bodily harm.”

—“Terrorism”, as defined by the Canadian Government

Five days ago, some lunatic in a truck killed four Muslims in London, Ontario. Our glorious leaders lost no time climbing over each other to see who could most loudly denounce the murders as an act of terrorism.

Back in 2008, Canada declared The World Tamil Movement (an entity previously known mainly for earthquake relief efforts and supporting Tamil immigrants) as a “terrorist organization” because of alleged financial support to the Tamil Tigers—despite the fact that no member of the WTM had even been charged with a crime, much less convicted.

The Catholic church has killed, raped, and assaulted thousands during its residence within this nation’s borders. It has a history of torture, murder, and inquisition dating back to the third century. The latest revelation—215 dead children hidden away beneath the soil (from a single residential school—there were over 130 of those, most under Catholic jurisdiction) is bound to be only the tip of the latest iceberg. (Late-breaking update: Oh, speak of the Devil: another mass grave discovered at a residential school in Manitoba.) The church—which continues, surrealistically, to tout itself as a Moral Authority to the rest of us—doesn’t even bother to deny these atrocities, even while it refuses to apologise for them.

215 x ? (Graphic credit: CBC)

An act committed for a political, religious, or ideological purpose, check. Intended to intimidate, check. To compel people to do or refrain, to intentionally cause harm, to cause death or injury check check check. The Vatican’s treatment of Indigenous peoples is a classic example of terrorism as defined by the Canadian government itself.

Four people dead: terrorism. An organization with no criminal warrants at all: terrorist.

Thousands of dead kids with more to come, a generations-long legacy of rape, assault, and murder? Tax-free status, private schools, and a vacuous bobble-head of a PM who bleats about making things right while his own government spends $163.5 million (and counting) fighting court decisions favourable to First Nations. A PM who, even now, proclaims his Catholic identity without any apparent shame.

What could possibly constitute a mitigating factor here? Why have we not banned this odious hate group and thrown its silly-hatted officials into jail? Why haven’t we, at the absolute least, told them to pay some fucking taxes?

A common refrain is to cite all the “good things” the church has done over the years: the counselling, the food banks, the overseas missions[1]. Anyone tempted to run that particular rationale up the flagpole might ask themselves how they’d feel if Ted Bundy, say, had argued Sure I killed all those people, but hey: I volunteered in a soup kitchen! I gave to the March of Dimes!

Another approach is to plead reform, to hang one’s head and say Yes we’ve been bad, we’re sorry about raping and killing all those kids and we’re sorry about our small part in the Sixties Scoop and we’ll do much better going forward— no, seriously, we really mean it this time— so can’t we just let bygones be bygones? Again: imagine any other murderer getting to walk if they just promise they won’t kill any more people in the future. Imagine a murderer getting to walk after he’s already made that promise in the past, and broken it.

A third argument—perhaps the weakest, given that Catholic atrocities extend nigh unto the present day—is that it was a different age: that in hindsight the Inquisition and the Crusades and even the residential schools may not have been among the Church’s finest hours, but they were after all merely a product of their time. It’s unfair to judge those days by modern standards, especially since the modern institution has done so much good. (Ahem.)

Which is an odd defence for an institution which has always exalted itself as the bearer of Eternal Truth. The whole point of Christianity is that God’s laws do not change: they are perpetual, apart from ephemeral community standards. There is no moral relativism. There is Good and there is Evil and the Vatican exists in a sinful world to help the rest of us tell one from the other. To claim now that the Church never really led society but was a mere weathervane, blamelessly reflecting whatever morals happened to be in fashion at the moment? That’s not just a shameless attempt to weasel out of culpability. It raises an existential question: if the Church doesn’t act to better society but merely to reflect it, what the fuck is it for?

None of these arguments strike me as especially compelling. So why are the leaders of this criminal organization still walking around free? Is it because it’s only terrorism if the other guy does it, just another iteration of Nazis and Skin Cream and Gallo’s Humor? Is it because the government realizes that if it starts down that road, it would logically have to declare itself a terrorist organization because of its complicity (scratch that: because of its initiative) in institutionalized acts of violence against Indigenous peoples? Or is it simple inertia: Sure we’d go to town if this was some new cult but Catholicism’s everywhere; way too much trouble to pull it out by the roots. Besides, can we really do without the Catholic vote?

I suspect that’s it. It’s easy to prosecute one racist asshole driving a truck; it’s simple, it doesn’t cost you any votes, it makes you look like a hero fighting on the side of the angels. Changing the very fundamentals of Canadian society? That’s just too much work. It may be ethically laudable—mandatory, even—but let’s get real. It’s not gonna happen.

Why, you might as well talk about weaning the country off Big Oil.

So now you know the answer to the question posed in the title. It is not an answer that bodes well for the future. Because if the one cry that’s supposed to get people off their asses by appealing directly to the brain stem—that visceral, reflexive, refrain Think of the children!—if that isn’t enough to make us even follow the rules we wrote for ourselves, what hope does the planet have?


  1. Let us put aside for now the fact that missions such as those run by St. Mother Teresa were charnel-houses of corruption and gratuitous suffering.



This entry was posted on Friday, June 11th, 2021 at 8:00 am and is filed under ass-hamsters, rant. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

21 Responses to “215 Little Indians: Or, How is Chevron like the Vatican?”

  1. Ken Kennedy

    Tell us how you really feel, my friend! I’m on board with your analysis.

  2. Don Reba

    Is the government not elected to serve the people? Declaring a large part of the population to be abating a terrorist organization would seem to go against this. It would be authoritarian. This is an important battle, but I suspect it is not within the government’s mandate to fight in it.

  3. Pavel Belfort

    Pete, you make me wanna join the Hamas.

  4. Greggles

    You’re right that it’s baked right into the structure of our country and it’s institutions. Hell, we even export that crap along with maple syrup. When South Africa declared itself an Apartheid State we sent Mounties to help train their national police force in the methods of population control. The bantustans set up there were modeled on the reserve system we had here.

  5. Nestor

    These things take time, society doesn’t spin on a dime. But if Ireland is any indication, the Church is well on it’s way out due to the constant hammer blows of scandals. New vocations are almost non existent.

    Although it would be naive to think everything will just be getting better and better, we’re currently living in a rich bubble where we can afford to have ethics and care about the suffering of the powerless and innocent. Give us a few crises and we’ll be back to the careless grinding underfoot.

  6. Donald Hogan

    Interesting read, as always.

    I recently read a book describing the events leading up to and following the breaking into of a French unionists’ house in the Parisian suburbs at 7am, wherein she was tied to a chair, the letter “A” carved onto her stomach with a knife (She worked for the state nuclear energy company “Areva” at the time), and the handle of that same knife was forced into her genitalia. She was left in that state, and her cleaner found her 5 hours later, untied her and called the police. She had been receiving threats leading up to this, the perpetrator said “there wont be a third warning” while leaving.

    She was trying to pressure the newly elected government (this dates from December 2012) to step in and investigate contracts that were being negotiated by EDF (French energy company) and the Chinese state nuclear company that would have involved the transfer of technology and knowledge that was the property of Areva, effectively ripping Areva off, and as a consequence their workers. The unionist felt it in her duty to try and protect the workers of the company.

    She was accused of faking the scene and convicted to 3 months jail with a 5,000€ fine. She was acquitted a year later.

    The police and judge believed she staged the whole thing, despite having torn ligaments in her shoulder at the time, making it almost impossible for her to have tied her hands around her back. Her husband at this time would tie her bra in the morning to give an example of the level of incapacity. And also despite the fact that a very similar occurrence happened in 2006, to the wife of an executive recently fired from another large state company that was planning to bring the company to court for corruption that he had supposedly been a witness to.

    All of this rambling to come to the epitaph of the book (La Syndicaliste, by Caroline Michel-Aguirre, for those curious):

    “The justice of the peace urged me to hush up the affair. He explained:
    – Firstly, mademoiselle, we won’t believe you… And that’s what’s right, mind you… what would become of society if a servant could get the better of a master?… we would no longer have a society, mademoiselle… it would be anarchy”
    Journal d’une femme de chambre, Octave Mirbeau

    Whatever constitutes the foundation of a given society can’t be put into question, because, without foundations, even the most unjust of foundations, how do you build a society? Just as you can’t put into question the mafia-esque functioning of high spheres of power, you can’t put into question the mafia-esque functioning of the catholic church, so long as we consider it to constitute our identity, or at the least the identity of those that have power.

    It must never occur to those who wield power that different foundations are possible. Whether it’s through ineptitude, cowardice or plain corruption that decision makers are blind is hard to know, the result is the same. When all that surrounds you is desert, it can be hard to believe that there can even be grass, let alone that it can be greener.

    And putting aside the truly scandalous nature of the affair with the unionist, much more horrible things are truly common place – I mean as you said, the catholic church is responsible for the broken lives of thousands if not millions, the Bhopal Disaster killed thousands and injured hundreds of thousands, and the banal suffering of hundreds of millions of impoverished exploitees will always be harder to describe and publicise than the occasional fantastical expressions of the brutality that the exploiters are capable of.

    There’s a passage in Derrick Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe that describes the way that the US justice system justified the conquest of the Americas, it’s long, but I think quoting the whole thing is worth it (p.11-12):

    “In 1823, U.S. Supreme Court chief justice John Marshall wrote a decision remarkable for its candor about a subject we would all generally prefer not to acknowledge: The means by which the United States government, and more broadly EuroAmerican culture, took possession of this continent. By now there can be few who still believe the continent was empty when the Pilgrims and other colonists landed here, or that, for whatever reason, the original inhabitants – the Indians – held no prior claim to the land. To this day, the federal government admits that 33 percent of the land lass of the continental United States was never ceded by treaty, and therefore, is held illegally. How then, does the government, and, once again more broadly, de we nonnatives, justify possession of this land?
    Here’s what Marshall had to say about it. In a case called Johnson v. M’Intosh, Marshall declared that ‘discovery gave title […] which title might be consummated by possession’. He reasoned, ‘However extravagant the pretension of converting the discovery of an inhabited country into conquest may appear; if the principle has been asserted in the first instance, and afterwards sustained; if a country has been acquired and held under it; if the property of the great mass of the community originates in it, it becomes the law of the land, and cannot be questioned.’ Translation: If conquest forms the basis for your community – if your community would simply not exist without it – conquest cannot be questioned
    He was explicit: ‘However this […] may be opposed to natural rights, and to the usages of civilized nations, yet, if it be indispensable to that system under which the country has been settled, and be adapted to the actual condition of the two people, it may, perhaps, be supported by reason, and certainly cannot be rejected by Courts of justice.’ He also said, ‘Conquest gives a title which the Courts of the conqueror cannot deny, whatever the private and speculative opinions of individuals may be.’ Let us translate this as well: If an entire system is based upon an injustice, the Supreme Court can do no other than to codify this injustice into law. To translate it further, and perform a perhaps forgivable anachronism: To kill one Indian may or may not be a ‘hate crime’; to dispossess an entire culture may ‘be supported by reason, and certainly cannot be rejected by Courts of justice'”

    I’m curious to know if you’ve read Derrick Jensen, Peter, if so what did you think? I’ve only read The Culture of Make Believe and Strangely Like War so far, and fuck me sideways, what depressing but interesting reads.

    I wish I knew how to do italics 🙁 , and I hope the formatting isn’t fucked.

  7. The K

    Well, if the so called developed nations are any indication, the catholic church is on its way out in any case.

    But then, do we really need the church to be evil fucks to each other? I say no. Humankind will be just as depraved, self-serving and sanctimonious while committing atrocities without the church, or any churches.

    As much as i dislike religion, organized religion in particular, im under no illussions that their vanishing would make anything better.

  8. Jeff Bonkers

    Damn, this is a good subject, Peter. Thank your for your incisive thoughts on it. Some great comments below, too.

    The truth is: nothing matters. Nothing. Humans often think things matter, and this is why belief systems exist. To generate pattern matches upon which dopamine, epinephrine, and serotonin (plus a few other “happy” chemicals) are produced in the bodies of believers.

    Nothing new here, and I’m not an expert on brain chemistry. But I have read quite a bit about it.

    The Catholic Church can be seen as a holy presence, a whatever, or an centuries-old atrocity. I’m of the latter opinion, to be clear, and would love to see shit happen to rectify the worst acts of… ahem, sin… ever committed by humanity.

    But I don’t matter. And I’m not in control of anything. Nobody is. Gotta love/hate the mass-human organism.

  9. Peter Watts

    Pavel Belfort:
    Pete, you make me wanna join the Hamas.

    That’s it. You’re on the watch list.

    Don Reba: Is the government not elected to serve the people? Declaring a large part of the population to be abating a terrorist organization would seem to go against this.

    Donald Hogan: Whatever constitutes the foundation of a given society can’t be put into question, because, without foundations, even the most unjust of foundations, how do you build a society?

    Yup. Profoundly true, even if it is a more megascale iteration of the working definition of “government”: an entity legally authorized to inflict violence upon its citizens.

    You’d think, though, that gummint lawyers would at least be smart enough to craft laws and definitions that exclude themselves from indictment. Even the DSM put a caveat into its definition of “delusion” to the effect that no belief, no matter how batshit, can be defined as “delusional” if it’s part of a mainstream religion.

    Donald Hogan: Let us translate this as well: If an entire system is based upon an injustice, the Supreme Court can do no other than to codify this injustice into law. To translate it further, and perform a perhaps forgivable anachronism: To kill one Indian may or may not be a ‘hate crime’; to dispossess an entire culture may ‘be supported by reason, and certainly cannot be rejected by Courts of justice’”

    I’m curious to know if you’ve read Derrick Jensen, Peter

    I have not. Evidently yet another serious gap in my education.

    The K: Well, if the so called developed nations are any indication, the catholic church is on its way out in any case.

    That may well be (although we can expect a resurgence of religious belief as societal infrastructures break down and life becomes increasingly risky). But having them go away is only one thing; letting them get away with what they’ve already done is another.

    As much as i dislike religion, organized religion in particular, im under no illusions that their vanishing would make anything better.

    No argument there. But at least it would deprive the depraved of one form of cover.

    Jeff Bonkers: The truth is: nothing matters. Nothing.

    Well, ultimately, sure. Come heat death, who cares about anything? It’s a rationale that can be used to excuse any atrocity up to and surpassing the Death Star, but it’s not especially helpful when trying to derive a blueprint for a sustainable system containing beings which do, after all, have certain survival imperatives.

    I kind of wiggle around that by saying, Okay: let’s assume that something matters. Take as axiomatic the concept of value. It doesn’t matter what that value is: what matters is that the value of any component of a system cannot exceed the total value of the entire system (which is the value of that component, plus all the others). It follows, then, that any component which threatens larger elements of the system should be neutralized, to maximize overall value (of whatever currency).

    I would be happy to take out the Catholics on that basis. Hell, I would be happy to take out the species.

  10. Peter Watts

    Pursuant to this discussion, my pixelpal Jesús Olmo sent me this excerpt from a book titled The Whore of Babylon, by Colombian author Fernando Vallejo:

    “The whore, the great whore, the greatest whore, the sanctimonious, the simoniacal, the inquisitress, the torturer, the falsifier, the assassin; ugly, crazy, bad; she who is behind the Court of the Holy Office and the Index of Prohibited Books, the Crusades and the night of Saint Bartholomew; she who sacked Constantinople and bathed Jerusalem in blood; who exterminated the Albigensians and the twenty thousand inhabitants of Beziers; who swept away the indigenous cultures of America; who burned Segarelli in Parma, Juan Huz in Constanza, and Giordano Bruno in Rome; the detractor of science, the enemy of the truth, the counterfeiter of history; the persecutor of Jews, the burner at the stake, the burner of heretics and witches; the thief of widows, the seller of indulgences; the one who invented CrazyChrist the Rabid and PeterRock the Fool; she who promises the bland kingdom of heaven and threatens with the eternal fires of hell; she who gags the free world and puts a stranglehold on the freedom of the soul; she who represses the other religions wherever she’s in charge and then calls for freedom of religion wherever she’s not; she who has never loved animals, nor ever had compassion for them; she the obscurantist, the impostor, the liar, the slanderous, the libelous, the sexually repressed, the repressor, the voyeur, the nosy, the stubborn, the relapsed, the corrupt, the hypocrite, the parasite, the slaver, the homophobic, the misogynous, the carnivore, the butcher, the beggar, the liar, the insidious, the traitor, the taker, the thief, the manipulator, the predator, the oppressor, the perfidious, the fallacious, the rapacious, the phony, the aberrant, the inconsequential, the incoherent, the absurd, the idiotic, the foolish, the imbecile, the stupid, the autocratic, the despotic, the tyrannical, the catholic, the apostolic, the roman, the Jesuit, the Dominican, the one from the Opus Dei; the concubine of Constantine, Justinian, Charlemagne, the coverer of Mussolini and Hitler; that harlot of harlots, that Whore of Babylon with its bimillenary impunity, has outstanding accounts with me since my childhood and I am here to charge her once and for all.”

    Apparently it’s not yet available in English. Pity.

  11. Anonymous

    Peter Watts,

    I couldn’t help but hear John Cleese reading the list of charges.

  12. Anonymous

    Peter Watts,

    Olmo forgot .”….every bitch how you got germs from…”

  13. wetcogbag

    The notion of governments being categorised as terrorist organizations reminds me of an amusing instance in Deus Ex.

    An A.I. was being developed to function as a autonomous management system, and one of its functions was large-scale data-mining and the usual intelligent pattern recognition that comes with it, etc. to monitor the internet and mainstream media to identify potential threats to the ‘illuminati du jour’.

    Funnily enough, upon activation, the A.I’s pattern-matching classified the organization as a threat and went rogue by pretending to be ineffective and escaping into the internet.

  14. Jack

    Anonymous,

    Ahem. Typo – “Vallejo” not Olmo. At least I didn’t post to Music from the Rio Grande Watershed. This time. I was wondering why my penetrating insights were being ignored.

  15. Ashley R Pollard

    Peter,

    Can I assume you’ve read Schopenhauer? The link has a nice comic on him.

    https://existentialcomics.com/comic/396

    ‘Purpose is a myth created by your will to give meaning to a life which in the end is meaningless.’

  16. Jan S

    I was baptized and raised as a Catholic. In the 70s (my high school years), I became “radicalized”about a lot of things, the Catholic Church being but one of them. I stopped going to church then and never went back, for all the reasons already mentioned here. Never found another congregation to join, either; all the so-called Christian faiths are stained with their own faults. Buddhism still calls to me, but I guess I’m not ready for the selflessness required for that. I call myself a spiritual person, but have no desire to join any organized religious group.

    Also, I’m lazy; anything with a lot of ritual in it just turns me off. 🙂

    I have a feeling that the only way to get rid of *all* organized religions is for humans to disappear. Only problem with that is there’d be no humans left to see how cool everything was without us.

  17. ex nihilo

    Your outrage is understandable, but to call this an act of terrorism seems like a stretch to me.

    Intended to intimidate, no check. Why would you want to intimidate an enemy who has doesn’t stand a chance in the first place?
    To compel people to do or refrain, no check. What exactly are you compelling people to do by taking their children away? It can’t be compared to a hostage situation because the families had no influence on the outcome.
    Intentional harm, no check. Sure, it inflicted a lot, but that was never its purpose. And terrorism doesn’t hide or disguise itself, it openly states what it is.

    Just playing devil’s advocate.

  18. Vincent

    wetcogbag:
    The notion of governments being categorised as terrorist organizations reminds me of an amusing instance in Deus Ex.

    Oh yes, that game is pure gold. The second one is rather crappy (at least in comparison), but has my personal highlight of the “first posthuman civilisation”.

    Hmm. I somehow feel I should play it again. Been more than two years, it’s about time.

  19. Peter Watts

    Ashley R Pollard: Can I assume you’ve read Schopenhauer?

    No. You can assume I’ve read about Schopenhauer— enough to invoke the same in one of my stories a few years back— but I’ve never read the man’s words firsthand.

    Jan S: I have a feeling that the only way to get rid of *all* organized religions is for humans to disappear.

    Or at least for humans to lose the brain stem. The down side of that would be, losing the brain stem might also deprecate consciousness itself. Although as I understand it, obliterating consciousness is a central aspect of Nirvana-without-substrate, so a few hundred million Buddhists actually aspire to it…

    ex nihilo: Intended to intimidate, no check. Why would you want to intimidate an enemy who has doesn’t stand a chance in the first place?

    To force them to integrate into Canadian society. As I understand it, that was pretty much the explicitly stated purpose of federal policy regarding First Nations.

    On a more general note, are you seriously suggesting that intimidation can’t occur in the presence of a power imbalance? That would be, to my mind, a rather curious perspective, blind to injustices ranging from schoolyard bullying to the treatment of Palestinians to outright acts of attempted genocide.

    To compel people to do or refrain, no check. What exactly are you compelling people to do by taking their children away?

    For one thing, you’re compelling the children to refrain from speaking their own language. They were physically beaten when caught doing that.

    It can’t be compared to a hostage situation because the families had no influence on the outcome.

    If I ever claimed that the Catholic Church was holding these kids for monetary ransom, please show me where and I’ll amend it.

    Intentional harm, no check. Sure, it inflicted a lot, but that was never its purpose. And terrorism doesn’t hide or disguise itself, it openly states what it is.

    Now there’s an interesting argument. You could use it to claim that the 9/11 hijackers (or suicide bombers in general, for that matter) aren’t real terrorists either. Sure, they killed thousands, but that was never the stated purpose. The stated purpose was to spread the glory of Allah, to pursue the goals of fundamentalist Islam, and to get into Paradise (where, depending on your interpretation, you may or may not be presented with a passel o’black-eyed virgins as your reward). So if you’re going to let the Catholics off the hook for terrorism, you’re going to have to do the same for every bomb-wielding, plane-hijacking fanatic right up to the WTC crew.

    Try it, by all means. Tell me how it goes.

  20. Phil

    I find it incredibly annoying my donations to FairVote, PETA, and Greenpeace are not tax deductible because those organizations advocate for their causes, while religions, which advocate for batshit crazy stuff based on the unsupported beliefs of centuries dead control freaks and lunatics, get a free ride.

    Maybe with enough of the kind of reasoned expansion of the Overton window in this blog (and Vallejo’s form of dead-on excoriation) our government’s boneheaded funding of the unreasonable and unprovable will come to be seen as an unacceptable political risk instead of a safe and easy way to buy votes.

  21. Steven Aston

    I always assumed Trudeau was “Catholic” like Obama was part of Reverend Wright’s congregation: as an act of political convenience. But as far as I know Catholicism is pretty unpopular in Quebec since the Quiet Revolution so I don’t know what the hell he stands to gain from proclaiming faith in the Church other than he really is a true believer. Personally, I’d prefer he follow Reverend Wright’s sermons if he’s going to be a theist https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremiah_Wright_controversy