Monthly Archives: March 2010

Tipêyimisowin: On Violence, Revolution, and Indigenous Liberation

We talk of violence like it’s something we know or could imagine. We talk like we’re the front lines of the resistance. We push over newspaper bins drunk on the weekends and call ourselves warriors. We stand behind the mask-clad anarchists trying to redefine our terminological foundations. It’s all theory. What’s the point of arguing over actions so removed from our reality? What will we actually actualize? Fanon tells us: “the colonized man finds his freedom in and through violence”. We feel compelled to agree. Obligated even. It sounds attractive, tastes magnetic; it finds ways to pull us in.

Guns and ammo. Point and shoot. Hunt, kill, destroy, cleanse, renew. Vive la revolution, la violencia, la resistance. We are pulling the triggers of imaginary weapons from inside the Starbucks window. We are pointing gun fingers from our cars as we drive-by.

This unhappy secret has been let out to run circles around the room, like smoke swirling over our heads to form thunderclouds. Our minds are the gathering storm.

But I’ve never shot a real rifle. When I was three or four, that air gun clanged, popped and punctuated metal garbage cans in the alley.  My target was dead metal before the trigger clicked anyway. So what does this magnetic pull imply?

The illumination of violence is like lightning: a fleeting powerful flash on the horizon. The sound of its repercussions will follow only later. You can count the seconds between the shots fired and the retaliation.

Some state premises: “Fifteen: Love does not imply pacifism” (Jensen, xi). This same voice, thin in the din of gunfire, can’t be heard over the echoing collapse to say: “I don’t know what to do. I’m a writer.”

Yet we speak of war like it’s inevitably ours. We think freedom and talk tactics.

The premise speaker acknowledges his recon mission consists of less than his rhetoric implies. He drives behind the Safeway to stare up at cell phone towers— dreaming of bombs he won’t build, cables he can’t cut, resistance skills he will never acquire.

Violence is fantasy, a pornographic pretence of purpose that portends toward liberation, but it is neither a means nor an end in itself.

In itself, from the barricaded desk cluster of the classroom, it is a creative utopia, a conceptual freedom, an outcome as much as a process. It takes up space in our mouths and our minds, forcing out other alternatives.

Violence is a masculine bully, an abuser, a pushy accomplice, a devil on your shoulder that dares your claws to come out, your fingers to fold into a fist and be thrown across the room at the face of the Other, daring your unconscious to begin to dream-assemble the wires that will bomb the Bad Guys into Oblivion. Back to the Stone Age.

And yet the State destroys us, anonymously (or, if in name only, in the name of Her Majesty, in the name of Dominion, O Canada). Her blood red maple flag mittens kill us softly, the wool of her grip itching our throats as it tightens vice-like around our necks.

What does it mean to resist this insistence?

We will buy our own mittens now, thank you very much. We will tie our five-ringed scarves in a noose and hang ourselves. While we are teenagers. While you are sleeping. We will burn your flag and turn the guns on ourselves.

If, “the settler’s work is to make even the dreams of liberty impossible for the native. The native’s work is to imagine all possible methods for destroying the settler”.

But don’t worry. We will do the work for you.

Point. Click. Swissssshh. What might have once been a miniature square fabric reading a comic book “Bang!” has morphed to the sunshine-encircled head of an Indian. The Mohawk flag. The blocked barrel a veritable symbol of victory, innit?

Now he’s gone i don’t know why
and to this day sometimes i cry
he didn’t even say goodbye he didn’t take the time to lie
bang, bang
he shot me down, bang bang
i hit the ground
bang, bang that awful sound, bang bang
my baby shot me down.

There’s that smell again; the incandescent scent of anger, the dark contours of artillery aimed in the wrong direction.


Note: ᑎᐯᔨᒥᓱᐃᐧᐣ [tipêyimisowin] is the Cree word for liberation/freedom