eternal questions


Pablo Picasso

Pondering the Idle No More movement.

It’s gone from teaching sessions, flash mobs to mass marches involving thousands. One simple, easy to understand message. It’s time to change.

It’s time to stop paternalistic policies that everyone agrees doesn’t work but has resulted in cultural destruction and human devastation.

The message, heard over and over: It’s time to end Canada’s internal system of colonialism.

Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing complicated about that.

There’s a part of Canada, however, that doesn’t want to hear. It prefers its old, privileged, dominant position. It benefits from domination and would see it’s present Indian policies advanced to its ultimate conclusion. People with political and economic power don’t want another chair at the card table.

This moment in Canada’s history, this populist outcry against Canada’s paternalism, and the establishment’s reaction to it, stirs memory of a BBC documentary. It was about Pablo Picasso.

The genius was living in German-occupied Paris during the Second World War. Picasso’s studio had just been trashed by soldiers. An officer strode about the great man’s studio, picking up this and that, finally holding up a small postcard-sized print of Picasso’s immortal statement against war – Guernica.

1937. Guernica. A quiet Basque town in northern Spain completely destroyed by German bombers during the Spanish Civil War. More than 5000 bombs fell on Guernica. More than 1600 people killed. Thousands wounded. The reason? No military reason but a brutal message from fascists in Spain, German and Italy to anyone who might oppose them.

A proud spaniard, Picasso’s wounded soul poured onto a huge canvas. A prediction. A call against brutality and inhumanity. For basic human decency. An eternal indictment.

The officer that day in Paris holds up the picture of Picasso’s Guernica, and asks:

“Did you do this?”

“No. You did.”



Filed under Aboriginal peoples, art, Canadian politics, human rights, Indigenous peoples, Indigenous rights

2 responses to “eternal questions

  1. That’s quite a painting. I feel like I understand it a bit more now. Here a blog post for ya:

  2. I thought Picasso’s response to the German officer’ brilliant. How do you confront such ignorance and denial of responsibility? I love the double meanings in Picasso’s answer.

    I’d been reading an avalanche of denial in the Canadian news media about the third world living conditions in Indigenous communities. Most of it goes: “I’m not responsible for my grandfather’s actions.” The problem is that these same policies exist today and continue to keep our communities in crisis.

    So, these deniers accuse: Did you do this?
    And I reply: No. You did.
    And it is an amazing painting that haunts me.

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