Bill the Pirate…._sigh_

True to his style thus far, Douglas Bland begins this next chapter with a run-on sentence which manages to be both clumsy and offensive:

Will Boucanier looked out the small window as the Air Creebec Dash 8 made its long, slow approach into Chisasibi, an unattractive Cree Village of some 3,000 souls on the La Grande Riviere, six kilometeres from James Bay and about 100 kilometers from Radisson and the main James Bay Hydro-electric generating plant.  But it was home to Will-a soldier home from the wars and on his way to a new one.

Chisasibi Airial View
An aerial view of the town of Chisasibi, taken in 2002.  The red star marks the location of their administration building.

As you can see from these pictures, Chisasibi may not be a world renown wonder of architecture and engineering, but I definitely wouldn’t call it unattractive.  Based on my experience, you don’t usually find anything as fancy as that Mitchuap building in most comparably sized towns in Ontario.  Oh well, to each his own.  This opening paragraph introduces us to the next of our heroic, sexy NPA rebels.  An aging but tough as nails retired WO named Will Boucanier…oh for fuck’s sake…

For those who aren’t history nerds, Boucan was a Caribbean term for a communal fire pit, and is the origin of the term: Buccaneers.  French and Spanish deserters, marrying into local Indigenous Caribbean families along with a sprinkling of escaped slaves created a unique ethnic and language mix who became known (in English at least) as Buccaneers.  This group, among other things, famously turned to piracy during the mid-to-late 17th century, leading to its common usage today.  We’re going to see more and more of Bland’s habit of giving his characters significant names: Alex Gabriel after Gabriel Dumont, General Andrew Bishop after WWI flying ace Billy Bishop, and now we have Will Boucanier.  Bill the Pirate basically.

Will Boucanier is returning to his home in Chisasibi on the coast of James Bay, within reach of the great James Bay Hydro-Electric project and he is a man on a mission.  But first, some background.

***I’ll quickly note that the timelines are not going to add up here.  In a few moments we’re going to read how Will Boucanier was a Sergeant by the time Yugoslavia disintegrated.  Given the path that his career is said to take, this would have had him joining in the early 80s. Yet based on the real-life events referenced in the text, the novel Uprising is clearly taking place some time around 2010 or so.  My guess is that Bland had originally meant for his character to have joined in the late 90s, then revised his back story to include the Croatian mission later on without changing the numbers involved.  Clearly, Will Boucanier would have served a 25+ year career instead of a fifteen year one, putting him in his mid-to-late forties instead of thirty three.  Either way it’s still just as plausible (old enough to have experience, young enough to still lead) and implausible (nobody joining in the 1980s advanced this fast) as before.*** 

“Long ago, at age eighteen, Will had left the village and the band, travelled to Montreal, walked the streets, homesick yet incredibly happy to be away.  The big city had been totally unfamiliar to him, weird, baffling, and threatening, but Will had never felt so safe.  In Chisasibi, he had spent every night of his young life afraid, terrified, that Dad would come rolling in the door drunk, and, as Mom would say, “in a mood.”

…..

Three weeks after leaving Chisasibi, Will had wandered off the street into the army recruiting office on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal and signed up.  That decision he had never regretted, and he served for fifteen years with distinction.  Right from the start he was recognized as a first class recruit….But what really set him apart-a natural gift for leadership, for being in front, for commanding-wasn’t truly evident until he was promoted to infantry corporal, then, in just five years, to sergeant, and warrant officer in five more.  

Warrant Officer Will Boucanier: stone cold, emotionless, dedicated to the army no matter the mission…His “people”-though the word carried a profound ambiguity to his native ear-he treated with the utmost care.  Everyone equal, everyone his prized responsibility.  But he followed the rule: mission first, men second, myself last.  He was never nasty, but never soft.  That was his code, and the pride it engendered kept him going.  

This…I like this.  This reads as more real than anything else we’ve seen so far.  Will came from a home shattered by alcohol and abuse, and made a new home for himself in the Canadian Forces.  Despite the often innate prejudice that characterized the CF at the time (from the timeline I’m guessing he joined in the early 80s) he was tough and rural and earned a place for himself despite what others might have thought of the colour of his skin.

For the first time in Uprising, we actually have a character backstory that seems to ring true.  Over the years I’ve met dozens of people who came to the army to escape something worse at home.  From people fleeing abusive homes to actual refugee immigrants with new Canadian citizenships, all kinds of people have run from worse lives and found shelter in uniform.  Personally, I haven’t dealt with too many kids from the Rez, but in my experience, the recruits who are escaping into the army usually end up becoming very committed soldiers.

I do have a problem with the whole ‘he didn’t want to lead but greatness was thrust upon him’ trope.  The CF is an army that is built around the notion of long service and making Warrant Officer (one rank higher than Sergeant for those who don’t know) would have been beyond meteoric for a young native recruit with no ambition.  I think the problem here is the whole ‘great men of history’ concept that seems to embrace the idea that the best and the brightest among us will automatically rise to the top, propelled by the natural force of their own awesomeness.⁠1  The reality is that, in the regular forces, especially back in the 80s and early 90s, there were thousands of ‘career Corporals’ as they were called.  Soldiers who would never rise beyond the level that seniority and lack of criminal charges could get them.

There’ll be more (a lot more) about Douglas Bland’s notions greatness and natural leadership as we go on.  But the short version is that his ideas seem to directly affect his assessment of strategy and his evaluation of Canadian society as a whole.

So a fast-tracking Will Boucanier, newly promoted to Sergeant, deployed into the Balkans and distinguished himself at the forgotten Battle in Medak Pocket, and even received recognition for the fact with a Medal of Valour.

“Will Boucanier, as everyone of experience in the army knew, “walked the talk.”  He won the Medal of Valour during the Battle of Medak Pocket-the night-long battle in the former Yugoslavia in which, on September 15, 1993, the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry-the Patricias- stood and fought a much larger Croatian force that was threatening four Serb villages with “ethnic cleansing.”  It was the first major battle for the unit in the post-Cold War era, and one the Liberal government hid from Canadians for years.  There were no news stories, no ceremonies, no homecoming welcome or remembrance for the casualties, just officially imposed silence, lest Canadians discover the consequences of the “decade of darkness” which had swallowed the Canadian Forces. 

I’ll take some time to properly dissect the Medak Pocket reference in the next post, since I want to focus primarily on Boucanier’s background and life story here.  But  I do want to go on record as saying this is problematic as hell.  The battle of Medak Pocket was in fact covered up by the then Liberal government although it was hardly a ‘consequence’ of the ‘decade of darkness’ given that said decade was only just getting started.  The short version though is that Medak Pocket was a complex and desperate event during the Balkans missions that did indeed challenge many of the popular perceptions of classical ‘Peacekeeping’ and was shamefully covered up by the government at the time.  This does not in any way justify Bland’s co-opting of the event for his own purposes here in Uprising.

So that’s the life story of one Will Boucanier.  And now he’s on a mission to fight against Canada.

“Only last month, Will had abruptly taken his release from the army, despite persistent, heart-felt urging from his superiors to stay, and unanswered pleas from the sergeants’ mess for reasons.  He was sick at heart to leave the only home he’d ever known,  a home made safe by order, merit and predictability; a home where things had made sense.  After a childhood of chaos of feeling worthless, he’d found a real home among soldiers.  A special group set aside by society for a special purpose.  But just as he had fifteen years earlier, he felt relieved as well as homesick.  Across the country, he knew, were villages like his, full of homes like his, and getting himself out of there, no matter how successfully, had always felt a bit like running away.  Like going to school and leaving Mom alone with that man.  Well, not any more.  He had fought the white man’s wars, “for peace and freedom,” they had told him.  Now he was coming home to fight for the same things, to fight the only way he knew against the despair he’d escaped so long ago.  

If I hadn’t already known how this was going, this paragraph would have stopped me in my tracks.  Huh?  WTF?  How did we get here?  He escaped pain, shame and abuse of his home, gained acceptance and prestige in a new community, and now just like that it’s all over?

“The Canada he deserted had deserted honour first when it walked away from its pledge to the Afghanis he had fought to protect.  For Canadian politicians, Will thought, honour is a pliable thing.  He and a few others soldiers were the real army, the army of soul, duty, singleness of mind and purpose.  

He knew and accepted that race meant nothing in the army.  There, only truth, duty and valour command all. 

Truth, duty and valour.  This is one of the favourite mottos of the CF from the last few years.  Bland seems to think he’s establishing his credibility by quoting it.  But from where I’m sitting, invoking these words as a motivation for rebellion represents a sin as greivous as the Canadian politicians he’s castigating.  As Will is sitting in a plane, watching his home town draw nearer and musing about honour, he is ignoring the most important fact of his entire situation:

In the very near future, retired Warrant Officer Will Boucanier will have to betray and kill his former comrades.

Not just vaguely defined Canadian politicians, or liberals, or the Canadian Government or even other, generic Canadian soldiers, but his own people.  Soldiers that he has trained and led.  People that he lived with and fought alongside for months and years on end.  He will have to look them in the eye, and kill them.

There’s no getting around this.  Despite years of (nominal) budget increases, the CF is a very small organization and the Special Forces even more so.  Even factoring in a reconstituted Airborne Regiment (called the Canadian Special Service Regiment in the novel, called the Canadian Special Operations Regiment in real life) we’re still talking about less than a thousand people, all ranks.  Just a month out of the service, Boucanier would still probably be on a first name basis with many of them and would probably have seen combat with some.

Even if he doesn’t meet the special forces directly (he will), Boucanier must know that his colleagues must be deployed against the uprising at some point.  And yet the only emotion he will ever display will be an abstract sense of grudging respect.  Conversely his old comrades, rather than being consumed with white hot rage at the treason of one of their own, when they come to realize who they’re up against will only respond with the same vague manly respect.

But then there’s the question of whether the NPA army is a real army or not:

“Will reached for the bag under his seat and checked his watch.  If his luggage had comes through without damage, and his contact from the local cell was on time-and sober-he would get straight to work training whatever “warriors” the local band chief had assembled for him.  He had low expectations for his new troops, but that was okay.  He didn’t need JTF-2 for his mission.  The kids only needed to do as they were told and show some steadiness in the initial attack.  He would do the rest.  

An experienced WO hitting the ground in unfamiliar territory (at least recently) and taking charge of unfamiliar troops, but he’s already salted his preconceived notions with plenty of bigotry.  Wonderful.

There’s also the idea that a great leader can pretty much ‘do it all himself’ regardless of how switched on his subordinates may be.  We’ll encounter this over and over again as the novel progresses and ‘great leaders’ actively withhold vital information from their followers for no discernible reason.  In a way it’s almost comforting that if anyone tries to launch a real life uprising based off of Bland’s novel then it will probably fall apart at the seams.

So just to make it clear why this is getting to me, I’m going to talk a bit about my own career in the CAF.

My personal story bears very little resemblance to Will Boucanier’s.  I came from a stable, middle class home that still had both parents.  I was bullied in school, which left me seriously introverted and with a few anger issues, and I joined the Reserves mainly because I was looking for a summer job.  I figured I’d just get kicked out a few weeks later but it might make for an interesting experience.

I wasn’t a natural born soldier, being a introverted loser slacker and I quickly accumulated a stack of red chits on my file (this was before they switched to the ‘Counselling, Initial, & Formal Warnings that they have now).  A huge part of my QL2&3 (basic training and trade course) was a blur of people cursing and swearing at me, along with a bunch of paperwork (written in red, mostly) explaining in detail just how useless I really was.  But somehow I thundered my way through and suddenly I was a soldier, with a cap badge and a Regiment, and a trade.  And strangely enough, I loved it.

To be completely honest, for the first year or so, I was what was politely referred to as ‘a bag of hammers.’  I was the weirdo who screwed up regularly, walked into every bit of trouble there was, and got stomped on by multiple levels of the chain of command.  The only reason I hung around was, quite frankly, for the first time in my life I had a real, tangible sense of pride in what I was doing, and because once in a while I got to shoot or blow something up real good.

Then, bit by bit, I started figuring things out.  Gradually the hostile jokes and criticism faded, and the friendly jokes and the constructive advice started.  Slowly, I went from being ‘maximum supervision’ to being the ‘go-to guy.’  Now I do share something in common with Boucanier in that I had no real ambition.  But in my case it meant that I didn’t get offered a position on a PLQ course (basic army leadership) until several years in, and then only because another guy with more seniority turned his offer down⁠2.

Leadership training was as much a confusing blur as my QL3.  And I came out of it feeling just as clueless as I did when I was a recruit.  Then I got loaded to teach on a BMQ course (what they now call recruit training), and everything changed.

There’s a lot of things I’ve done in the army (up to and including going to war), but teaching and leading troops (especially recruits) is-for me-the most rewarding.  Seeing the recruit who was enough of a knuckle head as to break down and cry during weapons handling drills, slowly pull themselves together under your instruction, and become an effective soldier is an amazing experience.  To then watch that screw up of a soldier evolve over the years into a smoker & joker of a master-jack who is now teaching recruits themselves is like being King Kong on cocaine.  It is a life changing thing to watch the turn of generations in the army, to see recruits turn into soldiers, and soldiers turn into leaders.

I’m not going to claim that anything I’ve done is on par with Bland’s fictional WO, or with Bland himself for that matter.  But I’ve done enough to say that the Army’s my family and I love it.  Maybe something could happen that might cause me to walk away from it all.  I could maybe imagine some change in government or policy that would lead to take off my uniform and leave the service in disgust.  But to betray it?  To betray my friends and colleague?  To conspire to murder them in cold blood.  I really don’t think I could do it.

And if they came at me?  If one of the troops that I trained from being a slack-jawed cornflake into a soldier suddenly turned around and tried to kill me in the name of some abstract ideology?  If they were going to break the bonds of our shared service in the name of truth, duty and valour?

I don’t know where I’d be at that point, mentally.  But there’d be no going back.

And people wonder why civil wars are so much uglier than regular ones.

What army did Bland serve in, that he can’t see how alien this contrast is?  Between Will Boucanier, the soldier and Will Boucanier, the native rebel?  Is it that he never felt that sense of belonging, of family?  Of all the hundreds, or more likely thousands of soldiers that he knew, mentors and subordinates, friends and rivals.  Could he really just turn his back on them all?  Declare war on all that he knew and see it burn before him in the name of some abstract notion of honour?  Or does he simply assume that his Indigenous comrades think that way?

 

***All photos found at http://www.chisasibi.org/HTML/community_pix.html***

anImage_2.tiff

1 The flip side of this belief being that, if you think you’re awesome and you’re NOT rising to the top, then clearly you’re being held back by lesser men who are jealous of your natural greatness.  Dictators and fascist regimes have long made use of this commonly occurring bitterness.

2  For the record, the main reason I accepted is that the next most senior guy (literally the guy sitting next to me on the bench outside the RSM’s office) was an asshole and I decided that I’d be damned if I ever took an order from him.

Comment Policy!

So a couple of new people have started following this blog (Hello!  Welcome!) which means I’m no longer just writing for a handful of friends that I see on a regular basis, but other people who are (for now at least) complete strangers.  So I figure now’s a good time to get out a first draft of this Putting Down Uprising’s comment policy.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty new to the blogging world.  While I’ve lurked on many a blog for years, I’m an older man who isn’t nearly as internet-savvy as you young folks so be warned!  I will probably have to revisit this comment policy every now and then to tweak it as things develop.  I’ll give fair warning when changes have been made, but I do expect commenters to abide by these rules.

The idea behind this blog is (in addition to purging some inner demons) to criticize a terrible piece of very unsettling fiction, and hopefully use that critique as a springboard to talk about a number of other topics that interest me.  Along the way, I’m hoping that this blog can provide a forum for a discussion about the Canadian Military, and First Nations issues in Canada.  Thing is, if this works I’ll be bringing together a couple of communities that don’t always talk together and may not necessarily get along.  Maybe this can be a venue for a [Re]conciliation, but at the very least I need to make sure that any conversations that happen stay courteous and respectful.  So…

GOOD FAITH + PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY:

The two main principles I’m working off of here are those of good faith and personal responsibility. In writing this blog, I am trying to act in good faith and in managing it I’m trying to exercise personal responsibility.  I genuinely want this blog to become a forum for a rational and productive conversation, and I feel that I have a personal obligation to make sure the comment section stays safe and civil.  With this being the case, I’m expecting a similar degree of courtesy from anyone wanting to comment here.  We’re all human and can make mistakes, but I’m looking for anyone posting here to come in a spirit of sincerity and honesty, and to take responsibility for any words they may type.

THE BASICS

  1. Your first comment will automatically go into moderation pending my approval. You must have at least one approved comment before you can comment freely. Given my work situation, I may be away from my computer for extended periods of time, meaning that you may have to wait for a bit to have your first comment approved. Please be patient.
  2. General profanity is one thing, but avoid racist, sexist, ablist language in your comments. There are plenty of ways to insult or trash talk someone without crossing those lines.
  3. Threats to other commenters, whether of direct violence or through harassing behaviors such as doxing will not be tolerated. In cases of threats of violence that I feel are sincere, I WILL notify the appropriate law enforcement agencies. This is the only warning on this subject.
  4. In commenting on this blog, you are expected to be upfront about yourself. By all means, use a pseudonym if desired, but don’t misrepresent yourself with regards of your military experience, or Indigenous status, etc… This also applies to such practices as changing nyms and sock-puppeting.
  5. As a further point, please DO NOT make public accusations of ‘stolen valour’ (or any Indigenous equivalent). If you have concerns that another commenter is being dishonest about their background, please contact me directly!

WITH REGARDS TO INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

  1. The issue of Canada’s First Nations (and Indigenous peoples in general) is a complex and multi-faceted one. It is one where honest actors can disagree and it’s hard to settle upon one set of hard and fast rules. In general: Please try to use terms like Indigenous (Canada), Native American (America) and Aboriginal (Australia), or the proper names for nations/tribes such as Mohawk, Cree, or Ojibwe. Aboriginal is still a common term in a lot of Canadian documents and policies, and a lot of people in the military and civil service still use it.  However the general trend seems to be shifting towards Indigenous across the board.
  2. For Non-Indigenous commenters, while it’s perfectly acceptable to comment on Indigenous affairs, keep in mind that many of these issues are deeply personal for Indigenous people and in many cases deal with issues or life and death. Please exercise sensitivity. For you this may be an academic debate, for them it may be their real lived experience.  If you are discussing matters outside of your own personal experience, please qualify the sources you are referring to (books, documentaries, etc…) so that other commenters can engage your ideas on a common ground.
  3. It’s not uncommon to discover that a term or expression you regularly use is considered racist by many/all Indigenous Peoples.   I’ve had this happen myself a couple of times over the years, and it’s…awkward.  Instead of arguing the point, try to learn more from the person who calls you out.
  4. In some cases, quoting the novel (or other historical texts) directly will mean including terms which are now racial slurs. Please keep this to a minimum and, if it’s unavoidable, make it clear that your are quoting someone else.
  5. Terms like ‘Indian’ do have legal status in Canada (the Indian Act, Status Indians, etc…), so in some cases it is impossible to avoid completely. Please limit its use to legal references.  Terms like ‘native’ are in regular usage and generally not considered racist, but try to keep it to a minimum.
  6. Should the discussion actually include a discussion about racist slurs, please *** out the bulk of the word. Eg: Re****ns as a way to refer to the Washington Football team.
  7. For Indigenous Commenters: A lot of the people commenting on this blog are probably going to be non-Indigenous and it is my overall hope that I can use this blog as a platform for dialogue between two very different groups. I’m doing my best here. If I’m screwing up, please tell me directly (either by e-mail or in the comments) so I can try to fix it. I honestly want this to work.  Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.
  8. If another commenter is saying something racist, please make sure they’re genuine assholes (and not just ignorant) before flaming them. My intent for this blog is to educate and inform, and I would prefer to see the genuinely ignorant get educated rather than dog-piled.
  9. That having been said, this is a subject which I know could very well attract a lot of ugly characters (if it attracts anyone at all) and that the banhammer is going to have to be used A LOT.  If someone’s being an asshole and it looks like I missed it, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll come in swinging.

 

 

WITH REGARDS TO CANADIAN ARMED FORCES

  1. The military (any military) is a complex institutions that changes drastically over time and from trade to trade and unit to unit. To this end:
  2. For Civilian commenters: Please understand that there are layers of complexity within the military (especially the Canadian military). Please do some research or ask other commenters if you’re not sure about a particular fact/opinion.
  3. Understand that you may be commenting on issues that are often deeply personal to many military members, and may in fact be a matter of life and death for some. What may be an academic debate to you, for someone else this may be their actual life. Exercise sensitivity.
  4. Please qualify the basis for your opinions (books, documentaries, news stories, etc…), so that other commenters can engage you on common ground.
  5. For military members: Your experiences are not universal, so just because someone disagrees doesn’t mean they are completely wrong. They may in fact have insights into parts of the military experience (or different time periods) outside of your own. Please engage, investigate and discuss before disagreeing.
  6. In the case of an honest misunderstanding, try to be understanding and use it as an opportunity to educate. Remember, this may be the first time this particular civilian has actually spoken with a member of the armed forces.
  7. That having been said, you are under no obligation to put up with deliberate Trolling, and in the face of genuine ignorance, contact me directly.  I’ll bring the ban hammer.

 

Also!!!

***Do NOT use the “We fight and die for your freedom to speak so shut up!” argument. It will not be tolerated here.***

al-Queda Style!

Okay enough talk about offices and ID cards. It’s time for the big meeting!

“The room was arranged as usual for morning prayers. Name cards ranked in a never-changing order sat with parade-ground precision down each side of the long, dark, rectangular table. This odd habit always amused Ian-these people know each other, he thought. But the staff was simply doing what the staff had always done. A pad of paper and two sharpened pencils sat ready for each principal, although these pads were never used. No one took notes so access-to-information prowlers couldn’t demand them.”

This is the first reference that we’ll see to Bland’s general contempt for the media, but it won’t be the last. It also speaks rather plainly to his general ignorance of how these things actually work. Sure, refusing to take notes at a briefing means that there are no paper copies for a journalist to demand. And if you can’t remember every last detail of that briefing? I guess that’s something that only matters to junior officers on course, not the big wigs at the top of the pyramid. Meanwhile, Bland seems to overlook the fact that the notes from the staff officers who delivered the briefing would still exist and be fair game.
It may seem that I’m harping on minor details here, but as the story progresses it will become clear that Bland has nothing but contempt for the media. He will actively portray them as useful idiots, hampering the efforts of his heroic Generals and directly harming the efforts of Canadian soldiers. Hence the emphasis on concealing their activities from prying journalists’ eyes.
It’s worth noting, though, that in the real world the CAF has been rocked by numerous scandals relating to senior officers failing to record or even actively concealing or destroying such records. One of the more infamous examples comes from the 1993 Croatian mission spearheaded by 2 PPCLI. During the course of the mission, one of their companies had to dig in at a location where the soil was contaminated by runoff from a factory. Concerned about long-term health risks, a Medical Officer had notes placed on the files of every man involved in case the exposure led to long term health problems. When several of the soldiers did indeed start developing health problems, it was found that the letters had all been systematically removed.[1]
What I’m saying is that I get a bit twitchy at the thought of someone high up on the food chain trying to hide information from prying eyes.
A few hours have passed and it’s time for ‘Morning Prayers.’ Col Dobson is preparing to brief the usual clagg of officers as well as the Deputy Minister, but one person is missing. Where is the Chief of the Defence Staff?

“The CDS was late. That, Ian reflected, was rare, and meant bad news.
A few minutes later, General Andrew “Andy” Bishop marched through the door with Deputy Defence Minister Stephen Pope and, unexpectedly, the minister of defence himself, James Riley, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South. General Bishop motioned the minister into his own chair while a staff officer hurriedly brought another to the head of the table for the CDS as the attendees quickly took their places.”

It’s worth mentioning now, because it will come up again and again later. The capitalized words in the quote above are the same as in the original novel. That means that the Deputy Defence Minister has a capitalized title, while the Minister of Defence himself is lower case. It’s also interesting to note that this Minister of Defence is actually the Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South.
Actually, let me back things up and explain how these things work. In Canada, the Minister of Defence (or any other cabinet minister) is an elected member of Parliament, who has been awarded the portfolio by the Prime Minister. The Deputy Minister, however, is a career public servant who has worked their way up the ranks of the public service within that ministry. They often tend to be highly knowledgeable and experienced senior members of their departments. In the case of DND, the Deputy Minister is a civilian, but he would have worked with the military for all of his career. It’s a shame (both from a practical and story based point of view) that this particular DM doesn’t get any mention after this briefing.

This here is our current triumvirate of the CDS, MND, and DM.

Okay hang on a sec….

So there doesn’t seem to be any trace of a CFCWO in this novel either. To explain, the CFCWO is the Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer. Basically he’s the boss Non-Commissioned Member of the whole military and he acts as a kind of representative/advisor/advocate on behalf of the enlisted ranks of the service. Now, Bland’s free to make his CFCWO into any kind of character he wants, but I recently had the chance to hear the real life (as of this date) CFCWO speak and…yeah he’s a pretty formidable guy. I’m willing to be his replacement’s going to be pretty impressive too.

SU2013-0217 CWO Kevin West
CF Chief Warrant Officer Kevin West has been the boss non-commissioned member for the CAF for five years.  Set to retire soon, I had the chance to hear him speak not too long ago.  He’s a pretty formidable character.

But anyway, getting back to the story, it’s an interesting point for us to note that the Minister of Defence is the elected representative for Winnipeg South. Especially since Bland never does. Winnipeg will eventually become one of the main battle fields of the Uprising, and Winnipeg south will become its epicentre. Yet even as the fighting breaks out we are going to hear less and less from the Honourable Member of Parliament James Riley. You’d think a man who could win an election in a Riding that was now a war zone would have something to say when blood literally flows in the streets of his home town. Yet strangely his most prominent moments will come here, when the uprising is still theoretical, and the only person to have died is our unfortunate Commissionaire Fred MacTavish.
It’s also worth noting that-in real life-the current Member of Parliament representing Winnipeg Centre, just north of James Riley’s riding, is one Robert-Falcon Oullette. A man of Cree descent and an ex-Navy NCO (and Reservist), as well as a highly articulate advocate on Indigenous People’s issues.
We’ll come back to him later. It’ll be important.
The CDS is Gen Andrew Bishop. As we will later learn, he is a Real Soldier® and a manly man. So when he bursts into a room late and acts curtly towards the people who’ve been up all night and worked all morning to prepare the briefing, we’re supposed to assume that he’s a no-nonsense take charge kind of guy and not a dick.
As Gen Gervais steps up to officially open the briefing, we learn that there has been a new development since the raids last night. The NPA has released a video! Apparently, they managed to hack the FNT (First Nations Television) network to put the word out (although why Bland didn’t have them upload it onto the internet is beyond me). I suppose we can forgive them for calling it ‘a tape’ (I make that mistake too sometimes) and perhaps NDHQ still has briefing rooms that include a ‘projection room.’ I know at least in the Reserves, 2005/2006 was around the time that power point was finally becoming dominant,[2] so at the time of Bland’s retirement he might not have been fully up to speed on the latest techniques of administrative death dealing.
So they kill the lights and run the tape. Then things get really weird.

“The scene that appeared had an al-Qaeda ambiance, despite the mixture of modern camouflage gear and traditional native costumes and the giant Warriors’ Brotherhood flag backdrop. A woman, simply masked, flacked by two men dressed in traditional native costume but carrying M16 rifles, sat at a desk. She glanced down occasionally at a handful of papers as she spoke quickly and forcefully.”

The video is described as ‘al-Qaeda ambiance’ which I suppose is code for something poorly made, featuring a couple of guys standing in front of a flag while the boss reads off a statement. Apparently, the NPA can hack a TV network but never bothered to recruit anyone from the local AV club to do some basic editing and camera work. While this kind of thing was pretty common back in the 70s through to the 90s, the last few decades has seen an increasingly tech savvy generation taking up various causes around the world. While many of these activists have embraced righteous causes (the Arab Spring, Tahir Square and the Maidan, the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong), there is no denying that many others have embraced some of the world’s uglier movements, such as ISIS and the Alt Right.
When we later see the NPA up close, it’s portrayed primarily as a young person’s movement. An uprising against the established First Nations power structures as much as it is against those of the white man. This actually makes a certain amount of sense, given that revolutions have historically be a young person’s calling. Yet Bland, as an older, white man, can’t seem to fathom what this might mean in terms of tactics and flexibility. This is disturbing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that his prescription for dealing with such an uprising (as well as any other displays of Indigenous nationalism) seems to be a lot of old school military might.
More on this later.
I’m also not sure what Bland means by military gear and traditional native costumes (are these guys wearing feathered war bonnets with camouflage or something? actually, don’t ask; there’ll be more on this later as well…) but the Warrior’s Brotherhood flag is an actual flag that came out of the 1970s and has shown up with various protest movements ever since. Most famously at the Oka Crisis. Back in the late 80s and early 90s it could probably be seen as a predominantly militant symbol. Twenty years later, it can just as legitimately be viewed as a much more ambiguous symbol.
The woman sitting between the two men is the leader of the NPA, Molly Grace. Like so much else in this video, we’ll have to save the formal introductions for later, but for now all we learn is that she is ‘simply masked’ (huh?) and refers to a handful of notes only periodically. She’s described as having several sheets of paper in front of her, which is odd since her declaration is just over two hundred and fifty words long.
It’s a pretty uninspiring piece of work. I’m not saying that these kinds of videos are usually masterful pieces of orations and propaganda, but the fact that Bland seems to think that this is what’s going to inspire Indigenous people everywhere to revolt (or strike fear into the hearts of ‘white’ people), it’s a pretty sad effort on his part:

“The native people of North America were violated more than 400 years ago by European slave traders and invaders. Since that time, we have been assaulted by racists bearing weapons of mass destruction, germ warfare and firearms. They poisoned our people with their drugs and alcohol and religions. Genocide from coast to coast has been visited on our nations across the Western hemisphere. Our forefathers tried to negotiate peace and understanding with the whites, but they simply played into the hands of the invaders. We remained “les sauvages” and nowhere were we so humiliated and cheated than in what you call Quebec – it our native land, not theirs.
The lap-dog leaders of the First Nations, “white Indians” all of them, are totally discredited. They fill their pockets with bribes and tokens. They negotiate without our authority to give the whites our lands and future. We, the People of the Land, the true First Nations, will not negotiate. We already have what we need, sovereignty and liberty, and now we will use them. We will take what belongs to us from the ruling cliques in Quebec and, supported by the brave warriors of the Native People’s Army, we will restore to our people their rightful heritage. Remember the genocide of the villain Champlain and the heroic defence of our land by the Iroquois Confederacy. Remember all our heroes and early resisters and today the brothers and sisters killed and wounded in the same fight for our land. A new day has arisen and the native people in the occupied lands you call Quebec will rise with it.”

No, there’s no editing there. That’s the whole thing. _Sigh_
I thought about putting this speech up for a side by side comparison to Cyrus’ speech in the opening scenes of ‘The Warriors.’ As problematic as that movie was (it is. Really problematic. Really.), they could at least work a speech that sounds like it might be plausibly inspiring.
Where to begin? Right off the bat, there’s no mention of the Railway Massacre, at all. I mentioned how Bland never bothered to name the six protestors who died in the confrontation? Well neither does Molly Grace. In fact, the entire statement contains no recent grievances whatsoever. They talk about Samuel Champlain (the 17th Century French explorer) and guns, germs and steel, but they don’t mention the Railway Massacre, the ‘Summer of Rage’ or any of the other violence that followed. They go on about being called ‘les sauvages’ (French for the savages) but make no mention of the Army’s plan to force a final confrontation with the Native protestors (which, you will remember, they would have known about once Gabriel had joined up). They denounce the government of Quebec, but don’t bother mentioning the Oka crisis. Hell, they could have shown that picture of Waneek Horn-Miller[3] getting bayonetted outside the Treatment Centre.
This smacks of poor research. You read any serious rebel literature and you will find that, regardless of culture or time period, the one thing a rebel has is a good memory for grievances. They remember the time and date that the shots were fired. Hell, there’s entire movements named after specific dates of prominent massacres. In any real life radical Native movement I would expect a video to include a montage of pictures of the recently killed, or at least a reading of names.
***Then there’s the added problem of the Warrior Flag itself. I’m going to take a quick aside to talk about the flag and its significance.

Mohawk_Warrior_Society_flag
The Mohawk Warrior Society Flag, also sometimes referred to as the Unity Flag or the Ganienkeh Flag.

Short version, the original version of the Mohawk Warrior’s Society Flag was created by Karoniaktajeh (Louis Hall) in 1972 as the Iroquois Confederacy embraced the renascent Indigenous rights movement. In the US, this manifested as the American Indian Movement and included such famous actions as the occupation of Alcatraz and the stand off at Wounded Knee. In Canada, there was a bit more of a slow burn, but the flag that was designed in 1972 would (after a few revisions) become iconic as a symbol of the Mohawk Warriors during the Oka Crisis. It would later come to be adopted as a symbol for multiple Indigenous rights movements across the country (a brief history of the Mohawk Warrior Society can be found here).
The problem here is that while, to an outsider, this seems like a handy symbol since shows up at every protest, it’s potentially a very loaded one in real life. For one thing, as much as it was intended to be a pan-Canadian Indigenous banner, it’s still heavily associated with the Mohawk Warriors (including some of their more unpopular actions such as Caledonia) and the Six Nations, whereas the Native People’s Army is supposed to be a Canada-wide movement. So for their first official communique, the NPA have directly associated themselves with a very specific First Nation and (by extent) their Band government.
Now the NPA is supposed to be a radical militant movement that is intent on the violent overthrow of the existing order (both First Nations and Colonial). This despite the fact that, in real life the Mohawk Warriors was at least partially meant to be a cultural re-awakening, and members were expected to support their communities, learn their traditional language, and otherwise help their people in peaceful ways.
So who runs the show? This is going to be a real question once the bullets start flying and people start dying. Is the NPA a national Indigenous movement or is it a case of central Canadian Mohawks driving the conversation for everyone else? Is it an exclusively violent movement or do the leaders calling for language lessons get a place at the table. This is a question that we might want to ponder, since Douglas Bland never bothers. Even though there will be an in-story Mohawk Chief as one of the members of the NPA, it’s never made clear who has influence over what, and who answers to whom.***

Now getting back to the video’s manifesto, the existence of the Railway Massacre is a problem for Bland, I think. Which is why I think he opts for the ‘centuries old grievances’ approach when he wrote the speech for his rebel broadcast: Any realistic portrayal of rebel grievances would force the reader to consider whether those grievances were valid. And that’s a problem if you want to portray such a movement as the bad guys. I mean, Bland has already tried to dismiss the Railway Massacre as having been instigated by four Native Warriors, but there was still two innocent people killed in the line of fire. Don’t they deserve some consideration? The solution then, is to portray the grievances as old and out dated. Petty gripes like you might hear from a racist grandparent who can’t leave the old country behind and therefor feels the need to lecture you about your choice of friends at school.
Personally, while I’ve heard plenty of Indigenous speakers start with colonial history as a way of setting the tone, any discussion of grievances quickly races forward to the present day where some very real issues (reserves without drinkable water, police violence, missing and murdered Indigenous women, etc…) that need some very real attention. Having the NPA’s declaration of war focus on issues that are four hundred years out of date seems to be a way to further de-legitimize the complaints of modern day Indigenous peoples everywhere. At various points later on different liberal white characters will whine ‘but we give them money!’ as a way of further reinforcing the idea of real life Natives as a bunch of ingrates.
The real life problems of the reservation system will be discussed (briefly) by the white characters present in the room about forty pages down the road, before being forgotten until the end of the novel when they will be resolved by a single hilariously disastrous sentence. Draw whatever conclusions you will about the author, but I do think it’s telling that this is all the time he’s willing to spend on current Indigenous affairs in his novel about a race war.
One of the things that really strikes home, though, is the fact that the NPA video makes no mention of the raids on CF military bases. Seriously, what the fuck?
Bland seems to be directing his book as an attack on the weak willed, small-L liberals of Canada’s Sheeple class. These are people who are supposed to run in fear at the very thought of being politically incorrect and hate the very idea of guns and violence being used to protect your country. Presumably these are the same people who allegedly wear white poppies and participate in campaigns to ban Remembrance Day because it promotes violence (because those are so widespread they can naturally be taken as a barometer for all of Canada’s left). So why not mention their raids on CFBs? Why not emphasize that they have breeched the highest security buildings of the CF (not really, but how will the Sheeple know?) and plundered them of their weapons and ammo. Given the fact that real life rebellions and terrorists usually go out of their way to ensure that their victories are confirmed in the eyes of the population, you’d think at least a bare minimum mention would be in order. I’m not sure if this speaks towards a general laziness on the part of Bland’s research, or if this might be what he imagines to be a clever stratagem (don’t reveal what they already know!). Either way, it’s a jarring observation that wraps up an already bewildering scene.
The video ends and the rest of the briefing is taken up with a summary of the previous chapters. The CDS declares that this is an emergency, and the Minister of National Defence declares that he is taking matters straight to the Prime Minister. No doubt, the next time we meet our heroes, they’ll be even further up the chain of command, and some really important types will be hearing them speak!


[1] For an detailed history on the 1993 mission in Croatia, I highly recommend Caroll Off’s excellent ‘The Ghosts of Medak Pocket.’ For a more heavy handed and outraged treatment, there is also Scott Taylor’s ‘Tested Metal.’
[2] Before that Power Point still vied for power against overhead transparencies. By the time I’d returned from tour in 2009, Power Point ruled the roost. As I’m writing this, I have just witnessed my first Prezi presentation in a military context. Pray for us.
[3] Waneek Horn-Miller was the 14 year old daughter of Kahn-Tineta Horn-Miller (a protestor at Oka) and was present at Oka during the major events of the standoff. When the Warriors and Protestors in the Treatment Centre finally walked out, she was caught up in the resulting brawl between them and the Canadian Soldiers on the perimeter and got stabbed with a CF bayonet. She later went on to win a gold medal in Water Polo at the 1999 Pan-Am Games, in case you were wondering.

We’re having the adventure _where_?

In the novel’s first chapter, Alex Gabriel’s raid on Petawawa is broken up by several other scenes.  One of these is the raid on CFB Halifax where Fred McTavish is tragically killed, but several other cuts take us to NDHQ where a CF staff officer gradually becomes aware of the growing crisis.  In the interest of continuity, I’m presenting those scenes as a complete section so that we can deal with them in their entirety.

In NDHQ, an officer named Col Ian Dobson is on duty, pulling together some final briefing notes before ‘Morning Prayers’⁠1 the daily situation report:

The night shift was coming to an end.  Colonel Ian Dobson, the National Defence Operations Centre’s director, was at his desk earlier than usual, filling in the last sections of his report, which would form the basis for the daily ops briefing at 0730 hours.  He expected the day’s “Morning Prayers,” as these sessions were known at NDHQ, to be routine: a few words from the intelligence staff, brief reports on the status of deployed units and ships, summaries of the last day’s activities from deployed units overseas, comments on major exercises, and the status of the one active search-and-rescue operation, SAR Harper, which was looking for a missing person presumed lost in Newfoundland’s wilderness.  

I’d be a hypocrite if I criticized Bland for run-on sentences.  What I will say is that it’s possible to do it wrong, and this ain’t right.  What’s interesting here is that there is no mention of the CF’s current peacekeeping mission in Zimbabwe.  You’d think an entire infantry Battle Group in harm’s way would rate at least a brief subheading at ‘Morning Prayers.’

Ten, twenty minutes tops, then off to the cottage to join the kids for one last precious week before they went back to school.  Next year, Carolyn would be heading off to college and might not be around for the summer; Julie was going to junior high this year and was getting squirmy about family.  They’re growing up so fast, he thought.  The last thing he wanted was something surprising that would cut into this one last blissful family week.

Unlike previous characters, Col Dobson is presented more as an everyman rather than as a hero or heel.  He’s worried about spending enough time with his family, about his daughters growing up and his having trouble relating to them.  Fair enough.  Not everyone in the army’s going to be a steely-eyed hero just waiting for that call to action.  Some of them will be the kind of quiet professionals who do their job, worry about life, and hold the army together behind the scenes.

As a first reaction, I actually kind of like Dobson.  These days, I’m a bit of a sucker for the ‘everyman’ type character, and personally I think showing the average man’s reaction to the uprising rather than a hero’s reaction could prove instructive.

The effect is spoiled shortly after when we overhear Dobson’s musings about the DCDS, the second in command of the Canadian Forces.  Gen Gervais will be properly introduced in the next section, but he is clearly meant to be one of the weaklings in this equation, and Dobson’s quiet contempt for him shifts him out of the everyman category and over to righteous scold.  Oh well, can’t have everything, I suppose.

The action here is pretty straightforward.  Just hours before ‘Morning Prayers’ Dobson gets news about a Significant Incident Report (SIR) from Petawawa.  The MPs have now noticed Cpl Newman is missing, and that there is no sign of her vehicle.  Dobson and his staff respond with what seems like a normal, healthy level of professionalism, gathering information and contacting the Deputy Base Commander of Petawawa and the Provost Marshall (head of the MPs).  The only thing that stands out is that no one has yet bothered to check the Menin Road Ammo Compound(!) to make sure it’s vast arsenal of weapons and ammunition are secure.  Given that this was part of her assigned route, I would have assumed this would have been standard operating procedure, but okay I guess not.

This scene doesn’t actually add any new information or move the plot (in fact, Bland not only repeats information that the reader knows, but also that the characters know), but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Scenes like this are common for the ‘techno-thriller’ (as they were known back in the 1990s) and actually have a fairly vital role in the overall novel.  Read almost any Tom Clancy novel (or at least, his early ones) and you’ll have some scene early on in the novel that doesn’t seem to make sense to the overall story.  The omniscient eye of the narrator will zero in on some random person, seemingly unconnected to events only to have said character re-appear later in the story, once fate has conspire to place him or her directly in the path of world events.⁠2

When I first read through Uprising, I assumed that Col Dobson was going to be one of the key go-between characters (or to use a Canadian reference, the ‘fifth business’) in the upcoming drama.  Clearly his department would become a critical hub of activity as the action developed.  Bad news will come through their offices, maybe there will be some desperate scramble to piece together key evidence and relay them to a brave but desperate soldier in the field (who, for dramatic emphasis will suddenly have comms problems at a key moment to build the tension).

But then we get this when Bland describes Dobson’s surroundings:

…The NDOC was a windowless, rather drab facility.  Despite its unspectacular appearance, however, Ian knew how crucially important the centre was to Canada’s military operations: it was its nerve centre.  And access to this secure facility was tightly guarded.  Entrance into the NDOC, located on the twelfth floor of NDHQ, required passing through security checks at the main entrance, and futrher, increasingly stringent checks, which involved the supplying of highly secret codes, to get through the many doorways and elevators leading to the upper levels of the building.  Ian, like everyone else in the room, wore a special security tag on a neck-chain, so that guards could easily identify individuals and their security clearances.  On the twelfth floor, as on the upper level, high-security floors, guards randomly verified the identity of those walking the hallways and their purpose for being there.  The inside joke, however, was that security was unintentionally assured by the confusion caused by the continual rebuilding and rearranging of officers, meeting rooms, and hallways that made the top floors into an impenetrable rabbit warren.  If a bad guy were ever to get in here, Ian thought, he would never be able to find his target or his way out without a guide.

Still trying to be charitable, my first thought as a critical reader was be that this description is a hint that the layout of Dobson’s offices will become crucial in a later chapter of the story. The scene mirrors the opening scenes in the classic Cold War thriller ‘Fail Safe’  (where key characters just happen to be given a guided tour of the nuclear command centre just minutes before a malfunction will launch a squadron of bombers on an ill-fated run into Soviet airspace).

Perhaps at some point in Bland’s novel, NDHQ itself will be invaded by the NPA?  All the talk about codes and check points and ID cards seems to be a set up, laying the ground work before a critical flaw is revealed.  Perhaps there is a way to forge fake ID cards?  Or maybe the security force itself has been compromised?  The emphasis on the confusing floor layout seems like foreshadowing some future drama as well.  Is it possible that the maze of offices will enable the everyman Dobson to escape his attackers, carrying vital information with him as he does?  Or, if he’s meant to be a tragic figure, he could find himself cornered in this self-same maze, perhaps sparing a last longing glance at a family photo on his desk before being shot down in his own office, with the key piece of information lying unattended on the floor to slowly absorb his blood just as a certain boating magazine…

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 11.34.24 PM
Keanu Reeves in one of the least CGI-heavy scene of The Matrix, proving that even a deliberately soul-crushing office could be scary and intense.  (1999 Warner Bros)

But no, we get the world’s most boring guided tour of a stifling bureaucracy (including never-before-seen details about ID cards!⁠3) and none of it will be relevant in the future.  The first problem here is that this layout doesn’t really matter for the story.  The NDOC in NDHQ will be supplemented with nondescript offices in the Langevin Block (home of the Prime Minister’s Office or PMO), and later still with Canada Command HQ and another place called the ITAC (Integrated Threat Assessment Centre).  None of these actual locations are relevant physically.   Most of the action that will take place there will consist of briefings which could have just as easily taken place somewhere else, or else descriptions of powerful men (it’s almost always men) making grim pronouncements about the subjects of those briefings.

A competent editor would have took one look at this paragraph (and several others that I haven’t included) and told Bland to cut them out for the sake of brevity.  As the author Kurt Vonnegut once said, every sentence must either advance the plot or develop the characters, and the two hundred words quoted above do neither of these things.  What’s disturbing to me though, is the fact that Bland spends so much time describing essentially interchangeable offices, while spending almost no time on Canada itself or the people living in it.

As the story progresses, stand offs and shoot outs will be described second hand by characters who never witnessed them personally.  Pages will be dedicated to specific offices, and the occasional building of import, but when the shooting finally happens on page, it will be hard to tell who is standing where, or what they may be seeing.  Extras will be nameless, unless their actions or fate can serve as some kind of allegorical object lesson.⁠4

What’s bothering me about all this is the fact that it seems to speak to a very narrow view of what’s important to Douglas Bland in this country I love.  Bland seems to like high offices and important people.  As a result these people get detailed descriptions and their offices are lovingly laid out on the page.  Meanwhile the rest of us can pound salt somewhere on the outside of his plot line.  It makes for a surprisingly boring novel, one full of missed opportunities and mind-numbing repetitiveness.

Now consider this: A lot of the action takes place at either NDHQ or the Langevin Block.  These two buildings are located less than a kilometre apart (Google Maps says 700m) in down town Ottawa and it’s possible to walk from one to the other in less than fifteen minutes.  To give you an idea of what kinds of settings Douglas Bland is passing up on, consider the locations that lie between these those buildings:

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 11.42.49 PM
A Google Maps view of the route.

Exiting NDHQ by the north tower puts you on the MacKenzie-King bridge which passes between the ‘HQ and the Rideau Centre Shopping Mall.  Walking barely fifty meters west gives you an excellent view of Confederation Park to the south, beyond which is Ottawa City Hall and Cartier Square Drill Hall.  Continuing west, you pass the War Memorial, located at the intersection of Elgin, Wellington and Rideau Streets.  Even in 2007-8 (when Bland presumably wrote Uprising), before the massive renovations, the location was still formidable to see.  Standing at the Memorial’s foundation (where the newly added Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies) you can see the National Arts Centre, the Chateau Laurier, and the East Block of Parliament Hill itself.

(The Chateau Laurier itself is noteworthy since, as the oldest Hotel in Ottawa, it has been the scene of many official events, including a home for Parliament after the Centre Block was gutted by fire in 1916.)

Further west, the Sparks Street pedestrian mall used to be a mecca of classy businesses and entertainment in Ottawa, but it’s become hit-or-miss in recent years, with several businesses in historic buildings now closed (although it’s still home to Ottawa’s studios for the CBC, one of Bland’s favourite bogey men).  However, one of the thriving venues to remain is D’Arcy McGee’s pub, a bar at the corner of Sparks and Elgin, within sight of the War Memorial.  It’s named after Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a father of Confederation who was murdered by an Irish nationalist named Patrick Whelan in the early years of Confederation.⁠5

Walking north and hanging a quick left puts you in front of the Langevin Block, just across the street from Parliament Hill, the seat of Canada’s Federal Government.

A bare bones, 300-word description of the walk between two of our main locations, but already the possibilities abound.  Imagine the chilling moment of introspection one of the military characters might feel, looking at the hunched over statues passing beneath the arch of the National War Memorial, and contemplating the lives that are about to be lost.  One of the crucial themes of the memorial was that of resolve in the face of strife and exhaustion.  What conclusions might a CF staff officer draw staring up at those bronze faces as the NPA crisis deepens and the scale of the costs become evident.  Or from the grim fact that the Memorial was dedicated in 1939, just months before Canada would be plunged once again into global war.

National War Memorial
The National War Memorial, Chateau Laurier in the background.

Imagine Cartier Square Drill Hall as a kind of barometer of the increasing tension in the country; gradually filling with Reservists and sprouting an orbit of mod tents into Confederation Park as the Militia mobilizes in response to the crisis⁠6.

Confederation Park, Cartier Square, City Hall
Looking south from the MacKenzie-King bridge across Confederation Park.  Cartier Square Drill Hall is on the left, Ottawa City Hall is in the centre.  

Confederation Park is home to a number of memorials, including one to the Boer War and another (recently moved to the Drill Hall) commemorating the fallen at Cut Knife Hill, a battle of the North West Rebellion.  That same park is home to the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, commemorating the Indigenous peoples who served in the armed forces during all of Canada’s conflicts, and a Totem Pole marking the hundredth anniversary of British Columbia’s entrance into Confederation.

 

D’Arcy McGee’s pub is a popular venue that regularly hosts live musical performances, and in addition to this is also an occasional watering hole for the odd Member of Parliament.  Imagine a clandestine meeting with a sympathetic MP, perhaps an older man, recovering alcoholic, who has fallen off the wagon as times grow desperate.  Imagine meeting him in one of the cramped alcoves of D’Arcy McGee’s, as a crowd of young people cheer nervously and the cover band launches into a rendition of Great Big Sea’s ‘The Recruiting Sergeant.’

D'Arcy McGee
D’Arcy McGee’s

Then there’s the Langevin Block itself.  Named after Sir Hector-Louis Langevin (19th Century Secretary of State for the Provinces) who is one of the key architects of the Residential School System that would devastate the First Nations culture.

Langevin Block
The Langevin Block as seen from the steps of the East Block of Parliament Hill.

This is the sort of thing that can happen when one looks out the office at the environment the office occupies.  The possibilities that emerge when one starts thinking of people as individuals rather than the positions they hold?  In the space between two of Bland’s preferred settings are locations where Canadian history merges directly with modern Canada itself.  Any number of these locations capable of serving as a significance-ladened backdrop for a story laced with politics and history. I find it stunning that Bland, as a retired LtCol could have worked in this City (or any other City) without actually seeing what was around him.  It’s almost as if he allowed himself to be driven from location to location without ever looking out the window of the car…

I’m not saying that I want Bland to write a better racist conspiracy novel about the destruction of Canada.  What’s leaving me stunned is the fact that he’s seen as an expert when the sum total of his expertise seems to be contained within cubicles and displayed in power point.

What I’m saying is, if you’re going to blow up my country, at least show me that you know what you’re destroying.

***Photos by Author.***

1 ‘Prayers’ is a term for a regularly scheduled briefing and (at least in my experience) it’s still used fairly regularly.  In the version I’m familiar with, ‘prayers’ is meant to be short & sweet so as not to take away from actual activity.  All the key appointments gather together in the same room, and quickly run through the latest developments, what their current plan of action is, and whether they have any requests for information or support.  The driving concept is to touch base quickly, then get back to work.

2 One point comes in with the character FBI agent Walter Hoskins in the Sum of All Fears, and the fact that his office window faces the stadium in Denver where the Superbowl is held.  During a later scene, his shell-shocked description of this window being cracked will provide a vital clue for Jack Ryan and Co.

3 I wonder if Bland retired before retractable lanyards became commonplace?

4 Fred McTavish, we will remember you!

5 The assassination came in the midst of what would be known as the Fenian Crisis, when Irish nationalists in the United States (many of them Civil War veterans) began staging cross border raids and attacks as a way of carrying on the republican struggle against Great Britain in the new world.  The worst of the raids saw the first official employment of the newly establish Canadian Militia.

6 Depending on how you wanted to play it, they could either spring into action with commendable swiftness or (more likely given Bland’s opinion of us ‘Toons) lurching their way forward with fatal hesitation until it was tragically too late.

Sir Galahad’s still there…

I spent this past Easter Monday wandering around downtown Ottawa, getting a few pictures for next Monday’s deconstruction post. Like I mentioned before, I’m a huge history geek. I love poking around historical buildings and monuments and Ottawa’s been blessed with quite a few good ones within a fairly small area (I’ll introduce a few of them to you next Monday).
One of these locations is D’Arcy McGee’s Pub on Sparks St, where I stopped in for a quick pint and to jot down the notes for the post you’re reading now. D’Arcy’s a location with a fair bit of history, which was part of the reason I stopped there. Go figure, the hostess seated me in one of the side rooms that has a beautiful view of the National War Memorial with the Chateau Laurier in the background. It’s one of the things I guess I share with Douglas Bland, I can be suckered in for blatant symbolism too.

D'Arcy McGee's view
Didn’t even have to ask for this excellent view.  This is where I got seated on the one day when I was walking around downtown to look at monuments.  How cool is that?

We’ll talk about the Memorial, the Chateau and the Pub next Monday, but for now I want to zero in on something a bit more obscure. As part of my tourist walk, I wandered up onto Parliament Hill. It was a beautiful day for it. Not too cold, and the sun broke through the clouds right around the time I arrived. Even the obnoxious Pro-Life demonstrators were taking the day off.[1] I was busy looking for a good angle to get a pic of the Langevin Block (home of the PMO; Prime Minister’s Office) that I walked right past it the first time, and had to double back when inspiration struck.

Sir Galahad

This dramatic looking character is Sir Galahad-as in the same one from Camelot-and he’s standing right at the centre of the grounds, at the southern foot of Parliament Hill. If you’re looking at him head on then the Centre Block and the Peace Tower are directly behind him, as though he just marched right out of Parliament and he’s just exited the House of Commons to sort shit out, and if you ain’t gonna follow, he ain’t gonna care.
Thing is, it’s not entirely clear what the statue’s there for. There’s a plaque, and an inscription in the stone he’s standing on, but even that doesn’t help so much:

So here’s the actual story:
On the 6th of December of 1901, the Governor General of Canada, the Earl of Minto saw the Ottawa River had frozen over with this perfectly smooth sheet of ice that was so clear, you could see right through it. Naturally, he figured the thing to do was have a skating party by his residence and invited various prominent people of Ottawa to attend. Now most of us who’ve been out on frozen water know that if it’s thin enough to see through, it’s probably not going to hold your weight. Despite this, the party went on for a while without anything happening.
Thing is, you can’t get lucky forever. The ice broke, a young woman named Bessie Blair and a man named Alex Creelman fell through. Creelman got swept away under the ice, but through a freak bit of luck he found another thin patch of ice where he was able to break through and get rescued. Bessie Blair meanwhile, was trying to stay afloat and find something to hold onto amidst the broken ice and freezing water.
Henry Albert Harper (Bert Harper) was an up and coming young journalist and civil servant who, in true Victorian fashion, drew inspiration for his life from the example of Arthurian legends of the Knights of the Round Table. Specifically, the poetic depictions of Arthurian legends popularized by Lord Tennyson. Especially Sir Galahad. Just like a kid today might have a poster of Marvel’s Black Panther on their bedroom wall, Bert Harper had a print of Sir Galahad hanging over his bed in the apartments he shared with his good friend and fellow journalist William.
While other onlookers tried to knot together a rope of scarfs and crawl out to help Bessie, Bert Harper ran out onto the ice and dove into the water, swimming to her side and helping to keep afloat as she grew weaker from the cold. An incredible display of courage and self-sacrifice, it would not be enough to save either Bessie or himself, and both eventually succumbed to the cold and drowned before the rescue party could reach them.
According to stories that later built up around the event, when the onlookers and rescuers shouted at ‘Bert not to jump in, he answered them back by quoting Sir Galahad from Tennyson’s poems: “If I lose myself, I save myself!” Although at the time witnesses at the time said it was something more like “What else can I do?” Given the circumstances, I think it’s fair to grant him the more dramatic last words.
So a dramatic and tragic story. Two young people lost in the prime of their lives, one of them actually sacrificing himself in an attempt to rescue the other. But why the statue? More than that, why this statue in this prominent location? Well, that comes down to Bert’s roommate and editor, who at that time of his death was one of the many party-goers trying to crawl out to the pair as they struggled to stay afloat.
William’s full name was William Lyon McKenzie-King, and in his own words he loved Bert as he would a father or a brother. He would enter politics a few years later, get elected to Parliament, and a decade after that he would become our longest-serving Prime Minister.  You can find his statue just around the corner of the East Block, near the statue of Queen Elizabeth II. His first speech in the House of Commons would commemorate his friend’s courage, and the statue was his tribute to these lives cut short.
Right now the Statue is on a sidewalk next to a traffic light and a crosswalk. There’s a bus stop a few meters away and while Heritage Canada and the City do their best to keep the memory alive, there’s probably a lot of people who walk past the memorial every day without looking twice. Of those who stop to look, not many will fully grasp what this statue meant to the man who had it built.[2]

Galahad sunset
A wider angle shot from across the street.  As lovely as the sunset may be, you can see how easily the statue can get lost amidst all the stuff around it.  

So this leaves us with what’s usually the big question for historians: How significant was this moment? McKenzie-King was definitely important to the country, and Bert Harper was important to him, so maybe a lot? But then this monument was built at the start of what would be a long and momentous political career. Nine years after its unveiling, Canada would be plunged into what was then known as ‘The Great War.’ Two years after that, the Centre Block would be gutted by fire. The Great War would be three years gone by the time MacKenzie-King would first become PM and he would serve on and off again for twenty one years. So maybe not so much?[3]
This is why study is important for understanding history, and this is where Bland and I have to diverge. Human beings are complex, and the way we interact even more so. This is why the mostly likely answer to any given question about human nature is going to be a frustrating ‘maybe?’ instead of a hard yes or no. Summarizing the entirety of a human being with a few broad strokes and stereotypes passes over the hidden depths where we can find our hardest maybes yet.
Some of the stuff in Uprising is straight up wrong. But a lot of other stuff is in that hidden depths region, and I’m not going to have definitive yes or no answers. But I got a lot of maybes, and the more I read, the more maybes I find. It’s like a statue on a sidewalk that you’ve walked past a hundred times without looking: Once you’ve met actually met him, Sir Galahad’s impossible to ignore.

 

***All photos by author.***


[1] I don’t know what church these cranks attend, but they work in shifts and they park themselves right next to the Centennial Flame and on most days there’s no escaping them.
[2] It was really common in the Victorian era to include classical and Arthurian themes in popular works of art, and until I started reading up on this particular one I figured the same thing was at work here. Learning about Bert Harper’s affinity for Sir Galahad really casts the entire monument in a different light. This is what prompted my comparison Marvel’s Black Panther, and I do think an equivalent would be a current-day monument featuring T’Challa: A lovely and poignant tribute, the significance of which will likely be lost on future generations.
[3] William Lyon MacKenzie-King was a man of famously eccentric inspirations. Among other things, as a devoted son he made it a point never to make an important political decision without first consulting his beloved mother. That his mother died several years before he became Prime Minister was not seen by him to be an obstacle to these consultations.

Respect Mah Authoratah!

According to Douglas Bland, Alex Gabriel is a leader. Not just a leader, a manly, heroic leader. A natural. Only he can lead the native uprising, and he knows this because The Elders told him so, while he listened in rapt silence without raising a single question or concern. Bland is quick to assure us of this, dropping all sorts of ‘Principles of Leadership’ saying such a ‘leading from the front.’

“…One reason people followed Alex, in the army and now on this raid, was that he always led from the front. A simple concept, and not exactly stamped Top Secret, but a lot of officers never seemed to get it: leading means being in front. How else can you know what’s going on? Call it “operational problem solving” or “dealing with the unexpected 101,” just like bloody “Foxhole U,” army staff college. You will have problems, like this one. Stay on top of them.”

I got my own personal feelings about people who spend time repeating motivational-poster catchphrases as though it was the most profound wisdom, but to give credit where credit is due, Bland does portray Gabriel as training his team personally, drilling them in their ‘Actions On’ and impressing upon them various basic lessons that (I can tell you from experience) are not easy to inculcate into green troops. I have to admit, when I first started reading this novel, I ground my teeth over this part. For a moment it looked as though Bland, for all his nasty, racist premises, might have written something that legitimately reflected the challenges of training civilians into soldiers and leading them effectively against a government with superior firepower. For a few pages it seemed that this book might have legitimately stood up as some kind of racist version of Che Guevera ‘Geurila Warfare.’
Then of course the logistical problems with the raid became obvious, and the issues of risk vs reward, etc…etc…and I felt my initial concerns fading.
But is Gabriel a good leader? He certainly has all the right catch phrases, but do his actions match his words?
At first this seems to be the case. He stays close to his troops, gives reminders and prompts to ensure they remember key tasks, and when it’s time to overpower (and possibly kill) Cpl Newman, he places himself right in the middle of the action, both to inspire his troops and to control them during a crucially dangerous situation. Despite his credulous response to The Elders that we saw earlier on in this chapter, these actions do seem to indicate good leadership: Set a clear standard, give clear direction, double check to ensure everything’s going the way it should, be ready to step in at crucial moments.
Things change almost immediately as the raid comes to an end. His exfiltration done, Gabriel’s team meets up with a supporting unit from the NPA who have been waiting for them at a rendezvous with trucks to transport the weapons and the troops to their next mission. This new group of warriors are led by a mysterious man without a name whom I will call Mystery Man for simplicity’s sake. Almost right away things get…patronizing…

“…Alex Gabriel’s flotilla touched down on the Quebec shore across from Petawawa. An assortment of trucks and pickups rolled down along a trail through the bush off Chemin Fort William to take on the precious cargo. A tall, sour-looking man [Mystery Man] walked towards Alex, and, pulling him aside, glanced over the packs, boxes and weapons crates.
“What did you get?” he asked sharply.
“Much as we planned. We found the stores as described, carried away what we could and got out. We had a run-in with an MP, but she did no harm.
“Did you shoot her?”
“Of course not! What’s the matter with you? We don’t go around shooting people people out of hand.” Alex’s instant dislike for the guy grew legs. He turned to walk away. “I’ll count the stuff off the beach once I’ve seen to my people.”
“Nope. You leave that to me. My guys will take the loads from here on and we’ve got plans for the team.”
“I thought we were going to use this stuff locally. Why the changes? And what plans for my team?”
“Best you remember not to ask such questions. I’ll have your second-in-command get your people into those two trucks there, and you get in the van here. Someone wants to see you elsewhere.”
[…..]
“I told you not to ask about things that aren’t your business. Anyway, they’ll be taken to a camp somewhere to eat and sleep, then we’re going to prepare them for something else. We can’t just let them go wandering around town. They’ll get drunk or start fighting or bragging to who knows who about the whole exercise. The Mounties will be out in force soon enough without us spreading the word.”
The late summer sun broke over the eastern hills, sending long shadows across the beach as strangers jumped from the trucks and grabbed the cargo, roughly pushing Alex’s warriors to the side. He took one step to intervene, but the tall man grabbed his shoulder and pulled him towards a van parked near the road. Reflexively, Alex seized his arm and started a palm-strike but checked himself. For a moment they stood frozen, glaring at one another, then from the corner of his eye Alex saw Christmas step between the strangers and the team and start coaxing the warriors to the trucks…”

So after training his team from nothing to adequate, then leading them on an incredibly risky assault on the ammo compound in Petawawa in which they almost killed an MP, Gabriel stands quietly by as his team is packed up onto trucks and taken away from him by a group of strangers who won’t even give him the most basic of details. These are his men. He trained them. Now he is going to stand by while some guy so disrespectful that Gabriel is tempted to punch him, takes them away. All in the name of ‘need to know.’
So much for being a true leader of his people.

Leadership!
LEADERSHIP!

Despite everything I will say that a lot of Mystery Man’s attitude here rings true, but not (I suspect) in the way that Bland wants it to. From the way this passage is written, it seems as though Bland expects the reader to be impressed by the impennetrable layers of security surrounding the NPA’s master plans. Mystery Man is actually taking Alex Gabriel to meet with the NPA’s supreme leader, but he can’t risk actually telling him that because….

….I’m not sure, actually.
No seriously. There’s no good reason for Mystery Man not to tell Alex that the boss has noticed his efforts, and wants to meet him in person. For that matter, there’s no good reason for Mystery Man not to give Alex a name either, but that’s another matter altogether. Sure, he might not want to tell Alex where they’re about to go (the Akwesasne Reservation) or who he’s about to meet (although Bland is frustratingly inconsistent about just how secretive the NPA leader Molly Grace really is), but there’s no reason he can’t tell the NPA leader who led the first raid of the Uprising that their leader wants a word.
On the other hand, having gone back and forth between Reg Force and the Reserves, I can say that Mystery Man’s ‘Get out of the way and let the grownups take over’ is pretty familiar. When you’re the ‘Toon walking into a Reg Force unit, it’s not uncommon to get this attitude regardless of your rank, experience or qualifications. A similar attitude can be found any time you’re in a multi-unit exercise where you wind up as a minority trade in someone else’s outfit. No matter what your trade or background, it’s not uncommon to be treated like a slack-jawed yokel when you walk into the room.[1]
But Gabriel isn’t some inexperienced cornflake here. He’s a Capt in the CF. He’s an experienced soldier. A veteran.
Who is this punk talking to him?
No seriously, why is Gabriel not asking himself this question? There doesn’t seem to be a chain of command functioning here, and Mystery Man hasn’t even given a name. Gabriel does seem to be getting into the standard action movie trope of the macho-posturing-hairy-eyeball thing, giving Mystery Man a steely eyed glare and cocking a fist to show that he’s not a man to be trifled with. But that’s not the thing that should be eating him right now.
Keep in mind, he just raided Petawawa. While his troops may be criminals now, they’re all rank-and-file young ideologues. Most of them are civilians to boot. It’s entirely possible that they haven’t even thought out the consequences of their actions and even if they have, they could still plausibly claim youth and stupidity as a defence in court. Alex Gabriel, on the other hand, has no excuse. As an experienced, veteran officer of the CF he is now a traitor to his country who acted entirely willfully and with malice of forethought.
Who is this man that is bullying him and his troops when Alex Gabriel is the one who’s just assumed all the risk? Does he have military training? If so, who trained him (and why weren’t they using their troops for the raid instead of his)? Throughout the first chapter, there’s all kinds of talk about ‘his instructions’ and ‘his orders’ but who actually has been giving him his orders? The same guy who gave this unnamed NPA bully his? Do they have a commander they can appeal to in order to settle this dispute?
These are not idle questions given the fact that Gabriel is looking at life in prison for what he’s just done. What’s more, he voluntarily did this without ever meeting any high level NPA leader during his recruitment.  Now he’s gone and stolen a bunch of weapons that are being trucked away along with his troops, leaving him alone and without any support. Has it occurred to him yet that he might be the patsy in all of this? That this might have been some kind of elaborate trick by say, a criminal organization to get a bunch of idealistic Native kids and an idiot CF officer to steal a bunch of guns for them?So the mystery of need to know falls flat. On the other hand, this instinctive tendency to bully and dominate, to turn every encounter into a contest of wills rings true in a far more unsettling manner. Rather than invoking a chain of command that puts him in charge, or shared experience that would allow him to earn respect, Mystery Man is invoking pedigree. The qualities he has simply from being there. I was here first, I know people and I know where you’re going next. That makes me important no matter who you may be. Douglas Bland may be trying to show us a tantalizing glimpse of the exciting world of OPSEC and secrecy, but what he’s revealing is far more mundane and disturbing. This automatic acceptance of the legitimacy of authority figures (or at least, authority figures with an appropriately pedigree) is a common trait of an authoritarian followers, and expecting such deference is a common trait of an authoritarian leader.
It goes a long way, I think, to explaining Bland’s racist assumption that the First Nations people of Canada will instinctively drop everything to follow the NPA when the Uprising breaks out, even though the text makes it clear that the NPA has done little to actually earn anyone’s loyalty. In Bland’s mind, the Indigenous people will automatically acknowledge the rightful authority of ‘true leaders’ like the NPA over the phoney leadership of their own Band chiefs and councils. So great will this racial knowledge be that they will obey orders without question, maintaining a stunning level of secrecy across 650 reservations and a dozen cities.
The native warriors of the NPA obey because they’re meant to obey. Just as Gabriel is meant to lead. Just as Gabriel will lead his subordinates but instinctively quash his natural distain for any bullying clown that storms in to take over his part of the operation once his usefulness is served.
To wrap up the subject of Alex Gabriel’s leadership, I want to skip ahead a little bit in the book to add one final exhibit to the case before moving on. Early on in the next chapter, Gabriel arrives at the NPA headquarters in Akwesasne and witnesses an encounter between a senior NPA leader (a New Man who replaces Mystery Man as his handler) and a young warrior (not unlike the warriors he just recently trained then abandoned on a country road outside of Petawawa).

“…The new man in charge motioned Alex towards a small hut. A guard, no more than eighteen, in mismatched camo and an uncomfortable-looking army surplus hat, stood in the doorway fidgeting with the trigger guard on his old army-issue FN rifle. That scared Alex a lot more than his admittedly ominous surrounding.
The serious man motioned Alex into the building and told the kid to watch him. Then, in one swift move, he grabbed the rifle from the boy’s hands and cuffed him on the head, sending his hat flying into the dirt.
“I told you not to load this thing! Do it again without orders and I’ll kick the crap out of you. Understand?”
The kid nodded dumbly, bent slowly to pick up his hat but jumped back as his chief swiftly and expertly pulled the magazine off the rifle, snapped the breech open, emptied the chamber and shoved the weapon back into his fumbling grasp.
As he walked away, he spoke over his should to Alex. “Hard to get good help, captain. There’s a washroom in the hut. You’ve got time to clean up. Sonny here will get you something to eat. Grab a nap. No telling how long before they call for you – maybe tomorrow morning.”

Okay, I’m going to allow myself a small rant here. Since this is a novel, not a film, we don’t actually get to see New Man grab what proves to be a loaded and readied weapon from the young warrior’s hands, so we can only assume he did it neatly. Maybe he used some kind of cool martial arts move to do it, but regardless it would probably look badass on screen.
When I first had to deal with recruits on an actual rifle range, I was told that if you ever had to disarm one of them, the best thing to do was to get both hands onto the rifle and lean hard so your entire body weight forced the muzzle into a safe direction. You then take a knee so that the recruit would either have to let go of the weapon or else fall down when you did.
I’ve had to do it exactly once in my career, and I did it just like this. It wasn’t pretty, and I’m pretty sure it would have looked terrible on film, but it worked.
A loaded rifle is a very real thing, and if you fuck up, the bullet it fires will not give you a second chance. Yeah, there’s all kinds of nifty kung fu moves you can do to rip a weapon out of someone’s hands, but they’re not something you want to try outside of a martial arts dojo. If you think otherwise, you’re more than welcome to try it out with a real 18 year old and a real rifle. Tell me how well it goes.

 

Disarm by Numbers!
Basically, not like this.  

Rant aside, the young warrior portrayed here is pretty clearly a brand new member of the NPA, and has received very little professional training before being given a weapon and placed on guard duty over a…trusted leader? (It’s never made clear; New Man never really says if Alex Gabriel is a prisoner or not.) Yet despite this, New Man doesn’t hesitate to physically strike the Young Warrior, confiscate and unload his weapon, then berate and humiliate him in front of the man that the young warrior is supposed to be guarding.
Now, leaving aside the fact that, after all this New Man breaks OPSEC by calling Gabriel ‘Captain’ in front of the Young Warrior, how should Gabriel feel about this whole scene? A good part of the previous chapter dealt with the partially trained nature of the young men and women he lead on a desperate commando raid into Petawawa. These were kids just like the Young Warrior. His Petawawa team appear to have been better trained, but it’s not the recruit’s fault if his instructors suck, so there’s no reason Gabriel should see his people as significantly different than this clueless 18 year old who just got smacked around by a man who takes his own security a lot more seriously than Gabriel’s.[2]
His troops, the kids he trained and then lead in a treasonous assault into CFB Petawawa, were left in the care of New Man’s colleague, the Mystery Man. How are they being treated right now? Are they at the mercy of a bunch of punks and bullies, getting slapped around the way New Man slaps around Young Warrior? Or are they surrounded by a bunch of other Young Warriors; poorly trained, badly led, with weapons and ammo but little idea when to use them? Know your men and promote their welfare. This was a principle of leadership when I did my PLQ. So what is Capt Alex Gabriel’s response when he witnesses the treatment of young soldiers in the NPA?

“I think I’ll get some sleep on that cot over there, if it’s all right with you.” [Gabriel says]
“Ah, sure, I guess so. No one ever tells me anything. They just yell at me.”
“Welcome to the army, boy. And remember: keep you finger off the trigger!”

Authoritarianism is the philosophy of bullies. It seeks the “natural” hierarchy of strong over weak. It works insofar as you get a certain degree of order and control, but if you’re looking for the level of dedication and commitment that will fuel a revolutionary army, you need something better.
Alex Gabriel is a bully, not a leader. His troops deserved better.

***Black & White photo is Fig 7-1 from the 1988 edition of the CF Close Quarters Combat manual (B-GL-382-004/FP-001).  Colour Stills from 2002’s Equilibrium (Miramax & Dimension Films)***

[1] In fact, one of the funnier experiences in my own career was teaching on a BMQ course and having a Regular Force officer confidently dismiss my attempts at helpful advice with: “Hey chill out, this ain’t my first rodeo!” It was true. The course we were teaching on was his second BMQ. I was on my sixth. Strangely enough, this “automatic contempt” doesn’t happen as much when you’re overseas and there’s an actual risk of getting shot. Funny thing, that.
[2] It’s an axiom that I wish would get repeated more often on leadership courses: If one of your troops suck, they’re an idiot. If all your troops suck, you’re the idiot.

Short Term Plans & More Details

So this is a bit of an update about how I’m planning to proceed with this blog, as well as some further details about where this whole project came from.

Right now I’m trying to get myself into a schedule where I’m publishing a section of the Uprising Deconstruction every Monday morning.  In addition to this I’m planning some cosmetic changes to this blog’s appearance, as well as putting together a more formal comment policy on the off chance that I succeed in attracting an actual following.  For the time being, if you plan on commenting, the blog is set up so that your first comment will automatically go into moderation for approval (so please be patient).  As far as content goes, please be decent and understanding to one another, and where possible cite sources for any objections you may have.

Along the way I’m planning on including additional posts about history, popular culture, and the CAF.  These other posts will not be on a fixed schedule since a lot of these posts are still in the vague idea stage and still haven’t been written yet.

That’s the other thing about this deconstruction, I…already wrote the whole thing.

I actually started this deconstruction several years ago as a kind of personal therapy.  There was a lot wrong with the book and it gave me a sense of satisfaction to systematically go through it and write it out.  The material I produced was read by a few friends and confidants, and that was about it.  A short while later, the 2015 NaNoWriMo came along and I, being as aspiring writer, decided to see if I could deconstruct the entire novel as a kind of project for that November.  When fifty thousand words proved insufficient…well things kind of got out of control then and it became my project for the next two years, followed by a completion month in Dec 2017 that got me past the finish line once and for all.  As it stands right now, I have a hundred and eighty thousand words in rough draft format covering a novel that’s just under five hundred pages in length.

This has been an experience, let me tell you.

So right now I’m not so much writing this deconstruction as much as I am editing it, including more detailed research and references, pictures, maps and diagrams.  The friends who’ve seen my work earlier are acting something like unofficial editors, and with their support I hope to get this entire project up online over the next year or so.

Thus far this has been a pretty exciting and enlightening experience, and I hope that anyone stumbling across this blog will share this experience even if they disagree with my opinions.  My ultimate goal would be to create a space that will draw people from some very different groups (Indigenous and non-Indigenous, military, civilian, activists, etc…), bring them together and hopefully promote a conversation that, at least in my experience, hasn’t happened nearly enough in this country.

So for all newcomers, welcome aboard and welcome to the conversation!  Let’s see if we can get through this thing together.

 

***Note: I am aware that the idea behind NaNoWriMo is to write fiction.  I figure that Bland’s novel is supposed to be realistic speculative fiction that descends into unwholesome parody, so I figured a facts-based analysis would…make it fiction?  I’m going to call it one of those double-negative things and leave it at that.  Anyway, the main thing was that all the text that went into the word count was my own (I put quote references down as footnotes at the time and configured my computer not to count them) so I did in fact produce 50k words per year as required, in case any pedants were concerned.***