***Okay, it’s been…wow…a long time since my last post, and I’d like to apologize for that. I’m currently on tasking for RST (Reserve Summer Training) here at the 4 Division Training Centre in lovely Meaford and the pace of work here has been…pretty damned intense. I’ve been a regular fixture at RST for the last several years, and I can honestly say this is the busiest I’ve ever seen it.
This has (obviously) had the effect of badly slowing the pace of my work here at the blog, and the approach of EX Stalwart Guardian – the huge multi-unit exercise which is going to serve as the grand finale for the summer – means things are liable to get worse before it gets better (That is, for the blog. I have no idea how SG is going to go down).
For the people who’ve been following the blog up until now and have stuck around through this dry spell, thank you. I’m sorry for the long period of silence and I’m going to do my best to fix it going forward.
For new arrivals who’ve recently found this place, Hi! I’m the author and I’m usually here a lot more regularly!
I’m going to do my best to get a few more posts scheduled throughout these next few weeks to keep some content going up while I’m likely to be busy. Once the summer’s over I should have more time on my hands, and my work here should return to something like my normal output.
Again, thank you so much for sticking around. Hopefully you won’t have to wait so long for another post.***
And now, back to Douglas Bland’s Uprising…
In his famous work of realpolitik ‘The Prince,’ Italian political philosopher Niccollo Machiavelli suggested that, given the choice between one or the other, it was better for a Prince to be feared rather than loved. His rationale was that people could still rationalize the betrayal of someone that they loved, but enough fear could keep a subordinate in line no matter how resentful they might feel.
This gets to an interesting question that occurred to me as I was struggling through some serious sleep deprivation to properly examine this next part of Uprising. While Machiavelli recognized that while fear was more valuable to a ruler than love, he did acknowledge that love had value. In fact in later chapters he advocates that a Prince should build his army from local volunteer forces rather than hired mercenaries because the local soldier would have greater motivation to serve their homeland. So love of the Prince and his Principality did have value for the ruler…it’s just that it had less value than fear.
So here’s my question: If love has value, does contempt have a negative value?
If love is something that a leader can harness for their benefit, is contempt something that can harm them? A leader who is loved can harness that love, could a leader who is despised could find themselves overthrown.
To put it more simply: Can you be enough of a dick to otherwise ruin your leadership potential?
So getting back to the story, from all this talk of treason with Gen Bishop, we cut over to Will Boucanier in Chisasibi. A hundred and ten pages ago, he was busy
rallying the Canadian Rangers to his cause smacking around the local Rangers who have already joined the cause of the NPA.
Having been handed an already trained force of men so he can execute a task, the parameters of which have already been decided for him, it’s only natural that Boucanier should be feeling relaxed and confident. After all, if the Movement spent so much time doing his job for him, it’s obvious he must be a super-soldier!
In fact, he’s so awesome that he’s working without power point!…
Will Boucanier clicked off his cellphone and stowed it in his pack; next stop for it was the bottom of the river. He had followed the drill – made his recce, completed his plan, given his orders – and now he sat waiting for the order to deploy. Army units don’t simply jump up and go into action; at least, not those that win battles. Moving into operations is, or ought to be, like performing well-rehearsed grand ballet.
So many things need to be done in a coordinated way to bring the many elements of a combat operation to the right place with the right resources at the right time. Troops must be warned; plans made at each level of command; weapons, ammunition, and supplies assembled; and units moved into position to attack or defend an objective. Time is always fleeting, and to the badly organized it is always a menacing foe.
Okay so far so…not bad? The first paragraph here deploys a bunch of buzzwords from your PLQ (Primary Leadership Qualification) course. The second generally covers what we now call the what/where/why?: A quick, 1-2 sentence explanation of why this matters, where you will use it and under what circumstances? I could probably cut & paste these paragraphs into a lecture on Battle Procedure with only minimal editing to make it work together.
These two paragraphs don’t actually move forward the plot or develop the characters, but they’re not necessarily bad in terms of setting the scene. It’s just that…
…okay Boucanier has just received the dreaded news that his timeline is moving up. Although it isn’t mentioned in the text just what sort of timeframe Boucanier thought he’d be working with, he’s only been on the ground for four days and it looks as though he was expecting a bit more time(?). From a character perspective, the problem in this passage is pretty straightforward: What does Will Boucanier think about all of this? He’s led troops into the field repeatedly, including into combat in…Croatia…You’d think he’d be feeling something right now.
He’s just been told that his time frame is moving up. He’s barely had a chance to meet everybody and get in their face! There’s probably dozens of Rangers who’ve grown up in the region and been loyal NPA members for years that he hasn’t jacked up yet! And now he’s getting the word that he needs to move tomorrow? Personally, I’d be freaking out. I mean, I don’t think I’d be getting in as many faces as Will has, but seriously, I’d be in a panic at this point. This is bad news. I’d barely had a chance to get comfortable on the ground, and all of a sudden it’s go time?
I’d be like: Fuck right off…
As a leader, Will knew it was also his duty to prepare his troops, not just by reminding them of the details of the plans, but by reminding them of their mission and of the cause they were fighting for. “Remember always,” he had told his Ranger leaders, “we’re the Native People’s Army. I want you to remember not just the people bit but also that our cause is their cause and it’s a worthy cause. I want you to believe that you’re going to win, because you’re the people’s army. It’s ‘People’s War, People’s Army’ as the great Vietnamese commander, Vo Nguyen Giap, described the essence of revolutionary warfare. We’re a revolutionary army, and if we’re going to win, we need to act like one. The people and the army are one, and our people are counting on their army to help with their freedom.”
Okay so I bolded General Giap’s name there just to make it clear, Bland is the one who first brought up famous Communist revolutionaries. Not me. He broke the Commie barrier first.
We’ll get to the Communism stuff in a moment, but first I want to finish off the key parts of this section.
Okay so we’ve talked about how timings work, and while the next two paragraphs are a bit clunky, they’re actually not a bad description of an evolving schedule. The NPA’s Ranger cells are going from 6 hrs Notice To Move to 3 hrs. Fair enough. Unfortunately, Bland can’t seem to write a realistic scene in his book without also couching it in patronizing language.
Will walked outside, down the street away from the hotel, found a cool, shaded corner, and pulled out another, as yet unused cellphone. He dialled; a suspicious voice said, “Yes?”
“Racing Rabbit. Meet me in three hours at the place. Put your people on three hours notice to move from eighteen hundred hours tonight. I repeat, three hours from eighteen hundred, that’s six p.m. For the clueless. Remind them they’re going hunting. A truck will arrive tonight at your shed. Off-load the equipment and pack most of it. Use the items I told you about to give your people a quick refresher course. Once they’re assembled, no one leaves the area, no phone calls, no beer. I will get back to you once your people are set. Any questions?”
On the other end Joe Neetha paused, startled by he “go” code word. “No, don’t think so. It’s really going down, eh?”
“You bet. Just do as you were told and things will go okay. And again, no beer. No beer. No beer. Got it?”
“Yeah. We’re ready.”
Nice job calling your people clueless. I’m sure that’ll go over well. And emphasizing ‘No beer’ three times over. I’m sure your new subordinates appreciated such a firm hand at the wheel.
It’s actually a shame that we never get to hear Joe Neetha’s perspective on Will’s speeches, and how they’re going over with the Rangers. Is this emphasis on ‘No Beer’ going to come across as fatherly and maybe even necessary? Or does it come across as preachy and even insulting?
We talked about the risks alcohol and drug dependency can have on a rebellion. Under this level of stress, there’s always a chance of people relapsing. On top of that, there are all sorts of family and friends in a circle around each Ranger who might be just as vulnerable to similar exploitation. These are risks that should be well understood by anyone who’s grown up in a community where addiction is a regular presence. How badly would these risks be exacerbated if the leader proves clueless?
Too bad Will Boucanier has spent decades away from home and has actively worked hard to alienate his top subordinate. Otherwise, he might have an answer.
Okay now for some Communism!
A quick sidebar about quoting famous evil people. Evil is a thing that people do, not something that people are. Even the worst human beings on Earth still have redeeming qualities, and legitimate insights into human nature (Hitler was a non-smoker who loved dogs, etc…). If we’re going to be serious about studying how the wheels come off of human society, then our focus has to be on that point of contact where human nature meets reality at the worst possible angle and creates evil.
So, since Bland decided to invoke Vo Nguyen Giap, I’m going to skip back a generation to talk about Chairman Mao Zedong and quote his ‘Three Rules of Discipline’ and ‘Eight Points of Attention.’ These are the basic laws he enforced and publicized within his People’s Liberation Army as their central tenants during the Chinese Civil War. These were the basic tenants that would help lead the Communists to victory.
Brace yourself folks! Here comes some hardcore revolutionary literature!
- Obey orders promptly
- Do not confiscate property from the masses
- Do not delay in turning in confiscated property
- Speak politely
- Pay a fair price for what you buy
- Return everything you borrow
- Pay compensation for everything damaged
- Do not hit or curse the people
- Do not damage crops
- Do not violate women
- Do not mistreat prisoners
Damn! That’s complex! I don’t feel nearly qualified enough to parse these words…
So…the Communist revolution in China would eventually be responsible for the deaths of millions people, so I’m not going to pretend that Mao was in any way a decent (or misunderstood) person. But there’s wisdom in these words (at the very least), and if Chairman Mao had stuck to principles like these, China might be a much better place today.
Here’s what made these Rules and Points so incredibly radical: One of the things that characterized the nature of the last Chinese civil war was the fact that, whatever the faction, if an army marched into your village they’d be taking whatever they wanted. Whether it was property, food, money or people they’d do what they felt like and you (as a civilian) would just have to live with it.
The Communists explicitly tried to set themselves apart by defying this convention. They paid for the things they took, and returned anything they borrowed. They didn’t randomly kill people, destroy crops or brutalize women. Hell, they even emphasized courtesy in dealing with the civilian population. This may not seem like a big deal, but keeping an army in a civil war on such a short leash is not easy. The fact that the Communists could (to some extent) do it was a major factor in rallying the population behind them.
Too bad they couldn’t keep it up after they won.
Boucanier knew it wasn’t enough to give speeches, something he rarely ever did. If he expected his junior leaders to follow battle procedure drills, he had to keep on top of them himself. And ordinarily he’d have been on the ground moving from one patrol to the next, checking and coaching and checking again, as he had in the Canadian Forces.
This is actually kind of a classic trope from Communist films.
The trope here seems to be that the Rangers are a vital unit in the Movement but of dubious ideological purity. In this trope, Boucanier would be playing the role of the central party representative showing up to whip the locals into shape and bring them into alignment with the party dogma. The local cell knows the ground and the people, and is well intentioned, but they don’t fully understand ‘what the revolution’s all about.’ The party representative knows the big picture, but he needs to learn about the local situation and why you can’t learn about the revolution just from books.
This could actually be an interesting dynamic to examine. A truly revolutionary movement can spread like wildfire, but it will also adapt itself to the local situations and in isolated regions it can evolve in some very different directions.
This could work if Douglas Bland had actually created an ideology for the Movement and the NPA, and if he’d written Will Boucanier as a long serving NPA member who’d become steeped in said ideology. Except that it’s barely been a month since Boucanier left the CF, and there hasn’t actually been much in way of an ideology for the Movement.
And yes, there is no actual ideology for the Movement, and I’m saying this even after the thirty pages of Bill Whitefish’s flashback to Molly Grace’s speech. What exactly is the story that Molly tells her audience in that flashback? We own the land, and the [current] Chiefs suck.
That’s it. She talks about drugs, but doesn’t talk about how to confront the drug epidemic. She talks about corruption, but not about any kind of alternative or solution.
Go back and read the extent of Molly Grace’s speech.
Now compare it to this excerpt from an interview with Wab Kinew, a writer, journalist, hip hop artist and hereditary chief who recently became the head of the Manitoba NDP party. I first mentioned here in my post on Residential Schools. This is taken from the ‘Red Man Laughing’ podcast hosted by Ryan McMahon (an Anishinabe/Métis comedian who is also a friend of Wab’s) shortly after the publication of Wab’s memoir ‘The Reason You Walk.’ Ryan plainly states at the beginning of the episode that his intent was for his interview to depart from the ‘standard questions’ and draw his friend out into a more profound conversation than he’d been having on his book’s promotional tour.
And he succeeded:
[Wab speaking] We all want freedom, we all want happiness. So what I’ve learned…what I feel like I learned:
“It’s not enough to be right….you also have to be good.
You put those two things together, it’s something powerful. It’s something remarkable.
As Indigenous people, we’re right. We’re on the right side of history over and over again. But we also need to be good. We also have to carry ourselves in a morally upstanding way, as our elders taught us to do. As the residential school survivors are showing us through their example to do. And we also need to do that on an individual level.
You know,…As I said, as a young man, part of the lie I told myself is that because of the marginalization of my people and the racism that I felt, That I could justify that bad behaviour because this overall society was unjust. Guess what? That’s bullshit. No. You have to be good too. You can be right…you can be on the right side of history, but you also have to be good too. And when I look at the challenges growing up in our community like…I worry about the kids growing up on reserve.
On one hand, I don’t want to tell the kids that the reserve is bad. The reserve is good. It has become a homeland. It has become a sanctuary for language and culture. I love so many people we grow up with.
But on the other hand, I do feel like, if we tell young people just to stay on the rez? We’re setting them up for failure. Right? Like, we live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world in ‘Lake of the Woods’ in Treaty 3. How can there be so much suicide in my community when you live in God’s country?
The only answer to me is because those young people who are taking their own lives don’t see that. To them, the world is just the dirt road connecting one stretch of CMHC [Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corporation] housing to another stretch of CMHC houses and that’s the only way that you can feel hopeless. So We have to encourage our people to see the entire vista of the world. To see themselves as part of this much bigger thing. And so I think that the most important thing that we ought to be doing is cultivating goodness and morality, and cultivating a strong ethical compass in our young people and just have confidence in our nations have confidence in our cultures.
That if we cultivate good young people…good children…they know who they are…and set them out in the world that yeah, some of them might go out and pursue a life completely in the mainstream but we should also expect that many of them are going to come back and reinvest in the future of our nations, the future of our nationhood.
And I think that…if we try and roll the dice in that equation, and we try to justify anything less than people being morally upstanding or completely of good character, that…we’re so imperfect as human beings, that we won’t be able to predict what the repercussions are. And we may end up harming a generation of young people in our communities in the process.
So this is a guy still speaking off the cuff, but there’s a clear he’s got a vision of how to approach the challenges facing the First Nations. Agree or disagree, he’s still got a clear direction.
Go back and re-read Molly’s speech. Is there anything like that in there?
Hell, look at Chairman Mao’s Three Rules & Eight Points. Does Molly Grace come up with anything comparable to this? No.
Meanwhile, here’s Wab actually hitting the nail on the head.
A few minutes earlier in the interview:
If I tweet something…like ‘F___ Harper! You suck!’….
…a million re-Tweets! People will jump all over that.
But if I re-Tweet: ‘Hey, here’s a new Indigenous language course that we’re offering…who wants to participate?’
But like, okay, so like, to me, that reveals something. We’re attracted…and like, we like getting rilled up. We like getting angry. But what is more important to Anishnabe nationhood? The project of Anishinabe nationhood and you know, any Indigenous nation’s nationhood fifty years from now. You can make the argument that it is important to stand up for inherent rights and to oppose encroachment from any Federal legislative agenda. But will that defence [of] inherent rights be meaningfull if your land…if your language has disappeared in the meantime?
Weirdly enough, this is a concept that would fit for the Movement: Pure opposition. Nihilism. The closest thing we could come up with as a mission statement for the Movement: Fuck
Harper Hemp! A kind of collective madness where there isn’t a plan, just an enemy.
This is a kind of thing that can actually happen. Harnessing legitimate anger and turning it into out-of-control fanaticism is a legitimate (in that it would work) way for a demagogue to seize power: Whip everybody up into a full on screeching rage, then point them at your enemy and turn them loose. In the long run it’s not a very good option since you’re only going to hold onto power so long as you got a common enemy. Still, it can work for a shot term at least.
Back to Uprising:
[Instead of getting enough time to prepare] here was the coded message sooner than expected. Time, the pitiless, aggressive opponent, was at it again. No matter. Battle procedure was nearly complete, and he had enough time, just enough, to sort out and allocate the “special goods” and deploy his troops. He had told his patrol leaders to expect eight hours notice before they had to move anywhere. Now he began the steady, deliberate reduction in warning times.
Good thing that the NPA commanded Will Boucanier to take charge of their cells in Chisasibbi and Raddison! Otherwise they might have had to depend on the local troops to carry out their well-planned operation.
 The quote “It is better to be feared than loved. If you cannot be both.”
 As opposed to the mercenaries, who’s loyalty was only to the war which was their source of income. In fact Machiavelli blamed the conditieri (a blanket term for mercenaries fighting in Italy’s 15th-16th wars) for deliberately avoiding decisive battle as a way of forcing the conflict to continue, thereby ensuring their continued employment and power.
 On a pragmatic level, that’s just enough time to go through all the clothes you packed, meaning you’re going to have to work a load of laundry into your time estimate, or else you’ll be down to one pair of underwear right when the fighting begins.
 Is there a version of Godwin’s Law that applies to Communist dictators? If there is, Bland has crossed that line.
 There’s a couple of different translations available online, so exact wording of these rules and points will vary.
 For the record, I have both received and given the “Nobody will consume alcohol during this (Exercise/Tasking/Range Weekend)!” order during exercises that were entirely ‘white.’ Usually, this order has been both appropriate and necessary.
 Substance abuse and drug addiction is a real thing in many First Nations communities, and it’s not racist to acknowledge this tragic reality. Nor is it racist to plan accordingly, and build in some safeguards to protect recovering addicts who may find themselves tempted. Treating these issues in a patronizing manner where the extent of your actions consist of a simple admonition of ‘don’t do that?’ That’s where you’re getting into disrespectful territory.
 For the record, overcoming addiction is an ongoing process that will last for the rest of the addict’s life. Hence the tendency to speak of ‘recovering alcoholics’ in the present tense, even if they’ve been dry for years.
 I have edited the text to omit a number of pauses, uh-huhs, and yeahs which passed between Ryan and Wab. This was an emotional part of a fascinating hour-long interview, and transcribing it exactly would have lost a great deal of the impact.
 In the interview, Wab Kinew actually said “F___ Harper” instead of “Fuck Harper.”