In Umberto Echo’s seminal essay ‘Ur Fascism,’ the author identifies conflict as one of the key characteristics of a fascist movement. “There is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.” (See link above, pg 7 para 9) A fascist movement is one that defines itself largely by its enemies, and the (seemingly eternal) battle against them. The fascist finds their sense of meaning in conflict, and conversely views those who refuse to embrace this conflict as debased or worthless, if not outright traitors.
Basically, if you’re not committed to the perpetual state of war, you have no value. Keep this in mind as dawn breaks over Friday, the sixth day of the uprising and the beginning of Operation Thunder:
The peaceful September morning dawned over Quebec cool, crisp and clear. In Montreal, stark reds and brilliant yellows splashed across Mont-Royal’s hillsides. Early commuters walked along Peel Street, coffee in hand, La Presse under arm. Backpack-laden students propelled by first-term eagerness hurried up the hill to McGill’s learned halls. In Quebec City and across the province, unexceptional citizens began what they expected would be another unexceptional day. They were wrong.
Will Boucanier knew the day would be exceptional as he checked his watch as 0630 in the pink and gold pre-dawn glow. Behind him, crouched in the hollows and scrubs, the thirty “warriors” of his A Team anxiously awaited his call to move forward and enter the Radisson generating station. Everyone knew his job, drilled into them in rehearsal after rehearsal and in repeated sessions over simple sand-table models Boucanier had constructed in a garage just outside of town.
Another dawn raid, Will thought. Another start-line. But this one’s at home. He took a deep breath. Time to go to work.
I’m not sure when exactly the slur ‘Sheeple‘ became popular in far-right circles. According to Wikipedia one of its first uses was in 1945, and it became popular in UFO conspiracy circles during the 1980s & 90s. I can first remember encountering it in YouTube videos in the late 00s, but Douglas Bland doesn’t seem to be the most technologically literate man, so maybe it hadn’t reached him by the time he was writing Uprising.
Because that’s the only explanation I can think of as to why it’s not used in this passage. Unexceptional citizens having unexceptional days? Keep in mind that these are supposed to be Bland’s fellow Canadians that he’s talking about. All of them living lives without meaning.
This is something that doesn’t get said enough in this blog, mainly because it’s usually only hinted at in the text. But the overriding message throughout Uprising is that if you’re not part of the native rebellion or one of the Real Soldiers® standing ready to do violence against them, you don’t have any real value. Those students going to McGill University full of hopes, dreams, and aspirations? Meaningless. Those commuters going to work with the La Presse newspaper under their arm? Unremarkable.
Will Boucanier, on the other hand, is exceptional. He’s about to do exceptional things that will leave all these unexceptional people shocked and in awe. He’s just so cool you guys!
I am going to give credit where credit is due, this next part of the novel does ring true:
He glanced at his young radio operator, Simon. One last check that the boy had control of his satellite communications gear, the key to Will’s control of the extended operation about to unfold under his command…
…“Two alpha, this is two, over.” No response. A second call. No response. “Bloody amateurs,” he muttered softly to no one, prompting a nervous grin from Simon. “Two alpha, this is two, where the hell are you. Over?”
This time the radio crackled to life. “Ah, Two, this is two alpha. Over.”
“Two, you get someone on that radio and you stay connected!” Will napped. “Got that? Over.”
“Two alpha, ah, roger. Over.”
Too many soldiers treat radio watch as punishment, so they always give it to the dumbest guy in the section, who will in turn screws everything up by not listening when he’s supposed to. Exchanges like this happen all the time in the real world.
…But the radios were not on their most secure setting. The aim was to alert the feds, to bait the trap, so they were deliberately going to let the Communications Security Establishment, the national electronic snoops in Ottawa, pick up snippets of their conversations.
Next Will checked in with C Team leader Mary Tessel and repeated the orders he’d spent hours explaining and checking with her. Mary reported her team in position and repeated back her instructions.
Chalk this up in the ‘right idea, wrong reason‘ category. Again, seizing control of the Robert Bourassa Hydro Electric Dam will bring down a massive security response, regardless of who’s doing the talking. If anything, taking time to reiterate your plans in plain text is only going to serve to raise the suspicions of the EW people who might be listening in (those guys are seriously paranoid).
However, it is a good idea to conceal the fact that you have encryption capabilities early on in the operation. Even really basic encryption takes a while to crack, so if you switch over just as the security forces are rolling in, you’ll probably have a brief window in which you can be sure your comms aren’t monitored.
They’d had the local leaders in Radisson under surveillance all night and they would pick them up first. But they would leave the police, and especially Bob Ignace, to the last, giving him time to raise the alarm in the south.
The plan risked a gun battle with the alerted cops, but that was a risk worth taking. Will reminded Mary one last time that in such a situation C Team was to take cover and simply pin the police down. The idea here was to bait the trap. There was no need for a massacre on either side. The remainder of the team, moving into position on the Chisasibi-Radisson road, would play their part much later, and it might be deadly. But for now the key was to lure in a major rescue operation, and for that, police officers taken hostage or under fire were arguably more compelling that the police already dead.[emphasis mine]
I recently heard an useful saying from the American army that goes: “The enemy always gets a vote.” Warfare is not turn-based strategy game. No matter how carefully you lay out your plans, you cannot depend on the enemy just sitting around and waiting for you to carry it out. They’re going to take action of their own and if that action interferes with your carefully laid plans…well…too bad.
To put it in game terms, leaving the local police force for last is essentially handing them a free move. Yeah, there’s a good chance that they’ll raise the alarm and further ‘bait the trap‘ (like you want), but are they just going to sit there in their station after raising that alarm? At the very least they’re going to pass on detailed information about who NPA warriors are.
And as far as avoiding a massacre? Will’s already met Bob Ignace. Does he actually believe that self-hating cretin is going to watch the Movement start a war in his own back yard, and just give up and go quietly into captivity?
Does anyone here believe that?
Finally, Will gave the “Go” to his transmission-line saboteurs. They were to begin with a few “demonstrations” down the line once the generating facilities were in Will’s hands. If the SQ or the army moved north, they would then turn their attention to the roads and ambushes. Sabotage, harass, and withdraw – that was the drill. The ex-army pros with the teams would handle the major demolitions and direct the road operations. But Will knew that hit-and-run tactics on a small scale are difficult, even for well-trained teams, in such exposed terrain.
Frankly, he assumed that after a few successes, his teams of moose hunters would be eaten alive by the regular army units once the latter understood that the game was for real and took off the gloves.
Wow. That’s cold. And I don’t mean that in a complimentary way.
So one of the best pieces of advice I was given about army leadership was to envision your funeral. Imagine yourself dead in a closed casket, and imagine your family and friends grieving your loss and wondering how this could have happened. Now once you have this picture in your mind, imagine this is actually the funeral of one of your troops instead. That you are there at the funeral with them, and in a few minutes you will have to go over and introduce yourself and in the process identify yourself as the person who gave the order that got their child/spouse/sibling/friend killed.
It’s not a question of whether you made the right call in giving that order. That’s not the question being asked here. The question is, can you face a family in grief (which will look a lot like your own family’s grief) and take responsibility for a soldier’s death. If you’re going to lead troops, you need to get that question sorted out in your head.
I’m looking at Will Boucanier’s train of thought here, and I don’t know what I’m seeing. Will isn’t being portrayed as a fanatic. At least not in the ‘Redoubles his efforts while losing sight of his goal,’ style of fanatic. He’s been portrayed as the ultimate Canadian soldier, but seems completely indifferent to the fact that people he met just days ago are about to die at his command.
More on this in a moment.
Will knew well the cost of war. His young men and women for the most part were innocent. On several nights in different locations he had explained as best he could the situations the teams were going to face, and they had seemed content with his explanations. Everyone trusted him.
Uh…when did this happen?
We got a pretty solid timeline for Will Boucanier’s movements around Chisasibi and Radisson over the past week. He arrived on Monday, where he met and bullied his No 2 man Joe Neetha, then took his tour of the Robert Bourassa Dam. Neetha was the only person he met that day (his final instructions to Neetha were to call the other Rangers the next day, then meet Will again on Wednesday at 1300hrs.
Tuesday was Will’s line tour, where he drove south to Recce out ambush points and meet with the transmission-line saboteurs in their communities. He returned to Chisasibi at 1830 where he had his encounter with Bob Ignace and then returned to his hotel room. None of these meetings would have happened at night, and most were probably hasty, given the distance he would have had to drive.
There was no word on what happened on Wednesday, but based on his instructions Joe Neetha would have met him at 1300hrs, then presumably they would have gone to meet the other Rangers at the secret RV point to brief them. This would have been his first meeting with them, and while a sand-table model isn’t that hard to build, this probably would have been the only occasion where he would have had free time to simply talk to them and reassure them.
Thursday afternoon is when the call came from Molly Grace to launch OP Thunder, and there was still the need to receive and distribute the ‘special equipment’ sent up from the south. Since the OP was set to go off at dawn on Friday, it’s likely that Will & Co were up most of the night preparing and moving into position.
He may have had some time to talk to his own Team once they were on site by the Dam, but that seems like the only option to me.
This timeline analysis is important because of the last scene we got in this section:
Everyone, that is, except an uninvited elder who at one meeting sat and listened and then scolded [the] young people. “You should all go home and mind your own business and your families. We were a warring people once long ago before the whites came here and all the blood we spilled then only brought more blood and tears into the lodges and starvation to the children. We don’t need to go there again.”
Will realized that the old man understood the realities of warfare and recognized the consequences that would descend on the innocents caught up in its horrors. Months before, Will had promised himself that he would try his best not to carelessly expose these young people to the dangers that were coming their way, but he knew that after this mission was over – win or lose – there would be tears in the lodges.
So again we got An Elder™ appearing nameless from central casting to fill a role then go away.
Who is this elder? How old is he (as in, which War did he experience)? Given the time frame, I’m assuming he’d be either a WW II or Korean War Vet, although Vietnam is a possibility. These options would make sense, because the last time the Cree Nation was war-like without the ‘whites’ was a couple of centuries ago.
***Good thing those colonizers came along to stop them, otherwise the Cree might still be a war-like people (is what the text seems to be saying).***
Something like this would make for an interesting confrontation. An old War Vet and a young(er) one, arguing over the war that is yet to come. Did he confront Will Boucanier directly? Did he call him out for running away to join the army, thus becoming a stranger to his land and his people? Or did he address the ex-Rangers directly? How well was he known to these members of the NPA? Was he related to some of them? Frankly, I would have rather had this scene written out than the never-ending one between Jack Hemp and Al Onanole.
Hell, never mind elders. What would have happened if an auntie had shown up?
These scenes here are from Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary Kanehsatake: 270 years of resistance when the army closed up the perimeter around the Pines and Kanesatake on 1 Sept. At a key moment, when the Warriors seemed ready to start a suicidal gun fight with the Van Doos, it was several of the women (local Mohawks as well as protesters from across the country) who stepped in to physically push them back. To be clear, none of these women were on the army’s side. They just recognized that fighting would be a disaster, and they were damned if they would let these hot heads get themselves killed.
Note in particular the top left image, where one woman is physically holding a Warrior back. Both Army and Government witnesses all agree that the women prevented a bloodbath that day.
An auntie is kind of like an elder, in that it’s a title that’s never formally given. Everyone just kind of accepts that you are one. An auntie may or may not be an actual blood relative, or simply a friend of the family who gets referred to as such. It (usually) refers to a woman who’s in her 30s or 40s with children of her own who’s got that no-nonsense take-charge attitude. In times of crisis (large scale or personal) they’re the ones who step in to look after people, especially children. In this case, they were the ones who raced to the scene to save the Warriors from their own hot-headedness.
So what’s a warrior to do when the aunties show up? Let’s say this auntie is the woman who babysat you when she was a teenager and changed your diapers, and whose kids were the first to ever call you ‘Uncle’ even though you’re technically only second cousins. What are you going to do when this auntie squares off in front of you and demands to know ‘What the hell you think you’re doing?’
And yes, there are going to be people in the community like this. After all, just a few paragraphs earlier we heard that the Band council and police force weren’t onboard with the Movement. Guaranteed there’s going to be aunties in the opposition as well.
Sadly, we won’t get any examination of these important questions, because Bland has given Will Boucanier the perfect answer to this Elder’s™ objections.
Now, however, was not the time to allow reality to invite fear into his meetings.
“Remember when you were a young, hot-blooded warrior, old man,” Will praised the elder. “These young warriors have your blood in their veins. They’ll be fine and live to have many children, just as you did.” The young warriors laughed at the hint of a future paradise.
Blood is deterministic, and conflict is validation. Boucanier’s internal monologue seems to suggest he cares about his troops, but his words and actions suggest something else. Rather he seems committed to an abstract idea of nation-hood that real people will be sacrificed for, rather than for the people themselves.
The sun touched the horizon and the new nation moved forward upright, confident, and proud. However briefly that might be, Will celebrated the idea nonetheless.
A nation is walking forward. Not people. A Nation. And Will celebrates.
***I went looking for Fascist artwork for today’s Featured Image. This brought me to some creepy Italian paintings from the 1930s, before I remembered hearing about Zdzislaw Beksinski on the ‘In Praise of Shadows‘ channel on YouTube. Beksinski was a Polish artist who, in his youth, had a front row seat for the Nazi occupation and the Holocaust. He never titled or gave an explanations for his paintings so the one we have here is simply AF-75. But when I saw it, I immediately thought ‘Fascism.’ Source.***
 Another key aspect is that there will always be an enemy. It’s rare – if not impossible – for this enemy (Jews, rival ideologies, racial minorities, etc…) to be utterly defeated, but should this ever happen, another enemy (different minorities, traitors from within, Jews from other countries) will quickly be identified. There must always be an enemy.
 Also, is Bland trying to imply that he’s never had an unexceptional day? That his every waking moment has been filled with purpose and achievement? Bullshit. This is the talk of a man who’s never had to kill an afternoon during a slow month of the garrison cycle by pushing a broom around the vehicle shed.
 You’d think with the Railway Massacre fresh in recent memory and with rolling protests and a recent bombing/blackout, that the students might be anxious and worried. Maybe he’s suggesting students are too self-obsessed to think about politics?
 As a person who used to read the paper every morning on the bus to school, I can tell you that the front pages would be filled with news about the power line bombings. (Probably not much of Fred McTavish, though.) And given that the PM doesn’t seem to have issued any statement, and the Québec Premier is yelling racist nonsense, I would expect there to be a lot of speculation.
 Another bit of truth here is that the guy yelling about professionalism over the radio is going to break professionalism by swearing. Swearing over the radio is technically a chargeable offence (although it rarely happens). Even words like ‘hell‘ are forbidden. Funny thing is, the majority of the times I’ve heard people swearing have been supervisors chastising their subordinates for a lack of professionalism.
 A surprising number of Canadians crossed the border south to join the American military and serve in Vietnam.
 I took these stills from the NFB version of the documentary, rather than YouTube (as I did for this blog’s earlier look at the doc), hence the different colour interface.