“My mom says not to over-feed him” Robert says of the dog in the industrial park facing his bleak Windsor Ontario home. In this industrial town, everything is a varying shade of gray. Robert tells us of how he was a stowaway on a ship from China. He’s always lived with his now 90 year-old ailing mother, making a living driving a cab - and a good living he made of it - enough to buy his own car and rent it out to other newbie cabbies. When you first meet Robert, you are at once struck by his unconventional manner of speech as he stumbles and stammers. You’d think he was “mentally hindered” in some way. Maybe autistic. Somethin’ like that.
And all his life, people have judged and dismissed him. But as I listened to Robert Gene, on the film on him, I heard something else. I heard a man who was endlessly curious about the world around him. I watched in awe as I witnessed his gift for mathematics. I watched as he feverishly worked out the math for the best mega-store deal on orange juice.
I heard it said that he once offered to volunteer his gift for math and his personal time to help out with disadvantaged people’s taxes. He was refused the position. Robert never knew the official reason why, but it’s simple deduction.
Now well Into his fifties, Robert has never had a girlfriend. “Too many headaches” he says. So he’s always lived with mom. Together they created a home that would rival any episode of “Hoarders”, but that another story. One need only to watch the film.
All this leads me to think that though we like to think otherwise, we live in a conformist society.Which brings me to the ethos of 21st century thought: free speech, freedom of expression democracy for all, and humanitarian values, all in the name of manifest destiny. Truth is, anyone who doesn’t fit the suburban ideals of modern North American life, is chastised, ignored, forgotten or Jacked on drugs. Jacked so that they could fuse into the confines of this sectarian society. Robert isn’t jacked on drugs, but consequently, lives a life of isolation.
Americans lead all western countries as medicated drones, boasting 3.5 billion prescriptions yearly, leaving us all into the throws of collective numbness. This numbness, so to speak, leaves very little room for innovation, intellectual evolution. Or dare I say, genius.
People with social disorders, the mentally ill or the naturally eccentric are often the ones who question the protocols of modern existence. Perhaps we should have a closer listen. I say, bring on the crazies. And for God’s sake, let them do our taxes. We may just save a couple of bucks.
Here is what boxing is: You wait for what is to come pretending like you have some kind of idea. Then when the time comes and the flurry is upon, you go back on those heels and throw from your fists. You throw and you throw until you are done, because until the bell sounds the hitting from all directions isn’t done.
Coming to Canada and etching out a new life is a fight. You got the language and cultural things all coming at you in right crosses and all the rest of it. Boom!
There are always those neighbourhoods where the fight to survive and the burn to get yours is brighter. Where the survival instinct wells up pretty nice. You go where the rents are a little high for the crap they are selling at you on the monthly, but the background checks are laxer and they aren’t slamming the door to your face. There is one other constant about all these types of districts - the boxing gym, the place to make good all the things you have been learning about having to stand up for you and yours. And all those rounds you are putting down day after day.
In Toronto, you have your Cabbagetown Boxing Club - in a place where the kids of good Irish stock were set down to live in Corktown and Cabbagetown, because it was close to all that factory and distillery work and the only place that Orange Toronto would keep it so that King Billy wouldn’t take a thrashing to them with their Billy clubs. This was the late 19th century in Cabbagetown and all that Presbyterian Toronto long dresses with no lace was held down like iron by the ruling no-fun brigade. So there was all that before they put up (and now tore down) that monstrosity of a failed housing project called Regent Park. A place where some of the Irish even stayed to fight more than a few rounds. The years went on and some of the families even stayed on - till come the eighties you had the scrapper Shawn O’Sullivan. He was coming out of that Cabbagetown club with the prolific amature title of 94-6. A bloody record matched by very very few Canadian boxers.
The culmination of Shawn’s career was the 1984 Olympics in LA where he grabbed at that siver metal after losing to the American Frank Tate in the finals of the Mens Light Middleweight. O’Sullivan looked to have the gold medal locked up. In the second round O’Sullivan landed some heavy gloves on Tate, taking him to two standing-eight-counts. But the judges unanimously gave the decision to Tate and, incredibly, even awarded the second round to the American. Even the patriotic Los Angeles crowd jeered the decision. But our Cabbagetown boy O’Sullivan was gracious in defeat, calling the outcome “unfortunate.” He did turn pro after this but never, it would seem, reach his full potential - or maybe it was just he never caught his proper breaks.
I saw an interview with old Shawn going back about 5 years on CBC and you could tell, like so many, the blows to the head had taken their toll. He had taken his cuts and lacerations and you could tell that they had a hold on him for life. Probably like a lot of us.
So what of Shawn? In 2007, O’Sullivan’s apartment was busted into, and the thieves made off with all his lifetime: nine rings, including one with four maple leaves and a diamond stud that commemorates his pair of world championships.
He is currently holding it down in of all places, Belleville, Ont. where he can frequently be seen walking his dog (a boxer) and offering a friendly greeting to any who recognize him. I suppose that is the loneliness of the small town and the rewards Shawn had in store for all that courage he took upon himself. The thing about being put in the middle of fights, is you don’t always come out the winner. And you never, that is a surety, come out weightless and without the effects of the thing that came at you.
Immigration it can be a shit-kicker alright. And who knows what all the generations beyond us have in store as they stand to their place with the flurries to come.
For final thoughts on the metaphoricals of the many ways that we all take our turn in the ring when we come to Canada — check the video of our man Dierry Jean. He is a latter-day O’Sullivan coming to the shores of St. Michel in East Montreal and of good Haitian stock, and man is he ready to go back on those heels. They call him the Canadian champ going back to 2006. Weightless one? Well, we will all just have to wait and see about all the beatings he still has to come on down throughout the years….
I remember the first time I met Audley, we were next door neighbours in NDG an uptown neighbourhood in Montreal. It stands for Notre Dame de Grace, but people say that it stands for No Damn Good, other people say that it stands for Naked Dancing Girls.
I had been listening to the CJAD 800 AM, and as usual Jim Duff sounded like he was having a stroke. There was all that to the talk radio but the channel wasn’t coming in right and was making loud feedback. There was a knock on my door and there was Audley. That’s A-U-D-L-E-Y, he said. I thought he was knocking to complain about the noise from the shitty reception on the radio.
But he continued - The fact is, I’ve been Audley George Coley the First since I kicked my way out of my mothers womb. I came to show the world what it’s possible for a man to be. That’s the reason I started to dance. To show what’s possible. And then he just cut past me into my living room and did a jig, some old time dance I didn’t know about, to the rhythm of the station coming in and out. That was Audley. That was five years ago, and in a way he has never left.
Audley was saying he was the Pharoah, saying he had the blood of a king pumping through his veins. But the doctors saw it different. Bi-polar disorder was the name they put on him when he was 28. I guess he wasn’t called Audley anymore. So they locked him away in the hospital for three years and put him on what he calls his “vitamins” to take him down. He tells me that - Isis moves in my skin. When he first got this in his head the police had to come to make him gone. But in the meantime, for now, Isis, the Egyptian god of Death, is living out of his next door basement apartment and teaching aerobics to turn a dollar and get what is his.
He settled in Montreal because he caught wind of some work and he got to dancing. He even got some Radio Canada TV gigs with Quebec super stars Mitsou and Remi Simard (now jailed). That’s when they came to tell him that he couldn’t dance anymore. They came to tell him that he couldn’t ever see his baby again. His son Jamal the one he had with a Quebecoise woman. Then they came to tell him his sister had been murdered.
So then, this is five years since I met the man - and I see him from my basement window, standing on the street just Audley, trying to see what it’s like to be only some mortal kind. But the people are just walking by. And his eyes are closed and I can see him picturing himself with maybe a couple of groupies with fake tits that he just signed his autograph on. Anything just to take him higher still and make him remember what it is to exist. Like Michael Jackson or Prince. A bloody immortal and only just unkillable.
So the only thing that really scares me is when he opens his eyes he is not dancing, but just standing here on Girouard.
And I imagine what he would look like not from my basement apartment window but from the sky. And I think I would see a boy moving through the years. And around him even the former signs of patriotism marking this neighborhood turn to tombstones. Lay out like a bad game of connect the dots intersecting the tops of so many empty flagpoles. No longer left are the flags of opposing tattered red and blue to map his future. But instead blue sky lay atop steel. Fabric worn down by time, worn down to nothing, on this here two square miles of people called Notre Dame de Grace. Fading to nothing over Audley’s 50 years. Till there is no pattern, no shape just empty flag poles fraying slow with Audley the man looking on them, even as they die. And I figure that is the way that the Egyptians would really see things from way up in the sky.
And after I do that in my head I come back. Remembering what it was he told me the first time we met, before I knew him as Isis, and he was just the man called Audley, — when he told me something to be true. He told me he came here from his mother’s womb, he came running to show the world what it is possible for a man to be…
And same time I remember him telling me that, I am listening to the call in show on CJAD AM, but this time it’s coming in perfect, and some caller named Sean from the suburbs is talking about some northern town Herouville that caught a ton of press, by passing a bi-law that says you can’t perform female circumcision or collapse a wall on someone within town limits, because as the caller puts it that is what the Muslims do. And when he says that the reception starts flitting in and out and feedback comes screaming in. So, I turn it up, and that is when I hear it. The sound of Audley Coley knocking at my door.
All of us together as a society have undergone rapid and sweeping changes. Many of them have been for the better. In 1969, the average unilingual Anglophone made twice the income of even a bilingual Francophone. That is only forty years ago. The Quiet Revolution saw an immense and necessary social reordering. By the mid nineties the average income of Anglophones and Francophones was and still is measured as equal. The advent of Bill 101 saw a growing confidence that the public sector and power of the law could be used to protect and promote French.
The public sector and thus the middle class in Quebec are dominated by the French majority. By contrast, the English community is split in two, overrepresented in both the relatively small business class and the relatively larger lower class. In the last thirty years, half a million English Quebeckers have left. We English have shrunk almost by half, from 14% to 8% of the province. This decline has reflected a disproportionately large exodus of the educated, bilingual Anglophone upper and middle. Of those English-speakers who remain, 40% are now visible minorities, and they are disproportionately represented in the growing lower class segment. The English-speaking Black community in particular is amongst the poorest communities in Quebec.
The economic equalization between Anglophones and Francophones in Quebec was reached in part through immense hiring in the public sector and by unionizing and socializing industry, such as Hydro Quebec. This was done to shift the balance of power of the economy and in society – and the numbers would indicate that this has worked. Simultaneously, several French-headed companies rose to prominence, including Bombardier, Caisse Populaire, Quebecor, Banque Nationale, and Bell. This is impressive given that forty years ago the economy was dominated by the English community. Today, the largest employer in Quebec is the provincial government, and it has double the work force of California despite only a quarter the population. It is the largest government workforce of any jurisdiction in North America. Sadly, minorities are underrepresented by a factor of four relative to their share of the population in the Quebec civil service, at just 5% of the total.
This tale of woe extends to the rest of the economy as well. Educated immigrants fare worse in Quebec than any other jurisdiction in North America. The Black and Latino communities suffer unemployment rates roughly twice as high as the White population, and in the jaw-dropping vicinity of 17%. Nowhere else are these problems as severe: Quebec’s minority unemployment rate is the next to highest of all Canadian provinces and U.S. states – even those stained by their Jim Crow history. The Arab community is not faring much better.
How can we say we are giving away too much? This is shameful and indicative of a brewing crisis. But strangely, these facts have managed to escape the public debate, even during the reasonable accommodation hearings. The numbers indicate that Quebec is failing its minority communities by not sharing jobs and power.
I refer not to racism per se, but rather that the nurturing and protection of French cannot come at any cost. Not at the cost of creating a new and growing class of outsiders in the society. Certain checks and balances must exist. In no way does this require an end to Bill 101 – but I challenge Quebec not to use old wounds or even newer and real vulnerabilities (globalization) as an excuse to overlook its failures or to ignore its real responsibilities to all citizens.
I have always felt that the irony is that if the immense power of the government and public sector as a whole was used to reach out to the rest of society, the response would be overwhelmingly positive, with cultural communities better able to adapt to the French fact. Instead, by setting up a fearful and panicked way of protecting the language and the gains of the French community, it may be actually driving others away from entering the fold. It is basic human psychology: people want to be wanted.
During the reasonable accommodation debate, many of the failures of the society towards its immigrant communities were by and large ignored, and instead the discussion dwelled upon unhelpful and divisive issues such as Hijabs, knives in socks, and the frosted windows at the Parc YMCA. Instead, the focus must be more substantive than this. What I am talking about is the need for immediate human rights gains for overlooked Quebecers, mainly within the immigrant communities, yet Quebec currently seems unwilling or unable to have the maturity to face these serious and shameful shortcomings head on.
As I say, French must be protected as the beautiful, vulnerable and distinct force that it is in North America. That is why I am happy to report that the government is going through a great deal of effort to recruit and encourage French immigration into Quebec, and it is working. Sixty percent of all immigrants who arrive here – and in large numbers – speak French as their mother tongue. With no population growth whatsoever amongst the pur laine community, immigration represents the only population increase in Quebec. I suspect that while French remains vulnerable, the future Francophone immigrant majority community will set the tone for what can only be a less fearful, more open, honest, and self-examining French North American society.
LE QUÉBEC LAISSE TOMBER SES MINORITÉS
Nous tous, en tant que société, avons connu de grands et rapides changements. Nombre de ces changements ont été pour le mieux. En 1969, un anglophone unilingue moyen gagnait le double d’un francophone bilingue. C’était il y a seulement 40 ans. La révolution tranquille a vu naître un nouvel ordre social nécessaire. Dès le milieu des années 90 et jusqu’a aujourd’hui, le revenu moyen des anglophones et francophones était comparable. La venue de la loi 101 a incité à ce que le secteur public et le pouvoir légal s’unissent aux fins de promouvoir et d’encourager le français.
Le secteur public et donc la classe moyenne au Québec est dominée par la majorité francophone. En contrepartie, la communauté anglophone est partagée en deux : une partie fortement représentée dans une petite communauté d’affaires et une classe pauvre relativement plus importante. Durant les 30 dernières années, un demi million de Québécois ont quitté la province. Notre communauté anglophone s’est retrouvée réduite de moitié, passant de 14% à 8% de la population. Ce déclin s’est révélé un exil important de la classe moyenne supérieure bilingue anglophone et éduquée. Des anglophones restants, 40% sont maintenant des minorités visibles et sont surreprésentés au sein de la classe pauvre grandissante. La communauté noire anglophone en particulier est parmi les plus pauvres au Québec.
L’homogénéisation économique entre anglophones et francophones au Québec a été concrétisée en partie grâce à un immense recrutement dans le secteur public et par la syndicalisation et la socialisation de l’industrie, des compagnies telles que Hydro Québec. Cela avait pour but de basculer le pouvoir économique et sociétal et les chiffres laissent à croire que ça a fonctionné. Simultanément, un grand nombre de compagnies dirigées par des francophones sont devenues de plus en plus proéminente, telles que Bombardier, Caisse Populaire, Québecor, Banque Nationale et Bell. Cet exploit est notable quand on sait que 40 ans plus tôt l’économie était dominée par la communauté anglophone. Aujourd’hui, le premier employeur au Québec est le gouvernement provincial. Son nombre de salariés est le double de celui de la Californie alors que sa population représente le quart de cet était états=unien. Le nombre d’employés gouvernementaux au Québec est le plus important de toutes les juridictions en Amérique du Nord. Malheureusement, les minorités sont sous représentées, selon un facteur du un pour quatre, de leur droit de représentativité dans la société civile québécoise. Elles constituent seulement 5% du total des employés du secteur public.
Ce constat dramatique s’étend aussi au reste de l’économie. Les immigrants éduqués sont dans une situation beaucoup plus précaire ici que n’importe quel autre endroit en Amérique du Nord. Les communautés Noires et Latines souffrent d’un taux de chômage au peu près deux fois supérieur à celui de la population blanche, avec un nombre effarant avoisinant les 17%. Aucune autre province ne connaît de problèmes aussi graves : le taux de chômage des minorités est le second le plus important de toute l’Amérique du Nord, surpassant les états ayant vécu la ségrégation instaurée par Jim Crow. La communauté arabe ne s’en sort pas beaucoup mieux.
Comment peut on dire que nous donnons trop ? Cela est honteux et indique qu’une crise se prépare. Mais bizarrement, ces faits ont réussi à échapper au débat public, même durant les audiences sur les accommodements raisonnables. Les chiffres indiquent que les Québecois laissent tomber leurs communautés minoritaires en ne partageant pas les emplois et le pouvoir.
Je ne pense pas que cela soit du racisme à proprement parler, mais plutôt un soin et une énergie déployés à la protection du français au détriment d’autres aspects. Au détriment par exemple, de la création d’une nouvelle et grandissante classe moyenne d’étrangers dans la société. Il doit y avoir un moyen de réconcilier les deux, et ce n’est en aucun cas la remise en question de la loi 101. Mais je mets au défi le Québec de ne pas utiliser de vieilles blessures ou même de nouvelles et réelles vulnérabilités (globalisation) comme excuse afin de ne pas regarder ses échecs et afin d’ignorer ses responsabilités envers tous les citoyens.
J’ai toujours pensé que l’immense pouvoir du gouvernement et du secteur public combinés pouvaient être utilisés pour toucher toute la population et que le retour en serait extrêmement positif, permettant aux communautés culturelles de s’adapter au français. En revanche, en mettant en place un système de protection de la langue et de la communauté francophone basé sur la peur, les autres communautés prendraient leur distance et seraient moins intéressées de s’intégrer. Il s’agit de psychologie humaine de base : les gens veulent se sentir désirés.
Pendant le débat sur les accommodements raisonnables, les nombreux manquements de la société face à ses communautés immigrantes ont été largement ignorés. Les discussions se sont perdues sur des sujets aussi explosifs que non représentatifs et ridicules que les Hijabs, les couteaux dans les chaussettes, et les fenêtres opaques du YMCA de l’avenue Parc. L’attention devait être portée sur des sujets plus critiques. Je parle du besoin urgent d’un rétablissement des droits de l’homme pour tous les Québécois dénigrés, principalement dans les communautés immigrantes ; alors que le Québec semble aujourd’hui incapable ou désintéressé de se confronter à ces problèmes sérieux et semble incapable d’avoir la maturité de regarder ses défauts inavouables de face.
Comme je le disais, la langue française doit être protégée telle la force unique, belle et vulnérable, qu’elle est en Amérique du Nord. C’est pour cela que je suis heureux de témoigner de l’effort que fait le gouvernement pour recruter et encourager avec succès, l’immigration francophone au Québec. 60% des immigrés qui arrivent ici ont pour langue maternelle la langue française. Sans aucune croissance de la population de la communauté « pur laine », l’immigration représente le seul moyen d’augmenter la population au Québec. Il est fort à parier que malgré la vulnérabilité latente du français, la future communauté francophone saura instaurer un nouveau ton, forcément moins craintif, plus introspectif et saura créer une communauté francophone nord américaine plus ouverte et honnête.
Where are we? Who are we? La Robe depicts a family between continents, between epochs, between the extroverted modern world, and the introverted traditional world, or the introverted modern world, and the extroverted traditional world. Advances in communications have changed so dramatically over the last decades that what was once a village is today the globe presenting two problems. The first is that the Globe is far too large to support of village, and the second is that a village is far too small to support the military industrial communications complex that has cannibalized our everyday village existences.
In this small apartment, on this day, a grandmother and grand-daughter are discussing the wisdom of wearing an extroverted dress versus an introverted pair of slacks. The grandmother perhaps isn’t as aware of the communications revolution going on throughout the world rendering small town and village life obsolete while the granddaughter probably isn’t aware of life before cell phones and Internet when people still look at each other in the eye to resolve differences, and to forge relationships (without the conduit of the computer, and the send button). This film captures this conundrum in a very humorous and touching manner. Hopefully we will see more from this talented director soon.
La boxe comme instrument d’insertion sociale… Le sujet n’est pas neuf et les ingrédients sont toujours sensiblement les mêmes… misère sociale, manque ou absence totale d’encadrement familial, discipline et repères inexistants, délinquance, suite de séjours plus ou moins prolongés en prison. Bref, le classique de la spirale infernale et sa logique froide, implacable.
Mais comme tous les récits de boxe – qu’ils soient réels ou fictionnels et qu’il finissent bien ou pas – l’histoire de Dierry est touchante parce que singulière… comme toutes les histoires.
À 18 ans, Dierry Jean a tout pour venir gonfler les statistiques sur la délinquance des jeunes d’origine haïtienne dans le quartier St-Michel. À la limite de la caricature, son histoire d’adolescent débarqué d’Haiti est tout à fait conforme au cocktail qu’on nous présente trop souvent comme la norme : la vie au sein des gangs de rue et son quotidien de menus larcins et cambriolages, d’alcool, de drogues et de bagarres. Son modèle éventuel le plus proche, son frère aîné Reginald engrosse une jeune fille l’année même de leur arrivée et enchaîne les séjours en prison pour différents crimes et délits en rapport avec les drogues et les armes à feu.
Un beau matin, il y a huit ans, une prise de conscience soudaine ou un moment de lucidité particulièrement prégnant change la donne… apparemment pour de bon. C’est sur un ring de boxe que Dierry Jean prend conscience que lui seul peut changer le cours apparemment tout tracé de sa vie… L’urgence de casser l’engrenage, l’envie de se dépasser, la nécessité absolue de ne pas suivre les traces de son frère et de tant d’autres. La suite ne nous dit pas qui du rêve ou de la réalité l’emporte mais, entre ambition et naïveté, c’est rien de moins que le titre de champion du monde que vise Dierry Jean…
There comes a point when the concepts of nationality and ethnicity lose their meaning, becoming arbitrary and inadequate. It’s a point that more and more of us are reaching, in this post-(or at least trans-)national era. Take Andy Williams, born in England to Jamaican parents, resident in Canada. Trying to explain what he is, he is nonplussed: “I’m Anglo-Jamaican, I guess, eh? I guess I’m Afro-European. Is that right? Afro-Brit? I don’t know what to say… I’m a Canuck.”
He’s on much surer footing explaining what he likes. “I’ve always been a music lover, man,” he says, with no hesitation, no confusion; he’s a lifelong soccer enthusiast too. Would it not be simpler, then, if he could choose how he wants to define himself rather than having an ill-fitting nationality thrust upon him? Perhaps Andy would be most at home among the international brotherhood of football fans. Or, as a DJ, radio host, and record collector, maybe he would prefer to claim membership in the nation of jazz aficionados, that utopian non-state where residency is defined not by birthplace but by which records you own, where your flag is a poster of Trane, where the citizenship test is knowing when to applaud after a Jimmy Smith organ solo. Ah what a wonderful world that would be…
Whether in offhand conversation or in media reports, the concept of “Islam” tends to be treated as a monolithic idea in Canada. The word too often becomes shorthand for a reductively narrow set of beliefs, represented by its most zealous and intransigent proponents.
In truth, Islam is no more (or less) rigid and uniform than Christianity or Buddhism. It ranges across a swathe of countries and cultures from south-east Asia through the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East to Africa and Mediterranean Europe—not to mention growing communities in inhospitable climes like Scandinavia and Canada. Its true meaning is as vexed and elusive as that of any other set of beliefs shared and disputed by large numbers of followers. There are Shiites, Sunnis, Sufis, and more, each with their own interpretations. For every regime of hardline mullahs, there is a pluralistic and tolerant vision of Islam, like that of the Indian Mughals. Talking about the ethnic hodgepodge of Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood, Abdallah, a Djiboutian Muslim, tosses off metaphors for multiculturalism: bees gathering pollen from different flowers, a store attracting customers by offering various products. In a certain light, Islam too could serve as such a metaphor. As its manifold forms around the world reveal, it is as much a blueprint for diversity as a recipe for authoritarianism. – DD
When I went to Auschwitz I was only 21. I took the train from Budapest to Kraków and then from Kraków I took a bus – an excursion tour to Auschwitz.The tour began with a visit to the ovens at the original Auschwitz.There were two ovens and the ovens fit one body each.It was mind-boggling but the presentation was oddly sterile and genteel.Auschwitz looked surprisingly well-kempt and nicely organized. I would later read in the brilliant book THIS WAY FOR THE GAS LADIES AND GENTLEMAN by Tadeusz Borowski, a onetime capo at Auschwitz II, that Auschwitz I was the much envied sister camp, where the Germans
maintained the pretty Jewish girls whom they put to work as prostitutes.
At Auschwitz I, the buildings were constructed of brick and the camp had held up well over the forty years.But it is when I went to Auschwitz II, the “optional” part of the tour,a few miles away, that I saw the true enormity of the horror: The five crematoria, the vast train station within the camp where the extermination selections were made, the countless burned out wooden barracks where prisoners feigned sleep crammed together in their huddled, courageous, petrified masses.At Auschwitz II these structures were more like shoddy chicken coups than anything suited for human habitation.
There I entered one of the many gas chambers where the Nazis unthinkably dropped poison pellets over a people they had told they would be showering.Murdered by chemical weapon like bankable slaughter (gold teeth were removed and melted down) after toiling to starvation under a banner of Arbeit Macht Frei, these souls were the victims of 2000 years of anti-semitism, victims of the worst kind of cruelty the human heart has ever known.
I am but an aimless tourist, an unwilling heir to this crime, yet still today I am haunted from having ambled into the gas chamber that afternoon to look up at the little poison holes, the light streaming in.
The three videos of Holocaust survivors posted here are remarkable.As haunting as the gas chamber was for me, these stories are as inspiring.To understand the trajectories of Marcel, Rosa and Musia is to understand the strength of the human spirit.To witness the dignity inherent in the ascent from such a thoroughly compromised position is to gain access to a trajectory that represents a much broader spectrum of humanity than my generation of Canadians (all of us cocooned in our protective shells) has had the opportunity to experience.
And perhaps this is the most important lesson from these videos:Musia repeats here what Borowski immortalized in that book.That already in Auschwitz Kanada [sic.] had the reputation of being that warm, permeable cocoon which could provide a welcome to refugees of all kinds— giving them quarter, a space to grow.If we are to judge from the sentiments in these videos, we might indeed come to this same conclusion: that Canada may very well be the safest harbor in the maelstrom that is this Earth’s chaos.