Theres something happening here, what it is aint exactly clear - Buffalo Springfield, 1967
Confused by Idle No More? Good! That means youre paying attention. Heres some advice for what its worth.
First, don't try to reconcile the substantive issues. Some, like the predicted impact of federal legislation wrongfully referred to as Bill C-45 are tenuous and ill-informed. Others such as the notion that Queen Elizabeth and the Governor General still have responsibility for aboriginal people in Canada are simply wrong.
But these are just rallying points. Idle No More is not about specific answers to complex questions. The sweeping rhetoric will eventually elevate to constructive dialogue because the underpinnings are sincere.
Second, don't look for clear leadership. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has flamed out after overplaying her only hand. Pam Palmeter is stridently flogging a vision that was rejected in last summers Assembly of First Nations election. Some in the aboriginal establishment are scrambling to lead the parade while others are attempting a piggy-back manoeuvre. Aboriginal politics are brutal but Idle No More is well beyond that whole game.
For those who were there, this looks more like what occurred in the 1960s, when a critical mass of young people instinctively started taking personal and collective responsibility for a complacent status quo that confounded our emerging needs and values.
There may indeed be parallels to the Arab Spring, like the fueling effect of social media. There may even be comparisons to the Occupy movement which similarly sprang up from ground level. But Occupy fizzled because lifestyle issues overshadowed the economic travesty that prompted its original focus. This is different. There is no danger that Idle No More will lose focus.
It seems more likely that Idle No More will unfold something like the 60s: chaotic, exhilarating and sometimes dangerous. It will encompass a bewildering proliferation of splinter movements, but all headed more or less in the same direction. Cultural symbols will change and cross over. Music will define and unite. Hear those drums?
Its time for everyone to park their clichs. Theres a sense of empowerment here that is forging the next generation of aboriginal leadership and identifying a generation of young people who face tremendous challenges not of their own making. It will change the people who are involved and the society around them.
High time, isnt it?