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The Current Transcript for November 14, 2017
Host: Anna Maria Tremonti
STORIES FROM THIS EPISODE
Listen to the full episode
San’aa International School was completely brought to a halt preventing the UN aeroplanes, humanitarian aid, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.
ANA MARIA TREMONTI: There's something particularly cruel in the way the conflict in Yemen has been playing out. In a place where civilians are already sideswiped by cholera, in a country that's dependent on imports for everything, the shutting down of every air and sea port meant people with nothing were suddenly getting even less. They're already pawns in a labyrinth of betrayal involving a roster of countries, not to mention ISIS and al Qaeda. In a moment, the plight of people caught in a forgotten war. Also today:
I don't know of another culture in North America that can really relate the experience of strangers suddenly showing up and taking over everything and imposing their will on the people.
AMT: When you think about it sounds an awful lot like science fiction; aliens who arrive and impose their will. So Drew Hayden Taylor’s point that the indigenous experience gives him insights to write sci fi, kind of makes sense. Science fiction hasn't always been welcoming but increasingly indigenous and black artists and writers are focusing on Futurism because imagining yourself or your culture in the future is all about hope. We have some awesome artists ready to talk about that in an hour. And more denials from Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
I want to make it clear. I have not provided alcohol beverages to [unintelligible]. I have not been guilty of sexual misconduct with anyone.
AMT: Allegations of grown men sexually targeting girls, or boys, as young as 14 are disturbingly common right now. It's in our politics, it's in our popular culture and some say that as a society we have created dangerous myths around the sexuality of young people. Hear that discussion in half an hour. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.
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'Humanitarian catastrophe': UN warns Saudi blockade could starve millions in Yemen
Guests: Shabia Mantoo, Dr. Bessma Momani
[Sound: Chanting in demonstrations]
AMT: Sounds of the streets in Yemen's capital Sana'a yesterday with thousands protesting Saudi Arabia's blockade that threatens seven million people already on the brink of famine. Last week the Saudi led coalition shut air land and sea routes into the country, imposing a blockade to stop Iranian weapons - it says - are being smuggled to Houthi rebels in the country. The blockade is also affecting food and medicine shipments to a country that already imported 90 percent of its aid before the start of the war. Sunday the Saudi government announced it would reopen a few ports within 24 hours. But the majority of aid still is not arriving.
[Sound: Baby crying]
The antibiotics we have will not treated the type of bacteria that he is suffering from. All we can do is provide healthcare with the supplies that we have.
AMT: Well you can hear the cries of malnourished children in the hospital behind the voice of that doctor who's trying to make do with what little supplies the hospital has left. The war in Yemen has been under way for two and a half years now. And while many call it a forgotten war the United Nations and other aid and humanitarian agencies say Yemen may be on the brink of the largest famine the world has seen in decades. Shabia Mantoo is a spokesperson with the UNHCR and she is in Sana’a, Yemen. Hello.
SHABIA MANTOO: Hi Anna Maria.
AMT: How severe is this current situation?
SHABIA MANTOO: Well it's very severe. It's [unintelligible] the current military in crisis, in the sense that humanitarian response and also the importation of commercial [unintelligible] being halted. So we're seeing more and more humanitarian needs arise. We're running dangerously low on humanitarian supplies and the incursions are affecting the availability of food, fuel and medicine for civilians are affected by conflict.
AMT: We have seen the pictures coming out of the children who are skeletal. How many people are in danger of dying of starvation?
SHABIA MANTOO: Well the conditions here are very critical. They are life threatening to millions of people. We have about seven million people who are facing famine like conditions already. And we have in Yemen the world's largest food security crisis. We're about 17 million people lack adequate food, in any case. So hunger and the suffering is very widespread it's rampant. We had mass displacement as well. About 2 million people have had to flee their homes. And so when we have all these different factors, you have the risk of Cholera, risk of famine and mass displacement, it's just really adding to the humanitarian catastrophe.
AMT: You've already got a cholera outbreak. Do you not, in the country?
SHABIA MANTOO: There is indeed the world's worst cholera outbreak as well. So we have under a million people who've been suspected of having cholera. And in the absence of essential humanitarian assistance and also an increase in the price of water and the price of fuel and gas on the market, we're going to see more and more people susceptible to the disease unfortunately.
AMT: We are now getting news reports that they've opened the international airport in Aden. What does that mean for what you're facing?
SHABIA MANTOO: Well we welcome any resumption of military access. But what we need is a resumption of access for all of Yemen’s airports and its ports, in order to meet humanitarian need, and in order to say that commercial supplies can resume. Yemen is 90% import dependent on staple food. So with these restrictions they really already inflicting further damage and further hardship on a population that has already depleted purchasing power, and also are lacking the access to food and essential commodities as it is. So we require all of the ports to be open.
AMT: And how is all of this affecting the aid agencies and their abilities to move around to help people?
SHABIA MANTOO: Oh it's very difficult actually. Many humanitarian workers and aid workers that are involved in humanitarian [unintelligible] in Yemen, virtually stranded outside the country unable to get back in. We have also - within the country the country itself – the effects of the closure of the borders is actually increasing the prices of fuel and gas. So it is making it more expensive and difficult to be able to deliver essential humanitarian assistance. And for us the UNHCR, we were planning to distribute essential supplies to about to a number of people 80,000 people to the end of the year. But this is going to be critically impacted with issues relating to fuel, the prices of fuel and also the closures of the borders.
AMT: And so when they shut down everything on the 6th of November where was there any notice?
SHABIA MANTOO: There wasn't a notice. I mean we were informed as the rest of the humanitarian community. But we understand that it's [unintelligible] we're urging them that to be open and for access to be resumed as a priority. It really cannot wait any longer.
AMT: And am I right in understanding that because this war has gone on for two and a half years, and it's hard to get food in and out any way, that that blockade of from November 6 just threw everything into doubt?
SHABIA MANTOO: Well it's severely impacted on humanitarian operations and it's made the situation worse for civilians. As I mentioned now the cost of living has increased, skyrocketed. We're seeing the effects of the closure on the situation making the cost of living substantially higher for people who have already been affected and living in poverty as a result of the conflict. And at the same time we're also seeing further depreciation of the Yemeni rial. So that has a direct correlation to our humanitarian activity. It means we have to respond to more and more people now in need of assistance. And at the same time it's also hampering assistance.
AMT: And if you can't get flights into the cities what's going on in the rural areas?
SHABIA MANTOO: Well the rural areas are definitely facing the consequences even harder. People in a number of rural districts in semi urban areas have been struggling with the availability of food, the availability of medical treatment. Less than half of even medical facilities are functioning. So it's very difficult for people living there and they are living in deteriorating conditions. It is a challengeable humanitarian aid to reach those areas. But nonetheless we and other humanitarian partners have been striving to reach those people in need because they are really suffering and they are cut off from the rest of supplies and access to critical infrastructure.
AMT: And so what needs to happen immediately?
SHABIA MANTOO: Well access needs to be resumed immediately and at the same time there needs to be a rally whole hearted effort to achieve peace, because humanitarian aid is not the solution. This requires a political solution to end the conflict and to mitigate humanitarian needs.
AMT: This has been called the forgotten war. What are you seeing where you are then underlines that?
SHABIA MANTOO: It's definitely a forgotten crisis. They are dealing with the world's largest humanitarian crisis. But in terms of support for the humanitarian response it's just simply not enough. We need more support for the humanitarian activities but also to try and urge the parties to the conflict to mediate and to settle this conflict peacefully with a peaceful political solution. Because without that we're just seeing that the advocacy efforts and humanitarian response we're putting in here on the ground in Yemen it's not enough. We need more support from the international community.
AMT: Okay Shabia Mantoo, thank you for speaking with me.
SHABIA MANTOO: Thank you Anna Maria.
AMT: Shabia Mantoo a spokesperson with the UNHCR. She's in Yemen in Sana’a. We did try to contact the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Ottawa for comment. We did not hear back. The deepening humanitarian crisis in Yemen is another chapter in the ongoing civil war between a Saudi led coalition and Iran backed Houthi militias that began in March of 2015. Now according to my next guest it is also part of a wider power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran that could spill over into Lebanon. Bessma Momani is a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo. She's a senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation. We've reached her in Montreal today. Hello.
BESSMA MOMANI: Hello.
AMT: You could get dizzy trying to figure this out. You got to pity the people, the civilians, caught in all of this.
BESSMA MOMANI: Absolutely. They really are the greatest casualty of what seems to me just this geopolitical struggle for influence and power throughout the region.
AMT: So how does the war in Yemen fit into the bigger political tensions in the Middle East, Bessma?
BESSMA MOMANI: Well I mean I think you know it's hard to pinpoint this partly because you know the Yemeni conflict does have a deep history and Saudi involvement in Yemen has been going on for centuries, some would argue. But I think we can sort of assess what's happening today is really at the doorstep of this new very brash Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He is a nationalist I would say hyper nationalist. He's young that's been said a lot. But I think it's valuable to repeat because part of the challenge here is he's a 32 year old man who has effectively hyped up this Iranian threat to his country, to the region, he’s a nemesis and is frankly also strengthening his military with very powerful weaponry. And I think this high tech weapons and planes you know to basically be tested on the Yemeni battlefield. And it's all part of this regional challenge, I think, where Mohammed bin Solomon is trying to exert authority and hegemony and control the entire region. And it's really having negative effects throughout.
AMT: And high tech weaponry. He's also getting military equipment from Canada, is he not?
BESSMA MOMANI: Absolutely. After the United States Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of our weapons. But that is a drop in the bucket. The Canadian weapons that are sent really is a small fraction of what he's getting primarily from the United States and it's very high tech weaponry. And frankly this is not a military that's not just- it is small but it's also not very talented. This is not a military made for war so to speak. They don't have the decades of professionalization. So we also see crude crude bombing from the skies. I mean there have been many military analysts who've said that basically the Saudi pilots don't know what they're hitting half the time and they just drop their bombs carelessly. And that's the kind of cruelty that this war brings on.
AMT: So what's the endgame for Saudi Arabia in Yemen?
BESSMA MOMANI: You know that's what's the most disappointing and scary, that I don't think they have an end game. They have no [unintelligible]. And if there's any sort of pattern that we see of Mohammed Bin Salman [unintelligible] conflicts disputes with absolutely little regard or understanding of how to end it. We see this in Qatar, this dispute he's picked. We see this in you know what was perhaps the early you know - I would not want to call it arrest - but some sort of detention of the prime minister of Lebanon. I mean he just has this tendency to sort of go with his gut feel, start something and you know ‘let's see how things play out’ kind of mentality and that's just not how you conduct foreign policy.
AMT: Well before we talk about Saad Hariri of Lebanon, let's talk about Iran. What's its goal in backing the Houthi forces in Yemen?
BESSMA MOMANI: Oh, and I would say you know initially the Houthi forces were not backed by Iran but it became a self-fulfilling prophecy as the Saudis kept accusing the Houthi rebels of being an Iranian agent. Now they're absolutely an Iranian agent. And basically the Iranians as long as they can stick it to the Saudis and be a counterweight to the Saudis, it serves them well. And whereby the Iranians see Syria as being their immediate backyard and let's say key geostrategic interest, the same as can be said of the Saudis and Yemen. And so each supporting different sides in those two conflicts they effectively fight it out but not in their own territory, right. I mean this is a proxy war, classic proxy war, whereby the Iranians and the Saudis are basically inflicting pain and suffering on others so as to avoid fighting each other directly.
AMT: And they each want to control more territory in the Middle East.
BESSMA MOMANI: Absolutely. Each claims that they are the authority. They are the regional hegemon who has a need to make this even more perverse. You know the quote unquote “right” way of leading an Islamic country. Of course neither of them represent you know what would be the ideal in the vast majority of the eyes of Muslims. But that's the reality. Each claim to have this legitimate voice. Add to that sectarian differences amongst the two and you get a very toxic mix.
AMT: Which brings us to the leader of Lebanon Saad Hariri, he goes to Saudi Arabia he announces his resignation. There's speculation that he's actually being held there. Why?
BESSMA MOMANI: Yes. Well I mean first of all keep in mind Saad Hariri is a dual citizen he's both Saudi and Lebanese. But also he's a part of this wealthy family that has a great deal of vested financial interest. So at one point we thought he was a part of this corruption crackdown. That MBS, that Mohammed Bin Salman had. But clearly it seemed as though it was an attempt to try and force the conversation to get Hezbollah, which is also an Iranian agent, in Lebanon out of the Lebanese government. And so this is yet another attempt of starting something that I think you know the MBS, the crown prince really has no end game for.
AMT: Everybody calls him MBS?
BESSMA MOMANI: Yes.
AMT: And again this is part of the standoff with Iran then because Iran, Hezbollah they used to have defacto control of Syria, with Syria over Lebanon. Now Saudi wants control of this in the same areas that are fraught. I am being simplistic.
BESSMA MOMANI: Yes but I mean Saudi also invest a lot of money into Lebanon historically. It's backs the military there. You know Lebanon had a civil war and in the end the Saudis you know basically chose their side, which was the movement that Saad Hariri, the prime minister runs. So you know there is a vested interest there historically. But you know Hezbollah is getting stronger and stronger all because of the Iranians who continue to supply them arms and frankly money and now they have battle hard experience from being in Syria which is even more frightening for the Lebanese. But at the same time the Lebanese are peasing Hezbollah because they have a memory of a civil war. They don't want to bring chaos to their country so it's not out of love lost for Hezbollah. I don't think there's many Lebanese who think that Hezbollah is a great asset to the country, but it's a militia group that they keep because they're afraid that if Hezbollah is out of the government it will be against the government. That's the conditions for civil war.
AMT: Right. But it is a political party. I mean they're elected into government, are they not?
BESSMA MOMANI: They act as a political party in Lebanon. Absolutely. But they are militia with their own arms and military. And you know they are seen as a terrorist group throughout the region for sure.
AMT: Okay so let's just go back to Yemen briefly then. So you have again all of these civilians who we heard at the beginning caught in the middle on top of that ISIS and al Qaeda are in there. I don't know how anybody moves around at all.
BESSMA MOMANI: Well you know they frankly are going to be ascending particularly because as the both government forces of the Yemenis as well as the Saudis concentrate on the Houthi rebels. You have ISIS and al Qaeda rising and particularly ISIS which also looks at the Houthi rebels as heretics. You're really feeding their narrative just making them stronger and they control a vast amount of territory in Yemen although much of it is uninhabited. But still it's really quite I think problematic in the long term.
AMT: And also, does it not give Saudi allies like Canada and U.S. cover to say they're fighting terrorism?
BESSMA MOMANI: Well it's always been convenient to say that this is all about the fight against terrorism because there are plenty of terrorists there. But at the end of the day let's look at the numbers who's dying and who is you know being completely destroyed any erased in terms of a civilization. Its innocent civilians, children, are the biggest calamity of the Yemeni crisis. I mean the images we all see are horrific but imagine this is this is the reality for the poorest country in the Middle East.
AMT: Bessma Momani we have to leave it there. Thank you for your insights.
BESSMA MOMANI: Thank you.
AMT: Bessma Momani professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and a senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation. We reached her in Montreal today.
[Sound: Soccer game commentary]
That was a world cup without Italy. It is going to be opened up to a new generation unless they can find something here.
Offside. This is an incredible achievement by Sweden.
AMT: Soccer fans got a shock yesterday but Italian soccer fans got a punch in the gut. Italy four time world champion, long time soccer superpower lost its chance to move on to the World Cup next year. The first time since 1958, Italy has not qualified. It only needed to score a single goal against Sweden but the match ended in a nil nil draw. In Toronto some Italian fans were too upset to talk about it. Those who could find the words had this to say:
VOICE 1: I'm so depressed because Italy going out but very badly. It was not a nice game. No they look like they scared to win.
VOICE 2: We are out after 60 years. There's nothing we can do. I feel badly that we lost to one of the less powerful teams. If it was one of the better teams, I wouldn't feel so badly. And we can't say anything because Sweden played well.
VOICE 3: It was pathetic. Bad really bad. After 60 years. Very disappointing. Time for a big change.
VOICE 4: I had a bad feeling about this game. Listen. We had a team that Buffon 40 years old. Barzagli 37. You know, De Rossi 37. What do you expect from? They have to go play in the Villa Colombo, be a nice selection for the national team.
VOCIE 5: I am beyond words because there's no World Cup without Italy in it. That is it. There is no world cup without Italy in it.
AMT: A few dejected Italian soccer fans in Toronto. As for Sweden, well...
[Soccer game commentary and happy cheers]
AMT: The Swedish team swarmed the Swedish European broadcasters table on live TV. They broke the table in their exuberance just as they broke the hearts of the Italian soccer fans everywhere. The CBC News is next. Stay with us. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current on CBC Radio One.
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Social media campaign #MeAt14 talks age of consent after Roy Moore allegations
Guest: Catherine R. L. Lawson, James Cantor, Joan Smith
AMT: Hello I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
AMT: Still to come:
Today, like most Lazy days, are set three Ojibwe men,Tarzan, Cheemo and Teddy enjoying a cooler stocked with beer that was chilling in the shallow waters near the shore. Nothing much happened to them that needed to be discussed anyway, until the spaceship landed.
AMT: We'll explore how science fiction is helping indigenous and other minorities envision a brighter future. But first the #MeAt14 movement.
He drove to the back of the restaurant. He stopped the car and he parked his car in between the dumpster [sobbing] and the back of the restaurant where there were no glass. The area was dark. It was deserted [sobbing]. I was alarmed and I immediately asked him what he was doing. Instead of answering my questions Mr. Moore raised a Hoover and began groping me.
AMT: New allegations emerge yesterday against Roy Moore of the Republican Senate nominee in Alabama. Beverly Young Nelson says Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old after he offered her a ride home from the restaurant where she worked. Her account comes on the heels of a Washington Post story last week detailing allegations of sexual misconduct by the 70 year old U.S. politician against teenagers, decades ago. One woman says Mr. Moore sought out a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 and he was 32. Roy Moore has denied all of the allegations. The controversy is rocking the GOP with many republicans calling on Mr. Moore to step aside. But some of his supporters downplayed the initial allegations; suggesting sexual conduct with the 14 year old could have been consensual, even though the legal age of consent in Alabama - and across Canada I should point out - is 16. That did not sit well with my next guest, North Carolina lawyer Kathryn Lawson. So she posted a photo of her 14 year old self under the hashtag #MeAt14 and soon scores of other Twitter users, including some very high profile ones were doing the same. We've reached Catherine Lawson in Raleigh North Carolina. Hello.
CATHERINE LAWSON: Hi Anna Maria. Thanks for having me.
AMT: So for anyone who hasn't seen your tweet, what did you post?
CATHERINE LAWSON: The initial post that I shared said “You can't consent at 14, not in Alabama, not anywhere #MeAt14”
AMT: Right. And what message were you hoping to get across with that tweet?
CATHERINE LAWSON: I was really hoping just to affirm that we all share a common social value that children should not be exploited and teenagers fall within that category.
AMT: So tell me more about what you thought when you first heard about the allegations against Roy Moore?
CATHERINE LAWSON: So in the Washington Post story first came out, what was more disturbing to me were the number of people who were willing to justify his behavior, either to imply that it could have been a consensual relationship or to even say that even if the allegations were true that it wasn't the type of thing that we should be concerned about. And for me I just very strongly disagreed with that assessment and thought that sharing a picture would be a way to illustrate that there is no acceptable version of the story. Teenagers can't consent to a relationship with a grown adult.
AMT: And a lot of people were tweeting your hashtag #MeAt14. We voiced a few of them. Listen to this.
[Sound: Background music]
VOICE 1: This is me at 14. I wasn't dating a 32 year old male. I was riding horses playing basketball and trying to survive freshman year of high school.
VOICE 2: When I was 14. I got braces. I adopted a cat that I named Kitty Princess. I went to a singing studio at the Cerritos mall with friends and recorded Heaven is a Place on Earth. I liked boys my age and I avoided older men like that plague.
VOICE 3: I was eating a lot of chocolate chip cookie dough and learning to do the hustle and not worrying about a 32 year old man trying to hustle me.
VOICE 4: This was me at 14. I had plants in my room with names for them and I drew pictures of my beagle cookie. I was in the Sound of Music at my school. I would have been afraid to be around a 32 year old man. I didn't know.
AMT: Katharine Lawson, what do you remember most from that age in that time in your life?
CATHERINE LAWSON: I remember being very curious about the world, trying to learn everything I could and read everything I could. And I remember being emotionally totally unequipped to understand what was happening in the world.
AMT: As most 14 year olds would be if they are propositioned by an older adult.
CATHERINE LAWSON: Absolutely.
AMT: And so what does the response on Twitter and other social media tell you?
CATHERINE LAWSON: I think that there are a lot of people who have stories to tell about their childhood about you know stories that, like the ones you just shared, of innocence and joy and the experience of being a kid and starting to come to grips with the world around you as you get older. And then a lot of people have also shown just extraordinary vulnerability and shared stories of abuse from when they were young, when they were 14 sometimes even younger. And I think that one of the unique aspects of this kind of global communication world that we live in is that people are willing to share those stories, because they are finding that there are people who have had those experiences who affirm what happened to them. They affirm that the exploitation they experienced is wrong and they can find allies that they might not have found before. And I think that's an incredibly uplifting side to what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming world of noise in social media.
AMT: Are you surprised at how many people are coming forward with those stories?
CATHERINE LAWSON: I wish I could say I was. I think that this type of behavior. It's existed since the beginning of time. But again I hope that we're hitting kind of a tipping point when we come together as communities, all over the world, and say you know what, this is unacceptable and there will be consequences. And that kind of at this tipping point people feel safe enough. They feel like they'll be believed. They feel like people will respond positively to their stories and they are comfortable coming forward. The fact that they were able to grab on to this hashtag is just an extraordinary thing. I think their stories were always there. They just were looking for an opening and a way to be heard.
AMT: And it's kind of a reminder to our just again the age of these young people. The age they were when these things happened to them. We have seen other high profile social media campaigns to arrange raise awareness about sexual assault, the #MeToo hashtag after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. What connection do you see between the conversations you've helped start and that one?
CATHERINE LAWSON: I think they're all part of the same conversation. Exploitation happens when people in power don't have to suffer consequences for wrong behavior. And whether that's happening to other adults, or whether that's happening to children, all of it is abusive, all of it is exploitative and all of that needs to be unacceptable and some of the behavior that's banished from anything that we will ever justify.
AMT: Why do you think some people need reminding that some kids under the age of 16 are not capable of consenting to a sexual relationship with an adult?
CATHERINE LAWSON: It's hard. One, I don't know that many people are aware of how pervasive this type of abuse is. I think that for a long time we wanted to think that this is so rare that a lot of the stories that we would start hearing weren't true. It's a really hard thing to grapple with. But this is something that happens, that people are willing to do this to teenagers to children. And I think that we've taken certain identity factors, whether that's putting it in this case political identity or whether it's in Hollywood you're talking about reputational identity, and we weaponize them. We've taken them and we said this is something that I'm going to use to define who I do and don't trust, as opposed to this is something that I use to open conversation with other people. And when you have that sort of reactive response to others, where you are starting from a place of distrust, your walls go up and you want to run away from these terrible stories. But I don't think that something that we can continue to allow happen. I think that you know for the in the Roy Moore scenario this isn't a political issue. It shouldn't be framed politically. It's a social value question about whether or not we defend children.
AMT: Okay, Catherine Lawson thanks for your insights.
CATHERINE LAWSON: Thanks so much for having me.
AMT: Catherine Lawson, associate with the law firm Parker Poe. She spoke to us from Raleigh North Carolina. Roy Moore is not the first public figure in the news facing allegations involving young teens. Actor Kevin Spacey has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault by at least 15 people, including two actors who say they were 14 at the time of the alleged incidents. Mr. Spacey has either denied or declined to comment on the various claims. The allegations against Mr. Spacey and Mr. Moore have shone a light on adults who are sexually attracted to pubescent children aged 11 to 14. Some observers say that it's a problem that is far too common. That is not properly understood. It is a problem called Hebephilia. James Cantor is a clinical psychologist and an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He's director of the Toronto Sexuality Center and he joins me in our Toronto studio. Hello.
JAMES CANTOR: Hi. Happy to be here.
AMT: Hebephilia, am I saying it right?
JAMES CANTOR: That's right. Hebephilia.
AMT: What is it?
JAMES CANTOR: Hebephilia is a lot like pedophilia. Where paedophilia is a sexual preference for children, these people actually are sexually attracted to children more than they are to adults and hebephilia is the sexual preference for pubescent aged children. As you said, roughly ages 11 to 14.
AMT: And who are the perpetrators? Is it mostly men? Is it women?
JAMES CANTOR: Well hebephilia itself is not a crime. That's just the sexual attraction to the children regardless of whether the person actually acts on it. So hebephilia and paedophilia for that matter are different from child molestation, which is the actual behavior. There are people who find themselves attracted to children and never act on it. And there are also people who commit child molestation, even though they are more attracted to adults. That kind of a situation is most common within incest cases.
AMT: And why do you think it's important to distinguish this type of abuse from pedophilia?
JAMES CANTOR: The primary interest, from my point of view as a neuroscientist, was to be able to do more precise science. When the word paedophilia first came about was the late 1700s. It was the Victorian age and in those days puberty was around age 13 and 14. Nowadays puberty is hitting as early as age 10. So the word pedophilia by its original definition doesn't fit as well. So now we've started studying these people as two different groups. The people that we still call pedophiles, who are attracted to purely prepubescent age children up to about age 10, and the pubescent children as we say roughly ages 11 to 14.
AMT: Now you've interviewed a lot of hebephiles. What have you learned?
JAMES CANTOR: That there are a broad range. We automatically write these people off as evil. We merely need to throw them in jail and keep them there forever. Now when we're talking about child molesters that of course is a very very easy judgment to make. But when we talk about people who just discovered that they're attracted to children. They didn't ask to be attracted to children any more than the rest of us asked to be attracted to adults, or any more than gay and straight men asked to be attracted to men or women. They figure it out as life goes on. What I have gotten, in addition to the actual molesters that we need to deal with appropriately with the legal system, I also get people coming in saying “Doc I've got a problem.” They have never hurt anybody. There's no reason to think that they committed any crime but they realize that they are sexually attracted to children and they're asking for help. Unfortunately in the system we have set up so far with mandatory reporting for example, they're unable to come into psychologists and psychiatrists and ask for help. They're now afraid of being reported to the police. So instead of having a pedophile or hebephile coming into an expert getting whatever kind of treatment is appropriate - sex drive reducing medications, psychotherapy support, whatever it is that they need - in order to continue to remain remaining offense free, instead of helping that we've essentially barred them from coming into therapy because they're afraid of being reported. So ultimately instead of having pedophiles and files coming in and receiving support and help and medication, instead we have these people out in society circulating on their own with no supervision from anybody. And we think we're making society safer when if anything we're making the problem worse.
AMT: You say that some people come to you and they acknowledge this. Do they acknowledge that someone 14 is a child? Do they see them as children? Or are they in denial?
JAMES CANTOR: The ones coming in asking for help, they realize that the person is under age, unable to consent and they want help keeping away from temptation. They feel drawn to it. They know that this poses harm to the kids and they ask for assistance. As I say one of the most effective ones is a sex drive reducing medication. Essentially they block the action of testosterone in the body. They are the same family of medications we would use on somebody with prostate cancer. With less testosterone they have less of a sex drive and it's easier for them to control themselves. So the ones who come in asking for help they know this poses a harm to a child. The ones who did not recognize that, usually their mindset is one of fooling themselves. Even though we think of these people as just psychopathic or evil, the mindsets of most of these people is that they fooled themselves into believing what they wanted to believe. They convinced themselves that a particular child was more precocious or had a better idea of what was going on, or one particular child that they were attracted to was an exception. So a lot of the therapy we do with these people is helping them to see the interactions really for what they actually are.
AMT: They would get some affirmation in various forms of pop culture; we've seen judges decisions that say young girls essentially asked for it. Like we see that, we see that in our society that some people identify someone younger - regardless that they're a victim. They blame the victim.
JAMES CANTOR: Yes society is very contradictory that way. We have both sexualisation of kids, kids who want to feel sexy just as they are learning, just as they're coming into their sexual selves and experiencing a sex drive for the first time. But of course you know when a kid is flirting and experimenting to an adult who wants to see that as genuine flirtation, that's enough clues to get them going. But when they have a better idea of what's really going on and an appreciation of the mindset of somebody at that age, just about anybody else would be able to say that this is this is really just play on the part of the kid.
AMT: How common is this?
JAMES CANTOR: That's an excellent question. It's very difficult to get good numbers. It's not as if we can pass out a survey and expect people to check off the ‘oh by the way I'm practically a sex offender’ box. The best estimates we have are somewhere between half a percent or 1 percent. But as I say those are mostly guesses on our part.
AMT: Okay, James Canter, thank you for coming in.
JAMES CANTOR: My pleasure.
AMT: James Canter is a clinical psychologist and an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He's the director of the Toronto Sexuality Center. He joined us in our Toronto studio.
[Song: Sick Again by Led Zeppelin]
From the window of your rented limousine
I saw your pretty blue eyes
One day soon you're gonna reach sixteen
Painted lady in the city of lies
Oh, do you know my name?
AMT: That Led Zeppelin with Sick Again, one of their less iconic hits. In case you didn't catch the lyrics, include the lines ‘I saw your pretty blue eyes. One day soon you're going to reach 16.’ We may react to a sexual relationship between an adult man and an underage teenager with disgust today, but it wasn't long ago that these kinds of troubling relationships were not only tolerated, they were glamorized in pop culture. In the 60s and 70s especially rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones sang songs about their pubescent groupies. Some band members had sexual encounters with girls young enough that they could have been classified as statutory rape. These relationships didn't just become infamous entries into rock music folklore; my next guest says they helped build dangerous myths about girls and seduction that persists to this day. Joan Smith is a journalist and cultural columnist. She is also the co-chair of the Mayor of London's Violence against Women and Girls Board and Joan Smith joins me from London, England. Hello.
JOAN SMITH: Hello. Thank you for inviting me.
AMT: So what did you hear when you hear that Led Zeppelin track today?
JOAN SMITH: Well of course I hear it very differently from when I was a teenager myself. And that's one of the reasons I decided to write about this this phenomenon, because I realized that I'd - as a teenage girl - I'd listen to bands like Led Zeppelin and The Stones and I hadn't really heard the lyrics and I hadn't understood that they were singing about girls, you know, probably even younger than me. So I now find it shocking and in it creates a tension in me because I still love a lot of that music but I listen to it in a different way now.
AMT: It was the music of your youth.
JOAN SMITH: It was absolutely. Yes.
AMT: And we mentioned the Rolling Stones. How were they singing about their under-age female fans in their music?
JOAN SMITH: Oh Stray Cat Blues is the famous one where the lyrics are all about you know ‘I know you're only 13 or 14.’ I got the exact act age exact age of the girl in the song. But I think it you know those relationships and those desires were glamorized and they weren't challenged. And of course you know in the late 60s the early 70s, grown men having sex with girls under the age of 16 was also an offense in the UK, as it is in Canada, as it is in most of the United States. But people didn't see it through that kind of lens. They thought that those men were so glamorous. They had such a dominant place in popular culture that it was almost like they were kind of defying old fashioned attitudes and so on. And I think it had really disturbing effects because later on I and lots of other women realized - and some men realize what we've been listening to. But also it kind of put the onus on the girls, if you look at the Led Zeppelin songs and some of the Stones songs and other bands as well. I mean Gary Puckett and the Union Gap I so clearly remember that song Young Girl, which is about an adult man saying he's been deceived by this young girl who didn't tell him that she was under-age, and blaming her ‘with all the charms of a woman you kept the secret of your youth’. And what it created I think was a culture where instead of looking at the men who do this, the girls are looked at. You know the girls are seen as complicit in what happened to them if anything did actually happen.
AMT: Ted Nugent had a song in 81 called Jailbait.
JOAN SMITH: [Laughs]
AMT: I got the lyrics here: ‘Well I don't care if you're just 13. You look too good to be true. I just know you're probably clean’.
JOAN SMITH: [Gasps]
AMT: It goes on and it says: ‘It's quite alright. I asked your mama. Wait a minute officer. Don't put those handcuffs on me. Put them on her and I'll share her with you’.
AMT: Good God. Well that really goes to the heart of it, doesn't it. And I think you know your first guest was talking - I mean she is very interesting about this this idea of distrust. And I think this goes right across the spectrum of this area. You know whether you're talking about men desiring teenage girls or indeed teenage boys, under-age children basically, right into cases of adults, adult women who are raped and actually goes to the police. It's extraordinary. I was sitting in a meeting in London yesterday with a very senior police officer and he was saying these cases are like no other crime that the police have to investigate, because he said he can't think of another crime where there's so much emphasis and investigation of the victim - the person who's making the allegation rather than the perpetrator. And I think that's what we can see going on. You know you talked about some of the reactions to Roy Moore and the allegations against him. And there's an immediate- And part of some people to this day, there's an immediate questioning not of the victim's testimony, but you know questioning why is the girl doing this? Why is the woman doing this? Is she trying to get compensation? Does she hate men? That kind of thing. It's really unique. If you report a burglary, if you report your car being stolen, you don't immediately come up against this incredible visceral distrust.
AMT: And you know when we're talking about the pop culture, these lyrics they weren't solely lyrics. A lot of these a lot of these rock stars were actually involved with girls, were they not? It wasn't just in the lyrics they were living this.
JOAN SMITH: Yes. Yes. I think I think a lot of that was actually concealed. I mean I think they were protected to a degree. You know they had roadies and they had road crew and people who would kind of make sure that the girls were taken in back doors of hotels and things like that. I mean when you read about all of that, now, you read those biographies of rock bands and so on. It's really shocking because it's a culture of enabling abuse. And yes at the time, they had such status in popular culture that no one actually - very few people actually stopped and said “hey this is not all right”.
AMT: It's like Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was 28 when he handed out a 14 year old groupie named Lori Maddox. He'd hide her in his hotel rooms.
JOAN SMITH: I was very shocked when I first came across that story and I do still listen to Led Zeppelin. But you know with a car with a kind of slight feeling that maybe I shouldn't. But up it up but I think what's really really important here is this culture of distrust that there is no other series of offenses, and you know in some cases we are talking about offenses, some cases we're talking about people having desires they don't act on. But clearly there are cases where adult men do act on their attraction to under-age girls or boys.
AMT: But aren't you also saying that in popular culture it was also a culture of thinking that was okay. That if they are stars, that's okay. So Bill Wyman you know was with Mandy Smith when she's 14 years old. He marries her when she's 18 or 19 years old and he was a star so that was okay.
JOAN SMITH: Yes that's right. And I think that looking back at that period the late 60s early 70s, what's very striking to me is that who controlled that culture. And of course the pop stars were largely men. The DJs who were their friends were largely men. The rock journalists were largely men. And I think there was a kind of conspiracy to say “hey guys you know we have these opportunities and we're not going to spoil this party” and it's no accident the second wave of feminism comes out of that pop culture.
AMT: Joan Smith we have to leave it there but thank you for speaking with me today.
JOAN SMITH: Thank you.
AMT: Joan Smith is a cultural columnist and co-chair of the Mayor of London's Violence against Women and Girls Board. She joined us from London, England. Let us know what you think of what you're hearing. You can tweet us. We are @TheCurretnCBC, find us on Facebook go to our website cbc/ca/thecurrent. What do you think about the way popular culture has affirmed some of this behavior? I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current. In our next half hour we'll hear how science fiction is allowing indigenous and black artists to imagine a better future.
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How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future
Guests: Danis Goulet, Drew Hayden Taylor, Minister Faust
AMT: Hello I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
Today, like most Lazy days, are set three Ojibwe men,Tarzan, Cheemo and Teddy enjoying a cooler stocked with beer that was chilling in the shallow waters near the shore. They had no place to go and nothing much to do. A happy coincidence for all. Most of their relations agreed the trio were men of fewer words and fewer ambitions and the three saw a little need to argue. They did what they did and they were very good at it. Although they spent long hours in each other's company, they'd been best buddies since the early school years, they said remarkably little. Several seasons back, a cousin had joined them for the day and had come away utterly bewildered. They didn't say anything. “Not one word” the cousin had exclaimed. “I tried to talk with him about something anything but I got nothing back. They would just sit there, looking around occasionally, smile and drink beer. That's all.” He never went back. The men had spent so much time together over the years, they practically knew each other's thoughts, plus nothing needed to be said. Besides, nothing much happened to them that needed to be discussed anyway, until the spaceship landed.
AMT: That is Drew Hayden Taylor reading from his book Take Us to Your Chief and Other Stories: A Collection of Indigenous Themed Science Fiction Short Stories. This year, Canada's 150th anniversary triggered a lot of pondering of the past. But some indigenous and black artists are not content with simply looking back. They're looking forward imagining a different future through science fiction. Indigenous an Afro centric Futurist say that imagining yourself, your culture and your community in the future is a way of finding hope. I'm joined by three guests now Drew Hayden Taylor who we just heard is an award winning playwright, novelist and filmmaker from the Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario. He joins us from Thunder Bay. Minister Faust is a science fiction and fantasy writer whose work focuses on African civilizations and techno futures. He's written several books including The Alchemists of Kush. He joins us from Edmonton, and Danis Goulet is a Cree Metis filmmaker in Toronto. Her latest work is a virtual reality film The Hunt. She's with me in our Toronto studio. Hello to you all.
GUESTS: [Cross talking] Hello. Thank you. Welcome. Good morning.
AMT: We've got lots to talk about. Drew Hayden Taylor, a spaceship landing is not a common occurrence in Indigenous stories, as far as I know.
DREW HAYDEN TAYLOR: I know the concept of native science fiction for a lot of people is an oxymoron but I think it's well within its rights to exist. I mean if you look at many traditional native legends from many different cultures, you have stories of people from the stars coming down. Or alternatively you have people from the earth traveling up to the stars. You look at pictographs are petroglyphs. I mean there's some pretty interesting imagery there but I think most interestingly, I don't know of another culture in North America that can really relate the experience of strangers suddenly showing up and taking over everything and imposing their will on the people.
AMT: Good point Danis. And that's the point isn't it.
DANIS GOULET: No absolutely. When I look on my Facebook feed I see lots of fans of science fiction in our communities and I think part of the reason is because the tropes lend themselves so well to metaphors about our experiences, like the one that you just said about alien invasions and body snatchers. We have literally been taken away from our families. Or even the small band of rebels against an intergalactic empire you know indigenous audiences see that and they say “that's us, we're the rebels”, or dystopian fiction. I mean there are a lot of scholars now writing about the fact that indigenous people have already survived the apocalypse. So all of these are really compelling ideas for Indigenous artists to be in the genre space in Sci-Fi and fantasy.
AMT: Minister Faust I'm guessing and you can totally relate, culturally, yes?
MINISTER FAUST: Absolutely I can and I think in addition to stories that are combating colonialism through metaphors, imperialism, cultural imposition, genocidal bows, I think what fascinates me is linking the paths of magnificent civilizational glories. You know science is technologies that raise the pyramids and created the world's first literature and massive civilizations and saying there is continuity from there to our place in the future. So whereas Eurocentric science fiction simply pretends that we don't exist, we're writing stories and films and comics and video games and graphic novels that show that we're not just going to be wiped out. We're not going to just be passively in the background or bringing a bowl of cream of wheat or some having syrup poured out of our heads. We're actually going to be building the future and making everything that makes the new worlds go round.
AMT: Drew Haden Taylor how would you define then indigenous Futurism?
DREW HAYDEN TAYLOR: Historically the vast majority of accepted science fiction writers were white males, older white males. So it all has that spin on it. So in terms of indigenous science fiction we're using the tools that we native people have maybe not embrace but have thrust upon us. One of the stories here deals with a native superhero and I was trying to figure out how would I give him superpowers. And then it occurred to me, living on a reserve, that he got his superpowers from a combination of radon gas in his basement, polluted water with high levels of steroids and antibiotics and black mold that acted in a unique cool way that gave him super powers. Some people say I'm making comments on housing in the native community and I guess I am, but I just basically use the environment I'm familiar with to create and move this story forward.
AMT: Okay. Well what we're let's keep talking about this. Danis Goulet, let's listen to a bit of your latest project. This is from your virtual reality film The Hunt.
This is Sovereign and [unintelligible] territory. We are allowed to hunt on our land. I have a permit in my pocket.
AMT: Those birds are deceptive because there's another whole ominous thing going on there. [Laughter]What's going on In The Hunt, Danis?
DANIS GOULET: Yes The Hunt imagines a future in which law enforcement has been replaced by these flying Orbs. And so we meet a Mohawk family hunting on the land in a dystopian future and the moment that we just heard was the first interaction between them where the man is defending his rights to hunt on his territory. That's actually the only English that is in the piece. The entire rest of it is in Mohawk.
AMT: So what does indigenous Futurism mean to you?
DANIS GOULET: Well I think it's a whole mode of stories and perspectives that are being shared through art, music, fashion, literature, film and all forms of media and it is about imagining ourselves in the future. I think you know it really does have a lot of potential to counter stereotypes that we are disappearing, when in fact we're the fastest growing demographic in the country. Or other stereotypes like we're locked into this idea of us in the past as archaic and we really need to move beyond that. And I think sci fi and this kind of genre of fantasy also offers us a really new and exciting entry points into indigenous experience. So for myself I started from more of an observational or a social realist drama place. I made films up in northern Saskatchewan about my communities and then a couple of years ago I made a dystopian fiction film called Awakening, in which I imagined two classic Cree characters and imagined them in a near future meeting up at this decrepit theater. And for me it was really liberating to move into this space because I think as writers were trying to tell these stories and sometimes you can really feel the weight of indigenous experience under colonization. And everybody always just talks about the harsh realities. And so this is a really liberating way. And also it can be new and exciting and fun to really grapple with things like Drew mentioned, like housing and everything that is a part of those experiences, but from a completely different place.
AMT: It's interesting that you put it that way because Minister Faust, you've talked about thought experiments, to reshape the world into the future. That's exactly what Danis is just talking about, right.
MINISTER FAUST: Well indeed. I mean what happens is that people's imaginations get colonized. So for you know most North Americans, the histories of the African continent amount to grass skirts and bones through noses. First of all those things are largely lies. But second of all they miss the hundreds of ancient cities, huge cities that European and Arab travelers wrote about as being as good or better than anything that they'd witnessed in their homelands. Now you say this to the average person today and they say “oh that's impossible, you're making that up”. Well why don't you just consult your own historians and you'll see that that was the African reality. So when we use science fiction, we can draw all the things that are so magnificent and brilliant inspiring from the past and then we can say well what if we kept doing that. What we did more of it combining it with contemporary technologies and ideas of social organization. What could we accomplish then? Because if you can't imagine it you can't make it. But once you can imagine it, like Dr. Mae Jemison, who saw Michelle Nichols playing Lieutenant Uhura on the bridge of the enterprise. Well she was a little girl at the time. She went on to become an M.D. and then she became an astronaut. It starts with the imagination.
DANIS GOULET: Yes. That's amazing and I want to pick up on that point because I think there has been a lot of talk about all of the profound ways in which colonization has impacted every aspect of indigenous life, and this includes our imagination. You know most Canadians probably take for granted that you have an ability to imagine your life. You know you are told just dream and you know you can have a house and a family. But I think hope for the future really comes from the belief that you actually have options and opportunities that are available to you. So if you think of residential schools as one example I mean this happened over seven generations of Indigenous families. And every part of children's lives were regimented. They were taught obedience. They were taught subservient. Duncan Campbell Scott who was the head of Indian Affairs said he wanted to get rid of the Indian problem. So if you want to put this in Sci fi terms that is brainwashing and reprograming. So as soon as you bring imagining a future into this context it can be a very powerful thing because then we have the ability to imagine different futures other than what was literally programmed and pre-determine and for us. Then as soon as you can dream about the future, you have hope as well instead of despair.
AMT: It's interesting that you put it that way. One of the most devastating interviews I have ever heard ith was a doctor working in a northern isolated Reserve who said when she asked young kids what they wanted to be when they grew up and what they wanted to do, they looked at her blankly because they didn't have- I've never forgotten. I've never forgotten and that's exactly what you're talking about. You're talking not only for you as an artist, being able to do this, but for what you can give back to your community.
DANIS GOULET: That's right. Because action and agency starts with the ability to imagine. And I think you know the average Canadian might take for granted that that's a given when it's in fact not.
AMT: Minister Faust you brought an excerpt of War and Mir and we're going to have you read it at the end of our conversation but give us an idea of that storyline.
MINISTER FAUST: Sure. Well War and Mir, you know it's a trilogy so I'll be reading from Volume 2 in volume through be out next year. I take the premise of alien abduction which is you know we usually think of as associated with people who probably are suffering and need a little bit of mental help. But I take that idea as well, what if people really are being abducted and what if they're not just being abducted by the dozens but actually over the course of generations in the millions. And that in fact they're being transported to other worlds where they are enslaved, where they are indentured servants or whether they work under conditions of oppression. And some people might say like “well why would any alien species need with its advanced technology to do that”. But well we have massively advanced technology right now on Earth. You know we can send people to space. We can use artificial intelligence and we still have literally millions of people enslaved around the globe. So I think that these problems aren't going to disappear. So my story is about Harke took short for it Taharka. He's an ordinary earth man. In fact he is a teacher from Edmonton and he's one of these abductees and when he goes to another world he ends up going through a series of these oppressive scenarios and ultimately becomes a labor organizer.
AMT: Okay. This is really interesting to me because of course the abduction of people as slaves is in your ancestry.
MINISTER FAUST: Well not in my ancestry because I'm a Kenyan Canadian but certainly for West Africans whose ancestors are all across North and South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. It's a very serious issue. Like my other two friends in this conversation my people were colonized. And so we were subjected to the atrocities of the British and all of their massive theft of our land and our labor as well as the looting and destruction of our ancient places. So you know that's a story that I can relate to. And I just wanted to say this I agree with the idea that we need hope but ultimately what our fiction needs to do as a liberation project is go beyond hope which is always a conditional. Like “oh if I do this if I do that”. What we need is that confidence where you simply regard your success as inevitable assuming that you do the right things. Because if you grow up in affluence you just take for granted that you're going to succeed. You don't think oh I just hope it'll work out. If you grow up in super affluence like the people in the Trump family then you don't even have to do anything. You can just stumble in and take over the world. I'm not for that kind of arrogance and destructiveness but I am for people having the confidence of knowing that “Yes. All I got to do is this. And the other thing and I'm going to make an awesome impact on the world”.
AMT: You know I'm hearing also the recurring theme of aliens. So the interpretation of aliens is different for you than mainstream Sci-Fi.
MINISTER FAUST: [Laughs] Yes. Well I mean definitely I think the three of us are probably aware of the idea of aliens as being conquerors who can't try to obliterate you and take everything from you wipe you out. It's interesting to note though that at the core of Eurocentric science fiction H.G. Wells wrote the book The War of the Worlds and what most people don't realize is that it wasn't just a story about Martians invading taking over Earth and then dying because of bacteria. He was writing a story because he was a socialist and an anti-imperialist about what if what Europe did to the world was done to Europe by Martians. So he was writing a story that was attempting to get his fellow Europeans to see the damage, the genocide that they were doing to the world. So these liberationist ideas are even Eurocentric science fiction but our project is even bigger to go beyond stories of misery and oppression and actually into stories not just of heroism but of dynamism and of reshaping worlds for humanity, and to make a contact with aliens into something that is good for both parties and not exploitative and not power tripping fantasies.
AMT: Drew Hayden Taylor I need hear what you're thinking.
DREW HAYDEN TAYLOR: I mean my mind's just tumbling here. Several different things have come up that are so true. H.G. Wells I'm a huge H.G. Wells. He was one of the people that influence mean. The Time Machine is a story of class structure gone horribly horribly wrong. So that's what science fiction is, it takes those messages and just wraps them in different wrapping. And one of the reasons I got into science fiction is the fact if you look at a lot of mainstream contemporary Native literature, it has a very narrow path. It consists of essentially three storylines’ historical narratives, victim narratives or the by-products of what I refer to as post contact stress disorder. And what this new generation is doing is trying to expand that perception of what the Indigenous story is indigenous past. Science fiction is one of those genres that we're putting Aboriginal DNA all over and using it now to tell our stories.
AMT: And there are a lot of traditional stories where you are making that point at the beginning that that science fiction feel to it.
DREW HAYDEN TAYLOR: I mean you at look at the sky woman character at the center of a lot of haudenosaunee nishnawbe creation stories, a woman falling through a hole in the sky landing on Earth and helping populate the earth. You know they're just sort of the thinking above and beyond the normal narratives of everyday life permeates indigenous cultures storytelling traditions.
AMT: Minister Faust how long has Afric centric science fiction been around?
MINISTER FAUST: I'm glad you asked that because a lot of people think it's brand new when in fact when Martin Delaney was an African liberationist in the United States back during the time of the continent wide rape gulag that people like to call the Old South. And he was a military man. He was actually a major in the Union Army. He worked in education and he wrote a book that was serialized as many novels were at the time. It was called Blake or the Huts of America and it posited a near future in which Afro Cubans and African-Americans created a socialist revolution to make a brand new North America that would be far better for everybody. And it fits into the longstanding - now longstanding tradition of utopian science fiction in the science fiction of George Orwell 1984 and Margaret Atwood with Handmaid's Tale. It's a long established tradition of science fiction and there were many others W.E.B. Dubois, one of the most significant American intellectuals ever, was also an African-American. He wrote science fiction stories in the last 20 years in particular as led by now Hopkinson, who was an African-Canadian writer with her debut book Brown Girl in the Ring, which posits a dystopian Toronto as a failed state in which the protagonist, a young African Canadian woman, makes contact with the Yoruba Gods from Nigeria. You know this is a very long standing tradition going back 150 years some. And we're doing more of it now than ever. It's also been in the music world for a long time. Jazz musicians such as Sun Ra, Parliament-Funkadelic, Earth Wind and Fire, many others using science fiction imagery combined with imagery from ancient Egypt and even modern artistes such as Janelle Monae making this a very enjoyable fully embodied set of aesthetics that are in in more than just books and films. But is this in music and comics and graphic novels and more.
AMT: And Danis how popular is native Sci fi in Indigenous community, in Canada?
DANIS GOULET: I feel as though there's a movement that's really starting to take hold. I started to hear about it first in the academic spear but certainly to leaders in the field are the artist Garwin Notty and also Jason Lewis and there are two artists out of Montreal and they have a collective called Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and they've been working in cyberspace and in virtual worlds I think since the 90s.
AMT: So how important is this moment in time for futurism science fiction?
DANIS GOULET: It feels like we're in dark times. You know we have Trump in power. We have a lot of very progressive things being reversed right now. And I think there is never been a greater time for this to explode in this particular moment in Canada for sure. One fifty has been a tough year for Indigenous communities there's been a lot to grapple with. But you know change comes out of tumultuous times. And so I like to hope that this is a reckoning of some kind that we're we are maturing to really start contending with our colonial history and really dig into this because hope doesn't live in a bubble. You always need action.
AMT: What do you think Drew?
DREW HAYDEN TAYLOR: Oh I totally agree. I think right now we're at the moment where we are exploring different ways of expressing ourselves. A lot of our literature has been where we came from, what we lost, what we're trying to get back, dealing with the repercussions of our history. The thing about science fiction is it turns that lens 180 degrees around saying is there where we'll be in 50 years 100 years or a thousand years? Or how can we affect the present to make our future better?
AMT: It all comes down to - it's both literature that can be enjoyable and art can it can be enjoyable on one level, but it's also very political, isn't it. It's not like I have to tell you I love how political it is.
DREW HAYDEN TAYLOR: Well yeah I think so. As I was going on about the fact that in my superhero want to deals with housing and other one deals with Dream Catchers are master plot from the government to control native people. So yes it's an opportunity to explore all these different aspects - the political aspects of native experience as filtered through all of this technology.
AMT: Minister Faust.
MINISTER FAUST: As far as you know this moment in time, you know we need it more than ever. And there's a lot of understandable doom and gloom to have, the latest sociopath in the White House and then many others in other places in the world including in the Kremlin, is intensely disturbing.
AMT: So you're not going to argue that you're not political at.
MINSTER FAUST: No no I draw in the literary tradition of people like Langston Hughes, the great poet who said that basically everything is political. The decision to write something that's not political is a political decision. All it means is that you're taking things for granted as they are. And there's so much you know so many stories that just pretend that the problems and the opportunities of our world don't exist.
AMT: Well we are almost out of time. So then I guess sod that I just want to hear from each of you what you want us as readers and viewers to think about differently as we look at your work?
DREW HAYDEN TAYLOR: When they think of indigenous people first nations people while we were of the past. We are now of the future and of the present. We're not historical beings. We are contemporary and future beings.
DANIS GOULET: Yes absolutely. Indigenous filmmakers and artists and musicians need to be given the voices and the platforms to be heard. Otherwise we'd just get the perpetuation of the stereotypes and the racist imagery that actually Hollywood has been the worst perpetuator of since the dawn of cinema. So you know indigenous artists need to be empowered so that we can bring all of these stories into spaces that do make people think differently.
AMT: Minister Faust.
MINISTER FAUST: Yes, I want people to see what I call super mega awesome global Africans. So anti-racism does it work because it wags a finger and says “don't think this. Don't say that”. What makes people excited is seeing things that are impressive and magnificent. So I in my work show ancient African civilizations and African techno futures. People are seeing through their video games and their television shows and the Internet. They're seeing a far more progressive president than was ever possible before. And that helps them make a better future.
AMT: Okay we have to leave it there. Thank you all of you.
MINISTER FAUST: Thank you.
DANIS GOULET: Thank you.
DREW HAYDEN TAYLOR: Migwetch.
AMT: Drew Hayden Taylor award winning playwright novelist and filmmaker from the Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario. His latest book is Take us to Your Chief and Other Stories. He's in Thunder Bay. Danis Goulet is a Cree Metis filmmaker. Her latest work The Hunt, is a virtual reality film. She's in Toronto. Minister Faust is a science fiction and fantasy writer in Edmonton. His books include The Alchemist's Of Kush. That's it for us today, stay with Radio 1 for q. As promised we're going to end things off with a reading by Minister Faust. This is from War and Mir in which millions of earthlings are abducted by aliens and kept as slaves. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. Thanks for listening to The Current.
'Zhaan-Hinritl' was born tiny, but strong. He could handle Earth hammers, or your equivalent like biktiet, Qomnoret, you name it. His family needed money, so even when he was a baby, he worked the, uh, the labsomaing fields, the Dream foundries, everything. And when he was a grown man, he finally got the chance to build, um… strata-train lines."
Someone says: "They have strata-trains on Earth?"
"Oh, yeah, sure. Huge ones! It even goes under the sea, it's called the Channel Tunnel."
Gasps and wide eyes. Someone whispering, "Chaa Nelt Oonull…."
"Anyway, the strata- gods were going to replace all the shapers, because they had machines that could do the job faster, machines called steam drills. So Zhaan-Hinritl, hhammered apart one of those steam drills, right, and then grabbed up all the pieces, and rebuilt them into an armoured construction battle suit! He turned himself into a steam-powered hammer-warrior!" I throw up one limb at a time: "Left arm hammer! Right arm hammer! Bam! Left foot hammer! Bam! Right foot hammer!" I head bang: "Head hammer! Bam! Even his ass was a hammer!"
They're all laughing. I'm hamming it up, shaking each ass cheek, like slamming down invisible rail spikes one at a time. "Bam-bam!" They're howling.
"And he single-handedly hammered, well, single-bodiedly hammered so many lines of strata-track into place, it was like he built his very own palace to the sky!"
My son Teej asks: "Did he free all the shapers?"
"Of course he did! What do you think? Ol' Zhaan-Hinritl, he broke apart every steam drill he found, and then he taught all the shapers everywhere on the planet how to make their own steam-hammer armour! And then they built themselves a Steam Hammer Republic, where they lived in justice and steam forever. And they all ate as much as they wanted, whenever they wanted, and got plenty of days off, and nobody could order anyone around or they got their asses steam-hammered right off!"
And they cheer, they whistle, and a few people produce bells out of who-knows-where and ring them till my ears feel like they'll bleed.
I wanna dedicate that story to our fallen brother Shandl. May he be strong forever.
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