#112 – Starve the Soul, Feed the Ego Part Four: Banting and Friends

Even though English Canada is suffering an epidemic of diabetes, Canada pays little to no homage to Toronto’s most important discovery – that diabetes isn’t an immediate death sentence. Before the concept of insulin injection came up, coming down with diabetes meant a protracted death by any number of horrific complications. Kidneys would fail, poisoning the body from the inside; feet would explode into necrotic ulcers as their owners mercifully lost sensation and then less-mercifully died of sepsis or secondary infection; people would go blind and basically die as if they were in a horror movie.

Putting an end to this being the inevitable fate of the diabetic is Canada’s single greatest achievement. Canada’s “peacekeeping traditions” (when they aren’t busy playing at white supremacy and slaughtering Somalian teenagers or simply ignoring reports from their own commanders, that is) are, as shown in the brackets, a little dicey for that honor. Fuck Vimy Ridge, fuck peacekeeping – in fact, fuck the Canadian Forces entirely on this one. Nothing Canada or Canadians have ever done has been as universally, globally positive as the discovery of insulin as therapy for diabetics.

I can’t express enough how important this discovery is. It’s like finding a cure for AIDS in terms of medical breakthrough. The mere concept that hormones could be injected for the purposes of medical treatment is an incredible lifesaver. From the use of steroids to stimulate recovery to new experimental techniques, the entire field of endocrinology owes its modern form to Banting, Best, Kollip, and MacLeod’s incredible discovery. And for this, Canada rated Banting below Pierre Trudeau (the guy who fucked up the pharmaceutical industry, inspired resentment in the West, and remains Canada’s most complex leader in terms of legacy) and Terry Fox (a guy who raised money to cure a disease he suffered from and inspired the creation of a charity-industry that 30 years on has amazingly accomplished little more than becoming incredibly rich).

I’m not saying that either Trudeau or Fox don’t deserve recognition. Far from it – if I was sans a leg the last thing I’d be thinking of is running across Canada. Running from Canada, perhaps, but that’s beside the point. But Banting, whose work is rightly recognized and hailed in the United Kingdom, is in Canada recognized with research chairs, elementary schools, and lectures named after him. This is a team that should be on Canada’s currency as the single highest achievement of any Canadian medical research – indeed, of any research of any kind – and 3/4s of the team behind the discovery aren’t even remembered with the “honorary” names and lectures. To the average Canadian, everyone who isn’t Banting is practically non-existent.

So, to the memories of James Collip, John Macleod, and Dr. Charles Best – Canada may have forgotten you or collapsed you into one person, but diabetics the world over and the physicians who care for them are eternally grateful for all of you.

#77 – Starve the Soul, Feed the Ego Part Three: Alexander Mackenzie

English Canada lionizes the wrong early Prime Minister.

This guy was great. He brought in such minor innovations as the secret ballot (which is kind of important), the idea that perhaps enshrining race into voting rights was a bad idea, attempts to control rampant patronage in Canadian politics, building the House of Commons itself, and the utterly blasphemous notion that a mere stonemason could be Prime Minister. Picking up after the total mess that the Pacific Scandal had left Canada in, he was elected in 1873. His devotion to simplifying government compelled him to succeed in the creation of the Supreme Court and the Auditor-General. That the former was called for in the British North America Act and could only be passed by Parliament almost 10 years later is beyond me.

Anyhow – there’s this guy who refused knighthood and who tried to have Parliament built so that there would be a way to escape the lobbyists in the antechamber, who actually succeeded in a number of important innovations to Canada’s government, who opposed the potentially-disasterous policy of using race as a qualification for voting and demanded that voting be done in secret so as to avoid corruption. Not a bad dude, wouldn’t you say? At least worth some praise?

Naturally, he is totally forgotten in favor of John A. Macdolan. An economic crisis beyond Mackenzie’s control and the subsequent failure of his concept of free-trade with the United States lead to a resurgence of – you guessed it – John A. Macdonald. Why remember the guy who ran the country with some concept of what it should look like and why it should look that way when we can remember the corrupt guy who screwed up so badly in the first place? He even continued with the national railway.

Of course, Mackenzie also had some pretty racist ideas. He certainly didn’t destroy the Indian Act or anything like that. But he did make serious progress in other areas and helped to establish Canadian democratic ideals in an era where democratic ideals were far from guaranteed. He was certainly a helpful contrast to Macdonald – a civilized, sober, clear-headed fellow who thoughts and deeds helped to make Canada a better place. Steering a bad idea slightly right deserves more praise than Macdoofus, which is why he is remembered only in Southwestern Ontario and in McGill’s scholarships. Priorities, ladies and gentlemen!

#57 – Starve the Soul, Feed the Ego Part Two: Abe Okpik

I would like to start this post by noting that the Ookpik, which is a totally unrelated stuffed snowy-owl figure made in Kuujjuaq was selected by the government of John George Diefenbaker to represent Canada at the Philadelphia International Trade Fair in 1963. This is both a dope-ass fact (because the Ookpik is cute as shit and because Diefenbaker is the second-greatest Prime Minister in Canada’s sordid history) and the closest thing to a segue that I could throw in to discuss the Hero of the North, Abraham Okpik. Okpik was the driving force of Project Surname, an attempt to right one of Canada’s most wretched thefts from Indigenous peoples.

(S) Cuteness buffer

See, in the 1940s it was considered just too…not-retarded to leave the Inuit well enough alone. Despite them living completely separate from the hideous Canadian apparatus of state, Ottawa just had to find some way to piss in their collective oatmeal. Not even erasing the immensely spiritually-important Indigenous naming systems and replacing them with shitty transliterations of Biblical figures would cut it for the kind of evil Canada was envisioning. Enter the disc number, a sickening dogtag that erased even the tiny dignity of Christianized names and replaced them with an enforced numeration scheme that would make it easier for the caker state to then go about murdering their dogs and forcing them to move to random hellholes for idiotic reasons. These fucking monstrous tags, the product of cakers unwilling to actually learn about the peoples they intended to brutalize in the name of “progress” had to be worn at all times, as though the Inuit were prisoners. Here’s a woman who suffered this shit talking about the kind of dehumanization that the Nazis used at Auschwitz, and no that is not a comparison I make lightly:

Anyways, in the Northwest Territories there came to be elected a fellow-badass by the name of Simonie Michael (or E7-551, if you want to pretend that this is fucking Star Wars deep lore or some shit like that) who had had enough of the cakers from the south treating his people like catalogued product and demanded that his people be given real names again. It was not a true return to the ancient norms, but at the very least Inuit could expect some agency in a core part of their identity. And the primary agent of this Project Surname was Abe Okpik.

To inform every Inuit community of the English finally being forced into dignifying them with names was a monumental task. It required a guy who knew a lot about a huge swatch of land, could reassure people, and could speak fluidly. This was a job tailor-made for Abraham Okpik, who was simply too useful for even Ottawa to ignore. The man had by all measure a shitty childhood, having been sent to residential school at the age of 8. When he wasn’t busy having tuberculosis he was writing some of the first publications in Inuit languages, translating for Diefenbaker, and trying to represent the nastily-under-represented people of the Eastern Arctic.

And then Abe Okpik travelled across the Arctic to every. Single. Community. He fucking hitchhiked. He walked. He flew. He put 72,420km behind him. He spoke with 12,000 people, explaining the change. For the first time in probably ever, the Canadian state had sent an emissary that wasn’t a turd-cake trying to steal something. A seed of restoration had been planted, with Okpik’s linguistic accomplishments helping those who had been pulled away from their roots find footing within themselves. The man was a goddamn hero for so many reasons that recreating the frigid walk at the end of the Left Hand of Darkness is just one among many.

Naturally, Canada makes no mention of this guy. Canadian history classes conveniently ignore the whole “we stole their names” bit, because giving caker children the slightest chance at honest reflection about their country is clearly verboten. Shit, the caker state couldn’t even give Okpik proper funding for transit back when we was trying to restore the dignity of an entire people. But for so many people, Abe Okpik’s heroism is best recalled as a plush animal, and even then only by a particularly dorky subset of cakers.

Rest in Power, Okpik. I’ll do my bit to make sure Canada remembers your titanic achievements.

#41 – Starve the Soul, Feed the Ego, Part One: John George Diefenbaker

Welcome to the beginning of a series of writings I’ve been working on about Canada’s Prime Ministers. They’re a motley bunch: a bundle of worthless cakers, imperialists, and scumbags with a handful of clever, decent people who made the critical mistake of believing in making Canada a better place. John George Diefenbaker is of the latter class, though you wouldn’t know it to hear cakers scream about how the man who ensured universal franchise, eliminated the anti-Semitism of the Bank of Canada in the ballsiest way possible, and established the legal precedent for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms eliminated the Avro Arrow, a white elephant of a war project that epitomizes the jingoism that defines but one facet of caker revisionism. Let us now set the record straight on a worthy candidate for leadership of an unworthy people – John “the Chief” Diefenbaker.

Diefenbaker was born on 18 September, 1895 in the tiny town of Neustadt, Ontario. In 1903, the Diefenbakers moved to Saskatchewan, giving Diefenbaker a much-needed chance to see the massive gulf in living standards between WASPish caker-nobility and the rest of the people of Canada. In his memoirs, titled “One Canada”, he wrote that this experience of Western Canada inspired his later concern for a singular, equal, uniquely Canadian identity. Which may explain why he nominated James Gladstone, the first Indigenous Senator and Ellen Fairclough, Canada’s first female Cabinet Minister. And that’s not mentioning the first Jewish head of the Bank of Canada (Louis Rasminsky). If Canada was as in love with the notion of inclusivity that it claims to be you’d think that Diefenbaker would be a national hero.

Diefenbaker’s equalizing streak doesn’t end with a few appointments. Diefenbaker not only completed Canada’s universal franchise (in 1960 – Canada has allowed Indigenous people to vote for less than half of its actual history), but the 1962 election was also the first one in which Inuit ballots were taken seriously. It’s hard to overstate how important Diefenbaker’s regime was in terms of actually moving Canada towards the mythological tolerant cakerstan that Canada pretends exists in this hellish country today.

Speaking of caker revision made possible by a forgotten hero, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had its origins in the Canadian Bill of Rights. For whatever weaknesses the Bill had it was at least a conscious step towards a codification of Canadian rights and a well-intentioned attempt at making this heap a better place. As is the case with many of Canada’s good political ideas the concept of a Bill of Rights came from the Prairies back when they were populated by immigrants rather than their cakerized descendents. Saskatchewan’s Bill of Rights, written in 1947, was deeply important to Diefenbaker. Indeed, Dief’s Bill of Rights had a provision of property rights that the Charter forgot; because of this the Bill of Rights, frequently revised by grumpy cakers as to be ineffectual and pointless is in fact regularly cited today in legal cases.

And with that established, allow me now to get through the idiotic revisionism that is the Avro Arrow. Really, the fact that disputing the mythological fighter jet that wasn’t has to take up so much of my piece on Diefenbaker is a pain in the ass. There’s a lot to the Chief that I’m skirting over to make sure that this fits in the rough word count I try to stick to. Frankly, the Avro Arrow was a white elephant of a project that is falsely used to undermine the Prime Minister who made arguably the greatest strides towards realizing the caker mythology of inclusiveness of any Prime Minister in…well, in ever.

By the time the project was in the air, the Avro Arrow was obsolete. Despite this caker business tried its best to use nationalism and the fear of “ruining the industry” to try and force Diefenbaker’s hand into maintaining the project despite its obsolescence…and he refused. You know, like cakers desperately wish Ottawa would do with Bombardier? Do you really want your monies going towards garbage caker businesses that produce obsolete, shitty equipment? No? You pretty much agreed with Diefenbaker.

He stood up to caker business and tried to make Canada a more honest place, and for his efforts he gets shit on. That’s cakers for you!