Or, Choose Your Heroes Carefully
For us, New Year's Eve didn't just end with a bang - it began with one. Some dude down the hall had barricaded himself into the suite he shares with his girlfriend, and refused to let her in while he flooded the place and broke stuff. The cops practically had to beat down his door, and were getting frustrated enough to cuss at the guy (Richard found this disturbing, but I was more irked by the guy who wouldn't open his damn door).
Anyway, that situation was neatly resolved and wasn't a big deal. Then Richard decided to phone his buddy the Psychopracter to discuss their recent 9/11 activism and a few of the Mad Dr.'s other fixations: Freemasonic world domination, the Winnipeg Legislature building as a Satanic temple, etc.
My plans of chilling to some good music with wine and hummus evaporated, replaced by overheard discussions of how to survive the Mad Max/Boy & His Dog world of the very near future. (The Psychopracter informed Richard there's a 12-sq.-mile, fenced-in area somewhere in Ontario protected by ancient, sacred energies. The government doesn't want us to know about it, natch, because that's where They plan to take refuge when the shit comes down). Fortunately they kept the call to only an hour or so; maybe Joe had to go check the padlocks on his coffee or something.
By the time Richard got off the phone and suggested a stroll through the downtown festivities, I was grumpy and sad. The lights and the crowds left me utterly unimpressed. The band wasn't bad, though. They sounded a lot like Great Big Sea, and I was enjoying their music until they launched into a tune they had written called "Pitcairn Island". This island is a gorgeous rock in the South Pacific where that lovable rake Fletcher Christian and his fellow Bounty mutineers settled after sending Captain Bligh overboard to die (he didn't, but that's a whole other post). They brought with them a handful of Tahitians, and the descendants of these two groups became the island's core population for the next 300 years. The song was all about how the lucky mutineers stumbled upon a paradise of lovely, obliging women and wisely decided "screw Britain". The Islanders were "the innocent victims of a strange circumstance" or something like that. Fletcher Christian was the hero. Kids and adults alike danced happily to this song and smiled and waved their New Year's Eve light-sabers without giving a second thought to the real Pitcairn Island and its "innocent victims".
It was just plain eerie. Only hours earlier I had been catching up on the Pitcairn appeals trials. In 2004, roughly a third of the island's male population (7 men) faced the British justice system for the first time in centuries, as the result of a sluggish 10-year investigation into allegations of child rape.
Though Pitcairn is entirely under British rule, it was virtually forgotten and became a self-governing place until visitors realized that pedophilia, incest, rape, and the sexual exploitation of the island's young girls was out of control. Sexual liberation had always been a hallmark of the islands - Tahiti's free-love atmosphere was the strongest of the legendary draws that compelled Christian and his mates to steal the Bounty and make their home there. And it was neither uncommon nor shameful for girls as young as 12 to be sexually active, marry, have babies. But since the '60s, much darker stories of abuse and sexual domination by the island's most powerful men had been surfacing sporadically, hitting the British press for a day or two and then silently fading back into obscurity. Women who left the island spoke of being used as virtual sex slaves throughout childhood and adolescence.
It wasn't until the '90s that Britain began to take the stories seriously. A casual investigation was inititiated by New Zealand authorities in '96, and for 8 years Britain wondered what to do about the situation. The accused islanders insisted they had done nothing wrong; some men outright denied predatory behavior, while others defended sex with children as a cultural practice that must be left alone to preserve the island's heritage. Against howls of protests and cries of imperialism, Britain finally made arrests and pressed charges against six of the accused men. All but one were convicted of sexual crimes against children. Today the island is on the verge of becoming deserted. Its families are shattered and scattered, its women struggle daily with the psychic scars of their time on the island, and armchair anthropologists all over the world tell Britain it should be ashamed for ruining a beautiful, natural "cultural practice".
So I didn't feel like dancing to this particular ditty, an homage to selfishness and brutality. But hearing the song, my self-pity dissolved at once. Compared to the pain of the Pitcairn women and the families torn apart by sexual depravity and violence, nothing in my life is worth complaining about.
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