Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Human wrong"

Canada’s Human Rights Museum is scheduled to open in 2014.

Originally it was slated to be done in 2013 but they’ve had delays (of course) and spiraling costs (why don’t costs every spiral DOWN? A spiral can go both ways, you know), so 2014 is the new number. Unbelievably, they’ve chosen to build it in Winnipeg. While the ‘peg is the city nearest to the geographical center of Canada (at least on the east-west run), every other national museum in this country has been plopped in Ottawa, the greedy buggers. It’s high time they started to share.

Any project is bound to have it’s issues, and this one is no exception. In fact, I’d guess it’s far worse than normal, and it sounds like the people who work (or have worked) there would agree. They have 68 current employees. They have 38 people who have been fired or quit. This seems high turnover, like “call-centre” high. Everyone who leaves get slapped with a gag order. They aren’t allowed to say anything bad about the museum or its employees. Harsh. The CEO of the Museum, Stuart Murray, says the gag order is a standard provision and they would never sue anyone over it. So why have it then? Are you telling me the contracts can’t be edited? We have this wonderful thing called a “Delete” key. Or whiteout. Or, if you’re truly archaic and have hammered all your employee contracts on stone tablets, a thin coat of pre-mixed cement will get rid of that silly “standard provision.” If you aren’t going to enforce the clause, the only reason to have it in there is to intimidate the ignorant, and isn’t that pretty close to a human rights violation? At the very least, it’s bullying.

So now Murray’s established himself as being full of crap, a trait no doubt in common with many other CEOs (it’s hard to rise that high without the ability to lie). Therefore it’s hard for me to believe him when he says there’s been no political interference in the museum. See, the employees who have left complain (anonymously, for the most part) about government and corporate influence. The powers-that-be want more “positive stories” and nothing that negatively touches on current government policies. (Just what might those policies be, I wonder, that they would feature in a museum about human rights?) This is entirely too likely, in my opinion. Corporations and governments are big fans of interference.

Here’s my favourite quote of Murray’s, though. He says the museum has to have balance and not be concerned solely with atrocities. “This is going to be a museum for human rights, not wrongs.” What a gem. Beautiful. He clearly employs a writer from SNL. How long has he been holding onto that chestnut, waiting to drop it on some reporter?

However, I call “bullshit” again. Just how do you explore the history of human rights WITHOUT hitting bad stuff? Every time we enact positive change it’s in response to inequality. You can’t end slavery without there being slaves in the first place, for instance, and it’s a strangely blind person who looks at that situation and says in smug self-satisfaction: “Hey, wow, good for us!” Yes, good for us for ending something terrible, but SHAME on us for starting the terrible thing in the first place. If someone sets fire to your house, watches the flames build for a half hour, maybe pours a few litres of gasoline on the blaze, then lets you use their cellphone to call the fire department, do you thank him? (Maybe you do, if you’re Canadian, but otherwise, NO WAY!)

You can’t touch on a “human right” without a corresponding “human wrong,” plus there’s a boatload of stuff still going on or essentially “unfixable” beyond simply not doing it again. Apologies and cash payouts just don’t cover the evil garbage we do to each other. Residential schools come to mind. So does the Holocaust, Rwanda, and all the children being abused by Catholic priests. Not only do genocides and abuse continue to happen, our reactions to these things are strangely subdued. We freak out when our internet goes down, but when people suffer? We kind of shrug and move on. For instance: When Jews were hunting for refuge back in the early and mid-20th century, what was our enlightened, generous response? “None is too many.” A touching sentiment made no less horrible by the reality that it was shared by virtually the entire Western world. Boy Scouts have reported on the abuse their charges have suffered, but so far as I know, their organization isn’t being dismantled, or even culled and reworked. Ditto for Catholics. The tales of human sins enacted on ourselves is legion, and very few of them have (or can) ever receive the justice they have coming.

I suggest, Murray, you throw out the idea of “balancing” right and wrong. You’re operating a museum. Just show us the truth as history has revealed it. Let us draw our own conclusions.

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