Monday, January 12, 2015

Nepotism in the Reserve. "Hey Cuz"

I like Nepotism.  Sure it is a monster but I think it is all about the context.  Context is everything.

Our Reserve is set to be gearing up for the Spring community election. Our current Chief is acting due to our former Chief's resignation in the summer. A heck of a thing being elected in the Reserve (or I guess anywhere). The demands are immense.  The decisions scrutinized relentlessly. The politics down and dirty. The attacks are personal ( in many cases). The family, well the families are huge.  Just kidding but that is what people will bring up regardless of who or how someone gets in.  In fact some of the candidates in previous years have campaigned on getting rid of big families.  Yeah, figure that one out.  In any case the issue of nepotism is one that is close to home. I got where I am because of big family.  Lot of siblings, lot of uncles, aunties, cousins ( and I mean lots of them) have all had a hand in my up bringing and experience.  I mean how could it not?  We are in a community where you know who you are and who your relatives are. Is that a bad thing? Of course not. And if you can help out one of your family members, well that's great. You give them a car boost in the winter, let them use your phone, give them a ride to town, lend them a few bucks, loan them a rifle, give them some fish, pass on clothes to them, or let them know about a job coming up, or the big one, give them a job. There is is the conundrum; giving jobs to family members (including friends) when jobs are scarce. That is what gets people upset.  The problem is compounded when the family or friend hired does not know how to do the job. Now that is the thing that gives nepotism a bad name.

How can anyone who doesn't benefit from nepotism support nepotism? Can you support it? I mean when you even say nepotism it sounds like a gross word, doesn't it? Sort of like pedophile, necrophilia, coitious and stuff like that.   It reminds me of this story.  I went to a general assembly for this Native entity over twenty years ago. The entity was giving its annual report to the people and they were also having an election for Board members. My cousin told me about the assembly, so I went to be nosey.  One of my best traits by the way. The meeting was run in a semi-professional manner. I mean it had people and it had a person sitting as the Chairperson, in other words this person was running the meeting. As meetings tend to go, in the Indian community,  things quickly got out of hand. Yelling started, personal attacks and just your typical chaos and mayhem (as I like to tease my grandkids about their behaviour) ensued. The Chairperson sort of lost control of the proceedings and well, she sort of lost control of herself. She didn't take kindly to people talking loudly, shouting at the staff of the entity and calling out the sitting Board members. The Chairperson quit the meeting, yelled at people and left the building. The Board president took to Chairing the meeting. In the end, an election of new board members for the vacancies did occur. And I was elected into the Board.  WooHoo!  If my cousin, a staff member had not told me about the meeting I would never have went and I would not have gotten elected to the board. Cool, eh?  So I joined the Board and I really didn't know too many people on the Board personally. I did know who they were, after all it is Indian Country and you sort of know who is who, or know someone who knows whos who, you know?  So as  new member of the board I did the one thing I never usually do, I kept my big mouth shut. I wanted to know what the issues were, who the players were and who was good and who was not good. As it turned out, it was interesting and kind of fun. So in a short period of time I got to listen to the Board and make my judgements. The Native entity I was  now a board member of, had a family foot print in operations. They were part of the startup of the entity. Some staff were family siblings.  Okay no big deal I figured. The Board knew the family and got along well with them. This particular family had a long history of working for the people and was involved from the beginning of the entity's development. Anyway, the Chairperson of the annual meeting,  who had left the meeting was not happy as it turned out. The meeting had left her with a sour taste and she didn't like it. So she wrote the new Board to complain of the family ties in the entity. She felt it was that family's fault that the meeting got out of hand. In any case and a new board member, I was privy to the contents of the letter and the board discussion of the letter. Seems the Chairperson blamed the family for the chaos and mayhem of the meeting. Even though they didn't seem to be involved in any of the yelling or discussions that took place at the meeting. The Chairperson was so upset she wrote the board and told them to get rid of the family. In her words, the atmosphere of family was "incestuous". For me that was an ugly way to describe nepotism in the work place. But there it was. This Chairperson was a well respected Indian person in the community. The Board discussed it for some time and a few even agreed it was an "incestuous situation". There was some momentum for bad mouthing the family and the entity. It was getting a bit much. I listened to all this taking place. The board didn't know who I was really, I was the new face on the board. Finally I decided to say something. "I know those people, and I am going to tell them what you are saying". The looks on their faces. I told them that the Old Lady was well respected and I didn't appreciate the way the board was talking about her. One fellow tried to backtrack his comments. He is a well known "Aboriginal Elder" in the City of Winnipeg, kind of the go to guy for smudging in public. I still see him quite a bit around the City Traditional circles.  Anyway, before I got to speak to any of the family members he spoked to one of the siblings. He said "I really respect your family" and all that sort of jazz. Later I did speak to the same person and I didn't know that the Board member had got to her first.  She was telling me, that it was weird how she was approached by this board member and how it now made sense as to his behaviour.  It is quite interesting to note that many years later, this angry Chairperson of the annual meeting spoke publically on the virtues of family and how you go to who you know. That it was how it was done before, you relied on family and they would be the ones you could count on and that it was the reason she choose to employ her family member.  Cool eh?  I guess for her, someone else was guilty of incest while she was carrying on a respected Tradition. Cool.

You know what, the world is built on relationships. That's the thing. You know someone and you know their skill set, their strengths so you get them. You know they are going to be good. In theory that is what you think. Sometimes (maybe many times) who you know is no damn good at the job. That sucks for sure. The reason we feel it more in the Indian circle is because it is a smaller community. Compared to a City, a province, a country.  So getting your family or friends in the door is not that big a deal. But in the Reserve, everyone knows and sees. Not only that, the resources are smaller so everything that happens is magnified. In the big world, no one real notices the nepotism so much.

The wider world is run on "relationships". Or as they call it networking. So they practice helping each other out but don't call it nepotism. They try and pretend to not follow nepotism but its there. The Whole Country of China follows the nepotism rule; they call it Guanxi, the basis of their business relationships. In Nepal the most famous fighting Soldiers in the world are called the Gurkhas. They recruit into the army by way of Tribes and families. They embody the notion of loyalty better than "brother/sisters" of other armies. Because many are brothers and cousins and Tribes. In modern society many of the big companies, whether its a public financial institution, or Law office, the practice of nepotism is normal and expected. So why is nepotism such an ugly practice?

Ideally if you got your friend in, they would be grateful and try their hardest to make sure they don't dissapoint you. That doesn't happen. The people you count on, nowadays, just can't be trusted to do their best or better than their best. So they give nepotism the bad rap. Bunch of lazy arseholes. Making it bad for the rest of us.

Oh well, what you going do, eh Cuz?

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