Category Archives: Unit I

Assignment 1.5 – The Story That Created Evil

The Story That Created Evil

There was a time when all things were seen as one. Nature, the animals, and all of the ideas, discussions, and stories between them were brought together in a common identity. They were entirely singular in their diversity, and with their singularity existed harmony. All of the trees and the ants and the people and the rest knew they were different things, of course, but they also knew that their difference was the key to their success. The flowers needed the bees, and the wolves needed the caribou, and the humans needed the fish. Everything and everyone thrived in the harmony, even though they knew it meant that they may have to kill or be killed, use or surrender to violence. Harmony included the violence, but it did not include the evil. The evil could not exist in such a place.

As time passed, the world grew. More animals and things took up the space that they all shared, and for the harmony to continue existing, it was necessary that a level of order was maintained among all of the beings. At first, of course, the concept of leadership was welcome, as it was simply another part of everything. Those who led also saw themselves as part of the harmony of the world, reliant on those who they led. All were still one, and the harmony was maintained.

It was this way until a great leader began to question the way things were. “I am not a fish or a tree,” this leader said. “I am not the water or the grass or the sky. I have nothing to do with those things. I am above them, and I am the master of them.” This leader told those that were led this story. It was a new way of seeing the world not in terms of harmony, where all were reliant and obligated to each other, but where all were opposed. It was a story of fact and fiction, of animate and inanimate, of us and them, of winner and loser. And of good and evil. Because all believed in the harmony of things, it was widely accepted that the great leader’s story should be heeded.

Yet there were those who protested. “This story is dangerous, and we should not hear it. This story has destroyed the harmony of things and of the world. It will bring nothing but conflict and needless harm to all.” What they did not realize, however, is that “once a story is told, it cannot be called back. Once told, it is loose in the world” (King 10). It was too late, and all were grasped by its opposition and discord. Even those who called the the return to harmony were trapped by the story, and they were only able to attack the story head on, arguing against it in the dichotomous terms that it had created.

Since that story was told, there has been no returning to the harmony and peaceful coexistence that was. With that story came all things evil, as well as all things holy. By giving birth to opposition, the story brought forth unending conflict that will exist until, somehow, a new story is told and accepted by all.



I would not be surprised if you found some of J. Edward Chamberlin’s thought in here. That’s because it is in here. I do believe that one of our greatest philosophical challenges will be overcoming the conflict that is borne from binary thought. That is what this story is about – evil and good/holy are both created at once by the telling of a story that allows us (and, indeed, forces us) to see the world in terms of opposition and easy categorization. I wanted to create a story about the beginning of Evil that uses dichotomy because I actually believe that is at the root of it. This course is all about how stories shape perceptions and define identities and et cetera, so it seems entirely possible that the first person to define the world in these terms created the concepts of good and evil. It had to happen at some point.

As one would expect, this story came out differently every time as I told it orally. This was not unexpected. What I did find interesting is that I was far more comfortable with it once it was written down. Erika Paterson discusses the power of oral storytelling, most of which she says stems from the side of the listener rather than the teller. “The listener has far greater power to change the story,” engaging in an active interpretation with the storyteller at the time the story is told (Paterson n.p.). I believe that, perhaps, this is why I felt more comfortable writing my story rather than telling it orally. I did not have to engage with an audience. I did not have to explain anything beyond where I thought it should be explained. I could create points that were more open to interpretation than others, rather than interrupt the story with explanation for the listener. It was more intentional, the cadence was purposeful, and each sentence did what I wanted it do.

Moreover, my comfort likely came from the fact that I’ve never really engaged in oral storytelling of this kind. It felt forced and formal. At times it felt silly. I’ve been writing for far longer, and I’ve been presenting these ideas in a written format far more often, aside from formal debates and informal discussions with peers and academics.

This will take a lot more exploration on my part, but maybe it will spur discussion below. All kinds of stories are powerful – we know this from reading both Chamberlin and King. However, Paterson lends credence to oral storytelling over literary storytelling. I am fielding discussion here, but perhaps no one is better or more powerful than the other. Both types of storytelling hold immense power, but different power. At times these powers may compliment, and at times (as I found) they may conflict. Thus, some stories should be told orally, some literarily, and some in both forms. Maybe it all depends on which story is being told, and by whom, and to whom. What do you think?


Works Cited

King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc, 2003. Print.

Paterson, Erika. “Lesson 1:2 Story & Literature.” ENGL 420A Canadian Studies: Canadian Literary Genres May 2016. University of British Columbia. Web. 30 May 2016.

Walt, Stephen M. “It’s Time to Abandon the Pursuit for Great Leaders.” Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy, 3 March 2016. Web. 30 May 2016.

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Assignment 1.3 – Reflections on Chamberlin

In telling the story of a Gitksan land claim (219-221), Chamberlin touches on a familiar point alluded to many times throughout If This is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?, but there is a certain culmination of all his prior points in this particular story. It is the “scientific ceremony” (Chamberlin 220). It is science as a story, as a fiction, and scientific method as a ceremony of belief. This thought brings me to Adam Smith’s History of Astronomy. He asks why human beings theorize at all, coming to the conclusion that it is to quell uncertainty when faced by wonder or fear. Rather than an “abstract drive for truth,” scientific inquiry is spurned by “promptings of anxiety” and discomfort with the observable world (Heilbroner 15). Through classification and categorization, we create order and, importantly, comfort. Science, then, is a story that we believe because it is part of a ceremony that we have created in order to make a ‘reality’ out of reality. A view of science as such allows us to pair it with other sources of knowledge and belief, strengthening a common ‘reality’ across cultures.


My attention was also caught by the story that Chamberlin tells of a woman named Martha Demientieff, who was stricken with grief following the death of a close friend (205). She lay on a barge on the Yukon River, listening first to the sound of the ice breaking up, then flowing down the river, hitting the barge in large pieces, and then as smaller chunks as time passed. Eventually, all she heard was the sound of the river flowing. This is the story that Demientieff related to her grief for her lost friend, and it is a story that allows her experience to resonate with those who hear or read it.

Demeintieff’s story  shows us how story can be used to create a kind of territory that a reader or listener can use to ground an abstract concept in human experience. This power of stories should be harnessed in teaching philosophy. In postmodern theory, where little is grounded and almost all is conceptual, story is a powerful ground that can be used to inspire understanding. Non-positive arguments that do not follow the institutional preference for positivism require belief. Bridging the contradiction between imaginary and real, story can advance a critical, postmodern attitude in ways that strictly academic language will never be able to accomplish.


The concept of “underlying title” gets at that heart of what this course is about – it is a story about ownership, or right, or privilege (Chamberlin 229). Such title is fiction, a “trick,” and it embraces a contradiction between reality and imagination (ibid.). “Why not change the underlying title back to aboriginal title?” (ibid.). Chamberlin argues that a change in story “wouldn’t change anything at all” (230), and that his property would remain his due to the protection of “the courts and Parliament” (231). All that would change are our understandings by replacing one fiction with another.

Here, I believe that he is wrong. Those executive and judicial bodies have the power to protect Chamberlin’s property precisely because of the current story of underlying title. To change that story would be to invert the power held – it would flip our understandings of Us and Them, of where Us and Them come from. Yes, “we’ll get used to it” (Chamberlin 231), but the practical implications are far less shruggable than Chamberlin makes them out to be.

I do not mean to enter a discussion on justice or morality. I am not saying that underlying title should lie with any particular person or group. Rather, I am highlighting that Chamberlin glazes over tremendous changes that would occur should the story be changed. It is not enough to posit that “the lawyers would work it out” (Chamberlin 231). The lawyers, with legal power granted to them through standing institutions, all of which converge at some point with the story of settler’s underlying title, would be of no effect. This does not refute what I believe is Chamberin’s more central message, but rather bolsters it. This kind of change that would affect such a large number of people is the true power of a story.


Works Cited

“Aboriginal Title.” Defenders of the Land. Defenders of the Land, n.d. Web. 19 May 2016.

“Aboriginal Title.” Indigenous Foundations. The University of British Columbia, n.d. Web. 19 May 2016.

Chamberlin, J. Edward. If This is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?: Finding Common Ground. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2004. Print.

Feigl, Herbert. “Positivism.” Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016Web. 19 May 2016.

Heilbroner, Robert L. The Essential Adam Smith. New York: W.W. Norton, 1987. Print.

Kwangsu, Kim. “Adam Smith’s ‘History of Astronomy’ and View of Science.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 36.4 (2012): 799-820. Web. 19 May 2016.


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Hello, It’s Me.

Hi there. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Nick. I make cheap Adele jokes.

I was going to begin by telling you which year I’m in, but given that it’s the summer term, I’m not exactly sure whether or not I am in my third or fourth year. Ultimately, it’s up to you. I major in International Relations with a focus on political theory and philosophy. Stepping into the realm of literature studies is somewhat different for me, but exciting nonetheless. A year ago, I was involved in creating a provincial arts and culture policy framework, a process that had me very engaged with many artists and cultural workers around the province. Finally getting my academic hands dirty with the literary arts is something I am looking forward to. My non-academic identity is that of a musician – a drummer, to be exact. Here is a handful of the projects I’ve taken part in. Pictured below is me and Jackie Chan.


This is a blog that will follow a course offered by the English department at UBC titled “Canadian Studies.” Broadly, this course examines the creation of particular, and perhaps universalizing, narratives about Canada, Canada’s history, and the stories of Canadians. Specifically, this course focuses on how Canadian literature is canonized in a way that serves to further a colonial project and silence marginalized or less mainstream narratives, such as those of Canada’s Indigenous population. Given that the Government of Canada just signed on as “a full supporter, without qualification,” of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, this course serves to carve a much-needed path forward in the understanding of Canadian historical and contemporary landscape. For the success of the coveted “nation-to-nation dialogue,” simple dialogue is hardly enough. Each party must listen to, engage with, and understand the stories of their partner, and this Canadian Studies course provides a gateway for just that.

Much of my study in IR revolves around the creation of knowledge. Who gets to claim truth? Who decides what “fact” means? The way stories are told and the way that narratives are formed determine how we perceive ourselves, however largely “we” is conceived. I hope that the course will serve as a venture below the meta-theoretical. By examining texts in both European and Indigenous canons, I hope to gain the intellectual wealth there is to be had by listening to stories that are heard infrequently. Beyond just talking about how uncovering certain narratives might benefit our conceptual capacities, it is my expectation that this course will give me the experience I need to push my own thinking in a way that is more expansive, more plural, and more hungry.


Works Cited

“BC Creative Convergence.” Alliance for Arts + Culture. Alliance for Arts + Culture, n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.

“Nick Babey.” SoundCloud. SoundCloud, n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.

“United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” Government of Canada. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, 9 May 2016. Web. 12 May 2016.


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