Friday, October 28, 2011

oct. 27:The TandT - and then something more general

The big story of the day (at the top of p. 1) is that there's going to be a football game. And it even tells you how much the tickets are and where you can get them and, oh, just everything.

Less important is the SPECIAL REPORT on whether Moncton should bring back highway tolls to help reduce the provincial debt. Hint to people who write these "special reports".  A highway toll is a tax. It's a tax just like a lottery or a school supply fee. The only way it's different from an income tax is that most of it is paid by the middle class and working class. After all, the toll is the same whether you're driving a Mercedes stretch limo or a ten year old Kia. (Mind you, it might be less if you're driving a big truck that says Irving on the side.)

So would't it be simpler just to tax the rich a little bit more?  Or maybe to ask corporations to pay something closer to what we have to pay for things like electricity? If we didn't ask so little from corporations and it they didn't take so much from us, we wouldn't have a debt in the first place.

Bruce Northrop, Our Minister of Shale Gas, with two experts,did a web cast to "inform" us about shale gas. It was, as expected, a political dog and pony show. (Sorry. Make that a dog and two ponies.) All three represented the same side, the gas companies. They also got to choose which questions they would answer, and which they would ignore. Boy, talk about gas!

There was a bit of humour in the show. Northrop said the government and the companies have not yet had any discussion about royalties. Right. Corporations are shy that way. They've spent millions for some years exploring (and producing) gas. But they certainly wouldn't even mention royalties. They just like drilling.

Anyway, don't worry. Royalties will surely be set by Mr. Irving's appointed committee on New Brunwick's Economic Future. So we'll be well looked after.

Reuters informs us that NATO will end its Libyan mission in a month. It doesn't inform us that the UN informed NATO two days ago that the mission is already over.

But none of that matters. You will almost certainly see foreign troops in Libya for a long time to come.

The story has a picture of a man walking past destroyed buildings in Sirte, hit by rebel shell fire and our bombs. In fact, most of Sirte looks even worse than this picture. So tell me again how we didn't kill any civilians. Reuters has also been shy about the large numbers tied up and then executed by rebels, and the continuing slaughter of black Africans by the rebels.

Donald Savoie's column is an interesting read. I have never seen boots licked so thoroughly. Professor Savoie's tongue must be almost raw. He praises Irvings for winning a ship-building contract on merit.

I will certainly agree is it a rare thing to see the Irvings win something on merit.. However, Savoie might have mentioned that the reason Irving shipyards are so well-equipped is because of a suspiciously high profit on a previous naval contract.

Then, Savoie almost wets his pants as he heaps praise on K.C.Irving. You remember K.C. He's the patriot who lived half the year in Bermuda so he wouldn't have to pay taxes to the country and the province that made him rich.

Savoie writes it would have been easier for K.C. to go to Ontario and get rich. No, it wouldn't.  I doubt very much that a  province as big as Ontario would have given him most of the province's forests, cheap, cheap electricity, lavish contracts. It was the people of New Brunswick who made K.C. rich - not the other way around.

Then Savoie switches topics to talk about the wonders of our economic system - even as we can see it collapsing all over the world, even as we see it destroying the middle class, increasing poverty, and making only the very rich even richer.

Lord, I would hate to sit through one of that man's lectures. I can tolerate differences of opinon. But I really cannot stand bootlickers.

And now, a change of pace.....

Conservative, liberal, culture, left, right - these are words tossed around by news media whose readers don't know what they mean. Most people think that they do - but they don't. Anyway, most news media people don't know what they mean either. The result is that if you say conservative to a Conservative, your listener probably pictures someone who is responsible with money or respectful of traditional values or wise in government - or a whole bunch of other things.

If your listerner is a Liberal, He/she will picture someone hard-hearted, backwards in social values, and probably corrupt. There are so many variations to this that you can talk to fifty people and discover 50 images of what a liberal or a conservative is.  (I have a jounalist friend who votes Conservative - and who insists that Hitler was a liberal, and Obama is a socialist.)

So what is a Liberal -really? It means someone who places a high value on individual rights and freedom. That means a Liberal, a real one, would prefer small government or even none at all. That's because a liberal doesn't want laws or responsibilities that interfere with his freedom. Timothy McVeigh, the man some years ago who blew up an Olahoma government building with a day care centre in it was a Liberal. He blew up the building because he was liberal - and he didn't want government of any sort.

A conservative believes that we are all linked together so that there must be a strong government to ensure that we work together.  In that sense, Stalin was the conservative ruler of the USSR.

The reality is that nobody but a maniac dictator can be a pure conservative. Nobody, except for some hermit living alone in the jungle can be a pure liberal.  Almost all of us want as much freedom as possible -  that's liberal. Almost all of us realize that no society can survive without with cooperation and some form of government. The result is that we are almost all of us a blend of liberal and conservative. (The Liberal and Conservative parties are neither Liberal nor Conservative. They are there simply to make sure the rich are happy.)

The words left and right are used in the same loose way. Originally, the words referred to the French revolution when one party sat to the right of the legislature's speaker, and the other sat to the left. Today, the words have no meaning at all. Journalists covering Russia refer to those who remain loyal to communism as "right-wingers."  But in the US, it generally means those who owe their loyalty to capitalism.

Obama is routinely called a left winger.- though I can see no difference between his policies and those of "right wing" Bush.  The Canadian Prime minister who proposed the most "left wing" platform in Canada (1935)  was "right wing' Conservative RB.Bennett. The prime minister who slowed it down as much as possible was "left wing" Liberal, Mackenzie King.

Oh - and John A. Macdonald was NEVER a conservative. He called himself and his party Liberal-Conservative. John A. knew what words meant.

As for culture, there jes' ain't no such thing.

Culture is the sum total of all the  uncountable ways we react to the world around us. The first layer of our culture, we get from our parents - their values, their interests.  Then we get the layer of culture of our neighbourhood. My neighbourhood was very poor. Most of us spoke French; some of us spoke English; some Italian or Syrian or Polish or Yiddish. But we shared at least one element of culture. We all hated rich snobs. I still do.

When I finally met rich, English people, we all spoke the same language - English. But to say we all had the same culture was absurd. They had values and attitudes I didn't have in my culture - and never shall. 

Later I would meet Jacques Parizeau, leader of the fight to preserve the French "culture" in Quebec. I soon learned he was far cloer in his outlook to the rich English than to any of the poor French I had grown up among. That's why the French of Quebec switched their votes to the NDP. It dawned on them that language, while important, is not a whole culture all by itself.

Indeed, in the 50 year struggle to preserve the Quebecois "culture", nobody has been able to define it  despite thousands of studies and conferences.

If we look seriously at culture, we find we have many things, more things, in common than we have that make us different from others. I well remember the day I was bicycling in a stretch of countryside in  China. It was a beautiful summer day. I saw a group of Chinese sitting by a pond and fishing.

And I thought, "Gee. That's what we do in our culture on a nice day."
When one offered me a pole, I joined them. At noon hour, they took out food, and offered me some. And I thought, Wow! We eat at lunch in my culture, too."
At the end, I had caught no fish at all; and I thought, "This is exactly like my culture."

We are all in some way like others in our layers and layers of culture - and in some ways quite different. To make it more confusing, cultures change constantly as the world changes. None of us live with exactly the same values, attitudes - or even language - as our ancestors. Even as Quebecois rallied to protect the language part of their culture, they abandoned another central feature of their culture - the church.

Our news media are full of words that mean different things to different people so that in the end, they have no real meaning at all. But they're dangerous because news media can - and do - use those words to arouse hatreds and misunderstandings, and to obscure the truth.

Beware of people who use words like liberal, conservative,left, right or culture. At best, they mean nothing. At worst,which is more often,  they are there to encourage suspicion, fear and hatred.

Oh, why are NB conservative called Progressive Conservatives? Does it mean they are, perhaps, more modern and up to date than other   Conservatives?  I remember a Senator once telling me that he was a Conservative - but he added with pride - that he was a PROGRESSIVE Conservative.

But, no - the name has nothing to do with being progressive. But that's a story for another day.

1 comment:

  1. Great comments on the diligent bootlicking! What's a paper for it you can't have the hired help give you a hearty round of applause from time to time?