Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Feb. 15: What can I say?

Notice has been given that the usual suspects will be revving up their shale gas exploration again - though the province still seems to have no rules - and certainly has not paid the slightest attention to public concerns about it.  Publicly expensive and half-a-century-behind-the-times housing developments are going ahead, still with almost no public information on what this is all about or what it has to do with any kind of city planning.

We have just signed trade agreements with a country whose labour practices are extraordinarily abusive. We are on the edge of wars with Syria and Iran, wars whose consequences are unforeseeable.

Canada is about to approve of uncontrolled police spying on the privacy of Canadians - with no supervision. The US is withdrawing regular troops from Afghanistan - but is increasing its presence in assassination squads. We are entering a new age of war, one fought with drones controlled by computers that freely bomb countries we're not at war with. And which spy on whomever they please. (But I'm sure they wouldn't do it ot us. Would they?) The US assassination squads (called special ops) now number some 10,000 in the field. Some estimates place them in 70 countries, busily disposing of people the American government disapproves of. They were active in Libya, almost certainly in Syria, and in Central and South America, in Pakistan anywhere, there is a country in which American business is interested and in which the local government is not cooperating..

With the American powers of imprisonment without charge along with the Canadian powers to spy on anybody it pleases the police to spy on; the way is open to deal with terrorists, spies, environmentalists, shale gas protestors, critics of people with names like Irving.... It's a world of change.

Who, only a generation ago, would have believed that the US would be operating torture camps all over the world, giving the army the right to imprison and torture American citizens with no charge or trial, and giving the president power to murder people of any country and in any country. Who would have believed a Canadian government would give police the right to spy on all Canadians and to gather information about them to be used any way it likes?

George Orwell's world of 1984 is well and truly here.

The editorial in today's Moncton Times and Transcript is about a dog bylaw in neighbouring Dieppe. I don't think I have ever seen a daily "metro" newspaper whose editorial was about dog licences. The opposite page, the co-called op ed, carries two commentaries.

One is about how sad it is when a pet dog dies. The other wishes us happy surprises for the week.

Go the the TandT for the insights YOU need to understand the world.

Norbert Cunningham makes a valiant attempt to talk about something serious. Alas! He has no idea what he's talking about, and doesn't even know the meanings of words like left, right, socialism, communism, communism. (Which, perhaps, should not suprise since he also seems to think that capitalism means a nanny state for billionaires.)

For example, the terms left and right refer to seating arrangements in the assemblies that followed the French Revolution. That's all they refer to. Now, look at Norbert's column to see what he thinks they mean.

"left-leaners" (are these different from just left?) "demonize Harper", are "hypocrites" make arguments that are "lame", are immature, stupid, scaredy-cat and "have a let's hide under the bed approach to the world." He shows his contempt for " left-leaners" by hinting they listen to the CBC, instead of the jock-rock on private radio. (How very different the leftists are from the editorial writer who isn't afraid to speak out on the subject of dog licenses.)

In short, Norbert uses the word left to mean people he doesn't agree with. And the difference between them and him seem to be genetic - they are stupid, immature, scared, unlike people of his genes who are born intelligent, mature, fearless.... It's a sort of racial superiority theory.

In fairness, most people are like that.Most of us use left and right in a largely emotional way. If we think we're on the right, then right means intelligent. If we think we're on the left, then left means intelligent.

In the US, passions boil over about right wing Bush and left wing Obama. In fact, both have followed almost indentical policies.

He shows the same ignorance of words when he refers to China as Socialist/Communist. First, there is no such thing as socialist/communist. You are one or the other. Secondly, China is neither socialist nor communist. Hasn't Norbert been reading the news for the last twenty years? China is capitalist. It is, if anything, more capitalist than the US is. One of my former students, a Chinese from Hong Kong, came to visit me in Montreal about five years ago to show me how well he had done. He was staying in a suite at the city's most expensive hotel, and was chauffered in a Rolls-Royce. He is a multi-billionaire with holdings all over China.

And I can assure Norbert he is neither socialist nor communist.

As to the idea that opening up China to trade is an idea of what Norbert calls the right - that is pure baloon juice. It was, for many years, what Norbert calls the "right" in the US and Canada that opposed trade with China.

More years ago than I care to remember, I was a fresh-faced History prof being treated to a an expensive meal in an exclusive club. My host was a retired reporter named Gerald Clark who was interviewing me about a book he was writing.

Gerald Clark will probably be a strange name to Norbert - but he was the first Canadian reporter to be based in China, at a time when "right wing" newspapers in North American  - meaning all of them - did not send reporters, and when China did not welcome them.

In the course of the meal, Clark told be about why he had been accepted by Mao. It was because of Two-Gun Cohen, a British/Canadian cowboy and gambler who was hired by revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen as bodyguard. By the 1920s, he was a general of a Chinese army, then was captured by the Japanese. Released about 1943, he drifted to Montreal where he married Clark's sister.

Though neither Sun Yat-sen nor Cohen was a communist, the Chinese communists admired them for their revolutionary work - and so Clark was accepted as a sort of favour to his brother-in-law.

And, as we discussed over our meal, it was what Norbert would call the left that led the way in restoring relations with China. Britain, under the Labour Party, was one of the first to recognize China. Canada made its first moves under the Liberals who (under Norbert's bizarre interpretations) are probably leftists.

The quality of Norbert's insight is summed up in his "The last word" in which he quotes somebody as saying "we are moving toward a global economy."

What a flash!

Over 400 years ago, native peoples of the Montreal region were exporting ginseng to China. Even earlier, native peoples in California were using wampum made from shells that had originated on the coast of New Brunswick.  Europe was doing business with North America, South America, and Asia. Where do youo think Columbus got the idea he would find spices in Asia? A thousand years ago, Vikings operated a trade in white falcons and exotic pets with the Inuit of the Canadian arctic. Two thousand years ago, Romans were operating businesses in England. And the world had been globalizing long before that.

So here we have a column which depends heavily on five words - left, right, socialist, communist, and globalization.

And the writer doesn't know the meaning of any of them.

The only thing in the whole paper worth a read is Alec Bruce's column. (I don't fully agree with it. But, as always, he knows what he's talking about.)  For the rest, read the paper only if you really care about dog licencses or if you really, desperately want somwone to wish you a happy week.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Graeme, First of all, I like your style and admire your guts for speaking out the way you do and on the subjects you do. Secondly, you're right about so much (unfortunately) ...from the non-nonsensical fluffy articles in the newspapers (which is the main reason I no longer subscribe) to our typical inane concerns, and distractions in our overall culture as a whole.

    You'd think in the 'enlightened' era of 2012 with our vast telecommunications technologies it could aid us evolve past our immature state of greed, and power grabbing but it appears that the opposite is true instead. Our newer, improved technologies are only enabling us to fight even dirtier...

    Your use of Orwell's '1984' prediction is on the money, and it's one thing to read about it in the comfortable confines of a novel, yet the reality of what is taking place today seems even more insidious in some ways because it's akin to how another American writer George Bageant (recently deceased last year) spoke of what we do to we blind and bias ourselves with group-think to the truth...which is exactly what you are saying... What's truly bizarre, is how we can see we are in the early days of heading to such a dictatorial state as envisioned by Orwell.

    Further ironic is how the so-called 'patriots' of the extreme right-wing are in reality enabling a clawing back of our constitutional civic rights...and yet many of the voters seem to miss this point with every new alarmist threat the right wing media issues...This is where we need education. We need to educate the mass voters in how to discern the difference. ...but it appears no one knows how to...otherwise we wouldn't be where we are...

    keep posting your thoughts and ideas. In today's world we need them more than ever....and I'll keep reading