Monday, February 6, 2012

Feb.6:The man who toldl me he never read a newspaper was....

....Pierre Trudeau. I thought he was just being flippant. But friends of his confirmed it. Oh, he might have glanced over a paper occasionally to see how it was presenting news, and for getting headline information on major events. But he didn't read them to get details or to understand the news. He didn't need to. Neither do you.

Remember when the US invaded Iraq? Remember how the papers told us it was all because of weapons of mass destruction? Remember how we were also told that Saddam was a bad man who tortured people? Remember how we saw him put on trial for killing civilians?

All we needed to know was that the US had invaded Iraq. Common sense should have told us the rest. What newspapers did was not so much to report the news as to get us lost in a welter of propaganda.

The WMDs never existed. In fact, I doubt whether there is anyone who can say exactly what a WMD is. Saddam tortured people? So does the US - and on a worldwide scale.

The US said Saddam was a bad man for killing civilians? The same US that killed millions of them in South Vietnam, Guatemala, Iraq...?  The same US that recently tried a marine sergeant for leading his men in the deliberate killing of civilians, including children, in Iraq? The same US that charged him only with disorderly conduct, then let him off without a day in prison? The same US that backed Saddam for years amd supplied him with weapons?

Common sense tells us that the war with Iraq was about oil. What the news media do is to smother our common sense in bigotry, self-righteousness, and a phantasy version of what people are like.

We are, by definition, good. Those who are different from us are, by definition, bad. (unless they are on our side.) Just a few days, we read in the TandT of Stephen Harper playing this game.

The government of Iran is bad, he said, because of it's philosophy - which he then defined as fundamentalist and Moslem. We just soak that stuff up. Of course. Iranians look different from us; the men need a shave; we're Christians - mostly - sort of. Yup. them Iranians is evil. No doubt about it.

Meanwhile, the Saudis and the Emirates are not evil. Well, they are Moslems, yes. They have shaving problems. The women wear veils. (and women in Saudi Arabia can be caned for driving a car). They're pretty fundamentalist. But they aren't evil.

No. They're on our side.So it's okay.  In fact, Saudi Arabia and the emirates are calling for democracy in Syria. So we don't even notice that they are all absolute dictatorships. Nor do we notice that they, like Syria, used troops against their own people to quash demands for democracy.

What happens with newspapers is we forget that all people are much alike. You think that Hitler was evil because he hated Jews? You might check the Canadian and American record on that, not just in the 1930s, but even later. You might find out how Canadian and American business leaders thought Hitler had the right idea, and how a Canadian prime minister thought him inspirational.

We are all people. We are not evil people and saintly people. Just people. We do things for people reasons, all of us. There is greed and brutality in all of us. Sometimes, if we are lucky, there is goodness in all of us.

That's what most religions are all about. Too bad most churches don't realize that. Forgiveness and loving one's neighbour are not simply pious dictates. They are common sense. To forgive is simply to remember that we are dealing with people - who have all the good and bad in them that we have. To love one's neighbour is simply to remember that we should use that forgiveness in a loving way.

(I'm not trying to preach. I'm saying that much religious teaching - of all major religions - is essentially the same, and is common sense.)

Unfortunately, few churches seem to understand that. Last  year, I remember seeing a Moncton church displaying a big sign asking people to pray for OUR soldiers in Afghanistan. More recently, television showed a religious group campaigning for a Republican leadership candidate, a genuine and typical circle of pious hypcrites asking God to give them victory in Afghanistan. Yea, God!

To understand current events, we have to remember two things. WE are not good. THEY are not bad. But we'll never learn that by reading the news.

And before we blame religion, we should remember the missionary who wanted to work among native peoples in Canada's West during the early days of white settlement. He asked the local chief if he could bring to message of Jesus to make his people good and law-abiding. The chief mulled it over.

"Well," he said, "we're having lots of trouble with white people here. They steal our land and our food. They get drunk. They rape our women. Tell you what. You preach to the white people around here. And, if it works, we'll give it a try."

There are just a couple of things in today's Moncton Times and Transcript that I really must mention.

1. P. C1 has a story headlined "Defence Dept.battles pricey contractors".
What appears to be happening is that defence contractors are ripping us off on the world they. There's nothing surprising in that. They always have. The US is notorious for corruption in defence contracts. We're simply catching up to it. But - that's not quite what the story is about.

The Defence Dept. is not battling anybody. In fact, the Defence Dept. has been letting them get away with it - just like in the US.  The whistle blower is not the Defence Dept. The whistle blower is a union of employees of the Defence Dept.

The headline gives a false idea of what the story is about. Headlines are usually written by editors.
Two possibilities. 1. The editor is deliberately lying. 2. The editor is hopelessly incompetent.

2. Page one has a superb, well-written and important story "Ashley Smith was destroyed by prison system: mother". It is the story of a prison system, a government, and a society which commited as great an evil as I can imagine. It is the story of terrible hurts that can never be healed.

And it happened in a country so full of self-righteous bigots and opportunist politicians that it has just passed legislation to make the prison system even more destructive.

Read this story. It's on page 1.