Saturday, March 3, 2012

March 4: Racism revisited

Stephen Harper says that Iran is the biggest threat to world peace, and the one he most worries about. Stephen Harper is playing a game with our heads. It's an old game; but it still works.

We humans naturally distrust people who don't look like us or who don't talk like us.  Political leaders have known that for thousands of years. And it almost always works. Until very recently, this distrust often took the form of racism. If you said the word Black, the minds of white listeners automatically drew a picture of a person who was mentally and socially inferior. That was true even in New Brunswick until quite recently  (and probably still holds true for more than a few people.)

To be a racist was quite respectable and Christian. A century ago and less, the most respectable and learned Canadians complained loud and long about inferior peoples who were coming to Canada and inflicting their debased cultures on us. You know, people like Italians and Slavs and Chinese and Japanese and Jews. Oh, yes, the Canada of the 1930s and even later was not so different from Nazi Germany as we like to think. A quite saintly and intelligent reverend, J.S.Woodsworth, wrote Strangers Within Our Gates, warning us not do let the lesser breeds in. He included Jews among the unsuitable types.

Racism is out of fashion. But those very human instincts live on in new form.

Say Moslem. What will many, perhaps most, Canadians see? A bearded terrorist.

Mexican cop? Somebody fat, lazy and corrupt.

Canadian mountie? Honest and upright.

When my students in China heard I was Canadian, they had a vision of me tramping the woods on my showshoes, fending off wolves with my axe. (I regret to say I rather encouraged these images.)

We just naturally divide people up by nationality or religion or language - and then imagine the national or religious or linguistic type. French? Hah! English? Hah right back at you! British, American? Good. Iranian evil. Moslems kill 3000 innocent Americans? Terribly, terribly evil. Americans kill a quarter million innocent Guatemalans? What? Are you anti-American?

It's the new racism, a form of racism nurtured by our politicians and our news media. I expect that Iranians and Afghanis feel pretty much the same way about us, and all those evil ideas coming out from the great darkness of Christianity.  That's the trouble with us people. We're all scared of people different from us, and we all convert that fear into a sort of racism. (It's crazy, isn't it? We're all scared of people diffeernt from us. And we all have a tendency to imagines stereotypes. In other words, in a very fundamental way, all us human who fear or look down on those who are different are exactly the same in this behaviour.)

So Harper says he's real worried about them there Iranis. If we were thinking straight that would be laughable.

Iran hasn't invaded anybody in well over a century. However, it was invaded after World War 1 by Britain and Russia who split the oil fields between them, supported a puppet king, and robbed the country blind. (For  thirty years, Iran had to supply oil free of charge for the whole British navy.)

In 1951, Iran finally had a democratic election, and the premier decided to nationalize the oil fields and actually charge the British a fair price for the oil. So the British gave a call to the US. The US helped out with special ops forces, propaganda, overthrew the government, and installed a brutal dictator for next 25 years. In return, American oil companies got 35% of the Iranian oil fields. That is what drove Iranians to the only institution in their own country that was still theirs, the mosque.

At last, there was an Iranian revolution. the Shah was deposed; and that's how we got the present situation with a government heavily influenced by religious leadership. (The same, incidentally, is true of Israel - though that's not the image you get in our press.)

Then, in 1980, everybody - the US, Britain, Russia, China, everybody got behind a ruthless dictator who wanted that Iranian oil. They supplied him with chemical weapons and conventional ones. The dictator fought a war brutal even by modern standards. But he lost, to the dismay of his friends - the US, Britain, Russia, China, et al. The dictator's name was Saddam Hussein.

The world is dominated by countries of enormous wealth and population and power. The US has something well over a thousand nuclear weapons. Israel has hundreds. Ditto for China and Russia. Iran has armed forces respectable enough for its size; but scarcely world class. It might be developing one nuclear bomb - though even American intelligence experts are not convinced of that.

But, yep. This is fersure the biggest threat to world peace. Harper can get away with that absurdity only because when he says Iranian, what our minds have been conditioned to see is a religious and murderous fanatic. We're being set up for a war - just like we were set up for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why? One important reason is that the American and British oil industries are desparate to keep Iranian oil away from China.There are also, for Harper, some pretty cheap political reasons. But the bottom line is oil and money.

And the method is the new racism peddled by our politicians and our journalists. For a sample of the method, read almost any foreign news story in The Moncton Times and Transcript.


  1. (This comment will be redundant only if my previous comment has not become an orphan in cyberspace)

    Your post is a quick, concise, neatly digestible rundown of 20th century Iranian history in accessible bite-sizes!

    It should be out there for everyone to understand! Yes, this info is available on the net, but not in such an easy to understand manner for the contemporary citizen.

    Yours is not an overly long and complex road to getting to the point: we are the fascist aggressors here in the west. Yes Dorothy, Kansas is about to go bye-bye and we are the bad guys!

    What else can I say about Harper? Harper is simply a fascist who conveniently ignores historical facts.

    He is a danger to Canada and the world. He is certainly a grave danger to the women and children he has in his bomb sights in Iran.

  2. Thanks to you, Graeme and to you, John for clarity and for the courage to tell the truth.