Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 19: What to say.....

I have spent two hours going through this wretched newspaper.It's like watching an infant drooling as he  (boys drool longer)  goes through the slow process of mastering the skills of getting the food from bowl to spoon, from spoon to lips, from lips to mouth, and mouth to stomach and ---and we won't even think of the rest.

The drooling, at first sight, might give rise to an expression of joy at what seems to be cuteness. But that soon turns to shouts of dismay. And then quickly loses its charm entirely as a topic of conversation. So it is with Alan Cochrane's "commentary" which is really about stuff under his gallery.

Norbert is doing his standard drool. (The boss must be a fan of it.) It's his drool in favour of privatization, this time of the CBC which he accuses of being liberal. (I have no idea what he means by the word 'liberal'; and I'd be willing to lay a bet that Norbert  hasn't a clue, either.)

You can also bet that Norbert would never dare to write a column favouring public ownership of any private radio station. His boss wouldn't like that. So he hever comments on the half-wits who pretend to be news analysts on private radio, the quarter-wits who host phone-ins, or the music hosts (usually geriatric adolescents) who shout, "Hi, gang. hang out here at radio WOWGEE where WE have the music YOU want to hear."

So let's skip the usual condemnation with occasional praise for today.  Maybe there are a couple of things in here we should ask about - or think about.

Section A gives the usual, annual reports of grad night. From the time I moved to NB, I was struck by the prominence of this in the local press. That's not a criticism, just an observation. What also struck me about it was air of danger that hung around it - the warnings about playing safe, the notices of teachers who will be up all night to deal with emergencies, the stories of mass drinking bouts on isolated beaches, and the occasional use of knives.

In all my years of teaching, I had never heard of such concerns. When I taught high school, I ran the grad dances. Other teachers attended - to mix with the students, to say goodbye - but not to guard against harm. And the idea of violence at or after a grad dance never occured to us.

Is this relatively new in New Brunswick? And, new or old, why is this happening?

Then there's all the coverage of Harper and what he's saying at Rio. We should be concerned about that - not because anybody gives a damn what Harper says at any international gathering but because nobody gives a damn.

Our intenational reputation has hit an all time low. We have the worst record in the developed world on dealing with global warming  We've close to the worst on environmental protection. Our promises, even signed pledges, on such matters are worthless. We were denied a seat on the UN security council. Ten years ago, we would have been every nation's first choice for a seat. Canada has crashed from the pinnacle of respect it once held. (It's not entirely Harper's fault - though he has made it even worse.) We are now not only beneath contempt in most of the world but, worse, without influence of any sort, even among friendly nations.

We might give some time to thinking how this has happened.

Then, most serious of all is Alec Bruce's column about the failure of New Brunswickers to give any thought to the future of this province. We just dum-de-dum along while a world collapses around us. We maintain low corporation taxes and lax regulations on the theory this attracts business. In fact, there is little evidence it does so - it certainly does not attract in anything like the proportion that it costs. And it's not just the politicians who are to blame.

I was astonished in the last provincial election that neither the Liberals nor the Conservtives had anything that could be called a platorm. It was all just dum-de-dum. The recent municipal election was even worse with few of the candidates (and almost none of the voters) having any idea of what any issues were. We'll borrow a hundred million to build a skating rink and, oh yeah, a civic centre and that will restore main street. dum-de-dum. We'll build a new high school out in the urban boondocks at a very high price for land and services. Dum-de-Dum.

There is election after election with virtually no debate, no public discussion.......dum-de-dum

And so we end up with premiers and MLAs and Mayors and councillors who couldn't find their own belly-buttons using both hands. Oh, it happens in other places, too. But nowhere as thoroughly as in New Brunswick.  What this province needs is more synagogues. Quite seriously.

The synagogue is a place that creates an atmosphere of respect, even of demand, for questioning, discussion, not just of religious matters but of worldly matters. The tradition was already an old one when the boy Jesus debated with the elders in the synagogue.

The result of that respect for discussion and debate has been adult Jews who remain intellecutally active,  for whom the common social experience is the book club, the arts group, the current events group, the history group, the writing group. Usually the groups are large, sometimes in the hundreds.

Through most of my working life, I would be invited to speak to some 60 groups, all sorts of them, every year. Of that, a good 50 would be Jewish groups, often meeting in synagogues. Five or six would be secular - lawyers' conventions, tourists.... Christian churches? Christian groups? Pretty rare.

I was also a group worker and camp director for the YMCA and for the YMHA. The Young Men's Christian Association made no demands. As long as the kids got home with no visible scars, the camp season was a success. The Young Men's Hebrew Association was quite different. The campers were going on a trip to New York? Okay. They had to see the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and a good off-broadway play.

The synagogue has had a major, intellectual impact on many North American cities. The Chrstian churches have not. (Nor have the universities done much to take up  the slack.)

The questions posed by Alec Bruce's column deserve a good deal of thought. And they suggest a need for changed attitudes.  Soon.

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