Friday, May 10, 2013

May 10: Let's start with booze....and then see why New Brunswickers are passive....

There's a popular belief in Canada and the US that heavy drinking of alcohol actually began with the passage of prohibition. Not true.

Canadians and Americans were heavy drinkers up to 1840. Then they turned against it. By the 1870s, no respectable person would admit to even thinking of tasting alcohol. The change came as liquor sales rose from about 1900. But that was almost twenty years BEFORE prohibition in most of North America. So what happened in the years leading up to 1900?

Industrialization happened. Cities happened. In 1901, Ontario became the first province in Canada to have a majority of its people living in cities. But why would living in a city encourage a person to drink?

Because in a city, nobody knew who you were. Even people who worked with you usually saw nothing of you after working hours. You were anonymous in a great mass of strangers. You could do whatever you wanted to do . And that was very different from country life.

In a rural area, everybody knew all about you. And gossipped. To be different in any way from everybody else was a terrible thing, indeed. Even to be too smart was wrong because it made others uncomfortable with you. Schoolteachers who wished to court a member of the opposite sex often needed schoolboard approval first. And the whole process of courtship would be watched, and reported on. If a grocery store clerk was rumoured to have an occasional glass of rum, the employer would soon know about it - and the clerk would be jobless.

That infection is still with us. That's why New Brunswick has a riding that has voted Liberal for a century. Indeed, New Brunswick has been ploddingly Liberal and Conservative for as long as it has been a province. There is no other province (except PEI) which has shown such constipated political thinking.

Even as New Brunswick urbanized, the process was far behind most of Canada, and the cities were so small that anonymity remained elusive. This was reinforced by employers who maintained an old tradition of firing people whose political opinions were not bland, uninformed and mainstream. In New Brunswick - even in the cities - it is not respectable to be different.

That's why we have two political parties that are mirror-images of each other. That's why we tolerate such a trivial paper as the TandT. That's why this whole province is so easily manipulated by Irving and friends.

It's not respectable to be different.
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Front page news - "Royal Oaks sees big changes". Yes, and as the story says, this housing development project has really taken off since since the decision was taken to move Moncton High from downtown to this remote location. What a coincidence!

I mean, you have the provincial government taking it on itself to insist on where the new school would be. That is unusual. And then you have the city of Moncton being quite happy with this intrusion into its powers (and it's city plan, if it  has one.)

Is it possible that the developers visited the provincial government and city hall with a bag of money? We'll never know. Because its not respectable to talk about sleaze.

And this will reduce the cost of bussing students? So how come we've never been shown evidence of that? And can anybody seriously believe it will be economic or even possible to bus students to school twenty years from now? Or even less? Much less?

Building a community in 2013 based on the world of 1950 doesn't strke me a a sensational idea.

And Royal Oaks residents can get to downtown Moncton in minutes? Yes. In a 1950s world of cars and cheap gas. But that is rapidly passing. In a very short time, Royal Oaks will be as bleak and as isolated as most of Riverview will be. And it is also likely that the day of the large  high school will  have passed, another victim to the cost of transportation.

Would it be possible to get a look at all these much-praised city plans to see how they are prepared for a world even ten years from now?
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The other big item on the front page is "Tories unveil gas development blueprint". The article mentions that the blueprint makes reference to concerns expressed by the province's chief medical officer. But referencing is all it does. In short, they have entirely ignored her advice.

Good thing we can trust Irving and friends to really, really care about our health.

What is really going on is a desperate attempt to sell all the energy fuels we can before the roof falls in. Two things are very close to happening.

1. The whole world is close to realizing that our dependence on fossil fuels cannot continue without triggering a climate disaster. (There's a reason why Harper has muzzled government scientists.) Climate change is happening;  we are close to the point at which it will be irreversible; and, among other things, that will kill the market for these fuels.
2. These fuels have long since priced themselves out of the market. What you see at the pumps is bad enough - and it's going to get far, far worse very, very soon. But even the price at the pumps is only a hint of the real cost.

We are now in more wars than most people realize. They are expensive wars - a trillion for Iraq, f or example. Then there's Libya and Syria and Somalia and Yemen and Pakistan with Iran to come. And, indeed, the whole of Africa. With China, India and Russia not beyond possibility. Oh, and expect them all over South America as well.

These wars have nothing to do with Islam or terrorism or bad men or weapons of mass destruction or bringing democracy. They are about destroying whole societies - as Syria is being destroyed and as Libya was. They are about deliberately spreading death, destruction, starvation, chaos to give the business pirates of the US, Britain, France and, yes, Canada free access to plunder resources.

Those wars are also part of the cost of our reliance on fossil fuels. But we don't see that cost on the fuel pump. We see it in our tax bills. Gas already costs more, much more than we think it does. We pay heavily for it in taxes and in lost services.

Why the big push by Harper and the boys to sell the stuff? Because we have, maybe, twenty years more to sell this stuff  - so you can make 50,000 a year and somebody else can make billions.

There'll be a terrible price in human life? Who gives a damn. We've killed hundreds of millions in Africa to steal what we want. Hundreds of millions more dying of chaos, starvation, disease, slavery, and cluster bombs is no big deal.

What we are watching is a collapsing western empire which is controlled by people devoted to greed and self-interest. They rely now entirely on military power to provide the loot they want. In the process, they will destroy us as thoroughly as they have destroyed the people of Africa. They appeal for our support in the name of bigotry, racism, and hysteria. That's what the "war on terror" really is.
However, you are free to go sit in the Irving chapel and ponder on it.
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editorial page?
Good one by Alec Bruce. Norbert is off on a rant that slanders everybody who doesn't agree with him. I don't it's deliberate. I think it's just ignorance.

op ed?

As always, Malloy's common sense is a pleasure.

I liked Gwynne Dyer because his topic and  his take are in accord with what I wrote above. I like people who agree with me.
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There is a dynamite letter to the editor "Librarians make the case for more funding".

New Brunswickers are illiterate? It's not suprising. The government of this province cares so little for libraries that it spends less person on them than any province in Canada. In the schools, the spending  is only 20% of the minimum national standard. The government doesn't give a damn about education. It doesn't give a damn about literacy (check the public libraries budget). And it doesn't matter whether the Liberals or the Conservatives are in power.

And it doesn't seem to matter a damn to the people of New Brunswick. It doesn't matter a damn because it wouldn't be respectable to complain - and because it's both easy and respectable to blame the teachers.

And, of course, to give two and a half million for literacy to a rich man who publishes newspapers designed to cater to illiteracy is, well, it's respectable.
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8 comments:

  1. You are BANG ON Graeme.

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  2. Well Graeme, expect a backlash from a mob of crazed bigots. I quoted your quite memorable comments on racism, bigotry and the "war on terror" to a frenzied mob debating how best to pursue their "war on terror" through further terror to "root out Islam" in a Yahoo Canada exchange, one of numerous on the latest terror plot theme.

    The exchange went as follows:

    Dave de la Rond

    "In the old days the entire PQ CABINET would arrested and sent to prison on sedition charges. Since 1970 when the PQ first got in ,they have had a plan to get rid of all the ANGLO'S in QUEBEC.1 million have left, they have replaced them with 500 thousand FRENCH speaking MUSLIMS, Look what they have done to this once proud Province."

    Rene

    "So what bothers you more, the fact that they are French speaking or the fact that they are Muslim."

    "Let's consider the opinion of one distinguished Anglo Quebecer, former Alliance Quebec leader and Professor of History at Concordia, Graeme Decarie, who comments from his blog The Moncton Times@Transcript:"

    'We are now in more wars than most people realize. .... South America as well.'

    'These wars have nothing to do with Islam or terrorism or bad men or weapons of mass destruction or bringing democracy..... Canada free access to plunder resources.' ....

    'What we are watching is a collapsing western empire which is controlled by people devoted to greed and self-interest.... in the name of bigotry, racism, and hysteria. That's what the "war on terror" really is.'

    I edited the above for space considerations here, but your comments were quoted in full, as I felt the above ignoramus should be challenged for stupidity, hate-mongering and bigotry claimed in the name of the anglophone minority in Quebec. Granted many of the above participants in such hate fests may be unsalvageable as decent human beings, but there may be some sane observers who would welcome your contributions.

    best regards,

    Rene

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  3. sounds like a challenge. Okay.
    I grew up in a Quebec that was riddled with hatreds. in grade four, my teacher told us that the English were rich because they had better business brains than the French.
    1. She told us that - us kids who were English, living in one of the poorest districts in Canada. I remember thinking, if we're so damn smart, how come we live with all those dumb French people?
    2. French kids were told in school that they were poor because the English took all their money. Though we were one of the poorest families on the block, the French kids used to call us "les riches anglaises".
    3, Both French and English learned in school, in church, and at home to despise African Canadians,Italians and Jews.
    3. The Protestant School board of Montreal would not hire an African Canadian until 1960 or so - and then only under great pressure. Jewish women could get teaching jobs, but only because women were cheap.
    4. The Catholic boards would not hire Jews or even admit them as students. Ditto with Blacks. If that's changed, it's been recent.
    5. The wealthy French encouraged the working class French to believe we English were keeping them down. It took the blame away from them. In fact, it was the wealthy French who kept the French public schools cheap and nearly worthless while they sent their own children (a la Trudeau) to expensive, private schools.
    6. The wealthy English posed as protectors of the English because it enhanced their own power in the province.
    7. The reality is that both English and French were heavily working class and poor - with the English proportion of the poor actually higher than the French proportion, at the English more heavily concentrated at the bottom of the ladder.

    All of this lasted well into the 1960s and beyond. We were all taught to hate.

    The separatist movement really didn't have that much to do with separation. It was a movement largely of the wealthy French to exploit the hatreds so they could edge the rich English out of their influence in government, and they, like Bombardier, could become the Irvings of Quebec.

    Both sides were packed with bigots. But there were more French than English, so they won.

    Levesque was a master manipulator (who kept it a secret he was born in NB - seriously). But he also led the way in needed social and economic reforms. Currently, the PQ is running simply on the exploitation of pure hate. It has long since run out of any social or economic policies.

    The Quebec anglos also have nothing to thank the rest of Canada for - and that includes the Liberal party as well as the Conservatives.

    All those hatreds led both sides down blind alleys. the danger for Quebec now is that it may lose any sense of direction at all. and then - who knows?

    In any case, it has already done more damage to the French langauge than is realized. The wealthy French don't give a damn about the language. They all get excellent English training in their private schools. And the big companies, like Bombardier, simply ignore the language laws. When the PQ tried to force Bombadier to use only French on the job, Bombardier told the PQ to take a hike. Quebec's market is English -and as long as the French working class concentrates on hating the English, the easier life is for the Bombardiers of this world.

    If Quebec were ever to separate, that would probably be the death blow to the French language.

    As to foreigners and foreign religions, Quebec hates them all. The English never loved foreigners or foreign religions, but accepted them because they used to bolster the English side.

    The lesson - lots of bigots and manipulators on all sides.Lots of using bigotry to forward secret agendas. And, in the end, nothing but losses for everybody - except the very wealthy French.

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  4. got the mechanics confused at this point. I can only hope the above response gets published.

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  5. I was not intending to challenge your perspectives, I was genuinely interested on your insights both into this period of history as well as more recent events, and hopefully such interest was not misplaced or misdirected.

    You do make many valid and penetrating observations on a wide range of issues, including sweeping historical observations, but I believe your judgement has been clouded by bitterness in drawing some sort of balance sheet on Quebec history, and relations between Quebec and English Canada over the past few decades.

    These were not the observations you made during the period you addressed both English Canada and Quebec on behalf of Alliance Quebec, deemed by many of your supporters as the "intellectual heavyweight" of this movement. Had you done so at the time, the Quebec organization would have been reduced to the small radical grouping in Montreal affiliated with the UK's Gerry Healy during the 1970s.

    While many Quebecers may not have agreed with the perspectives you advocated on behalf of Alliance Quebec, or at least some of the positions advocated by AQ, they respected your courage and your advocacy.

    I believe it's a gross oversimplification to claim there were no social or cultural issues to address in Quebec during the past few decades, other than that of class warfare this was simply diversion and manipulation by the Bombardiers and Peladeaus to become the new Irvings of Quebec. Nor do statements such as "As to foreigners and foreign religions, Quebec hates them all" serve much to further an understanding of Quebec in English Canada or to improve dialogue between Canada's two disparate cultures. Are we to understand that the NDP, which won the majority of federal seats in Quebec in the last election, represents such views on behalf of Quebec constituents?

    Even the Globe and Mail, not known for Quebec sympathies, does not formulate its criticism of Quebec in such manner, this is left to the readership in media discussions on the National Post, but such individuals are generally not advocating class warfare against the exploiting class, but rather civil war against the "parasites" in Quebec, the Muslim world, muslim immigrants and whoever else makes the weekly hate list.

    The last group I recall, outside of Quebec Maoists gathered around former felquiste Charles Gagnon, to pose political perspectives for Quebec around some type of unilateral class struggle perspective, ignoring any other social issue as a diversion from the real issue, was a small anglophone radical group, centered at McGill and Dawson College in the 1970s, affiliated with Gerry Healy's late unlamented Revolutionary Workers Party in the UK, lecturing Quebec radicals on their obsession with cultural issues and political sovereignty, deemed a diversion from the real struggle, as was any other struggle for broader democratic rights, for women's rights, for gay rights, deemed some "petit-bourgeois" diversion from the real issue.

    In my youth I embraced such ideals, over time you learn to moderate such impulses, but I find it somewhat ironic that today you are advocating a class struggle perspective against a social elite such as Trudeau with whom you socialized and presumably identified during your professional career. I for my part recall taking part in anti-Trudeau protests centered around policies such as the War Measures Act during the Trudeau's 1972 election rally in West Island of Montreal, exchanging blows both verbal and physical with Liberal Party bouncers and bagmen, as well as challenging Levesque on social policy issues at Universite Laval during his campaign tour in the 1980 referendum campaign.

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    Replies
    1. I said I liked Trudeau. I didn't say i agreed with him.

      I'm not advocating a class struggle perspective. I just saying it's there - and you cannot understand Quebec without understanding that.

      The English and Protestant )upper class of Quebec was heavily influenced by its Scots. Accordingly, they assured good schools for everyone. For many years, the poor couldn't really take advantage of all that offered, but after WW2 and the demand for higher education, the Protestants had a workable system. All they had to do was to expand it. That English Catholics followed suit. (They are all now merged into English boards.)

      The French and Catholic upper class sent its children to excellent private schools. Their only interest in the public schools was to keep them cheap - and they did.

      French Catholic public schooling did not lead to university. Normally, grade nine was the terminal grade. What teaching there was was heavily religious. Consquently, the French Catholic working class and lower middle class were trapped in the changing world after 1945. They didn't teach skills for even the simplest office jobs - and certainly not for technical work of any sort.

      They still, and quite deliberately, teach English very, very badly - and deliberately so. The private schools of the French upper class teach superb English.

      I'm not advocating that. I'm just saying that's what happened.

      I quite recognize that Maoist and Marxist and such groups had a heavy dose of crackpots among them. That doesn't mean that class differences don't exist.

      Similarly, those Liberals and Conservatives who deny class differences have their own share of crackpots.

      As to denying that there were social and cultural problems to address in Quebec - I never made any such denial. Of course, there were.
      (By the way, I, too, opposed the War Measures Act, and did so publicly. But Frank Scott, a man far, far wiser than I, and a man of political views usually similar to mine, supported the use of the act as the lesser of several evils.)

      As to other points,
      1. I was never the "intellectual heavyweight" of Alliance Quebec.
      2. I did speak during my time there of the class manipulation that had occured for over a cenutry in Quebec. In fact, I put together a slide show on it.
      3. As for bigotry running unusually deep on both sides in Quebec, I have no idea whether saying that is harmful of helpful. But it is the truth.
      4. I didn't identify with Trudeau. We were friendly. I found him a pleasant person to chat with. We seldom talked politics. I was NDP. He knew that.
      5. I'm not sure what the NDP in Quebec represents. I knew Mulcair for a time about fifteen years ago. He seemed a nice guy. But I am not enchanted with the party's move to the centre.
      6. As to bitterness? True enough. And I have some for both sides. It took fifteen years out of my life, and destroyed an old and well established community.

      As well, I realized early in the game that the English, themselves, were not eager to give that much support. When, about two years after I left, more militant elements took over, they simply ran in into the ground while posing self-righteously as being the only ones who did anything to help the English.

      One of them, whose name I cannot now remember, wrote a book about it called Bastards in which he and only he had ever stood up for the English. I am a featured bastard in it.

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  6. "as isolated as most of Riverview will be"???
    Surely you don't suggest that a 5 minute walk from Riverview over a bridge to Downtown is comparable to Royal Oaks or even the sprawl of North end and Magnetic Hill? The new Elementary school in Riverview is closer to Moncton than the Lower Coverdale school it replaces. Riverview is a bedroom community of Downtown Moncton, and will only get closer if the Hall Creek Bridge comes to fruition.

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  7. I wasn't defending the sprawl of Moncton (and Dieppe).

    Until the 1950s, private homes built to emulate the Victorian rich who had separate buildings and grounds of some sort (and horses and carriages to travel with) were built near railway station for efficient service to the city.

    But from the 1950s, the focus shifted to the automobile and, of course, the shopping centre. But that is an age which will soon end - even if shale gas fulfills all its promises with none of its dangers.

    The price of gas has risen rapidly, and it's going to go a lot higher as China and India really come on line. It has already involved the US in a dozen, undeclared wars to keep China away from African and middle east sources. And those wars are expensive - not to mention carrying the threat of nuclear weapons.
    As well, much of the world is becoming so concerned about climate change, that it will not tolerate the foot-dragging of Canada and the US in meeting the challenge.

    Result? The days of the car are numbered. And you cannot operate an efficient mass transit system to connect an urban sprawl. It simply cannot be done. The cities which have cheap and efficient mass transit all rely on high population density - Hong Kong, Montreal, London, Beijing.... The disasters are the sprawled cities - like Los Angeles. (and. on a smaller scale) Moncton and Dieppe and Riverview.)

    We have to plan our cities for the day - coming soon - when the car will become impractical, and even forbidden. I have seen no sign that anyone in this region is even thinking of that day.

    (Montreal, at least as late as the 1960s, maintained curbside watering troughs for horses.)

    If you live on the riverbank with your work place just over the bridge on the Moncton side, you have no problem.

    Otherwise, count on more than five minutes.

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