Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August 5: Politicians, news media, and the glorification of war.....

It begins with Brent Mazerolle writing the headline story on the centenary of World War 1. I'll skip the small errors. (Such as - Canada was at war when Britain was. True enough. But it was not required to take any active role unless Canada, itself, were attacked.)  There was, as Mazerolle says, a rush to enlist, just as there would be in World War 2. But both rushes had a lot to do with high unemployment. As war factories opened, enlistment dried up. As well, much of the early enlistment came from the West which still had a high proportion of British-born immigrants. In areas weaker in recent immigrants, (like the Maritimes), enlistment  was lower.

It is true, as Mazerolle says, that there were fears of out of control inflation and shortages. And those fears were well-founded. In fact, the Canadian economy was a mess throughout World War 1, with dreadful profiteering, lack of controls, and inefficient production.

That's because it was left to private business to manage the economy. The world learned from it, though, and World War Two economies were controlled by governments - with excellent results. Funny the TandT wouldn't mention that.

But - and here we come to the glorification of war theme, it did great good for Canada because we felt we had stood up on our own. No-one has ever measured that "great good" - because it's impossible to do so. No-one has shown how that was worth 60,000 dead, thousands more handicapped for life, and uncounted thousands more with mental illness.

Ever heard the term "basket cases"? These were the ones who came back in baskets because they had lost their arms and legs.

The NewsToday section has a similar story. Again, it never says what caused the war. but it repeats the bunkum that we emerged from it with a new national identity - whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. And that we were recognized as a new nation. In fact, the only sense in which we were recognized as a new nation is that we declared war for ourselves. Considering our previous arrangement that we didn't have to join the fight when Britain declared war, that was no great gain - and certainly not one worth 60,000 dead.

In fact, the "new nation"  attitude was happening ten years BEFORE the war with the formation of Canadian Club to agitate for national status And, in Britain it began over fifty years before the war. Britain didn't want Canada. It desperately needed an alliance with the US to maintain its position in the world. Canada was in the way because it was vulnerable to attack from the US. (The last American threat had been just ten years before World War 1.) Britain was not holding onto us. It wanted us to go.

In Tuesday's edition, in NewsToday, Harper invents a history that never happened. Almost every word is pure propaganda written by some hack - that the war created a desire for independence, that it changed the nature of Canada....  It seems we fought for justice and democracy , to defend countries we share values with. He even fits Israel and Ukraine into this in a dreadful political exploitation of the centenary.

We share values with Ukraine? Like what? Fascism? Hatred of Jews? For that matter, we share some values  with all people on the face of the earth. What's the breaking point? Tell me a war - any war - we have fought to protect shared values. And as I read that, I thought of all the big kids I knew who went off to war. At best, they were ordinary teens, many of who had left school as early as grade four.. None had the faintest idea of what a value was or what the enemy's values were. Poor Bertie, underage (he stole his brother's draft papers), illiterate....he was killed in his first action.

In World War 1, how did our values significantly differ from those we fought? The Russians were then under a rigid emperor who denied all rights and freedom.  They were our ally. And it was close to the same with World War Two. In world war one, how were German values different from ours?  Harper's speech was pure propaganda, designed to politically benefit himself, and a glorification of war. That is NOT what 60,000 Canadians died for.

Section B4, at last, has a story on the causes of the war. Too bad it just says it doesn't know. Come off it. Almost all the points it raised have to do with incidents in the weeks before the war. But the war wasn't caused in the weeks leading up to it.

Britain and Germany had been building their navies to fight each for for twenty years. Almost all those countries had been preparing for war against each other for years. And it's no mystery why.

Britain and France both feared the rising economic power of Germany, and that it would be looking for an empire to exploit as Britain and France were doing. In that area (exploitation of others) the values of France, Britain and Germany were not different but exactly the same.  Similarly, Germany was worried about the threat of a Russian attack to get the industrial wealth of Germany. Turkey feared that the British and French empires might want to swallow the Turkish empire in the middle east (and they did want to do exactly that.)

In this story by Canadian Press, they consult only three historians (none a Canadian)   - and nobody even defines the question with any clarity. The causes of a war are not usually to be found in just the weeks leading up to it.

Yes, there was a heightened sense of nationalism all over Europe. Of course, there was. The news media were already well into the game of using propaganda to build hatred. But what caused the war was a shifting in power of the economic elites, a shift that created fears that some of them stood to lose a great deal of money. And some things never seem to change.

World War One, for the most part, was caused by the same motive that caused the US murder of 300,000 Guatemalans, largely to serve the purposes of American and Canadian mining companies - an obsession to amass wealth and power, and unlimited by social values or morality.

Maybe its time for us to get off the glorification of war on occasions like this centenary and November 11, and do what the occasion is supposed to be for - mourning our terrible losses.

There really isn't much point to reading the rest of the paper. It's mostly just photos of no particular interest and ads.

The only pieces worth reading for Monday are Alec Bruce and Gwynne Dyer (though I think Gwynne is dead wrong in his conclusion.)

For Tuesday, Alec Bruce is solid again. Norbert would be if he weren't so vague and general.

Patricia Graham. the ombudswoman,  has an excellent column on op ed. And so does David Suzuki on the last page.
I am puzzled by one omission. British Columbia is suffering the biggest and worst forest fires in recorded history. It's been getting worse, and it's linked to global warming. The smoke rises for kilometres, then flattens in clouds that travel around the world. Some of the smoke pillars are so big they have been seen in Portugal.

And these huge clouds of smoke last for very long periods. And these are greenhouse gas emissions at least as bad as those from oil. They significantly speed up global warming with every rise is increasing the number of fires.

I understand that New Brunswick has forests - and they are getting warmer, too. Funny the Irving Press would miss a story like that.


  1. Have to wonder how Heir Harper considers his favorite nation of Israel now after its bloodbath prosecution of a defenseless, urban population of the last few weeks?

  2. He has already pronounced his decision. It was entirely the fault of Palestinians.

  3. It would be too easy for Israel itself to blame Hamas for the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers that allegedly sparked this newest, ethnic cleansing by the IDF.

    Sad to know Harper is able to continue justifying the murder of two thousand innocents, many being children.

    Harper is such a disgrace.