Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jan. 14: :let's relax a bit. Let's start with the comics....

My, the comics page in the Irving press is terrible. But that, at least, is not the fault of the Irving press. Even the Blondie strip, nearing a century old, is repetitive and boring. It wasn't always that way. Back about 1920, Blondie was an air-headed flapper, and Dagwood her besotted suitor Mr. Dithers was Blondie's father. And it was all about the dizzy and dizzying years post world war 1. Then there was Krazy Kat, a brilliant strip with just a few characters and a really repetitive plot. Kat is in love with mouse. Mouse likes to throw rocks at Kat. A dog who is a policeman protects Kat. But it was funny every time. And there was Little Nemo with the best drawings I have ever seen in a comic strip.

The thirties and forties were stronger in full-page dramas- like Dick Tracy and Li'l Abner. These so captivated audiences the mayor of New York attracted a big radio audience every Sunday when he read the comics over the air.

Then came the years after World War 2 of questioning, of insight, of irony, of intelligence, of comics designed for adult minds, all done with pretty sophisticated humour. The first was Peanuts. Then Pogo and, oh, during the Vietnam war -Walden's Pond, Calvin and Hobbs..all gone. All replaced with the mindless and unfunny trash we now get. I'm still trying to find the humour in today's Arlo and Janis. The first frame shows a picture of a packed closet. The second frame is a packed garage. The third is a packed attic.

The last is Arlo and Janis having coffee in the kitchen. Janis says "We're buried in stuff." Arlo says, "An apt metaphor as ever there was."

Oh, I long to live again in the days when Pogo said, "We have met the enemy; and he is us."

Those comics of the 50s to 70's or so also had the courage to attack the rich and powerful in our society - and to do it with wit. Today's are all just blah.
We won't talk about the news in section A because there isn't any. The big story is about a stray cat that was sick but is getting better. Even ace trivia reporter Brent Mazerolle can't bring this one to life.

The editorial page saves the whole paper with Alec Bruce's column on Charlie Hebdo with the only intelligent column on this subject I have seen in all the news media I look at every day. As he says, Hepdo was a small time, trashy tabloid that catered to hatreds and prejudices. Now it's a big time, trashy tabloid that caters to hatreds and prejudices.

Norbert Cunningham has a column on terrorism, but obviouly has not the faintest idea of what he's talking about.  Eric Lewis has one about how we all should have household insurance. To bad he has nothing to say that wasn't said in the newspaper story on exactly that subject just a few days ago.  Brian Cormier is Brian Cormier, a featherweight in a world of lightweights.

The first page of NewsToday has a story about how our side is good -and tells us the horrifying news that the weapons used by the shooters from foreign countries. Wow! They should at least have used French weapons. In fact, the whole world is flooded as never before in history with weapons from foreign countries. And very large numbers of them are made and sold by companies in France, Britain, the US....If it weren't for the arms industry. the US wouldn't have an economy.

I thought of  the profusion of military weapons in the world when I was shopping yesterday at Canadian Tire. I was astonished to see mint condition Nagant rifles, the Soviet rifle of World War 2. Each had a bayonet bolted on it. (It could have been removed, and I wondered why on earth Canadian Tire hadn't removed it.) I suppose hunters are expected to shoot the deer, then charge with the bayonet to finish it off.

And rifle design had changed since my shooting days. A significant number are designed to look like the most threatening of combat weapons. Why? Are we trying to scare the deer? It was even more noticeable in the air gun section with its guns for children and target shooters. Most of them were designed to look like combat weapons. Why? Most combat pistols are not a very good shape for target shooting. And what's happening to our children when we give them toys designed to look like particularly vicious combat weapons?  That includes the air rifles - and most of the latter were terrible designs for target shooting.

If I were a policeman and a child pointed one of those at me, I would have no hesitation in shooting. It is irresponsible and almost insane to distribute such weapons to children as toys.

On B3, the Irving press at last tells us why oil prices are in the toilet. It's because Saudi Arabia is deliberately flooding the market to drive prices down. Why? Well, Saudi Arabia is not Santa Claus. They're doing it to destroy the shale gas industry. Once that's done, the price will go right back up.

Will it work? I doubt it. Notice we haven't read much about shale gas lately? That's why Gallant is being allowed to continue his moratorium. But once the Saudis start cutting production again, the shale gas industry will tell Gallant to get on  his horse and present the report saying that shale gas is perfectly safe. It shouldn't take more than a year.

Meanwhile, the US supports the price drop as a way to cripple the Russian oil industry and the Russian economy. That probably won't work either. American behaviour, especially in Africa and the Far East is forcing a change in the East. China is committing itself to a close alliance with Russia, usually its enemy. Others are joining. I would not be surprised if it comes to include India and Iran and parts of Latin America.

The greed of western big money and the US pursuit of world domination is reshaping the international affairs of the whole world. The thrust of it is against the US. And Canada is, unhappily, closely associated with the most hated nation in the world.

I'm surprised that Canadians are surprised to see some Muslems involved in violence and abuse of others. And they say it's part of their religion.Have we already forgotten what happened only a short time ago? When we apologized for what our churches did in abusing and sometimes killing native children in residential schools? That damage is still there. Us Christians did it, and it won't go away for a very, very long time..

There's a very good book on the damage it does when we intrude in the organization of another society. The damage is dreadful and long-lasting, even if done with good intentions, and even if the other side wants us to do it. There's book is - Pankaj Mishra, "From the Ruins of Empire". It tells of how nations were socially destroyed and left adrift by conquest - and how the destruction happened even if the countries were eager to westernize.  He, optimistically, I think, says that Turkey, Egypt, China, Japan are recovering.  I doubt that, They are changing. But a change is not the same as a recovery.

For that matter, our society is changing rapidly. The capitalism of just sixty years ago is gone, replaced by a capitalism which has no nation and is beyond the control of any government. In consequence, we are losing our social structure. And, in the direction we are going, our society will not survive. That's is not being over-dramatic. Common sense should tell us that neither the economy nor the state can survive when almost all of us get poorer every year, and a very tiny number get richer every year. That is a certain recipe for world economic collapse, and for world violence.

A warning, though, about this book. I once had to read an 800 page book, in French, by a Russian communist scholar, on rural and small town life in France during the reign of Louis XIV.( I can safely claim I have no expertise in any of this things I mention in that sentence.)

And it was a breeze compared to Pankaj Mishra at less than half the length. Mishra is an academic who has not the faintest idea how to write for a general audience. Moreover, he assumes we are all familiar with the who's who of the nineteenth century in places like Turkey and Japan. In fact, I am not familiar with them. This is one, tough read.

However, skim through it. I won't say you should read it quickly because nobody could. But don't fuss over understanding every sentence. Get the general idea of what it means to make a quick change in any social order. Get an  idea of the difficulty of making such a change, and the even greater difficulty of making the sort of change that your people can handle. This is one of the most thought provoking books I have ever read.

(The Russian, marxist historian was  Boris Fyodorovich Porshnev. His "Les Soulevements Populaires" was published in Moscow in 1948. Don't even think about it.) 

Above all, forget the caricatures of good and evil we get in our news media, especially on something like the Paris shootings. 'We' and 'they' are neither evil nor good. We and they, all of us, are just people. And forget the recent eloquence about the French love for freedom and free speech.

Yes, there was a French revolution against dictatorship by the king. But that was closely followed by a dictatorship by Napoleon, then by another king, then by another Napoleon. For a century after the revolution, France was scarcely a model of democracy and freedom.

The revolutionary government made a spectator sport of killing people by beheading. In fact, it was called The Reign of Terror. For that purpose, France was the first to adopt high volume, public beheading by using the guillotine. Al Quaeda are just amateurs trying to catch up to real pros. In fact, France routinely used the guillotine until 1977. There are lots of videos of beheadings in France, many of them public, on youtube.

By the way, did you know that torturing foreigners is illegal by international law?. However, in the US, torture is quite legal if used against American citizens. American prisons have always used torture.

And France has one of the worst records of anti-semitism in the world. Look up the Dreyfuss Affair, a case in which a French army officer who was Jewish came close to being executed for a crime he had never committed.  And there is not the slightest doubt it was because he was Jewish. Russia was anti-Jewish. So was Ukraine, particularly the part of Ukraine that is on our side, and that has the Nazi party prominent in its government. The Netherlands is deeply anti-Jewish. I learned that when I was living there. Jews from Spain and Portugal fled to England to escape persecution. But England accepted them only because they paid protection money to the king. (Later some fled to Canada which is why there is a Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Montreal.) But Canada and the US would prove to be as bad anything they had fled from well into the 1950s.

And the Jews? Depends which Jews you mean. Sephardic Jews, the ones who lived in Palestine for centuries got along quite well with Muslims. Ashkanaze Jews, the ones from Europe - and the majority in Canada - have a hatred and intolerance for Muslims which is reminiscent of Nazi hatred for all Jews. One of them, a tool of Israeli propaganda and a publisher in Montreal, recently denounced me on Facebook as a Jew-hater because I have criticized Israel.  (It thought of this when I read a story on today's B3 on federal candidates in Montreal. I knew all of them, some quite well, and he was one of the candidates. For Harper, of course.)

Forget the caricatures. There ain't no good guys and bad guys out there. Not on either side. We and they, all of us, are just people.


  1. About the paris attacks, here is another good column :

    Also wondering what you think about the fact that hardly a finger was lifted to denounce the killings in the jewish grocery store. It was mentioned sure, but there was not much outcry.

  2. Also Pankaj Mishra's book is a great read, but not a difficult. I read it entirely without having any prior knowledge of the historical characters he profiles.

  3. I hate people who can, with ease, read things that I found difficult.
    Good point about the kosher store --sorry---it's probably not kosher. Jewish, but not kosher. I had not thought about the failure to cover it more fully. (So that's two strikes against you.)