Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Feb. 18: paddling in the shallows...

The Feb . 17 page one story in the TandT is "Are we tough enough to outlast winter?" What a juvenile choice for a front page story! For pete's sake, we and our ancestors have lived here for centuries. But the silliness goes on. Worse, the "Are we tough enough" story is arguably the only one in Section A worth reading.  This is a newspaper that talks down to us as if we were all fools.

The editorial is, as usual, severely local. It's about the boot for cars. It's the second one on that demanding topic. Then there's another op ed (for, I think, a total of three on a concert at magnetic hill.) Then there's one on obesity that says it's bad for you. Who would have guessed?

There's a little bit in this issue and in Wednesday's on the Larry's Gulch story of journalists accepting favours. But the ombudsperson has gone as far as her mandate allows - and I don't think we're going to hear any more real news about it. What we'll get from now on will fill spaces, but say nothing.

Exactly why were the journalists invited? Has this never happened before? Why did the CEO of the liquor board extend the invitation? Or do CEOs not have any ethics? Then there's the government take that Larry's Gulch is invaluable for inducing billionaires to invest in New Brunswick.  Right. Billionaires are really stupid that way. Just show them a salmon stream, and they toss their money around wildly with jobs and prosperity springing up like dandelions.

Look, telling us we digging out after a snowstorm tells us nothing we didn't already know. Telling us that a couple of senior journalists lost their jobs gives us barely a hint that there might be something very, very wrong about our news media. A story on whether we are tough enough to survive winter is pure juvenilia.

How about telling us things we don't know? How many people are homeless and hungry in Moncton? How do they survive snowstorms? How many of them die of exposure? How many chlidren are malnourished? What are we doing to make sure all children, rich and poor, have the same opportunities in life? *Answer - Damn little.) How many people have adequate and decent housing?

This newspaper takes pride in volunteers who collect money for various causes and prints pictures of the volunteers holding up big cheques. It has never occurred to the great minds at the TandT that this reliance on volunteers is shameful. This is a society that spends as little as it can to ensure all its people have decent lives. Instead, we leave it up to volunteers. It is shameful we do it, and shameless that we brag about our shameful act.

Where is the story on how much it costs us to maintain our rich in the style they demand. How much do they cost in lost taxes? in business grants? in forest bargains?  in environmental damage?  We surely have a right to know. After all, their wealth can have come only from us.

Oh, and we also get all those propaganda stories about how the future depends on entrepreneurs, especially the small ones. It makes small business ownership almost spiritual. That's the mug's game that chambers of commerce were designed to promote. In fact, the proportion of small entrepreneurs has been declining since the middle ages. Any society that relies heavily on small entrepreneurs ain't going nowhere.
Wednesday's section A is even worse than Tuesday's. The even worse parts are the op ed columns by Eric Lewis and Brian Cormier. A column is supposed to go beyond news to give us opinion and insight. But both of them offer nothing but irrelevant chatter about nothing in particular.

Then there's the story that Harper has finally flushed down the toilet any remnants of the international respect Canada once had.  Palestine had applied for recognition as a state so it could take part in international treaties. Harper refused  (because he wants the Jewish vote in Canada's next election.). In a UN of 193 voting members. only 9 agreed with Canada.

Many years ago, when I hiked across England, I wore a maple leaf on my pack because the maple leaf brought instant friendship and respect. There are very few countries today in which I would do that.

In fact, that's so far true of every edition this week. So let's cut to what wasn't in the TandT.

It looks as though Harper's bid to win over the separatist vote in Quebec could work. Bigotry goes down well with Quebec separatists  (and with more than a few anglos in New Brunswick.)

I well remember the day the separatists released their bill to preserve the culture of Quebec. (There was no room for me in that culture, though the first Decarie in Quebec arrived in 1651.) One of the big points in that bill was that Quebeckers smoked too much; so they would have to cut down.

duh - if they smoke too much, isn't that part of the culture? So shouldn't he have encouraged smoking? The whole bill was like that, claiming to preserve a culture while really destroying it. I sat on committees of francophone academics working to define culture. It was never done. There is no such thing as a permanent culture. All cultures are in constant change.

The same thing is happening again, encouraged by Harper. Quebec nationalists now call it preserving Quebec values. And what are those values? Nobody know, just as nobody knew what the culture was.  Well, they claim that secularism is a Quebec value. Really? Hey! I lived there.All government offices were dripping with crucifixes. Massive, Catholic parades were routine. All government legislation was approved by the Bishop. If anything was a Quebec value, it was the Roman Catholic faith.

But now, everything has to be secular because secularism is the value that is the flavour of the month. The reality is that nobody knows what our values are. Like culture, nobody knows a definition of values. And, like culture, values are constantly changing.

Harper took the same line with  a muslim woman who wanted to wear the nigab (a heavy veil) for her citizenship oath ceremony. There's nothing threatening about that. For her branch of Islam, that was a fundamental requirement of modesty. It was no different from a Baptist clergyman insisting on wearing pants for his oath-taking.

But Harper stormed this was an insult, and against Canadian values. Hell, I went to school with immigrant kids from Italy, Poland, Syria, Britain. My own mother was from Scotland. (There were no Africans or Jews in our school because one of our values was to keep such people in ghettos.)

Anybody who claims to know our values is a fool and, almost certainly, a bigot. And bigotry breeds hatred. Harper is deliberately stirring up hatred to win an election and, well, that shouldn't be one of our values.
We're not getting much on Ukraine. In particular, Kyiv (the city on our side) has not been going well. The city is a chaos of riots - which suggests that the issues are not as clear as our news media have been telling us. The Ukrainian army has also been performing miserably. That's at least party because it doesn't want to fight the pro-Russian rebels. In fact, western Ukrainians have been dodging the military draft in large numbers, and their army has been falling back with eagerness. Obviously, western Ukraine is not so united against Russia as our news media have told us.

Both Ukraines are suffering the misery of hunger, cold, and poverty. The country is flat broke. The US is thinking of sending weapons to west Ukraine. Good. Weapons will feed the hungry, warm the cold, and stimulate a ruined economy.

From the start, Ukraine was an economic disaster that needed help. We sent it a coup d'etat, a war, and possibly a nuclear war. Onward, Christian soldiers.

What the news doesn't tell us is that we live in a world in which the big powers are much the same. All are controlled by a handful of the very wealthy. (We call ours capitalist. We call those on the other side oligarchs. Same thing.) In all major powers, most of the news media are propaganda machines. Democracy is pretty much history - and the major powers stamp out any democracy that still survives. That's why the US is using the CIA to overthrow the government of Venezuela so they can get a government more friendly to American oligarchs.

The various religions are pretty much irrelevant except as obedient tools. Perhaps the outstanding exception has been Pope Francis. And perhaps that's why he hasn't  been getting much news coverage.

And you have some religious extremism developing - as in a part of Islam.  And that's a common reaction of people who feel threatened. So we have people on both sides killing each other in the name of God.

Is it possible to defeat terrorism in a war? Not likely. Wars on "terrorism" create fear and hatred. That's why, after fifteen years of fighting "terrorism", it has only become more widespread. So why do we keep fighting it?  Because the "terrorists" hold land that our oligachs want. It also keeps our minds off the sort of terrorism and misery that our oligarchs are  inflicting on Latin America and Africa and Greece and all over the world.

It is hard to think of any period in history in which fear and hatred have been so widespread. And fear and hatred are terrible tools to use in any situation. And they have caught us up in a worship of greed and insanity.

Well, here in New Brunswick, we can only start with our piece of the problem. And it's not going to be solved by cutting budgets or piddling around with election promises. We have to take back our province from the very rich. We have to restore real democracy. We have to think of government as  an institution primarily concerned with human needs, not with playing footsie with billionaires. We must break our reliance for news on Irving press with its propaganda, hate, and massive ignorance. We have to get over the New Brunswick fear of discussing public affairs openly and honestly. We have to be far more active in learning about those things which affect our lives.

We cannot have a democracy without information, open discussion, and involvement. And, without a democracy, we are facing one hell of a future,  possibly a very short one, under an oligarchy.


  1. Well, with regard to taking back our province from the rich and reestablishing democracy, I attended the government's "public consultation on the economy" last Saturday in Sackville. In a nutshell they wanted ideas from the public on where to cut, how to increase revenues and how we envision N.B. in 10 years time.

    Done in a cafe style venue with about 12 round tables, we moved from table to table offering our thoughts and answers to the questions.

    Among all the piddling support of tax hikes and tolls,
    I suggested that carbon taxation and taxing the wealthy fairly would probably do the trick. Most agreed.

    It occurred to me that if there had been a dozen people
    (20/20 hindsight) of a certain persuasion at each of those tables at each of the 14 towns or cities, that held the consultations maybe the government would get the point.

    I know you will say that they will take no notice anyway, but how then, do we start "taking back our province from the very rich", practically, I mean.

    Many people do see the damage that Harper has done during the past 8 years, but because of our benighted system of voting, which does not utilize proportional representation, many people feel that he might win the next election. If that happens, well you know as well as I do what will follow.

    And there is no likelihood that N.B. will be fixed any time soon.

  2. You're quite right. And I don't see any magic formula to meet the problem. The only way I know is to convince people, and get them involved. But New Brunswick has no tradition of that whatever. It is frighteningly passive. If the world continues as it is we will certainly have a nuclear war. If New Brunswickers continue to put themselves and their children forward as sacrifices for the rich, it will eventually get violence - as will the US and other countries. But violence usually becomes just mindless, destructive rage or gets manipulated by forces as bad as the ones we have now.

    I'm going to keep trying. But you're right. New Brunswick will not be fixed any time soon. It has a long history of being what it is now, a province of sheep.