Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March 10:Indulge me....

Montreal is naming a city library after Mordecai Richler. It's on Avenue du Parc, and close to the heart of the old, Jewish district of Montreal were Mordecai grew up. Though possessed with a power of expression that could be acidic, he was really a pleasant and gentle person. As for the Jewish population, it was alternately proud of his brilliant writing, and angry at his probing of Jewish behaviour.

Check him out at the library. Start with "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz". or maybe you  read "Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang" or saw the film of the same name.  I taught Jacob Two-Two in university. He was a nice kid, and a very, very intelligent one. He was Mordecai's son. Mordecai wrote the book for and about him. Jacob now works at Toronto Star.

It was a wonderfully lively district in that stretch of Ave. du Par - , lots of shops. I had my first smoked meat sandwich there - oi vay. And I was often in Abe Bonder's book store that carried some communist journals. (This was a district with a large communist population until the late 1950s when they learned about Stalin's treatment of Jews.) Far from being the image of vicious communists, they were loving people, intellectually lively. And at Christmas, when I was helping out at a mission church, I knew I could always get donations of food for hungry Christians at the Jewish shops.

It was a district where people thought, and read and debated and discussed. Whenever I spoke to a Jewish audience, I knew I had better be sure of what I was talking about. Oh, I miss it.

Most of the Jews have moved now, many of them out of Quebec. The district still has a large number of very orthodox Jews, and the families walk together to the Synagogue that is still there - the wives with their heads shaved for life and wearing wigs, the boys, like their fathers, dressed in black, each with a curly lock hanging down down in front of each ear, the girls freer to dress as they wished, and the fathers in black with beards, and making certain they looked at no woman on the street, not even by accident.

And now, the name of Mordecai is back in the haunts of his childhood. Yeah, that's sentimental. But I feel sentimental about it.
The TandT begins with the story the Moncton soldier who was killed in Iraq. It's a sad story. It's a sympathetic story. But it's also a story that tells us nothing, and that asks nothing.Why do we have soldiers in Iraq? What does this war have to do with Canada? Why do we have soldiers and airmen on battlefronts when have not declared war, or even discussed it, in parliament? Why is the government talking about extending our "mission"/

As always, our news media spend a lot of time mourning about the sacrifices of the dead- to take our minds away from the crucial point. Why did we send them to risk their lives?

"I know the answer, teacher. I know. Look at my hand, Miss. Ask me."

If you see any other news worth reading in Section A, please let me know.
The editorial is, of course, about the death of Sgt. Doiron. It is an editorial that uses every hackneyed phrase I  have ever heard about death. It has all the pomposity and emptiness and triteness I have ever heard.And it's stuffed with empty patriotism.

Oddly, it also says Sgt. Doiron has heightened our awareness that we are at war. Doesn't the editor read his own paper? We're not at war. Mr. Harper says we're not. And we have not, as our constitution requires, voted for war. Harper illegally sent Sgt. Doiron into danger. An editorialist with just a modicum of brains and courage and who was genuinely concerned about Sgt. Doironwould have pointed that out. Instead, the editorial writer pours out a smarm of "patriotism" when it should be calling for a parliamentary inquiry into Harper's illegal behaviour which has caused the death of a "Moncton son".

Norbert's column"Islamic State Will Go Down to Ultimate Defeat" is profoundly trite and ignorant of basic fact. Much of it seems inspired by an article he read in Atlantic Monthly which, in his world I guess, is a pretty classy magazine.

In his view, ISIS is the most immoral, evil, destructive force in history and it wants to hasten the apocalypse - the end of the world. Norbert, for openers, I can introduce you to Baptists and Pentecostals who want to hasten the end of the world. In fact, Israel today has loads of Christian missionaries to convert Jews because they believe that when the Jews are converted, the world will end, and us Christians will get to watch all the evil Muislims and Russians and Chinese -in fact most people - go down to the eternal flames of hell. This is one of the ways in which Christianity can very similar to Islam.

Then he says that Bin Laden's leadership of terrorism was weakening in his last days. Norbert, Bin Laden was never all that powerful in the first place He had a lot of money. (He was born one of our buddies, rich Saudis, and he encouraged terrorism). But, though he claimed credit for 9/11, there is little evidence he had all that much to do with it. (It was planned in Europe, not in Afghanistan.)

ISIS, Norbert writes, is an example of how extreme idealism can morph into depravity and evil. Damn right, Norbert. If you want examples, look at the British Empire, the French Empire, the Spanish Empire, the American empire - and the evil wrought by all three of throughout Africa and the Middle East. You want depravity? How about the deliberate firebombing of civilians from Dresden to Cambocia to Vietnam to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan?

And ISIS has carried out the most barbaric killing and destruction in history? Norbert, put down your copy of The Atlantic Monthly. ISIS doesn't even come close to the top 100. The US was responsible for killing more when it paid Saddam Hussien to invade Iran. Then there was Hitler and the Jews. Didn't you know about that, Norbert? Millions of Jews were killed but - wait for it - by ardently Christian Naziis. (As I said, Islam and Christianity have a great deal in common). And the rise of Hitler owed almost everything to financial support from Christian and Jewish capitalists in North America. And they had general support from the people of Canada. Funny how we get all virtuous and forget our own history.

And, by the way, what happened to our native peoples in Canada and the US?

ISIS is most certainly a problem. And, like Al Quaeda and all the other Muslim problems, it didn't exist until the west began its massive interference with the Middle East. You won't solve any problem by attacking the results of it. You have to deal with the causes.

But don't depend on the US to do that. Its foreign policy and its wars have been disasters since 1945. And it's going to get worse. Think hard, Norbert. European power began to collapse in World War one. WW2 finished the job. The US, struggling to expand its own empire is in deep trouble, largely because its capitalism has become hopelessly out of control and very, very corrupt.

That's the problem.

On the op ed page, another column by a university president has been inflicted on us. Again, it's a pitch for more money for the universities - without even a glance at the real problems they face. And they never will face the real problems. Their teaching methods (or lack of them) are those of centuries ago. But how one can ever get them to face that, I don't know. They're all caught up in admiring the glow of their own bellybuttons. Meanwhile, please donne moi un break from these columns by university administrators (some of them the same ones who supported Irving some four years ago in his bid to run the provincial economy.)

Alec Bruce again calls those not on his side of the environmental debates as having "sheer idiocy". Then he goes not to attack us commoners fro expecting the rich to help pay to protect the environment.  How selfish of us little pigs!

At a time when most of us are suffering low pay, cuts in services, high unemployment, and when the rich are soaking up a huge and increasing share of the world's money and are making their biggest profits in history out of our poverty, and when they are paying damn low taxes, we have the nerve to expect them to pay their share to repair the environmental damage that they are causing to make their profits. I feel so ashamed of myself.

And we're even worse, says Alec. It seems that many people that live in California and Texas complain about water shortages. And they're idiots because they go on wasting water on lawns, public fountains, etc.

Alec, I can quite agree that they should not waste water. But the reason California and Texas are suffering drought is not because somebody left the tap on. They are suffering because it hasn't rained for so long. You can turn off the fountains and cover golf courses with plastic grass. You'll still have a drought. The insanity is in people who think we can go on using fossil fuels, and not suffer for it. Indeed, your columns give the impression that you are one of those people.
The Canada&World section is a disgrace. There's almost nothing about the rest of the world. And this is a world of extreme danger on confusion.

One of the biggest stories in this section is that the NB  Liberals MIGHT be ready to bring down a budget at the end of the month.( or might not). Another story from another world hotspot is that tourists in Rome got arrested for carving their names into the walls of the Colloseum.

Is anything worth reading in this lazy mess of trivia? Well, Senator Marjory LeBreton has criticized Harper for creating hatred and fear of Muslims. He sure has. But he won't change that. Harper is a man who has no policies he wants to talk about. So he runs on creating hatred and fear. And a great many Canadians buy it.

One of his ways to create hatred and fear is his anger that a Muslim woman would insist on taking her citizenship oath while wearing - for religious reasons - her veil. Tell you what, Stevie, orthodox Jewish women, for religious reasons, shave their hair and wear wigs. Would you demand such women take off their wigs to give the citizenship oath. Orthodox men, for religious reasons, always wear hats. Would you demand they take them off?

On B4, Amnesty International has joined those many, many prominent people who have warned that Harper's proposed terrorism bill could be used against political enemies, and enemies of the very rich. Of course, it could. That's what Harper wants it to do. That's what our spy services are already doing, and have been doing for some years. They even report twice a year to big business leaders. They have already classed native peoples and environmentalists as terrorist threats.

We are told on B4 that wounded veterans with no military pension will now get retirement support. What? In the last century, over a hundred thousand Canadians have been killed in war, and many, many more wounded. And in every one of  of those years, our news media and clergy have shed alligator tears at the sacrifices they made, spouting patriotism and all sortst of nice things.  Now we're going to help with pensions? And at that, this pension is only for the severely wounded - and at that, whether the wounds are severe enough in each case will be decided by a government committee.

What a pack of hypocrites we are! Not only is this very, very limited; but it's a hundred years late for most of those who needed it. We're more generous to Mr. Irving when he wants a forest, and to the oil industry when it wants just about anything.

There really is nothing else worth reading. Recently, the Irving press has actually been getting worse - something I didn't think possible. And what happened to the story about that resort? I think it was called Frank's Gully. Is it true that an editor was invited to take part in a business dicussion? Why? Had it ever happened before? And if such an arrangement is a conflict of interest for a journalist, why isn't it a conflict of interest for the man who owns most of the province to also own all the newspapers?

Have you ever known any journalist in any of these papers to print a story critical of the owner? Or one that diverges from his opinions?
I keep thinking back to Norbert's column - and how he sees Muslims as evil for killing people, but not noticing when Christians do that - and do it a lot more than Muslims do. The Germans who murdered millions of Jews were Christians, were led by a Roman Catholic, and were largely supported by the Christian churches in Germany. (I think that Netanyahu is a mentally disordered man, and perhaps the most dangerous man in the world. But I can see where he's coming from in not trusting anybody - including Christians.)

Like Norbert, we really don't see things as evil when we do them. Why not?

It's surely partly racism. But that's not the whole story. I think a broader explanation is that those who abuse others have to have an excuse for doing it. And the excuse is much like the contempt the very rich have for everybody else. We have to hate others to excuse our treatment of them. That hate sometime takes a racist form but, as we see in the case of the rich and poor it can take other forms of seeing our superiority of others we exploit and, often kill.

We see the evil of Muslims who burn people alive. We don't see the much greater history and presence of us burning people alive. We see the vileness of terrorism when Muslims use it to kill innocent people at random. We don't see it all when we do it all over the world.

To understand the news,we really need to look in a mirror more often.

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