Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April 22: The Big Picture

There was a time when the greatest dream of North American women was to be swept up by an arab riding on a galloping, white steed that would take them far into the desert to his tent. The arab was such a symbol of wildly romantic love that in the 1920s and later, a handsome and well-dressed young man in North America was called a "sheikh".  Indeed, the most popular men's contraceptive into at least the 1960s carried the brand name Sheikh.

In 1921, the big, Hollywood hit starring heartthrob Rudolph Valentino was "The Sheikh".  And, in the same year, that gave rise to what may have been the longest running hit song in modern history. Decades later, when I was in high school, everybody still knew the song.

I'm the sheikh of Araby.
(can't remember this line)
At night when you're asleep
Into your tent I'll creep..

And adolescents all over North America spiced it up by adding to each line "With no pants on."

These romantic notions were heightened in World War One by the publicity given to Colonel Lawrence of the British army whose organization of Arab guerrilla forces to fight the Turks added tremendously to the air of romance and excitement. All that was heightened by very romantic account of his mysterious personality in a book called Lawrence of Arabia.. (It held me spellbound when I was ten.) Then, in 1962, there was the film with Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia, arguably the greatest  epic film ever made.

For the best part of a century, the West adored arabs. So what happened to make them turn into madmen and terrorists?

Well, that, too, began with Lawrence - in fact, even before him.

European interest in the middle east in modern times goes back at least to Napoleon. But it really took off when Britain saw it as the solution to shorten the sea distance for its huge trade with Asia. A canal through Egypt would do the trick. Thus the Suez Canal was begun about 1860.

But that canal was so important to British capitalists it was important that they control all of Egypt. So, though the Egyptian monarchy remained, it was the British who ruled Egypt through a High Commissioner. And that was the beginning of a pattern.

In World War One, the British, thanks to people like Lawrence of Arabia, took up a wider control of the middle east. This time, it was for oil. And, as in Egypt, they protected their interest in maintaining effective control of the oilfields by keeping obedient governments in power. As well, they freely created new nations as it suited them.

Shortly after the war, for example, the British created the state of Saudi Arabia,  placing it under a monarchy. And where did they find the monarch? Well, he was a leader of the desert bandits whom Lawrence had recruited. This made him useful to Britain which ensured that the oil industry, which gave little to  his country but which gave the king so much wealth that he was agreeable to doing what he was told.

The Saudi kings, by the way, were and are the most extreme Muslims in the world, the most severe dictatorship, and among the most brutal in the use of capital punishment. They're our friends.

The same was done with Iran, an arrangement that guaranteed British and then Americans access to oil at low cost and high profit. Despite the stories about how capitalism creates wealth for all of us, this was even less true in the middle east than it is in New Brunswick. The British even forced Iran to fuel the whole, Royal Navy for no charge at all for several decades. Capitalism exists to to take money, not to give it. And it took the money from the oil states without a thought for the needs of their people.

What the West, largely Britain and the US, created countries simply by drawing lines, permitted them only governments that were subservient, and made adjustment to the new world virtually impossible. They created, very suddenly, a new world with no history, and no hope for a future. That is the great mistake that now has us up to our ears in wars.

The Second World War weakened British power and control. It lost its compliant king of Egypt and then lost the Suez Canall. Iran chose a democratically elected government which had the dangerous idea that Iran oil belonged to the people of Iran, and should benefit them. So, for a cut of the oil, Britain got the US to help it overthrow the elected government, and install a dictator under whom Iran suffered for many years. Then Iran kicked him out, and elected its own government. The US has never forgiven Iran for that.

(The government overthrow of elected government by the US was also tried in Venezuela, and for the same reason - oil. The overthrow failed. So now Venezuela is in the gun sights. Funny how our news media have barely mentioned Venezuela - especially since Canada seems to have been involved in the overthrow attempt.)

It was probably the case of Iran that ended the years of "The Sheikh of Araby". From then on, people had to learn to hate and fear Arabs and Muslims in general. And so our news media began what is now a very sophisticated campaign to make us fear and hate. And what has followed has been years of wars against Arabs. There was the war the US paid Saddam Hussein to fight against Iran. Then they had to fight Hussein as he began to show signs of being indepdendent - and so they used lies to justify a particularly brutal war with enormous civilian casualties. The same has been true of Libya and Syria.

It's hard to say what the purpose of the current wars might be. US foreign policy has not, as it was supposed to, given the US world domination. It most certainly has not stopped Middle East unrest. It has also done the opposite of stopping terrorism. It has not brought democracy - as was once claimed. In fact, it destroyed the brief democracy that Egypt had by installing the army back in power. That's why we've lately seen pictures of the last, elected leader of Egypt, Morsi, in prison.

My guess is the objective in the Middle East now is simply to destroy, to so shatter almost every society in the region so it can no longer function at all. to kill, to impoverish, to de-culture....  That may well be in the cards for much of Latin America, too - to destroy, to impoverish in order to make our oil and mining stockholders happy.

And I really don't think it will work.

As to Israel, it is surely odd that the two countries who are the most ardent defenders of Israel (Canada and the US) are the same two who refused to accept Jews who sought refuge here from 1933 to 1948 - the year when they both voted to recognize the state of Israel.. Why the sudden change to concern for the Jews?

There was no change. The west was still largely anti-semitic, and would remain so. They voted to create Israel for two reasons.

1. It would take the pressure off them to accept Jews and, indeed, would encourage their own Jews to move out to Israel.
2. It would give the West a powerful presence in the region to maintain its dominance.

Even street kids in the arab world knew that. Jews knew that. (That's why some aren't nearly so grateful to the West as we might expect.) Anyway, we have never known this because our news media never reported it.  Muslims didn't object to Jews living among them. Jews and Arabs had lived together for thousands of years. They objected to what they saw, correctly, as the west kicking them our of their homes to create an essentially European state in the Middle East.

You think that's okay? Well...

Imagine the great powers had decided to give the region from Sussex through Moncton alll the way to Shediac to Jews as an Israeli state. Suppose the current residents of that region had to leave their homes to live in a new state (with no money, and no control over its own affairs) running along a narrow strip by the shore from Shediac to, oh, Murray Corner. And suppose the government of the new Israel decided, almost every year, to annex a bit more of your land, kick your people our of their houses, and tear them down to build new, Israeli settlements.

The creation of Israeli was a disaster. And we can't fix it. The general creation of new states in the Middle East in this century, the support of dictators, and the horrible toll on civilians killed, wounded, orphaned, impoverished was always a vast one, and hugely enlarged in the last fifteen years or so. And we can't fix that, either. On the contrary, we have made it worse.

We have also made it expensive. The US has spent some 2 trillion dollars, at least, on middle east wars in less then fifteen years. And that's not counting the regular maintenance of the world's most expensive military.
It would be cheaper, far cheaper, to give the oil billionaires several billion dollars each, and to do it every year, to go away. It is not possible for oil to be worth the real price we are paying for it in  money, in human life, and in government and big business corruption..

We are also swiftly increasing the odds in favour of a world, nuclear war..

Harper's posturing on Israel does nothing to help that country or Canada. All he is doing is pumping up the fear and hatred on both sides.

This is what happens when we let our countries be run by big business which, as it has shown many times, has neither the intelligence nor the moral values to do anything helpful..

And the disaster gets bigger. The huge cost of a corrupt. "defence" industry and its wars, combined with big business control of government, has spread poverty in the US (that we don't hear about). It has sparked social unrest which is going to get very bad. And it is turning our armies, police, and intelligence services into agents of oppression that have effectively destroyed freedom and democracy in the US - and may well do so very soon in Canada.

And all that is what isn't in the news today.
There is no Moncton news in today's paper to speak of. That's because the Irving press is too cheap to hire enough reporters to cover anything, really. And if there were, they still wouldn't be allowed to tell the truth.

It does have one, infuriating story on A1.  "Dorchester school to stay open". It's not the good news it sounds. And it includes a disgusting warning from the Anglophone East School council that if Dorchester wants the school to stay open, the locals have to figure out a way to make it economical.

(I don't believe I've ever read of any government agency making such a warning to the Irvings.) This one also misses the point.  The problem is not that rural schools don't have enough students. The problem is one that the school council, of all people, don't seem to even notice. The problem is that these schools are essential to the communities. So how do we do that?

This is a complex question that calls for high levels of expertise in both learning and social development. It means rethinking what education is,and how it can be modified to meet these needs for rural News Brunswick. For all its babble about the problems of rural New Brunswick, I  have never seen an article in this paper about meeting the needs. This calls for some very expert thinking. You're not going to get that from a school district council that is largely ignorant of what education is. And I have seen no sign of expert thinking in the Gallant cabinet. (or any other.)

Precisely what must be learned? Precisel, what is it the community needs from the schools? Must the schools operate as they do now to meet those needs? What are alternative structures?

For the government and the council, you are not elected simply to set budgets and keeps things as they are. If anything, this province needs more teaching, not less, in rural areas to include the parents. And it needs serious thinking about the impact on children of hours on a bus every day. Nobody in council or government seems to have any understanding about what human needs are -or gives a damn.

The editorial seems promising on the danger of oil train  accidents in New Brunswick. But it wimps out at the end.  I think they trust that nice Mr. Irving.

Norbert has a decent column on prayer before the conduct of public business. Too bad he wrote much the same one several days ago. continues its disgusting practice of carrying a commentary by a CEO on a matter in which he has a large business interest - a column largely full of business myths about how it creates jobs, etc. This isn't a commentary. This is a free ad. Are the Irvings now too cheap to hire commentators?

Alec Bruce has an engaging article about Harper's new slogan for Canada - Strong. Proud. Free.
I wonder how much we had to pay for a committee of promotion geniuses to figure that out. A more accurate one might be - Not as weak as I could be. I'd five out of then on proud. And freedom isn't everything.

B5 has an evocative account of the Canadians caught in the first gas attack at Ypres in 1915. It's the only news worth reading in the whole section.

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