Wednesday, May 13, 2015

May 13: Let's skip most of today's Irving press.

There really isn't much there. A full half of A8, for example, is a story about a Moncton man who will be cheering for Mexico (because he was born there) in the FIFA World Cup this summer. So bloody what?

The editorial page has a good cartoon. Norbert has a really excellent column on Harper's disregard for citizen rights. It's informed. It's logical. It's clearly written. This is first rate stuff.

All of the letters to the editor are worth reading.

And Alec Bruce has an excellent column on our understanding of science. The only problem with his column is us. New Brunswick has a shamefully low standard literacy. The writing of this column, though certainly good, will be over the heads of most readers.

Canada&World section ranges from trivia, to stories that explain little, to bad editing. For the latter, take a look at the lead story on B4. "At least 220 Russian soldiers killed in Ukrainian war." Editors write headlines. The headline is supposed to reflect what the story is about. But you learn in the first paragraph that it is NOT about 220 Russian soldiers being killed. It is that Putin's opponents have CLAIMED that 220 Russian soldiers were killed.

Nit-picking? Not at all. I'm certainly opposed to Harper. So, let's say I write a report claiming that Harper is addicted to heroin. Would the Irving press have a headline, "Harper addicted to heroin"? or would it read "Harper opponent CLAIMS....."?  There's a difference - especially when you remember that many readers read ONLY the headlines.
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So let's talk about Christopher Columbus and Russia. It's the kind of general story that never makes the news. But it's a story that explains far more than the news does. Let's look at the big picture.

The story, as you know, is that Christopher Columbus discovered the world was round; and he discovered America. The story is wrong on both counts. It is not true that most people thought the world was flat. For thousands of years, all over the world, it was commonly known that the world is round.

And he didn't discover America.

It had already been discovered over 70,000 years earlier by Siberians who crossed to Alaska, then spread south and east. It was also settled by Pacific islanders who were quite accustomed to ocean travel long before Europeans were. It is quite possible it was also discovered by Phoenicians and by African blacks, both of whom may have settled here.  That would have been a couple of thousand years before Columbus was born. And, as Columbus well knew, it had been discovered (and, briefly, settled) five hundred years before him by Vikings

So why all the fuss about Columbus? There are three reasons.

1. Columbus discovered wealth in the form of gold. That, combined with greater realization of the seagoing potential of sailing ships of the time, was what set the western world off on its "discovery" and conquest of everywhere there was wealth to be found. That's what led to the development of Empires, first to benefit kings, then to benefit capitalists. (Sorry. Entrepreneurs.)

That wealth came in the form of cheap labour, looting of mineral wealth, factory farming, the cultivation of like opium, and then forcing China to make the sale of heroin legal, and forcing it, every year, to buy a specified quantity of it - right up to 1914. Many a British capitalist's fortune came from the opium trade.Later, they would add things like clothing factories offering dangerous conditions and extremely low pay. (Such factories still exist, and they still collapse or burst into flames, killing dozens and up to thousands of  workers.) The empires also were created to loot resources, using cheap, local labour to take gold from South Africa,, diamonds from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), a variety of minerals mined under brutal conditions in Congo and Central America.

In other words, imperialism worked exactly as free trade does. It gives capitalists access to whole nations it can victimize.

2. The human cost of that started with Columbus.

On his first landing, he saw a man wearing a gold ornament. So he assigned tags to be worn on the chest of each native. Each tag listed the gold quota to be delivered by that person, and a date for delivery. For the native to lose or get rid of that tag, or should a native be late in delivery or lower that the quota, the native's hands were cut off, and he or she was left to bleed to death. Protests were kept down by guns and by dogs trained to kill.

Nobody knows how many people Columbus killed over the years. Some put it in the millions. His followers killed many millions more, and also destroyed much of the land with slave labour for plantations which exhausted the soil. It still goes on in much of Central America. There are no longer any slaves, though. After all, when you can pay people two or three dollars a day, it's cheaper than having slaves.

So it was with all the empires. All of them murdered and starved their victims by the tens of millions, then imposed on them a brutal economic system that made death preferable. In the process, it destroyed cultures and societies, customs and religion that were the bedrock of whole civilizations. People could not adjust to the new conditions, but had nothing to replace them.

Columbus began the centuries of western imperialism that were centuries of horror unmatched in the history of world, and certainly far, far beyond what even Hitler did and envisaged. It's a horror that still goes on, though often under the name of free trade.

The ordinary westerner got relatively little from this. Throughout the great days of Empire, most British lived in vile conditions with, like other Imperial peoples, very short life expectancies. Their major role was to beat down the victims of imperialism, and to do it at such a cheap rate that few could ever hope to marry, and none could hope to retire to anything but begging. Pay was a shilling a day - but they rarely saw a full day's pay because fines for minor offences were deducted. As well, soldiers in many regiments had to pay for their own muskets ( to a company of which the regimental colonel was a member).

The chances of marriage for a soldier, by the way, were so slim that military expeditions normally included very large numbers of prostitutes.

The use of national armies to make the rich richer continues, of course, to this day. But, with the US in particular, mercenaries are making it possible to fight wars without using your own people -and using them against your own people if necessary. It's a sort of free trade system for war.

3. That is why it is so important for us to believe that Columbus discovered America. It had to be a white man. It couldn't be a black or an arab or a pacific islander or an oriental or even the native peoples. If any of those had discovered it, then they would be just a good as whites, maybe better. Couldn't have that.

All those other people had to be inferior to us. Us whites had to be a superior race. That's why they called the native peoples savages - just like animals. In fact, native people had civilizations; they had social structures and social order. But no, they and African blacks and middle easterners had to be savages.

It was their savagery that defined them as an inferior race -and that justified five hundred years of  mass murder and looting and barbarous treatment of them. Much of our racism is a product of the years of imperialism (which still goes on, and still done to benefit the very, very wealthy; but is now called free trade agreements.)

But we now have a variation on racism, one which draws on the Christian concept of evil. Racism is quite out of fashion. So we define those we fight as being evil - which is really just a variation of racism. So it is that Putin is evil, Muslims are evil. And the leaders of China will soon be evil. Hatred of evil keeps us in line in the same way racial hatred did.

And maybe Putin and Muslims are evil. And maybe Chinese leaders will be. But Bush and Obama have both been murderously evil. So have Tony Blair and the current British premier.

But the word 'evil' is now what the word 'race' used to be - the justification for our own cruel and murderous behaviour. And the message is daily pounded into us by film and by news media. We must hate the people we are abusing in order to justify the abuse we have been dealing out for over 500 years.

.This didn't begin on 9/11. Five hundred years of the destruction of societies, of cultures, of civilizations, of values has left us a world in which peoples thrash about fighting even within their own societies. And on all sides they are taught to hate.

And that's the broad picture of what the news is about.
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http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41820.htm

The story above is an important one for Canadian readers. It's about one of Harper's proposed uses for his secret police to destroy freedom of speech. (And that is not an exaggeration.)

The story is denied by David Frum, a far, far, far right commentator, who is slightly to the left of his sister, Senator Linda Frum who, lacking distinction as a broadcaster, was given a free ticket for life as a senator.
Both them are not just far right. It's much worse than that. Their mother raised them to actively hate and have contempt for anyone who isn't rich.

Yes, I have inside information on that.





























3 comments:

  1. Hi Graeme,

    Driving from Sackville to Amherst there is a large banner, standing in the marsh that was erected by the Knights of Coumbus supporting the "right to life". The irony never ceases to amaze considering the genocide that Columbus was responsible for.

    Justifying the abuses the U.S.and Britain have been accused of may not have started after 9/11, but seeing things from your perspective makes one wonder if the conspiracy theories about the U.S. being responsible for the attacks on the twin towers have any validity. One could probably make a case. Heaven help us, can things get any worse, now even historical perspectives are suspect.

    Thinking back to the 1980's, before we succumbed to owning a television set, we were great fans of Radio Canada International's nightly news show "As it Happens" co-hosted by Barbara Frum (what did you feed the goddamn cabbage?) My goodness we were so naive in those days! Another trip along memory lane between Sackville and Amherst!

    I wonder how many folks out there would be able to relate to my ramblings? Have to be over a certain age with a fondness for CBC radio.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Barbara Frum was a great broadcaster. I enjoyed her. But, oh, I shall never forget that long, long evening I had to host her and her husband. He was a great guy. But her contempt for anybody who wasn't rich was like a wall.
    Linda Frum I met only once, and we didn't exchange any words. But later, reading her stuff, she was her mother. I well remember an interview she did with MacLean's (I think) some years ago. She was being questioned about the trials of living alone (I think she may have been divorced). Her reply ----
    It's very difficult to live alone. I mean, you have to deal with the interior decorator all by yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Barbara Frum was a great broadcaster. I enjoyed her. But, oh, I shall never forget that long, long evening I had to host her and her husband. He was a great guy. But her contempt for anybody who wasn't rich was like a wall.
    Linda Frum I met only once, and we didn't exchange any words. But later, reading her stuff, she was her mother. I well remember an interview she did with MacLean's (I think) some years ago. She was being questioned about the trials of living alone (I think she may have been divorced). Her reply ----
    It's very difficult to live alone. I mean, you have to deal with the interior decorator all by yourself.

    ReplyDelete