Sunday, May 31, 2015

May 31: No paper today. But things to talk about.

Some days ago, I promised to take a look at why New Brunswickers are so passive in matters of public affairs. And, trust me, they are passive. They don't know what's going on; and  most don't want to know. I have more than a thousand times spoken on public affairs at large assemblies in other parts of Canada, The Netherlands, even China to audiences of hundreds each time.

Yes, I know those are all bigger than Moncton. But, usually, the audience was from a much, much smaller potential audience than Moncton provides. Very often, it was in a synagogue or a church or a library with a membership much smaller than the population of Moncton.  New Brunswick has, by far, the most passive population I have ever seen. Why is that? I think there are two reasons.

1. One goes back to the earliest days of British rule in this region. New Brunswick was a desirable colony because it was a great resource of timber  (Just one, three-decker battleship in the huge British fleet used 150 acres of timber.) So it was that cutting timber became far the most important source of cash wages in this colony.

But only certain people got licenses to cut timber. So the cash wages in each license district could come only from the man with the right government connections - and there was only one such man in each district.

Commonly, that timber baron was also the one elected to represent the district politically. And there was, for many years, no secret ballot. You stood up and told the clerk loud and clear the name of the one you were voting for.

Vote the wrong way - and you would probably never work again.

2. New Brunswick has a very large rural and small town population and, in fact, much of its urban population is not far from those rural roots. For people living in such small group environments, to be different is to be isolated. It's important not to be different. It's important to fit in. New ideas, different ideas, are not welcome until they've been aged a century or so. They are particularly unwelcome in those in our industrial towns dominated by our present-day version of the old timber barons. There, new ideas can not only isolate you; but get you fired.

These attitudes thrive even today in the province's cities where most people vote for one of two parties, both of them owned by the timber baron, and neither of them with any sense of purpose beyond getting elected. So the province will elect Liberals, get mad at them, elect conservatives, get mad at them, and elect Liberals to get mad at again.

Neither the parties nor the voters have any idea what it is they want except, perhaps, in a few minor issues. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives nor the voters have much sense of what is desirable or needed. How could they? Most have never even talked about it. That's why the churches have pancake breakfasts and gospel hootenannies, but little to no discussion about real life. That's why we get so many bland, pie-in-the-sky sermonettes on the Faith page.

Nor does the newspaper, owned by the timber baron, do what a newspaper is supposed to do. It does not give us full and honest information. It provides very little useful commentary to stimulate discussion and thinking.

What we get are propganda stories,trivial editorials, Norbert's column, commentaries by staff in the paper that stick to very safe topics, often simply telling little, bedtime stories. The have no insight into social needs,  no political values to explain - and just as well. If they did, they'd be fired the same day by the boss. That's not the fault of the reporters who get stuck to write those commentaries. Reporters are not trained to be commentators. The only reason they have to write those things is that it's cheaper for the Irving press to stick them with extra work rather than pay for informed comment.

This is New Brunswick's greatest problem - an attitude of fear which has left this province stuck in the political and social mud since 1755.

And, I suspect, this fear of thinking also explains why this province has a lower literacy rate than some third world countries. New Brunswick are as intelligent as any other group in this world, and certainly are capable of reading and thinking as well as any other group - but who live under a powerful few who find it convenient to discourage them from thinking for themselves.

There's an interesting development in the Toronto region. A Muslim boy has been arrested for defacing a synagogue. And so he should be. But that's not quite what he's being charged with. It seems that the Toronto police have a "hate crime" squad; and the boy is being charged with a "hate crime".

Now, many crimes, surely are "hate crimes" in the sense that they are caused by hatred. That goes all the back to Cain who slew Abel  - but -

I've never heard of an attacker or a killer or a person who breaks church windows (as local Catholic boys did to my childhood church) as being "hate criminals". Exactly what does "hate crime" mean?
Stephen Harper, quite illegally, refused to allow a Muslim woman to wear a veil while taking the oath of citizenship. There is no law against that. Harper committed a crime in denying her a right. As well, he did it to play on hatreds in Canada to get himself re-elected. wouldn't that make Harper guilty of a "hate crime".

Indeed, Harper has worked tirelessly to encourage hatred of Muslims - as have commentators in much of our news media. Are those "hate crimes"?

The government and Canadians in general cheered on a French magazine for having the "courage" to devote itself to cartoons showing a gross hatred of Muslims.  Were we cheering on a "hate crime"? And how many people would tolerate a magazine in Canada featuring gross and disgusting cartoons of Jesus?

If an Israeli Jew, visiting Canada were to deface a mosque, I expect he would be arrested for doing damage to a building. But would he be charged with a "hate crime"? I doubt it.

In general, I like Jews. Generally, I much prefer them to Christians.  But I hate Netanyahu. I hate the government he has appointed. And I hate what Israel has become. But Harper has made it clear that Israel is the only country in human history that cannot ever do wrong. Does that make me a hate criminal? Does it make my Jewish friends in the "Peace Now" movement into hate criminals? The Israeli lobby in the US and Canada has devoted itself to promoting hatred of Muslims, and violence against them.  One of Canada's leading figures for the Israeli lobby is a newspaper editor who, recently, publicly denounced me as an anti-semite and a liar. Is that a hate crime? Or did I commit a hate crime by criticizing Israel?

I'm surprised the news media haven't asked more questions about this. What, exactly, is a hate crime?
So far, it looks to me like having an opinion that the prime minister does not agree with. And that is almost certainly the way this is bound to develop.

The boy who defaced a synagogue committed a crime, and he should be charged with it. But when we introduce new and vague terminology into our law system, we're moving into dangerous waters.
Oh, remember the recent story about a shoot-out between police and drug mobsters in which 41 mobsters and 1 policeman waere killed? Did it seem to you odd that 41 to 1 seemed an odd outcome for a shoot-out? Well.....

It turns out there are problems with the story....

1. There was a very large police force on the ground. But the killings were done by a police helicopter with a machine-gun.
2. And it seems that the drug mobsters weren't drug mobsters- or criminals of any sort.

So what was all that really about? We don't know. And I doubt whether our news media will ever tell us. Somewhere in all this is a big story about CIA connections with big time drug dealers, and the extraordinary corruption of Mexican government down to the lowest levels. I shall never forget the Mexican border officer who stamped by passport and said, "You may tip me now."

Why would the CIA have connections with drug dealers? Well, they can be very useful in destabilizing Latin American governments that want to do silly things - like making American business owners pay taxes.
But, hey, why waste a Sunday thinking?. Go to church, instead.

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