Saturday, August 1, 2015

August 1: My apologies....

I said yesterday that today I would write about the chances of peaceful change in Canada and other parts of the world. But yesterday, I thought, was Saturday. It wasn't. It was Friday. It's not my fault. My university never had a required course on how to tell which day it is. So I shall write it on Sunday which is tomorrow, right?

I'm going to start today with a letter to the editor. "Government not a 'universal' provider.". This was written by an obviously intelligent (if smug) university student. It's about the high cost of university education for students - cost that s starts them off in life with a heavy debt made up by borrowing.

I chose it because it represents a)a failure to understand what university is (or should be) about, and b) a failure to understand what a society is. I expect there were letters similar to this a couple of centuries ago when we made tuition free for all children by creating public schools.

It also represents a common business approach which sees business as the only possible model for dealing with all issues.

Briefly, he writes that all investments in the future tale time to see a return.  (Oh? Check the deal that Irving got on our forests, that he got on his Halifax shipyards. Tell us about the struggles of the Irving children as they went into debt for their schooling.)

Then - it's the students who decided to go to university. So they shouldn't expect government to pay for. Right. And it's the children that decide to go to kindergarten - so they shouldn't expect all of us to pay for it.

And the gem - he writes that going to university is like going into business. So the business-like thing to do is to pick a programme that will get you a job that makes lots of money.

There are so many things wrong with this.

1. A university is not like a business. It is (or should be) about training human minds to think. The purpose of business is simply to make a profit.We need trained minds in many areas that have nothing to do with business - education, the church, social work, social programmes.. Ideally, everybody should have a chance to learn how to think because,  in a democracy, we need people who can think and vote intelligently....
2. Some, like medecine and law, do train people for specific careers. But it is not only getting the credentials these train them in. It is also the thinking processes necessary to develop scientific understanding and ethics.  (Okay. Some lawyers aren't good at the latter.)
A  society needs more, much, much more intellectual training to survive and develop.
3.  A money-making degree like business administration has little intellectual content. It's rather more like learning to drive a car. Indeed, it cramps the mind by tacitly accepting an ideology of economic development that has produced poverty and mass murder all over the world.

We don't need more businessmen. We need more people capable of intelligent thought, and with a sense of what a society is. The societies that based themselves on a business approach (like the British Empire) have crashed, just as the U.S. right now is crashing - though it is not  yet
 clear how many of the rest of us  will go in that crash.

4. Deciding to go to university is  not the simple process the writer thinks it is.  The rich just automatically go. They grow up with that expectation.  And even the really stupid rich go - like George Bush Jr. who was stoned most of the time, but still passed - and not by any native brilliance because to this day it is obvious he has no intellectual skills at all. So how did he pass? Guess.
And he got into a Master of   Business Administration programme - though his grades were too low for it. And, still stoned, he passed that!  Guess how that happened. And his very first job was CEO of an oil company. (Which went broke, but not before George got his money out. This is one captain who would never go down with the ship.

But as you go down the social scale, the pattern changes. I have never seen any evidence that the children of the rich are more intelligent than the children of the poor. But the children of the poor -= and many of the middle class - are not raised in the belief that they have any right to go to university, not even if they have good grades. They simply don't come from a background that encourages such thought.

Everything in this letter to the editor justifies a society in throwing away people who might help to develop the society, while educating only those who will exploit the society to make themselves richer. In fact, it's a clear argument for going back two centuries, and privatizing all education, making it fully  available only to those born rich.

The world leader in free public education was Scotland. Some years ago, I read a book on the 150 most important people in history. The author noted that a disproportionate number of those who made a difference in the world have been Scottish and Jewish. Neither group could be categorized as rich in historical terms. But the Jewish community has a long tradition of high respect for education and debate. And the Scots were pioneers in free public education. My highland grandfather grew up in poverty. He left school after grade six because it was essential for him to learn a trade to survive. So he was apprenticed to a tailor. He remained poor to his death. But he learned three languages at school, his native Gaelic, English and French. He also developed a love for reading from school, so he kept teaching himself all his life. He could recite Burns endlessly, and knew The Bible so well, he frequently conducted church services.

The Jewish kids I grew up with were very poor, and the Jewish district of Montreal a quite awful place. I recently had a post from one is now a lawyer, and has a PhD in history. Several are now lawyers or doctors.

It's not just rich kids who have brains. In fact, I have met few rich people who have much respect for university education. It's for social status, and possibly for 'credentials'. But that's it.

Very few of my Christian childhood friends went to university. Most never finished high school. They weren't stupid. They weren't lazy. In fact, they were exactly  the kind of people who the rich exploit by using them as cheap labour.

I didn't  spend all those years, going into debt, in university so I could teach smug, rich kids. Nor did I get rich. In fact, the years of lost revenue and the debt combined left me way back of the crowd. But I loved teaching. And I'm glad I did it. And I know that education is not "just like running a business".
As you might guess from this long intro, there isn't much in the Irving press. The most interesting pages are the death notices. The silliest story in on A10. It's a report that New Brunswickers, more than any other Canadians have sex in cars. ( Of course, that could be a problem. It could be that. New Brunswickers get turned on by cars, not by sex..)

As well, people who own more than one car have more sex in them that others. People who drive larger cars, like trucks or minivans, are real sex maniacs. So are people who drive yellow cars.

There are no figures for motorcycles, bicycles, scooters or boards. So much for the news YOU need to know.
The editorialist says we have to go for an austerity programme more severely than we have. His point, in the last sentence, is that we have to fire more civil servants. Nothing in the editorial explains why that would be good or what effect it would be likely to have. Nor does it mention that maybe the rich should get a little of the austerity treatment. As usual, it' a vague and ignorant editorial. But one the boss will certainly like.  Kiss. Kiss.

Norbert writes his third or fourth editorial on the election. They all say much the same thing.

Brent Mazerolle his usual column on nothing in particular.

Gwynne Dyer's column, about Cyprus, is good. But it's not about one of the great issues of our day. That's a characteristic of the Dyer columns that appear in the Irving press. I'm pretty sure the editors pick just the ones they want us to see.

Bill Belliveau has a good article on Senate reform - if you believe the history books. They and Belliveau  claim that the Senate was created as a chamber of "second, sober thought."

It wasn't.

Canada, itself was created largely by British investors who wanted to unite the British colonies in North America so they could raise more money to help themelves build railways and other goodies. Our federal government was created to serve the interests of big business. That, and not a spiritual connection with the St. Lawrence River or a 'vision' of any sort, is what made John A. favour confederation.

But what if Canadians were ever to elect a federal government that wasn't a servant to big business?
The Senate was designed to prevent that. It was designed to block any government that might want to do foolish,wasteful things, like serving the needs of the Canadian people. It was designed for people like the Mike Duffys of this world.

I have known many senators. Some were quite nice people. But all were party hacks for whichever government appointed them. One, the daughter of a famous woman, is no great authority on anything, and has no distinguished experience. But she's a senator. Why?    Because she has the most viciously extreme right-wing views I have ever encountered. She makes the fascist Mussolini look like a sweetheart.

I'm not at all sure the Senate can be reformed. It's a deliberately anti-democratic institution. In a democracy, we would be allowed to choose the people we want to govern us. An appointed Senate doesn't allow that.

Canada&World is even more feeble than usual.
On B3, an important story gets only a short column "Harper sticks with NATO assurance mission until June". It's really about Ukraine, and Canada's commitment to train and supply Ukrainian troops and to take part in military exercises near the Russian border.

The story is we're doing it to maintain freedom and democracy in Ukraine. Very good of us. So how come we didn't invade the U.S. when it attacked Iraq? How come we didn't defend Guatemala when the U.S. massacred hundreds of thousands? Why did we help to attack Libya? Why are we helping to attack Syria? The U.S. has acted to destroy democracy in Ukraine, much of Central America, in Egypt - without a peep out of Mr. Harper.

What is the Ukraine all about? Why are we supplying troops and money? Why are we joining in the attempt to scare Russia?
Will it work? Probably not. Will it cause a world nuclear war? very possibly.

So why are we in this?

On B4, Hilary Clinton speaks in favour of lifting the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba because it would bring "dignity and democracy" to Cuba. That's funny - in a gruesome  way.

It was the U.S. that prevented dignity and democracy in Cuba for sixty years by imposing a brutal dictator on Cuba. And lifting the embargo would "advance democracy"?

Many Americans will believe that crap because they've been taught that America was the world's first democracy and that its has spread democracy all over the world. Well, it wasn't the first democracy. That was hundreds of years before there was a U.S. Perhaps even more if one studies the histories of native peoples. (As well, the U.S. revolution did NOT bring democracy. You can't have a democracy where well over half the population don't have the vote or don't own enough property to qualify, or are slaves. Some democracy!

And lifting the embargo would advance democracy? Well, the U.S. had no right to impose that embargo in the first place. So if it wanted Cuba to be democratic, why did they impose the embargo. And I can think of many, many undemocratic countries that don't have U.S. embargoes imposed on them. There's Egypt, for example, where the U.S. destroyed democracy - but there's no embargo. The same is true of much of Central America.

Then, on B7, there's a story headlined "Analysis - Afghan Government hopes to divide Taliban"

Hint to the editor who wrote that headline. An Analysis is not a story. It's an opinion. So it should appear on the commentary page. (After reading it, it seems a bad mixture of both news and opinion.)

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