Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sept. 20:The importance of reading - and thinking....

History is a good foundation for understanding this world we live in. I've just finished reading an example or really good history. It's called “Wealth and Power”, and it's by Orville Schell and John Delury. It's a history of Chinese government from 1840, the early years of Britain demanding lavish economic power in China, years when China could be overwhelmed by tiny armies, usually western, from Britain, France, Germany, Japan, U.S., and forced to accept humiliating terms. In fact, in China, the term “the great humiliation” still refers to the years from 1840 to the victory of Mao.

It's a very objective book, and one which also reminds us that our interventions in other countries are as brutal as Hitler's were. (However, with all those unfamiliar Chinese names, it can be a slow read. So – hint – read quickly and don't worry about the details.)

I would also suggest you read September edition of LRC (Literary Review of Canada). You won't find it in most stores. Usually, you have to go to large ones like Chapters. It has a review of Erna Paris' book, “From Tolerance to Tyranny: A Cautionary Tale from Fifteenth Century Spain.” It tells us a lot about today.

As the author says, “Distrust of the other seems to slumber within us, ready to erupt under certain conditions of xenophobia and violence.” In the case of Spain, the departure of Muslim rule some 800 years ago, gave rise to a vicious anti-semitism by the time of Columbus. Encouraged and led by Christians, it led to torture, imprisonment and, often, death for Jews, even for Jewish converts to Christianity. Jews were a good deal of what the inquisition was about.

British history books often brag of how Britain gave them refuge, and how they were known as “the king's people”. In fact, they were protected by the king only because they paid him a large ransom for their shelter. A small number, after the British conquest of New France, moved to what it now Quebec. There, they were accepted because they were few, and had become thoroughly British over the centuries. (There is a very large synagogue in Montreal, still called “Spanish and Portuguese”. I often spoke there.)

But things changed very, very dramatically when Jews who were poor and who came from other Europeans countries flooded into Canada in the late nineteenth century. Distrust of the other does, indeed, seem to slumber within us. And so Canada turned its back on Jews, even in the years following World War Two.

Politicians and the owners of private news media know the human tendency to hate 'the other'. That's why Bush, Obama, and Harper have preached hatred of Muslims. That's why Harper speaks of Muslim terrorists on every corner. That's why he's making a big issue of a Muslim woman wearing a veil. It gives our leaders an excuse to murder 'the other' by the millions, to create refugees by the tens of millions, to destroy whole nations. And it uses our fear to get support for laws and secret police that destroy the rights our countries are supposed to stand for. It gave the U.S. an excuse for the illegal imprisonment and torture of Muslims, the killing of a million in Iraq, the destruction of Syria, of Yemen, the endless killing and destruction in Afghanistan, the drone bombers…. Oh, and it also gave Canada an excuse to go along with most of the above.

I shall never forget the cheers that went up around the western world for those crude and disgusting cartoons of Muhammed in Charlie Hebdo. And then the hypocritical outpouring of sympathy for a 3 year old boy who drowned. (Well, of course, he didn't look Muslim.)

What the hell do people think we've been doing for decades in dropping bombs and napalm on three-year old children – and starving them and denying medical aid?

That's why neither Harper nor the U.S. is going to offer any serious help to these people. With tens of millions of refugees homeless and starving, Canada will accept ten thousand…..over five years or so ...maybe….. And Canada and the U.S. will extend them...maybe… a couple of bucks per person.

Meanwhile, the U.S. needs most of its money for the biggest binge of military spending the world has ever seen – and doing it even as millions of Americans are living in poverty. There are a great many more people, including three year old boys, to be killed before the oil billionaires have absolute control over the region.

And they might never get absolute control. It is quite possible that the Arab oil states are looking for closer ties to Russia. They're no fools. Like our capitalists, they don't do anything out of friendship. And it's quite possible their market of the future is China, Russia, Europe.

Meanwhile, we have become the Naziis of the 21st century. That's not an exaggeration.

Another review in LRC worth reading is “Canada: A New Tax Haven – How the Country that Shaped Caribbean Tax Havens is Becoming One Itself”. We can be sure the Irving Press will never report on this book.

Another review worth reading in this issue is “The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy”. I'm not convinced the author of this book is right. It's true that China's rapid growth of recent years did not happen within a democratic system. It was owing entirely to government by a party that was a dictatorship; but which created a superbly trained bureaucracy. Chinese leaders did not choose democracy because they realized its great weakness as revealed by Americans and Europeans.

Democracy depends on a society which is politically active, well educated, one which actually studies policies and discusses them openly. But what it has done to the West is not a pretty story.

We live in societies which are not politically active, not educated to think, a society in which few understand or even care about policies, and in which anyone who discusses politics openly and honestly invites spies and could cost a job. And, all the news we get from privately owned media is loaded with propaganda and lies. With its illiteracy rate of 50% and its timidity, New Brunswick must be one of the most feeble democracies.

But the general feebleness of all democracies is so bad that governments tend to become simply the puppets of billionaires – who have no competency to develop societies, and no interest in anything beyond their own pocketbooks. That's why the Irving press is devoted to keeping people in ignorance.

The Chinese system of rule by meritocracy has been very effective in recent years. But, it is linked to capitalism, and is now showing the same weaknesses as our system. Corruption at all levels is giving the capitalists control of government in China, just as they control it here.

And, no, I don't have an answer. But if New Brunswick ever hopes to enter even the twentieth century, it has to become a province in which most people can read, and in which nobody has to be scared of having a political opinion.

There's a price for our failure. We're seeing it today in Canada and the U.S. We have two elections going on - the Republican leadership in the U.S., and the federal election in Canada. And what are the big issues? Well, for the U.S., it's them there Mexican racists. And it's not just Trump. Nobody in that race is discussing any significant issue. The U.S. is on the verge of nuclear war, possibly of social breakdown. The rise of poverty and the diversion of wealth to the already rich is evident. It is possible that the whole world is rearranging itself economically and militarily in a manner that will be much to the disadvantage of the U.S.

No - it's all them there Mexicans, and maybe about going really crazy and trying to push Russia and China around.

In Canada, it's not really much different. Harper will, maybe, let in so few Muslims that it won't make any difference. Nobody's talking about the trans-Pacific trade deal. Of course not. Any politician who raised an important issue would lose. The only issues the public really knows about are those in the propaganda we get from our news media. That means the big issues are a tax break for - whoever - or getting a bridge for Moncton, or seeing Justin walking toward a camera with the top two buttons of his shirt undone.

The fault is not the politicians'.  It's ours. Politicians have to discuss trivialities because don't know much about what's going on in the world. A great many of us don't want to. Large numbers of us can't even start on what the issues are because they can't read.   In New Bruswick, I really think people are afraid to publicly raise the real issues.

And a great many of us just don't give a damn.

You want to see a real issue?  Google Canadian Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.  What we are watching is the disappearance of the nation-state and of democracy. What we are watching is the development of a new world pretending to be ruled by the people, but actually ruled by a few hundred of the very, very rich and very, very greedy.

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