Monday, May 30, 2016

May 30: Too much news.

Canadians fought and died in World War Two for many reasons. Many joined up from a sense of loyalty to Britain. Many joined up because there were no jobs. My uncle joined to get away from his wife and children so he could party. A severely retarded boy of 16 who played with me when I was six because, I guess, we were the same mental age stole his older brother's draft notice and joined up because he got a thrill out of hearing his heels click when he marched.

There were many reasons why men died. For many, soldiers and civilians, it was a time of powerful emotions. I thought of that last night as I typed in Vera Lynn on youtube. She was a magnificent British singer, the darling of the troops, of civilians, and even of us kids when she sang:

"There'll always be an England
While there's a country lane,
Wherever there's a cottage small
Beside a field of grain...."

I remember, when I was a kid with other kids and our parents in the church basement while somebody played a recording of it. Lots of people had tears iin their eyes. I didn't understand all the reasons so many people fought and died, or why my parents stood in the basement in tears. But i'm damned sure of one thing.
They didn't fight and die to create a world in which more adults and children and babies would die so that a handful of oil billionaires and bankers could rule the world. Morally, we've fallen one hell of a long way since since that night I heard the voice of Vera Lynn.

Today, 10,000 U.S. troops along with NATO are holding exercises in Eastern Europe. They're aimed at Russia. And they're happening just as the U.S. has planted missile sites along the Russian border. Any slip could lead to a nuclear war.

And a refuge baby drowned.
But the big story in the irving press is that an anglo student who took French immersion in high school has graduated from U. de Moncton. Wow! Who would have guessed that was possible?

Actually, I would have guessed that was possible. Over the years, I taught way over a thousand students from China, Iran, Palestine, The Netherlands, Syria and others for whom English was at least a second language. For some, it was a fifth.  I taught many Francophone Quebecers, and I have many anglo friends who attended U. de Montreal - in French.

I congratulate the student who did this. But it's not a page one headline.
Then, there are two kissup stories about James K. Irving and kissup Rotarians who have given a kissup fellowship for teaching the poor. (Well, he didn't actually teach anybody - though the photo gives that impression. But it was his idea. So there.)

And the tone continues with Brunswick News winning a national newspaper award.  Just one? That's not actually red-hot.

Then there's "UdeM grads urged  to stay true to themselves". Gee. I bet nobody ever said that before at a grad ceremony.

The whole of section A is just trash.
The editorial, as always, is very, very local. Apparently, our cities could do great things if they had more power. Great things, like supporing the energy east pipeline and developing shale gas.

Norbert writes, essentially, about how universities should drop varsity athletic teams. I think he's right. The only reason we have them is because of a crackpot educational  theory out of an elite British school called Rugby. The theory was that sports developed character and leadership. Therefore, sports (of the right kind for the upper classes) should be a feature of schools that taught the children of the upper classes. (Schools for commoners should not encourage such sports because common people would be getting 'above themselves' if they learned character and leadership.) It was really an old idea that went back to the days when jousting and hawking were for only the better class of people.

In North America, universities jumped at the idea over a century ago because they were then largely for the upper class - and were unspeakably snobbish. The snobbery continued after school days when hockey and football were still only for the 'better sort'. That's why the Stanley Cup and the Grey Cup were originally for amateurs only. That kept out the peasantry who couldn't afford to join the clubs.

Varsity teams are expensive, and I have seen no evidence they develop either character or leadership. This is a waste of university money.

Craig Babstock tells another bedtime story for wee folk.

Alec Bruce, once again, really has nothing to say.
Canada&World has four pages. Three and three-quarters of them are trivia.
The lead story, the big item for world news in a world where millions are starving, millions have been murdered, and we teeter on the edge of world nuclear war, is that some work remains to be done on a school in Haiti named after an RCMP officer. It's to give training in basic, manual skills. And it completely ignores all the fundamental questions.

Why is Haiti so poor that somebody else has to build that school? Cuba was once that poor but, despite roadblocks and attacks by the U.S., Cuba managed to build free schooling for the whole country all the way to university graduation. It also established medicare.

Why is Haiti so poor?

Well, both Cuba and Haiti were once that poor. That was when both were ruled by dictators supported by the U.S. and American big business. Cuba got rid of the dictator. So did Haiti - for a time when it kicked out the dictator and elected a president. (who may or may not have done any good - that's another story.)

But the U.S. invaded Haiti (with Canadian help), exiled the elected president, and established a new system so corrupt it's really a repeat of the old dictatorship. Haitians are back to starvation wages, no services, but healthy profits for the American wealthy. You find the same thing in Guatemala and many other South American countries.
C3 has a worthwhile read by student columnist Jessica Naugler. She discusses how important bees are to us, and the terrible impact that pesticides are having on their survival. But, relax. No big business in New Brunswick would be so irresponsible as to spray pesticides all over.
U.S. police have now killed 410 people this year.
Here's one about Syria that is kinder to Assad than most western reports are. However, this one backs up its views with some  useful fact (which we don't get in most of our news media). It also raises practical questions - like the tremendous cost of U.S. military activity in the middle east which greatly exceeds any benefit the American people can get from this. When you combine that with the American wealthy hiding their money in tax havens, these become very expensive wars, indeed.


Gee.  I wonder why the U.S. would want military bases in Argentina on the borders of Brazil and Paraguay.
Here's a viewpoint that is commoner than we like to think. We're fond of criticizing some religions for their treatment of women. In fact, mistreatment of women is common in almost any religion I have  heard of.

The subordination of women runs through the Christian Bible, the Talmud and the Torah, as well as through Islam. It is only with the 20th century that we have begun to see change in that - and there's still a long way to go.

I have noticed the same thing in Buddhist temples, among Hindus.... Christian preachers are lately given to speak of Jesus as treating women as equals. But the evidence is pretty flimsy. And, certainly, Christians in history have not treated women as equals.
Information clearing house is overwhelming from May 28 to May 30. I can only recommend you read all of them.

The reality is that there is a revolution going on all around us. Capitalism is a system that places no limits on greed and that has no moral obligation to human life. This has been turned loose in a madness such as the world has never seen.  I call it a madness because it's insane even  for the capitalists to pursue this course. The U.S. government, which is owned by the wealthy, is looking for major wars all over the world. But any such war would be sure to call nuclear weapons into use. And even if we can stop all the incoming missiles (which I doubt), the explosion of a thousand (probably more) such weapons in other parts of the world would put an end to all life, perhaps even to the Moncton events centre.
For a start, we might think about changing the focus of November 11. We should not, as we do now, blend military service with patriotim. (Unless, of course, we are willing to pay tribute to the patriotism of German, Japanese, Syrian, Libyan, Iraqi, Taliban victims of war.)

Patriotism is not our highest obligation. When we act as though it is, we are being groomed to die for those who make money out of wars. But we have higher obligations than to those of country.

We do and should remember those who served with sadness and respect and thanks. But we should not blend that with a worship of patriotism. That sort of thinking is what caused us to send Canadians to die in Afghanistan. And that will be used to send more to die in wars that have nothing to do with Canada or, for that matter, with most Americans. They have to do only with the wants of mega billionaires. Funny how most of our churches haven't noticed that.

Time is getting short. We are living in a mad, mad, mad, mad world. The fact that a Donald Trump can not only run for the presidency buy can build up massive support for it is a warning sign of where manipulation of the public can  take us, of why we need honest news, of why we have to be encouraged to think rather than to conform.

The irving press is our enemy. It keeps us ignorant of the world beyond, say, Fredericton; it feeds us propaganda. It keeps us rooted in Moncton with our noses in our own bellybuttons.

But what happens to the rest of the world happens to us.

It reminds me of the end of a part of the story I began with, the one about the 16 year-old boy who stole his brother's draft papers to join the army. His parents said it was terrible, and they would tell the army. But they never did. When he was killed, the government sent his family several thousand dollars which all disappeared into the liquor stores in short order. He was buried in The Netherlands under his brother's name. The mother said she would tell them to correct it. But she never did. (Many years later, I changed it.)

Some years ago, I met a man from our old neighbourhood who had been with Bertie when he died.

"Yeah. Bertie just loved the army. He loved marchin'.  He could do it all day, listenin' to his heels clickin'.  Then we moved up for our first action.

 We were lyin' on our faces with a German machine gun  cuttin' just above us. I heard something from Bertie, and looked at 'im. He was cryin'. What the hell. He was only a kid, only sixteen. Then he jumped up screamin', and the machine gun cut him in half.

Craziest thing. He was screamin' for his mother."

On Nov. 11, feel the sorrow. Feel the thanks. But don't glorify it with patriotism.
And, long before November 11, take the time to think about the full meaning of the news

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