This year’s Easter is filled with violence

Sunday April 9 marked the 100th anniversary of the First World War’s Vimy Ridge battle, where Canada lost 10,000 soldiers in breaching the German lines.   TV ads prepped Canadians for days ahead of time. “They died for your freedom,” the announcer said, in a twist on Easter’s more traditional message.

Prince Philip attended the ceremony, as did Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. According to the speakers,  Vimy Ridge marked Canada’s emergence as a real nation.  This victory was achieved on the Canadians own initiative, without the British generals telling them what to do.

Only days before we’d seen a chemical attack on a Syrian village.  In response the Americans attacked a government base with missiles.

Few draw a connection between today’s violence-ridden Middle East and the First World War.  As one who grew up in the British Empire however, I can’t help but remember.

In fighting for the British Empire our soldiers fought for Englishmen’s freedom to rule over the millions who were less industrialized. Canada would not exist but for the British lust for conquest. However in 1960 Canada’s Prime Minister John Diefenbaker set the country on a higher path by enacting our Bill of Rights. Then in 1982, Pierre Trudeau repatriated the Constitution and established the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

These actions marked this country’s true emergence as a real nation.  People of all races and creeds live in freedom here today, with the chance to have a decent life.

The idea of Canada finding its national identity through some World War I victory may be pagan in origin. Europeans believed they were the master race, but who was the most masterful? Only the battlefield could sort it out; Odin loves a warrior, and the Valkyries take the fallen up to Valhalla, where they feast forever.

Warfare forms a huge part of old Europe’s history.  England and France’s Hundred Years War is fairly typical. Both sides viewed a successful king as one who expanded the realm, and so things went back and forth forever.

World War I introduced slaughter on an industrialized scale. Nobody could have foreseen the monstrous nature of what developed, as the war was triggered unexpectedly by Serbian terrorists. The major European powers had formed defence alliances which committed them to show up in time of need. Then when Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia to avenge the assassination of their heir-apparent Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, a whirlpool developed into which everyone was drawn in.

Not too long before, the French and British had sided with the Ottoman Empire in their dispute with Russia, with the Crimean War. This time though, the Ottomans picked the wrong allies. The mistake cost them dearly and in the aftermath of their demise, France and Britain seized control of their territories in the Middle East.

The Middle Eastern area enjoyed seven hundred years of peace under the Ottomans, but today refugees flee the hell hole by the millions. Apparently the main cause of the present ongoing conflict is sectarian, similar to the deadly rivalry between Protestants and Catholics, hundreds of years ago.

One modest question:  if outsiders refrained from selling arms into the region, would this not cut down on the slaughter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justin Trudeau in difficult times

Donald Trump’s recent victory sent shockwaves worldwide; it seems incredible that after the recent agreements to act on climate change, the U.S. presidency has fallen into the hands of a denier.

According to American journalist Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science, the anti-science skeptics in Congress are mainly sponsored by big business, or they’re part of the religious Right. However Donald Trump doesn’t appear to belong to either of those camps.

In a later work, Unscientific America, Mooney portrays a nation where huge numbers have simply drifted away from science. Apparently 80% of the population can’t understand the science section in the New York Times. And, only half the adult populace knows the earth travels around the sun once a year.

Trump seems an energetic and intelligent person, who’s been deeply involved with his various businesses. Like so many of his countrymen, he just never bothered to read much.

One day soon Donald Trump is expected to visit Canada, where Justin Trudeau will be his host. This is a great opportunity for exchanging ideas. Could local scientists demonstrate the heat trapping properties of greenhouse gases in the lab for the distinguished guest?

However things play out, Trudeau must be reflecting on his father’s situation, almost fifty years ago. In the 1960’s the Americans were engaged in a fierce civil rights struggle while they survived the Cuban missile crisis and went blindly into their Vietnam hell. Not much has changed, and Canada has to maintain an independent stance.

Jill Stein, voice of decency in a dark era

Much of the world is watching the coming U.S. election at this moment, as momentous issues are involved.  I’m hoping for Clinton, because the other candidate is such a loose cannon.

In an ideal world though, the U.S. would move away from the rigid two party system. Years ago Ross Perot seemed to have a good chance. His accomplishments, courage, integrity, and intellect were outstanding, and if people had heeded his warning of the “giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving the U.S. things might be different today.

Jill Stein, the leader of the Green Party, is another excellent third party choice.  I happened to see an interview of her on Bloomberg a couple of days ago, but it’s gone now. There are other interviews of her around, though. One good one is at vox.com.

In my opinion one of the main weaknesses in today’s American democracy, is that often the best candidates are routinely ignored by the dominant media corporations. Jill Stein is not just a physician, she’s a brilliant thinker who approaches the major world problems in a bold, clear-headed way that is absolutely refreshing.

In Canada right now, the government is considering bringing in a voting system that would ensure more proportional representation, so that voters who prefer one of the smaller parties are not squeezed out. This might work for the U.S. too.

 

 

The Revolt of the Limies

Britain’s move to end further integration with the EU, and go it alone, is a testament to the powerful sense of national identity still felt by the English people.

Isolation from the Continent may have been an advantage during the Industrial Revolution. The British got a real head start and became the world’s greatest maritime power.

A Canadian “war baby,” born in 1943, I remember my grandfather showing me a map of the world in which a huge area was pink; this indicated the British Empire. Canadians were part of something much greater than our own nation.

Within a few years this empire was transformed into the Commonwealth. Life here in British Columbia tended to be egalitarian; people arrived from all over the world and were well accepted.

However a few weeks back, when reading about the recent attacks on Polish people who’d found work in England, the word “Polack” popped into my mind. I don’t know anyone from Poland, and certainly have nothing against them. Somehow though, this disparaging term is part of my vocabulary, along with insulting names for the French, the Spanish and many others.

Bigotry is not in my nature, but the words are part of my long term memory. Do the attitudes they imply come from the imperial world view which dominated Canada in earlier years?

My paternal grandfather, the one who first showed me the map of the world, was Welsh. His first name was also William; apparently the family named him after their Conqueror. However my ancestry also includes the Scottish/Norwegian and the Anglo-Saxon/Danish lines; the history of the English people plays itself out in my veins.

As a Canadian of mature years though, I’m no fan of the growing racism in the old country. The British Empire is ancient history, and it’s time for the English to remember their roots are in the Continent; they are not indigenous to the British Isles.

the great debate

It looks like rough waters are ahead for the U.S.

Apparently many of Trump’s supporters refer to him as their “god-emperor,” and he does bring back memories of the Roman emperors.

Not that this means total disaster if he gets into power.  However it might well dent some of the favorable image and good will still enjoyed by the Americans.

One thing that really struck me was Trump’s position on fossil fuels. If the U.S. does disengage from the world-wide agreement on limiting atmospheric pollution, this will be ruinous for their public image.  Already the white English speaking people are notorious because on a per capita basis, we are the very worst.  At the same time, our countries are among the wealthiest, and best educated.  It behooves those born with a silver spoon in their mouths, to give something back to the world, and not lead the way into catastrophe.

The English speaking peoples have overcome great challenges, and done amazing things.  They are very capable of meeting this challenge also, and leading the way with the Green Shift, just Canada’s Liberals once advocated.  There is no way this would mean loss of jobs.  The need for energy will not go away, how could it?  All that is needed, is for the coal miners and oil men to go to work on geothermal, solar, wind, etc. etc.  It looks like the technicians creating superior types of storage batteries are doing their part, so there’s reason to be optimistic.  However it takes considerable will power on the part of our leaders to make this happen.