Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Remembering Peace

Every year, around Remembrance Day, I usually write a piece about peace.

When I learnt about Remembrance Day, as a child, there were always two important lessons.

The first is that a lot of people - millions, in fact - had sacrificed their lives or had their lives sacrificed, in the name of protecting the freedoms we have today. We have a duty to remember those people. While there is a debate as to which wars were really fought for noble causes, this does not detract from the sacrifice these people intended to make.

The second lesson always was this: never again. This is a lesson we can learn whatever it is that we believe about the real causes of the World Wars and all the wars since. This is a lesson taught directly from the butchery of all those sacrificed on all of the false altars that lead us to war. Whether that altar is called the "Fatherland" or the "Queen" or "democracy", we are supposed to have learnt by now that any resort to war is a failure on our part. It is failure on the part of us, the human beings living on this planet, to properly honour and remember those who have suffered the horrors of all previous wars.

We've been slaughtering each other for millennia. With the advent of civilization, we were supposed to smarten up and stop this nonsense. Somehow, though, we fail. We let every manner of thing steer us to violence against one other.

Sometimes it's religion. Sometimes it's a crucial resource. Sometimes it's patriotism. It's almost always someone with a lot of power wanting more, whether that person be priest, nationalist or power baron.

We the people, however, have an obligation to see through the lies. The people of Germany had an obligation to realize that Poland wasn't amassing an army to attack them, and certainly an obligation to realize the lie afterwards when it took but three days to conquer that country. The people of Israel and Palestine have an obligation to realize that four thousand year old bloody histories don't entitle them to each other's land. The people of Canada and the United States have an obligation to realize when their patriotism is being manipulated to seize the oil, land and cheap labour of other nations.

That, to me, is the meaning of Remembrance Day: the obligation to remember the horror of war and to see through the lies that caused it in the past so as to prevent them in the future.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

American Election

(from Nov 9, 2006)

On Tuesday, the Americans held an election. Their system of government, mildly more complicated (and considerably more influenced by lobbying cash), held two important levels of election.

The Senate, a law-making body of 100 senators, elected one third of its members. The House of Representatives, with considerably more members, flushed itself clean and elected some 435 members. Both of these levels of government were controlled by the party of George Bush, the party that calls itself Republican. Both of these levels of government are now in the control of the Democrats, the part they call "left wing" in the United States, but would be called "right wing" anywhere else in the world. It only appears "left" relative to what we in Canada would call the "extreme right" of the Republicans.

What does this mean? Technically speaking, it's going to make things harder for Bush. Where before the Republican House and Senate would vote on laws and Bush would sign them, those two bodies will now produce "left-leaning" Democratic legislation, which the President can always veto (requiring a larger majority to override the veto). So we should all dance in the streets, right? No more unilateral invasions of random countries? No more Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan? We'll have less combative policies out of the U.S. regarding North Korea, Iran? We'll have fewer wars over hydrocarbons?


Left and right are all matters of degree. In Canada, we have Conservatives, whom we expect to represent the interests of fairly rich people and corporations. We have Liberals, whom we expect to represent the middle class workers, but who increasingly represent rich people as well. We have the NDP, whom we expect to represent the working class. In the U.S., it's not the same. The Republican party represents the extraordinarily rich, the CEOs - the richest of the rich whom George Bush calls his "base". The Democrats represent, actually, almost the exact same people, all they do get the support of trade unions and other organizations on the basis that they're not quite as bad as the Republicans.

But look at the facts: most Democrats voted for the war in Iraq; no Democrat has come out against it; when Clinton was president, he maintained the debilitating, starving sanctions in Iraq and approved the invasion of Kosovo. If you're expecting massive change, don't look here. Don't expect any attempt to disengage the North American mouth from the Middle Eastern oil teat. Don't expect to see all those permanent bases in Iraq pull up stakes. Oh, there'll be a bone thrown to the poor - an increase in the minimum wage. There'll be some window dressing regarding 9/11. But will the black site prisons in Eastern Europe be shut down? Will the prisoners in Gitmo get their trials? Will the torture stop at Abu Ghraib? Will the "Oil Exploration" welfare be diverted to research in to solar and wind power?

Of course not. The two parties in the United States are owned by, basically, the same groups of people - oil barons and arms manufacturers. The Democrats won't be as bad, but don't expect massive change.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers