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Now that school is almost over (got called into a full-time temporary contract for June), I should have more time to write on the blog.  I apologize for the sporadic scheduling for the last month or so, hopefully over the summer months we can get back into a regular publishing rhythm.

While perusing the CBC website I came across an article about calls to “Cancel Canada Day” in light of the mass graves being discovered at residential school sites across Canada, and the opinions of five Canadians on the topic.

“Don Amero – Country and folk singer-songwriter, Winnipeg

“I think my own belief is that Canada Day is a thing in terms of how we approach it. I think that’s where we really need to kind of take a deeper look at it. I think to spend millions of dollars in celebration, not sure if that’s what we should be doing as a country now. I think maybe [we should spend] time to reflect and to really educate ourselves.

“It is an opportunity for every individual, every Canadian, to say, ‘Where do I fit in this story?’ And I think if you’re here and you’re in this country, you’re a piece of this story. And I think that you really need to educate yourself. You can be complicit, you can be ignorant or you can educate yourself. My hope is that what we do this Canada Day is we spend more time educating ourselves on our history and who we were, who we are now and who we want to be in the future.”

I think that people won’t bother to ‘educate themselves’ unless it directly effects how they interact with society, or their income.  I suspect that when asked, most Canadians will agree on the tragedy that was the Residential School system and sympathize.  But not much past that.

I doubt that many Canadians will actually spend time ‘educating themselves’ unless it is job to be in the know.  Historians, teachers, and the odd politician yes, but for the average person, most likely not.

If we move toward a society that values past knowledge and wisdom then then numbers may change a bit, but right now, sadly, we are not far behind the ahistorical United States when it comes to learning from history (see our Pandemic response vis-a-vis lessons the Spanish Flu Epidemic had to offer).

“Lynn-Marie Angus – Co-founder of B.C-based Sisters Sage, an Indigenous brand that hand-crafts wellness and self-care products, member of Gitxaala, Nisga’a and Métis Nations

Honestly I never celebrate Canada Day. I haven’t since I think I was old enough to realize what Canada stood for, what Canada Day is. I’m Indigenous, so I’ve been brought up in a culture of racism. This is just something that’s normal. It’s normalized, unfortunately. But this is something that I deal with day to day  It’s really difficult right now for Indigenous folks. So we’re all really suffering and traumatized and dealing with this very publicly through social media.

There’s a saying that people are saying now: There’s no pride in genocide. And that’s so true. So it’s hard to be proud to be Canadian. I’m proud to be an indigenous person. Our existence Is our resistance. We are still here.”

I’m not sure that Canada is all about the genocide, at least these days.  Canada as a minor power in the world does limited work on the world stage and mostly follows the lead of the US (like we have much choice in the matter).  The successive governments that have ignored indigenous concerns is certainly not a record to be proud of, but one can hope we can improve on our political record regarding the treatment of indigenous Canadians.

“Scott Clark – Executive director, Vancouver ALIVE, director of the Northwest Indigenous Council Society

“I’ve never been a supporter of [Canada Day], recognizing the ongoing process Canada is doing to our people. But [calls to cancel Canada Day] are starting to shed light on the history of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous people. I would say that if anything [cancelling] is going to bring light to the historical and the contemporary relations between the Indigenous people, I would support that.

“I think [that] the uncovering of the the unmarked graves … for some reason, this has taken off with the Canadian public. I think they’re empathetic. I think  they’re shocked.

“I do not identify as a Canadian citizen. That’s been imposed upon myself at birth.  And that’s a result of the Canada Indian Act. So this is why I say there’s a lot of unfinished business that Canada has yet to do. So I don’t consider myself a Canadian, let alone a proud Canadian.”

Well, you happen to live in the political boundary of the landmass we like to call Canada, so there is that, but as with all self identification, you do you.  Again, an appeal to shed light on our history.  Once this news cycle is over, I’m not sure how much light will be left shining on the issue.

 

“Parry Stelter – President, founder of Word of Hope Ministries, originally from Alexander First Nation-Treaty Six Territory in Edmonton, Sixties Scoop survivor

“I feel that this Canada Day should not be cancelled. We should be standing at attention … but standing at attention.in fully acknowledging the full history of Canada and all its atrocities and the genocide and the residential schools.

“I think it’s a matter of changing your total perspective on the whole celebration, because many people go straight to ‘Why would I want to celebrate the past? Why would I?’ So now it’s a matter of changing perspective and saying, as I celebrate Canada Day, I’m not going to celebrate it for what it has been in the past. I’m going to celebrate it for what I want it to be in the future.

“The fact of the matter is that we still all live here. And so we have to make the most of it and move forward and not just be resilient and not just survive, but learn how to thrive in our lives. But I totally understand if my people or anybody else don’t want to celebrate. I totally understand because we all grieve in different ways.

Parry has a great line in there –  I’m going to celebrate it [Canada Day] for what I want it to be in the future.  If we actually learned from our past mistakes Parry’s comment would resonate much more clearly.  Unfortunately, the way our society is structured, just keeping our head above water and getting some time away from the rat-race is always fully centred in our consciousness.  Historical reflection is a luxury many Canadians simply don’t have.

” Aziza Mohammed – Consultant for the World Bank, Toronto

“I don’t think it should be cancelled.I realize we’ve had some very troubling revelations, but the way forward is not to stop aspiring to be a better country, and it’s not to try and erase the existence of a country or erase history. It’s about acknowledging it and and trying to do something better.

“While acknowledging the pain of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, there’s lots of suffering throughout Canada’s history and even today. I’m a  Muslim woman, I’m a racialized person. We have our places of worship burned down, vandalized with swastikas. I’ve been driven out of the first home I bought, which was in a small town in Canada, because the racist locals made my life so unbearable, I had to flee.

“There’s  a lot for me personally to be upset about when it comes to our country, our history and fellow Canadians. But I still want to look forward. I still want to be positive…. Life here can’t just be suffering. It’s also a little bit of community and fellowship and joy. That’s worth celebrating to me.”

Tackling the more discriminatory elements in our society is a laudable goal.

 

What I think we should celebrate in Canada is the fact that we can (for the most part) state and freely share our opinions and thoughts.  We still have a social rights framework in which the common people can safely hold a myriad of political thoughts and opinions and be able to disseminate them in our society.    Without the freedom of the intellectual commons, Canada would be much diminished.  I’m guessing that most Canadians take for granted the rights and freedoms that we have, since we have been exercising our freedom of thought and speech for so long now.

All of the diversity of opinion expressed here goes away if we lose our superstructure of guaranteed rights and freedoms.  So, I think I’ll spend a little time reflecting on that fact that I live in a liberal democratic society that allows me to dissent from the majority and share opinions without deleterious consequences to my personal well being.  And for that I am proud and grateful to live in, and be Canadian.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning without Flinching from History

“The United States has been the imperial power of record on this planet since World War II. Lately, the economic and moral aspects of that power have waned, even as our military power remains supreme (though without being able to win anything whatsoever). That should tell you something about America. We’re still a “SmackDown” country, to borrow a term from professional wrestling, in a world that’s increasingly being smacked down anyway.

Harold Pinter, the British playwright, caught this country’s imperial spirit well in his Nobel Prize lecture in 2005. America, he said then, has committed crimes that “have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

Anyone with a knowledge of our history knows that there was truth indeed in what Pinter said 15 years ago. He noticed how this country’s leaders wielded language “to keep thought at bay.” Like George Orwell before him, Pinter was at pains to use plain language about war, noting how the Americans and British had “brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call[ed] it bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East.”

The point here was not simply to bash America. It was to get us to think about our actions in genuine historical terms. A decade and a half ago, Pinter threw down a challenge, and even if you disagreed with him, or maybe especially if you did so, you need the intellectual tools and command of the facts to grapple with that critique. It should never be enough simply to shout “USA! USA!” in an ever-louder fashion and hope it will drown out not only critics and dissenters but reality itself — and perhaps even your own secret doubts.

And we should have such doubts. We should be ready to dissent. We should recognize, as America’s current attorney general most distinctly does not, that dissenters are often the truest patriots of all, even if they are also often the loneliest ones. We should especially have doubts about a leader who threatens to bring violence against another country 1,000 times greater than anything that country could visit upon us.

I don’t need the Catholic Church, or even Christ in the New Testament, to tell me that such thinking is wrong in a Washington that now seems to be offering a carnivorous taste of what a future American autocracy could be like. I just need to recall the wise words of my Polish mother-in-law: “Have a heart, if you’ve got a heart.”

Have a heart, America. Reject American carnage in all its forms.”

I am hoping we do not have to learn about how bad the second wave is before it is too late.

History (Straight from Wikipedia)

Timeline

First wave of early 1918

The pandemic is conventionally marked as having begun on 4 March 1918, with the recording of the case of Albert Gitchell, an army cook at Camp Funston in Kansas, United States, despite there likely having been cases before him.[24] The disease had been observed in Haskell County in January 1918, prompting local doctor Loring Miner to warn the US Public Health Service‘s academic journal.[25] Within days, 522 men at the camp had reported sick.[26] By 11 March 1918, the virus had reached Queens, New York.[citation needed] Failure to take preventive measures in March/April was later criticised.[27]

As the US had entered World War I, the disease quickly spread from Camp Funston, a major training ground for troops of the American Expeditionary Forces, to other US Army camps and Europe, becoming an epidemic in the Midwest, East Coast, and French ports by April 1918, and reaching the Western Front by the middle of the month.[24] It then quickly spread to the rest of France, Great Britain, Italy, and Spain, and in May reached Wrocław and Odessa.[24] After the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Germany started releasing Russian prisoners of war who then brought the disease to their country.[28] It reached North Africa, India, and Japan in May, and soon after had likely gone around the world as there had been recorded cases in Southeast Asia in April.[29] In June an outbreak was reported in China.[30] After reaching Australia in July, the wave started to recede.[29]

The first wave of the flu lasted from the first quarter of 1918 and was relatively mild.[31] Mortality rates were not appreciably above normal;[32] in the United States ~75,000 flu-related deaths were reported in the first six months of 1918, compared to ~63,000 deaths during the same time period in 1915.[33] In Madrid, Spain, fewer than 1,000 people died from influenza between May and June 1918.[34] There were no reported quarantines during the first quarter of 1918. However, the first wave caused a significant disruption in the military operations of World War I, with three-quarters of French troops, half the British forces, and over 900,000 German soldiers sick.[35]

Seattle police wearing masks in December 1918

Deadly second wave of late 1918

The second wave began in the second half of August, probably spreading to Boston and Freetown, Sierra Leone by ships from Brest, where it had likely arrived with American troops or French recruits for naval training.[35] From the Boston Navy Yard and Camp Devens (later renamed Fort Devens), about 30 miles west of Boston, other U.S. military sites were soon afflicted, as were troops being transported to Europe.[36] Helped by troop movements, it spread over the next two months to all of North America, and then to Central and South America, also reaching Brazil and the Caribbean on ships.[37] From Freetown, the pandemic continued to spread through West Africa along the coast, rivers, and the colonial railways, and from railheads to more remote communities, while South Africa received it in September on ships bringing back members of the South African Native Labour Corps returning from France.[37] From there it spread around Southern Africa and beyond the Zambezi, reaching Ethiopia in November.[38] The Philadelphia Liberty Loans Parade, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 28 September 1918 to promote government bonds for World War I, resulted in 12,000 deaths after a major outbreak of the illness spread among people who had attended the parade.[39]

From Europe, the second wave swept through Russia in a southwest-northeast diagonal front, as well as being brought to Arkhangelsk by the North Russia intervention, and then spread throughout Asia following the Russian Civil War and the Trans-Siberian railway, reaching Iran (where it spread through the holy city of Mashhad), and then later India in September, as well as China and Japan in October.[40] The celebrations of the Armistice of 11 November 1918 also caused outbreaks in Lima and Nairobi, but by December the wave was mostly over.[41]

American Expeditionary Force victims of the Spanish flu at U.S. Army Camp Hospital no. 45 in Aix-les-Bains, France, in 1918

The second wave of the 1918 pandemic was much more deadly than the first. The first wave had resembled typical flu epidemics; those most at risk were the sick and elderly, while younger, healthier people recovered easily. October 1918 was the month with the highest fatality rate of the whole pandemic.[42] In the United States, ~292,000 deaths were reported between September-December 1918, compared to ~26,000 during the same time period in 1915.[33] Copenhagen reported over 60,000 deaths, Holland reported 40,000+ deaths from influenza and acute respiratory disease, Bombay reported ~15,000 deaths in a population of 1.1 million.[43] The 1918 flu pandemic in India was especially deadly, with an estimated 12.5-20 million deaths in the fall months of 1918 alone.[31]

Third wave of 1919

In January 1919, a third wave of the Spanish Flu hit Australia, where it killed 12,000 following the lifting of a maritime quarantine, and then spread quickly through Europe and the United States, where it lingered through the Spring and until June 1919.[12][44][45][41] It primarily affected Spain, Serbia, Mexico and Great Britain, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths.[46] It was less severe than the second wave but still much more deadly than the initial first wave. In the United States, isolated outbreaks occurred in some cities including Los Angeles,[47] New York City,[48] Memphis, Nashville, San Francisco and St. Louis.[49] Overall American mortality rates were in the tens of thousands during the first six months of 1919.[50]

Fourth wave of 1920

In spring 1920, a fourth wave occurred in isolated areas including New York City,[48] Switzerland, Scandinavia,[51] and some South American islands.[52] New York City alone reported 6,374 deaths between December 1919 and April 1920, almost twice the number of the first wave in spring 1918.[48] Other U.S. cities including Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Louis were hit particularly hard, with death rates higher than all of 1918.[53] Peru experienced a late wave in early 1920, and Japan had one from late 1919 to 1920, with the last cases in March.[54] In Europe, five countries (Spain, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Switzerland) recorded a late peak between January-April 1920.[51]

This is where ‘patriots’ and others accuse me of hating the West and America.

Good.

Our inflated sense of being the ‘good guys’ and on the right side of history shields us from the monstrous atrocities that have been and are being committed in our name.   The very truth of the matter is that there is no right side of history, only self interested actors on the state and individual level acting inhumanely toward those deemed to be the enemy.  The truth is that being tortured for in the name of democracy or dictatorship is quite irrelevant to those being put to the irons – the only take away is that torture can not be justified, not ever.

The history of US intervention in Central and South America is a history of coups, brutal repression, and torture.  One of the specialists sent to ‘teach the torture trade’ was Dan Mitrone, his legacy is written in the blood and lives of Left activists and innocents across Central and South America.

“The late US journalist and author A.J. Langguth credited US advisers led by Mitrione with introducing “scientific methods of torture” to Uruguay. These included psychological tortures like playing recordings of screaming women and children and telling prisoners it was their relatives being tortured, to more traditional torture techniques like electric shocks applied under the fingernails and to the genitals. According to Manuel Hevia Cosculluela, a Cuban double agent who infiltrated the CIA and spent years in the agency’s Montevideo station, Mitrione said that the key to successful interrogation was to apply “the precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount to achieve the desired effect.”

“A premature death means failure by the technician,” Mitrione told Hevia. “You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist.” Mitrione walked a very fine line between surgical and sadistic when he added: “When you get what you want, and I always, do, it may be good to prolong the session a little to apply another softening up, not to extract information now, but only as a political measure, to create a healthy fear.”

In order to build the perfect underground classroom in which to teach his Uruguayan students the tools and techniques of their torturous trade, Mitrione soundproofed the basement of his Montevideo home. He tested its integrity by blasting Hawaiian music or having an assistant fire a pistol from the room while he listened from different points outside the home. Hevia claimed it was there that Mitrione trained Uruguayan police to torture using “beggars from the outskirts of Montevideo,” a practice he honed to perfection while stationed in Brazil. “There was no interrogation, only a demonstration of the different voltages on the different parts of the human body,” said Hevia.

The Cuban claimed that Mitrione personally tortured four beggars to death in his bespoke dungeon. This fits a historical pattern: At the notorious US Army School of the Americas (SOA), then located in Panama, US doctors supervised torture classes in which homeless people were kidnapped from the streets of Panama City and used as human guinea pigs. According to one former SOA instructor interviewed in the award-winning documentary film Inside the School of the Assassins, “they would bring people in from the streets to the base, and the experts would train us on how to obtain information through torture… They had a US physician… who would teach the students… [about] the nerve endings of the body. He would show them where to torture, where and where not, where you wouldn’t kill the individual.”

This is not the practice of any nation that claims to value human rights.  Yet in death, a clinical, merciless torture teacher was celebrated:

“Back in the US, Dan Mitrione was hailed as a hero. White House spokesman Ron Ziegler lauded his “devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress” as “an example for free men everywhere,” calling him a man who “exemplified the highest principles of the police profession.” To his wife, he was the “perfect man.” His daughter called him “a great humanitarian.” Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis even staged a benefit concert for his grieving family — Mitrione had nine children — in his home town of Richmond, Indiana on August 29.”

Imagine if we could hear the incriminating shameful stories at the same volume as the triumphant patriotic tropes we are taught, we might able to begin the process of reclaiming our shared humanity.

 

Source: Counterpunch – Teaching Torture: The Death and Legacy of Dan Mitrione

 

 

 

Is this the future we are heading toward?  A new ‘utopian’ state of anarchy?  I certainly hope not.

 

This excerpt describing what the author describes as the ‘woke uprising’ after the killing of George Floyd:

 

“The key scenes in the woke uprising that followed the killing of George Floyd are rituals of purification in which public officials have washed the feet of insurgents, and acts of iconoclasm in which public monuments have been destroyed or defaced. These are symbolic actions aiming to sever the present from the past, not policies designed to fashion a different future.

The only concrete measure proposed has been to defund and disband the police. As some of the insurrectionaries’ placards have proclaimed, there will be no more police violence when there are no more police. Once repressive institutions have been methodically dismantled, a peaceful anarchy will prevail. As could have been foreseen by anyone with a smattering of history, outbreaks of mass looting in Chicago and other cities have not borne out this confidence.

New, ‘transformative’ systems of law enforcement will confront problems not unlike those faced by the police forces that have been dissolved. ‘Autonomous zones’ of the kind that have been announced in Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis will need to resolve disputes and enforce their decisions. Local warlords and prophets — some of them no doubt armed — will become arbiters of public safety. When they overreach themselves and fail to protect even minimal levels of security, vigilantes and organised crime will fill the void. Where this proves costly or unstable, federal government may step in and impose order. In other cases, cities may be abandoned to become zones of anarchy.”

I wonder if the current state of activist politics is the antithesis of the liberation movements that came before them.  With ever advancement in our history there has always been a counter revolution and corresponding steps backward in terms of human social progress.  This current phase shares a fair bit with what Maximilien Robespierre having fun with during his hey-day –

“In his Report on the Principles of Political Morality of 5 February 1794, Robespierre praised the revolutionary government and argued that terror and virtue were necessary:

If virtue is the spring of a popular government in times of peace, the spring of that government during a revolution is virtue combined with terror: virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country … The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.”

The further we descend into the political woke wilderness the more the comparison to counter revolution in France in 1794 seems to stick.  :/

 

 

   This from the latest issue of Harper’s.  I urge my readers to read the entire essay, as it provide a great amount of pertinent history about he American political system and illustrates clearly how the Establishment often acts in concert to dampen the will of the people.

“Further examples from the bitter, costly campaign of 1896 can be piled up almost without limit, but you get the point: we are in the grip of a remarkably similar distemper today. To be clear, I believe that President Trump richly deserves nearly any criticism he gets. He is not really a populist, and I have no intention of building sympathy for him. But the danger of anti-populism is that it goes far beyond objecting to one vile politician. This was demonstrated in March as the anti-populist establishment came together to pummel the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Whatever its target, anti-populism is always a brief for elite and even aristocratic power, an attack on the democratic tradition itself. That is ultimately what’s in the crosshairs when commentators tell us that populism is a “threat to liberal democracy”; when they announce that populism “is almost inherently antidemocratic”; when they declare that “all people of goodwill must come together to defend liberal democracy from the populist threat.”

These are strong, urgent statements, obviously intended to frighten us away from a particular set of views. Millions of foundation dollars have been invested to put scary pronouncements like these before the public. Media outlets have incorporated them into the thought feeds of the world. Just as in 1896, such ideas are everywhere now: your daily newspaper, if your town still has one, almost certainly throws the word “populist” at racist demagogues and pro-labor liberals alike.

Here is David Brooks, making the connection between “populists of left and right” in a New York Times column denouncing Sanders. The Vermont senator, Brooks asserts, embraces

the populist values, which are different [from liberal ones]: rage, bitter and relentless polarization, a demand for ideological purity among your friends and incessant hatred for your supposed foes.

And here is how The Economist made exactly the same point, whining that Americans may soon be forced to choose

between a corrupt, divisive, right-wing populist, who scorns the rule of law and the constitution, and a sanctimonious, divisive, left-wing populist, who blames a cabal of billionaires and businesses for everything that is wrong with the world. All this when the country is as peaceful and prosperous as at any time in its history. It is hard to think of a worse choice.

As it happens, the men of quality did their job, and working Americans will not face the ignoble prospect of voting for a candidate who takes their side against billionaires and businesses. The larger message of anti-populism, regardless of where it comes from on the political spectrum, is always one of complacency. Elites rule us because elites should rule us. They are in charge because they are the best.

And so we come to understand the real task before us today: to rescue from the enormous condescension of the comfortable the one political tradition that has a chance of reversing our decades-long turn to the right.

This essay is excerpted from The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, which will be published next month by Metropolitan Books. “

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