This being the beginning of a New Year, I thought it might be a good idea if I were to write a list of events, situations, opinions and beliefs on which I hold (usually) strong opinions that are not in line with the general consensus that seems to represent the official thinking of all right-thinking people in our part of the world, as revealed in politics, newspaper editorials, media communications in general, and by established governments (for the most part). I will take them one by one:
1. The Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio
I remember how as a youngster, we all thought how noble the new state of Israel was, representing as it did a sort of Western world reparation to the Jewish people everywhere, for the dreadful event of the Holocaust. The Second World War ended in 1945, and in the seven decades since then a horrible reality has been borne in more and more on the consciousness of thinking people: that the arbitrary decision to impose a Jewish homeland in Palestine was only made possible by cleansing the region of its existing Arab population, and handing over all their property to newcomers who have asserted an extremely doubtful --- I can almost say, a ludicrous ---right to the land based on their religious beliefs. This was ethnic cleansing long before the term was invented.
Even this would have been acceptable if in 1947 Israel had not won a war against its Arab neighbours and occupied the entire West Bank, as it is called, of the Jordan river. Against all rules of international law, solidified in countless Security Council resolutions, Israel has continued to exert a brutal military occupation, while simultaneously pre-empting the only reasonable solution, which would have been the creation of side-by-side states of Israelis and Palestinians, a solution that was enshrined in the principles of a "road map" for peace in 2002 by the so-called quartet of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia. Unfortunately, the leader of this group, the United States, has never been a neutral negotiator, but has stood with Israel root-and-branch throughout. In addition all members of the quartet have watched silently as Israel has filled the occupied lands with Jewish settlers, reaching the number of 700,000, who obviously will never be evicted from these lands that they have simply pre-empted by main force, and, as I must emphasize, this has happened in a manner forbidden by all the rules of war, occupation and so on.
In this great struggle, involving small states in the world’s most volatile region, I find myself sympathizing with the occupied people, rather than their well-armed and aggressive occupiers. This position opens one up to accusations, entirely unfounded in my opinion, of anti-semitism. It is axiomatic, surely that one can criticize the behaviour of the state of Israel without being in any way anti-semitic. It is simply that, in this David and Goliath struggle, I am entirely on the side of David.
2. NATO should have been wound up at the end of the Cold War, as was the Warsaw Pact, the military alliance on the other side.
In a world still armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons there are two areas that could lead us to a dreadful conflagration, Eastern Europe, and the South China Sea. When I use the expression "us" I am really assuming that our side is represented by the greatest military power on earth --- although a power curiously unable to win any of the limited wars it is permanently engaged in --- that of the United States. Oddly enough, in Eastern Europe the danger is not posed by aggressive postures by the other side, but by the United States and its allies, including Canada, who have, against the promises made when the Russians agreed to the re-unification of the two Germanies, not only interfered in the elections of governments established in Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan and other nations in the ambit of Russia’s traditional sphere of influence, but have aggressively established forces in the Baltic states, right on the doorstep of Russia. And in the South China Sea, an area vital to China for its foreign trade, once again, the Americans are claiming a right to interfere thousands of miles outside their sphere of influence. Here again, our side seems to be on the wrong side of the argument.
3. Is Justin Trudeau, with his “happy ways”, really a bigger threat to the world than Donald Trump?
This claim is made in a recent vigorously-argued article by Hamid Dibashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Literature at Columbia University, in an article for Aljazeera.com entitled “The Polite Sham of Justin Trudeau.” The article follows two major lines of argument, with both of which I agree; first, against the confused climate change policies being followed by Trudeau’s government; and secondly, against his reckless conflation of the BDS (Boycott Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel with anti-semitism (a subject I have already dealt with above).
On the first of these issues, I cannot express it any better than has Professor Dibashi: “Trudeau told oil executives last year that 'no country would find 173bn barrels of oil in the ground and just leave it there.' That's apparently how much he plans to dig up and burn --- and if he's successful, the one half of one percent of the planet that is Canadian will have awarded to itself almost one-third of the remaining carbon budget between us and the 1.5 degree rise in temperature the planet drew as a red line in Paris. There's no way of spinning the math that makes that okay --- Canadians already emit more carbon per capita than Americans.” The author writes that the government’s purchase of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to run tar sands oil to tidewater in British Columbia, has been opposed because of its “obvious catastrophic dangers to human life.”
He adds Trudeau’s true colours emerged, when, after recently apologizing for the turning away from Canadian ports of a boatload of Jewish refugees from Nazism in 1939, he added: "Anti-Semitism is far too present. Jewish students still feel unwelcomed and uncomfortable on some of our colleges and university campuses because of BDS-related intimidation."
The Professor comments on Trudeau’s confusion --- “he takes the same liberty with the environment that he takes with Palestinians as human beings entitled to their liberty” -- and adds that a true apology for the Canadian refusal to help Jews escape from the Nazis would be helping Palestinians sustain their non-violent BDS movement to regain the dignity of their place in their own homeland.
And with that I rest his, and my, case.
4. I decided when I was a teenager that socialism was the only apparently viable way to bring about a world in which opportunity is equalized between all citizens, and I have never seen any reason to change my mind.
Of course, the vast preponderance of human beings disagree with me about this one. When socialism, in whatever form, has worked, as in Scandinavia, for example, it has produced spectacular results in extending human freedoms. The fact it has seldom been given a chance in most of the world is a tribute to the efficiency of the controls over information and thinking exercised by the private owners of information systems, who almost always emphasize the glories of free-enterprise capitalism, and relentlessly and continuously denounce the failures, as they see them, of socialism. Here again, I think, one might point to the United States as the source of this problem, for it has used its so-called soft power, the global reach of its entertainment industries and powerful information systems, and its technological advance over the rest of the world, much of it obtained by having the power to shut down competing technologies, their pop culture marching hand-in-hand with their armies across the world. If that sounds perilously close to a conspiracy theory, so be it.
5. In my life as a media worker I have worked for both private and publicly-controlled organizations, and found no difference between them as to freedom of expression.
Indeed my conclusion from working for quarter of a century for capitalist enterprises was that most of those for which I worked were monuments to inefficiency, bungling and overall idiocy. Indeed, some general conclusions I have read about from various pieces of research were borne out by my experience: it seemed that creative thinking could be expected from roughly three per cent of the workforce; useful and rewarding work from ten per cent; and the rest of the positions were filled either by people of limited imagination and talent, or simply by time-servers, who sat there waiting to be promoted to positions of authority when their turn came around. Thus, for the most part, I seldom had a boss whose vitality and intelligence were wholly admirable, and for whom I had a hearty respect.
Of course I know there is a contrary argument to this, that in every man or woman lies a spark, just waiting to be lit by some event or expression or experience which can lead anyone to achieve remarkable things. I cannot deny that, and have to conclude that the previously described solemn acceptance of mediocrity must have been a side-effect of the structure of business enterprises.
Well, that’s already 1500 words, more than enough solemnity for even the most loyal reader of these pages.