Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Log 479 June 23 2015: Link of the Day: The Wealth-owners bully the Greeks into continuing poverty, as they insist on more of the same failed remedies: read this link and weep.

English: Constituency for the European Parliam...
Constituency for the European Parliament election in 2009  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The way I see it, the struggle between Greece and the Troika --- the European Commission, the European Central Bank, whose leader is a former Goldman Sachs man (nuf sed!), and the IMF --- controllers of the money in the world of capitalism, is a struggle by these Masters of the Universe to insist that there is no alternative to the capitalist way of running an economy, or even of choosing a government; a struggle between the ordinary people of Europe, and the Wealth-owners who control everything.  This is my way of viewing it, but who am I?  A mere scribbler, ignorant in economic theory, and viscerally opposed to the control of globe by the Wealth-owners. So here is a superb article from today’s  The Guardian  by a young man called Aditya Chakrabortty,who says the Eurozone has failed, and it has not only failed the Greek people, but the Germans and all other Europeans, whose standard of living has been stalled for years. In the same issue the newspaper’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, says the economic plan of Greece’s creditors is  “illiterate and doomed to fail.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Log 478 June16 2015: Premature death of Jerry Collins, one of the toughest Rugby players of all time, releases an international outpouring of affection and respect

All Black haka before a match against France, ...
All Black haka before a match against France, 18 November 2006. The All Blacks won the match 23-11. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
New Zealand national rugby union team
New Zealand national rugby union team (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today I have something to write about that will not mean much to any of my readers, but somehow or other it means a lot to me.
It concerns the tragic death last week of a New Zealand Rugby player, Jerry Collins, in France, along with his partner in life, Alana Magill, a girl from Grande Prairie  Alberta, and their 11-week-old daughter  Alya, who, when her parents were killed outright in a traffic accident, was seriously wounded, and is still fighting for her life.
This doesn’t sound like much of an event in the larger scheme of things. But an extraordinary thing has happened. Somehow or other the death of this man, a 35-year-old Rugby player just approaching being over the hill, has caught the imagination of ordinary people everywhere who were exposed to his down-to-earth, honest qualities. He was far from a saint: like many other Rugby heroes he had numerous somewhat scandalous incidents in his life, but all of these have counted as nothing compared with the natural, effusive way he related to everyone he came in touch with, either as a publicly recognized figure, or as an ordinary bloke.
I remember his playing for the New Zealand All Blacks, which he captained on three occasions. A man of Samoan origin who dyed the top of his hair blonde, he was the sort of guy who gave every inch of himself when on the field. His crashing tackles, his monumental runs with the ball in hand, his exuberance in simply playing the game, made him stand out on any Rugby field, made him outstanding in every level, up to the highest.
Yet following his death last week, a collective fit of sorrow seemed to seize everyone who knew anything about him. I remember when his tenure as an All Black was terminated, unreasonably early, in my opinion, that I held the view he had been dropped because his coach was  principal of a grammar school, and Jerry had been a dustman. Maybe it was more in my head  than in reality, for I could not conceive how such a player could be dropped.
Whatever the reason --- and there are hints that he retired from international football willingly --- he left his home country and undertook to play Rugby successively in Britain, France and Japan, where again the unique power of his positive nature captivated onlookers just as the power of his physique and his knowledge of the game paralysed opponents.
On his death, the stories of how, “a Porirua boy,” he never forgot where he came from. One of the best stories is of how, finding himself over a weekend in Barnstable, an ancient town of 23,000 in north Devon, he was invited along by the local Rugby club to their game, where, after turning himself into a temporary coach, he finally took the field with their lower grade team, just because he loved so much to play. Six weeks later, when chosen to represent the Barbarians in a  big game in Twickenham, he wore the socks of the Barnstable colours in the game --- the sort of action that earned him the affection of thousands, endearing him to almost  everyone he came across.
Alan Duff, one of New Zealand’s most famous novelists and writers, wrote of him:
In France, Jerry Collins is the No 1 item on every sports channel. Ex-pat fellow All Blacks are filmed crying, Jerry's former coaches give tearful recalls of coaching a young man and not so young man they invariably loved… In my rugby-mad town, Bayonne, in the southwest, the first thing every shop owner we visited said is, "Jerry Collins. C'est tragique." The butcher, the coffee shop, the bar across the street, the wine shop, my barber, only one name came up: Jerry Collins. He played a major part in saving his French club from relegation. I saw him play a few months ago when his Narbonne team came to play Biarritz, our 13km-away neighbour who we've just joined, alas, in the 2nd division… Reliable sources tell me there was media negativity in recalling past incidents of Jerry arrested carrying a knife in Japan, Jerry drunk and abusive at a fast-food joint, Jerry and his couple of demons compared to the 48 times he ran out in black and gave his all for his country. Not one mention of that tiny, unimportant less heroic sliver of his life was mentioned here in France. They don't do that sort of crap journalism. Like they are not interested in celebrities. Let alone supposed celebs who really buy into the nonsense they are someone special. Duh. A radio jock is special? A loud-mouthed TV presenter is a star? Pl-leaze. Jerry was a true star.
In imagining a conversation with Jerry, I'll quote from a Pablo Neruda poem I would read to him.
I'm grateful to the earth
for having waited
for me
when sky and sea came together
like two lips touching;
for that's no small thing, no? -
to have lived
through one solitude to arrive at another
to feel oneself many things and recover wholeness.

And say, finally, at Jerry Collins' grave, that you, sir, did indeed live through one solitude to arrive at another. Just you did it with all of us watching; and now some of the wondering is answered and wholeness was surely recovered.
Although he was a Samoan, and not a Maori, his welcome home to New Zealand was dominated by Polynesian ritual. Ngati Toa kaumatua (senior tribal member) Kahu Porata recognized Jerry as a brother. The former New Zealand captain, Tana Umaga, a cousin of Jerry’s, who was a coach with the junior All Blacks at the world Under 20 tournament in Italy, flew home  to New Zealand accompanying Jerry’s body, which was greeted back in  Porirua in an immensely moving ceremony featuring  welcoming hakas by the Maori pupils of local high schools, and members of his old Rugby team, Northern United, as other Rugby players carried his coffin  to the halfway line of the local pitch, and laid it down there.
There was something of this unexpected international outpouring of emotion that reminded one of the equally unexpected outpouring in England on the death of Princess Diana.  Although the scale was smaller of course, still it was international: somehow, people everywhere recognized the generous qualities of a person who lived life to the full, gave everything of himself to the game he loved playing, and who used that to connect on a personal level with thousands of people.
Maybe we could all aspire to leave that sort of legacy, but only the exceptional can do it. And this man,  formerly a dustman, always ready to muck in, if need be, to play his game at any level, just for the enjoyment of it, was one of them.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Log 477 June 9 2015: A world full of unimaginable things opens up before our eyes, every day of every year

English: Administrative Division of Bangladesh...
Administrative Division of Bangladesh. March 2011 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Satellite image of New Zealand in December 2002.
Satellite image of New Zealand in December 2002. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We live in a world in which more or less unimaginable things seem to be happening every day.
For example, the news that there are reported to be 1,000,000 people in Libya, waiting to make it into Europe, by whatever means they can. It is understandable that impoverished people should want to get into Europe to share in its wealth, but still is hard to imagine that so many people could have gathered with that objective, right now.
I remember writing in a little book I wrote in 1972, that the impoverished people of what was then called the Third World knew how we lived in what we then called the First World, and some day would come banging on our doors, demanding to have some of it for themselves. So the million of them gathered in Libya (if in fact they are there) may be incredible, but they are no longer really unimaginable.
For another example, the news that several thousand illegal refugees from Bangladesh have been returned to their home by Myanmar, where they ended up, is the visible end of something else that is unimaginable, and that is, the population pressure that has grown up in Bangladesh.
I have been viscerally aware of this since 1975 when, in the comparative ease of isolated New Zealand, with its 4,000,000 people, I attended a conference, and heard a man say that Bangladesh, then with 72 million people, would by the turn of the century have a population of 125,000,000. It sounded a pretty incredible figure, so I looked up the area of the country, and found it was almost the same size as the South Island of New Zealand, where I was born. Whoa there, 125 million?  Further investigation convinced me that to accommodate that many people, my home island would need to have a million people in every village hamlet and town of 1000 or more. It seemed, and still seems to me inconceivable.
And my incredulity has simply been increased by what has happened since: by the year 2000 the population was already 130 million and today it has grown to 164 million. The country suffers from repeated, intensive floods, that wipe out the homes of hundreds of thousands of people at a stroke. Up to 45 per cent of the people a few years ago were living below the poverty line, which seems to have been established at equivalent to US$2 a day, 80 per cent live in rural areas, a high percentage of them mired in relentless poverty. Still apparently they are well on their way to meeting the UN Millennium aims of reducing the impoverished to 26 per cent, those below the poverty line having been reduced in recent years from more than 60 million, to a mere 40 million. Reports of repeated disasters in the slum-infested cities indicate that conditions of work for urban workers are sub-par. And, as far as one can tell all this can be put at the door of their high population increases, which are one of the results of the low social status of women in their society.
This is not designed to put down Bangladeshis, who are no doubt performing daily miracles as they struggle to overcome their horrendous basic conditions of life. Although these miracles have not been sufficient so far to prevent their escape, by legal or illegal means makes not much difference, to anywhere that might promise them a better chance in life.
While I am at it, another incredible thing is the advance of automation in the developed economies of the world --- that is to say, the rich ones, which benefit from high educational achievements for everyone, higher incomes, more hygienic conditions of life, and better opportunities for personal fulfilment.  I watched a TV programme this morning about this automation --- it was on AlJazeera, the TV news network that seems to be most closely in touch with the world’s disadvantaged people, and whose reporter kept asking the masters of  automation difficult, and sometimes embarrassing questions. The basic question is, if everything is to be done by machines, as is becoming more and more the prospect, will this not lead to a world in which not only will there be fewer jobs, but it will be almost impossible for the generality of human kind to find a job?
It was interesting to hear these “masters of the universe” --- to use a familiar term applied to ultra-scientists --- prevaricating as they were forced to grope for a convincing answer to this question.  Many of them simply denied it, saying the lost jobs would be made up by the new jobs necessary to manufacture and run these machines. Not very convincing in terms of scale.  Asked what could be done to deal with this problem, some of them were even forced to admit that the main hope might be for a guaranteed wage, payable to everybody --- heresy in the heartland of market capitalism, surely --- or that, to quote another, “some form of redistribution will probably be necessary.”
What? Redistribution?  Is this guy joking? The capitalist masters of the globe expected to agree to redistribute their wealth to those left behind by the scientific revolution?
Not without a hell of a struggle…they talk of “labour deregulation”, by which I take it they mean more of the recent trend to get rid of unions, so that the workers are left defenceless before their masters.
Incredible! Inconceivable!
First, look at how much of the recent accumulation in the world’s wealth has been snaffled by the richest one per cent. They love things the way they are!
Second, look what the bankers are demanding of the Greeks, half of whose young people are permanently unemployed: cuts in wages, increased taxes,  savage reductions  in welfare benefits, privatization of everything, and reductions in pensions to the very poorest.
Some kind of immense social battle seems to be just opening up as human beings try to find their ways through these challenges.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Log 477 June 3 2015: Residential schools: as the TR Commission says, they were only one aspect of our legislative, cultural, economic and social onslaught against the original inhabitants

English: Monument to aboriginal war veterans i...
Monument to aboriginal war veterans in Confederation Park, Ottawa, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Formerly St. Michael's Residential School Buil...
Formerly St. Michael's Residential School Building, Alert Bay. Turned over to 'Namgis First Nation and renamed 'Namgis House in 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
St. Paul's Indian Industrial School, Middlechu...
St. Paul's Indian Industrial School, Middlechurch, Manitoba (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Algonquin Couple, an 18th-century wat...
Algonquin Couple, an 18th-century watercolor by an unknown artist. Courtesy of the City of Montreal Records Management & Archives, Montreal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have not yet read the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the issue of residential schools. But the reports about it, and the quoted comments of Judge Murray Sinclair indicate that they make what seems to me to be the most important point that could emerge: that is, the residential schools, established as they were to detach native children from “the barbarous life” of their parents, did not stand alone in the landscape of government action towards the original inhabitants of this country.
They were, in fact just one element of a long-running process, including years of oppressive legislation passed by our Parliament, whose whole purpose was to detach the original inhabitants from their land, by, first destroying their economy, and later destroying everything that meant anything to them --- their beliefs, their institutions, their world-view, and so on and on.
I could give endless examples of native groups who had to struggle with this assumption that they were no longer owners of anything, no longer of any use to anyone, and that their traditional way of life was a nuisance standing in the way of what the white invaders called “progress.” I always think back to the Stoneys, displaced by our declaration of a national park in Banff right in their traditional lands. Their roaming across their lands living on the animals they could catch and developing a finely balanced rapport with the nature that surrounded them was unwelcome to the dominant society, which herded them into small reserves. Unfortunately, in these reserves they could not feed themselves, so limited were the resources at their disposal. So the band was placed in the position of being unwanted outside the reserve, and unwanted inside the reserve, because of the drain on government through having to provide this proud people, reduced to poverty and misery, with enough food to keep them alive.
All across the country, similar stories can be told. The history of the Algonquins, masters of the Ottawa valley, is very similar. Those living on the Ontario side of the river were pushed aside to make way for loggers, as the industrial machine began to get its claws on the country. Of course, they protested, petitioned, year after year, in a vain effort to get some recognition of their country and their right to it, but gradually they were gathered together by the religious army of the assault, and in 1851 Church and State, twin oppressors,  combined to set up a large reserve at Maniwaki into which all Algonquins were intended to be deposited. It didn’t quite work: the Algonquins who lived in the upper reaches of the river valley --- which winds its way tortuously across the northern wilderness before descending in a majestic curve down to join the St Lawrence – these people never went to the reserve, but continued to live their traditional life in their very own forests.
Of course, that is another story, as well: the treatment of these Quebec-dwelling Algonquins is another horror story, as I discovered in the later years of the last century when the people of Barriere Lake attempted to stop logging companies from cutting their forest to pieces. Their experience in this regard was so bitter that their community had been reduced to what must have been one of the poorest in Canada.  The catalogue of how governments treated them traditionally, and of how they have continued to treat them right up to the present day, is something that should be known --- but isn’t—to every Canadian.
So the bitter experiences of the residential school were only a part of the treatment meted out to these original inhabitants of the land, who, when whites first came among them and tried to stay over  their first Canadian winter, had rallied around the visitors as they neared starvation, and generously saved them from extinction. A generosity that, looking back on it from a distance, they might well have come to regret.
What is one of the almost miraculous stories of Canadian history is how these people have survived, how their leaders, generation after generation, have fought the good fight to preserve themselves, against the huge machine of government, courts, and institutionalized racism.
What we Canadians are only slowly realizing is that as the needs of industrial society are bleeding the lifeblood out of our living environment, it is these people with their concern for the health of the land --- they traditionally regard the Land as their Mother --- who are leading us today in an effort to pull the rampaging machine to a halt, to preserve the essential life-giving qualities of Nature.
These people we have always denigrated, we need them, and their concern for the future, more than ever before.