Revanchist Review

Friday, January 09, 2009

Tolerance Deconstructed

A letter to the editor recently appeared in our local newspaper. I attach it along with my response.

The Citizen
Published: Friday, January 09, 2009

Dear Editor:

The "Christ in Christmas" columns and e-mails have made the rounds. If you didn't get yours, I'll paraphrase for you: the phrase "Merry Christmas" is not a salutation, but a means test of tribal purity. If you use it, you're in the tribe; if you say "Season's Greetings" you are depriving the tribe, by not pandering to them and telling them how special they are.

Put Christ in Christmas? Who's forcing anyone not to? Nobody. The only group trying to tell others what to think, what to do, and how to do it are those demanding that everyone "Put Christ in Christmas".

Atheist author George Orwell coined the phrase "double-speak" to describe such blatant deception.

The real issue here is that state and business endorsement for one viewpoint to the exclusion of all others is waning, and the previously privileged can't accept being treated the same as everyone else.

If that sounds familiar, it is -- privileged groups reacted the same way to equality for women, non-whites, and homosexuals. Identical arguments have been used against all these movements.

Religious prejudice exists year round and is only voiced at Christmas as an appeal to tradition.

This issue is important because it is part of a much wider societal struggle.

Secular society permits people to do what they want on their own property, on their own time. However, our state (including schools) and businesses cater to everyone, not just the 55 per cent of British Columbians who self-identified as Christian in the 2001 Census.

It's discriminatory for government to privilege any one religion, or religion generally. It's bad for businesses to do so, so they don't. State and business therefore wish everyone happy holidays, not just one group.

Those who "can't abide hearing Happy Holidays" are intolerant of all non-Christian religions, and all who practice no religion.

That's 45 per cent of British Columbians, and growing. Why is this bigotry still so mainstream?

Why do we have to read, every December, columns and e-mails from the same theocratic bigots, advocating the imposition of their views upon everyone else?

Sheena Shaw, Duncan


Tolerance Deconstructed

Sheena Shaw plays the role of this year's village scold with her broad brushed sentencing to the gulag reserved for "theocratic bigots" and the "intolerant", of all who support the rather modest proposal that a centuries old religious feast day and civic holiday season be referred to by its proper name. Were it not for her larger agenda, Ms. Shaw would be no more fussed about these emails and columns than she would be if the subject was whether to call that special day in February Groundhog Day or Rodent Day. Using Ms. Shaw's logic, those who insist on calling it the former are members of a privileged tribe who are prejudiced toward marmots, squirrels and others who are as perfectly capable of casting a shadow as the denizen of Punxsatawaney.

She has an agenda however, so with no trace of irony, she condemns as intolerant all who honour tradition, and inserts the very au courant attack on Christians who according to Ms. Shaw are engaged in year round acts of religious prejudice. The many non-Christians who favour the continued use of traditional descriptions of people, places and events will surely be surprised to be included in Ms. Shaw's round up of those who don't practice her secular religion.

Ms. Shaw is clearly offended by these traditionalists. Judging by the examples of the sins of the privileged she lists, I suspect she is a strong advocate of new traditions, spawned in our modern era of deconstructed tolerance. Perhaps the best example is Gay Pride Day. No doubt she staunchly demands that tolerance be afforded to this new tradition. Christians will never attract hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of every major North American city to watch a parade of joyful believers celebrate Corpus Christi. Ms. Shaw must know she is on the winning side and could as a result be more charitable to the remnant of what she labels the previously "privileged".

It is not only Christians who witness with some bemusement, the phenomena of bright and gaily bedecked floats sponsored by major corporations and financial institutions, populated by thong clad writhing young men and women, parading down our city streets in an annual extravaganza. It is starkly at odds with Ms. Shaw's thesis of an intolerant majority that such a spectacle is not only tolerated but also actively encouraged by all levels of government and business. I have not heard of any movement to attack the Gay Pride movement for having co-opted the words gay and pride, nor do people insist that the event should be referred to as Homosexualist Lifestyle Celebration Day.

So Ms. Shaw in the true spirit of tolerance and inclusivity, why don't you let us keep the word Christmas and you can have gay and pride. It is all in the spirit of fair trade.

Ben Buan
Mill Bay BC

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How to End Our Current Parliamentary Crisis

A nation requires some “machinery of social consciousness which shall ensure the selection from among the community at large of the “best” and bestowal on them of power – this is the true consummation of democracy.” – Paul Elmer More

“The problem of civilization can be solved only by the heart. By the appearance of a new type of man.” - Robert Musil

Canada is in a self-made political crisis. It was brought on by the failure of our elected representatives to act in the best interests of the people. These same representatives must demonstrate a change of heart and admit to their errors to end it. We need a new type of man in Ottawa.

If they existed, the following statements would be delivered on National television, broadcast in prime time with all speakers present.

Prime Minister Steven Harper:

My fellow Canadians. Last Thursday my government, having had its Throne
Speech passed in the House of Commons, delivered an economic summary paper as a precursor to a full budget scheduled for delivery in February 2009.

It contained a number of proposals directed toward economic stimulus in this time of worldwide financial instability. It also made note of the fact the government had already taken a number of steps to protect Canadians against further economic hardship. My government took the position that until the new administration in the US was installed on January 20th, there were a number of issues that it would be prudent not to address until the actions of the US government was made clear.

As Prime Minister I authorized the inclusion in the summary paper of two proposals that no one had anticipated and that were not essential to the stated objective of the production of the economic summary. While both have fiscal implications and we believe would be supported by the majority of Canadians, the true purpose of their inclusion was to create tension and upheaval within the opposition parties. It was a purely political decision on my part, and I admit to having let my political instincts overcome my good judgment. The inclusion of these two controversial items was inconsistent with my previously stated goal to make this parliament a more functional and bi-partisan one than its predecessor.

I apologize to the opposition and to the Canadian people for this error in judgment. Both items were removed from the motion to introduce the economic summary paper in recognition of this error.

In reaction to the inflammatory nature of my decision to include those items in the economic paper, the three opposition parties, over the past three days and apparently in furtherance of earlier conversations and meetings amongst some of them, have reached an agreement by which they intend to defeat the government on a motion of non-confidence arising out of the economic paper, and propose to the Governor General that the government be turned over to the coalition to be led by the Leader of the Opposition. The NDP will be part of the coalition and will have ¼ of the Cabinet posts. Since the combined membership of the coalition is fewer in number than that of my government, the coalition must rely on a side agreement with the Bloc Quebecois, whereby the latter agree to vote in favour of any confidence motions presented by the coalition.

We believe this proposal is not in the interests of the country, is not in the interests of the electorate that only recently voted for the five official parties. The result was the Conservative Party and its platform elected a clear plurality of members.

The government has tabled its Throne Speech which has been passed by all parties.

In our view the electorate gave us the mandate to govern at least to the point of tabling its first budget. If defeated on its budget, the appropriate outcome we believe would be to return to the voters in order that they should determine which fiscal path, that of the Conservatives in their budget or the Opposition parties in their proposed budgets, they wanted to follow during these unprecedented times.

If the opposition parties persist in seeking to defeat the government not on its budget but on its economic summary paper, we believe it is clear their motivation is purely political and vindictive, in response to the political and vindictive nature of the original summary paper, for which I have now apologized.

I can see no way in which the public interest can be served by creating this upheaval for purely political reasons, given the adverse reaction to the idea of a coalition by the majority of Canadians and of the business community both within and without Canada.

Accordingly, should the coalition proposal not be withdrawn, I will seek to prorogue the House until January 26th, and present our budget on January 27th at which time parliament can determine if the government has the confidence of the House. If the budget is defeated, I will ask the GG to call an election.

I close by reiterating my regrets for having not done my best to ensure that the interests of the citizens of Canada are always to be superior to the political interests of my party or my government whenever decisions affecting the fiscal or other interests of the country are made. It is an embarrassment to me and my government that I failed meet the standard expected of me in this instance. For this I take full responsibility.

I pledge that my government will consult closely with all the opposition parties in the weeks leading up to the tabling of the Budget, in order that we fully understand the key components that they believe such a budget should contain, and that they understand the reasons and rationale behind the fiscal decisions that ultimately we must make.

Steven Harper - PM

The Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Stephane Dion

I wish to thank the many Canadians who have written to my office and to those of all the Members of Parliament in which they have expressed their unhappiness with the performance of all politicians during this crisis.

Upon reflection, it is clear that they are right to think that as a group over the last several days we have not demonstrated the “best” of the democracy we cherish.

I thank Mr. Harper for his frank admission that his error in judgment in resorting to petty politics with the inclusion of two inflammatory items into the economic summary paper is what triggered the reaction of all the opposition parties.

I too wish to admit to the Canadian public that my reaction to Mr. Harper’s actions were political, personal and not first directed to the best interests of the people. While my reaction of anger and resolve to punish Mr. Harper in any way possible was natural in the circumstances, I do not believe Members of Parliament should allow emotions and personal agendas to supercede good judgment.

My party’s defeat in the last election and my party’s loss of confidence in my leadership was a serious blow to me personally. I will be frank and admit to the Canadian people that the opportunity presented by Mr. Harper’s error of judgment, to possibly fulfill my dream to become Prime Minister, clouded my judgment and made the pursuit of that personal goal more important than the pursuit of what would be best for the country.

Upon reflection, I see that there are too many ideological differences between the Liberal Party and the NDP to make a coalition between them one that benefits the country. I also see that it would not be in the interests of the country to have the BQ hold a veto pen to any legislation and to be in a position to pass legislation that favours the narrow interest of the separatist BQ.

The Liberal Party is embarked on a renewal and in May a new leader will be elected. I have concluded it is in the best interests of the country and of the Liberal Party that our focus should be on providing strong and constructive opposition between now and then to continue to provide critical and constructive opposition to the minority Conservative government. Should the government of Mr. Harper fail to produce a budget that satisfies the minimum requirements of the supporters of our party, and of the country as a whole, we will not hesitate to seek to defeat the budget.

If Mr. Harper is true to his word then we are about to embark on a new era of being the best examples of democracy. The Liberal Party will do its part to set such an example. If through a change of heart we can all demonstrate we are new men in the service of our citizens, I expect that we will not see any crisis and confrontations until after the new Liberal Party leader has been elected.

The people of Canada are looking to us to exercise wise leadership and to rise above petty politics. It is my pledge and that of my party to do our best to satisfy the desires of the people who have elected us and to at all times put their interests first.

Stephane Dion – Leader of the Opposition

Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe would make short statements in which they endorse the pledge of Harper and Dion to change their priorities in favour of the people over petty politics.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oh, Canada! A Confederation of Dunces

Some readers of my most recent essay may have concluded that my criticism of Mr. Harper indicates that I have forsaken the Conservative cause and place all the blame on Mr. Harper’s shoulders for the chaos that was created by his latest terrible error in judgment. This is not the case. I believe it would be a travesty if this coalition successfully executed its coup d’etat.

While Harper handed the opposition the pistol with which to shoot himself, it seems clear now that the power-lusting duo of Layton and Dion may well have been plotting with each other and Mr. Duceppe for weeks to assemble this coalition, and couldn’t believe their luck when Flaherty handed down his economic update containing the two live grenades of election funding reform and the elimination of public sector strikes.

Is there a more pathetic picture of a confederacy of dunces than that of Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe, seated around a table deciding on the fiscal policies by which Canada is to weather the global recession that clearly has beset us? Dion the failed leader, by every poll during the election campaign and by the clear voice of the voters in the last election, not the man in whom Canadians placed their confidence and trust to lead a government, particularly with respect to fiscal matters, is now to become Prime Minister?

In recognition of his abysmal grasp of fiscal and economic issues, he is to be assisted by a group of non-elected “wise men” – Paul Martin the last failed Liberal leader, Frank McKenna and John Manley, former Martin cabinet ministers and the NDP representative the spendthrift Roy Romanow. Can someone slap me awake from this Kafkaesque nightmare?

Canadians are expected to accept that because such a coalition is somehow constitutionally permissible we are to stand idly by while this gang hijacks the electoral process. It was difficult for me to hold down my lunch as I watched the smug and smiling trio of Ignatieff, Rae and Leblanc emerge from the Liberal caucus, gleefully proclaiming that this was an historical moment.

Cassius, Casca and Brutus came to mind as these three extolled the virtues of and pledged their loyalty to Dion's Caesar. These plotters have all the bases covered of course. If the coalition stumbles they have the walking dead Dion to blame, and if it survives they put the pallid professor out of his misery in May and one of them dons the new toga.

The mendacity of these men is breathtaking. There is no policy issue that justifies this coalition. The foolishly inflammatory components of the economic statement issued by the Conservatives on Friday have been dropped, there are numerous economic stimulus measures in the statement, the throne speech has been approved and budget is to be tabled the day after the House resumes sitting in January. This is a craven power grab to feed the unbridled ambition of Stephane Dion to be Prime Minister if only for a matter of months, and the final proof of the complete absence of any integrity on the part of Jack Layton.

Will Canadians stand idly by as the balance of power is handed to the separatists? After all we are a nation that happily settled Lucien Bouchard into Stornoway and gave him the role of leader of the Opposition while he led the separatist Bloc.

It is as though a thick fog of mass stupidity has descended upon Ottawa. Has it overcome the entire country? We have failed – it seems doubtful we have even seriously tried – to create in this country a form of democracy that Paul Elmer More said would result from the construction of some “machinery of social consciousness which shall ensure the selection from among the community at large of the “best” and bestowal on them of power – this is the true consummation of democracy.”

As we observe this chicanery, is it not apparent how far from the best we have elected to office? What measure of social consciousness is there in the examples of leadership we are witnessing from all the parties?

We must make our voices heard in Ottawa. This coalition madness must be exposed for what it is – a craven power grab that can only damage Canada’s economy and reputation on the world stage. Every opposition Member of Parliament must be made to know that there will be a consequence for him or her if they permit this hijacking to occur. Every government Member of Parliament must be made to know that the Prime Minister must take direct responsibility for igniting this firestorm, and make a clear statement to the nation in which he admits his error and commits to focus his efforts on the economic issues that are the principal concern and the first priority of the majority of Canadians.

The economic havoc that will ensue if they do not come to their senses should frighten every Canadian. Global governments and global investors will not look kindly to the uncertainty this creates. The prospect of the strongest economy in the Western world falling under the control of a cobbled together coalition of doctrinaire socialists and doctrinaire separatists, led by a rejected leader will be too unpalatable and we can expect more days like today where our major stock index fell by just under 10%.

Start your letter writing my friends. We only have a week to make our voices heard.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another Week in Pogoland

I swear, if you put that little fedora on his head, shove a cigar in the corner of his mouth, add a bow tie, in Stephen Harper you have an eerie likeness to comic strip iconoclast Pogo. After all Mr. Harper seems intent on living out one of Pogo’s most famous aphorisms – “we have seen the enemy and he is us.” First he destroyed any hope of a majority in the last election by his gratuitous attack on the arts community in Quebec, a position from which he had to retreat only after it was too late to prevent the flood of voters back to the BQ to collect the Get Out of Jail Free Card handed out whenever the Feds propose anything that might impact on Quebec culture or a permanent stall at the pork barrel.

Seemingly having learned nothing from that experience and faced with a humbled impoverished and leaderless Liberal party resigned to a long minority role, Harper was overcome with hubris as he formulated his economic plan. Instead of focusing on the major economic issues, Harper foolishly triggered a potential constitutional crisis that has confused and angered the voters and caused the international community to scratch its head in bewilderment.

To save the taxpayers $1.95 per head, or $30 million Harper chose to risk the $300 million dollar cost of an election that would surely follow shortly upon the heels of the failure of a coalition spawned from the witches' brew of Liberal, NDP and separatist ideology.

Of course, this latest imbroglio only confirms that political leadership in Canada defaults to the panjandrums. It makes me less proud to be a Canadian as I watch Ignatieff, Rae, Dion and Layton prance about like characters in a Moliere play. If only Alan McEachern weren’t dead, he could join the cabal with Ed Broadbent and Jean Chretien to produce a convincing argument that would sway the vivacious but vacuous Governor General to appoint a coalition government.

But who would lead this coalition she might be prompted by an aide to ask? A mere detail, let’s get rid of Harper first and we will figure out the leadership issue quickly enough. As long as Jack Layton gets Finance he could care less which of Rosencrantz Rae or Guildenstern Ignatieff wins the coin toss for leader. As for Gilles Duceppe he will be content to prance about in the background like a crazed Mick Jagger in his Jumping Jack Flash persona, giddy with the sight of another tear appearing in the fabric of Canadian society.

The first order of business for such a coalition should be to adopt a new national emblem - the rainbow - as was proposed by Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotbiniere in 1865. In support of its appropriateness as Canada's emblem he wrote: "By the endless variety of its tints the rainbow will give an excellent idea of the diversity of races, religions, sentiments and interests of the different parts of Confederation...By its lack of consistency - an image without substance - the rainbow would represent aptly the solidity of our Confederation." (First Things - Vol 188, p.64 Dec 2008)

Solidity without substance - how perfect a description of Canada in times such as this.

Robert Musil wrote, “the problem of civilization can be solved only by the heart. By the appearance of a new type of man.” Mr. Harper needs to drop the Pogo disguise if he is to be that man.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Oh, Canada! The Road to Nowhere.

Author Martin Amis was only 5’2” tall in his teens when for a time he dated a girl who was 6’1”. “We had an unspoken agreement,” says Amis. “We never stood upright at the same time. And we never went out. Apart from that it was a normal relationship.”

I thought of Amis' creative social compact when I heard the news of Henry Morgentaler's recommmended appointment as a member of the Order of Canada. It seemed to me that Canadian society and Henry Morgentaler, like Amis and his tall friend, had for 20 years successfully maintained as normal what was a fundamentally strange relationship. Dullness being a spice for Canadians, this relationship would likely have survived until the grim reaper beckoned home his aging acolyte.

But it came to pass that a selection committee headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Queen of Solipsism herself, chose Canada Day as the appropriate occasion on which to inform the nation that its aging millionaire abortionist had for too long been forced to suffer the fate of having his high moral stature as the protector of women's rights insufficiently honoured.

Queen Beverly and her committee of soi-disant arbiters of Canadian excellence, as all good solipsists do, threw all previous conventions aside and pompously asserted (though apparently not unanimously) it was now time to bring an end to this quaint social compact. The Governor General accepted the recommendation with unbridled glee, an other occasion upon which she might break yet another societal barrier and gush forth new regal platitudes avowing how enlightened Canadians are.

For the writers who pen the words describing the valued contributions of each of the new inductees, it brought new meaning to the creative process as they had to write about Morgentaler's accomplishments without once saying what it was he really did. If irony weren't such a foreign concept to Canadians, some of us might have found that ironic.

So without prior warning, it came as a surprise to Canadians when they headed out to their Canada Day celebrations to find on their collective arm not some fresh and winsome creature, but rather some looming Miss Havisham-like character vengefully intent on reminding them of how she has been jilted and reviled for all these years.

Letter editors' desks were soon piled high with the predictable mixture of invective and encomia. Editorials broke along expected divides with the Globe and Mail painting Morgentaler as the suffering servant, and the National Post questioning how such a polarizing figure and practitioner of a procedure that even in its most benign characterization debases life, should stand as one to be honoured as an example of the best of what it means to be a Canadian. Buzz Hargrove oozed with pride at having his name stand along side that of the good doctor, proto-feminists reminded us of all the women saved from the back alley butchers and the pro-abortionist segment that bases its acceptance of abortion on the appearance of the fetus was quick to trot out the "it looks like a mouse, so what's the big deal" argument.

Few seem willing to question whether there may be a fatal flaw in a society and culture that accepts as right and normal the termination of one in three pregnancies by abortion at the rate of 100,000 annually.

Remarkably few recipients of the Order of Canada chose to publicly renounce their award, proving once again that Canadians are either hopelessly vain, or terminally indifferent. The shrug has become our rallying salute.

It seems to have occurred to few that it is embarassing for Canadians to assert that we are a law abiding, democratic, inclusive, tolerant nation while at the same time we celebrate a twenty year absence of any law to govern the destruction of a fetus.

We Canadians are fast approaching the point where we will have forgotten how to think at all about matters that are fundamental to our humanity. In Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road a father and his son wander for years in post-apocalyptic America, the father holding stubbornly onto the hope that there will still be a future worth living for his son, while all that surrounds him suggests otherwise.

The father recounts that "there were times when he sat watching the boy sleep that he would begin to sob uncontrollably, but it wasn't about death. He wasn't sure what it was about but he thought it was about beauty or about goodness, things that he'd no longer any way to think about at all."

There is much about our times that lead me to see many parallels between McCarthy's bleak, ashen, post-apocalyptic vision and our own times. Of course they bear no resemblance on the surface. I am privileged to write this while I gaze at a crystalline sky, verdant woods and a salubrious sea, and Canada continues to offer up a myriad of similar natural wonders. It is the state of our souls that elicits my grief and you don't need to be religious to relate to my concept of the soul. I believe that deep in each man and woman is the knowledge that something knows of his or her existence.

If I am right, and each of us was to focus our thoughts on the image of 100,000 fetuses being destroyed each year in this country, one in every three pregnancies terminated by abortion, how could we not sob at the loss of beauty and goodness?

How can a nation as privileged, enlightened, compassionate and purportedly inclusive as ours, have concluded that it is of no consequence to anyone but the pregnant woman what should become of that human organism within her womb? In determining whether it should live or die, how did we conclude that nothing need be considered but the present circumstances of the woman in whom society has vested the inalienable right to determine the life or death of that fetus.

That this should be a horrible proposition to some and a cause for celebration for others is evidence of the chasm that exists between the weltanschauungs of too many Canadians.

To those who have no faith in God and the saving nature of Grace, there is much to suggest that by honouring men like Morgentaler our society is headed for a destination envisioned by another of McCarthy's characters in The Road. This exchange between the father of the little boy, and an ancient sojourner may point to our future. The role of the old man seems to have been written for Morgentaler.

(Old man) Things will be better when everybody's gone.
They will?
Sure they will.
Better for who?
Sure. We'll all be better off. We'll all breathe easier.
That's good to know.
Yes it is. When we're all gone at last then there'll be nobody here but death and his days will be numbered too. He'll be out in the road there with nothing to do and nobody to do it to. He'll say: Where did everybody go? And that's how it will be. What's wrong with that?

For those with faith and the hope of Grace, we turn to the words of Czeslaw Milosz, who wrote "evil grows and bears fruit, which is understandable because it has logic and probability on its side, and also, of course, strength. The resistance of tiny kernels of good, to which no one grants the power of causing far reaching consequences, is entirely mysterious."

More than ever it seems this is the time for us to spread tiny kernels of good in the face of growing evil. We could start by voicing our objection to the honouring of Henry Morgentaler's legacy of death.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Much Ado About Nothing

Onetime Liberal MP Sarkis Assadourian says he never did a day's work after being appointed a special adviser to former Prime Minister Paul Martin. Asked if he regrets accepting Martin's job offer and giving up his seat, Assadourian said: "I regret knowing him as a person." That seems a bit harsh.

Mr. Assadourian makes no mention of the fact Mr. Martin did subsequently appoint him first to the Immigration and Refugee Board and later as a Citizenship judge. Presumably these are paid positions, and it is highly probable that he could safely do nothing in either job but still be paid. It is unclear what Mr. Assadourian’s qualifications for either job might be, save for the fact that he was born in Aleppo, Syria.

Mr. Assadourian might safely have remained in comfortable anonymity doing nothing, but for the fact that his name has been bandied about as a result of the floor crossing of former Liberal Mr. Khan. The Liberals are upset because they suggest Mr. Khan isn’t doing anything for the Conservatives as the special adviser to Mr. Harper on affairs in the Middle East. Doing nothing while a Liberal MP is all right, but doing nothing for the Conservatives puts Mr. Khan beyond the pale. The Conservatives have countered with Mr. Assadourian’s claim that he didn’t do anything for the Liberals either, suggesting a pattern when it comes to Liberals.

Mr. Khan’s credentials for being a special adviser to the Prime Minister are somewhat of a mystery. He is a former pilot in the Pakistan air force. I suppose that infers he has had many occasions to observe the Middle East from 30,000 ft. He might still have some friends in the Pakistani military, no doubt he has told Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay that he has. I confess to being less than sanguine about the value taxpayers are getting from Mr. Khan role as special adviser, to say nothing of my assessment of Mr. Assourian’s contribution to Canada past or present.

All of this is rather confusing to a simple fellow like myself who doesn’t expect to get paid for doing nothing. I don’t even expect to take on a volunteer job where I don’t have to do anything – what’s the point of volunteering seems like the obvious question to ask.

It just goes to prove that the whole world of politics has proven to be more confusing than I could ever have imagined. More and more I see validated the proposition that my vote for the Rhinoceros candidate John Eh McDonald in 1980 in Vancouver was my most informed and gratifying act as a voter.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Dreams, they say, tell stories
To explain away our woes
And so we go on living.

D.J. Enright – Injury Time

It is intriguing to consider that as Enright suggests, our sleeping dreams may tell stories the purpose of which is to explain away our woes. Who amongst us has not experienced the surprise of waking from a particularly vivid and complex dream, amazed at the detail and sophistication of the plot line, only to have the entire story crumble and vanish before we can capture it in writing, like a pattern in the sand washed away by the tide? How many times have we been reunited in our dreams with deceased parents or grandparents as we vividly relive moments in our past?

In W.G. Sebald’s luminous novel, Austerlitz, he examines the phenomenon of memory through the eyes of his principal character, Jacques Austerlitz. Raised from the age of 5 by Welsh preacher and his wife, Austerlitz discovers in his teens that he was in fact born in Prague to Jewish parents. He spends the rest of his adult life trying to find out what happened to his parents and in so doing to discover the truth of his own reality and identity. Having found the woman who had once been his nursemaid, she shows him a photo of himself as a 5 year old just prior to his parents arranging his escape to Britain.

The photo unsettles him and that night he dreams of returning to the flat in Prague where he lived as a child. “All the furniture is in its proper place. I know that my parents will soon be back from their holiday, and there is something important I should give them. I am not aware that they have been dead for years. I simply think they must be very old, around ninety or a hundred, as indeed they would be if they were still alive. But when at last they come through the door they are in their mid-thirties at the most. They enter the flat…. they take no notice of me.”

This dream leads Austerlitz to conclude – “it does not seem to me that we understand the laws governing the return of the past, but I feel more and more as if time did not exist at all, only various spaces interlocking according to the rules of a higher form of stereometry, between which the living and the dead can move back and forth as they like.”

Perhaps our dreams take us into those spaces. There's a thought to sleep on.