Saturday, January 3, 2009

The News

Israel - the land of the birth of my Mother. The nation wherein I have spent half of my adult life - is at war with Hamas.
The major news sources are reporting this as a war on Gaza, but by listening to any and all quotes from the Israeli side, this is a war on a party.
Having invested as much of my growth as an individual to Israel as I have, I feel I have a stake in the outcome of this war. In fact, I feel I have a stake in the future of Israel - and by extension - the future of Gaza and the diverse Palestinian people.
I recently read an article in Time magazine about how people are happier when they have friends and family in their vicinity who are happy. (The Happiness Effect, by Alice Park - Time - December 22, 2008). Viewed in reverse, unhappy people are more likely to be surrounded by other unhappy people.

Can this be applied to nations? Are successful thriving nations likely to border with other successful, thriving nations? Are troubled nations more likely to be bordering with other troubled nations? Do troubled nations exist in isolation?

I don't think so. War and internal conflict create conditions that spill over man-made borders. When a nation is poor or poorly run, infrastructure suffers. Lacking the amenities of their neighbours creates ill will that can be directed at the richer side. There will be smuggling and illegal immigration, leading to more cross border strife. Poor infrastructure can also lead to health issues in one state that do not abide by borders and freely visit their neighbours (see the fear of the spread of cholera from Zimbabwe to South Africa).

Is it really a coincidence that the long-running global epicentre for terror concerns (Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan) have back-to-back-to-back-to-back borders?

Would Zimbabwe be better off without Mugabe? I've yet to read or hear of an opinion refuting that.

Would Gaza and the Palestinian people be better off without Hamas? That seems to be the case. When the means of infrastructure are being used to attack neighbours while their own citizens lack adequate health care measures, I am lead to question the long-term vision, the wisdom, the ability to govern, of the leadership.

What are the aims of Hamas when firing rockets into Israel? What do they want to achieve? What are they aiming at? How will they measure their success?

I cannot see a way by which their present and recent actions demonstrate their usefulness to their constituents or to their fledgling nation. And if Hamas is bad for the Palestinians of Gaza, they are bad for Gaza. And if they are bad for Gaza, they are bad for Israel. And if they are bad for Israel and they threaten and create harm to Israel and the Israeli people, then Israel and the Israeli people should have the full right to defend themselves and to eradicate the threat to them.

And if Israel succeeds in this endeavour, then Gaza will benefit just as much as Israel will.

What does this have to do with the news? Much to my chagrin, I have yet to find an accurate, not overly biased source that has been able to separate the analysis from the reporting where the Israeli-Hamas war has been concerned. As much as I support Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas, I find it equally as important to my sense of morality that this war is conducted right. That is, responsibly and as humanely as possible.

In my attempts to interpret the various news sources I have been audience to, I have been led to believe that they have been responsible. But I notice that each source either mentions how many incidental civilians have been hurt from the Gaza end, or how many from Israel. The sources that speak about the dead and wounded civilians (don't forget the children) of Gaza, never mention the incessant indiscriminate nature of the rockets sent towards Israel. Conversely, the sources that toll the damage to Israel and the suffering of its citizens avoids talk of the effect of the war on Gaza.

So what is the truth? Can we get news without commentary?

For the sake of all concerned, I hope this ends soon. I hope for a way out of the war with minimal funeral processions. And I will continue to hope. Good luck to all of us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

International Politics

Just an open question today:
Is it possible that the outcome in next week's US presidentail election ill have a greater long-term effect on Canada than Canada's own recent election?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Makings of a Politician

What makes a politician a successful politician?
Plato believed in the Philosopher-King as an ideal ruler of a just society. The Philosopher-King is one who understands what to do and how to do it. The Philosopher-King would have the necessary power (being a king) to implement the chosen path.
And yet Plato was strongly against the rhetorician, the practitioner of rhetoric, the art of speech. Plato believed that the rhetorician knew only how to talk, and nothing of what he (it was always a "he" back then) was talking about - the truth of what he was talking about.

But we are left with the problem of mobilizing a people. A ruler is only as good and as effective as the belief in him or her by the society being led. Without belief in the ruler and in what the ruler is trying to achieve, the populace cannot follow and cannot implement.

For effective leadership, a leader must understand the ideals at least as much as Plato's Philosopher-King, yet the leader cannot be a king. Not in this hemisphere, anyway. We, as a people, are too educated and too free-thinking to follow a monarchy, even an enlightened one.

In this section of our planet, we require leaders that can communicate to us what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how we can be mobilized to actuate these ideals.

What is communication if not the act (and the art) of using language to make other people agree with you and do things that you want them to do.

A political candidate can succeed without this element. Passive democracy gives us a choice between the lesser of two (or more) evils. Active democracy gives us the option to take part in our decisions.

The successful politician is the politician who can mobilize a people into an active democracy. The successful politician is both a Philosopher and a Rhetorician; Communicating the ideals to the masses and creating a shared vision for the greatest possible number. A winning politician can illustrate, but only a successful politician can en-vision - enable a vision to be shared by all.

Watching Barack Obama tonight speak to a diverse and united mass audience in Denver, I thought to myself that this is what it must have been like with Kennedy - JK and Bobby.

Barack Obama has a vision, an understanding of the truth. Barack Obama can communicate that vision and make people understand it and share it.

Barack Obama is the epitome of the Philosopher-Rhetorician. A successful politician. A leader.

Friday, August 22, 2008

God Willing

Is that just another way of saying, "I'm not actually willing, myself, so we'll see how it works out."?
Philosophical question, assuming a belief in God, or an equivalent: Does God will events, or does God give us the will to do what we can to make events happen?

I have my money on the latter. Ryan willing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Death of Memory

How much do we remember?
If we forget (or never learn) the lessons of our past, does that negate our memory of what happened as well?

In other words, it is one thing to remember the past and to honour the past, but it is another thing altogether to remember the lessons from the past and to live accordingly.

I am a Jew and my memory is the Jewish memory, my history is the history of the Jewish people. As a Jew whose direct descendants came from Europe in the 20th century, the Holocaust is central to my memory and my history. My Father's people were fortunate enough to be unfortunate enough to have to leave Europe (for the most part) by the First World War, giving them a head start at a Jewish, North American life, and a semi-ignorant bliss of the horrors of Nazism. My Mother's people, on the other hand, did not yearn West (or any other direction) until it was, for too many of them, too late. From the carnage, my grandparents escaped through Russia to Uzbekistan where they married, began the next generation of Jews and eventually wound their way to Israel, close to the start of a new Jewish existence.

Now we have moved on to the second and third generation of post-Holocaust Jewish life in Israel, America, and even Europe (not to mention the other continents). Even now, our books, our movies our teachers, parents and grandparents remind us to never forget what happened to us 63-70 years ago. Never forget the murder of six million Jews. Jews of all ages, sizes, sexes, professions. But for being Jewish, they were just like everyone else around them. But for being Jewish, they would have lived out their natural lives in relative peace. For being Jewish they were persecuted and the died. For their being Jewish, the memories of the next generations are still scarred.

And so we say to "Never Forget."

So what does it mean for the Jews to never forget the hatred and the events that led to murder on such a grand scale? Is it merely a plea for to remember those six million? To catalogue their names, dates of birth and dates of expiry? To turn crematoria into memorabilia?

What more could there be?

Ultimately, genocide is bigger word used less often for events of infinitely less magnitude. According to the Oxford Dictionary of current English, "Genocide" is, : "the deliberate killing of a very large number of people from a particular ethnic group or nation."

We can argue over the meaning of "a very large number of people", but I am happy to concede that any number with at least 4 zeroes should be considered as very large. Americans remembering September 11, 2001 might argue that 3 zeroes should suffice. In another example, the massacre of 700-3500 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982 was called a genocide by none other than the United Nations General Assembly.

In as much as Jews are taught to never forget the Holocaust. Never to forget so as to never happen again.

Yet it happens. Over and over again, it happens. Taken from the Wikipedia entry for "Genocides in History", only since the Holocaust, have we seen acts of genocide against the Australian Aboriginal peoples (1900-1969), Guatemala (1968-1996), Bangladesh (1971), Burundi (1972 and 1993 - separate events), Equatorial Guinea (1968-1979), Cambodia (1975-1979), East Timor (1975-1999), the aforementioned Sabra-Shatila, Lebanon massacre (September 1982), Afghanistan (by the Soviets, 1979-1982), Ethiopia (1977-1978), the Kurds of Iraq (1986-1988), Tibet (1950-1959), the Tikuna's of Brazil (1988), West Papua/West New Guinea (1963), Zanzibar (1964).

Since the dawn of the new millennium (this is in the 21st century!), we have borne witness to the genocidal deaths of well over one million (that's 6 zeroes) people in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995), Rwanda (1994) and Sudan (2003-right now).

Every time a human being suffers due to the simple belonging to an individual ethnic group or nation, our memory of the Holocaust is dimmed. The lessons are not being applied.

We have screamed "Never Again!" for over 60 years, even while it still happens. Even Israel, a nation founded in part on a commitment to the memory and the lessons of the Holocaust, has ironically refused asylum on a significant number of refugees from the Darfur genocide in the Sudan.

Is this the death blow to our memory?

I cannot forget.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Thinking About Thinking

I have apparently been suffering from thinker's block.
Anyone know of a good cure?
Please help.....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Exit Polls Say State Race is Too Close to Predict

Today the US moves one step closer to finding out who will be competing with McCain for the next presidency of the US.
And let's be fully honest with ourselves. This is a demographics race. Will it be a woman or a black man?
The male WASP hegemony on US politics may be coming to a close. The democratic candidate will either be female or non-white. Either represents a powerful breakthrough for US society. A society that throughout its history has shown a lack of willingness to trust the "other." The status quo shall persevere. A woman in power would represent the culmination of the woman's suffrage movement which only achieved the power to vote for woman in 1920. From no vote to winning the vote in under one hundred. Fairly impressive.
The history of the vote for American blacks is a little harder to accurately trace. The 15th Amendment, which was ratified on February 3, 1870 officially sanctioned voting rights on Americans of colour. "Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. " Of course with many states under the bigoted Jim Crow laws, various and nefarious ways and means were produced to keep blacks from voting. The 1965 Voting Rights Act put some of that to right, expressly forbidding states from implementing restrictive voting laws that worked to keep blacks away from the polls.

Of course, I am a Canadian, so why am I wasting cyberspace on the electoral history and present of an "other" country?
Let's examine the bigger picture. I truly believe that Barack Obama, were he to win the Presidential race (not just the party, but the whole country), would have a far profounder impact on our global structure than any other candidate, actual or fictional, alive or dead, possibly could.
Because he is Black.
A female president would be great for women, but it wouldn't be new. The world has seen great nations sport female leaders. Canada had the Kim Campbell experiment. The UK had Maggie Thatcher, the Iron Lady. India was led by Indira Gandhi, parts of Pakistan yet mourn Benazir Bhutto. Golda Meir personified the post-holocaust new tough Jew while leading a strengthening Israel. There were other female world leaders, but the preceding names should have served to give a sense of what the women of the world have already accomplished in the political spectrum.

Now name a few Black world leaders....Leaders from Africa/Caribbean may not be considered, but think for a few minutes how long it took them to be able to rule in their own lands.........


The answer is that there were none. Please correct me if I am wrong, but outside of Africa and some Caribbean Islands, there has not been a single black leader of any major Western World nation.

Now imagine what kind of effect a Black President of the US would have on the world image of that nation. How would that effect Africa? I've always been an optimist, but it could be glorious. That amazing continent, which is still recovering from its colonial past, might finally move forward with a target for what an educated and integrated Black person can do in the world.

So yes, I am hoping those Pennsylvanians Baracked the vote.