July 21, 2005

 

Smog too much*

Yesterday I found myself suffering from symptoms of smog poisoning. I had heard many times that living in a polluted environment is like smoking a couple of packs of cigarettes a day, but I had assumed this was some clean-air advocate’s attempt to exaggerate the danger so as to underline the issue’s importance. Until yesterday, that is. Today, I have little doubt about the matter. I felt just like a heavy smoker does, and I don’t even smoke. And it happened just after we had particularly high levels of smog approaching the "dangerous" level for a couple of days in a row. Today I feel much better, but now I am sure this sort of thing has the same long-term effect on me and others as heavy smoking.

There used to be a time, and not so long ago at that, when Toronto had incredibly clean air for a large metropolis. We have more cloudy days than many other places. But the thing was that the cloudy days made you look forward to the clear days when the sun would shine in a beautiful blue sky that extended from one horizon to the other.

Not any longer. These days, there are cloudy smoggy days and clear smoggy days. On some days, in fact, you are not sure which one you are looking at. Even on the clearest days, the sky is a grayish blue, with a band of pure gray around the horizon.

It all happened very gradually. A few years ago, we had our first experience of “smog alerts” issued by the weather people. We thought of it as a passing curiosity. More importantly, we thought it would send a clear warning to government and business that urgent action was needed. But very little was done, and the problem got worse with each passing year. What had begun as smoggy days extended into smoggy weeks. Still, we thought, “Oh well, this is just some problem associated with summer heat waves.” Then, last year, during some of the coldest days of winter, we had our first experience of winter smog. We could not believe our eyes, but there it was. I think we experienced something like what scientists feel when they encounter a phenomenon that contradicts every known fact.

The Ontario government has always, more or less, washed its hands of the problem, claiming that most of the air pollution comes from south of the border. Whether or not that is true, and I have my doubts about that, I don’t think it absolves them of the responsibility to do something about it right here in Ontario. And, by the way, one reason I have doubts about their claim is that a couple of days ago the smog blanket covered the entire southern half of Ontario, up to the North Bay area and farther north.

Be that as it may, the Ontario government’s inaction makes me wonder who is going to defend our interests and really do something about this problem, which is killing a large number of people right here in Ontario.

What is the mandate of a government official, as he/she sees it? Is it to fight for the people, so that they will live happier healthier lives, free of unnecessary suffering and exploitation? I don’t think so. Government officials are trained to think first and foremost of promoting business. They think of that as their function. They think greater business activity is synonymous with a better society. Government officials and their associated technocrats think there is a “fix” for every problem, and such fixes always involve awarding a contract to some business or other. Yet the nature of such business activity, as with the capitalist system as a whole, is to exacerbate problems in the long run, rather than to help solve them.

One looks around in vain for anyone who represents the people’s real long-term interests. Even many so-called environmental advocacy groups are in fact business lobbies. There is a well-known Ontario organization, which shall remain nameless, whose professed mandate is to research and advocate regarding issues related to pollution. The reality is that this particular organization’s actual motive is to reduce even further the measly amount of government action regarding this problem, and to advocate for the interests of the polluting industries. With friends like these …


*The name of one of the characters in a Monty Python skit was Smoke-Too-Much.

July 17, 2005

 

All victims are not created equal

In the wake of the London bombings, sympathy for all victims, of whatever nationality, whether British, American, or Iraqi, has been urged upon us. People who are sympathtic towards the victims of the much larger Iraqi tragedy have been told that all victims are the same, and no-one is a bigger victim than anyone else. We have been told that British or American bombing victims and war casualties deserve as much sympathy as the Iraqi victims of British and American policy. We have been told that making such distinctions would amount to committing the sin of blaming the victim, a deadly sin according to the liberal scripture.

But there really is no equivalence of victimhood. We, as citizens of Western nations, are responsible for most of the evil that has characterized the last hundred years, whether we are willing or able to admit it or not. Majorities of us have again and again voted in governments that we knew were a curse to the rest of the world. Why did we vote them in? Because they promised us tax cuts, jobs, and the rest of the self-centered package that voters are bought with. We have again and again voted in governments that we knew were intent on plundering the rest of the world. Why did we do it? Because they plundered it for our benefit.

Specifically, there is no equivalence between victims of American terrorism and those of Islamist terrorism. Why? Because the West, and most especially the US government, is the source and origin of both varieties of terrorism. The US government is the source and origin of Islamist terrorism because: (1) With the complicity of its old buddy-in-plunder, the British government, it established and has continued to give its unconditional support to the State of Israel. The depredations of the government of Israel have been an endless source of misery among Palestinians, fueling political and religious extremism, and retarding political growth in the Middle East as a whole. (2) The US Government, through the CIA, brought down the secular democratically-elected government of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, returned the despotic Shah to power, and set back that country's political development for many decades to come. Iran is still suffering the consequences. (3) The US Government, in the 1980s, created various terrorist groups in Afghanistan to attack Afghan government and Soviet forces. Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, and various other re-energized forms of extremism throughout the Moslem world are the direct fruits of that project. (4) The US Government, through its Cairo embassy, made contact with the “CIA asset” Saddam Hussein in 1959, eventually helping the Baathists bring down the government of Iraq in 1963. And, as is more widely-known, the US government was Saddam’s primary supporter in his war against the democratically-elected government of Iran during the 1980s.

I won’t go on. We, in the West, are all responsible for this, every one of us, whether by being directly complicit in the crimes, or by bringing such governments to power in our countries, or by not doing enough to defeat them and the socioeconomic ideology that they represent.

July 07, 2005

 

This must end

I am outraged, partly because of all the misdirected outrage that I saw today. To use an old cliché, I am, yet again, shocked by man’s inhumanity to man. At least seven hundred Iraqis have been killed—just in the last two months. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been injured—just in the last two months. Overall, because of the American invasion of Iraq, a quarter of a million Iraqis have been killed. Millions of Iraqis have been injured, maimed, or incapacitated. Millions of other Iraqis have suffered unspeakable deprivations and horrors of various kinds, not to mention outright torture, all because of and only because of the invasion.

Had there been any humanity left in this world, the carnage in Iraq would have ended the reign of the American Empire long ago. There would have been such an outcry of morally outraged humanity the like of which would never have been heard before. Yet, there is hardly a peep from anyone. Even the daily toll of the dead has disappeared from newscasts.

Today, 37 people died in bomb blasts in London. 700 others were injured. There has been nothing else in the news today. Is the blood of these 37 people any redder than the blood of the quarter million Iraqi dead? Hotlines have been set up for Canadians and others to call to find out if anyone they knew is among the casualties. Where are the hotlines for Iraqis to call to find out the fate of their loved ones? Am I being unsympathetic to the plight of the British dead and injured? Are you being sympathetic to the plight of the Iraqi dead and injured?

All that a sane and rational person can hope for is that this attack will have the same kind of effect on the British people as the similar series of bombings in Madrid last year had on the Spanish people. The Madrid bombings incited the Spanish people to throw out the Bushite government of Aznar, and elect a new government that put a quick end to Spain’s complicity in the Iraqi genocide. Will the British people finally say a loud and clear No to the government of the ignominy whose name is Blair?

July 02, 2005

 

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Please go to Live 8 and sign the petition. All the right-wing think tanks are up in arms against dropping Third World debt and increasing aid, leaving no doubt in my mind that these are worthwhile and necessary objectives!

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