Category Archives: Violence and War

Remember: History Proves Everything

Nellie McClung caused World War Two. Yes, the McClung after whom Victoria’s Cedar Hill library is reverently named. Lest we forget.

Maybe that’s not obvious. Let me back up, and talk first about nature, history and proof.

People often use nature to prove points. Whatever their points are. Is cut-throat competition “natural”? Show fish eating each other. However, interspecies cooperation is essential for some trees and fungi. “Natural” sexuality? Pick your species to demonstrate virtually anything.

I recently read someone seriously arguing Victoria’s practice of dumping sewage directly into the ocean is laudable because it’s natural; don’t whales use oceans as toilets? Gee, why not use seagulls as the example, then? If they do it, shouldn’t all Victorians defecate on other people’s rooftops?

Such infantile arguments are equally common when we use history to prove points. Like nature, human cultural history is vast and diverse, and doesn’t often reasonably reduce to single, definitive exemplars. Nevertheless, one feeble memory of one event is all some people need to establish “the” definitive proof of something. Meanwhile, more complex truths are lost.

We’ll find no better example of selective remembering than, ironically, on “Remembrance” Day.

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Misquoting the Way to War

News stories with conflict generally stir more interest than those without. That’s why top news stories are wars, murders, scandals, intense disagreements and the like.

One problem with this is that news professionals emphasize, accentuate, exaggerate and even sometimes deliberately aggravate differences and conflicts to make their stories more gripping. In the end, we may see polarized perspectives that bear little resemblance to reality. This can be entertaining or upsetting, but it doesn’t help educate the public or solve any social problems.

Consider August’s raft of heated articles, letters to the editor, radio phone-ins and TV coverage about panhandling hurting Victoria tourism. All of that erupted from a Times-Colonist story about a man who’d written to the Empress hotel, indicating he’d never hold a conference here because of the “homeless people” constantly “hounding” him.

One catch: The letter had been misquoted. Continue reading

Are We Actually Helping Afghanistan?

In overseas wars with automatic weapons, helicopters and tanks, home fronts are as crucial as battlefields. Home-front foot soldiers like us provide the immense financing and social-emotional forces driving specialized armies.

Unfortunately, this means many here at home also embrace unquestioning obedience, as if lives depended on our ignoring complex questions and shooting first.­ It’s exemplified in recent columns defending our military’s role in Afghanistan being fired out by Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin.

Martin’s won five elections and become one of this region’s most prominent politicians, while occasionally defying his parties and adopting humanitarian and environmental issues. He’s currently the federal Opposition Critic for International Cooperation.

So one expects his Afghanistan writings to exhibit some political sophistication. Instead, they’re typical of the dangerous, misinformed jingoism becoming common amongst us.

In one column, Martin recounts how a teacher educated girls, but the Taliban executed him. Ergo: We’re in Afghanistan defending women’s rights.

However, I emailed his article with questions to the oldest, most active Afghan women’s organization, renowned for defying the Taliban, the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan. Their response, from “Friba” (they still operate partly clandestinely), was lengthy and impassioned (read the entire text here).

RAWA sees Canadian troops, like U.S. troops, as extensions of the U.S. government, not as “friends” of Afghan women, writes Friba. Continue reading