Tag Archives: Brexit

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day to Neo-Nazis in Detroit

By Marvin Ross

The western world has just finished celebrating the 75th anniversary of D-Day – an event in history described by Barrack Obama at the 65th anniversary as the struggle for “a slice of beach” that changed the course of history. A somewhat more elegant statement than the comments made by Trump about whom one paper said the D in D- Day does not stand for Donald.

Obama was correct. Post World War II, we had the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, the establishment of the UN, NATO, the development of the UN Peace Keeping Force thanks to Canadian Prime Minister, Lester B Pearson followed by the European Union.

The post war period saw tremendous economic growth in North America and Europe along with growing civil liberties and progressive policies. Abortion became legal in the US and Canada, human rights advanced as the result of sit-ins in the US, the advocacy of Martin Luther King, the creation of Human Rights Commissions in Canada and non discriminatory policies in rentals and acceptance to universities.

I don’t mean to discount the problems like the absurd War in Vietnam but that war was met with great opposition not only in the rest of the world but in the US as well.

Having grown up when the war ended as a child of working class immigrants, my own opportunities were greatly expanded. Quotas against minorities in universities were ended as well in hiring practices and rental. My fellow students at a working class immigrant high school had an opportunity to pursue post secondary learning in a variety of professions without burdening our futures with debilitating student loans.

But we are doing a disservice to the men and women who sacrificed so much during that war to ignore our recent and rapid descent from that progress and idealism.

What is happening in the US is scary. Women’s rights are under attack, violence against African Americans is increasing and while there are no lynching, there are police shootings and beatings. Election boundaries are being jigged to disenfranchise African Americans. The US has become a bully wrenching children from mothers, picking fights with various countries and I could go on.

But the US is not alone. The UK has its Brexit, Italy a right wing anti-immigrant party gaining in popularity along with similar groups in France, Germany, Hungary and Poland. Germany has just announced that it is dangerous for its few remaining Jews to wear the kippa.

Canada has a growing populist movement with a number of provinces electing right wing governments attacking the environment, poor people, workers and others. The upcoming Federal election in October will be a test of our ability to withstand the populist movement.

And then there is bigotry. Racist ideology is growing with attacks against Jews, Muslims, Blacks, immigrants, the gay community and others. The Province of Quebec is at it again with its proposed policy to prevent people from wearing religious symbols and the renewed antisemitism is infecting the left as well as the right.

After this was drafted, I read a report from a left wing source on Facebook that armed neo-nazis in Detroit showed up at the Pride Parade. Wary of fake news, I googled this to verify it and found very few references in the US other than Fox News. It was carried by papers in the UK and by the Jerusalem Post. In DC, there was a gun threat for the Pride Parade resulting in a panic and seven people were injured. Poland, however, was peaceful although the LGBT community there is under threat.

So, while we should honour those that served in World War II, and relish the progress that was made in the world after the peace, we should guard against slipping back into the conditions that precipitated that conflict as we seem to be doing.   If we do not reverse course, we are screwed!

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Quebec is Making a Mistake and I am Ready for Legalized Marijuana

By Dr David Laing Dawson

It is not just an irony but also a lesson when we find the province of Canada most endowed with a religious past, the province with years of government entanglement, even co-dependency, with the Catholic Church, the province that still has a sculpted image of a crucified man hanging behind the Speaker’s Chair in the Legislative Assembly, that it is that Province that has passed a law banning the display of religious symbols by public workers.

Extremism breeds extremism.

As an old atheist, and one who can claim to be at least three generations away from any serious belief in an all mighty, I had been pleased to see, year after year, statistics Canada reporting a gradually increasing percentage of us with no church affiliation. This didn’t just mean less magical belief in the incredibly flawed messages of the bible, the infallibility of priests and popes, but an increasing faith in our own ability as a democratic nation to choose the nature of our own social contract, and allow it to evolve with increasing heart and generosity, fairness and inclusivity.

And I must admit, as the numbers of atheists grew and the churches emptied, I was dismayed to see a whole new set of religious symbols walking our streets and pandering to another ancient text as flawed as the bible. But, but, I thought, give them time, a generation or two, a broad liberal education, a chance to see how we can come together and form a generous, safe, enriching social contract of our own, without the need of old myths and the purgatory of absolute moralities.

And that social contract, as contrary as this idea seems, should and must include the freedom to wear harmless religious symbols.

My Quebec friends, you are taking the wrong path. Outlawing such symbols gives them more amulet status, more symbolic power. It hardens the heart.

A head scarf is just a head scarf until you pass a law that it either must or must not be worn.

And if that is not enough: why I am ready for legalized marijuana? :

Kenney in Alberta flirts with a proposal that smells a lot like “Stand your Ground.”

I have no idea what Philpott, Wilson-Raybould or Trudeau have done or are doing, or why they are doing it.

The Republicans launch investigations into the investigation.

Brunei decrees Stoning as punishment for gay sex.

Michael Avenatti is Breaking Bad.

The social media world is upset someone cut a bagel differently.

British politicians stumble drunkenly toward a cliff marked Bloody Obvious.

B.C. has given close to half a million dollars to an anti-vaccination group.

Betsy and Donald want to cut funding for Special Olympics.

Caitlan Coleman met Joshua Boyle in a Star Wars forum.

Female astronauts can’t go for a walk together because they’ve got nothing to wear.

30% of the citizens of the Congo think the Ebola virus is a hoax.

The FAA delegated airline safety certification to Boeing.

And we may get 5.8 more years of Donald Trump.

Trump-Speak explained

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Listening to Donald Trump at any time is not conducive to equanimity but I clicked on the link to his “take on Brexit”. He was asked about Brexit by a reporter as he stood behind a podium. At first, in a congenial way, he responded that he had been reading a lot about Brexit in anticipation of his upcoming visit to the UK. And then he elaborated in his usual style.

But I am writing about this because it was a clear demonstration of how Donald Trump’s mind works, and of the concept of “associations”.

When we listen to someone else, or to our own thoughts as we form sentences and speak words, each noun, verb, adverb and adjective can cause us to experience associations from other memories and experiences.

In a serious discussion about roses the word “pink” might be used, causing us to think of a “pink Cadillac” or the singer “Pink”, but being in the context of a serious discussion about horticulture we will not let our brains and mouths take us off the topic at hand.

Now people with Asperger’s or “on the ASD spectrum”, not being as keenly aware of the intent of the speaker as others usually are, will often go off on an extraneous tangent, caused by a word association. Often it is a metaphor or simile mistaken for a factual statement of equal or more importance than the original topic.

Someone in a state of disorganized psychosis may appear to go off on an irrelevant tangent linked to a single word, and in that tangent the unusual linkages can occur over and over and may cause a “word salad.”. “Word salad” being an extreme form of “loosened associations.” Of course some of the associations may be to unspoken thoughts and feelings, including delusions and hallucinations.

With the toxicity of drugs, alcohol, infections, chemicals, the fractured sentence structure can be further impaired by problems of working, immediate, and recent memory and the distractions of distorted perceptions.

In dementia, with impairment of recent memory, the brain may associate words spoken, not with the forgotten recent topic, but with other older memories.

And, of course, with some people, the assault on linear,  logical and cohesive sentence structure can come from word associations to an overwhelming theme, or trait, or need, or obsession. And here we have Donald Trump. Always, always to his own accomplishments, his self-aggrandizement, his prickly defensiveness, his greatness, his popularity, his wealth.

It is difficult to discern from his answer how much he actually knows about Brexit (probably very little). But the word “Ireland” took him to the properties he owns in Ireland, to how much they love him there, and on to the “magical” property he owns in Scotland, the birthplace of his mother, and the fact he owns properties “all over”, but the people voted to leave the EU, and there will be protests, there will always be protests, and the word protests took him to his own experience of protests during his election (actually switching to the American election without naming it) and how many electoral votes he got, and the words won and election, took him to Wisconsin which he won and Ronald Reagan didn’t win even when Reagan “swept the board”.

There was nothing new here, but a clear demonstration of how much Donald Trump’s narcissism intrudes and distracts from any cohesive linear thought about something other than himself.

In a similar vein, if one listens carefully to Trump’s semantics, his choice of references, his associative processes, when he talks about the upcoming meeting with Putin, his narcissism prevents him from seeing himself as anything but himself, not as a representative of a country. His mind loops within the small circle of how he personally will be perceived and received by Putin (compared to all the lesser presidents who came before him of course).

In a sane world this man would now be making decisions about nothing more than the hair and tanning products he applies each morning. And perhaps what club to use on the dogleg seventh.

 

A New Years Message to Justin Trudeau

by Dr David Laing Dawson

I have in my head an image of three generations of a family fleeing in an oxcart from the destruction of war. Today they may be boarding a bus leaving Aleppo.

We respond emotionally to the images of children, wide-eyed, dusty, confused. But it is the older generation I think about, frail, arthritic, failing. The children may live to see the fighting stop and the country rebuilt. At the very least they can hope for this. But the grandparents know they are unlikely to live to see another round of peace and prosperity. They are unlikely to live long enough to see what becomes of their homes, their lands, and their grandchildren.

I was a university student during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Oddly I remember it as spring, but it must have been a warm October in 1962. I should have been studying for mid-terms, but with Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the desk at the U.N., Kennedy not backing down, nuclear missiles deployed in Cuba, armed Soviet vessels steaming toward the American blockade, it looked like the end of the world was approaching quickly, and I decided that sitting in a library poring over books was no way to spend one’s last day on earth. Instead, I spent much of it sitting under a tree on the campus watching the leaves and the drifting clouds beyond.

We now know some of the strange details of those ten days of brinksmanship. Khrushchev overestimated Kennedy’s maneuvering latitude in a democracy. The Joint Chiefs wanted to invade Cuba. Kennedy knew the Soviets would have to take Berlin if the US took Cuba and killed some Russians in the process. And he knew where that would lead. Thank God Khrushchev knew as well, and he was not a madman, not an outrageous narcissist. Khrushchev blinked. And I went back to studying for my mid-terms.

I am no longer young, and like the grandparents on that oxcart, I wonder what is in store for the world and for my grandchildren. I am trying to gauge my anxiety about this. I have written about The Donald’s threat to democracy, but what do I know? I am neither historian nor political scientist. But many more qualified than I are seeing the same trend, the same threat to American democracy that I see, the same rise of an amoral international oligarchy, the chipping away at the fundamental tenets of democracy. And as it is for the crabs in a large pot of warm water on the stove, and for the subjects of a gradual desensitization program, each increase in temperature, each aberration becomes the new normal. The CNN pundits frequently say it has no “precedent”, (and in one of the best Freudian typos of all time, as we know, Mr. Trump wrote “unpresidented”), and that these are “new times, new realities”. Of course each of these erosions of American democracy does have a precedent. One need but look beyond our shores to the oligarchs of Russia, the nepotism of both Koreas, the mix of business and politics in China, the collapse of democracies in the past, and 1930’s Germany.

But let me get to my point before I dig too deep a hole. There are a few good democracies in this world, most notably Canada, capable of punching above their weight in international affairs. The next few years we must not succumb to the disease affecting much of Europe and America. We must instead shout loud and clear, we must participate, we must join whatever rational and sane leaders there are left in this world to get us through this. We must negotiate, mediate, and speak for morality.

So, Prime Minister Trudeau, it looks like we must try to survive four years of Mr. Trump and his cohort of oligarchs and plutocrats, impulsive tweets, regressive policies, a continuing increase in income disparity, further deterioration of the American public education and health system, along with Vladmir Putin baring his chest and flexing his pecs, Kim Jong Un playing lego with his nukes, Netanyahu digging in his right to the expansion of Israel, Brexit turmoil in Europe, Duterte unleashing the hounds of hell…

We need adults at the table. We need somebody to raise the flag of sanity and compassion. It will be okay by me if you and your team neglect the home front. By and large we Canadians are doing just fine. But we need to know our voices are being heard when Putin and Trump square off, or some idiot is about to trigger another mid east conflagration, or Putin and Trump team up and piss off China…..or…..

In a world of delicate balances, a world of compromise, a world in which we know that the written or spoken word, even if it is merely the public pronouncement of an obvious logic, truth, or morality, can trigger retaliation or war – in such a world the impulsive tweet, the school yard taunt, fake news, the inattention to detail,  the folly of self-importance, the fragile ego, and a horrible combination of ignorance and grandiosity can spell doom for us all.

You have a job to do Mr. Trudeau, you and all the other sane voices on the international stage. I wish you God speed.

Backlash, Change and Disruption

By Dr David Laing Dawson

How stupid can they be to vote to leave the EU? How stupid can they be to vote for Donald Trump?

These questions leap to mind but are mostly the product of bafflement, anger, and worry.

But perhaps we should take those two questions seriously and try to answer them. Because if we don’t understand these phenomena, we may find ourselves in big trouble.

Prior to the turn of the last century, as 2000 loomed, I wondered if there would be a backlash. That millennial year signified change and disruption, a world, yea a universe, that could no longer be understood using concepts and tools of the 20th century. It didn’t seem to happen at the turn of the millennium, but then we humans have a very narrow perspective. I think it is happening now, not all at once, but here and there, a growing backlash, a growing avoidance of the realities we face and the future that will unfold.

Historically it happened once before, thanks to the printing press. Suddenly knowledge was disseminated. Literacy grew. It was no longer locked away in the vaults of monks. The world was not flat after all. And the earth traveled around the sun, and even the sun was not the center of the universe. Humanism competed with religious dogma. Gallileo, Copernicus, Columbus, Da Vinci – they all had to be reckoned with. Maybe, just maybe, the Pope did not have a pipeline to God. Maybe parts of those old texts were simply wrong. Maybe disease and pestilence and weather were not acts of an angry God.

We did go through a renaissance and a reformation and then a scientific revolution, but we also floundered into a protracted reactionary period, a hundred plus years of religious wars, famine, pestilence, superstition and stupidity. The dramatic changes in the 1400’s did bring us literacy and art and science and a new awareness of the world as but a sphere in orbit around a star. But it also brought us the 15 and 16th century equivalents of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and Radical Islam.

It was the invention of the printing press about 1440 that triggered that first disruption, the spread of knowledge and literacy, and with this a limitation on the powers of Popes, Princes, and demagogues. But there was a backlash and it brought on a century of pain.

Today we live within an even greater disruption, several in fact:

  • Our medicines, our science, our agricultural advances, and our industrial revolution have rendered us capable of destroying our planet. Quickly with nuclear weapons or slowly with population, deforestation and pollution.
  • The digital revolution. Faster than the printing press, information of all possible kinds is disseminated, made available throughout the world, almost instantly. And this now includes images and videos. This time around even the semi-literate are included. It is much harder today to be complacent about one’s knowledge and understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. It is much harder today to be so sure of the rightness of our lives and our place in the universe.
  • Globalization. A product of both the digital revolution, the massive increase in population, and all our other technologies. We can no longer even pretend to be isolated and protected from whatever plague is visiting a far off land or a neighbor.
  • The Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. The robots. We are in the process right now of creating things that are smarter than we are, can do most of our jobs, and might not obey Asimov’s first rule of robotics. Exciting and frightening times ahead.
  • Our awareness of the expanse, the complications, the weirdness of our universe is blossoming, is growing beyond our average human comprehension. Clearly our world was not created by a God in six days 4000 years ago. Would someone please explain string theory to me, and black holes, and anti-matter, and things being in two places at once; and what existed before the big bang, and does that question even make sense?

Hence the backlash. The fantasy that we can return to our whites-only pub, discuss football with the same accent, build by hand what we need, grow our potatoes and eat our pies, drink our ale in peace, and know that we are British, the truly civilized people.  The fantasy that we can rebuild a caliphate and control all around us, the women, the way we dress and eat, the way we think, regain the comfort of absolutes and certainties. The fantasy that we can retrieve small town America and go about our lives certain of our jobs, our future, our power, our exceptional place in the Universe.

It is all happening now. And to avoid a repeat of the 16th century (with global consequences this time), our leaders must understand the disruptive transition ahead of us, and the forces that would like to pull us back to an imagined time of peace, prosperity, simplicity and isolation.

We really have only two choices: Embrace and manage these disruptive changes, accept globalization, muddle through and save the planet, or let Donald and his ilk drag us into a very dark (and hot) age.