Monday, 29 December 2014

MY RANDOM THOUGHTS FOR THE END OF 2014

     In 2014, Joan, my wife of 72 years, and I completed 95 journeys around the Sun, never finding answers to What, Where, When, Why, and How we happened to be trapped into this existence, thus mandating a 96th circuit during which we will try to be more diligent,  but can we ever understand those massive, hidden-but-controlling energies that force all of us into rather pointless, short-lived  journeys, never deviating from the same old route that takes 365 days to fly around the sun that takes 250 million years, even at 800,000 km/hr,  to circle our Milky Way galaxy that has its own circle to navigate?  In over 20 circuits since our galaxy formed we have yet to escape our spiral motion in the Orion arm.  Yet in our First Class (Developed World) section few of us go outdoors into darkened night skies to admire the view. There is a super first class, occupied by only a few who exert a controlling influence over us yet most have not really earned the right.  Most on board go steerage and they do see the view if not much else. 
         The stable period of our current solar system is good for a few more billion years, and for a few more centuries the major orbital, tilt, and precession cycles provide no threat.  But, as our Hindu beliefs and modern physicists tell us, everything is recycled forever throughout Time whatever that is.  I do know I need more of it. 
   Now this endless race of everything chasing around something else is quite invasive going all the way down from galaxies to atoms where electrons chase around nuclei.  If you care to go deeper into quarks, quantum, waves, and particles, you can escape this rotation but you find motions that imply we are really just holographs, so why bother with this essay?  That urge to finish what I start is bothersome and leads to an assessment of our ship and its passengers that include Homo sapiens, the only species, we believe, that can record, and learn from, History.
     The design of our spaceship with scattered resources and frequent climate changes is quite adequate for modest and mobile populations but promotes competition as birthrates rise. With each cruise our ship gets more crowded with millions of species all of whom, our species has determined, have a common ancestor but evolved differently into the niches they stumbled into, or made for themselves.  And, can you imagine the absurdity?  Most of us evolved so that we must daily kill and eat relatives in order to survive?  Also absurd is the fact that bacteria  learned to provide essential services so that larger life forms host them.  In individuals of the human species they make up 90% compared to 10% human cells. So, who is in the driver’s seat?  Where does consciousness lie?
     Competition created widespread opportunities for Greed to infect humans with a craving known as Much needs More.  Amazing how a few of those infected have been able to control their many, more-docile, brethren.  In pursuit of power humans have killed 4 billion humans in major wars and who knows how many more in minor disputes?  Empires are born, thrive, and dissipate.  Many factors contributed such as:  the export of grain technologies from Anatolia some 10,000 years ago permitted the rise of Egypt and other Middle East empires.  Later about 1600 AD the export of the potato from the South America Andes to poorly-fed Europe permitted the industrial revolution and the rise of European, and later American, empires.  Rising populations provided workmen and cannon fodder.
     Right now our species, that can probe the outer reaches of our galaxy and invent cell phones that can do everything except cook dinner, is dragging its feet on real problems like over population, military and economic persecution,  and climate change mainly because those who have the power to change are too comfortable with current, if futureless, conditions.  Nature has been the main culprit, but living things are also to blame.         Some 3.5 million years ago those remarkable, microscopic, cyanobacteria, who can manufacture their own food, but export poisonous oxygen forced us to adapt to using it as an essential gas.  Humans, likewise, with some 8 billion individuals and much more advanced and varied technologies, are saturating our fragile air and waters with poisons that dictate change too rapidly for us to evolve as simpler life forms did with Oxygen infusions.
     Like you, I am fallible and do make wrong interpretations.  Yet I can not agree when intelligent friends tell me I am bamboozled by scientists because climate change is natural with no impact from humans.   In my limited experience I have been in vast areas of Europe devastated by humans and have flown over vast areas now eye sores with the clear cutting of forests, interwoven with the extraction of oil and mineral wealth.  Also I have joined endless streams of motor vehicles spewing pollutants.  Now my Arctic and Polar regions, in and over which I had devoted 5 years, are melting dramatically.  When I add the fires, droughts, rising seas, and other weather catastrophes,  I fear too many humans are bent on their own destruction.   We have the ability to stop this.  Will we?
     So many humans, my age, knowing all this, just shrug their shoulders, sighing, “I am happy I am on the way out.”       Me?  I am just too damn stubborn, stupid, and much too young to give up so easily.  Per Ardua ad Astra (Through Difficulties to the Stars), motto of the Royal Air Forces, remains with me. 
      So much to do, so little Time.
.
Ye Olde Scribe     georgesweanor@comcast.net

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

PEACE and GOODWILL

   I am thoroughly confused.
  My sincere desires to wish all of you out there a Merry Christmas are shattered when I am told I may not use those words anymore.  I must be careful to avoid offending non-Christians so “Happy Holidays” are now in vogue.
   So, what does that correct?   The Winter Solstice has long been associated with religious beliefs.  How about 25,000 years?  Did not early Christians, who did not have a clue as to when Jesus was born because the Roman census requiring families to register in their village of birth never was ordered and is a myth inserted by future writers of the Bible, steal December 25th from  the Romans who had already established it as a holiday?  But, did the Romans not steal it from the Etruscans, Celts, Franks. Gauls,  and all those others to whom they sought to bring the benefits of their rule?  If I use it I could be offending the Carthaginians, Parthians, Palestinians, Jews, and so on.
    If I cannot use Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, what words may I utter?
    Sure, there is “Happy New Year” - but, wait.  Not all of you share the same start date of each new year which means I cannot limit my good wishes to just this time of year.  Christian corporations are as varied on start dates as are other cultures.
   It really is rare and strange for me to find myself speechless.
   So, let me wish all of you PEACE and GOODWILL, whether you are religious or not, whether you can tell time or not, whether you are male or female, whether you are human or otherwise, and whether you were or are friend or foe.
   But now I am left somewhat sad, empty, and depressed.  Memories haunt me of all those Decembers of my childhood when I waited so impatiently for the wonders of Christmas Day.  And all that beautiful music overflowing with peace on earth.
  But there is a much sadder and deeper implant that, every December, forces me back to Durham and Yorkshire, especially at Croft where we sang, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” as we walked, often single file, down that long, long, foreboding path between the station proper and the distant dispersal points of our Wellington bombers.  Far too many of those I walked and sang "White Christmas" with, some 60% of us, never returned to collect their breakfast reward of a single egg and slice of bacon.  These treasures were reserved for those who survived a night of frolicking through unfriendly forests of flak and fighters.
   Emotions dictate that I shout, "To heck with current etiquette!  MERRY CHRISTMAS and A HAPPY NEW YEAR!"
   There, I said it! And that leaves me much happier as I suspect you do know that I really mean PEACE and GOODWILL.

  Ye Olde Scribe.
georgesweanor@comcast.net
  www.yeoldescribe.com


   

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

IVAN and ABDUL

   From among the mountains of literature condemning the insanity of conflict, here is one I have liked since childhood.  It deals with the Russian-Turkish quarrels of the 1800s:

There are heroes in plenty
And well known to fame
In the ranks that are led by the Tsar.
But among the most famous
Of name or of fame
Was Ivan Skivinski Skvar.

    One day this bold Russian
Had shouldered his gun
And donned his most truculent sneer.
Down town he did go
Where he trod on the toe
Of Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.

“Young man,” said Abdul,
“Has life grown so dull
That you wish to end your career?
For by this I imply
You are going to die,
Mister Ivan Skivinski Skvar.”

Said Ivan, “My friend,
Your remarks in the end
Will avail you but little I fear.
For you will never survive 
To repeat them alive.
Mister Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.”

They fought all that night
‘Neath the pale polar light.
In the end it was heard from afar.
Great multitudes came
So great was the fame
Of Abdul and Ivan Skvar.

The Sultan drove by
In his cream-crested fly
Expecting the victor to cheer,
But only drew nigh
To hear the last sigh
Of Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.

Tsar Petrovich too
In his spectacles flew
To arrive in his gold-crested car.
But arrived just in time
To exchange a last line
With Ivan Skivinsky Skvar.

For, as Abdul’s long knife
Was extracting a life,
In fact, he was yelling “Huzzah!”
When he felt himself struck
By that wily Kalmuck
Called Ivan Skivinski Skvar.

A monument rises
Where the Blue Danube rolls,
Engraved there in characters clear
‘Oh, Stranger, when passing,
Please pray for the soul
Of Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.’

A Muscovite maiden
Her lone vigil keeps
‘Neath the light of the pale polar star.
And the name that she murmurs,
So oft as she weeps,
Is Ivan Skvinski Skvar.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

THE KURDS

     The Kurds, those gallant Sunni Muslims, and known today as Boots-on-the-Ground, are fighting those gosh-awful Sunni Muslims, known as the Islamic State, who, actually, are not  quite as bad as many the Kurds have fought in their past, only this time we have a stake, so we give the Kurds some air support while waving them on from the sidelines.  The IS is heavily armed with US equipment abandoned by a crumbling Iraqi Shia-Muslim army and financed by the captured oil they sell to a world where Greed trumps Ethics. Condensing Kurd history is impossible but I will try:
     Mostly Indo-European with a sprinkling of Semites, Kurds originated in the mountains south of the Caucasus and NW Persia (Iran) as a federation of a dozen tribal groups and a feeling of “Kurdiness” even though the name did not appear until 1000 BC in Assyrian documents as Kurkhi, but they received little press until 641 AD when  Muslim Arabs conquered much of their land resulting in a series of revolts that were put down, often with the mass extermination of survivors and complete destruction of buildings and crops.  Other Kurds became moderate Sunni Muslims.  Not until they produced S├╝leyman the Magnificent (Saladin, 1137-1193) and his powerful wife, Roxelana, were they recognized as a powerful entity.  In defeating the invading Christian Crusaders they were considerably more merciful to the defeated survivors than Crusaders had been in their victories.  They founded the Ayyubid Dynasty (1171-1250) and united all the Muslim areas in Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Mesopotamia.  Their popularity grew as they were generous, virtuous, devoid of cruelty, but firm rulers.  Their sense of jihad was to extend their version of Islam by founding colleges and mosques, based on moral regeneration.  Saladin’s military strength grew as he disciplined, united, and reformed unruly groups as far away as Yemen.
    Like so many good things this was short lived as waves of Seljuk Turks swept out of the central Asian steppes, conquering Persia and Iraq while annexing Kurdish communities, creating Kurdistan.  But then Kurdish communities were evicted to be resettled in distant areas or completely massacred.  Ottoman Turks then prevailed but the Kurds suffered horrible persecution in Ottoman-Shia-Safavid wars.  Ottomans did massacre Kurdish-speaking Yazidis.
     In the War-to-end-all-wars, 1914-18, we good guys, mostly Christians, defeated those bad guys, mostly Sunni Muslims, known as the Ottoman Empire (1300-1922) that was made up of nine major religious/ethnic groups, including the Kurds, and numerous minor groups but counting them is harder than counting the stars in the sky.  In this empire there was a rare liking for diversity as everyone that was of the male gender had equal opportunity for employment, advancement, even in government and the mititary, and, like all other countries, the privilege to fight and die for one’s empire.  Women ?  Well, men were allowed up to 4 wives but 95% found that one was all they could handle.  Yes, the 1% did have harems but they could afford separate accommodations for them where they became quite influential in politics, architecture, creating welfare associations, and the like.  
    But, after 1919, some of us enjoyed believing we brought enlightenment and freedom and changed oppressive ways.  We also had economic and political well-being to consider.  Victorious nations, except for the Australians and New Zealanders, a valuable but uncontrollable lot, who got out of the way by going home, and, yes, the Canadians also left after leading the RAF squadrons helping the Whites in Crimea.  Those of us with the stamina to stay blessed the area by setting up independent countries from Algeria to Syria that, of course, had to be guided through the decades-long process of learning all about the benefits of western-style democracy.  The proper handling of natural assets, such as oil, needed our expertise and the guiding hand of capitalism.   Britain, France, and Italy were particularly generous in donating administrators and military forces.  But were not the Russians also our glorious allies?  Well yes, but they were quite busy deciding whether they wanted to be Red or White so we relieved them of their age-old headache of trying to find warm-water ports by creating buffer states.  The United States was slow to learn.  Failing to declare war on the Ottomans, their commercial interests became involved.  In 1858 Canada led in developing and exporting commercial oil expertise so was also capable of involvement.
     Like the Jews, the Kurds have retained their culture and longings for a homeland so are seen as a threat where they are now sizable minorities:  Turkey (18%), Iraq (17%), Iran (10%), and Syria (10%). When Armenia was part of the USSR, Kurds were a protected minority but lost all privileges when the USSR disintegrated.  In Azerbaijan many Kurdish areas were destroyed and 150,000 deported.  Kurds are also in Georgia, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon, descendants of those fighting the Crusaders.  They still hold high offices in Iran which absorbed 1.5 million Iraqi Kurdish refugees.  Both Iran and Turkey have fought each other using their Kurds while assassinating uncooperative Kurdish leaders.  Having a superior record in human rights than many of us, the Kurds deserve better, but, like all the rest of us, they have their divisions such as KDP-1, Komalah, PKK, and PJAK.
     We have all contributed to an ungodly mess in the Middle East.  Can you suggest how I can possibly end this essay on a happy note? 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

INGRATITUDE

     Any God can forgive sin.  No God can forgive ingratitude.  This statement dates back thousands of years to India, but remains relevant.  One current example is the shameful treatment of Barack Obama after all he has accomplished despite groundless but fierce, determined, and prolonged opposition.
     It all started somewhere around 2008.  Now, I am not enamoured of the form of democracy that has evolved in the USA. Fund raising trumps governing, frequent elections deny continuity, and 2-party dominance limits independent voices.  But locally what did bother me was to walk or drive around our neighbourhood with beautiful lawns and gardens obscured with hundred of signs promoting candidates of the GOP, once the Grand Old Party but now the Guardian of Privilege.  Naively believing we were all friends, I thought a little variety would ease eyestrain so I planted on our corner lot two Obama-Biden signs.
     The next morning I awoke to find I was the recipient of the generous gifts of numerous rolls of toilet paper, but first I had to untangle them from the numerous trees that grace our lot.   I also had to find and replace the Obama-Biden signs that some earthquake activity had thrown some distance.  In fact I had to replace them five times.
     Then my education was enhanced by numerous and continuous e-mails depicting Obama to rank among the most evil of humans, accompanied by assertions that he was illegal having been born in Kenya, Indonesia, or, perhaps, hell.   Assertions by my good friend, Diana DeLuca, also a blogger, that she was a professor in Hawaii and knew Obama’s mother at the time of his birth were dismissed and accused to her face of being fabrications.   I was given compliments such as being a communist, being a senile old fool, and being ungrateful to the super wealthy because no poor man could ever offer me a job.  I tried to remember when a rich man had ever offered me a cabbage or a potato or taught my children ethics. I did thank those for the compliment of telling me I was full of CRAP.  It is so good to know that they know I am full of Concerned Respect for All People. 
     Back in 2008 with the start of the Obama presidency the belief that the powerful United States would stop its worldwide economic and political interference created such euphoria that a Nobel prize was awarded in anticipation.  One of the first goals was to raise the bottom-of-the-list standing in health care. Yes, the US did have some of the world’s best care but that was the monopoly of the politicians, military, and wealthy.
     The political opposition quickly adopted a “destroy Obama at all costs” battle plan agreeing to practically nothing he proposed. Commercial interest joined in.  Being familiar with UK and Canadian plans with single payers, I was aghast at the misinformation and outright lies published to criticize them as Obama desired to incorporate aspects of them.    My computer screen was infested with daily Obama condemnations.
     In spite of all this it is quite remarkable that Obama has accomplished as much as he has in areas such as the environment, climate change, the economy, and in military restraint as he tried to assess the failures of our excessive but inadequate military strength in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.  Nobody remembers Osama bin Laden so why mention him?  What Obama could have accomplished with a co-operative opposition is unknown but perhaps a review of his failures may provide a clue: He wanted to close Guantanamo but it remains  a blight as does the entire penal system.  Obama dislikes Netanyahu and the current Egyptian regime but still finances the aggression of both.  We still have a lethal debt that must be paid off soon.  His approach to tax the wealthy and restrain the military faces crippling GOP opposition who prefer to cut social programs for the less affluent.  This debt is so frightening we all must contribute to its demise and that includes sacrifices of each of us in our standard of living with no privileged exceptions.    
   On the road to the November elections $4 billion was wasted on mostly negative TV ads that greatly lowered one’s respect for voter intelligence and for what they call democracy.  For months my computer screen welcomed me each day with a minimum of four requests for money to support wasteful TV political advertisements. Incensed, I diverted my donations to organizations that were efficiently doing good around the world.  I sought refuge in science where great minds, with so many different viewpoints, can still co-operate worldwide in the search for knowledge.
     Yet I still lament that this country, so blessed by geography that we continue to abuse, and so full of excellent humans that rank among the world’s best, can be so ruled by Self-Interest.  It has always been an aggressor nation led by a few who are themselves led by Greed that creates hatred abroad and overshadows all the good that many of our philanthropists donate.
    Obama was such a breath of fresh air - and we let him down - or has he let us down by coddling up to fund-raising interests and forgetting many of his promises?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

LISTEN AND HEED

     Brilliant though our species is, we still have a long way to go.  We have learned how to use finite natural resources to increase comfort, housing, nutrition, transportation, population, our knowledge of the universe we have evolved into, as well as Greed and Conflict.  We have paid insufficient heed to the chorus of voices over the years that have tried to describe current situations and alert us.  Just a very few:
     Some 5,100 years ago, Egyptians scribes wrote, “The Sun God is supreme but she and her officials must rule according to Ma’at, the natural moral law that combines order, justice, harmony, goodness, and truth.” 
      About 2,420 years ago in Athens Thucydides advised:   “Wars are fought because of the desire for power which greed and ambition inspire.  Every schoolboy should know that victory in long, hard-fought, wars brings only exhaustion and weakness that prompt other nations to attack.  The events that once took place will, by nature of human forgetfulness, take place again, and the scroll of history will unfold, forever stained by blood, if we do not learn that the best defence is all-conquering goodwill.  Living in peace with the world will bring us the prosperity that will make us all secure.”   He was not alone in his warnings, but to move on . . . 
     2,068 years ago, Cicero in Rome lamented:   “We are taxed in our bread and our wine, in our incomes and our investments, on our land and on our property not only for base creatures who do not deserve the name of men, but for foreign nations, complaisant nations who will bow to us and accept our largesse, and promise to assist us in maintaining peace - these mendicant nations who will destroy us when we show a moment of weakness or when our treasury is bare, and surely it is becoming bare.
      We are taxed to maintain legions on their soil, in the name of law and order and Pax Romana, a document that will fall into dust when it pleases our allies and our vassals.  We keep them in precarious balance only with our gold.
Is the blood of our nation worth these?  Were they bound to us with ties of love, they would not ask for our gold. They take our very flesh, and they hate and despise us.  And who shall say we are worthy of more?
When a government becomes powerful it is destructive, extravagant, and violent; it is an usurer which takes bread from innocent mouths and deprives honourable men of their substance to buy votes with which to perpetuate itself.”
     About 1,845 years ago in Rome, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus commented:   “Often think of the rapidity with which things pass by and disappear, both the things which are and the things which are produced.  For substance is like a river in a continual flow, and the activities of things are in constant change, and the causes work in infinite varieties; and there is hardly anything that stands still.  And consider this which is near to you, this boundless abyss of the past and of the future in which all things disappear.  How then is he not a fool who is puffed up with such things or plagued by them or makes himself miserable?  For they vex him only for a time, and a very short time.
     Think of the universal substance, of which you have a very small portion; and of universal time, of which a short and indivisible interval has been assigned to you; and that which is fixed by destiny, and how small a part of it you are.”
     About 1790 in the UK, Edmund Burke advised, “Liberty cannot exist among a corrupt people.  The use of force alone is but temporary.  It does not remove the need to subdue again; and a nation is not governed which is forever to be conquered.”  He also wrote: “To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to man.”
     After defeating Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, the Duke of Wellington cried: “Nothing, save a battle lost, can be so melancholy as a battle won.” 
     Moving on to the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: A democracy, with universal suffrage, lends itself to the tyranny of the majority.  The majority belongs to the most passionate and the least enlightened classes of society.  Also frequent elections rob governments of perseverance and order, and permit officials to exercise a tyranny worse than the most despotic governments.  Old France is dead in Europe, but alive in Canada.  Under British protection and financial support French Canadians are the happiest and most tax-free people on earth, but their birthrate will one day swamp the British.    
     There is no end to such utterances.  They are just a bunch or words to soothe the ears of the enlightened and are worthless unless we heed them.
 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

11 NOVEMBER 2014

   Yes, as usual, I attended the Armistice/Remembrance/Veterans Day ceremonies.  Yes, I again laid the wreath for our 971 Wing of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association.  I often get the job because, at 95, I am the oldest and the only one left with WWII combat experience in our Wing.  I had just passed my driver's license renewal but it was cold and snowing so our president, Darrell Levitt, drove me.  Darrell is a post-WWII veteran, both of the army and the Air Force.  He describes taking off in many aircraft but never landing in them, preferring to find his own way back to earth (he was paratrooper).
   Here in Colorado Springs we have a "Pikes Peak Veterans Council"  comprised of 35 veterans' associations including our Wing.  But, the largest group at each Memorial Day and Remembrance/Veterans Day is usually that of the Canadian Regular Force detachment stationed here at Peterson Air Force Base.
   For over 12 years Darrell has been selected as Master of Ceremonies.   There is also a 4-piece band provided by the Air Force Academy, a Canadian piper, a combined colour guard, and a firing squad.  A truly bi-national affair with, this time, LtGen Alain Parent, RCAF, being the guest speaker.
   These ceremonies used to be held in the spacious Memorial Park but due to the uncertainties of weather are now held in the Enlisted Association building with a seating capacity of only 600  for a city of 440,000, so we do not attract a sufficient representation.  The average turnout in about 500, mostly by families associated with the Military.   After the hour-long ceremony the Canadian Forces invite us out to the base for refreshments.
    My thoughts during these ceremonies?   The memories of the 125 close friends I lost never leave me but it is still important to devote at least an hour to public remembrance even if the main attendance is by those who experienced the insane and self-imposed horrors of war.  The quite-good speakers at these events tend to repeat the same themes:  Freedom is never free; We shall never forget them; Our debt is immense; We need to maintain strong defensive forces - and so on.  Seldom do I hear words about minimizing the root causes of war; about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that all veterans of combat have; about the fact that more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have committed suicide than the number killed in action; about the bloated militaries maintained by all expansive countries, especially this one; that nuclear arsenals still exist; that greed still has us supporting repulsive regimes.  I come away with the depressing inference that we are destroying our own species in the hopeless belief that, in spite of so many brilliant and caring minds worldwide we will remain a species bent on self destruction.  Too many of us are too comfortable today to worry about tomorrow or the rest of the world and those not so fortunate.
   For me, the most emotional part of the day was to return home to find an email from Joanie Kennedy in Calgary.  Last January she was exploring the internet and discovered my "Death by Sevens" article in this blog site (27 April 2009) that describes the fate of her great uncle, Bill Murphy, whose Halifax bomber crew took the fire from two flak ships meant for my crew as we flew between them at mast-top level following mining the shipping lanes off the Dutch coast.  They missed us by millimetres but caught Bill's crew just behind us.  In was in the dark of night, 09 January 1943, during very foul weather and persistent rain.  After a huge orange explosion, the cold and indifferent North Sea claimed Bill's crew, seven of our friends.  Bill's extended family of some thirty members never knew this.  They had been informed only that he had gone "Missing from operations".  Joanie was again thanking me for bringing closure, especially to her grandmother.  Joanie and I continue to correspond as well as Neil Hill in Toronto another member of the family.
   This blog site and other writings have resulted in connecting me with the families of a fair number of friends denied the good fortune of surviving combat.
   This helps with my PTSD:  the painful guilt I will always feel of killing innocent civilians they told us was the only way to get at the guilty, to bomb them out of homes in the dead of winter with the survivors having no heat, no water, no sewage, no food, and facing a future devoid of hope.  Our species should and can do better than this.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

SEX

     Sex is a tiny word to embrace such a vast, varied, vibrant, and vital subject.  Our written records start with those in the Erech (Uruk), Sumer (Iraq) temple of the Queen of Heaven just over 5,000 years ago, so we must also rely on artifacts and fossils.
  The purpose of sex is reproduction and, for some, pleasure is added as an enticement.  But, what a dreadful waste most species have evolved.  To avoid a dense forest of trees I have just picked up what must be a trillion crab apples, the result of all those beautiful blossoms we enjoyed this spring.  I do wonder what pleasure the trees get out of all this because I do know that human pleasures too often create much pain, suffering, persecution, and exploitation.
     Fossils tell us that it all started 380 million years ago when a male jawed fish, Microbrachius dicki, evolved a bony sperm transmitter on his side so all he had to do was to find a female who had evolved velcro-like plates on her opposite side to lock him into a receptacle.  This sexual embrace continued for some time among related species when, unexplained, the practice was dropped for 40 million years in favour of external fertilization.  We evolved from the aquatic species that re-discovered internal copulation.
     Artifacts tell us that, from at least 25,000 years ago, the majority of human societies from Australasia through the Middle East to Ireland worshiped female gods.  Some 12,000 years ago women developed agriculture and villages arose around shrines to goddesses.  Generally, it was a more peaceful time, but female dominance was common.  Men did the household chores and queens had harems of males where, in some cases when their impregnation responsibilities were completed, were killed for younger studs. 
     Goddess shrines persisted until 380 AD when Roman Emperor Theodosius closed them while killing 7,000 in Thessaloniki alone; 
Saint Patrick converted the Irish in the 400s AD; and Mohammed in the 600s ended the rule of the Arabian goddess, Al Lat.  But, the rot had begun in 1570 BC when warrior Indo-European groups with male gods invaded the Middle East.  These included the Hittites who so impressed Hitler that he changed his name and adopted the Hittite word "nasi" for Nazi.  They brought Yahweh, a male god of vengeance who tolerated no other deities.  Infiltrating Hebrew tribes they invented the Garden-of-Eden myth to relegate goddess Ashtoreth and her serpent of wisdom to Eve and her slimy snake who lost us the Garden of Eden.  The Old Testament was written about 1,000 BC, some 7 to 8 hundred years after Abraham and Moses.  Wives had to obey husbands.  From this Judaism, Christianity, and Islam evolved, all of which treated women as inferior beings, subject to the whims of men.  Peter and Paul taught female submission.  So did Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Popes. Wives had to love, honour, and obey husbands.  The Christian and Islamic clergy led the charge against female suffrage.
     Even Biology favoured  the male. The female is unfairly burdened, not only with getting less pleasure out of sex, but in carrying and nourishing the embryo for 9 months then raising it for what can be over 20 years.  Biology has also failed to give her equal physical strength, resulting too often in male exploitation. Yes, millions of men do provide tender, loving, care, but the number who do not questions the credibility of our given means of reproduction.
     The male of our species produces, for much of his life, endless trillions of sperm with almost all allowed only a brief life that is pointless for its designed purpose, yet with a capability of pleasing its host, mainly with anticipation, periodically with masturbation, and rarely with intercourse where from 15 to 150 million sperm charge out on a mission where only one can achieve its objective which is to fertilize the lone egg on duty at the time.  Does this not imply a tremendous design flaw plus an evoluntion goof?
     Far too many men are cursed with a craving not compatible with dignified living.  Women have been considered rightful spoils of war ever since the changed mindset when female gods were deposed.  Solomon had 700 women in his harem;  Romans kept captive gladiators happy by providing captive women; when faced with an army reluctant to invade Italy, Napoleon reminded them, "You want women"  The Italians have millions that are yours for the taking."  Millions of women were repeatedly raped in WWII.
     Even today, in countries free at home from armed conflict, rape is all too common.  Surprisingly, Sweden leads with 66.5 per 100,000 population, followed by Jamaica, Bolivia, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Belgium, USA (26.6), Brazil, Norway, and Finland. There is a big drop to the next 8 that includes Canada at 1.4.  These are UN overall statistics.  Concentrating on university and military environments reveals higher rates.
     We men must be aware that we are in the midst of yet another mindset change.  With the growth of contraceptives women are emerging to again be the superior sex.  We must be careful to design, while we still can, societies, like the Celts and others did, to eliminate discrepancies and to embrace tender, loving care as the norm.  Loving tolerance for each other as equals is much more satisfying than conflict.

   

Saturday, 25 October 2014

CANADA UNDER ATTACK

When, on 22 October, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian convert to radical Islam, apparently annoyed at Canada joining the aerial assault on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo on guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, then raced to cross the nearby lawn fronting Parliament to enter and kill as many politicians as possible, Canada had all the defences a modern nation should need.
     The Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers,  responsible for security in the House of Commons, had his ceremonial mace dating back to 1642, and which could make a good club.  The Prime Minister and all those other ministers, who were conducting caucus meetings, had numerous spears that were serving as staffs for flags.
     Well, yes, in addition to background security staffs and RCMP and in deference to modern times, Kevin did have a pistol and even some ammunition, but all this was safely under lock and key in his office.  He thought it appropriate to retrieve this as Michael entered the building with a Winchester 30-30 firing widely, wounding a security guard and hunting for politicians especially the PM.
     Kevin entered the fray, shot and killed Michael, permitting a return to dignified calm.  Kevin is a retired RCMP veteran of 29 years service during which he never had to shoot anyone.  He was praised and hugged by the PM for preventing what could have been a massacre.   
     Nathan Cirillo, age 25, father of a 6-year-old son, and member of the Argylle and Sutherland Highlanders, was sent off in procession along the 401 Highway of Heroes to his home in Hamilton while a new memorial guard was posted.
     In Canada, the Mace. inherited from the UK, is used by the House of Commons, the Senate, and 21 universities.  In the House of Commons it is carried by the Sergeant-at-Arms who belongs to no political party and who leads the speaker into meetings.  It is a symbol, granted by the crown, of the authority to make and pass laws.
     Like too many residents who never visit local attractions because they are always there and can be visited tomorrow, we never visited Parliament while living in Ottawa, 1953-56, although we walked and drove by it many times.  I did join members of the Ottawa Stamp Club in monthly meetings in rooms not used in the evenings on Parliament Hill.  To gain admission by the night guard only two words, "Stamp Club" were needed.  After moving on to 4 other RCAF locations and then retirement we did return and visited Parliament several times.  As these were in the warmer months we mingled with numerous tourists on the green lawns of Parliament Hill, recognizing politicians as they strolled through, or conversed with, tourists.  It always was, as it should be, open and peaceful. 
      We did see the odd member of the local police or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but no open display of weapons unless you consider a horse a weapon.
     Canada's aversion to guns and meagre coverage by the world's media should not conceal the fact that Canada has punched well above its weight when necessary in world conflicts.  It played a major role in WWI with victories such as Vimy Ridge and its airmen were exceeded only by the Luftwaffe in the number of top aces.  In WWII its forces were the world's fourth largest.  On D-Day its army got the furthest inland and was the only one to achieve its objectives.  Post war its peacekeepers led the world.  It spent 13 years in Afghanistan.  It is highly qualified in peaceful nuclear pursuits but has never built a nuclear weapon.  Unfairly it is considered dull and unnewsworthy.
     Canada has weathered some 56 outside "Terror" attacks including 11 relating to Cuba, 6 to Sikhs and Khalistan, 3 to Armenian-Turkish quarrels, and 6 others going back to 1864 when John Wilkes Booth obtained from Confederate agents in Montreal $184,000 before he assassinated President Lincoln.  There was the 1868 Fenian-associated murder of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a father of Confederation, the 1965 Croatian bombing of the Yugoslav embassy in Toronto, the 1984 retired US officer killing 3 and wounding 30 in Montreal to protest Pope John Paul's visit.  Then there have been Domestic Terrorism that include 1 each from Anarchist, Anti-Semitic, and Environmental groups, 8 Islamic, 11 Quebec Separatist, 2 Sons of Freedom, and 6 others for unknown reasons.
    So, Canada, do not allow these recent acts of "Terror" upset your calm and quiet behaviour.   Your relatively strict gun controls have limited your homicide rate per 100,000 to 1.6 compared to 4.7 for the USA and 21.5 for Mexico.
     Just two requests for now:  Limit your homegrown violence to hockey and continue to breed people like Kevin Vickers.

       

        

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

DOROTHY ROBSON, 1919 - 1943

      In February 1943, eighteen of us veteran bomb aimers arrived at RAF Station Manby, Lincolnshire,, for the month-long Bombing Leaders' Course #52.  We were composed of 11 from the UK, 2 each from Australia and Canada, and one each from Ireland, Norway, and Poland.
     What a surprise, and delight, to find  that one of our instructors was a beautiful young woman!  A few actually complained:  "What can a woman teach us about bombing?"  Among us was one DSO, 3 DFCs, and considerable experience.  But, with sparkling eyes, an easy wit, and a deep knowledge of physics and bomb sights, she soon convinced us that she was more than qualified.
     When I wrote to tell my friend, Vern White on 427 RCAF Squadron, also from Port Hope, Ontario, and also to become a POW, he replied that she had recently visited all squadrons in his area.  But, wherever she went, bomb aimers immediately became slow learners, forcing her to squeeze individually with them into the narrow confines of bomb aimer's compartments to explain the intricacies of the new Mark XIV bomb sight.  She well knew their motives but was a good sport in donating the extra time. 
     While the UK was a leader in accepting women in military roles it was easy to see the reluctance of employers and the waste of so much talent.  With female co-workers men spent too much time ogling them to the detriment of their work duties.  Unfairly, male preoccupations kept female ambitions quite restricted.
      Very rare for the times, Dorothy in 1940 earned a degree in physics from Leeds University.  She applied to the RAF but was rejected for being too short.  The Ministry of Aircraft Production then accepted her, posting her to Farnborough to top secret work on bomb sights.  She started visiting squadrons to interview bomb aimers on their return from operations to learn of their problems, then helped to design and produce the Mark XIV that was distributed throughout 1943 to squadrons where Dorothy became their most desired visitor.   
      On 03 November 1943 she was at RAF Station Holme on Spalding Moor, Yorkshire, installing a Mark XIV in a Halifax whose crew then took her on an air test as they were scheduled for operations against Dusseldorf that night..  Flying over the Yorkshire hills they became engulfed in fog and connected with a hill.  The crew consisted of 4 RAF, 2 RCAF, 1 RAAF, plus Dorothy.  Four were killed instantly, 3 severely wounded died later.  Dorothy died on 05 November, mourned by all in Bomber Command.  She requested that her ashes be spread by a Halifax over England.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

DEUTSCHLAND

     It takes only a small news item to trigger an avalanche of thoughts, followed by more than enough words to fill yet another blog item.  This time it is a 2-line news bit in October 2014 that Germany was offering free university education, not only to its own citizens but to foreigners like us who pay more than we can afford in our home countries.  Obviously the German economy outshines ours.
     My emotions towards Germans, from disgust to admiration, will always be associated with my experiences, good and bad, especially those years I spent fighting them.
     We humans are a queer lot.  We enter this hostile world naked and helpless, dependent on others who preceded us to raise, nourish, and educate us.  Our world fluctuates between Heaven and Hell and remains a war and poverty zone for far too many.  We have a habit of cruelly destroying what others have built with great effort and ingenuity.  My varied experiences include:
     In the 1930s I was a school boy in Ontario, Canada, both in 2 large cities and a couple of small towns where I learned from scores of veterans of the Boer (South African) war and WWI.  I was also an ardent stamp collector with worldwide correspondents including German, found through UK magazines, so I did have a fair knowledge of world affairs, highly encouraged by my parents.  I knew that Germans, like many of the rest of us, behaved differently towards different people.  Their colonial record in black South West Africa was terrible while their rule in Polynesia (known as the Irishmen of the Pacific) was so good that it was adopted by the Australians and New Zealanders who took over these islands after WWI.  In Europe Germans tended to look up to those west of them and down on those to the east.   But, I could also tell you about the immense effort it took to defeat them in WWI.  Flying intrigued me so I knew the careers of the 45 world air aces with 35 or more victories, finding that 17 were German, 8 Canadian, 7 British, 5 French, 2 Irish, 2 Australian, 2 South African, 1 Belgian, and 1 Austro-Hungarian.  But the horrors of WWI made me very anti-war and I wrote school essays on the subject.
     I feared the rise of dictators and war parties in Italy, Japan, and especially Germany.  I did feel our guilt in paving the way for Hitler who was to become a curse on both us and the German people.  WWI reparations forced by the US then Britain and France totally ruined the German state, making Hitler appear at first to be a saviour.  I knew that, if these aggressors were to be stopped, it would be boys like me who would have to do it.
    The flow of events swept me into the RCAF stream of Observers (navigator, bomb aimer, gunner), ending up in Bomber Command.  I loved the mathematics and physics of astronomy, cartography, meteorology, and all the other components of flying.  I hated the task I was assigned:  suffering 59% casualties while killing some of the 600,000 civilians our bombs claimed.  Some argued we could only get at the guilty by eliminating the innocents in the way.  Wars are like that.
     Exposed to Luftwaffe raids in some 8 UK locations I was appalled at the destruction and the loss of lives that were to total 60,400 with many more wounded.  Yet the Luftwaffe launched only 29 raids large enough to include over 200 bombers that carried mainly incendiaries and bombs under 500-pound weight.  We (RAF, RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF, USAAF, plus Rhodesian, Polish, Czech, Free French, South African squadrons) dropped 3.4 million tons with bombs weighing up to 4,000 pounds each, at a cost to us of 100,000 young men, 125 of whom were cherished friends of mine.      The small portion of the massive destruction we caused that I saw while I was plodding westwards in February 1945 fleeing the Soviet advance made me ashamed of being a member of the human species.  On this "Long March" German farmers, preparing to flee themselves, offered us food and water as well as overnight shelter from the bitter cold.
     Not content with leaving Germany a pile of rubble with millions of bomb craters, the victorious Allies tore off 25% of Germany to compensate Poland for their lands the Soviets retained.  Forced evictions caused at least 3 millions deaths and years of misery.        Then there was wholesale looting of German industrial assets, joined by US, UK, and Soviet teams hunting down German brain power to enhance their post-war military, industrial, and space programs.   Millions of German POWs were used as forced labour including my POW guards who had been kind to us.  It was not until 1949-52 that Germany was to receive $1.4 billion in Western reconstruction loans, not gifts.  Then Germany had to endure the East-West split until 1990-91 when reunited and allowed to become fully sovereign.
     It was in 1955 that Germany was allowed to join NATO (to help with the Soviet threat) and I was to greet at an RCAF pilot training school in Ontario the first group of some 300 cadets of the new Luftwaffe and integrate them with Canadian and other NATO trainees.  What a surprise to discover that among this group was the high school flak gunner that inflicted sufficient damage on my Halifax to result in it being shot down.  We became friends and he left me with two large charcoal drawings of Bavarian pubs that still grace our recreation room.  These German cadets were led by Major (now B.Gen) Roderick Cescotti of immense war experience.  We became life-long friends and he and his wife Otti, whom we had entertained in Ontario, entertained us for a week in 1987 in their Bavarian home.  I have copies of five of his published books.
     The score of civilians, mostly women and teenagers, who captured me, 30 March 1943, after I was among the 17% who survived being shot down, were all curious and respectful as they marched me off to the police who were also respectful as I was taken to the Luftwaffe also true gentlemen.    Except for a few ugly encounters with Gestapo and SS sub-humans, all of the Germans I encountered during 800 days as a POW were humans of the better type.  They treated us respectfully when conditions were severe for all of us.  Our liberators were not so kind.  Our commandant, Oberst Lindeiner-Wildau, a WWI hero, had treated well all those assigned to his care including Soviets and Jews.   The Allies locked him up considering him a war criminal.  For 2 years he was unable to see or help his destitute wife who had been bombed out by us.  One of our likeable guards was shot when he stepped out of line among a group of POWs.  He was trying to offer his services as an interpreter.
     So, it is with great pleasure that I see Germany rising from what was to be forever an agricultural state to be the power house of Europe with a military that threatens no one while accepting blame, and making reparations for, the Holocaust - and without whining about the treatment it received or the lands stolen from it.
    

Friday, 10 October 2014

SIR PENNY

     Oxford attained full university status in 1163.  Shortly thereafter, an anonymous student penned these lines that were repeated well into the 1400s.  The poem became part of the anti-simony movement that fought the buying and selling of church and political positions and was named after Simon Marcus mentioned in the Bible as trying to buy privileges from Saint Peter.


The hand that holds the heavy purse 
Makes right of wrong, better of worse.
So, Penny binds all bargains fast,
Rough is smooth when he has passed.

Who but Penny settles wars?
He is the Prince of Counsellors.
Make room for Penny, ye who judge
With consciences elastic.
The Penny's law no man can budge
In courts ecclesiastical.

When the Penny's voice is heard 
The sense of right is sadly blurred.
The poor man seldom finds refuge
Whose one hope is his righteousness.
Whenever Money's power appears
The poor man finds himself in tears.  

The best of pleas is brushed aside
That has no cash to back it.
And lawful judgments are denied
By those who own the racket.


georgesweanor@comcast.net
www.yeoldescribe.com

Friday, 3 October 2014

PRINCE PHILIP'S ADVICE

   In perusing the 2014 e-book update of my "It's All Pensionable Time", I re-read the talk Prince Philip gave us ex-POWs at the 13-17 May 1977 reunion held in Runnymede, RAF Station Odiham, and London.  Just as pertinent today, let me repeat it:
    "There is, of course, one very important lesson which legislators ought to learn from prisoner of war camps.  People will co-operate just so far in the interest of peace and quiet, but beyond a certain point all their latent talent for deception, skullduggery, evasion, craftiness, and dumb insolence begins to come into its own.  My impression is that almost every prisoner of war discovered in himself astounding and unsuspected gifts of sheer low-down cunning which even his doting mother, or his suspicious headmaster, never suspected.
   This sort of subversive defiance of authority is important enough in a foreign POW camp during a war, but the risk of being taken a prisoner is, after all, one of the hazards of war.  In peacetime and at home a sturdy independence becomes an absolutely vital guarantee of individual freedom against the encroaching power of the state.
   While there are probably only a few fanatics who would actively like to see greater state power and control,  it would be foolish to assume that there is more than a small minority consciously aware of the need to protect the liberty of the individual, not from deliberate oppression, but from a sort of creeping takeover by officials and other bodies.
   We hear all too frequently about the poor and the starving, but far too many people remain blissfully unaware that more than half the population of the world lives in fear of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment; that political concentration camps  or re-education centres are part of the normal structure of most of the nations of the world; that intimidation and discrimination can be practiced by their government agencies without any fear of exposure, and that justice has ceased to be a safeguard of the rights of individuals, and has become just another means of enforcing the will of governments. 
   These things do not happen suddenly and all at once.  One little thing leads to another, and by the time people wake up to what has happened it is too late to do much about it.  Whoever it was who first said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance knew exactly what he was talking about.
   You were all deprived of your liberty, but were lucky enough to get it back again.  I hope you will all be more vigilant of the need to protect and defend the liberty of all your fellow men."
      

Saturday, 20 September 2014

TORTURE AND THE REAL THREAT

   Sadness and Despair seized me as I read a recent forwarded e-mail message from an obnoxious hockey coach and commentator giving Canada a bad name by recommending severe testicle torture to glean information from captive "terrorists.
   Discarding the fact that torture does not deliver accurate information, it is highly demeaning to the humanness of the perpetrator.  Terrorists do exists worldwide, but in a world awash with weapons of destruction and organizations intent only on their own profit, they are not limited to a few suicide bombers or the current scourge, IS.  With only months left to save us from catastrophe our task is so massive that we have no time for testicles.  Root problems scream for immediate attention.
   We humans have much to boast about, but we also have many faults, some of which are galloping us to our extinction, such as unsustainable numbers, wars, climate manipulations, and Greed.
   We all enter this brief existence with quite similar genes, 90% bacterial and 10% human.  We are vain enough to believe the human ones are in charge and perhaps they are when it comes to the harm we do to each other.  The actions of all, however, are controlled by Greed.  And Geography has dealt hands that vary so alarmingly that they cry for communal solutions.  Many have been tried under various forms of Socialism and Communism but, like Capitalism, they all succumb to Greed.
   With each generation trillions of cells are miraculously built to form each new life, our genes are formed afresh, all needing education from ancestors to survive in a cruel environment.  This education is dominated by mindsets dominated by Geography, and steps, insufficient as they might be, have been taken by the fortunate to assist the unfortunate.  That we evolved into life forms that, for survival, demanded the eating of other life forms was a bad start, but some members of our amazing species are beginning to correct this along with all the other ailments that afflict us.  But does the immensity of the task and the indifference of the majority, or should I say the opposition of the favoured few, doom it to failure because of too little too late?
   We are the only species, as far as we know, that has compiled its history.  It includes the whole gamut of good and bad.  Recorded are the 4 billion deaths in major wars, the ruthless destruction of villages, tribes, nations, and civilizations, the incredible misery piled on humans and animals.  Also recorded are inventions made, structures and civilizations built, beliefs for the betterment of humanity entrenched, adventures across, over, and under the oceans, and into space as well as significant probing into the energy and matter of which we are constituted.  We are beginning to dimly understand what, if not why, we are.
   We understand mindsets and we know how they have changed over the centuries and the amazing number that have changed just in our lifetime.  We know that we are to blame for the current 6th Great Extinction our world has endured.  Nature, with some help from microbial life forms, was responsible for the first five, but underway is Number 6 that is ours alone, affecting our climate so much that our species is at grave risk.  We can argue that the world will be better off without us, but why destroy a species that has come so far and holds so much promise?
   Worldwide demonstrations reveal that a major, and necessary, mindset is underway but how many realize how massive it will have to be with willing, hopefully temporary, sacrifices from all?  Are we up to the challenge of saving ourselves?  You and I cannot escape our own responsibilities.
   Tearing apart a few testicles can bring us only shame.  Improving mindsets and actions may provide salvation.

Ye Olde Scribe
          

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

10-11 SEPTEMBER 1942

   The night sky is a big place.  So are 72 years.  Neither was, nor is, sufficient for me to forget the night of 10-11 September 1942.
   Matching the unbelievable enormity of exploding shells, bomb, and aircraft, the Thoughts, that also exploded and taxed my young brain that had been a history buff and bank clerk but was now trapped into the role of warrior, burned so deeply that night that they still remain inescapable.
   A lone bullet can bring stark finality but my Wellington crew, in its Baptism of Fire, was engulfed that night in a prolonged and changing universe of exploding colour that made accurate navigation impossible.  I had no quarrel with the people of Dusseldorf, nor they with me, so why were we trapped  in a species where the few can dictate the actions of the many?  Had we not already killed over 4 billion humans, not to mention animals, property destruction, and sheer misery in major wars over the past 12,000 years?   I felt deep guilt as I pressed the bomb-release button while friends and foes alike perished.  The huge palls of black smoke that welled up appeared to be belated attempts of Man trying to hide his crimes from the wrath of God.
   This war, and all the others, did not produce the wisdom to allow mankind a peaceful experience of existence, the brief and only one we suspect we are allotted.  How highly discouraging as we do possess no shortage of brilliant minds, flourishing in all avenues of human endeavour, but still inadequate to eradicate the Greed that tolerates harm to others, be it warfare, over-population, climate change, bigotry, or what-have-you?
   Yet, we still hope and dream.  I can feel Compassion welling up.  May it become a flood that washes away the inhibitions that keep us from realizing our genetic differences are minor and desirable and that our survival demands we immediately tackle our problems of numbers, geography, education, and equality.     
     

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

POW REUNION, COLORADO SPRINGS


     As the majority of us have flown on, this reunion will contain a large percentage of younger relatives, intent on preserving memory of us.  This is my message to them:

    "It does gladden my heart to see the interest you young and healthy people take in us old fogies for what you imagine we may have accomplished.  May I just say where I would prefer you to direct your energies, remembering that war is an avoidable curse on the human species and hell for the populations that are trapped into quarrels not of their making.
    Yes, we were locked up, some as long as almost 6 years with all the deprivations this implies, but we POWs of the Luftwaffe were very fortunate unlike those taken by other groups.  It was a time we could use for relaxation and education.  
    When we were on "operations" in the Commonwealth forces or on "missions" in the US forces we lived each day and night with fears that ate at our innards.  In my case in Bomber Command our life expectancy was 5 operations and the survival rate of those shot down was only 17%.  Perhaps a little appreciation for the tensions of this period would be appreciated.
   But, when I survived the trauma of being shot down and losing great friends, I was greatly relieved to find my captors, both civilian and military, all respectful.  Then, when the two gates clanged shut behind me. in Kriegieland, I was in a compound of 2,000 boys and men from 23 countries with above-average educations containing experts in every pursuit imaginable..  What a rare opportunity for a free higher education!
    Now, military correctness, stupidly I thought, ordered us to remain belligerents, fighting the enemy in every way possible, but mainly by escaping that would tax his manpower.   This certainly exposed the talent and ingenuity among us as well as harming us more than the enemy, like the loss of the 50 executed by the Gestapo but forewarned by the Luftwaffe.  We were in the heart of a well-guarded country surrounded by 90 million enemy with few of us speaking their language.  Escape was an exercise in futility.  Our captors had a small staff of boys, old men, and those unfit for service on the numerous fronts.   Why not cultivate them as they were a respectful bunch and would be most useful in a post-war world - as we would be with the advanced education we could acquire in our "University of Sagan".  It was not too soon to start preparing for a better world.
     Many of us were convinced that the Nazis had beguiled reluctant Germans into a war they could not win in spite of bravery, talent, sacrifice, and initial successes.  The large land masses of the USSR east of the Urals, China, the US, Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth, allowed the production of weapons and food needed for victory as well as the manpower.  An early indication of this was the humiliation the Germans suffered in having to allow the UK, Canadian, and US Red Cross to feed us.  And, yes, we were too cozy in forgetting the role we played in the rise of Nazism.
     Our compound was no exception to the scary rule that small, energetic minorities can wrest control of any association and force others to do their bidding.  In 12,000 years we have not learned that force begets force and misery begets misery.  While Greed prevails everywhere and is well entrenched here, most humans are kind and considerate of others so much so that they allow themselves to be led by those not so considerate.  Blindly following orders is a terrifying human fault..
     In my compound, like all the others, small groups formed Escape Committees that had us assuming they had unquestionable control and first choice of any assets.  It was our duty to cheerfully comply.    Only a chosen few were allowed, for ulterior purposes, to make friends with our guards.  I disobeyed this rule whenever the opportunity arose, but I did go along and did work effectively for the Escape Committee.  As we had a glut of time I used most of the rest taking courses and seeking long discussions with those of other backgrounds in the impossible task of trying to understand this universe and our species.  
     So, Kriegieland was my Alma Mater.  I need no pity.  Our world is an overpopulated mess and were are, thanks to geography, a privileged minority.  Use your talents and energies to fight injustice and support those organizations that are working peacefully to improve the status of humanity along with other life forms.
     Leave me with your friendship and I will be grateful."
                    

Friday, 8 August 2014

HAMAS AND ITS TORMENTOR

     As I write this there is yet another truce whose outcome is preordained to satisfy neither side.  In the past  few days the Israeli Right, led by Benjamin Netanyahu who believes he is the chief and best Advisor of the US president, killed 1,800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, by terrorist air, land, and naval attacks.  Hamas used the same number of firecrackers, called rockets, to kill 3 Israeli civilians and other means to terminate 63 Israeli soldiers.  In comparison its attacks were more nuisance than terror and born in frustration.
    Hamas is not noted, like Israel, for its ability to acquire lethal weapons.  Sure, the 20-pound payload in each firecracker will kill you if it penetrates the room you choose to remain in rather than use the nearby bomb shelter, but even if you are in the open and fall flat you have an 80% survival chance.  Most impact on open land or between buildings.  The Iron Dome is highly over-rated.  Its interception rate is dismal but it does provide profit for Raytheon and the Israeli inventor and builder.  It also garners handsome funds from the US in addition to the annual grant of $3 billion.
     Is this not the land that once welcomed, then killed, the Prince of Peace?  What happened to cause human insanity to prevail?  Well, we could go back 25,000 ya (years ago) when populations grew to exceed the capacity of the land to support.  Starting 5,750 ya climate change, this time created by Nature not Man, was causing migrations southeast from the Danube, south from Ukraine, and north from the Arabian peninsula and Sudan, home of the Semites who were to include Arabs, Hebrews, Phoenicians, Akkadians, Assyrians, Eblaites, and Carthaginians.  A larger surge came about 3,500 ya.  Semite ancestors of both Palestinians, Israelis, and others fled to the Land of Milk and Honey, more of a promise than a fact, and competed for land, building scores of associations, and smoting competitors.  A prize of war, arable land goes from 3% in Jordan, 13 in Iraq, 16 in Israel, Lebanon, West Bank, 25 in Syria, to 29 in Gaza giving Gaza a current human density almost six times that of Manhattan and just under London’s.  Some ten tribes, loosely associated as Hebrews, wandered for 40 years before establishing temporary safe havens by force of arms.  Their female gods went by various names including supreme Ashtoreth.  Then a guy called Abraham who worshiped a male god, Yahweh, left Ur in Iraq and with his entourage infiltrated one of the Hebrew tribes and slowly turned their female gods into inferior characters like Eve.  This led to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all of whom fought each other.  Yet more Christians have been killed by other Christians and more Muslims by other Muslims that by outsiders.
     For thousands of years the area saw many occupations that included Philistine, Amorite, Hittite, Hyksos, Egyptian, Israeli, Mongol, Seljuk and Ottoman Turk, French, British and ANZAC with only the ANZACS staying briefly and going home, down under, shortly after WW1. 
     During WWII, I was a POW with several Jews who had flown with Commonwealth Air Forces and who were treated by the Luftwaffe with the same respect they gave us.  One of these, F/Lt Cantor, a good friend and roommate, graduated from the University of Toronto in 1949 then was killed helping Israel create an air force.  I was saved by the Luftwaffe from being gunned down by the SS, a different breed of men, when I was with a small group one 1945 day in the Munich train yard following a night Bomber Command raid.  We were giving what food we had to starving Jews en route to Dachau, packed like cordwood in box cars.  Our train engines had been disassembled into their component parts by RAF/RCAF mosquito bombers.
     In 1948 I was happy that the UN was starting to set up a Jewish state but disappointed to see it would come at the expense of Palestinians who had no part in the Holocaust in which 6 million of the 13,750,000 undesirables executed by the Nazis were Jews.  This would re-establish a Jewish state, demolished in 70 AD by the Romans, on lands grabbed from the Ottoman Empire after WW1 and being administered as a British protectorate. There were no vacancies then as it was populated by Arabs, Jews, Palestinians, and what-have-you all living in peace.  I hoped the Jews had learned, what humans have still failed to learn, that oppression begets oppression, so would set up a model state with fair play to all.  But I was dismayed in July 1948 when Haganah militants rolled into Lydda and Ramle, killing many en route, then destroyed 30 Palestinian villages to ensure added land to what the UN planned.  The columns, including Moshe Dayan, massacred 170 in a mosque then killed the 70 Palestinians they had forced to bury the dead.  Ben Gurion then authorized the forced evacuation by foot of 55,000 Palestinians to a refugee camp in Ramallah, setting the stage for the horrors to come.  North America has much more room but, instead of giving them any, we assumed other Arab countries, already over-populated, would absorb millions of refugees.  Naturally the locals objected to a richer, Western-backed, country being established in their midst so resisted but were no match for the military (some of it stolen from the British Army) and economic aid available to the new Israelis.
     While fault lies everywhere and the new implants did do a monumental task of building a new Israel, Greed took root and the Israelis embarked on a long streak of acquiring more arable land than the UN had granted them and treating what they called Arabs as inferior beings.  They divided themselves into half a dozen political parties and established a cast system with the far right, Western, rich, the Ashkenazi, being top dog and the Russian working-class Jews the lowest.  Like the rest of us Hamas also has its faults but does not deserve the bad press it gets.  It is needed if only because we pay no attention to moderates like Hanan Ashrawi or Mahmoud Abbas.    
     As a reaction to occupation and oppression, Hamas was founded in 1987, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.  In 2006 it won a decisive victory in the Gaza polls for the aid it was giving common people.  In 2007 Israeli imposed a smothering economic and physical blockade.  In 2009, Netanyahu’s Likkud party, the furthest right of all, was elected during Operation Cast Lead that left much of Gaza in ruins.  Avigdor Lieberman had formed, for secular Russian Jews, the Vidrael Beiteinu party, also far right.
     Netanyahu, born and educated in the US of Lithuanian ancestry, has been a good salesman, enlarging every excuse to avoid working with Hamas as this would destroy his dream of a Greater Israel.  He has been also, if somewhat obnoxious, good at convincing the US and Canada to accept his views.   Hamas is willing to accept the illegal 1967 borders but insists on the right of displaced Palestinians to return to their original family homes and for East Jerusalem, stolen by Israel, to be the capitol of the Palestinian state.  It is also loathe to accept Israel as an exclusive Jewish state.
      Fair Play gets little consideration when we refuse to talk to Hamas, calling it a terrorist organization.  Israel murders its leaders and jails its supporters.  We slap sanctions on Iran for the low possibility it might enlarge its nuclear capabilities to the production of weapons and on Russia for inferred interference in Eastern Ukraine, yet do nothing about Israel’s well-established nuclear arsenal, its apartheid rule in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza, or of the hundreds of times it has ignored UN resolutions.
     Come on, Israel, your best critics are fellow Israelis.  You have the wealth, talent, and financial backing to do well for all the inhabitants of that section of the Middle East that lacks the size and natural resources to remain one nation.  Your current prosperity has come from Europe and North America.  Be grateful and do unto others.  Perhaps a Common Market for a start to greater unity?  Where is your proof that a God (Yahweh?) made you his chosen people?