Tuesday, 24 November 2015


    Led by a few thinking brains scattered amid the 7.3 billion humans who congest this small planet we have attained a plateau that gives us a glimmer of hope that we may yet understand Life and the immense opportunities it offers.  Sadly our progress is mired in the mud of human ignorance that fails to know ourselves, the microscopic world, or the composition and frailness of the solids, liquids, gases, and energies that have, temporarily, so arranged themselves as to make Life possible.
    One of our current failures is called Terrorism.  It is rooted in Rejections and Misconceptions that breed Hatreds.  It is widespread but called by other, more soothing, names when we, or our allies, are guilty.
    Facts abound but selection is selective by this Human species now dominant after over 3 billion years of evolution which we cannot afford to waste.  Entrenched Self Interest and Greed limit the role played by the Media that is vital to remedies.  We are fortunate in what we call The Free World to have scores of dissidents,  investigative reporters, and whistle blowers who lift the veil, for those who will look, on our faults.
    Today, we see much of the human world united in mourning the shameful loss of over 300 lives in Lebanon, a Russian  passenger jet, and Paris by a group known as the “Islamic State”, “IS”, “ISIS”,” ISIL”,or “Daesh”.  It has brutally murdered thousands, the majority of whom have been other Muslims.  It arose amid the chaos we created as a result of the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US, UK, Australian, and Polish forces.
    Earlier, some of the current mourners have been mute at the massacre of thousands because the terrorists were allies and/or their own self interests.  Likewise we see inadequate action when terrorism arises in most regions of the world, even between husbands and wives.  This is ridiculous and nullifies the sacrifices we have made for the future we yearn.  How to remedy it?
    We humans need, and crave, human and animal  companionship, yet we divide ourselves into groups by age, economics, ethnicity, geography, hobbies, languages, philosophies, politics, sex, and whatever.  They can be a blessing or a curse, but they all limit the mingling of minds.
    We should have learned, over the last 12,000 years, that force begets force, solves nothing substantial, has sent over 8 billions to untimely deaths and destroyed innumerable infrastructures.
     Some of our many empires have done more good than harm and their legacies remain with us.  Many of today’s failed states were better off under Roman, Ottoman, British or French rule.  The new empire leader, the United States,  is difficult to rate.  It has, in spite of internal squabbles, done immense good and is capable of doing much more, yet it  maintains massive and unequalled force with military personnel in 130 countries on up to 1,000 bases, some large, some tiny, but all a source of friction.  The Roman and British empires were content with less than 50 bases each. The USA emerged from WWI as a force to be acknowledged but one that refused to join the League of Nations, later joining the United Nations which it has tried to dominate along with a few others granted veto power.  It still refuses to join several world organization including the International Criminal Court considering it a threat to US independence.  Can the US actually lead when it is plagued by flaws that include a kick-ass mentality, an obsession with guns, 1.096 armed militias with 100,000 members, a cruel penal system with the world’s largest number of inmates, inadequate health and legal care, a money-controlled congress, and an $18 trillion debt?  In spite of all this the US believes it can lead.  Into what?
What about other individual or groups of nations?  The US “Fund for Peace” think tank, using 12 factors, rates 178 nations. Finland ranks first with 17.8 “bad” points, Sudan last with 114.5. 
The rankings of other, selected, countries are:  Scandinavia takes the top 4 slots.   New Zealand #7, Australia 9,Canada  11, Germany 14, UK 18, France 19, USA 21, Japan 22. South Korea 23, Poland 26, Spain 27, Italy 32, Russia 42, Israel 48, Iran 63, Egypt 69, Saudi Arabia 78, Turkey 89, Ukraine 95, China 96.   
Of the 53 least viable states 35 are in Africa.   
World problems should be solved by a world organization staffed by individuals dedicated to the world.  Well, we do have the United Nations.  What about its peacekeeping role?
  The anti-conflict United Nations has no standing army, but it has suffered 3,395 casualties since 1948.  When the Security Council authorizes intervention it can call on 122 countries offering 120,000 uniformed personnel (3.8% female).  For each mission, the UN Policy Evaluation and Training Division provides help for selected field personnel who come on a 1-year rotational basis, for a current force of 15,845. 
    The vast majority of these are from cheaper and poorer countries resulting in an army that is not representative, sometimes poorly trained and screened.  Nepalese troops brought cholera to Haiti and UN troops have been guilty of rape in the Central African Republic by troops from the Congo where 400,000 women are raped annually.  Countries that have violated UN resolutions are led by Israel with 66 followed by Turkey and Morocco. The UN has  endured massive failures such as Somalia, Rwanda, and Srebrenica where a few Dutch troops were unable to prevent the massacre by Serbians of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.  But the UN has had a score of successes and warrant greater support.  To date they have been able to intervene in only 20% of the situations authorized by the Security Council.    For a frightened world the UN is our one best hope.
The leading donors to the UN are: 
Money:  USA, Japan, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Sweden, Canada
Troops:  Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Rwanda, Nepal, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, China   
   For non-UN and combat roles Daesh foes have expended $11 million daily and 2,230 bombs monthly.  IS replaced immediately their 20.000  killed with many from affluent countries, even including a few women.  What  motivates them?
    Drones that, without warning, have killed many civilians are a factor.  Four brave, risk-taking ex-drone veterans and whistle blowers are featured in the new film “Drone”now being premiered in Toronto and New York. They echo my ever-present qualms from my 1942-3 RCAF Bomber Command nights.  We had a few amazingly-accurate operation but most were indiscriminate.  When the USAAF joined us in 1943 with a promise of pickle-barrel daylight accuracy we found the pickle barrels had huge diameters. Today we have smart bombs and drones but the death toll of innocent civilians is still counted in thousands.  Is killing at a distance more humane than the intimate slashing of throats by Daesh?  It is the old story of the chicken and the egg.  Who started it all?
    It is incredible that any human brain would desire to destroy another such unique structure, the pinnacle of evolution and the most complex organism we know with its 100,000 billion connections and whose existence needs a mobile body made up of 75 million million cells, 90% bacterial and 10% human that can be compared to a colony of ants.  Each individual performs its tasks without knowledge of the overall purpose.  Is this not also identical for the 7.3 billion humans now congesting this planet?  Is there a purpose we cannot see?  Our bacterial cells are mostly beneficial but can, like humans, kill if they get out of their programmed niche.     Both cells and humans have the ability to influence others.  When Daesh takes over an area it forces the children into schools where they are immersed in their repulsive philosophy.  Many schools are financed by Saudi Arabia and its Wahabism that teaches all others are infidels.  We need to fight IS schools with UN schools.   Daesh is also financed by all those who buy their stolen oil and ancient artifacts.  Millions of us care only for our own greed and provide IS with $50 million monthly buying its smuggled-out oil, mainly in Turkey.  This also needs to be fought by a strengthened UN.
    All of our religions and philosophies have been born by individuals whose followers, blessed with oral and written skills, spread the word to others who yearn for meaning.  Today we have numerous groups fighting climate change, poverty, over population, animal cruelty, wealth inequality, police brutality, gun proliferation,  and so on.  Our survival demands we melt them into one UN force for good.

georgesweanor@comcast.net www.yeoldescribe.com



Friday, 6 November 2015

Québécois, Canadien, Canadian Mind Sets - et al

I admire the Irishman from Eire who set out to visit his friend in Northen Ireland.  Tramping across the fields he came to a sign indicating that he had reached the border, necessitating a detour to the nearest approved crossing point.  No Problem.  He simply uprooted the sign, carrying it to plant on the far side of his friend’s house.  After his visit he carried it back to its original hole.  Borders can be so artificial and temporary.
An inward-looking group in Quebec continues to try to place another border on my Heritage as though it belongs to them alone.       As a Canadian, the igloo, the birch-bark canoe, the Fleur-de-Lis, the Union Jack, the Shamrock and the Maple Leaf are all mine, along with symbols of other immigrants.  It is a rich and proud heritage in a country labelled by the United Nations as the world’s best.  When, in 1965, we let the Union Jack take a back seat to the Maple Leaf flag we left the door open for further disintegration.
   Why do I cherish the French part of my Heritage?  Along with fine people from throughout the Commonwealth, and the World, I have worked with hundreds from Quebec and this includes Bomber Command, POW camps, and the Korean Air Lift.  Today’s educators and media ignore over 200 years of Quebec’s contributions to Canada and to British and Canadian military units. We also forget that only 6,908 men and 1,617 women crossed that ocean from France to New France.  What they accomplished in a harsh land against great odds is a tale worth knowing, teaching, and appreciating.
The first real Canadian from Europe was Samuel de Champlain who saw the potential of America.  In 1603 he proposed a Panama Canal.  In 1607 he united French settlements in Acadia.  His error was to allow the Hurons, Montagnais, and Algonquins in 1609 to con him into canoeing into what he named Lake Champlain.  This was Iroquois land.
To halt the charge of hostile Iroquois, Champlain and his two men, arquebus-armed, fired, killing three Iroquois  chiefs.  Champlain recognized his error in opposing such splendid physical specimens.  Mortal enemies were made who were later to ally with the British.  In 1615 he stood on top of Mount Royal (Montreal) and predicted that a great nation would arise there.  From 1616 to 1635 he made 25 crossings of the Atlantic vainly trying to turn French interests from the Royal Peltry (fur trade) to settlements. Discouraged, he turned his back on France and encouraged intermarriage with the Natives.  This  mix produced the famed coureur de bois, unexcelled in long-distance exploration and trading.  Side-stepping the Iroquois they ranged from Quebec to Hudson Bay to the Rockies to New Orleans.  They opened a continent peacefully while British settlers multiplied east of the Appalachians.  Pierre Esprit Radisson and Medart Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers, promoted the Hudson Bay route, but failed to convince officials in Quebec or Paris.  Charles II in London, however, wined and dined them.  The British affectionately called them Radishes and Gooseberries.  Charles approved the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson Bay, with two ships, the Eaglet and Nonsuch (Winnipeg has a Nonsuch replica).
By the time of the 1759 British conquest the New France population had risen to 65,000, helped by my paternal ancestors. Jacques Chouinard, age 29, married Louise Jean, age 14, in Notre Dame Church, Quebec City, in 1692.  They had 17 children.  Even so, my ancestors from Ireland provided most of my genes.
A harsh land, plus indifference from France, produced a hardy race.  Always outnumbered they held off Iroquois and British attacks for 150 years.  To hide their weakness they often went on the attack with surprising success.  They defeated invasions led by Fitz-John Winthrop and William Phips in 1690.  In 1755 Charles Michel de Langlade, of mixed Ottawa and French blood, led 254 French plus 600 Natives to defeat General Braddock's and LtColonel George Washington's 2,100 men near Fort Duquesne (Pittsburg).
In 1756 France could hurl 100,000 troops against Prussia and Britain, but sent only 1,200 to defend Canada.  Louis XV, however, did send a little-known officer, Louis Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm who was to become the ablest general to set foot in the Americas.  At Ticonderoga his 5,000 men defeated James Abercromby's 20,000 troops.  In the 1759 siege of Quebec, Montcalm was betrayed by his own Governor who, to harvest his own crops, took the men that Montcalm had posted to watch for any Britons trying to scale the cliffs.  The British then scaled undetected.  Montcalm and the British General Wolfe were both killed in the ensuing battle that won Canada for Britain.  When the British colonists refused to pay a share of the costs of eliminating the Canadiens as a hazard to their expansion, Britain had to cut in half the pay of the victorious troops.  A great start for a new nation came when French women made long wool leggings for the bare knees of the Fraser Highlanders who volunteered to help with the harvest.  Many of the victors chose to take land grants in lieu of pay, remain in Canada, and marry French women.  General James Murray and Sir Guy Carleton, the first two British governors, protected the Canadiens from the influx of British merchants from the southern colonies.  The Proclamation of 1763 that forbade British settlement west of the Appalachians and the Québec Act of 1774 that left Québec with its own language, culture, and lands including the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, outraged British colonists, especially George Washington who had financial interests in land that would still be Québec's.  Agitators, including Ben Franklin, went to Montreal, trying to persuade Canadiens into joining the revolution.  They were ignored as British generosity, tolerance, and no taxes were much more than they could expect from an independent non-Catholic nation to the south.
After the American Revolution, 100,000  Loyalists fled, many to Canada which became a bicultural country overnight.  Not to be swamped, the Québécois went to The Battle of the Cradle, and families of over 20 became common.  Today, with English-speaking dominance gone and a less dominant Church, the birthrate has fallen to one of the world's lowest to the annoyance of Premier Jacques Parizeau who blamed immigrants and big business for the narrow defeat in the Referendum seeking independence, of 30 October 1995. 
During the unprovoked invasions of Canada in the War of 1812-14, Canadiens helped to save Canada.  In October 1813 Charles de Salaberry, whose grandfather fought with Montcalm against Wolfe, led 460 Canadiens with Native allies to defeat an invading force of 8,000 US in the Battle of Chateauguay, near Montreal.  To prevent needless slaughter by native allies, he paid a bounty for each US soldier captured unharmed.
Québec remained largely agricultural until The Great War when industrialization and urbanization spread  with English-speaking capital and executives, but political control never left the Québécois.  From the Boer War to World War II frictions arose over involvement in foreign wars which hampered Canadian contributions which nevertheless were truly magnificent, including Québec's.  Conscription was a divisive issue.  When German submarines sank ships in the St. Lawrence River, MacKenzie King closed the river to military traffic to quell Québec fears, but then all shipments had to go via Saint John and Halifax.
The Québec cultural revolution started in the 1950s.  The drive to become Maître chez nous was mainly peaceful and successful.  Desire for a separate country grew slowly from under 20% to 60% then sank to well below 50%.  English-speaking Canada tried to become bilingual while Québec became ever more unilingual, thus alienating would-be friends.  To English Canada, Québec is a case of Much wants More.  Québec has had more than its share of prime ministers (9 of 23)  and government jobs.  It received more than it contributed to the federal purse.  Of Canada’s 36 million, Quebec has 6.2 million plus 700,000 elsewhere in Canada.
To shatter Canada makes no sense and would create lowered living standards and world status for resultant entities.  Years of bickering, if not bloodshed, would follow.  Perhaps, in Québec, le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas. Canada is too great a country to envisage fragments joining the U.S. as dispirited  states.  Canada smarts under inferred U.S. indifference; Québec smarts under inferred Rest-of-Canada indifference; Newfoundland resents Québec indifference.  The Cree and Inuit have no desire to remain in an independent Québec.  Mexico complains of the U.S. “Colossus of the North” whereas Guatemala thinks the same of Mexico, and Honduras and El Salvador consider Guatemala  the Colossus.
A current gripe of those who speak only English is the rule that higher ranks in the civil service and military are reserved only for those fully bilingual.  Ever-changing English is a difficult language yet others are better at learning it than English speakers are at learning another language so many otherwise highly qualified people are by-passed. For instance 3 of the last 4 top RCAF generals here at NORAD are from Québec.
Canada has made great strides in correcting injustices, real and inferred, but sacrifices need to be shared and individual aspirations modified for the common good.  The United States commands patriotism from all its quarrelsome states.  Canada, while cherishing its mosaic approach, could adopt some of this.  The Canadian military has been beneficial in promoting integration, but is now too small to do the job alone.
The Québécois are not ethnically pure.  Many thousands of Native, British, Irish, and German genes have melted into the French "Habitant" culture, not to mention recent immigrants.  Of the 4,884 troops who took Canada in 1759, 33% were British colonists, 25% Irish, 23% English, 15% Scots, 4% German/Swiss and many of these men stayed to marry local women.    
On the world stage:  No human understands life.  No human religion can offer more than a guide, yet we can enhance contentment with empathy for all living things.  Do accept the enormous challenge of bettering human  mindsets.

georgesweanor@comcast.net                          www.yeoldescribe.com