Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/3/2011 (2285 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Learning from Japan
The horrendous events in Japan have focused much of our attention on the country and on the courage, tenacity and dignity of its people. Now we may benefit from delving deeper into their culture and societal structures.
The late Tony Judt, in his book Ill Fares the Land, provides a stunningly graphic comparison of the social and economic well-being of developed nations, with Japan and the U.S. representing extreme opposites.
In the index of health and social problems, Japan rates the best and the U.S. the worst. Homicides are roughly 60 per million in the U.S. versus 6 per million in Japan, with corresponding incarceration rates.
Mental illness stands at approximately 7 per cent in Japan with a low income inequality while the U.S. has 26 per cent of mental illness and a high income inequality. Life expectancy is 81 years in Japan and 77 in the U.S. In general, the analysis places Canada at mid-point between these two countries.
In light of these revealing facts, would it not be wise for us to forgo our propensity to emulate our southern neighbours on social, behavioural and economic issues and turn rather to Japan for insights?
Re: Proof to the Lie (Letters, March 21) Dianne Baker writes of the brutal murders of five Israelis, including three small children, as if to suggest these unthinkable atrocities were committed by someone other than a Palestinian terror group.
This is the Middle East. Israeli families whose throats are slit ear to ear (and who live next to Nablus) are not being butchered by a roving band of Irish nuns.
She might not agree with how Israel deals with the Palestinians, but her disagreement does not mean apartheid is at work. Apartheid is racial segregation and discrimination based on skin colour. In Israel Jews, Muslims, Christians and other faiths of every possible skin colour have citizenship, access to education, health care and the right to vote. Anyone with a basic understanding of what apartheid is would realize Israel is not an apartheid state.
I attended the Israel Apartheid Week events last week at the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg. These events were held in an atmosphere of honest and critical debate, which at times was heated but always well moderated.
The State of Israel was criticized for its restrictive policies, physical expansionism, and militaristic suppression of Palestinian rights, but there was no anti-Semitism. The distinction was constantly drawn between the actions of the Israeli government and the disparate views in the Jewish community.
A state is not a person or ethnic group and can't be exempt from criticism, especially when human rights are being so clearly violated. Should we be silent about Burma or North Korea because to be critical of these regimes is racist? I think not.
Criticism of Israel is both humane and necessary to name and shame a regime that continues to flagrantly violate human rights, international law and long-standing UN resolutions.
In his review of my new book Born Again (Former priest finds freedom in Christianity, March 19), Bill Rambo, amongst other pettiness, slanderously accuses me of questionable ethics in the following sentence: "Some, too, might question the ethics of his returning to Ireland at age 50 with 'a greatly reduced fare that the airlines offered for students going home for school vacations.' "
In fact, this passage on page 185 clearly referred to my undergraduate days at Oxford, when I was in my early 20s. It was perfectly legitimate for all who had parents born within the British Isles.
As someone whose career has been built on writing about ethical issues, Rambo's statement impugns my integrity and hence my reputation.
Blame for leaks
According to the March 18 story Leaked Hydro document shows Bipole cost jump: opposition, Manitoba Hydro CEO Bob Brennan, reacting to the second "leak" from Manitoba Hydro in as many months, said, "We don't think it's right that stuff gets leaked out" and then added, "You'd think people would be more committed to the company."
Let's examine why these "leaks" are occurring. If one routinely ignores the advice of the professionals one hires, if one operates in a non-transparent way, if one then withholds from the public critical information about the work a Crown corporation is doing, and if one does not set enough distance between the Crown corporation and the government when the government engages in misleading and deceptive rhetoric, then one shouldn't be surprised if "leaks" occur.
The Bipole III Coalition, of which I am the president, does not condone these leaks from otherwise loyal employees. This is only to point out that Brennan should look in the mirror if he wants to figure out who bears the basic responsibility for the culture of leaks in Manitoba Hydro.
As one who has been criticized for vocally opposing the city's 2011 operating budget, I feel that I should address the two main retorts. The first is: "You shouldn't complain, you elected him." But people have every right to complain when a figure they elected in good faith has strayed from the platform on which he was elected.
The second is: "How else do you expect the city to pay for itself?" But taxes are not the issue here; transparency and honesty are. Citizens who are against the 2011 operating budged are not against being taxed in order to pay for city services, but rather are against being misled as to what they are being taxed on, where those taxes are going, and how the taxation system will hit the working class.
Whatever happened to the woman who ran for mayor here recently? You know, the one with that long name?
I remember her distinctly saying, after she failed in her bid, that she sure would be holding the mayor's feet to the fire.
Well, we certainly could use some help with him. He has even been accused of having become master of the shell game when it comes to taxes.
So if you can find the woman, I'd like to ask her: Why are the mayor's feet freezing, metaphorically speaking?
An act of violence
Rape is not a sexual act. It is an act of violence and control. Alexandra Venema (Let's be realistic, Letters, March 17) and others suggest that the victim in the Rhodes rape case could have in some way have mitigated their chances of becoming a victim by acting more appropriately.
Once a crime is committed, the burden is no longer on the victim to mitigate their circumstances. The responsibility becomes solely that of the perpetrator. That women are to avoid social situations and to dress only in a certain way sounds eerily similar to the expectations placed on women in societies we deem oppressive. This is not what the pioneers of the women's movement fought for.