Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/1/2012 (2054 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Backbone was absent
I strongly disagree with your Jan. 2 editorial, When the people speak. The people who illegally squatted in Memorial Park for 67 days, mumbling incoherently, did not speak for me or, I dare say, for many thousands of Manitobans working for their living.
I am disgusted our government did not have the backbone to toss the Occupiers out on their ears after 24 hours. Their assault on democracy is unacceptable. The people of Manitoba spoke in a federal election in May and a provincial election in October.
The local Occupiers were copycats of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, although there are no shared issues between the groups. The local Occupiers do not have broad-based support and did not attract public support over a two-month period. The Occupy Winnipeg group expired without ever having found political legitimacy.
There is no doubt Manitoba and Canada have serious problems to address and we need to make changes. That said, group-snivelling in a public park is not the way to attract support for political and social changes, no matter how desirable they might be.
The myth of merit
In her Dec. 28 letter, Education is key, Kelly Chartrand highlights the myth of "individual effort" and our merit-based economic system, which has served up a healthy portion of ignorance by way of outdated economic theory.
Canadians have been told that by obtaining an education they will be lifted out of poverty. This will not only provide them with well-paying careers through the free market but will solve all problems through supply and demand. However, as the Occupy movement has recently pointed out, to even those who bought this human-capital perspective hook line and sinker, the effect is hardly a world of opportunity, particularly for those who live at the margins of our society.
When the myth of individualism and its cousin meritocracy are exposed for their underlying beliefs, we come to see that our poor in Canada are not just aboriginal people, but women, new immigrants, people with disabilities and seniors.
This leads us to the second myth Chartrand may not have realized she has also bought into: that poor people choose to be poor and by pulling up one's bootstraps anyone can escape the multi-layered aspects of poverty.
To attribute poverty to a lack of education ignores the glass ceiling women experience in the workforce, racism and discrimination, the continued effects of colonialism, among other biases and beliefs present in our society that create unequal opportunity.
It is not a question of "asking aboriginal children to stay in school," as Chartrand suggests, but instead asking all Canadians to look deeper at the issues plaguing our aboriginal communities, from inadequate funding, to the lack of housing, health care and culturally relevant social services.
Portugal Cove-St. Philips, N.L.
Re: Russia bans human rights lawyer Matas (Jan. 3). The Russian government's decision to ban the book Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs and its authors, David Matas and David Kilgour, from their country shows the current leadership in Russia has still not fully shaken loose from certain totalitarian aspects of their country's Communist past.
Thus, I support the appeal by Russian activists who, as the article states, are "worried the ban on extremist literature was being misused to silence opposition and could be used as a vehicle of oppression."
Russia should fully embrace democratic and humanistic values. As nuclear physicist and human rights defender (and 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner) Andrei Sakharov said of the former Soviet Union, "Profound insights arise only in debate, with a possibility of counter-argument, only when there is a possibility of expressing not only correct ideas but also dubious ideas. Our country, like every modern state, needs profound democratic reforms."
It's obvious that Sakharov's words still apply today in Russia.
I very much agree with Chris Petty's well-argued critique (Freedom through confrontation, Letters, Jan. 4) that only by confronting the despotic governments of the Middle East can freedoms be gained. However, I respectfully maintain the rebellious Arab populations of the region have historically been supportive of any administration changes that sponsor directed freedoms, provided the regimes that emerged from political unrest were dutifully servicing the particular and localized agenda of those who had taken up arms on their behalf.
In other words, the so-called Arab Spring is not, as so many of its advocates believe, a Grail-like quest for democracy but, rather, the 2011 version of the generational Arab search for traditional replacement governments serving only limited, supportive constituencies.
Unlike those in the West who see democracy as the appropriate vehicle for political change, the embattled states of North Africa and the Mideast have no such illusions. To presume so suggests the appropriation of established cultural and political systems far older than democracy itself but, sadly, no less authoritative or viable in their expression.
Mark S. Rash
Re: Freedom through confrontation (Jan. 4). In the midst of all our familiar woes and soon-to-be-forgotten New Year's resolutions, I wanted to pay tribute to the people of Syria.
What a courageous people they are. Day after day, week after week, they march in protest against Butcher Assad and his merciless thugs.
The price those protesters pay is horrendous, yet they carry on. The charade of the Arab League "monitors" serves only to underscore how grim the situation is.
If only we could summon up the sense of united purpose, steadfastness and courage, how quickly we could deal with many of the problems we face -- some of them awfully insignificant.
I wish we could lend more than moral support to the Syrian people. We won't, of course, but they deserve it.
Assad will know, though, that his days are numbered. The blood he is spilling now will ultimately swamp him.
A salute to the valour of the Syrian people!
We second that!
Re: Chances slim to none (Letters, Jan. 4). The federal Conservatives won 40 per cent of the vote in last year's election. The total percentage of eligible voters who actually voted was 61. The net vote garnered by the Conservatives was roughly 25 per cent of that eligible voting pool.
In short, it was a plurality in terms of actual votes cast but far from convincing if one considers only six in 10 eligible voters elected to have their voices heard. It's time to let the debate rest and move on.