History Repeats Itself

Hitler and OwensI had a nightmare last night. I think it was inspired by watching "The Book Thief" and a frightening scene of Adolph Hitler in the stands sneering down at Jesse Owens on the track at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. I woke up in a sweat with the vision of Hitler and those Olympics and what happended next in Europe, blending into a vision of Putin and his Olympics and what is happening now in the Ukraine. Could it be possible that dictatorial governments, whether fascist, corpocratic (we no longer have democracies – we have corpocracies), or communist, use the Olympics as a way of softening global opinion into inaction?

This is a direct quote from the Jewish Virtual Library:  "For two weeks in August 1936, Adolf Hitler's Nazi dictatorship camouflaged its racist, militaristic character while hosting the Summer Olympics. Soft-pedaling its antisemitic agenda and plans for territorial expansion, the regime exploited the Games to bedazzle many foreign spectators and journalists with an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany.

Having rejected a proposed boycott of the 1936 Olympics, the United States and other western democracies missed the opportunity to take a stand that — some observers at the time claimed — might have given Hitler pause and bolstered international resistance to Nazi tyranny. With the conclusion of the Games, Germany's expansionist policies and the persecution of Jews and other “enemies of the state” accelerated, culminating in World War II and the Holocaust."

CrimeaNow, how about this: For two weeks in February 2014, Vladimir Putin camouflaged his racist, militaristic character while hosting the Winter Olympics. We raged about his homophobia, mused about boycotts, but, bedazzled by his soft-pedaling and the distracted by the scope of the construction in Sochi, did nothing. International resistance to his tyranny melted away in the media blitzkreig of feel good ceremonies and medal counts . With the conclusion of the games, Russia's expansionist policies accelerated, beginning with the invasion and annexation of Crimea, and destabilization of the Ukraine, and the persecution of Jews and other "enemies of Russian speaking peoples" , and….and….

Be very, very careful.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon

No-Brainer Earth Days

John McCI still remember my first Earth Day as a young teacher. The year was 1969 and the original Earth Day was on March 21, the Vernal Equinox , as proposed by John McConnell – my class spent the day at our Forest Valley Outdoor Education Centre. John McConnell passed away on October 20, 2012. The Vernal Equinox lives on. 

 

gaylordIn 1970,  I was in my third year of teaching, now a full fledged-member of the profession, as it was known in those days, after my two year initiation. An idealistic politician named Gaylord Nelson asked an equally idealistic young law student named Denis Hayes to lead the first Earth Day marches in the United States on April 22. Gaylord Nelson passed away on July 3, 2005; Earth Day lives on. Denis did not go gently into that good night, but continued both his law studies and his support for the concept of Earth Day.

 

DenisDenis Hayes lead the event for the 20th Anniversary in 1990 and told a depreciating "lawyer joke" from his son ("You see a long slim body lying in a ditch – there are no skid marks prior to the impact point – is it a snake or a lawyer? Answer: a lawyer; if it had been a snake, there would have been brake marks.) Environmentalists, even environmental lawyers, as Robert Kennedy Jr. knows all too well, get no respect.

On April 22, in 1970, my class joined in the new Earth Day celebration from our community in Flemington Road P.S.  We were not part of the 10%, as it was known in those days, the fortunate few, now 1%. We were speaking out for social justice and environmental sustainability. A children's crusade? Most certainly. Only youth has the strength to speak truth to power. My students had nothing to lose but their future.

For the next  44 years I taught and lectured and practiced living lightly, spending quality time outdoors, buying from ethical companies (you are what you buy), introducing trash tallies, litterless/boomerang lunches, and ethical procurement policies for school boards, supporting efficient technologies, developing environmental literacy in the school curriculum, lecturing on the polluter pay/precautionary principle in politics and policies, and to no real improvement. Lip service, greenwashing, and business as usual.

I visit schools in 2014 who are discussing garbageless lunches as a totallly new concept and wonder where the last forty years went.; school boards continue to purchase from the most convenient supplier and bulid their schools to far less than LEED Platinum standards; and The College of Teachers in Ontario ignores Environmental Studies as a subject teachable thanks to Mike Harris. The Darwin Award is alive and well in the School Boards of our country.

SteveOur current government in Canada boasts that the Keystone Pipeline is a "no-brainer"; politicians mock globally respected scientists and ignore and distort the reports of UN scientific climate change organizations; our Prime Minister believes that accelerated global climate change is a "socalist plot". And the final approval for the Northern Gateway Pipeline rests with him. More Darwin Awards.

If this blog site is ever discovered in the future, I apologize to the survivors – you'll need a new strategy. The Easter Island Syndrome is alive and well. In the meantime, I'm going out to clean up my community from the barbarian hordes, plant yet another native species garden, and never give up!

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon

The Real Cost of a State Funeral

The very sudden death of Jim Flaherty evoked a sense of mortality in his colleagues that was emotionally inspiring. All of these political allies and enemies suddenly saw their own passages in Smilin' Jim's death. A man who devoted the majority of his life to politics, sometimes referred to as public service, retires and a few weeks later is gone from this earth. A whisper of time to enjoy his retirement, dying in the arms of a colleague instead of his family. As a father, I mourn his passing; as a man who has given many hours of volunteer time to high needs children, I celebrate his contributions to accessibility in sports for children of all abilities. Enlightened self-interest can bring about wonderful community centres in your riding.

JimFlaherty_close_188Jim Flaherty was also a contributing Minister in the MIke Harris regime, the downloading to the municipalities, Walkerton, Ipperwash, and, as Finance Minister under Ernie Eves, a $6 billion dollar deficit to the Province of Ontario after having assured them that all was well. After Harris was pounded out of office in a humiltiating rejection of his far right Reform Conservative policies, Jim Flaherty fled Ontario politics with John Baird and Tony Clement to join Stephen Haper in Ottawa, clearly announcing their ideologies. Still far right Conservative Reform Alliance Party politics.

Jim Flaherty as federal Finance Minister recently supported and facilitated all of the environmental, social justice, and middle class losses that allowed the 99% poor to get poorer and the 1% rich to get much richer. He had nothing to do with Canada's ability to deal with the global economic downturn; those banking regulations had been put into effect by previous governments.  It was only due to Oppostion pressure, that stimulation spending was introduced into the mix. The upcoming "balanced budget" was balanced on the backs of the middle class, environmental science, and social justice.

Jim Flaherty presented the last two Omnibus Budget Bills that reversed decades of natural resources protection and environmental audits and gave the Prime Minister final veto or approval. The lighting on the CN Tower in honour of your passing was certainly not in celebration of your greening of Canada; rather, it celebrated the blarney Irish in you capable of spinning a great tale of deception while hiding the pot of gold away, far away, from the majority of Canadians.

My heart as a father goes out to your family; my hands as a hard working Canadian taxpayer will not be lowering my flag to half mast.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon