To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour
--(William Blake from Auguries of Innocence c.1800)
There is a lot of sand in the world we are now witnessing through lenses controlled by who knows? Who has set aflame the oil fields of Iraq?
For eleven years the people of Iraq have been suffering the dismantling of their social infrastructure which delivered to them reasonable housing, jobs, education and health care. A socialist infrastructure, developed under the supervision of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad, and similar to those developed under Stalin in the former Soviet Union and Mao Tse Tung in China. Because Iraq was wealthy with resources the world was willing to pay for, the social programs which brought it from stone to modern industrial age happened stunningly fast. The Soviet Union, China and Cuba delivered such services to their populations on slower timetables because they were isolated and embargoed. But whether established slowly or quickly it takes very little time for the anti-social war machine to crash these structures down. Despite the fact that a fair system for criminal justice never made it to the agenda of any of these places, Castro remains in place and there are moves throughout Russia to rehabilitate Stalin. Where Chairman Mao fits into China these days remains an inscrutible puzzle.
All this belligerance is not about regime change, or even about oil. It is about tearing down the only decent accomplishments of the Iraq regime. If Saddam Hussein and all his Royal Guards were to disappear tomorrow the agenda would be the same. If George Bush and his lot were to suddenly dematerialize, the agenda would continue. The dishonesty and dishonour of the accumulators of capital have been laid bare.
Many western democracies, as we like to call them, developed social programs under pressure from or under the leadership of social democratic parties and governments. These are also being dismantled. Margaret Thatcher and, now, Tony Blair have all but eliminated social programs that took decades to build. The United States, who has never bothered to properly count its citizens and which has developed the most sophisticated dis-information machines has resisted widespread social programs and punishes and executes its poor. The trade union movements, which fought for such social programs now promote the idea that veteran workers are entitled to more money and benefits than newer employees.
This is far more than a crisis of leadership. It is not even a cry for anarchy although we would do well to heed Bob Dylan's famous lines, "Don't follow leaders, check your parking meters." Many accounts are coming due and as we settle them we would do well to call upon every molecule of wisdom our collective intelligence has managed to save. To carry forward the Dylan theme: It's a hard rain that's going to fall.
Saskatchewan once shone as a beacon for socialized programs. Now our health and education systems are gutted and our NDP Premier, Lorne Calvert, prepared a throne speech which addressed neither but instead used the most cynical ad-campaign double-speak, promising opportunities even as the government is being investigated for its gross mismanagement and lies surrounding its potato ventures. Most notably absence from the throne speech was any mention of the Justice System's crimes against citizens which the government has been covering for a dozen years. No mention of the promised Milgaard inquiry. [started January 2005]
In an absurd gesture of something, Saskatoon Police Chief Russell Sabo took paid leave while charges of harassment from a close female co-worker are investigated. That leaves Brian Dueck as the highest ranking cop, although Wiks is presumably in charge. Why on earth did they not send the co-worker on paid leave instead? The StarPhoenix ran a poll asking if readers trusted the police. Which ones? The ones I called when my computer was stolen eighteen months ago seemed trustworthy enough, but totally useless. The ones who have investigated methadone deaths in town are about as effective as those who formerly investigated deaths of Natives near the Queen Elizabeth Power Station.
Throughout all of this, images of blind justice serve to remind us that justice without mercy is a poor replica of what we really need to consider. Locking up people for being poor and bombing countries for withholding their riches do not constitute justice. The imbalance of the scales more closely resemble the proverbial pendulum which swings from total permissiveness to intolerance. We would do well re-read the Treaty of Versaille and review the circumstances under which the League of Nations was constituted as we rethink what justice might look like. The "Concensus of the Willing" has already confiscated much of the wealth of Iraq in a pre-emptive act not unlike the penalties for reparations placed on Germany in 1919. As we hear Saddam Hussein compared to Adolf Hitler we can also compare the external circumstances which allowed their policies to gain favour inside their countries.
One of Oprah Winfrey's guests last week noted that Israel's 1967 six day war was sharp and swift -- definitely of the shock and awe variety -- but that 37 years later it is still in its seventh day.
The 1998 bombing of Al Shifa Pharmaceuticals in famine stricken Sudan, which deprived it of vital medicine was surely an act of terror as heinous as planes flying into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. To say otherwise is to say American civilians' lives are more valuable than those of Africans. Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl reported on that story. Four years later he was killed in Afghanistan. The real story of his death has yet to be told. The posthumous awe-shucks presentation of him as a somewhat naive guy is belied by the seriousness of his work. He stands as a chilling example to other journalists who might get too close to truths the Powers prefer left untold. Can anyone say Jamal Khashoggi?
Dubya Bush & Co. have begun their massacree. Not only are the people in the Persian gulf being subjected to a murderous assault, the propaganda machine makes all information suspect. Many of us are reduced to spectators of Reality TV gone global. Demonstrators are being picked off and taken to jail, especially in the U.S. Formerly trustworthy reporters and journalists are speaking in repectful tones about Bush and Rumsfeld and the other thieves of power. Administrations in countries like our own have been practising for the suspension of civil liberties and will now go as far as they can go. However long this particular phase of world-stomping goes on, if it meets with some success it most certainly will not stop at Iraq or even the Persian Gulf. These real terrorists are holding the truth hostage and bit by bit all vestiges of socialized infrastructure are being dismantled. One thing that we can all do is to continue to vigorously exercise the civil and human rights we still enjoy.
As the bombs were dropping overseas, though, Newfoundland set a commission of inquiry into wrongful convictions there and the Manitoba government was forced to make some admissions regarding the James Driskell case.
The court date for Richard Klassen's $10+ lawsuit draws nearer. For Saskatchewan there will be no more avoiding coming to terms with those it has maliciously charged and prosecuted. The Calvert government, or the one which replaces him will have lots of work to do, putting this province together again. There is a macro to micro connection here, as well and it has to do with the arrogance I spoke of above, regarding some lives being more valuable than others. The defendants in the lawsuit -- members of Saskatchewan Justice and Social Services and Saskatoon Police, and their lawyers, have counted on the prejudice that the daily lives and reputations of people like themselves are more worthy than the lives of foster children (throw-away kids as Michelle Ross referred to herself) and foster parents, who in many cases take in foster children because they need the money. They hope the public has the same distaste that they have for under-educated people like the Rosses, Klassens and Kvelloes. No doubt there are some farmers who don't know any better who will hire Chris Axworthy just so they can say they have the former justice minister for their lawyer. Nonethtless it is possible that the Saskatchewan public has grown weary of the lies of the hypocrisy. The e-mail to this website indicates it is.
The pendulum can swing back the other way, further than it has ever swung before. The internet makes it possible for stubborn truth tellers and whistleblowers to gain strength from one another. There are millions of people online and our job is to make them care. It doesn't much matter that we can now talk to one another if we don't have anything to say. We hold infinity in the palms of our hands. What will it be? As we drive our carts and ploughs over the bones of the dead, what will our sorrows bring forth?
--Sheila Steele, March 23, 2003