To the terror

14 Nov 2015

image Courtesy of RTÉ

I’m tired of hearing it. I’m tired of reading it. I’m tired of watching it. In fact, I have tried to avoid encountering it as much as possible. It is something I have encountered before.

The attacks’ aftermath. The dead bodies, the souls that have left, in most cases unwillingly. Those who survived and trying to recover from the whole affair . The whole country mourns. In fact, almost the whole world mourns and symphatizes. The identification of the responsible ones as, at least, followers of a “radical” form of a Middle Eastern faith. Subsequent promise and action of governments to deal with the cause of the attacks. Mostly involving internal security. The theme of “love, not hate.” Media stories of citizens being warm, friendly and welcoming to their migrant neighbours. The survivors and those left behind by the perished who choose not to hate their attacker’s co-religionists. The needed declaration by the co-religionists that condemns those attacks, that they are one with the victims. A renewed focus on what is happening in the Middle East, its causes and its solutions.

It arguably all began with 9/11. Then the events in Madrid and London, followed by Charlie Hebdo. It appears like the Western world — whose opinion is arguably the most important in the world — is forced to think and reflect on terrorism, “radical” Islam and everything about them only when it hits these shores. Otherwise, most of us don’t give much attention to the region where all of this is coming from — the armed actions, bombings, protests, abuse — unless it hits our interests directly.

But that is not the point here. Or rather it is only one point of this post. The other point is what to make of all this, what to do out of all this.

So we are besieged or flanked by forces that are only interested in pushing their interests forward, mostly to our disaster. That would include Islamists, liberal-oriented governments and right-wing populists. What is there to do?

There is no other choice but to fight. The fight to live and to exist. The individual duty to fight. Fighting by simply existing and living. No more time to mourn, maybe even to love and to hate. Just fight.


Thoughts on 19 October 2015

03 Nov 2015
image

Courtesy of cbc.ca

A mixed (and in this case, late) response. But let’s start with the positives here, or rather the only positives here.

The so-called “Conservative” party was finally dislodged from power after nearly a decade of trying to impose its US Republican-inspired ideals on a country that’s fundamentally different in its founding principles, and with Stephen Harper’s resignation as the cherry on the cake. They were 10 years of actions, decisions and legislations that already or were going to significantly affect this country, its citizens and their affairs in a way never seen before — and mostly negative. Whether anything of the legacy of the founding father of the present Conservatives will remain is dependent on both his successors as party chief and Prime Minister.

After 10 years, we finally have a non-“Conservative” government. Indeed, there are many, many hopes that incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will reverse many or most of the domestic and foreign policies of the previous government that gave Canada a reputation never before negative in its existence as a country, both to its people and to its global neighbours. And throughout his campaign, Trudeau managed to present the image of someone willing and able to do what the majority of Canadians desire. As for their fulfillment or disappointment, that will become clear in the coming few months, and later in this article.

The removal from power of the “Conservatives,” their leader’s resignation and the positive potential of the incoming Grit government are the only positives previously mentioned. The rest just left me disappointed, for lack of a better word. Let’s start with the “Conservatives.”

True, they’re no longer our federal overlords, but they’re now the Official Opposition even with only 99 seats (another plus from me). With Harper still remaining as MP, there’s no doubt, despite what experts might say, that he will exercise considerable and continued influence on his party, especially including his successor who will have to labour under his massive legacy and influence. But worse, perhaps, was the fate of the other parties.

The Grits are back, and with a majority of all things! It’s as if they haven’t learned from their past history of corruption, scandal and opportunism (this coming from someone who never experienced Grit rule). Rather, if there’s any lesson they learned from this election, it’s that a handsome face plus an effective campaign equals victory. It would’ve been better if they remained in third-place wilderness a little longer in order to learn about humility and what a political party should properly be. Now, with managing a leap from third place to government in a short time, for the first time (which would’ve been better appropriate for the NDP), the event of the victory going into their heads won’t be surprising. The corrupt interests have learned that good hair and saying all the right words can win power, without the need for introspection and subsequent action.

It looks to be the same lesson the New Democrats learned — in defeat. The party returned to its more familiar third place in this election, after that surprising and eventually short-lived “Orange Crush” in 2011 brought, also, by the leader’s charisma and effective campaigning. To those saying that the NDP would’ve won had Jack Layton lived, it would’ve been more of a split anti-Harper vote. What made this loss sadder for this infrequent blogger (and still does) was to see all NDP candidates in the three ridings near or within residence (Surrey Centre, Fleetwood-Port Kells, Surrey-Newton) swept out by la vague rouge. Perhaps the most painful was Surrey-Newton, where what could have been continued change and reform saw instead the return of an old politico who, from what I know, didn’t exactly have a credible and admirable record in his previous terms. It was only small consolation to see the two New Westminster ridings (another place where a personal connection exists) remain orange. Where does this leave the party? Would it learn from the perceived “rightward” drift under Thomas (not Tom) Mulcair? Even after choosing to stay as leader, will he remain for some time?

If anything, this huge disappointment was equalled by the disappointment with the Green party, no matter the spin. It hoped to win a few seats, mostly in B.C., with Victoria the most possible seat. Now, the only other Green seat in the House by the start of the campaign — Bruce Hyer’s Thunder Bay–Superior North which came about by floor-crossing — also went red. Given that we have a Grit majority, any hopes Elizabeth May and her supporters entertain of exercising an influence on the incoming government will be dependent on said government, regardless of the “cooperating” image Justin had during the campaign (the petition calling for May’s appointment as Environment Minister would’ve become more possible under a coalition government).

Never mind that it only got ten seats and failed in its goal to regain official party status (or Gilles Duceppe’s second resignation, I later learned) — le Bloc a retourné from its surprising loss in 2011; it would’ve been better had they retained their previous seat count or less. Does this mean the return of Québec sovereignism? For one thing, it has only taken other forms, and hopefully it will become one that will broaden its scope to include all Francophone interests on this side of North America.

So where does this all lead to? With a non-Harper majority for the first time, one hopes to see a complete reversal of all of the previous government’s policies. On the other hand, with the fact that the Liberals still haven’t learned from their not-so-completely great past as the “natural governing party,” and a few actions from the younger Trudeau himself such as support for TPP — not to mention that he strikes me as someone easily swayed over by more powerful forces — any hopes attached to him by progressives may either become pure disappointment or half-satisfactory laws.


A big post of apology

09 Jul 2014

To anybody who sees or reads (or encounters) this blog:

First of all, I would only like to say that I apologise for not having posted anything here, not even of the least value, in this blog for a long period of time.

This isn’t meant to indicate that this blog is closing, there are no plans for that. It’s just that I cannot make the excuse that other bloggers have the right to make which is “busy lives.” On the other hand, weeks that should’ve been spent writing – blogposts, short stories, articles – as well as similarly important things to do for summer like job employment have been spent instead in countless times visiting FB and Twitter, reading and accumulating much stuff both interesting and not; the only important literary activity I’ve done this hot season are poems designed for open mics in literary events.

I actually have a lineup of blogposts here, it’s just that I haven’t done much with them. So I can only hope that God and time will still be available for me to help do those blogspots, articles, and short stories. To God be the Glory!

Sincerely,

Idrian

 

 


Agents and chilaquiles

26 Oct 2013

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are waiting…for my article to appear. Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Long delayed. Here are my latest Other Press articles about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and La Conquistadora in Surrey, B.C. Kung papalarin, magagawa rin ang talaang-blog tungkol sa pangalang “Filipinas” at ang kuneksyon ng ating bansa sa Amerika Latina.


Multiculturalism and Canadian identity

20 Aug 2013

Something that has been delayed in issuing here for too long: my latest Other Press article, from last month’s issue, about multiculturalism in this country. Hope you like it.


The spring continues…

11 Jun 2013

Courtesy of The Telegraph

There is no need to include links here to describe the mainstream agreement on the so-called “Arab Spring”. Almost ever commentator agrees that it has become a failure. Rather than bringing the promised brighter future of “freedom, justice and dignity,” it has only led to increased, unnecessary chaos that was never present under the previous authoritarian rulers, the rise of Islamist parties and social, ethnic and religious divisions in the affected countries. There are the descriptions of those heady events as an insidious plot by Western powers and the Gulf states (mostly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which is the base for Al-Jazeera which broadcasted the events to the wider world and is seen by many as a tool by the country to exercise its foreign policy around the region, even “causing” the Arab Spring) to overthrow its enemies on that region (I’m not sure if you can apply that argument as a cause for the overthrows of the relatively pro-Western, conservative rulers of Tunisia and Egypt), or that those countries weren’t prepared for revolution and democracy. It’s as if all of those events, those sacrifices were for nothing, that it was better under the previous rulers where there was at least a presence of order, security and stability (the same argument used by the overthrown or yet-to-be overthrown rulers), never mind the political fossilisation, corruption and state oppression.

Such arguments and descriptions about those events are wrong.

Those arguments are mistaken on two aspects, and it is also in these two aspects that it can be proven that the Arab Uprisings have not been a failure, but are continuing.

First, it has been taken for granted by commentators that these uprisings ended, or end, with the overthrow of the regime.Such a claim is mistaken on the belief that the simple overthrow of the dictator and his cohorts is enough to call it a revolution and automatically bring change. That would be equal to describing the French Revolution as the simple overthrow and beheading of Louis XVI, or the overthrow of the Tsar and the Provisional Government as the Russian Revolution. True, many if not most of the protesters thought the overthrow of their masters was sufficient to bring change, but anyone taking the long-term view of things knows that revolutions don’t end with the simple overthrow of the previous regime. As the French and Russian Revolutions themselves tell us, they also include the long-term, excruciating and unstable implementation of those ideals that propelled and fueled the revolution. The riots, armed confrontations, and political conflicts that are happening in the aftermath of those downfalls, or in the middle of civil wars, are in fact the continuation and extension of the revolutions.

The uprisings didn’t end with the overthrow or continuing efforts to overthrow the Ben Alis and Mubaraks of the Middle East and North Africa, but continue with the efforts of civil groups, political parties, ethnic and religious minorities – virtually everybody involved in these events – to effect change not just in the governments of their countries but also in the economic, social and cultural spheres. This isn’t just about electing presidents and representatives, but also about addressing economic disparities and sociocultural marginalisation. The manifestation of previously unnoticed divisions in these countries is indeed a stressful and dangerous but also necessary manifestation, akin to describing the causes of the disease before giving the cure.

It’s also true that each group with a stake in these events is trying to direct the events in their favour. While such actions can be selfish and stray from the original ideals of the uprisings, every group involved – including those we wish weren’t involved – is important and therefore their views must be taken into account in the goal of a better society as the product of the uprisings.

Second, about the so-called Islamist rise.If not outright sabotage of the revolution, the rise of Islamist politics in the aftermath of the overthrows is often described as due to the strong grassroots connections and lower-class affiliations of these groups. This would mean that the original revolutionaries who launched the uprisings in the name of “freedom, dignity, justice” were young, middle-class people disconnected from the poor majority who are the key factor in the political fate of these uprisings. The minority civil revolutionaries will be marginalised while the majority Islamist elements will benefit. In short, the revolutionaries unwittingly orchestrated the Islamist rise to power. They should have built a solid grassroots foundation for their ideals before launching their uprising.

These arguments only help in marginalising the original principles of the revolutions, as if they don’t matter. As for the civil revolutionary disconnect with the masses, what about the evidence of the youth majority in these countries? And even if many of these youth are Brotherhood members, it could only mean that reformist ideals are possible in the MB, with the dominant conservative elements preventing such reformism.

What is important here is the maintenance and pursuit of the ideals that launched the revolutions. While the Islamists benefit from their grassroots connections, the role of the civil revolutionaries in launching the uprising must not, and would never, be forgotten. They also benefit from their youth, newness and dynamism. Such abilities can be assets in the ongoing campaign of pursuit of freedom and dignity.

The struggle to attain a better tomorrow for the countries affected by the Arab Uprisings continues. The recent protests in Turkey only emphasize that this is also a much wider struggle. To dampen the necessity of this struggle under the banners of realism and cause-effect only helps in increasing cynicism and blunting any desire for change in situations where they are needed. Rather than despair, continued support for the Arab Uprisings, in the pursuit of their original ideals, must be continued.


About this dominion

12 Apr 2013

Courtesy of shutterstock.com

The last Other Press article I have for this season deals with Canadian identity, what it was in the past, and what it may be in the future. Hope this furthers discussion about Canadian nationalism in such a globalising age as this.


It’s not just the Indigenous people

15 Mar 2013

Courtesy of Canada.com

A forum on Aboriginal issues was held late February at Douglas College, in support of Idle No More. Flavoured on the sidelines by bannock and cheese slices, the forum featured old and new activists involved in the Indigenous movement. The unchanging Aboriginal issues were discussed on the forum. They included infringements on First Nations concerns brought by the federal government’s omnibus bills, the past-and-present colonial relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Canadian government, and current issues faced by Aboriginal individuals and families. Moderated group conversations after the panel talk discussed each attendee’s own feelings and opinions about the stories and issues said by the panel. By the end of the event, it seemed that most of the individuals present agreed on the necessity of solving the Aboriginal problem, and that this won’t come through government or settler paternalism but through self-made actions by Aboriginal peoples themselves. Self-determination, in their own words. It was a triumphant and jubilant night for those involved.

Since I failed to ask everybody on that auditorium whether they shared my opinions, once can only speak for oneself. In divergence from the wide agreement among the auditorium population, unanswered questions held me back from joining the euphoria. While the issues discussed were important, the nature of those issues in relation to the larger, outside context prevented me from fully accepting their cause.

The group discussion I joined involved each of us saying two words we took from what the panel said. Most of those “two words” were sympathetic and supportive of the Indigenous movement. My two words were “understanding” and “distance.” “Understanding” in that many of the issues discussed were reasonable and the injustices done against Aboriginal peoples really unjust, and “distance” in that certain questions made me skeptical from full support. It’s doubtless that injustices were done against Indigenous peoples in this country. Musqueam elder Larry Grant talked about his family’s expulsion from present-day Sapperton to make way for a military base. The youngest panellist mentioned a sister’s death in the hands of Indo-Canadian youths at night due to wearing Idle No More apparel. Stories of the colonial relationship between First Nations and European settlers and governments were told: displacement of First Nations from their traditional lands, attempts at destruction of their identity through assimilation, and the consequence of all these tragedies in everyday Indigenous life. Threats of the omnibus bills on traditional life and the environment were also said by the panel. But it didn’t end with sighs of passive hopelessness. Idle No More was bannered as a historical moment of Indigenous peoples rising up to fight for their rights. All the guests displayed confidence, insisting that now is the time Indigenous peoples take back what was stolen from them.

Yet some of the things said and shown during the event bothered me. The emphasis on “colonialism” and the dominated situation of Indigenous peoples, despite proclamations of triumph, made me think of this as solely an Indigenous matter, concerning First Nations alone. Why does it matter and how does this relate to us non-Indigenous persons? Does the emphasis on Aboriginal self-determination mean the original inhabitants will kick the settlers out of the land someday? One of the panellists who appeared at the group discussion talked of Indigenous history as a way to prevent a myopic view of Indigenous people, and putting ourselves in their shoes to better understand their situation – the answers weren’t satisfying. The question here is how does this Aboriginal movement fit in the bigger Canadian situation. Being an Indigenous-centred affair runs the risk of neglecting the other parts of the national population. It could be that this movement forms one part of the wider Canadian movement against erosion of public welfare by moneyed interests, but that has yet to be seen.

Perhaps there is nothing bad with an Aboriginal-centred movement. They have taken the extra mile to accommodate non-Indigenous peoples and help them understand what the movement is about. The event itself was targeted at newer immigrant communities in BC. The important question here is its relation to the wider Canadian movement for the national good.


The dilemma with Stalin

15 Mar 2013

Stalin looks at you…and smiles. Wonder what he could be thinking. Photo courtesy of solovki.ca

During this year’s 70th anniversary celebration of the pivotal Battle of Stalingrad, regional legislators voted to revert the city’s name, now Volgograd, to its wartime name a few times each year for war-related commemorations. In addition, the speaker of the Russian upper house promoted the idea of a city referendum on returning the name permanently. A very small personal observation on the Internet showed that most residents would prefer the money involved in such a name change be spent preferably on road repair. National opinions on this proposal are split along political lines, with Communists and pro-government forces supporting the reversion while liberals and human-rights advocates opposing it. This divided response to the idea shows Stalin’s equally divided legacy on the landscape he once ruled, the man remembered as either saviour of the motherland or cruel tyrant. It also makes us reflect on the phenomenon of people who left both good and bad in their historical legacies, and the complex and painful process of dealing with them.

Examples of mixed legacies abound around us, especially with political leaders. They range from Park Chung-hee’s responsibility for both South Korea’s political repression and economic prosperity to Castro’s guarantee of Cuban independence and social equality as well as its authoritarianism. Non-political examples are also present, like Wagner’s and Heidegger’s important contributions to music and philosophy, respectively, and their connection to Nazism. Even Hitler can be seen as a divisive figure if one is to account his contributions to Germany’s economic recovery before the war, which historians have given all sorts of explanations in an effort to dampen the importance of those contributions. This is one way this dilemma’s resolved – lessen the importance and give various explanations for the person’s positive achievements. This includes something basic as dismissing the positive contribution completely, saying “he did bring internal order, but his mistakes were greater,” or more elaborate as stating those reasons why that contribution is negligible, such as attributing the good events to external forces. The proponents of this view cannot believe or accept that a villain can contribute a good thing to the surrounding society, therefore the evil aspects of the person must be strongly emphasised and any contrary evidence to that characterisation must be either suppressed or clarified to the detriment of the person.

The other way to deal with the mixed legacy is naturally to emphasise the good part. This differs little from the character-bashing mentioned earlier. In this case, the historical figure’s positive contribution is highlighted while the negative aspect is mostly forgotten. In the Cuban case, Castro’s reputation of anti-US resistance has been acclaimed by progressives here in North America, Western Europe and elsewhere – without mention how this same resistance is responsible for the current state of Cuban democracy. Here in Canada, Trudeau’s legacy of civil rights and constitutional patriation are widely praised, without thinking how his ideas differed from the majority of Quebecois he claimed to represent. While such forgetful celebration of positive legacies is common for popularly-elected politicians, this is more dangerous for those otherwise seen as dictators. The risk of “whitewashing” the person’s image to the detriment of forgetting the darker aspect, thus endangering future generations, must be remembered when depicting the dictator as nice guy.

In fact, none of these approaches fully deal with the complexity brought by mixed historical legacies. They tend to emphasise one side while conveniently neglecting the other, and this happens even among experts careful in their objectivity. Complete disinterest in the legacy is no better, as it only lets the problem fester further. Perhaps one method in dealing with this dilemma is one based on three concepts: general moral principles, the role of the people, and human complexity. Does the legacy conform to principles widely recognised as morally good? What are the people’s contributions in dealing with their condition? How much of human nature is seen in that legacy? An approach that doesn’t seek balance but the complexity, morality and dignity of human life can be a way to deal with these confused legacies around us.


When foreign eyes are smiling

15 Mar 2013

Courtesy of Sun News Network

When you open the computer and visit the Web, has it crossed your mind that someone with hostile intentions is looking at every action you make and accessing every important data you enter there? Is your regular talk mate at work, school or the coffee house a foreign agent? Does every word you carelessly blurt out in conversation a valuable gem of information worth recording?

Given how significant we average, normal folks are in the spying order of things, it’s most likely all of these things haven’t happened to you. Nevertheless, the awareness that someone out there is gathering secret information for the employer’s gain and the target’s loss has never been more important. In Brian Stewart’s February 1 report for the CBC, in the aftermath of Canadian naval officer Jeffrey Delisle’s arrest for selling intelligence to Russia, he states that espionage has vastly increased since the end of the Cold War. More countries are now involved, technological advances have greatly aided intelligence-gathering, and economic as well as military intelligence is the most sought-after treasure. The primary beneficiaries of these are Putin and the Chinese Communist Party, and Western governments and businesses are in a worried, costly scramble over securing their precious secrets against this aggressive, cyber-aided spying campaign.

Through all this, Canada has been at the receiving end of the outcries and sobs by Western intelligence, especially in the aftermath of the Delisle affair. The country is now the “soft underbelly,” the weakest link in the otherwise strong security fence against enemies of the Western capitalist world – never mind that the US and our other so-called allies have also suffered intelligence leaks. What this article concerns itself, however, aren’t the problems Canada and its allies face regarding this threat and the solutions in dealing with the latter, but rather a contemplation of it in connection to Canadian security and sovereignty. In short, this espionage threat in relation to Canada alone.

Canada has lived in a dependent relationship with other countries, specifically from the east and south of us, for most of its history. The French and British empires were replaced by the U.S. Empire. Uncle Sam has replaced Louis XIV and Queen Victoria as our objects of deference and genuflection. We now export more natural resources southward than eastward. When before the fashionable things in London are the fashionable things here, now the coolest stuff from New York is the coolest stuff here. We’re now apparently facing a threat from our west. Such a deferential history must be taken to account regarding grumbles and disapprovals from our security partners about our intelligence capabilities. The most important thing here is how this threat affects us solely. If our so-called partners tell us that a national approach to our security is narrow-minded and threatens to split the alliance, we must tell them back on how they expect Canada to perform well in the alliance when it’s treated as a subordinate member there. An effective alliance can only happen when all of its members and their opinions are treated equally, and right now this isn’t happening especially in regards to Canada.

In fact Canada can’t be too trusting of its allies, given that they’re also spying on this country. If we believe the argument that in this world, countries are only here for themselves, that acts of generosity to other nations are only for the country’s benefit, then Canada must be too wary in joining alliances that might not be beneficial to it. The autonomy and sovereignty of this country must be the basic pillars of Canadian security policy. The protection of national interests, namely the defence of domestic development and the promotion of a more independent position globally, must be its guiding principles. If this would involve leaving the Western alliance and going alone, so be it. One of the documentary’s interviewees was right when he said that the popular belief of being Canadian equals no outside threats is “wrong” and dangerous. Anyone interested in ensuring our independence must be prepared to do what’s needed to keep it as such.

 

EDIT: Added links to the web article and video of Mr Stewart’s report (07-12-2013).