Friday, March 6, 2015

Two men in Rwanda.

And: Two recent books by two admirable women.
And: A modest proposal.   And:
Applause for Elizabeth May.
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I watch a (pirated) video of PBS/Frontline's 'Ghosts of Rwanda' for the second and third times last week. In the film both Phillipe Gaillard and Romeo Dallaire speak openly about themselves, and Phillipe Gaillard also speaks openly about Romeo Dallaire, and there are a few symmetries in what they say that stand out for me.

In the event something here appears to be critical of them let me make it explicitly clear up front that both of these guys are heroes to me and I praise 'em.

One would like to list all the heroes (particularly Captain Mbaye Diagne who simply disobeys his official UN orders God bless 'im) who appear in the film - I strongly recommend watching it. Two hours well spent. The official website is here. There are torrent copies abounding and on such providers as YouTube.

Romeo Dallaire in Kigali Rwanda, 1994.Phillipe Gaillard in Kigali Rwanda, 1994.
Ten years later Phillipe Gaillard and his wife have changed their minds about children and have a son.

Romeo Dallaire has (apparently - he's a competent man and if he'd meant to he would've) attempted suicide. Gaillard says, "He is still deeply wounded while my scars are ... OK."

That's it.

Gaillard is head of the Red Cross in Rwanda during the genocide. He breaks protocol and speaks out but the Red Cross supports him both morally & practically. He does not feel guilty.

Dallaire obeys orders. The UN does not support him either morally or practically.

He feels (profoundly) guilty.
Romeo Dallaire ten years later.Phillipe Gaillard ten years later.
Hillary & Bill Clinton.Kofi Annan & wife.I have been over-indulging my Madame Defarge side lately. This is not good. Nonetheless, since guilt and shame are part of this story I think it bears repeating that the guilt and shame of it belong with Kofi Annan & Bill Clinton as well as with the actual killers. And with Belgium which did much of the early social engineering, laying the groundwork that led to the genocide, and who then left the room at the first opportunity after the shit hit the fan.

After the Holocaust people in high positions began to say (and they continue to repeat it), "Never again!" It is clear that what they mean by this is, "Every time! Always!"

It's good to post a picture of Bill & Hillary Clinton holding hands. She may be the next American president. Birds of a feather flock together.

Two recent books by two admirable women (and a modest proposal):

'Nature's Trust - Environmental Law for a new Ecological Age' by Mary Christina Wood, 2013, and,

'This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate' by Naomi Klein, 2014.

There are two videos too: Bill Moyers, The Children’s Climate Crusade; and Naomi Klein & Owen Jones, This Changes Everything; which serve as good introductions. (Thanks again to Angela Bischoff for recommending these videos in her Greenspiration newsletter - you can sign up for it here.)

The notion of sudden positive shifts in direction has appeared here before: The Climate Swerve by Jay Lifton. I followed up on this by reading two of Lifton's books: 'The Nazi doctors - medical killing and the psychology of genocide' 1986, and 'Witness to an extreme century - a memoir' 2011. I'm sorry to say that I now have difficulty believing anything he says.

Now a similar notion shows up in the penultimate section of 'Nature's Trust' with a reference to Malcolm Gladwell's 'The Tipping Point - how little things can make a big difference'. I follow this up too and read the book. Again I'm sorry to say that he not only fails to convince but by the time I've finished I've turned entirely skeptical, not only of him but of anyone who mentions him. [Selected criticism in The Guardian and The New Republic.]

The other reference in 'Nature's Trust' which I chase is 'The Bridge at the Edge of the World - capitalism, the environment, and crossing from crisis to sustainability' by Gus Speth, 2008. He refers to Jay Lifton but more than compensates by quoting Wallace Stevens. He does fail to identify & footnote (he quotes the first line) so here:

Wallace Stevens.The Well Dressed Man With a Beard

After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.
No was the night. Yes is this present sun.
If the rejected things, the things denied,
Slid over the western cataract, yet one,
One only, one thing that was firm, even
No greater than a cricket's horn, no more
Than a thought to be rehearsed all day, a speech
Of the self that must sustain itself on speech,
One thing remaining, infallible, would be
Enough. Ah! douce campagna of that thing!
Ah! douce campagna, honey in the heart,
Green in the body, out of a petty phrase,
Out of a thing believed, a thing affirmed:
The form on the pillow humming while one sleeps,
The aureole above the humming house ...

It can never be satisfied, the mind, never.

Wallace Stevens, from 'Parts of a World', 1942.

BUT     [You knew there was a bold & capitalized 'but' coming didn't you?]

Read Gus Speth's book for yourself - it is one I wish I could still afford to have on my shelf and definitely worth the investment of time to read and savour - and then try imagining discussing it in a longshoreman's bar somewhere in New Jersey or the east end of Montreal. (Oh sure, I couldn't probably discuss Wallace Stevens there either.)

'Nature's Trust' is a book by a lawyer, carrying forward a program to reform the entire system (from Gus Speth, also a lawyer) which looks like decades to bearing fruit, addressing a catastrophe which has to be dealt with right away. 'This Changes Everything' is a book by an earnest and (truly) lovely person who stammers as she tries to get to the point and balks, shies away from bare-knuckles hard ball.

These books and their authors (and so many more that line my shelves) now seem closer to vaccines & prophylactics than incentives.

Allowing that if I resemble (in quality not degree) any one of them it's Malcolm Gladwell; especially as I look closely at the photograph from the Guardian interview - he's skinny and athletic and I'm fat and terminally sedentary, but a sour air-head loose cannon (loose bb-gun in my case). [The apparent lawyer bigotry could be a ploy gentle reader - Wallace Stevens was also a lawyer.]

Naomi Klein, 2014.Christina Wood, 2008.Gus Speth.Malcolm Gladwell, 2005.Robert Jay Lifton.

There are two or three people I know who are doing good work. I offer myself to assist but am not taken up. Enough air-heads already I guess.

Even so I'll put out this proposal. (I shoot an arrow in the air ... It comes to earth I know not where.)

The proposal I am thinking of is one I was going to put to Peter Sale because I know he can think and write and spell (and then didn't), viz., that what might be useful in the way of books just now is a short anonymous pamphlet, stapled and folded to make ten pages max with some thoughtful graphics and images, which says (with no exaggeration):
Here is where we are.
This is how we got here.
These are some things we can do to save ourselves

                (and by implication our children and grandchildren).
This is the time frame to be effective.
A diagnosis and a clear prescription: 'Environmental Catastrophe for Dummies' (but not a 400 page effort such as the one produced by Elizabeth May).

tOad: Sommet de la dernière chance / Last chance saloon.I wish I were clever enough to write it myself.

Top of the list of "things we can do" is massive civil disobedience mobilization. Call it CD+ or CDn.

They might lock me up for saying such a thing (it might trigger the terrorism jackpot in the government's pachinko-machine mind) and provide a warm place to sleep, might even feed me between beatings and that would be ... something ... OK.

An alternative is to organize the upcoming Paris climate summit along the lines suggested by tOad (right) - and every national parliament, commons, every congress and senate, every board meeting of such institutions as the NEB, and every meeting in every corporate board room too.

A completely un-subtle and unequivocal replacement of the profit motive with the personal survival motive - immediate corporal dissolution upon failure to achieve results.

I bet that would do it. We would see solutions coming forward very quickly from all sides - even, perhaps, quickly enough.

Wiley Miller: The Polar Bear's Revenge.

It's either get serious or wait while more and more of the world's peoples are forced into ISIS look-alikes. Sure, that sounds pretty crazy eh? It's way worse than crazy because revolt will have to overcome generations, centuries, of 'God is Love' which will slow things down and by the time it fully arrives it will be too late to do any good whatsoever.

Just listen (even if it chokes you) to Chris Hedges talking with Abby Martin and then show me how to realistically walk around what they're saying. 

Correction, a qualification:   (I make mistakes and correct them as I am able.)

I don't like going out to these events anymore. I inevitably see a few activists who recognize me and then turn away, don't say hello, and it hurts my feelings. But this week I went over to UofT for a 'Federal Pre-Election Town Hall on Climate Change' featuring Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, NDP MP (in my riding) Matthew Kellway, and Liberal Party Environment Critic John McKay, another Toronto MP.

Kellway (in common with Toronto Mayor John Tory) doesn't even know that the oil in the pipelines he supports is primarily for export - Doh! - and Justin Sinclair's rep is simply and predictably lame ... but ... Elizabeth May ... shines (if not in the only photographs I could find of the event).

John McKay (Liberal), Elizabeth May, Matthew Kellway (NDP).

One: She tells the truth - there is only one issue and this is the drop-dead year for it and our election (locally, nationally) and the COP in Paris (globally) are the last kicks at the can. (What a blessed relief to hear her say it!) She tells the truth while keeping the tiny window of hope which remains firmly open. This is no mean feat.

Two: She is polite, even cheerfully and sincerely compassionate, towards her two colleagues even as she flat-out refutes their stupid incompetence with facts.

Three: She connects. An apparently off-the-cuff quip which ranks right up there with Dylan's "Abe said: Man, you must be puttin' me on." She was talking too quickly for me to quote accurately (if and when the video comes along it may be clear) but it was "Arise Lazarus and walk!" referring either to the government formulating a serious plan, or the environmental 'movement' finally getting its thumb out - or both.

Matthew Kellway (NDP), Elizabeth May, John McKay (Liberal).Not a tall woman, but taller by far than anyone else in sight.

There is obviously (apparently? something like that?) a huge disconnect between herself and her party. She actually recommends reading the 'Green Vision' platform document - which is nothing at all like what she is saying. Maybe it's just that she hasn't read it, hasn't had time; or maybe she accepts it somehow as the inevitable inertia of party politics.

Here, read for yourself: in brief or in (100 page .pdf) detail.

The twenty-odd organizations behind the event manage to bring out fewer than two hundred people. The technology and event-planning is ... pathetic - one imagines it has been provided by the (absent) Conservatives.

There are two videos: I have not watched the official & complete version yet (there seems to be a - predictable - technical glitch); but I have seen this shorter one and recommend it.

And yes, I will find and visit the Green Party candidate in this riding if there is one and report.
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