Have your friends become closet despots?

July 26, 2010

Make sure you read this first –> (Leah McLaren, Saturday’s Globe and MailPublished on Friday, Jul. 23, 2010 2:10PM EDTLast updated on Friday, Jul. 23, 2010 3:10PM EDT)

No matter how you decide to run your newly liberated country, someone will end up calling you a tyrant. Or worse, a hypocrite.

Stalin was fond of saying that you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette. But only the most brazen (and bone-headed) tyrant would explicitly speak of spilt blood instead of euphemistic egg-yolk.

Researchers at the University of Leicester recently examined the stated values of the world’s 38 current dictators (see planetrulers.com). The more dim-witted despots explicitly stated their divine right to rule (although few matched the poetic flair of Idi Amin’s self-proclaimed title of: “His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.“) On the other hand, the more educated respondents described themselves as just and popular even though their unflinching use of state violence and disregard for human rights have firmly placed them in the tyrant weight division.

Conclusion: The more brains you have, the less likely you are to admit to being a despot while privately availing yourself of your divine right to rule.

It’s not going to get the rapid international press off your case, but it does mean that you can spend relief money on your wife’s New York shopping sprees, scapegoat the West for systemically exploiting your people and not feel like a total jerk for burying your political opponents and their tribal relations in an unused mine shaft. For some, that’s a huge relief.

Sure, the idealistic freedom-fighter, still sporting his dusty combat fatigues, may wag his finger at you and call you corrupt. The words of C.S. Lewis might set the upstart straight: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. Those who torment the people for their own good torment without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” As flavors of tyranny go, simple greed is often more palatable for the common man.

That’s the trouble with dictatorships: running a country is much more complicated than moralists would have us believe. Military coups would be much more enjoyable if they were like fairy tales. The brave prince rescues his voluptuous homeland from the exploitative clutches of colonialist rule, is betrothed to her for life, and the rest is as simple as “Happily ever after.” By comparison, dictating in the real world is difficult. Make changes too slow, and your hungry militia will turn against you. Make them too efficiently and a pedantic human rights activist will berate you for crimes against humanity. If you don’t nationalize farms for your lieutenants (who unfortunately have little interest in agricultural pursuits), they will question your loyalty. If you cut a few corners and break a few limbs in order to speed up an election (that you are going to win anyways, so why go about all the fuss?), a stern UN election monitor is there to give you a slap on the wrist and vituperate about you in the world press.

So what’s a reasonable, educated, conflict-adverse leader to do? The way to approach dictating is to take a stand you believe in and stick to it, whether it makes you popular or not. If you are smart, you will read all sorts of books and magazines and newspapers and blogs that reinforce your particular point of view so that, if anyone disagrees with it, you can shoot them down (if you don’t decide to just shoot them) with pre-prepared diatribes on why, say, naked women cause earthquakes or how AIDs is a Western conspiracy to decrease reproduction in your country.

But let’s face it; most western politicians never bothered to try and understand you. They haven’t read the Koran or the Communist Manifesto. They blame you for all the repercussions of colonialism. Not to mention that they’re no fun! Who wants to listen to Hilary Clinton rant about the rights of women when you go to the Opera with Kim-Jong Il or play a round of golf with al-Gadaffi?

So here’s what many tyrants do: they subconsciously gravitate toward other dictators who happen to rail against the same Western powers that we do. This is convenient on all sorts of levels. For one thing, it makes dinner party conversations much more pleasant. For another, it means you and your friends can be hypocritical together without it being pointed out or, better yet, even noticed. For example, you can promote Coca-farming and all your friends will say “How cultural!” instead of implicating you in the War on Drugs. Or you can spend international aid on constructing an indoor waterslide in your palace on the grounds that everyone else you know does it too. Or you sit around smoking cigars sent to you by Fidel and warmly agree that your people follow you in their own interest, because human nature demands and, indeed, cannot live without leadership.

More than anything, though, having like-minded friends means that you can sit in your fortified palace wearing a panoply of medals and watch Friends with your retinue of terrified young jezebels and know there is someone out there who approves of you. Someone else who doesn’t question the mysterious forces of fate that have crowned you king. So kindly show Hans Blix to the door, delete all those unread human rights watch emails, and call up Bob Mugabe to see if he wants to play Farmville.

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Visit Alberta!

July 19, 2010

There are better reasons not to visit...

From: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/14/con-oilsand-tourism.html

I have no doubt that the tar sands are an environmental disaster. The sickly rainbow of an oil-slick in a Walmart parking lot puddle is enough to gross me out. So it doesn’t take much to convince me that a 50sq mile waste-water pond isn’t this summer’s vacation hotspot. Don’t waste your time convincing me that the tar sands are an ‘evil’ expression of corporate greed and political negligence. I have to coexist with smelly, myopic homo sapiens every day. I am already drowning in the viscous, quotidian evidence of man’s brutishness.

Not to say that I find sanctuary in ‘realism.’  Realistically, if man wasn’t mindlessly chasing money and sucking every last drop of resource out of the ground and greedily selling it to other grotesquely overweight men that live in cities so grossly underplanned that they need a car to get to the nearest McDonalds so they consume themselves to death while idling in the parking lot, he would probably be at war. Realism is not a comforting proposition.

Yes. The tar sands are a reality.  Just think of the ineluctable moustache of Daniel Day Lewis. There may not be blood these days, but There will be Oil. There will be irreversible damage to Northern Alberta (although to be honest it’s hardly a place where life or human activity of any sort can be said to ‘thrive’). Economic growth will continue unfettered. Man will continue to extract, purify, package, transport, brand, and distribute oil with remarkable efficacy. And he will continue to shirk dish duty after he feasts.

Yet, without accepting the banality of evil or the complacency of realism, I feel an enormous reservoir of untapped scorn for the latest environmental campaign against the tar sands. Take a look at www.rethinkAlberta.com. Admittedly, the images of drowning ducks in the last throes of oleaginous life and razed landscapes are cheerless. But media like this only muddies the issues and pollutes our chances of changing our stubborn reality.

Take this geographical idiocy from their survey as an example: Which country is proposing an extensive network of Tar Sands pipelines and refineries that will keep the U.S. committed to dirty oil for at least another 30 years, while putting the areas around it (i.e. The Great Lakes) at risk of contamination?

Hm. Is it Venezuela? South Africa? I really don’t know…Not exactly flattering to the intelligence. And last time I checked, the great lakes are a long way from Fort MacMurray. (click here for a pipeline map, if you’re into pipelines…)

What would the Thoreau say today if he was forced to suffer through the condescending stupidity of the rethinkAlberta.com survey and website? Rather than love, or money, or fresh air, or healthy beautiful baby ducklings or oil revenues or the heads of the heads of our energy companies on a stake, give me some god-damn facts. Or, heaven forbid, the roughest sketch of a solution.

I don’t know why the bêtises of protestors rankle more than the endless stupidities of the corporate hegemony. It’s unfair. In fact, the former tends to be far more harmless. But there is something so distasteful about the hypocritical mudraking and hateful hysteria of the left.  It seems more about anger than hard work, empathy or creative solutions for the sad world we are trapped in. That’s it really. The hatred. rethinkAlberta.com is condemnatory and hateful to a whole population. To my (I am loathe to admit it) population. Its hatred that makes me think of Hanna Arendt and Adolf Eichmann.

“Just as you supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations — as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world — we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.”

I was hoping to fill this piece with light-hearted satire. Instead I find myself alluding to the Holocaust. I blame the lugubriosity of Monday mornings.   And the fact that another internet prospector stole my idea for this post: rethinkrethinkAlberta.com.

In conclusion, come visit. Alberta is super sweet. We’ve got dinosaur bones.


Wanderers Stand Tall, Beaconsfield Bends Over

July 12, 2010
(Context: Montreal Premier Division Rugby Game Recap.)
Forgive me the graphic metaphor, but the Wanderers win over Beaconsfield makes me think of the R-word. Much like the infamous sex crime, the Wanderers victory was by no means easy. Beaconsfield struggled with feminine desperation to stay even with the Wanderers while the unblinking July sun beat down like the lens of a video camcorder. But after 80 minutes, the inevitable deed was done. Beaconsfield limped off the field, their eyes vacant, their pride destroyed.The Wanderers managed five mouth-watering tries on the afternoon. Fast hands through physical specimen Ted McGregor, Caleb Balloch, Maxime Lessard (surprisingly), Adrian Thorogood liberated winger Matt “Baby Gap” Barazin (click here to see what he wore to the game:) who fought through end zone tackles to score a textbook try between the posts.

The backs tallied again on the other wing. Matt Barazin cut wide on a blindside crash and got the ball through the hands to Chris Brockwell. He attributed his corner try to the his stoic night of ‘going out to the club and even though my boys bought a bottle of Grey Goose and we were out with like, SEVEN girls, I drank water.’

That’s commitment Brocks.

A Wanderers 2nd row sub, known only as Gary Bucy, scored a celebrity try, after taking an inside pop from Ted McGregor from 20 yards out. He was later booked for eccentric behaviour. He paid for his success, awarded jersey washing duty after the game. Lawrence di Pilato received man of the match for his impact play as a back row substitution. His teammates expressed their appreciation by repeatedly slapping him on the back after the game. This ‘new’ tradition, invented by Matt Barazin, is now affectionately called ‘Bare-backing.’

Center Adrian Thorogood diffused a 3 on 1 with a delightful pick and won the 60 yard footrace to the white line with footsteps behind him the whole way. Much to the chagrin of his hobbled ankles, it was not a defender but the fastidious referee who had shadowed his run.

Winger Gideon Balloch helped to cap off the scoring with a scintillating run. His thuggish older brother Caleb finished on an ensuing pick and go. Despite a 10 meter gap and an absolute penury of defenders, Caleb made six cuts on the way to the line, accompanied with sound effects. Fhhh! Fhhh! Fhhh! Fhhh! Fhhh! Fhhh!

Flyhalf Ryan Leenhouts showed up with his high percentage boots to slot a cheeky penalty kick that bounced off the crossbar and a handful of conversions.

Besides a couple of ill-advised chips from ego-swollen forwards Ted McGregor and Karl Cernovitch, their were few embarrassing moments for the Wanderers. The only real controversy of the afternoon was a racist Beaconsfield 2nds team winger called Stu “Panda bear” Young a “Chin-tok”. A bench brawl ensued, led by the ferocious Johnny Yu. Let this be a message to the whole of Quebec rugby. Nobody slings racist slurs at a Wanderer. We always stand up for our slanty-eyed brethren.