Sunday, January 27, 2013

Free to be, You and Me

A Christian Declaration on . . . eyeglasses?

Art at the Academy B & B this month - Wes Ens

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Winston Churchill, obviously quoting someone else.

So Egypt is in turmoil again. As I understand it, the government (democratically elected) of President Muhammed Morsi considers itself to have gained a mandate to reshape the country in the image of the Muslim Brotherhood. On the face of it, that seems right. Is not the democratically elected government of Canada also reshaping the country to fit its version of what a nation should be? I guess it depends on how great the alterations are, the political culture of the country and a great deal more that I will probably never understand about Egypt.

I thought about that in Sunday School this morning where the persecution of Christians came up as a topic; we questioned whether or not the Christian faith was still being trampled on as it was when Paul wrote his letters to the early churches. Someone opined that bylaws restricting the word Christmas for the winter holiday were examples of anti-Christian sanction. The restrictions on religious exercises in public schools could be interpreted in the same way . . . depending on your viewpoint.

The conflict in Egypt seems to me to centre around the application of Sharia law through the constitution, among other amendments approved by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood ruling party, of course. Not quite a theocracy, but certainly headed in that direction. That a substantial part of the population should resist a move away from secular governance to a religion-based constitution is understandable. 

Historically, portions of any population ruled theocratically have been thrown under the bus; at the same time, freedom of worship has not been compromised in nations where democratically-elected, secular regimes have held the reins of power. Canada could serve as an example.

The Lord’s Prayer, Bible readings, the Christmas story re-enacted in public schools where children of all religions (or no religion at all) are served is an infringement of the right to religious freedom; no government can preserve human rights relating to faith if it favours one religion over another in its public institutions. 

Christians in Egypt are certainly apprehensive about their future in that state as a result of the current developments. No doubt they understand fully the danger to them and their faith at the hands of the Morsi regime.

We should pay close attention to those developments, and school ourselves well on the meaning of religious freedom.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It all depends on where you Sit


progress (photo: hydropackulicity.sarahjohns..)
You probably know how the adjectives “left/right” were first applied to the spectrum of political thought. No? You’ve heard but forgotten? OK, here’s a very brief account:

“The terms "left" and "right" appeared during the French Revolution of 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president's right and supporters of the revolution to his left. One deputy, the Baron de Gauville explained, ‘We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp.’” (

Sounds simple: rightests value stability and tradition; leftists are eager and open for the risks of change. Viewed from the left, the rightests are unthinking idiots; viewed from the right, leftists are agnostic morons.

               Through his first term in office and proceeding into the second, Barack Obama has become increasingly aware that the divide is not a thin line, but a treacherous chasm. Attempting to negotiate a bipartisan agreement on the shape of the stimulus package for the American economy in 2008-9, he was rebuffed by the Republicans and had to force the package through with a “hard vote” of the then-Democratic-ruled Congress.

               There were those in the French parliament who opposed the seating arrangement becoming permanent; they feared the development of a calcified party system. Their foresight, however, did not prevent what we see today: representatives in parliaments being shoehorned into positions that their constituents don’t necessarily support; the politics of zero-sum, win or lose debate that crucifies the very meaning of democracy: rule by the people.      
              The New Democrats and Liberals in our current parliament are seated to the left of the speaker in blocks, the ruling Conservatives to the right. Although some may detect a believer/agnostic distinction that still fits, it’s obvious that the king vs. revolution divide has evolved over time into something quite different in focus, if not in temperament. It appears in Canada today that the “right wing” is occupied by those who consider king/religion to be economic growth and the agnostic left to be looking for social and environmental “revolution.”

               Simplified, true, but there is still a substantial helping of insight in the observation that a portion of the population tends to favour traditional values and another portion has come to look to progress as the answer. The party system makes it very difficult for us to admit that traditional answers should rule in case one and liberal thinking should govern case two. 
              Once a liberal, always a liberal.


               Makes me wonder what the outcome would be if each politician would select his/her seat in our parliament through a draw among all the seats in the house. Alas, I think the current arrangement may be necessary to prevent representatives from resorting to physical violence; in Canada today, the aisle between left and right is wide, with furniture blocking access of one to the other.

               An arrangement we wouldn’t tolerate in a Kindergarten classroom!

               One big change, though, since Baron de Gauville, is that “the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that [enjoy] free rein” are no longer confined to the left side of the house. 
                Is that progress--destined to become tradition?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Idle Forever

White Man divies up the land ca 1860

So IdleNoMore will continue. The meeting with the Prime Minister has happened with high marks from some and unequivocal condemnation from others. From here, it looks like Stephen Harper dropped the ball, but let’s not be too quick to make it sound like he’s a complete incompetent; since John A. MacDonald, every prime minister has bungled this one. There hasn’t been a government able to deal with the meaning of treaties in its time, and there isn’t likely to be one anytime soon.
               It’s monumentally frustrating. Like a bunch of people pushing a car to get it started and no one bothering to notice that someone has removed the wheels. Until the wheels are replaced, there’s no way that the car will ever go even if by some miracle, the engine could be made to start.
The first wheel was taken off by the fur trade; the colonialist drive for new economic frontiers that changed the face of the then-“Canadian” commerce. The second wheel was removed by the bartering of territory for the privilege of being perpetually dependent—a bad trade if there ever was one. That would already have disabled the vehicle, but then the asinine idea of assimilation through residential schools gained impetus and the very core of any culture—the nurturance of children by their mothers and fathers, family if you will—was decimated. The final wheel wouldn’t have needed to be stolen; the die was already cast, but being the greedy culture that we are, we had to have it. This we achieved by consigning the aboriginal population to perpetual poverty by providing cheap schools, cheap housing, cheap healthcare while eying even the little territory with which they were left for further theft.
               Maybe manifest destiny is a fact. Maybe if Europeans had said, “Hey, this land is occupied; we’ve no right to it until invited!” and gone back home, Asians would eventually have crossed the Pacific and forcibly colonized it from the west. Absurd thought, but given the geometric population increases in the world, the constant struggle for Lebensraum that that entails, maybe subjugation of people with fewer means by people with greater means is the manifest destiny of the planet. Maybe fairness in this struggle to conquest on the one hand and survival on the other is as natural to the human condition as is eating and breeding.
               But it seems so wrong. We ought to be advanced and intelligent enough to find ways to replace the wheels on the car. Obviously, our current government and our present governor-general haven’t a clue how such a development might even get started. But then, do you? Do I?
               Here’s one attempt I would suggest to replace at least one of the wheels for a start: a treaty senate. This would be a continuous parliament of a dozen (give or take) of the brightest and best of the First Nations community and a similar dozen of the most astute Canadian nation thinkers whose task would be to arbitrate what it means to enact treaties in the current climate in the spirit in which they were signed. Their rulings would be binding on both First Nations and Canadian governments.
               It’s so sad to see IdleNoMore straining at a car that has no wheels. So very sad.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Take Comfort - soup's almost ready!

Rain Barrel - Pencil drawing by me.

And now, for something completely different
 For some time, I've been experimenting with different combinations of vegetables and herbs to find the ultimate comfort soup. This one comes pretty close. Try it.

Potato - Vegetable Bisque
© George Epp


1- large or 2 medium-sized potatoes
2 - parsnips
2 - medium-sized carrots
2 - celery stalks
1/2 - large onion
2 - cloves garlic
3 - cups chicken broth
1 - tsp dry cilantro or 1 tbsp fresh chopped
1 - tsp dry basil or 1 tbsp fresh chopped
1/2 - tsp dry thyme
1 or 2 pinch cayenne pepper
1 - tbsp butter
1 - tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Coarsely chop first 6 ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste, saute for 7 - 8 minutes in butter and olive oil.
  2. Add 3 cups chicken broth, bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and blend with hand blender.
  4. Add and stir in herbs and spices and simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Optionally, add crumbled, cooked farmer sausage.

Makes 4 large or 6 small servings.
Prep time - 45 minutes