Sunday, July 27, 2014

Home for the Homeless

The Capture of Batoche: A search for a Metis homeland.

Heimat fuer Heimatlose, home for the homeless. I watched the video about the settlement and development of the Fernheim Colony in Paraguay by conservative Mennonites on the same day as the Israeli army began its ground assault on Gaza. Considering the establishment of Israel as a "home for the homeless," considering the attempts by pro-Russian separatists to make for themselves a discrete territorial space, wrestling with solutions to the right-to-build-pipelines-across-traditional- aboriginal-space conundrum here in Canada, it's hard to miss the common elements.

What combination of sensibilities has to come together to motivate us toward the extraordinary lengths we will go to to secure for ourselves a homeland? Obviously being a resident of earth, an earthling, just isn't precise enough for many people, much of the time. On the other hand, the longing for a place on this earth that is somehow my home seems more than a bit anachronistic in a post-modern world.

I watch people in public places engrossed in conversation via texting, cell-phoning, instant messaging and I wonder: is home now cyberspace, independent of physical place? And who are these luddites who believe that it’s not home unless you have title to the ground you’re standing on, among neighbours who look, think and act more or less like you do?

Certainly, the times “they are a’changin’” to quote Bob Dylan. Our capacity to adjust to the changes suggests an interesting research topic for some astute scientist. What with our burgeoning population and the technical changes going on, the prospect of physical homelands is fast becoming a sheer impossibility. The global village has put all humanity in a blender and we’re just not adapting to the nearly unrecognizable present and future.

There’ll be those, of course, who find solace in traditional places, but I’m afraid some soul-comfort is all they will find. I look to two scientific theories as tools to understanding human adaptation: Darwin’s Theories relating to change and adaptation and Chaos Theory. The former posits that we are forever changing gradually . . . very gradually. The latter theorizes that virtually any outcome is possible; it all depends on the “initial position” in a sequence and the relative weight of myriad coincidental factors contacted along the way. In other words, there’s no predicting where humankind will be down the road, except that it will be different from today and the environment in which it dwells will provide nudges along the way.

Sexual intercourse is necessary for reproduction, for the survival of the species. That it be helped along by strong biological urges makes sense in small, fragile populations and among unreasoning animals. It makes no sense in times of overpopulation—as far as reproduction goes—where it paves the way for unwanted births, abortion, pornography and the catalog of sexual aberrations that emanate from the overwhelming biological need to copulate alongside stringent restrictions about expressing these urges.

Biological evolution is extremely slow as all evolution of species is; technical evolution is fast. The mismatch is responsible for no end of misery.

Similarly, our concepts of homeland are changing slowly while the need to adapt to the cyber-homeland reality is pressing on us daily. The wars in Iraq, Ukraine, Gaza/Israel are wars of frustration, the consternation of a people that are left behind by the advancing world, trying to resolve their confusion through antiquated, extraordinary, outdated, sometimes-deadly means.

Our homeland during our lifetime is EARTH. We need to get used to it, at least insofar as our limited resources allow.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some myths

Succulent wall hanging

Sunday afternoon backyard
Some of the tempting myths relating to the bloody conflict in Gaza/Israel.

Israel has a right to exist, therefore a right to defend itself:
      The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 on already-occupied territory set the stage for the current confrontation. The “right” for it to exist doesn't refer to any moral, ethical, human-rights definition of rights, but to international laws applying to nation states; i.e. it has a right to exist and defend itself in the same way that Canada does. We can, of course, compare the establishment of Israel to the arbitrary use of force that allowed virtually every other state in the world to acquire territory and finally establish the borders of its current state. The Americas, for instance, were occupied territory before colonization; indigenous peoples were forced off their traditional lands at gunpoint.
      The upshot of sanctifying the “nation-state” as a superior and over-ruling concept has trumped, even crushed, all kinds of other sensibilities. It has forced various ethnic groups, for instance, to abandon their traditions and beliefs in the interests of the “common good,” or to wander the earth in search of a peaceful homeland. (Mennonites migrating from Canada to Paraguay makes a good case study of this.) It has spawned apartheid-style relationships in many forms and in many places, creating hot-beds for human rights violations, discontent, poverty and conditions favourable to violent conflict.
      Israel may have a nation-state right to exist, but its record by human rights principles does not favour its right to exist as a creditable and recognized nation.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people:
      This myth sounds so self-evident that the National Rifle Association and the lobby against gun registration in Canada freely use it, and many obviously embrace it without further discussion. The truth is that accessible weaponry represents a means and a temptation to violence that wouldn't exist if it wasn't there. Simply put, there are two options where serious conflicts arise: negotiate/compromise, or the zero-sum game we call war. It's easy to demonstrate that where the means for lethal force are absent, negotiation is far more attractive than it would otherwise be. Picture a Palestine where all borders, all weapons suddenly evaporated and then imagine how people would behave knowing that force would not be an option as a route to peace. Knowing that no rockets would be coming, no gunfire, no tanks, no bombs.

Israel's right to exist is embedded in prophecy and is the will of God:
      The declaration that the State of Israel is somehow predestined by the will of God is so absurd that it defies all credulity. Declaring this presupposes that there are ethnic groups whom God favours over others, sites and territories on earth that the Creator loves more than others and most deplorably, that God condones the killing or displacement of innocents so that the chosen ones may prosper and be safe. What is most astounding is that Christians who have, metaphorically, been schooled at Jesus' knee would not see the irony in holding such a position. Christ's message clearly aims toward the breaking down of gender, ethnic, racial distinctions and according to my reading, he would have been appalled to see people condoning the sacrifice of innocents for the advancement of a particular ethnic group.

Supporters of the Palestinian's rights are anti-Semitic:
      This card has been played ad nauseam and—apparently—very successfully. Israel declares itself to be a legal “state,” and the actions it has and is taking in and against Gaza and the West Bank are therefore actions of a legal state. Israel is not asked to answer on the basis of its predominant ethnicity for its atrocious behaviour, but as a state, which it purports to be. The United Nations has challenged Canada on its dealings with its indigenous population, not as European colonialists but as a state, one that has obligations under international consensus. So the state of Israel can be challenged on West Bank settlements, for instance, without drawing the accusation of antisemitism.

      The Harper government has routinely declared itself to be unequivocally in support of Israel's right to pursue its aspirations—by whatever means it finds necessary. I don't know what myths our government is primarily influenced by, but to be so unapologetically and arbitrarily one-sided on the Israel/Gaza/West Bank tensions shows a shallow and uneducated clinging to fantastical conventional “wisdom.”
      If only Harper would take the time to sit down and read a book, or call some of the Hebron CPT volunteers and ask them what they've experienced, then some of our prime minister's mythical view of the world might be illuminated by at least one, small shaft of light.