Fascism & ‘The Wild’ in ‘DIVE: Odes for Lighea’

Throughout the composition of DIVE I was very conscious of, and sensitive to, the relationship between the mermaid, and Mussolini. In the opening Prelude the mermaid vanquishes Mussolini and his fascist crowd with a mighty roar. Later the mermaid plays directly with Mussolini’s speech by improvising over a distorted and stretched out version of it, exaggerating it and distorting it, but also really digging into it and almost becoming a part of it.

‘DIVE’ is based on Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s short story ‘The Professor & the Siren’, set as Mussolini reaches the pinnacle of his totalitarian power, and the mermaid [1], at the core of the story, and who is so vividly and sensually described by Lampedusa, is a wild feminine divine being.

As I told you Corbera, she was a beast but at the same instant also an Immortal, and it is a pity that no speech can express this synthesis continually, with such utter simplicity, as she expressed it in her own body… Not for nothing is she the daughter of Calliope: ignorant of all culture, unaware of all wisdom, contemptuous of any moral inhibitions, she belonged, even so, to the fountainhead of all culture, of all wisdom, of all ethics...”
– Giuseppe di Lampedusa: ‘The Professor and the Siren

Giuseppe di Lampedusa

Giuseppe di Lampedusa


Is the tale a premise for the struggle between ‘fascism’ and ‘the wild’? Is fascism a polarity to the wild? Or is the tension between the two more complex? What do we mean by ‘fascism’? And what do we mean by ‘the wild’?

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Climate change science, Joe Oliver and the pathologies of petro states

Climate change science, Joe Oliver and the pathologies of petro states

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'” -Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

All major scientific bodies whose expertise bears directly on the issue of catastrophic climate change concur with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that “the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.” This quote is from the website of that notorious left-wing think-tank, NASA.

The Economist ran an editorial which opens with, “A hundred years from now, looking back, the only question that will appear important about the historical moment in which we now live is the question of whether or not we did anything to arrest climate change.” Meanwhile Joe Oliver, Canada’s Natural Resource Minister, has decided that this is an opportune moment to launch a broadside against one of the world’s foremost climate scientists, James Hansen.

CO2 levels and NASA

There are obviously those who simply don’t buy the science. Many of these will now, after a couple of decades of denying that the climate is warming, agree that climate change is actually happening. They do not, however, accept evidence that it’s humans that are making the planet into a greenhouse for rising sea levels and growing droughts, or that we really need to act on it. The evidence isn’t ‘incontrovertible.’

But as George Craven so elegantly points out in What’s the Worst That Could Happen, given the possible catastrophic consequences — devastation to life on earth for generations to come — the onus is not on the climate scientists, but on the deniers to provide incontrovertible evidence that humans are not having a catastrophic effect on the climate.

If they are wrong, if there is any uncertainty, the price to be paid by future generations is far, far too high. To quote The Economist again, “Everything else — the financial crisis, the life or death of the euro, authoritarianism or democracy in China and Russia, the Great Stagnation or the innovation renaissance, democratisation and/or political Islam in the Arab world, Newt or Mitt or another four years of Barack — all this will fade into insignificance beside the question of whether we managed to do anything about human industrial civilisation changing the climate of Planet Earth.”

In disagreeing with every major serious scientific institution of our era by attributing global warming to sun flares or the agit-prop of environmental radicals, eco-terrorists and socialists, and by building an ‘energy powerhouse’ based on fossil-fuels, the Canadian government is behaving like the first of the three little pigs. We’re going to build our house of fossil fuels, we’re going to toot our flute and not give a hoot, and just hope upon dope that the wolf of global warming doesn’t huff and puff and blow our house of oil up in smouldering droughts.

‘Ethical oil’

 The Canadian government’s current rationale for foisting millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere via the tar sands is that Canada’s oil is ‘ethical’; more ‘ethical’ than other sellers of oil like Pakistan, or Iraq or Libya.

This premise of ‘ethical oil’ wove its way into the Canadian government’s energy and foreign policy a whole lot faster than tar sands bitumen (the vast majority of which is mined by foreign states or multinationals whose human rights’ records are not always pretty) makes its way along a pipeline without being diluted by light oil (which is frequently purchased from places like … Pakistan). Once the Canadian government decided that tar sands oil was ‘ethical,’ it wasted no time in paving the way to roll out the barrels.

It bailed on the Kyoto Protocol. It barred the passing of Bill C-300 which would have codified rules ensuring Canadian mining companies live up to international human rights and environmental standards. It tarred opponents of global warming as ‘radical ideologues‘ and, ominously, poured billions into the prison system. Dissenting orgs had their funding cutscientists were muzzled, and CIDA funds were funneled from grassroots NGOs to, you guessed it, mining companies.

The Canadian Revenue Agency was given a steroid boost to watch over charitable orgs to ensure that they did not engage in ‘political activity’ (read, environmental advocacy) for which they would lose their charitable status. And now, in a flourish which has given rise to the Idle No More movement, it’s passed Bill C-45 drawing back protection from 90 per cent of lakes and rivers previously protected demonstrating, categorically, that it sees oil as more important than water or the rights of Canadian Indigenous peoples.

Now here’s an irony: while Team Canada busily brands itself as the ‘ethical’ alternative to a dozen other corrupt, violent or regressive petrostates around the world, it is simultaneously beginning to engage in the very practises it claims to so deplore in them.

This is one bad little pig.

The petro state vs renewables

While Canada, in increasing isolation, abandons its global and domestic ecological responsibilities in compliance with the fossil fuel industry, other countries around the world are transforming their energy systems away from the very product that Canada has banked the next couple of generations on selling.

The EU, against an extremely vigorous (and expensive) lobbying campaign from the Canadian government, has upheld the classification of bitumen as ‘dirty oil.’ Germany is reconstructing its energy sector on a scale equal to reconstruction after World War II, and China and India have leaped ahead with massive investments in renewable energy. Norway, in a climate similar to Canada’s, already acquires 61.1 per cent of its energy from renewables while Sweden is at 47.9 per cent.

While other nations move beyond the fossil fuel bubble, diversifying their energy sources, and the technological and employment strategies that follow on that diversification, Canada slogs away in the fossil fuel sludge in an increasingly unlikely gamble — a gamble that is genuinely hostile to its own Indigenous peoples who have opposed pipelines across their territories, to many of its own citizens who believe in future generations and renewable energy, and to the atmosphere of the sole known planet capable of supporting life.

One might fairly ask, as this little pig stands increasingly alone against the world community (willingly collecting its yearly slop of ‘fossil of the year’ awards), the global tide of energy consumption and innovation and, according to all serious climate scientists, life on this planet… has this little pig lost its marbles?

Addiction to oil

Maybe the reason that the little pig appears to have lost his marbles is that little pig is a junky. The actions of addicts, aligned as they are with acquiring their fix by any means necessary, can appear extremely self-destructive, irrational and paranoid.  But their actions, once the addiction is discovered, can be seen to have an irrefutable, albeit self-destructive, logic.

Addiction is, in the words of addiction psychologist and theologian Gerald May, “a state of compulsion, obsession or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire.” North America is, as former U.S. President George ‘Dubya’ Bush so magnificently declared in his 2006 State of the Union Address, “addicted to oil,” and the tar sands are Canada’s opium fields. Canada is a tar pushing wannabe petro state and its banking its wad that there are still going to be enough junkies out there willing to pay a little extra for its ethical fix.

Addiction is a form of enslavement within a dictatorial system, with the object of the addiction (in this case oil) as dictator. Its relentless modus operandi and inevitable logic is to clear the ways and means of acquiring the object of its addiction. Everything and everyone is simply reduced to an object which either enables, or is an obstacle to, acquisition. It has a highly developed and motile propoganda department which can flood cracks in resistance with a tidal wave of messaging, actively undermining the will towards choices enabling greater freedom. As with any tyranny it becomes increasingly isolated and paranoid, distrustful even of those with the very best intentions.

Within an addictive society values become reversed, doublespeak burgeons, and democracy becomes a tool to be exploited rather than a means of discovering the will of the people. Folks proposing a vision and plan for a sustainable future and who are dedicated to ensuring the well-being of future generations are, to the degree that they threatens the object of the addiction, seen as ‘hijackers’ and ‘radical ideologues.’  The tar sands, globally viewed as a carbon pariah and singled out by ‘Eradicating Ecocide’ as a model to stage a mock ‘ecocide’ trial in the Supreme Court of England (the Tar Sands were found guilty), is seen as the flagship of ‘Ethical Oil.’

When pushing an oil addiction to a planet in the midst of catastrophic climate change is called ‘ethical,’ we have indeed entered a very Orwellian world, where words come to mean their opposites. Calling Canada’s oil more ‘ethical’ is precisely as logical as saying my crack dealer is more ‘ethical’ than yours.  If I was buying crack I might buy Canada’s ethical crack but crack addiction is, not uncommonly, a terminal affair.

Canada needs to kick being the most savvy fossil fuel pusher in the world. It needs to start pulling its weight on limiting its carbon output. If it wants to live up to its claim of being ‘ethical’ in its resource extraction industry it needs binding legislation to ensure that Canadian mining companies live up to international human rights and environmental standards. It needs to accept opponents of global warming as concerned and decent citizens of our democracy. It needs to offer renewables the same kind of subsidies that the fossil fuel industry receives so that they can compete in a fair market.

Canada needs to affirm that dissent is healthy in a democracy, that federal scientists require free speech, and that mining companies don’t need to supplement their profits with federal funding previously targeted to development aid. The steroid boost given to the Canadian Revenue Agency needs to be directed to offshore tax evasion and a financial transaction tax, not towards promoting the controversial ideological agenda of a single political party.  It needs to respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which it signed in 2010, affirming the need for the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous peoples with regard to the use of their land and resources.

Most of all our first little pig needs to get it’s rump into rehab. But our first little pig is a fossil fuel junky; as myopic, paranoid and self-destructive as any other addict. I think we know what it will say to that suggestion: “No, No , No.” I think we know how that sad that story goes.

So, a final question: what does a Canadian fossil fuel intervention look like?

‘Free speech,’ ‘freedom,’ the CRTC and Sun News

On being called ‘anti-Semitic’ and a ‘liar’ by Ezra Levant

Ezra Levant, for a day or so, made me his poster child for anti-Semitism shortly after the human rights org I work for (KAIROS Canada) was defunded in the Bev Oda/CIDA debacle.

A little personal history.

Downtown Toronto born and bred, raised by English-Scottish immigrants who, as a result of being shipped away from their homes when they were children due to the Luftwaffe’s bombing of English cities, instilled in me a deep fundamental antagonism towards all things Nazi.

Despite living in neighbourhoods and attending grade and high schools that were generously populated by Jews I really didn’t know what a Jew was until my mid teens.  Began to self-educate on the holocaust.  Read Anne Frank, then later Primo Levi and Eli Wiesel (I still read, periodically, his Hasidic portraits ‘Souls on Fire’) whose books were, as they have been for so many, devastating and also transformative in my understanding of human nature, human possibility, good and evil, racism.  In university on to Kozinski, Frankl, Hannah Arendt’s brilliant portrayal of Eichmann, and, through my prof at Trent U. (Jonathan Bordo), the 9.5 hour soul crushing holocaust witness documentary, ‘Shoah‘.

Halfway through my undergrad I hitchhiked across Europe to Israel to visit a friend studying in Jerusalem, and hitchhiked through Israel, north south east west.

I sent my first son to kindergarten at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in downtown Toronto, under the Buddha-like eyes of the inimitable Helene Comay.

In September 2009 I was hired by KAIROS Canada, a faith based ecological justice and human rights org, as their New Media Program Coordinator.  At the end of November all of KAIROS’ CIDA funding was cut and two weeks later Canadian MP Jason Kenney announced in Israel that KAIROS had been cut because it was “anti-Semitic”.  I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.  The notion was absurd.  Our Middle East Program Coordinator was an Israeli Jew. Kenney was confusing criticism of Israel, with criticism of ethnicity.

Yours truly hosted on Ezra Levant’s website

Days later I was watching the KAIROS website stats (which were soaring) when I saw a high number of visitors coming to KAIROS’ Palestine-Israel page from a blog by someone called Ezra Levant.  I didn’t know who Ezra Levant was but I checked the source page of the visitors.  I was astonished to find Mr. Levant going on a tirade about KAIROS, anti-Semitism, and about deleted pages of links.  As it turned out, Levant had unwittingly (or not) put in a false URL (http://www.kairoscanada.org/en/rights-and-trade/focus-countries/palestine-israel/israel-palestine-links/en/rights-and-trade/focus-countries/palestine-israel/ – it’s still on his site) which can’t be found because it doesn’t exist, and never did.  I submitted a comment, directing him to the correct page.  I also pointed out that nothing of relevance on the site had been changed (it’s a big website, with multiple global projects – stuff is going up and coming down all the time).   To my complete astonishment I was, the next day, Levant’s poster child for anti-Semitism: my photo is still on his blog, and he supplied a direct link to my personal website, taunting that I was a liar bearing false witness for money (if only….. let’s just say that working for a human rights org is a very poor pathway to wealth. Writing half-baked opinion junkets, serving as a tobacco and oil advocate, and hosting a tabloid style TV show; now there *is* good money in that!).

Seeing that was one of the most sickening feelings I’ve ever had:  to be labelled an ‘anti-Semite’ by a complete stranger, who also happens to be a very popular pundit, publisher and, obviously by necessity, libel lawyer. Reading the comments made after his blog postings was just beyond belief, and then a disturbing, deranged, email at my workplace from some looney ultra-orthodox fundamentalist making threats and citing that he could find the whereabouts of my family (I’m a dad). A Google search on my name led, first and foremost, to Levant’s blog postings.

There was nothing I could do to reply.  I was way out of my league, and I would be used as a spokesperson for KAIROS, which I was decidedly not. It was clear that Levant had no real interest in facts, and I had never come across the kind of distortion-just-this-side-of-libel that is Levant’s stock and trade. As far as I could tell he was baiting me, and baiting KAIROS. KAIROS steered clear, and I had to suck it up. I eventually took some solace in the list of others who have also been called anti-Semitic by the likes of Levant: Bob Rae, Irwin Cottler, Gerald Caplan, the United Nations, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, etc, etc…

To my mind the likes of Kenney and Levant are doing a supreme disservice to Jews.  They are using the term “anti-Semitism” to play political games.  “Anti-Semitism” has always meant to me, as it does to most, racism towards people of Jewish descent (the obvious fact that folks of Arabic descent are also ‘Semitic’ is another discussion).  I’ve never felt any animosity towards Jewish people whatsoever, any more than I feel antagonism towards anyone based on their race*.  It’s just not part of my make-up. The likes of Kenney and Levant have, however, spread the term “anti-Semitism” to refer to anyone who criticizes the state of Israel (or, in my case, anyone who works for an organization that criticizes Israel).

This is a very foolish strategy.  Firstly you run the risk of severely alienating all the folks who have no racial animosity towards Jews whatsoever (including the many Jews who are themselves critical of the state of Israel).   To the generation of westerners reared on the evils of Nazism and the holocaust, being called an anti-Semite is a very serious accusation. Secondly, by lumping Amnesty International, Oxfam, KAIROS, etc, in with fanatical bigoted white supremacists the meaning of the word “anti-Semitism” is very severely eroded.  It ceases to have any traction or relevance whatsoever, and this is very very unfortunate indeed, because anti-Semitism most definitely really does exist, and it is most definitely utterly abhorrent.



* This is potentially facile.  I don’t feel ‘antagonism’ towards anyone based on their race, but I I have, like any other socialized human being, internalized racial, class, and gender categories which can be discriminatory.  This I continue to try and understand, and ameliorate.


‘Big Oil’ comments

A mild rant in response to someone trolling comments in Tzeporah Berman’s article ‘Let’s Stop Catering to big Oil’.

socialism for the rich

John Sherffius

“’Climate Change’. A Chicken little story so bad they had to change the name from ‘global warming’ to something that must always happen; climate change.”
The debate over human caused climate change is over. There is clear *INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS* on this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change). The folks who don’t believe it are either people who do not believe in science, or people who are in denial, still in the thrall of a fossil-fuel addiction. The first group need to be ignored, the second need to get into fossil-fuel rehab, and then join the rest of us trying to change the course of history. Which one are you JKnox?

‘Privileged Enviro-Marxists’?
The biggest privileged Marxists conspiracy in this country are government subsidized fossil fuels (ht.ly/cIRlX).  The Cdn government *pours* money into oil companies, and offers them outrageous tax breaks, leaving innovation firms with an impossible competitive disadvantage. O, and lets not forget who’s buying up the Tar Sands: CNOOC, China’s state controlled oil company (www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/chinas-oil-sands-deal-will-have-lasting-impact/article1357620/).   And what political affiliation is the state of China?
Take away the massive government subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry and level the competitive playing field for renewable.

“Reliance on fossil fuels”
Yes, developed societies currently rely on fossil fuels, although that is already changing.  But once upon a time developed societies relied 100% on coal, and once upon a time salt was the most important trade commodity, and once upon a time bronze was a pretty big deal.  Societies change, and change dramatically, sometimes very quickly.  The industrial revolution took less than a hundred years, and the computer revolution has taken less than twenty.  Given the current speed of human transformation (have a cell phone in your pocket? reading this on the internet?) we have the capacity to completely transform our ‘reliances’ in a decade.
A couple of people in these posts have claimed that people won’t purchase anything if it costs more (ie. renewables). Hogwash. Every major human innovation has cost more to start with, and people have been willing to pay if they see a future in it. There is no future in oil, any more than there’s a future on this planet if we keep pouring fossil-fuel based carbon into its atmosphere. People are willing to pay for a future. Why do you think folks buy war bonds? Because they think it will be profitable? No, because they want to survive.

“Who pays for oil spills?”
No oil company has ever payed even remotely the full cost of an oil spill.
What is the price of a fisherman’s entire career, the loss of his home, the uprooting of his family and community?
How many livelihoods were permanently disabled by the Exxon Valdez? How many more by the BP spill?  This is not to mention the thousands of communities around the world which we know little about that have had their habitat, and hence livelihood, wiped out by oil operations (try Niger Delta).  How could Enbridge ever ‘pay for’ a significant spill on the west coast?  The concept is absurd.  The oil company cleans up what is most obvious so long as the media keep hounding them and the legal bills merit a little effort.  After that they’re off to the next spill.  It’s factored into the cost we pay at the pump, and they’re making record profits.

“If Men were Angels…”

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
James Madison

I’ve been having a short reply and response on twitter recently re. free market capitalism & anarchy. They both agree on the elimination of the state (an = ‘without’, archon = ‘ruler’) which I find really interesting*.  Madison’s quote above summarizes the basic and inherent limitation of both systems.  We aren’t angels.

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement

I lived in a couple of Catholic Worker Housesin Toronto in my twenties, first with Chuck Angus (now Canadian NDP MP), and then in one run by Dan Hunt, Jim Loney, and William Payne, three really marvelous men.  The Catholic Worker Movement could be described as a movement of Christian anarchists, and I do think it’s fair to say that we treated it as such.  For a time we did everything possible to maintain a fundamental and total egalitarianism in the household.  It was a pretty perfect experiment in that, as a ‘house of hospitality’, we welcomed pretty much anyone who needed a place to stay.  These folks included homeless youth, ex-cons and the mentally ill, along with others looking to do roughly what we were doing.  So it was a marvelous and unpredictable mixture of humanity.

But soon enough, given our populace, situations began to occur which, if the home was to remain even remotely sane and healthy, had to be stopped.  For example, it is extremely difficult to maintain a healthy household when drunken alcoholics are returning to a house inhabited by folks with mental illness.  The anarchic situation really met its final comeuppance when we took in a very young indigenous mum and her two little boys.  There were safety concerns at that point, and furthermore there began to be privacy concerns.  Turns out that one of the ex-cons was a pedophile and had to be asked to leave.  His criminal history was known by only a couple of folks and he had a right to privacy, and so his being asked to leave was very confusing to some folks.

Soon enough we had rules around alcohol in the house, and a core group of ‘decision-makers’ who basically had more information than everyone else, and had more influence in household decision-making.  There was a lot of turmoil, and ideological hand-wringing, and misunderstanding.

Point is, to get back to Madison’s quote, basic anarchic principles can take a real beating when faced with people who are not only ‘not angels’, but are actually compulsively predatory.




* I just discovered a whole school of thought, ‘Free Market Anarchism‘.Free Market Anarchy

The miniature earth…

The miniature earth…


Letter to the Editor, Macleans: CPT in Iraq

The evidence counters Charlie Gillis’ view that CPT in an Arab World is a grave error, as evidenced by the kidnappings of four of their members. Since the kidnappings Muslim clerics, organisations and even prisoners of ‘Christian’ countries, both in Iraq, and also around the world, have come forward of their own free will to entreat the captors to release the Christian hostages. Isn’t this the clearest possible evidence of the success of the peacemakers, even as they are held hostage? Where have we yet seen an outpouring of genuine support for Westerners of any kind in Iraq by religious authorities? Their past actions, and their current ordeal, are acting as global conductors for a shared empathy and concern, regardless of faith or nationality.

The implications of Mr. Gillis’ final sentence, “it’s safe to assume that supplying pawns for a cruel trade in human lives was not what he [Ghandi] had in mind.” are outrageous. He just finished writing that CPT has only 40 full-time members, a group of people amounting to one large classroom – globally. He also wrote that CPT has a rigorous training program (which indeed it does). He further cited the ages of the four so-called ‘pawns’ whose lives are being ‘cruelly traded’: 41, 32, 74, and 54, the average of which is fifty. Which of the forty people making up this classroom of fifty year olds has this extraordinary cruel power to treat them all as pawns?

Jim Loney, one of the hostages (a tender 41 year old pawn), is a personal friend whom I had the good fortune to live with in Toronto in his early days of activism. He has determinedly and rigorously learned the skills of peacemaking, applying them both to his daily life and relations, and also into the dangerous quagmire of war and oppression, for two decades. To imply that he’s a ‘pawn’ in someone elses cruel mission demonstrates an astonishing lack of understanding, to say nothing of genuine research.

Finally, I marvel at Mr. Gillis’ queasiness that CPT might be attracting new members as a result of its recent publicity. How nauseating. An organisation rigorously training peacemakers might attract more people wishing to be trained in peacemaking. Imagine, they might even double their numbers, and there would be a hundred of them let loose on the world. The horror, the horror….
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