True North, is it?
The letter to the editor entitled “Time for a compass check” by Wilf Borgstede is an example of the power of propaganda: Say something often enough and it virtually becomes true – or as good as. (St. Albert Gazette, Your Views, Feb. 9)
I don’t think it is China that has constantly abrogated the prime international law, since the Second World War, of border sovereignty. Let’s see: North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq war I, Yugoslavia, a raft of Latin American countries spanning at least 70 years – including tiny nations Grenada and Panama – then Afghanistan, Iraq war II, Libya and others. Not China, but the U.S., often with Canadian (among others) back-door help, as in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, others – and now Venezuela.
Borgstede mentions the Meng Wanzhou affair and implies Canada was in the right to unceremoniously arrest Wanzhou on U.S. request in spite of a lack of evidence and on a business issue, not a serious capital offence like murder or terrorism. It was simply the “suspicion” of having breached U.S. sanctions on Iran. That issue rests on U.S. abrogation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, an agreement signed by five other countries that are not one with U.S. actions. In any case, is it moral grounds or self-interest that commands deference to U.S. trade sanctions?
That Canada acted in haste seems a matter of common sense but was also corroborated by John McCallum, who, as ambassador to China, was not convinced the arrest was anything more than a political move.
President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Wanzhou’s predicament could be alleviated by trade considerations in U.S./China trade war negotiations certainly doesn’t weaken McCallum’s point.
Besides which, the U.S. does not a have good record on human rights: Guantanamo held prisoners who were identified by Afghanistan warlords in exchange for U.S. dollars. Only three out of hundreds were charged with anything, although the rest were mercilessly tortured for many years. Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange were victims of the U.S. justice we seem to honour unquestioningly.
For hundreds of years, the West’s “moral compass” was severely distorted by notions of god-authored moral/spiritual superiority. That idea inspired and gave moral cover to Spanish conquistadors in their inhuman quest for gold and resources, and allowed for the enslavement of people in huge plantations who had previously no concept of slavery.
Modern economic colonialism, which includes 200 years of British control of Indigenous Peoples, was rationalized on the basis of cultural superiority, or superior values and way of life.The most up-to-date version employs the ruse of RTP, “responsibility to protect” or right to intervene in the affairs of sovereign countries for the purported good of the people in them. It doesn’t take genius to plainly see this is a great formula for powerful countries to overrun and exploit smaller countries, a documented actual phenomenon partly covered by the list above.
It is true, as rationalists for the past constantly argue, we cannot undo what has been done. But nothing has changed. Apologists claim that postmodernism, as exemplified by philosophers Derrida and Foucault, has undermined the idea of truth and morality by asserting that everything is relative. This is a gross but useful misinterpretation.
What these philosophers say is that the moral compass of the past was the beacon that led us astray and blinded society to the injustices imposed on ethnic and economic minorities who have had little input in the system and little representation or moral authority in history. The relatively smaller horrors of the French Revolution, for instance, always take precedence over the much greater horrors of starvation amid plenty to which the population was victim even as the forced unpaid road-building was imposed.
But this “beacon” is losing its sheen. The present French Yellow Vests and the Wall Street Sit-In are two among many indicators that trite formulas like the American Dream and RTP are not palatable.
An honest assessment now might prevent the disastrous but inevitable outcome of our moral delusions.
Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert