Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Reply to Anonymous . . . .

Dear Anonymous – Thank you for your comments.

1. I don't believe I am over thinking it. Rather, I believe that the majority of people are under-thinking it. I would prefer any time to ‘over-think’ an issue than to wallow in blinkered ignorance as so many do.

2. Of course Remembrance Day affords you the opportunity to remember how you wish - in theory. However, a thorough understanding of the nature of hegemony should make it clear that it is only in theory. For one thing, it is difficult for anyone to avoid the full effect of ideology particularly given that the vast majority of Canadians have little comprehension of the history of these events. (It is much like the English who are amazingly unaware that Guy Fawkes Day is the celebration of a man who sought to return Catholicism to Briton.)

3. The charge of Ethno-Centrism is not false. If you think that having many different immigrant groups involved in Remembrance Day necessarily means that the overall event cannot be infected with ethnocentrism, then you really don’t understand ethnocentrism. Though technically the word ethnocentrism is rooted in the concept of “ethnicity,” in its modern usage it often applies to culture in the more general sense. Thus for example, the British Army in imperial India used thousands of native Indians who were educated in the British tradition and stood up for the English Empire. The inclusion of native Indians did not mean that the British rule in the Sub-Continent was not ethnocentric. In the context in which I am speaking of ethnocentrism it refers to way Western powers have engaged in foreign wars in places like Iraq for example and the background ideology of these military conflicts has been distinctly imperialist. The fact that certain minority groups in counties like Canada buy into this ideology does not change the nature of the relations. Many blacks fought for the South in the American Civil War, it doesn’t mean the South was not a racist state.

4. My crisis is not, as you claim, existential at all (though I a will also admit to having certain existential crises). I also admit to having problems that go way beyond the celebration of this particular event. Finally, I admit to being “out of touch” with the majority of Canadians, if by “out of touch” you mean that many of my sentiments and opinions are radically different from most people. As I said, I relish in my historical company. Many of the progressive activists in history have not shared the prevailing ideology. The suffragettes were radically out of touch with the majority of people as were the Abolitionists for centuries. So what? I prefer, in the words of Gandhi to be a ‘majority of one.’ Rather than being ‘existential’ as you say, my issue is a profoundly felt political imperative which objects to centuries of Western militarism and imperialism and its overarching tendency to celebrate military prowess even though it sometimes disguises this celebration behind a curtain of solemnity.

5.Concerning your comment on funding the healthcare of people who have sustained horrendous physical and psychological wounds – by all means. But once again, this is a typical example of our failure as a culture. We are a very rich nation which talks a good story when it comes to running a war but fails time and again to support the veterans who fight the wars. If you look at the history of this phenomenon from, for example, the end of the Napoleonic wars, it should be quite obvious that my contention concerning the wars being largely economically motivated is correct. The French fought to keep the British traders and manufactures out of the continental markets, and the English fought in turn to maintain their markets. When the English soldiers returned from the continent after the various wars with Napoleon, there were suddenly thousands of homeless, poor, out of work men (many who were physically and emotionally scarred) and the English state did almost nothing to help them. Instead many committed suicide or turned to crime. Similarly, more Vietnam vets have committed suicide since the end of the war than died in the conflict. Meanwhile, here in Canada, as a nation we could afford to take care of these men and women through state sponsorship, as Pat Stogran has been pointing out for many months. But he is leaving his post and the Government, though they love to talk about their support for the military, is under a terrible cloud because as he has said they have not supported the veterans. And since our government has the money to alleviate the physical and psychological wounds of the soldiers they have sent into harm’s way but they are simply failing to do so, and since the tens of thousands of civilian victims of our wars abroad usually live in a context in which no one can afford to help them, I prefer to concentrate my efforts there.

6. I am proud to say that I will never simply casually, or without question, accept the hegemony of the certain ideological paradigms. Doubt, challenge, question, these are my bywords, and I celebrate Antonio Gramsci.  And I have spent years studying history as well as political theory to reach the conclusions I have. “Over-think” it? I think not. 

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