Food for Thought During These Troubling Times

November 11th Remembrance Day is once again upon us. This is a commemorative day to remember the members of our armed forces who have died serving their country.  The observation of Remembrance Day in most countries is to remember the end of World War I, which ended on the eleventh hour of November 11 in 1918.

Normandy Beaches France

Since visiting Vimy Ridge and the Normandy Beaches in France five years ago, my wife and I (#blogger #blog #somseason #YA #authors) have a much stronger appreciation for all soldiers and the sacrifice they made to maintain peace and freedom in our world. Visiting both WWI and WWII military cemeteries was a humbling experience to say the least. What shocked us the most was the age of many of the soldiers, some as young as 17 years old. We now attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies with much more gratitude and appreciation for all soldiers. It is essential that we remember the soldiers who have lost their lives, or put their lives on the line, to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

WWII was a war to stop fascism. I speak about WWII because it was the war I taught about the most as a teacher and am most familiar with. During that time in history Italy was ruled by Benito Mussolini, a fascist leader. The Nazi Party, led by the best known fascist, Adolf Hitler, a leader who adopted a form of fascism that incorporated fanatical racism against Jews. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.” An interesting thought. During the pre-1945 period, Japan moved into political totalitarianism, ultranationalism (extreme nationalism), and fascism ending in Japan’s invasion and of China in 1937. According to some accounts, thousands of Chinese civilians were buried alive, machine-gunned or used for bayonet practice. Females were taken and forced into labour as “comfort women” (sex slaves for Japanese officers and soldiers). There were other fascist leaders during that time.

What is fascism? Fascism is a term coined by Benito Mussolini in 1919, who described it as a belief system for his political movement. Merriam Webster defines fascism as:

a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

I would define fascism as bullying (#bullying #antibullying)  especially since it involves suppression of opposition. When you get down to the root cause of both World Wars, and all conflicts,  the cause is division. With COVID and the US election, the world—I believe—has never been this divided. What is happening in our world today is a reminder to humanity to unify as a human family, or once again fall into the chaos of war and other atrocities. We must be able to hold our truths and still respect other people’s truths. As Alexandre Dumas, one of the Three Musketeers says, “All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.” If division continues to pervade in our world, we are headed for trouble.

Fascism is a term that seems to be used a lot these days. Just last night, my wife and I were watching a series called, This is Us, and a character’s teenage daughter in anger calls her dad a fascist. President Trump  has been accused of being a fascist  (see Trump a fascist). There are those who say Democrats are fascists (see Democratic Party). Some even argue that fascism is creeping into Canada (see Blogger Mark). Is fascism alive and well today? I don’t know but it feels like it with our rights and freedoms being removed because of COVID. The National Post has an opinion piece titled: We are giving up our freedoms in the fight against COVID-19, which questions whether those freedoms will be returned to us.

What I find disturbing is what the Huffpost’s 2014 article, Government of the Rich, by the Rich and for the Rich, says:

We now live in a two-tiered system of governance. There are two sets of laws: one set for the government and its corporate allies, and another set for you and me.

I always intuitively felt that was true. One set of rules for the wealthy elites, and one for the rest of us. There are many who argue that elected governments have little power and are merely puppets of a shadow government known as the Deep State. Mainstream Media calls the Deep State a conspiracy theory. Interestingly, Newsweek’s article, The Unraveling of the Deep State’s Coup Against President Trump, speaks about the Deep State as real and not conspiracy theory. Could this be true?

Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini once said, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power” Wiktionary defines corporatism as “The influence of large business corporations in politics.” Is this what is happening?

Nephew of John F Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. says: “While communism is the control of business by government, fascism is the control of government by business.” American politician, Henry A. Wallace, once said:

A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.

That is a scary quote. Is fascism reappearing in our world today? I don’t know, but I see a lot of disturbing things happening in our world right now. I would like to believe fascism was eliminated at the end of WWII. As I said in my last post, How Do You Know What is Truth?  it is time for us to start thinking critically.

The truth is humanity must learn how to unify in a divided world. As J.K. Rowling said in her book, ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,’ We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” Mahatma Gandhi, who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule, once said: “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” That is so true! To unify means to step out of that mind-set that ‘I am right and you are wrong;’ the mindset of I must convince you of my truth.  You are sovereign individual and I am sovereign individual, and I may not agree with you and you may not agree with me, but that is okay. That is very different from you are wrong, you’re ignorant, or you are stupid. Richard Twiss, a Native American educator and author, says: “You can’t have unity without diversity.”I believe that to be true. We will never live in a world where everyone thinks the same, or believes the same. Besides, wouldn’t that be a boring world. The fact is, everyone is entitled to their truth (perspective, beliefs). The challenge is: Can I/you respect other people’s truth? If we can do that, unity will be achieved. If we can’t do that, we are headed for troubling times; a time filled with bullying. I am convinced we humans can create a better world, but first we must achieve unity in diversity to do that.

Remembrance Day, a Day to Yearn for Peace

A commentary on war and peace.

It amazes me how fast annual events come. Once again, November 11th Remembrance Day is upon us. It is the day of the year that marks the anniversary of the official ending of World War I, and in Canada Remembrance Day is a public holiday and federal statutory holiday with a notable exception of Nova Scotia, North West Territories, Ontario and Quebec. All Commonwealth Nations—an organization of 53 member states that were mostly territories of the former British Empire—observe this day as a day to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.

Since visiting Vimy Ridge and the Normandy Beaches in France four years ago, my wife and I have a much stronger appreciation for all soldiers and the sacrifice they made to maintain peace and freedom in our world. Visiting both WWI and WWII military cemeteries was a humbling experience to say the least. What shocked us the most was the age of many of the soldiers, some as young as 17 years old. We now attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies with much more gratitude and appreciation for all soldiers.

We Canadians, as well as all world citizens, must consider Remembrance Day an important day to observe. It is essential that we remember the soldiers who have lost their lives or put their lives on the line to protect the rights of its citizens.

Having said that, I began to wonder why we don’t have days that honour those who work towards peace. Why not a national holiday devoted to the promotion of peace. To my surprise, such a day exists. Why have I never heard of it? The United Nations (UN) International Day of Peace, or Peace Day, is observed around the world each year on September 21st. The UN established this day in 1981 with a unanimous United Nations resolution, and “Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace” according to the International day of Peace website.

A Culture of Peace News Network survey in 2019 found internet reports concerning more than 655 celebrations of the International Day of Peace from 103 countries around the world. These included 280 events occurring in all states of the United States and 6 provinces of Canada, 144 events in Europe, 54 in countries formerly part of the Soviet Union, 53 in Africa, and 53 in Latin America and the Caribbean. There were 50 events in Asia and the Pacific, and 21 from Arab and Middle Eastern countries.

Only 6 provinces in my country held events? When I checked, the province in which I live, Alberta, did nothing. Is peace not a goal for Albertans? Every country, every state, and every province should be holding events on Peace Day. Let’s be honest, our world is at one of it’s most divided times in history. The potential for another world conflict is once again high. The idea of a planet getting along peacefully, respecting the planet’s diverse cultures and peoples, and living in harmony is badly needed. Every country on this planet, and every citizen living on this planet, should be excited about a day for peace that would promote a more peaceful existence.

There are always those pessimists who say, “peace will never be possible.” With that attitude, they’re probably right, but perhaps a global day to celebrate peace could change the attitudes of pessimists.

New Internationalist is a leading independent media organization dedicated to socially conscious journalism. It has an article called, 10 steps to world peace, which outlines a plan; a plan that I believe has merit.

  1. Stamping out exclusion. When corrupt elites prevent a decent life for the majority of people, an injustice occurs.
  2. Bring true equality between women and men. The larger a country’s gender gap, the more likely it is to be involved in violent conflict, according to research.
  3. Share wealth fairly. According to a World Bank survey, 40 per cent of those who join rebel groups do so because of a lack of economic opportunities.
  4. Tackle climate change. Ecological stress from global warming is proven to worsen conflicts over natural resources.
  5. Control arms sales. Promotion of arms sales and heavy military spending heightens global tensions.
  6. Atonement for past aggression on the international stage. The conditions forced upon Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, WWI’s peace treaty, were severe and widespread and set the seeds for WWII. I would also suggest reconciliation for past aggression on indigenous peoples must also happen.
  7. Protect political space. Across the world public dissent must be defended from repressive tools such as unplanned administrative regulation, misuse of anti-terrorist measures, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, torture and murder.
  8. Fix intergenerational relations. Much conflict can be understood as a youth revolt against established corrupt systems run by, largely, older men. Recent climate change activism led by Greta Thunberg is a example of this.
  9. Build an integrated peace movement. International Day of Peace could be a way to achieve this.
  10. Look within. Peace starts with you and me.

There is no question that some countries are more peaceful than others. In fact, according to Global Finance’s article, The Most Peaceful Countries In The World 2019, the

most peaceful nations also enjoy lower interest rates, a stronger currency and higher foreign investment—not to mention better political stability and stronger correlation with the individual level of perceived happiness.

According to the 2019 Global Peace Index compiled by the international think-tank Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) covering 163 independent states and territories that are home to 99.7% of the world’s population, the most peaceful country in the world is Iceland, followed by New Zealand and Portugal. I’m happy to say that Canada was ranked 6 out of 163 countries. The USA was ranked 128th. To create a peaceful world, peace starts with individuals, then peaceful nations.

Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule of India, once said, “Peace between countries must rest on the solid foundation of love between individuals.”  Unless humanity can reach a point where diversity is celebrated, respect is the norm, and love is the motivating factor, world peace cannot happen.

Really the answer to achieve world peace is very simple. Leaders of countries must live by the Golden Rule. This Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. The Golden Rule is found in most religions and cultures. In some religions, the Golden Rule is considered an ethic of reciprocity. This rule appears in the positive or negative:

  • Treat others as you would like others to treat you (positive)
  • Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated (negative)
  • What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathetic)

This principle is found in the Christian scriptures in Luke 6:31 which says, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (New American Standard Bible). If all people followed this rule, peace would occur and there would no longer be a need for soldiers.