(Update: In fairness, a crazy professor in Regina, one time zone away, has written a column to the Calgary Herald. Hence today's essay.)
My last essay, on Decent Democracy, ended with this footnote:
In fairness to the Americans, recently (March 24) some Canadian professors in Regina - 16 of them - were equally crazy. Obviously these eggheads think not only is our government "separate," like an occupying power, but the soldiers are separate too. They signed a letter saying the children of soldiers killed in Afghanistan should not be allowed to have university (heroes program) scholarships because the war was "imperialism." Clearly they have forgotten the average soldier can't even define imperialism, while the rest of us regular Canadians are also shaky on the word... Surely it is the responsibility of the professors as part of our community, our body politic, to educate the rest of us. But no. Instead they feel separate, off in some alienated ivory tower. Wimps.People responded in anger and contempt. On the internet and in letters to the editor they called those professors "the Regina 16." No workers uttered any words of support. Perhaps, over on the Regina campus, the young (figuratively long haired) students offered support, but from what I know of us prairie people, I doubt it.
I was young once. I sometimes shopped and conversed at a Marxist-Leninist bookstore in Vancouver, one long since firebombed. (Perhaps by Stalinist-Khrushchevists.) Across the street was Spartacus Bookstore. This store had a handmade sign on the shelf: "This is a people's bookstore. If you must shoplift, steal from a bourgeoisie store!" (Incidentally, for decades, until a few years ago, the student bar in the technology school was the Spartacus lounge. Now it's The Gateway.)
Being too embarrassed to try on a beret, or pose with the popular Che Guevara T-shirt, —I'm no poser!—I nevertheless tried on diffferent scenarios. Which scenario was I to believe?
By one account—"Don't trust anyone over thirty!"—all of we long haired young people were the rebel alliance, while all the short haired older people were the empire. By another theory, the empire only included those oldsters of the upper-class and the upper middle-class. Or perhaps we were living in a Brave New World where anyone who was not a millionaire was someone who had been indoctrinated, brainwashed, hoodwinked into not seeing his or her chains.
Ah yes, "his or her." By the 1970's housewives were gathering in circles to "consciousness raise." And they grew to perceive things, crazy wacky things that today are... common knowledge. As for the leftists, whose beliefs have not stood the test of time... Some were awfully blatant. I remember a pretty painted white sign across the gleaming white side of a house near the stampede grounds: Make the Rich Pay!
Actually, not "some" but "most" socialists had a strident lack of fellowship for guys like me. I could spot their lack of kinship by reading any of their publications intended for first time readers, for folks who had just come in off the street. All I had to do was take a red crayon to every word I didn't understand. Did the writers really think regular folks would know what a proletariat is? A bourgeoisie? A lackey? A running dog? By the time I'd finished making my marks the page had a very bad case of measles. I decided those leftists with their measles might not hate me for being so handsome or so rich, but they surely wouldn't be very affectionate to me, either. I noticed communist women were grim plain no-make-up people. All the babes stayed capitalist!
Now in our new century, in which Berlin has always been one city, when Spartacus Bookstore has long since vanished, when kids born when "the wall came a-tumbling down" are now undergraduates, the ivory towers remain the last islands of communism on our continent. One of the Regina 16 had a column published (April 6 p. A11) in the Calgary daily Herald. His piece doesn't quite have the measles, but neither does it communicate. In the first two paragraphs I find: " ... illegal imperialist war of invasion and occupation (He means by Canada, not the U.S.) ... our troops... are invaders and occupiers ... a U.S. puppet-regime... "
His third paragraph begins like something out of my socialist youth:
"Project hero is part of the ongoing propaganda offensive from the militaristic, pro-war cabal led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the former chief of defense, retired general general Rick Hillier. From the beginning this propaganda offensive sought to silence criticism of the war by equating it with a failure to support our troops. Efforts to turn this into a heroic battle will fail. Many Canadians are ashamed of Canada's role in this dirty, savage war which pits the random techno-barbarism of advanced warfare against a poorly armed insurgency...."
What scenario is this professor coming from? The army as an arm of a separate-from-us "evil" state?
Yes indeed. In his column, in words too distasteful to repeat here, he trolls Canadian history and sees the army as "an arm of the state" employed against the workers during various strikes:"... workers faced machine gun nests and armoured cars." In other words, to this leftist professor the rosy cheek volunteers are historically not "our boys" but Darth Vader's.
In my youth, as my blue eyed cousin John stayed with us on his weekends away from Royal Roads Military College; as I ate American pie in the parks while reading books on Lenin and Marx, I couldn't have explained what was wrong with the professor's scenario. But now I'm older, now I can.
I would ask that professor, "Do you watch television?" I would hasten to add, "yes-yes, I know TV is right up there with religion as being, as Marx said, "the opium of the people," but still—Do you watch?" Provided the old professor wasn't some PBS elitist, I would further ask, "Did you ever watch the Twilight Zone? Did you ever catch that old black-and-white episode where only one family on the block is idealistic enough to build a fall out shelter in their basement? ... Then one night the radar reports, 'strange objects closing fast!'—panic—a mob—a battering ram to smash into their neighbor's shelter...
"Seriously professor, only a week earlier, at a sunny neighborhood bar-b-q, do you think even one self-respecting adult cheerfully said that if ever the air raid sirens went off, he would hasten to smash their neighbor? No way!
"I can assure you, professor, if next year I win the lottery, I will jump for joy. Then yes, I'll switch to joining the upper class, joining those guys on the beach in that TV lottery commercial, and no, I won't switch over to seeing the army as "an arm of the state," seeing cousin John as a storm trooper to protect my capitalist gold from the likes of you.
"And neither, come to think of it, has a switch been flipped in Prince Harry, a ground soldier until media leaked that he was in Afghanistan, who is now getting his army helicopter wings to go back with the troops. Unlike certain professors, Harry doesn't shrink from getting his hands dirty with machine oil and gunpowder. And as for that artillery officer who has recently become a so-called "filthy rich" recording artist, I'm sure no switch has changed within him, James Blunt, either.
"I suppose I might, maybe, hypothetically, at the very last minute, panic and become evil and see the army as my personal arm, but... My God! Who the heck, outside of some Godless ivory tower, ever thinks about such awful things?... Realisticly, in my normal everyday life, like Prince Harry, I like to see myself as a "good guy" who wears a white hat. Don't you? ... Or are you too twisted up with "making the rich pay?"
God save the Queen.
Supporting the troops
~ Blunt had a hit song about seeing a lady at a train station without speaking to her. The radio DJs said that in the music video he removes his clothes as he sings and then plunges into the sea.
~ On May 1st of 2010, Lieutenant Wales got his wings.