The end better than the beginning


One has to wonder how Americans go through the kind of two-year campaigning that precedes their presidential elections because after five weeks of campaigning here by those seeking election to Canada’s Parliament it was a relief when May 2 finally rolled around. Of course, televised American politics can often be entertaining fare.

In any case, it is a relief not to have to listen to those banal political ads on Canadian radio and television that had been running for weeks as campaigners sought to convince the rest of us of their worthiness for our votes. There is a saying in the Old Testament of the Bible that the end of a thing is better than the beginning.  So it is great to wave goodbye, until the next time, to the campaign carnival.

A large part of the restlessness around hearing all the campaign speeches was the amount of ‘spin’ that came out of the mouths of campaigners. For people who have an ear for the truth, all of the well-worked information passing for truth was disconcerting. It really showed how much politicians live in a world of their own with their own well-worn jargon and modes of practice. The average person hears it and is by now accustomed to the patter, yet many of us are swayed by this “sound and fury” while others realize that it is “signifying nothing”.

So we can, at least for the moment, exhale.

For Americans, the end of the pursuit of Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 airplane bombings – which killed close to 3000 in New York City’s World Trade Center, including 24 Canadians and 22 from the Caribbean – and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington DC, was definitely better than the beginning of the search bin Laden.

The end of bin Laden came with celebrations into the early hours of Monday morning and well beyond. The sense of catharsis is understandable. Americans finally got their “justice” and they have U.S. President Barrack Obama to thank.

America saw itself as the victim of a senseless attack and waited, some felt too long, for the capture or death of al-Qaeda’s leader.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: It has been estimated that it takes over 10 years of individual human labour to equal the productivity of one barrel of petroleum. It goes in our cars and heats our homes, but more than that, the extent to which petroleum products and by-products are integrated into our daily modern lives is astounding.

This point is very much connected with the life and death of bin Laden. It is connected with the life and death by hanging of Saddam Hussein. It is connected with the American invasion of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan and the relative instability of the Middle East and other oil producing regions such as Nigeria, Southern Sudan and Venezuela.

Far and wide, over a century we have become habituated to the relative comfort and convenience that comes with the use of petroleum – black gold. With that much power associated with one resource and with the way in which American based multinational oil companies ruthlessly do business, connecting the dots to 9-11 and then to bin Laden’s eventual killing presents quite the picture of contemporary life on Earth.

Which brings us to the tar sands… sorry, the oil sands of Alberta. As long as the world continues to rely on fossil fuels for energy and a host of products, the raw resource waiting in Alberta to be exploited will be a potential gold mine for Canada. That mining of any kind ranks very high among human activities that are destroying the natural environment is worrying to many, but not worrying enough yet, apparently. The hard fact is that caring for the environment and yet wanting to drive cars fueled by gas are in effect mutually exclusive ambitions.

As we enter a new chapter in Canadian governance all of us would be well served by remembering 9-11 for the ruthlessness that laid the foundation for that tragic event. Of course, Canada is the ‘Great White North’. All those other oil-producing regions are not.

A note on casting your vote…

Congratulations to all those new Canadians who voted on Monday for the first time in Canada. Doesn’t it feel good to be able to do so freely, without fear of reprisal?

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