Friday, June 27, 2014

Meeting Her Kurds, And Away *

Matilda Hatt, my colleague from the C.I.A., dropped in unexpectedly the other day, all full of thoughts and ideas about Kurds. Apparently she had been providing security for some sort of clandestine mission undertaken by....well, she didn't say. Good little soldier Tilly always was.

Anyway, she came away impressed. The major city of Kirkuk was now in their capable hands, along with various and sundry oil fields. The populace was in full support of the leadership, all felt they were being well looked after, schools were flourishing, and their Sunni Islam religion, while important to them, was confined to the mosque rather than the Kurdish legislature.

Most important of all, in Tilly's opinion, was the Kurdish militia, the well-respected Peshmerga. This was a fearsome force, battle-hardened against a long struggle with the Turks. This conflict appeared to be drawing to an end, she informed me, given Turkey's alarm over the twin horror stories that are the carnage in Iraq and the surge of refugees from Syria. An alliance could well be in the offing.

"I wonder Tilly," I broke in at this point, "if the Peshmerga are ready to take on those superstitious maniacs known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, or its weird acronym, ISIS?"**

Tilly replied, "I thing the word here would be "salivate". The Peshmerga see ISIS as a total betrayal of Islamic values, and lump it together with such lovely groups as Boko Haram and al-Shabaab. They would look forward to an attack, but think it unlikely.

"Why is that?"

Because ISIS is really a group of warriors, They would be actually facing a disciplined and competent militia, and in such cases, "warriors" go down the tubes. Look at Culloden. Look at Caesar's campaign in Gaul. Then there's the Battle of the Boyne --"

"All right" I interjected. "Point made. And I am now well au fait with the situation, for which, my thanks. And things can, in little, be seen to be looking up."

"Not surprising," countered Tilly, "When you begin flat on your back."

Any further comment here would, I thought, be very unwise, and we went in search of martinis.


*Dragging Little Miss Muffet into all this I thought somewhat unfair. -- Ed.

** The use of ISIS. It annoys me greatly that this scruffy lot has usurped the name of a very respected and powerful Egyptian goddess. Shame on whoever formed the acronym. -- L.S.S.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Voice of the Turtle

In re-reading the last few missives, I am struck by their rather pessimistic tone. Of course, this is quintessentially Canadian. As I believe Margaret Atwood once opined, "If Moby Dick had been written by a Canadian, it would have been told from the whale's point of view."

So let's be a bit more optimistic. For this I turn to the Song Of Solomon, (2:12) and the words, "The flowers appear on the earth. the time of singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land."* In other words, everything's going to be just fine.

Using this philosophy, one can now begin to assess the world's trouble spots in a somewhat different light. Admittedly, there is no scarcity of these, but nevertheless I will zero in on one such spot -- Iraq.

A solution to the ills of this tragic country immediately becomes obvious. Obvious, mind you, if you are familiar with Julius Caesar and his account of his Gallic campaigns, Commentarii De Bello Gallico. There he posited that all Gaul was divided into three parts,** and it is this thinking that could be applied to Iraq.

In essence, Iraq is comprised of three groups, currently at each other's throats. The horror of this is compounded by the fact that all three groups have dragged their imaginary and all-powerful friends into the mess; that is, Allah and Mohammed. But enough of this aspect, a topic for another day. Suffice it to say that achieving an Iraqi solution would be made far easier if a little geography could be brought to bear.

This of course would mean dividing Iraq in to three parts, like the aforementioned Gaul. One part would be Sunni; one part would be Shia and the third be controlled by the Kurds. Each part would select a leader, and the resulting triumvirate would deal with issues common to all three. And at that point the voice of the turtle would truly begin to be heard throughout the land.

This would take great imagination and great will, and of course entails great risks. But it is A Way.

And as the adage goes, "Behold the turtle. It makes progress only when it sticks its neck out."



*Rather than a turtle, I believe the King James version of the Bible   assumed that the term would be interpreted as a turtledove (As referred to in the Twelve Days of Christmas Song.) The Lady tends to leave some things unexplained now and then. -- Ed.

** Gaul at this time was actually five parts. But this is a quibble. --Ed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Words On A Grecian Turn

Well, apparently it's not just 'unionized' lemmings (see last week's report) that have a suicidal urge, but a majority of the Ontario electorate. The party with an iron grip on a tax and spend approach to governance, the Liberals, have obtained a majority. I believe this has come about because a goodly portion of that electorate have made the startling discovery that they can vote themselves considerable largesse out of the public treasury.

Hence the reference to Greece in the title. This country awarded many of its citizens,  particularly those in public service unions, a veritable ton of such largesse, and increased union membership considerably. All was wonderful, although this increase in employment was restricted to the public sector, who in essence took resources from the economy, rather than adding to it.

And then the money ran out, and the rest is history (and a sad one at that).

This could well be the fate of Ontario, in that those who wish to question such a profligate approach to fiscal management will be silenced whenever and wherever they attempt to raise such concerns. It is a majority government now, remember. No more on e-health fraud, Ornge helicopters, gas plants, or any other scandal. All will now fall under the rubric "Nothing to see here. Move along."

The press and opposition will fume and sputter, but that will be all. Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy In America states this issue well:

"The majority has enclosed thought within a formidable fence. One is free within that area, but woe to the man who goes beyond it, not that he stands in fear of an inquisition, but he must face all kinds of unpleasantness in everyday persecution."

Indeed. And how did such a situation arise in the first place? How did those who knew the above, who were well aware of the Grecian example, not speak out loudly and with force?

My answer? They did, but forgot their Schiller, who wrote simply and clearly, "With stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain."

Enough, or too much.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Learning From Lemmings

One thing television does rather well is nature programs, and the other day I stumbled into a film essay on the little rodent called the lemming. This little guy is found here and there in the tundra region of the Arctic, and survives quite well on grasses, small grains, grubs and whatnot. This, in spite of being hunted relentlessly by owls, falcons, stoats and the like.

Of course, being highly prolific helps, and it is this survival mechanism that has led to the myth of lemmings committing mass suicide when numbers grow too great for the environment to support them. As the show pointed out, this was not so much a mass suicide venture as it was migratory behaviour initiated by an instinct that the land could no longer sustain the majority of them.

So off a goodly portion went.

The suicide aspect came about when tales of lemmings jumping off cliffs or drowning in mass numbers in a lake became local, then national, lore.* This was nonsense, and the program stressed that such occurrences were mistakes on the part of the migrating lemmings -- the lake was larger than they were able to swim across, or an unforeseen chasm was seen too late to be avoided.

Here a thought occurred to me along the lines of the following.

The lemming's instinct was honed to its capability to survive. When, for instance, it realizes that further demands on the environment would result in it not being able to support the growing numbers of lemmings, starvation and eventual extinction would loom.

My thought -- Why cannot public service unions see what is obvious to lemmings, but not to themselves? A continually increasing membership wanting greater and greater wages and benefits to be drawn from a workers' tax base that grows smaller and smaller can result in the situation being presently faced in Greece, and to a lesser extent, Spain and Portugal. Such action puts a stress on a government that sooner or later will be unable to meet the demand.

An aside: Private sector unions are a different kettle of fish. Any negotiation is a tug of war between union and management, with no third party involved. If the negotiation fails and a strike is called, the company goes under, or the union collapses, or, more rarely, the union takes over management from the company. Unlike a public union strike, their is no innocent third party such as the public itself (or, worse, children, when there is a job action on the part of teachers). This aspect of the discussion, however, takes us away from the main thrust of the argument.

Now I am not suggesting that a large number of such union members fling themselves over cliffs or undertake a swim that they could not complete, but I am suggesting that the members give due consideration to lemmings, who see the need to alter their behaviour in order that all may succeed, and make the sacrificial decisions that result in this coming about. Otherwise.....well, it won't be pleasant.


* The Disney Academy Award winning film, White Wilderness, showed lemmings (imported from Calgary) jumping off a cliff to certain death. In a later CBC documentary, Cruel Camera, found that the lemmings DID NOT jump off the cliff, but were launched off a turntable. The Award still stands. -- Ed.