Ian McKay and Jamie Swift will be holding the Toronto launch of their new book, Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety, this coming week. For the locals, 6 September at 7:00 p.m., Edward Day Gallery. Through stories of some of our historical warriors — William Stairs, Tommy Burns, John Buchan — we get a long view, the backdrop to today’s conscription of Canadians to the warrior nation. Once known for peacekeeping, Canada is becoming a militarised nation whose apostles — the New Warriors — are, by stealth, propaganda and shifting funding priorities, working hard to shift public opinion. New Warrior zealots seek to transform postwar Canada’s central myth-symbols. Peaceable kingdom. Just society. The big tent. Multicultural tolerance. Reasoned public debate. Their replacements? A warrior nation. Authoritarian leadership. Permanent political polarisation.
Every day our headlines re-iterate the message of this book: we are becoming a warrior nation. While we are distracted by the Drummond report and water and housing on reserves, austerity and teachers’ bargaining rights, privatised garbage delivery and user fees and how to get through an airport without completely handing over one’s dignity as a human being, our government is handing over billions to those industries that have benefitted enormously from fear-mongering, primarily the manufacturers of systems of surveillance and punishment and systems of industrialised killing (and the resources needed to keep them fed).
Against a pristine northern backdrop, we have just seen our PM once more showcase what seems at times to be his singular interest: the military and resource extraction. Let’s be muscular. Let’s be an energy giant. Let’s punch above our weight. Now that climate change deniers are mostly extinct and we now have people writing books with titles like Saving the Humans, our prime minister and his courtiers carry on regardless.
Enough! My daily word to our Prime Minister is this: Enough!
We have failed to heed Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the Military-Industrial [we would now add ‘Carbon’] Complex. He also said that, ‘Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket that is fired – signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, from those who are cold and not clothed.’ While Martin Luther King said the following with, no doubt, his own country in mind, our PM and his allies are setting our feet on that same trajectory: ‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.’
In recent years, we have seen a long list of worthy, award-winning even, humanity- and creation-nurturing projects, programmes and supports slashed; we are watching institutions of higher learning corporatised and bent to corporate, not citizen, interests. While the middle class shrinks to swell the ranks of the poor, that portion of our collective wealth controlled by our richest continues to grow. Banks, our very own bailed-out banks, are reporting record third-quarter profits, a stunning $7.8 billion. Following an evidence-less faith in Trickle-Down, our governments have handed tax breaks, incentives and subsidies over to already-rich corporations and individuals – stashing them away, as we now all know, in corporate bank accounts – more than a half trillion dollars! Imagine what we could do with a half-trillion dollars – end homelessness, eradicate poverty, provide free post-secondary education, implement a health-care system grounded in the social determinants of health, enhance maternal and early childhood supports, create First Nations reserves of thriving populations, provide living wages, living pensions for all – as part of a long-term, permanent retreat from subsidising destruction and inequity and a return to fair taxation.
Though I keep looking hopefully for the stories that belie the trend, it often seems as if the only thing our governments are truly interested in protecting is the right of the powerful to plunder the commons.
And now this: did you know that we need $1 billion worth of drones to patrol the north? How have we managed this long without them? (Remember last year’s northern tour and the anti-Russia fear-mongering backdrop created to justify those 25 billions for F-35s we don’t need?)
When they say they don’t have any money, whether provincial or federal, don’t believe them. There’s lots of it. The issue is about choice: the choices they are making on how to spend our money are not the choices we would make. Even a solid majority of U.S. Americans, given the profile of a Swedish society or a U.S. society (without knowing what they were choosing) went for the former. I don’t want a projected military presence on this planet nor industrialised, privatised prisons nor clear-cuts nor stripped Amazon or boreal forests nor acidified oceans; I don’t want a ‘security’ that comes at the cost of fear, and the escalated xenophobia, racism, sexism, classism that come with it. I want people in the world to be fed, to have clean water, their human rights respected, decent employment, the kind of free and happy childhood that my grandchildren take for granted; life without fear of invasion, the right to make decisions that benefit people rather than corporate interests; an environment that will gladly take us on for a while longer.
In his review of Noah Richler’s new book, What we Talk about when we Talk about War, historian Desmond Morton (Who Speaks for Canada?) says, ‘ A country once proud of its role as a peace-making moderate is being reconstructed as a Canada defined by war, violence and death. The change is brutal and deeply divisive.’ Stephen Lewis praises Richler’s ‘stunn[ing] courage and insight. He dares to take on the pathology orchestrated by the military apologists in our political, academic and media establishment; debunking it, dismembering it, eviscerating it.’ While the apologists will certainly greet this book with ‘exquisite apoplexy’, he goes on, ‘[t]he rest of us will exult in his embrace of the values of peace and decency in a Canada that once was and might yet be again.’
One more aphorism: While some worry about putting the ‘X’ back in Xmas, I wonder more about putting the ‘J’ back into religion, whatever the religion, whatever the respective manifestation of ‘J’. The result will be a prioritisation of love: caring for people who are sick, poor, hungry, in prison, oppressed; costly dissent from the powers – and loving our enemies – which probably means not killing them. It probably means not spending our inheritance, economic, cultural and environmental, on the means to make the weapons to do so and the means to keep us all docile, in line, while the plunder proceeds.
So let’s do it. What would that mean? What would it mean to live compassionate, risky lives? Another ‘J’ put it this way: Love is better than anger, hope is better than fear; optimism is better than despair. So let’s be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.