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Home > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2013 > January 2013 > Reading Zinn in Times of Insanity

Reading Zinn in Times of Insanity

Tuesday 1 January 2013, by Feroz MEHDI

The Palestine Authority submitted a proposal to the United Nations General Assembly demanding a non-member observer status. There were 139 countries that voted in favour except Canada and a couple of usual suspects.

On December 11, 2012 the Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino announced that the Government of Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will be establishing a strategic partnership with Grand Challenges Canada to find innovative solutions to global health challenges. And what is Grand Challenges Canada? It is an NGO funded by the government of Canada.

And now hold your breath. Government of Canada has ordered, yes ordered that no scientific papers written by Iranian scientists be published in Canadian scientific journals.

Not enough. Here is the colonialist mindset of this government:

Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence has been on hunger strike since over two weeks. She wants to meet the Prime Minister. She wants to talk to him about the conditions in her community. Writes Brent Patterson from the Council of Canadians, “Today, a Minister in his government ‘felt concerned’ about her health. Last year, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples expressed concern to the Harper government about the conditions in Chief Spence’s community of Attawapiskat, including the lack of running water. This same minister, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, dismissed the concern as a "publicity stunt"”.

How can we describe the Harper’s government? Amazing? Baffling? Mind boggling? Or simply, Insane.

It reminds me of a lecture from Howard Zinn that he gave during the Bush administration in November 2006. He said “I’d like to talk about the situation we face today and what are the obstacles to do something about it. In a certain sense I don’t have to tell you what our situation is. Why beleaguer you with those suicidal bits of news, the things that depress your friends and drive them to distractions? We all know the country has been taken over by a group of aliens. They are ruthless. They don’t care about human rights, they don’t care about freedom of expression. And yes, I wake up in the morning and I feel I live in an occupied country”.

That is very close to what we are experiencing in Canada today.

So, What to do? There is no short cut. We have to build strong social movements to build and promote democracy, to fight injustice, to fight the rule of insanity. As Howard Zinn said in another lecture, “In order for that to happen, all of us have to start doing something, anything. Little things. You don’t have to do heroic things. There are some people who will do heroic things. Little things. The little things add up. That’s how social movements develop. Somebody does something small, somebody else does something small…You get a million small acts, and they merge at some points in history into a great force that brings about change”.

Last year in Spring we saw the building of a great social movement in Quebec. The students demanded that the tuition fees not be hiked. The government refused. The students went on strike. Slowly the government took extraordinary position to crush the strike. The movement grew and was joined by the citizens at large. Hundreds and thousands were on the streets demanding justice. The Prime Minister and the media in general became rude and arrogant. The movement developed even further. We all saw the result. The students won! Yes, the education minister resigned unable to confront the students growing appeal in the public, the government lost the elections and the Prime Minister lost his seat and resigned from political scene.

So, yes Zinn is right when he says “If we could we would not have to talk about doing something now. But history shows that you have to build up. It takes time, and you must not get discouraged. It starts with small actions and small groups. It takes time, sometimes decades, for a movement to build into a force strong enough to change things”.

The year 2013 will be the year of building up social movements across Canada. The process has already started in many cities and its growth is promising. There is a historic convergence in the making. The First Nations, Quebec and rest of Canada are together on the move. Its challenge is to end the occupation of Canada by ruthless aliens.