Winnie The Pooh And Bieber, Too

pooh

I’ve seen some hardcore people in my time, but for the record, Justin Bieber isn’t one of them.  Except — oops! — apparently, he is.  Last week, the powers-that-be in the People’s Republic of China banned Bieber for — uh — “bad behaviour.”  (So, play nice, children — or China spank.)  Actually, with lyrics like “Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby” I can see China’s point, but just how subversive can a punk kid from Canada be?  Canada is, after all, the Land of the Bland.  We say “Sorry” as a greeting.  Of course, this comes hard on the heels of China’s banning that other badass, Winnie the Pooh*.  I’m still laughin’ about that one.  Bieber now joins a pretty select group of notorious troublemakers.  They include Harrison Ford (who, as Han Solo, was indeed, a member of the Rebel Alliance) Brad Pitt (who once made a movie called Seven Years in Tibet, a place China says doesn’t exist) and Richard Gere because — well — Richard Gere.  They’ve also banned Sharon Stone, but it’s just her movies that are unwelcome in the Middle kingdom. She can show up anytime (assuming she keeps her legs crossed.)

Over the years, along with Iran and North Korea, China has been in the forefront of state-sponsored censorship.  They’ve banned — or thrown in prison — all the usual suspects: poets, painters, writers, Nobel Prize winners, and generally anybody with an opinion who doesn’t keep their head down.  They’ve also banned Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and all the other stalwarts of Western social media — plus a myriad of Western movies and television programs — including, oddly enough, The Big Bang Theory. (I guess Sheldon is a jackass in any language.)  Of course, like all dictatorships, China has also bans books — thousands and thousands of books — and I suppose this is where things get serious.  However, I have a lot of trouble not laughing at a regime that feels the need to ban Alice in Wonderland and Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham.  I can just hear the proclamation:
Will you ban Green Eggs and Ham?
Yes, I’ll ban it, if I can
I will ban it in Beijing
I will ban it in Nanjing
I will ban it here and there
I will ban it everywhere
Yes, I’ll ban Green Eggs and Ham
In Hong Kong, Szechuan and Hunan

*BTW, Winnie the Pooh’s offence was that people were using him as a caricature of President Xi Jinping, the guy who’s currently sitting on the Dragon Throne and running the show on the Yangtze.  Clearly, dictators don’t like people laughing at them.

United Nations: The Theatre of the Absurd

absurdWhen I was a university kid, I got tangled up with a student drama group committed to the Theatre of the Absurd.  For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, run for your lives.  I’m sure that some of it is good stuff, but my group were less than amateurs, with egos the size of Cleveland.  They spend most of their time talking about it (it being the absurd) and very little else.  By the time I realized they were never actually going to produce anything, I had 40 pages of freako dialogue written and a new understanding of just how absurd some things can be.  I resolved to steer clear of these folks in the future and have managed to do so for most of my life — until now.

Recently, the United Nations has unleashed a series of theatrical productions of such blatant absurdity as to do my long forgot, overly dramatic buddies proud.  They are called The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.  I believe they’re basically improve, but the premise is member nations periodically pick out one country and then criticize its human rights record in the most preposterous terms possible.  I’m sure it’s all great fun, but last week it was Canada’s turn, and I must admit, I took exception.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, if you look at a map, Canada is the big red bit sitting on top of the United States.  We’re the folks who frequently get voted one of the best places on earth to live, and, except for the weather (pee-your-pants cold for six to eight months of the year) we are.  We’re a peace-loving folk who try to mind our own business.  The only shot we’re ever fired in anger (in our entire history) happened in the 90s when Brian Tobin put a warning volley across the bow of some Spanish absurd2fishermen who were stealing our cod.  We are a generous people and try to take care of our own.  Actually, you have to work hard to starve in this country.  Despite what our underworked media tells us, we’re not racists, sexists or homophobes (yobs don’t count) and the only things we actively hate are Toronto and Vancouver (in that order.)  We vote and complain in equal proportions, and our greatest fault is, as a nation, we’re hopelessly fair and oddly self-conscious about it.  Yes, we have some serious problems in this vast frozen Nirvana, but given what the rest of the world puts up with, we’re not doing too badly.  So I get a little tight-jawed when a bunch of scoundrels who wouldn’t know human rights if it bit them on the bum, start lecturing me and mine about how to conduct our affairs.

However, judge for yourself.  Here are some direct quotations (gleaned from the National Post) from the stand up comedy which is the United Nations.
Russia was concerned about Canadian “police actions of torture and cruelty against peaceful demonstrators.”
Pakistan was worried about Canada’s “increased poverty and unemployment rate among immigrant communities”
China pointed out there was “widespread racial discrimination in Canada.”
Egypt talked about “racial profiling in law enforcement action.”
And Cuba accused Canada of “racism and xenophobia”

But I’ve save the best for last:
North Korea said “We have serious concerns about continued violations of the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, torture and other ill-treatment, racism and xenophobia.”
Iran complained about “violation of human rights by Canadian government” including (but, apparently not limited to) “child sexual exploitation and human trafficking, the right to food, discriminatory law and regulation against indigenous people and minority groups, including Moslem, Arab and African communities.”

These are pretty bold words from a crew of nations whose collective track record on human rights could be published as a How-To Guide for Satan.

I haven’t got time to go into the gory details but here’s a quick skim of just who these people are.HUMAN RIGHT COUNCIL MYANMAR UN

Neo-tsarist Russia – A place where Putin, the king without a crown, can toss your ass into the “dismantled” Gulag for singing protest songs, justice is a matter for the oligarchs to decide and the difference between criminal and businessman depends on who’s doing the shooting.

Pakistan – The land where fourteen-year-old girls get shot for wanting to go to school, most disagreements come with a complimentary car bomb and assassinating your political opponents is a standard election strategy.

China – One of several nations whose last legitimate election was …hmmm… never, blind poets have previous convictions, Nobel Peace Prize winners are currently in jail, and if your ethnic background is Uyghur, your sentence is determined before the trial.

Egypt – A country where the national sport is chasing Coptic Christians, beating them with sticks and leaving them for dead.

Cuba – An island nation whose salute to equality is putting dissidents, homosexuals, marijuana smokers and AIDS patients all in the same jail cell.

North Korea – An unheated wasteland where the biggest employer is the secret police, you can say anything you want in praise of Kim Jong-un and most government officials like to spend quiet evenings watching the peasants starve.

Iran – The land that time forgot, where women are stoned to death for having the bad manners to get raped, top government officials go to jail for consorting (or is it cavorting?) with evil spirits and genies, and the national pastime in denying the Holocaust.

They only way you could find a more scurrilous crew than these guys would be to join Evil-of-the-Month club.  But think about it, unlike my foolish university friends, who were just play acting, these boys are real and they figure they should run the world!

Just Because You’re Offended Doesn’t Mean You’re Right!

offended9Just a few more words about the Eagerly Offended and then I’ll shut up about them…for a while.

There’s a guy in Saskatoon, Canada, Ashu Solo, who has been offended.  He believes that he was made to feel like a “second class citizen” and “excluded” at a public gathering.  Apparently this grievous harm happened when Saskatoon city councillor, Randy Donauer, said a prayer (popularly called “grace) before a public meal for civic volunteers.  Solo maintains that Canada is a secular nation, and, therefore, there should be no public religious observances — they are obviously offensive to the non-believer.  Unwilling to tolerate this level of disrespect, Solo is taking action.  He wants to remedy the situation by fiat and remove prayer from public meals entirely, thus saving himself and all other unspecified offendees from having to endure this unbearable situation.

Ashu Solo is no stranger to being offended.  Last December, even though he admits to not seeing them himself, he was offended on behalf of others when several buses in Saskatoon displayed “Merry Christmas” messages.  At the time, Solo’s argument against “Merry Christmas” was similar to his case against grace: Canada is a secular nation, and, therefore, should not have religious messages displayed on public transportation.  It should be noted that Mr. Solo was not offended by the “Go, Riders, Go!” message, also displayed on many buses — even though it is common knowledge that ‘Riders’ football represents the dominant religion in Saskatchewan.

Regardless, since being offended is the #1 pastime in Canada, Mr. Solo has every right to participate.  However, he should have aoffended5 working knowledge of the game before he decides to play.  Unfortunately, his anti-Christian argument has two rather large Swiss cheese holes in it.

First of all, Canada is not a secular nation.  There has never been any legal provision or precedent that says so, anywhere in our history.  In fact, the first line of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly states that “…Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God…”  Hardly the statement of a nation “not concerned with religious or spiritual matters,” is it?  Actually, the separation of church and state is an American concept (much like freedom of speech or the right to bear arms.)  This is a common mistake, made by many Canadians.  It comes from watching too much American TV.

Secondly, there is a major difference between Freedom of Religion, as guaranteed by the Charter, Section 2 (a) and Freedom from Religion which again has no legal provision or precedent anywhere in our history.  These two distinct concepts are also easily confused.  It comes from not paying attention in school when the lesson on the use and abuse of prepositions came up in grammar.  To clarify: in Canada, you have the right to put your faith in whatever you want, including Jesus, your neighbour’s cat, American legal nuances or nothing at all, if you so desire.  That right is guaranteed.  However, you are not protected from the religions which are happening all around you.  You have no legal right to arbitrarily stifle their observances, regardless of how offensive you believe they are to you.  In fact, attempting to quash any religious observance — including the Christian practice of saying grace — could be considered a crime given the way the Charter is written.

As “Eagerly Offended” goes, Ashu Solo is hardly in the top echelon.  However, he does demonstrate that being Eagerly Offended is clearly more an art than a science.  Without logical or cohesive arguments, it relies mainly on Western Guilt and usually targets Eurocentric practices and institutions.  For example, I doubt very much if Mr. Solo is offended by Sumo wrestling (even though it is closely associated with the Shinto religion) or Kung Fu (as practiced by Shaolin monks.) Nor would he campaign long and hard to ban either one.  To be blunt, there simply isn’t any percentage in it.  No, the key to success for the Eagerly Offended is to carefully choose a soft quarry, and by selecting a city government (large enough for media attention but small enough to have limited resources) as the offending body, Ashu Solo has made a very wise decision, indeed.