Bombing Libya and the opera Ariadne Auf Naxos both force us to confront the questions of what is good and what is bad, what is moral and what is amoral, what are gods and men to do in the face of comedy, farce, & tragedy, what to do when the choice is life or death, and is it better to remain silent and survive, or die at the hands of a tyrant bent on genocide?
The same questions arise as we contemplate the actions of activists at the University of Northern British Columbia and the death of an infant girl at the hands of mining protestors in Guatemala.
Today was perfect early spring day in Vancouver: the sun shone although the temperature was low, but not so low that I was deterred from riding and observing a city at peace and in turmoil.
I chanced on a protest. I went to look and ask. There were ordinary-looking young men with loudspeakers shouting that 9/11 is a plot of Bush and Republicans. Their loudspeaker was so badly tuned that you could not hear a word they were saying. I approached one of these young innocents and told him to tune his loudspeaker and we spent a few innocent moments trying different settings; and so I left him clearly articulating his message. I did not get into why he believes in the 9/11 conspiracy or what he hoped to achieve by persuading passing Canadian motorists of this “truth.”
Instead I went to a gray-headed old granny passing out leaflets demanding an end to bombing in Libya. I ask her what she wanted. She started calm, telling me that the Libyan people should be allowed to choose their own rulers. I asked if that include the right to die protesting. She discerned my accent, and became agitated. Before I knew it she was shouting at me that South Africans are a distorted lot and unable to be rationale about international events.
I asked her if she had ever lived under a dictator. She waved her hands in agitation and shouted: “I am living under one here in British Columbia.”
Equally agitated, I shouted at her: “If you were living in a dictatorship, you would long since have been imprisoned or killed for your contrary views.”
Her response was louder and louder and was joined by an elderly gentleman with a turban carrying a banner demanding the adoption of Communism of the Marxist variety. Always scared of turbaned men, particularly when they are angry and waving a Marxist banner, I fled. Only to be accosted by a skinny young man demanding that I buy a copy of the Socialist News with a headline accusing Obama of being a racialist.
I jumped on my bicycle and rode away convinced these people are nuts, deranged, maybe even plain-old mad. Maybe, I though as I rode away all protestors are nuts, deranged, and mad.
Back in the sanctity of the office, I found an email directing me to this link. It is a translation of a suite instituted by the mother of the dead infant daughter who died as a result of protestors at the Marlin Mine in Guatemala. Now I understood the viciousness of the people who run protests. There is no difference between a Vancouver protestor to stop bombing and an anti-mining protestor in Guatemala supported by staff and students from the University of Northern British Columbia.
At the top of this posting is a picture I took during my ride of the ugliest urban statue I have ever seen. Well maybe the one in Dresden, Germany of the head of Karl Marx is even uglier. Both remind us of the terrible consequences of the far left, gone mad, and worse, in power. This horribly ugly bird statue is the result, in my opinion, of demented leftists in charge of decorating the Olympic Village south of False Creek in Vancouver. Thanks goodness they did not erect a statue of the head of Karl Marx as is foisted on the poor people of Dresden.
This being Sunday, I must be religious. So I deprecate the religious right who demanded and succeeded in getting removed the best statue I have ever seen. It was down near the water front in Vancouver—it was of an up-side-down church. The religious right—and they exists even in Vancouver—protested so vociferously that the far-left city council gave in and removed a beautiful, but ironic statue.
The lessons learnt from all this is that extremism, left or right, is inimical to liberty, freedom, beauty, aesthetic expression, rationale debate, and a peaceful Sunday bike ride.
As Canada goes into yet another election, we despair: for there is no party that is in the centre; that is peaceful in peace, and stern in war; that respects the liberties of the individual when attacked by the politically correct; that represents all. And maybe, on reflection, that is a blessing. For only when the majority or even powerful minorities cannot act to inflict the rest of us with their pernicious ideas, can we all live free: ride bike on a sunny Sunday, enjoy good public art, and be free of academics distorting the truth.
PS. Sorry, forgot to say why Ariadne Aus Naxos is relevant to all this. Great music by Richard Strauss, but the wierdest story. Act 1: The butler in a rich house is arranging the after-dinner musical entertainment. One serious piece about Ariadne and one comedy with clowns. Then the word comes down from the master of the house that there is not time for both pieces–they have to be played simultaneously. Act 2: Ariadne sings of melancholy and despair–great opera arias. But the clowns come and make fun of her and try to console her, while being entirely practical about life.
I suppose the connection to the idea of protest it that in this opera, we have hte ultimate compromise stemming from the selfish desire of each cast to get theiir music heard. Why can’t it be like that in life too?