Our media – hard at work to find us the important stories

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It’s hard to internalize the figures of over 40,000 dead now in Asia from the earthquake. Once the numbers grow so large it’s too difficult to understand.

While watching CNN this morning I was fairly disturbed by their coverage. It seemed like about 75% of the “stories” were about westerners. How a tourist group was stuck in their hotel, the stories of people already arriving home at their airports, and then about how Jet Lis family survived unscathed, etc. What about the other 40,000 people who are dead?

I understand that a western news organization wants to show the impact to their own people, but come on! It further enforces the western feeling of superiority over these people by having a newscast like: “… these handful of people were stuck in a hotel, these people were stranded in the airport with no power, … , and oh yeah – there are over 40,000 Asians dead.” It shows how meaningless our culture believes them to be.

I don’t mean that all westerners think other people around the world are worthless, but our society and governments do treat them that way sometimes. How else do we not get massive public outcry when the US occupying force in Iraq stops all efforts to count civilian casualties by saying “We’re not in the business of counting foreign deaths.”

North America is always strongest in the game of Risk

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Over the years I’ve found discussions of Canadas military to be very interesting. Some people have strange opinions about what the military should look like based on some bad reasoning.

First of all I’ll say I think Canada should have a well equipped and effective military. The sizing and purpose are where it gets fuzzy.

Why does Canada need a military? Let’s look at it from a practical standpoint. The possible uses are to:
1. Participate in foreign wars
2. Aid in foreign peacekeeping
3. Internal security
4. Defend against attack

Throughout it’s history, Canada doesn’t seem to desire frequent participation in foreigh wars. On the occaisions where it has, it has built the military as required for the situation. I don’t think this is a very good reason to maintain a huge military permenantly.

Canada is currently aiding in several foreign peacekeeping missions. The military may require better resources, as this seems to be a typical complaint, but that is a much smaller task than equipping a much larger military.

Internal security is another possible use of a military. Also, some situations like the military helping in emergency situations are valid. This purpose seems either already satisfied or could be with very little extra funding.

Defending against attack is the sticky one. I’ve heard some Canadians and Americans say that Canada should have a large enough armed forces to defend against an attack. This is where we need to apply a little common sense and practicality.

In terms of global politics there are two possible threats to Canadas borders: invasion by a force not friendly to the US or invasion by the US itself. In the first case the US would have no option but to defend Canada. The relative isolation of North America is what affords the US a large portion of its dominance. It doesn’t have to worry too much about being invaded and can focus more on offensive weapons. The US, therefore, would not allow a powerful and unfriendly competitor onto its continent. Further, in this situation the invader would have to be powerful enough to face-off against the US, in which case Canada would not be able to build a military large enough to defend against. So, in this case it really doesn’t provide any added benefit if Canada were to double the size of it’s military, for example. It would either still be wiped out or prove unnecessary.

In the situation where the invader happened to be the US, we reach the same position where Canada couldn’t possibly build a military powerful enough to defend against it. The fact that foreign aid would take so long to get there, given how far away other large countries are, is another negative.

Overall I’d say Canada doesn’t need a large military based on the analysis here. Am I missing a part of the argument? Why do some people keep complaining? What do they want the Canadian military to do?

Inactivity

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Sorry for the inactivity of late. I had been working insane hours at work – too many to bother counting. I hope to not have to repeat that again.

Now that I’m back in the real world I’m trying to back through what I missed over the last 2 weeks and see what crazy things happened. Will post soon.

If you noticed something I’d like to know about, feel free to post it as a comment.

Visit to India

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I recently visited India and it was a very eye-opening experience.

The parts of the country I visited were Bangalore, Mumbai and Mysore. In the cities the driving is insane. Normally what would be a 2-lane road becomes a 5-lane road during heavy traffic. People cram into every small space that’s available and you have to be super aggressive. The vehicles on the road are mostly scooters/motorbikes and autorickshaws. The autorickshaws are basically a motorbike with 3 wheels, a back seat for 2, and a roof. The pollution in the cities is very bad. You can see the smog everywhere around you since there are so many vehicles.

There were, of course, a vast number of poor people, by western standards. I saw people bathing and washing their clothes in river water that is dark brown with pollution. However, even though someone relatively well off may make the equivalent of $100 a month, which a lot of people quote to prove how poor these peope are, these people seemed to have what they needed. I’m not talking about the really poor people, rather someone with a decent low-paying job. Someone like this has a place to live, a scooter, food for their family, the hopes of their children going to University, etc. They may not have the latest plasma flat-screen TV or the latest video game console. The point is that they live. We’ve gotten so rich in the west that we think anyone who doesn’t have all our comforts is poor beyond belief.

Also very depressing was visiting their museums. In the “museum” section the palaces I visited it was sad to see that almost all the items being shown were represented by pictures. The actual items are in England. While showing ornate swords, for example, there would be pictures of the ones made of gold and silver, but the other metals were left – because they weren’t worth much. But I still had a great time visiting the palaces and temples. I visited a fairly new Hindu temple that was really interesting. I visited the palace of the last big emperor of the region before the British came. We also had to take our shoes off in most places, which I’m definitely not used to.

It’s also sad to see the amount of influence the British invaders had on the Indian culture. Suddenly the British were revered (by some, mostly the upper classes) as being better than any of the natives. Why is it that it’s the cultures of militarism and materialism that get spread around the world? Why can’t something like the belief in love, kindness and friendship preached by somehting like Buddhism be spread around the world for once?

Having said that, there were lots of things I liked about the country. I liked the simpler lifestyle. I liked the fact that the media hasn’t (yet) commericialized everything. I like the fact that they’re not violent. There is definitely petty crime, but I was told the occurence of violent crime is much lower than the US. I like the feeling of independence from the “west.” They’re aware of what’s going on in the rest of the world but don’t need care a whole lot, which is a big contrast against smaller countries. It’s kind of like the attitude the US has towards the rest of the world, just in reverse.

One of the strangest experiences for me was having a driver. He stayed with me all day, and only ever went home when I’d go back to the hotel at night. He was a great guy and helped me out in lots of ways. It just made me feel kind of strange.

Anyways, it was a great experience and I definitely recommend it.