Archive for September 2009

Ayn Rand’s pernicious influence

September 30, 2009


Ralph Nader was recently interviewed on the CBC about his new meganovel, over 700 pages  long. Naturally the characters, mostly the very wealthy who have had a conversion and are seking redemption, begin to sound like Nader one of America’s moral giants and a radical defender of the common good.

Nader is one humanist whom the churches should be listening to. He makes more sodpel sense than those Republican bishops.

In passing Nader repeated a brief conversation he had with Richard Rubin, former Secretary of Treasury under Bill Clinton.

The latter opined that probably the the two books which have wreaked the greatest damage in the 20th century are Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Both books are turgid hymns to the “greed is good” manta which so bedevilled the last two decades.

The high priestess of selfishness who has had countless admirers Hugh Hefner and Ronald Reagan being but two. certainly has had a great impact as Rubin suggests. It appears Rand with her dissing of altruism might have been the patron saint of the 80s and the godmother of all those financial wizards like Milton Friedman(another Randite) and Alan Greenspan whose discredited theories and abysmal understanding of human nature  caused so much suffering in the last meltdown

Prophetic Word on the Street

September 28, 2009


Haroon Siddiqui

Canada’s largest love in for books celebrated its 20th anniversary this past Sunday.

The Word on the Street, a cultural phenomenon welcomed thousand of bibliophiles to the historic Queen’s Park where we luxuriated in the spoken and printed word.

To me the best tent was sponsored by the country’s largest newspaper the Star, one of the last independent voices in journalism. Having survived Robert Pritchard’ s dismal tenure, the paper has maintained its original mandate of the Hindmarsh family’s engaged Methodist faith:” afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

In this day and age when papers are struggling to figure out the impact of the Internet, the paper still does serious in depth investigations. All day at The Word at one hour intervals their ace reporters and columnists interacted with the public.

If there was a star it was their fearless columnist Haroon Siddiqui.

His opening gambit set the tone: “Journalism failed in the Iraq war.”

But Siddiqui was one of the few who did not. After expressing his sympathy immediately after 9/11 he immediately went deeper.

He ridiculed the pretext for this abominable war and just before our PM made “the greatest foreign policy decision in the post war period'(Siddiqui)—rejection of a conflict role in Bush’s disastrous war.

When hacks like Dan Rather were lining up behind Bush (“Just tell me where to stand and I am with you” the supposed journalist said on Letterman.

Siddiqui said after his column he received 800 emails—650 supporting him.

Then on the next Saturday morning he received a call from Prime Minister Chretien who asked him what he should tell Bush when he was to meet him in 2 days. Siddiqui told him and Chretien said that that’s what people in the cities were telling him—but not Stephen Harper, Mike Harris and Ernie Eves.

While the major papers of power and influence, the Washington Post and the New York Times later issued apologies for their lamentable coverage, Siddiqui and the Star never had to.

The best MP in Canada

September 26, 2009


Charlie Angus the NDP MP from Timmins-James Bay came to Toronto on Thursday night cap in hand. For the fifth year in a row the affable parliamentarian described by the Globe and mail as “one of the best MPs in the House” was hosted by his former musical partner and best friend Andrew Cash in a Kensington bar/theatre space.

Charlie was here to sweeten his megre political coffers for his next run as an MP.

If there is a better MP in Canada, I’d like to meet him.

I’ve known the 46 year old Angus for 30 years since he started making angry punk music with his pal Cash. The two formed the group L”Etranger in the late 70s. Both have gone on to make significant music, Charlie latterly as a member of the folk-country band the Grievous Angels.

Angus arrived as a young teenager fresh from Timmins. Married in his early 20s, he and his formidable wife Britt Griffin opened a Catholic Worker house in Toronto’s least end.Nothing “liberal” about this pair.They were and are serious Micks. The call to return north never left Angus and he and Britt returned north kids in tow in 1990  to Cobalt, Ontario.Charlie started a magazine called Higrader, dedicated to telling Northern stories—which were also reflected in his gritty musical tales in the Grievous Angels.

The NDP convinced him to run and he knocked off the Liberal incumbent who it turns out never once had visited the many First Nations in a riding bigger than Great Britain. Since then he’s won twice more with bigger pluralities each time. The natives know gold from dross in all those mining towns.

There he sits–no runs—still defending the least among us in his poor riding. Angus is a man who has totally internalized the “Catholic thing”, a radical defence of the common good. This has not gone unnoticed in the national press—see the Globe quote above and the Star which calls him,”one of the 10 most effective opposition members.”

I like the late Peter Gzowski’s description best of all : “the poet laureate of Northern Ontario.”

Charlie tells the real stories which need to be heard—which is why I never miss his fund raisers.

The Curia is dead

September 23, 2009


With the explosion of the horizontal internet, all command centres are in deep trouble.

This is good news for the people of the Roman Catholic church, that is those who have remained inside the church but also those who will come back when  that magnificent insight of Cardinal Newman finds its inevitable roots deep in the whole people of God. That insight is that the Spirit is given to the entire people whose “sensus fidelium” will direct the wider church. Truth no longer emanates from a command centre of celibate, male clerics.Fewer and fewer are listening as information and connectivity accelerates.

The Internet is linear, horizontal, pluriform and diverse. The Curia or “the power houses” called chanceries have dramatically lost voice. Everything has become decentralized. For church people this is excellent news. As lay people have become better educated and as priesthood has intellectually lagged behind in brain power, a storm is brewing.

The People of God are gaining voice.The Internet is abetting this cry to be heard.

with its decentralized modes of existence (every person a modem, every one with something to say)  the Internet is already destroying the formerly powerful Curia.