No, I don’t need a holiday. No, I don’t particularly deserve a day off. But on Thursday, the managing editor of the newspaper that gets the first lick at my Sharp Edges columns sent an email: “Take this weekend off. I need your space for election coverage.”
I had a column partly complete. Mostly complete. But I wasn’t happy with it. It was about the federal election, of course. More specifically, about the candidates in my local riding. About which, I daresay, no one outside this riding cares a whit.
(A “whit” -- in case you’re wondering, is a literary or archaic term meaning “the least possible amount.”)
So I accepted my weekend off.
All I can give you, this weekend, is your own letters about last week’s column, in which I excoriated (there’s another word worth looking up) a leadership conference here in Kelowna that involved two former prime ministers. Saturday’s paper carried a full-page ad telling everyone what a wonderful conference it was.
Frank Martens agreed with all my criticisms of Stephen Harper, except one, that he “reduced defence spending to 1% of Canadian GDP.” Frank said, “This was the only thing Harper did in his term of office that made any sense.
“A long time ago I served 5 years in the Canadian Navy. The only things I gained from that experience was a knowledge of self-discipline and the need for a higher education. Since that time I have taken every opportunity to enlighten people about the waste of money used to kill people instead of trying to save them, and to make young people understand the futility of war and to get them not to join the military.
“The only thing we should be spending our tax money on now are aircraft and pilots to fight the forest fires that will surely be increasing in intensity and size over the next decades. The rest of the armed forces should be prepared to serve in search and rescue and fighting fires and deployment to areas where needed within our own country.”
In a subsequent email, Frank shared his experience in the navy: “Even with more ships (mostly older) than now and one archaic submarine, we were still a pathetic excuse of a navy. I learned very early in my contract that we couldn’t fight our way out of a paper bag, particularly when we participated in ‘war games’ with our neighbour to the south.“
Steve Roney criticized me for claiming that the conference was all about money. “The conference bills itself as being about leadership, not about making money,” he noted.
Then he ended with these two sentences: “You cite Greta Thunberg, who has assumed a leadership role recently. Do you really believe, then, that she is in it only for the money?”
Tom Watson defended Greta: “A number of the so-called leaders in our social/political system write Greta Thunberg off as too young and inexperienced to be able to comprehend issues as complex as climate change. Even Rex Murphy was sucked into the vortex, writing in the National Post: ‘When leaders and adults willingly give subservience to children, when they willingly surrender leadership to the immature, when teachers become the pupils of their students, a great inversion is upon us.’ Did I not read somewhere else, written by a person who had a vision of a more life-giving world, ‘And a little child shall lead them?’ Not in some people's minds, I guess.”
I try to avoid listening to Rex Murphy.
So did Paul Irwin: “An article challenging current concepts of leadership could hardly be more timely as our imminent national election demands hard choices. And where are the visionary people with the conviction and integrity to stand for Earth’s well-being? Prophet Greta Thunberg -- the second Greta to challenge some of us -- tells us plainly that true leaders will put Earth’s rights to life and health first. These will be people with the courage and public support to face down the principalities and powers hell bent on wealth creation at the expense of planetary justice and health.
“Children and millennials see this truth clearly; most of the elders I know in my generation see it clearly, and yet we once more participate in the sad charade of electing more representatives of the destructive multinational business machine.”
James Russell opined, “I’ve long felt that there is only one test of leadership: Do people follow you? Most of our current leaders are in fact followers: Money is the real leader. And the thing about Money is that it has an authoritarian style -- follow me and my script or face punishment. On the other hand, you, old friend, have always led by reason, insight, example, inclusion and good humour. I try to follow.”
Allan Baker found the cartoon to which I had made passing reference, by memory. The correct quote from the corporate tycoon is, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”
Bob Rollwagen picked up the election theme that I didn’t write about: “We do need a well-managed economic environment but thinking that the same people can divert their personal focus for even a moment to be trustees of our future health, either personally or the global environment, is lunacy. Leadership by definition means total awareness of the scope of the job. National leadership candidates with this ability are hard to find. We always are stuck voting for the best of those that can afford to step forward. We have to focus on the accumulation of a party’s candidates to get a feel for potential progress and then VOTE.
“Progress has to be measured by how our governments treat our disadvantaged and improve our environment. I always approach democracy with a positive hope. Lately, I have been disappointed but we approach yet another chance to build a better, fairer society.”
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Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on YouTube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8
Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. The website for this project has closed but you can continue to order the DVDs by writing info@woodlake,com
Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures.
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)
ALVA WOOD ARCHIVE
The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.