Letters

April 2005

Power Play
Allan Gregg (“Quebec’s Final Victory,” February) implies that allowing provincial governments to take matters into their own hands is an ominous development. Perhaps we have lived in a paternalistic land for so long that many of us fail to recognize its influences, like the notion that governments always know best. The devolution of power, out from the centre, is to be embraced, not feared.

Real power still resides with the people, a point we forget at our peril. We need more referenda and citizen initiatives, more scrutiny and openness. The more we participate, the better off we will be. Mr. Gregg still propagates that father knows best. In reality, we all know best, and need to flex our democratic muscle to prove it.
Joe Bezanson
Vancouver, BC

Allan Gregg’s article assumes that a strong federal government is a good thing. But there is no proof of this. If this country truly believes in diversity, we must allow for local authority to manage that diversity. My own preference would be the devolution of power from the nation-state to the city-state, a more organic and manageable form of government. We would still require federal powers to set currency and environmental policies, but even duties such as defence could be managed by local governments, with some federal co-ordination. Canada, of course, would not be the same country, if “country” is even the right word for it. But our part of the globe would be more exciting, generate more ideas, and create a political environment where people’s voices are heard.
Steve Papagiannis
Brampton, Ontario

Canada is one of the most decentralized countries in the world, and yet few of us have any personal or collective knowledge of this topic to draw upon. As our provinces nation-build at the expense of the country as a whole, the danger of this trend elicits little discussion in the media. We must find a new group of national champions to reframe the debate around the balkanization of this country (nicely expressed by Leif Parsons’s illustrations).

Paul Martin’s proposal to direct federal funding to Canadian cities, circumventing provincial jurisdiction, seems a cause for hope. This is a creative way to address excessive provincial power, and suggests Martin is not completely out of touch. Yet, while the cities generally liked Martin’s idea, decentralists knew this was an attack on provincial power, and spoke out against it. The solution may be a campaign to decentralize provincial power. If provincial power is better because it brings government closer to the people, then let us bring more power to the community level.
D.T. DeWitt
Vancouver, BC

Back To Africa
Lawrence Hill suggests black Americans have created a psychological distance from Africa by defining themselves more by their nationality than by their race (“Is Africa’s Pain Black America’s Burden?,” February). But nationalism proves an equally arbitrary and destructive force, a point Mr. Hill neglects to mention. In W.E.B. Du Bois’s book The Souls of Black Folk, he suggests that racism causes people to see their world through a veil of illusion. Both racism and nationalism construct an arbitrary dichotomy between two groups of people for the benefit of the dominant group. Where once Du Bois’s was a veil of racism, it is now a veil of nationalism. So long as that veil exists, Africa will always be a problem.
Steven Gorman
Calgary, Alberta

Although I admire the sentiments that prompted Mr. Hill’s article, I saw nothing in it that deviated from the idea that American culture is essentially better. Studies of the involvement of American blacks in Africa show that they took with them the same notions of Western superiority, civilization, and savagery as did their white countrymen, with very similar consequences. This at a time when many African churches send missionaries to the West, suggesting some dispute as to who should be civilizing whom.
Farah Mendlesohn
Fredericton, New Brunswick

After reading Lawrence Hill’s article, I felt like I had to do something. I don’t have a lot of money, so I sent a note to my member of parliament suggesting he take action by introducing legislation to help with sexual education in Africa, and eliminating more of Africa’s crippling debt. While my letter may not bring about these changes, Mr. Hill convinced me that a little political activism is a good thing. I hope this article will encourage others to act as well.
Louise Daniels
Ottawa, Ontario

Technically Lost
I was delighted to read Ellen Vanstone’s article (“Only Connect,” February). I too am recently separated. Naturally, to celebrate my independence, I wanted to set up my own Internet account. My Internet provider sent me a big box of Styrofoam peanuts, a modem, and glossy brochures with flow charts suggesting that even an infant could set up the system. I certainly couldn’t. Instead, I spent hours on the phone with the techies, trying to convince them that I was computer-savvy, hip, and not to be trifled with. I did everything I was told, but could not set up the program properly. Techies never lie, but they only tell you the whole truth once you start to show signs of wear and tear. Finally, I was instructed to go to the “gronkenschpiel” box, select pastrami, and type in a831v&*m. I followed the instructions and was connected. I sent you this letter, via email, as proof.
Francesca Allan
Central Saanich, BC

I loved this story! Unfortunately, I’ve had unpleasant experiences as well. My Internet provider was Orwellian and horrible, a smug remnant of the tech bubble that couldn’t give a damn about a lowly residential user like myself. After six gruelling months talking and writing to everyone in the company, I considered myself lucky to have lost only $500, and not what remained of my sanity. Please direct me to an anarchist wireless organization looking to overthrow the hegemony!
Anya Macleod
Garibaldi Highlands, BC

Hockey, Duh
I largely concurred with Don Gillmor’s lament about the disproportionately thin vein of quality hockey literature, both in fiction and non-fiction (“Hockey: The Great Literary Shutout,” February). The explanation may not lie with the game or its figures, but with Canadian writers and journalists. Gillmor notes several prominent American boxing writers, reflecting a long tradition of incisive and creative sports writing in the US. While Canada has had Scott Young, Red Fisher, and Roy McGregor, we lack a critical mass of sports journalists who are given the space or the time to write thoughtful columns, features, and books that could create a tradition of belles lettres d’hockey.
Arn Keeling
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

While waiting for my own Walrus to drift casually across the Atlantic, I got an online head start by reading Don Gillmor’s article. Though it’s common to hear our literature is soft on hockey, it’s not entirely true. Gillmor fails to mention marquee novelists Paul Quarrington, Richard Wright, Wayne Johnston, and Mark Anthony Jarman (with his fabulous Salvage King, Ya! ), each of whom has written plenty of hockey into at least one of his novels.

More interesting are the many passing references (in everyone from Cohen to Kroetsch to Carol Shields) that use hockey to drive home a point, where writers from other places might shift to dialect. Hockey is not absent from our fiction; we’re just so used to skimming over it. The real black hole is in curling literature.
Jason Blake
Zalec, Slovenia

McLuhan’s Wake
Andrew Clark (“Missing Marshall McLuhan,” February) misrepresented last October’s McLuhan International Festival of the Future. Festival organizers cannot be guilty of failing to deliver the real McLuhan, or to neatly package the McLuhan legacy for mass consumption. This was never the intent. The festival drew its inspiration from the particular ways McLuhan envisaged the future, and by the kinds of questions he asked.

For Clark to suggest, even rhetorically, that festival participants share something in common with members of the Ku Klux Klan or that their ideologies are reminiscent of the Weimar Republic is in poor taste. Artists and thinkers who openly share their work and ideas with a wider community suggest neither Nazi heydays nor Mississippi Burning, but rather a better future to come.
Stuart J. Murray
Toronto, Ontario

Andrew Clark’s article covers only the most well-trodden background: McLuhan’s genius, rise to media celebrity, and the misunderstanding and misquoting that has been part of the reception of his work. Mr. Clark thus contributes to a long tradition of misunderstanding McLuhan, by skipping to the only popular culture scene he can identify—a reference to David Cronenberg’s Videodrome.

Mr. Clark’s anti-academic stance misses the hybrid energy that this event released through its mixed modes and media of communication. His bored reception works to ensure that McLuhan’s fate, as far as public knowledge and understanding goes, is to end up as Professor Brian Oblivion—a caricature of the scholar that he was.
Jody Berland and Bob Hanke
Toronto, Ontario

The Urban Marriage
A large portion of the mysteries and problems of marriage mentioned by Wendy Dennis (“The Mystery of Marriage,” December/January) could be solved if we found some way to mature emotionally beyond a seven- or eight-year-old age level. But I don’t anticipate this happening any time soon. The urban setting so strongly isolates us emotionally that it prompts almost everyone to focus exclusively upon, and to glorify, their own emotional needs and desires to the extent that everyone else becomes irrelevant. This attitude permeates our entire society and often leads to dissatisfaction with any relationship even hinting at permanence.
W. George Eason
Vernon, BC

Divorce As Sport
I found your article about collaborative law interesting (“Talking Through Divorce,” February). Litigation is the modern counterpart to medieval jousting, in that someone gets knocked off his horse. One party wins, and the other loses. For both protagonists and their barristers, the burden of loss is greater than the benefit of winning—hence the ferocity. Which is why mediation is so sensible.
Doug Wright
Toronto, Ontario

Justice In Burma
I read David Kendall’s article (“Burma on the Brink,” December/January) with great interest. Having worked with refugees and displaced people from Burma for fifteen years, I am pleased to see Burma reported even occasionally in Canadian media.

Absent from Mr. Kendall’s article was any mention of the up to one million refugees and migrants who have fled the country to seek sanctuary in bordering countries. Nor is there mention of the well-documented testimonies of women who have been subjected to military rape as part of the junta’s strategy to destroy ethnic communities.

Mr. Kendall approvingly notes that Canada has not followed the United States or the European Union in imposing sanctions on Burma. It is important to note, however, that Burma’s democratically elected government-in-exile has called for comprehensive trade and investment sanctions, most recently in testimony late last year before the Canadian parliament’s standing committee on foreign affairs. The Canadian government has done little on the sanctions question. At the same time, the Canada Pension Plan is investing in Canadian companies working in Burma and providing revenues to the regime. These revenues are quickly converted into the armaments used by the junta to repress the Burmese people—a point that would shock most Canadians.
Peter Gillespie
Ottawa, Ontario

Crosswords And Teasers
There is an alternate solution to BrainTeaser #1 (“Brain Teasers,” February):
D4, R3, U2, R4, L2, D1, R2, D4.
Love the magazine. Keep up the good work!
Della Stroobosscher
Conestogo, Ontario

Tusk Tusk
The clue for 49 Across in your crossword puzzle (“Strings Attached,” February) is not correct. The clue reads “Acetaminophen-based pain reliever” and the answer is Anacin. Anacin is not acetaminophen-based. It is an acetylsalicylic acid, or Aspirin-based painkiller (see insightpharma.com/anacin-pain.aspx). Just a minor thing I wanted to point out.
Andrea Coulter
Victoria, BC

Editor’s note:
It is a little-known fact (perhaps, admittedly, too little known) that Anacin is available in an acetaminophen-based formulation as well (see drugs.com/anacin.html).

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