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Clements: The Facade of International Law; Or, It’s Okay Because We Did It!

May 17, 2012

Despite the self-proclaimed ‘higher standard’ that those of us in North American society hold ourselves to, we live in a world of double standards and contradictions. Typically, an article like this would proceed to blame the apathy of voters, or the short attention span of citizens, or the general bad nature of humanity in general. While all those factors exist, I’m convinced the answer is a little less (maybe not) cynical than those who have lost faith in the good in people.

The fact of the matter is that the majority of news we digest in North America is chosen, filtered and watered-down to provide a consistent narrative of events. It is picked in order to maintain a stable flow of news that is comprehensible to the average citizen. As a result, we understand who the good guys are and of course, who the bad guys are.

A quick outline reveals that the bad guys are international terrorists, the Iranian regime and Charles Taylor, among others. The good guys: Barack Obama! NATO, ‘democratic regimes’, Israel, and Big Business-the staple of the ‘Canadian Economy.’

We are told that Occupy protesters have ‘made their point’ and need to get back to their day to day lives. Environmentalists ‘made their point’- (but we really need to streamline this environmental review process, while still maintaining fairness and equality, of course).

Most recently, those upper-middle class, spoiled Quebec students have ‘made their point’ and need to get ‘back to business’. Those advocating drug law reform, prison reform, a focus on mental health have had their input, (but private prisons and the expansion of arcane crime policies is what’s best for a ‘safer Canada’).

The fundamental disconnect between those protesting and those protesting the protesters, is that both view Canada and the world through fundamentally different lenses.

Those of the older generation seem to think that Canada, the U.S and the rest of the world will wiggle it’s way back into the normal ebbs and flow of growth and decline that that generation has enjoyed since the second world war. They read the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the National Post. Some are ‘liberal’ some are ‘conservative’; both adopt a worldview that still believes in the global system of economics, justice and global expansion. 

They read headlines like “Iran supplying Syria with arms despite UN sanctions: Panel”. Once again fueling the growing push for war in the middle-east. What you don’t read about, is how the Israeli Government, with the help of the United States, actually funds a more radical Islamic terrorist group called the MeK. Using terrorists to overthrow supposed terrorists, brilliant planning!

This lack of knowledge is not the fault of the average Canadian or American. The only reason I read these websites is because a Professor gave me a list of non-North American news sites that report on the items that usually get a 250 word description at the end of the last page.

The limited ability to debate extends to all aspects of society, including banking. If you haven’t seen it already, a 12-year old girl named Victoria Grant made a speech describing how the privatization of the Bank of Canada led to the creation of unsustainable national debt.

Victoria is patronized politely by the Financial Post, explaining that it was run away spending and a refusal to pay off debts by governments that led to the disaster we are in. While the author spends the majority of the article belittling the poor girl, he only spends about two paragraphs explaining why she is wrong. On the other hand, if you would like a more detailed explanation, the Asia Time article explains how:

“The debt shot up only after 1974. That was when the Basel Committee was established by the central-bank Governors of the Group of Ten countries of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which included Canada.” The group proceeded to advocate banking that would maintain the stability of the market.A key objective of the committee was to maintain “monetary and financial stability”. To achieve that goal, the committee discouraged borrowing from a nation’s own central bank interest-free, and encouraged borrowing instead from private creditors, all in the name of “maintaining the stability of the currency.” 

The presumption was that borrowing from a central bank with the power to create money on its books would inflate the money supply and prices. Borrowing from private creditors, on the other hand, was considered not to be inflationary, since it involved the recycling of pre-existing money. 

What the bankers did not reveal, although they had long known it themselves, was that private banks create the money they lend just as public banks do. The difference is simply that a publicly owned bank returns the interest to the government and the community, while a privately owned bank siphons the interest into its capital account, to be re-invested at further interest, progressively drawing money out of the productive economy. 

The debt curve that began its exponential rise in 1974 tilted toward the vertical in 1981, when interest rates were raised by the US. Federal Reserve to 20%. At 20% compounded annually, debt doubles in under four years. Canadian rates went as high as 22% during that period.”

While I’m not expert on central banking, I was able to discern a lot more about how Canada’s debt began to grow through the Asia Times article than the Financial Post article which assured me that I can continue to have overwhelming faith in our banking system. Canadians and Americans are simply not exposed to competing systems of thought. Whether it be foreign affairs, domestic policy, banking, etc, the scope of debate is limited by what the media chooses to focus on.

To keep the article short I’ll conclude on international law. The double standard of prosecuting ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor while making no mention of prosecuting the Bush administration remains our greatest collective failure. While Taylor, from all that we know, should have been held accountable for his actions; we ignore the atrocities and human suffering caused by the Invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. This, despite the fact that they have recently been found guilty of crimes against humanity.

Yes, Charles Taylor, Kony2012, and others are people we should hold accountable. We must hold ourselves accountable for not prosecuting a government responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people.

Life is about competing narratives. More importantly, power, whether it be political, social or economic is also dependent on credible narratives. History is not dead; it is a constant battle to define and redefine what it means to be a Canadian and an American. Part of defining who we are must include an acknowledgement that we are not perfect. Part of the national identity must incorporate that we must be as self-critical as easily as we chastise dictators in Arab and African countries. What it means to be a ‘good citizen’ is not a reliance on past accomplishments; but a constant struggle to make a better, more inclusive future.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. J. Zimmerman permalink
    May 17, 2012 1:45 pm

    Well done article. Reposting.

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