Letters: ‘I hope the old lady hits you over the head with her umbrella’

Maclean’s readers write in

Christopher Wahl

Suzuki: saint or sinner?

David Suzuki’s conclusion that there has been a failure of environmentalism is, regrettably, true (“The nature of David,” National, Nov. 25). But reducing our oil production, while increasing the purchase of foreign oil, will only exacerbate the income gap while resulting in no global environmental improvement. Although the oil companies present a simple and convenient target for environmentalists, the truth is much closer, and it is us. True progress will not be achieved by stopping the pipelines and oil production in Canada; it will be when we humans change our environmentally destructive lifestyles that demand the oil and gas in the first place.

Rob Moore, Victoria

If David Suzuki wants to know why the environmental movement has failed, he need look no further than the nearest mirror. It is one thing to advocate for cleaner air and cleaner water; it is quite another to propagate public policy against the oil sands, which would blow a $100-billion hole in our economy and eliminate thousands of well-paying jobs. What Suzuki and his ilk seem to forget is that Canada, despite being the second-largest country by land mass, is only responsible for two per cent of global carbon emissions. If the entire country were to magically disappear from the face of the Earth tomorrow, oil sands and all, it wouldn’t make a dent in anthropogenic climate change. Talk about an inconvenient truth!

James Dunphy, Ottawa

I would have thought that at least one of Suzuki’s many legitimate critics might have been quoted directly to provide a modicum of counterpoint to the main thrust of the article, an unabashed fan letter to Suzuki from Jonathon Gatehouse. Ezra Levant of Sun News is not interviewed, but is viscerally attacked by Gatehouse, who describes Levant as a “tormentor” and “shouting head,” who came to a Suzuki event to “sabotage the show” by asking “aggressive questions.” Funny, but I thought that’s what journalists were supposed to do.

Michael Boyko, Windsor, Ont .

We have a government that finds the environment an impediment to a fast buck and has done its best to silence any and all opposition. We’re killing ourselves, and David Suzuki has spent his life trying to save us. We failed him and, even worse, ourselves.

Laureen Wells, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

One thousand years from now, two remnants of humanity will be crawling over the debris of our civilization, and one will say to the other: “You know, that Suzuki fellow had it right.”

Daryl Gates, Wilmot, N.S.

Boomers bite back

As a senior living on a fixed income, with little or no pension income other than the largesse of the various governments, making ends meet is an ongoing battle (“Pay up, grandma,” National, Nov. 25). When my condo fees increase every year, I watch for my next government paycheque to see if it is going to pick up some of the slack. I have no way of improving my income to balance out the ever-increasing cost of living. I cut back on the quality of food and products I buy in order to make the income last until the end of the month. Leave us seniors alone with the few small perks we get at various stores. Not all of us were government employees with huge pensions.

Jim Hazzard, Alliston, Ont.

In Alberta, there is a shortage of minimum-wage workers. Businesses hire old, decrepit workers, some of whom can hardly walk. I am sure the old man working as a greeter in Wal-Mart while leaning on a walker would rather be at home, enjoying adequate income in his old age.

Paul J. Pentek, Calgary

Peter Shawn Taylor makes some valid points about how unfair life is for young workers, but who does he think has paid for everything in this country for the past four decades? We, the Baby Boomers, did. We lived through the politically imposed “belt-tightenings,” the anti-inflation board, and struggled to keep ourselves afloat. And, yes, we continued to work past the age of 65, but not to pay for travel or other luxuries, as Taylor suggests; we continued to work to support our adult children. No matter how hard the younger generation tries, the job markets do not support their efforts. Since only I have a pension and my husband does not, receiving seniors discounts is a perk we enjoy. We feel entirely entitled to them: We paid for them with 40 years of hard work.

Paula Shepherd, Prince George, B.C.

Taylor quotes a statement by a twentysomething blogger: “The next time you see an old lady paying less bus fare, demand that you receive the discount instead of her.” Well, I hope you do this, and I hope the old lady hits you over the head with her umbrella and purse.

Frank DeBresser, Chatham, Ont.

A better world for atheists

If Emma Teitel thinks Peter Boghossian is extreme for advocating that atheists (or, more accurately, anti-theists) openly push their views, she should consider what being an atheist is like today in the United States, where Boghossian lives (“Bless atheists, for they have sinned,” Opinion, Nov. 25). There, atheists are bullied off football teams for not participating in the pre-event Christian prayers that are still routine in that country. Teitel and millions of other Canadians are too young to know that overt and systemic discrimination against non-Christians was once the norm here, too. All those who enjoy freedom from religion today owe a debt of gratitude not only to those who quietly have left the ranks of religion over the last 50 years, but, more important, have dared to speak out against religious-based gender, race and sexual-orientation bigotry. If they hadn’t done so, Teitel would not enjoy nearly the same level of personal security, opportunity and freedom she enjoys today as an openly gay woman.

Drew Shaw, Duncan, B.C.

I prefer to consider the efforts of strident atheists in the same way I considered the early gay-pride parades. Just as the parades used a small shock to push public acceptance so the world might be a little safer for homosexuals, the vocal atheists clear a landing area among the religious for those who can no longer maintain their faith. Dawkins explains how the more noble and valued human traits are the products and by-products of evolution, not training in the Scriptures, and demonstrates how we can feel awe and derive inspiration (even a spiritual experience) from the true knowledge of nature and the universe.

Laurie Corbett, Fredericton

Emma Teitel is suspicious of atheism because the atheist Richard Dawkins may be a closet sexist. Certain other atheists get no mention, such as: Mao Zedong (40 million killed); Pol Pot (more than one-quarter of Cambodia, 1.7 million, executed, worked to death or starved); Joseph Stalin (at least 20 million put to death). All three were convinced atheists, pursing policies founded on atheism.

Ted Byfield, Edmonton

Apologist or tribalist?

When writing about Rob Ford (“I’d take Rob Ford over some I could name,” Opinion, Nov. 25), Barbara Amiel is so busy whining about how mean the left wing is that she misses the point entirely. Ford and the right make a big deal about “getting tough on drugs” and “tough on gangs.” And yet, here is Ford out doing drugs with friends accused of being in the drug trade. The hypocrisy is so shameless that it’s pathetic, and yet, when it’s one of her own, Amiel is perfectly okay with it. That’s the real crime here.

Chris Eaton, Fredericton

Standing up for our own

Why did it take the involvement of Amnesty International, a trip to the United Nations and almost five years before the Canadian government stepped up to help free unjustly imprisoned Canadian Hamid Ghassemi-Shall from jail in Iran (“Locked away, but not forgotten,” International, Nov. 25)?

Kathy Little, Saskatoon

Hungary loves Jews

Anna Porter’s article, “A far-right turn” (International, Nov. 25) is focused on one Hungarian Jewish writer, Ákos Kertész, once a celebrated writer in Hungary, who has received refugee status in Canada. True, there is a far-right party in the Hungarian parliament, but not in the government. Israeli tourism to Budapest has tripled in 2012 compared to the previous year. This is hardly the sign of Jewish people being generally afraid in our beautiful capital. It was here in Toronto where the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance held its semi-annual conference (Canada is the current chair of IHRA) and unanimously elected Hungary as the chair for the year 2015. This would hardly have been possible for a country where the government does not consider fighting anti-Semitism a major goal. We need to join forces in this process. Although we are no saints, neither would we like to be considered “genetically subservient”—as Kertész put it. Would you?

Stefánia Szabó, Consul General of Hungary, Toronto

Expand your (Canadian) horizons

I enjoyed Laureen Harper’s discussion with Julie Smyth (Interview, Nov. 18), especially her wish that people would reconsider their 22nd trip to Florida and instead consider going to Manitoba, B.C. or the Yukon. The federal government should encourage “vacation travel” within our own borders by providing taxpayers the opportunity to claim a portion of their vacation costs in Canada on their tax returns. There are thousands of wonderful experiences awaiting all Canadians, yet so many spend their vacation dollars by returning yet again to U.S. attractions. Not only does spending our tourism dollars within Canada benefit the economy, it provides an education like no other, and gives us all a much greater appreciation for this beautiful nation and the diversity of people within it.

Ken Richard, Leduc, Alta.

True power

Thank you so much for this wonderful personal glimpse of the late Nazmoon Charran (The End, Dec. 2). In an issue that put so much importance on power, it was refreshing to read about the life (and tragic death) of a person who, like so many unnamed others, really make this country work—unlike some in your list of powerful people (“The power issue,” National, Dec. 2).

Peter Drewcock, Quesnel, B.C.




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Letters: ‘I hope the old lady hits you over the head with her umbrella’

  1. Mao Zedong Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin were not atheists.

    They were your crowd Ted, not mine.

    • [citation needed]

      • (none will ever be given)

      • It’s always Wikipedia

        • ?????? That’s because Wiki is online.

          It also has citations at the bottom of the page for further reference.

      • Your google button is broken?

        Stalin was a seminary student….he trained to be a priest. He attacked the church itself ….Russian orthodox…because they backed the Czars….but his beliefs about God remained.

        Pol Pot was brought up RC and Theravada Buddhist and believed he had been called to lead his country.

        Mao was also a Buddhist.

        HItler, not mentioned here, was RC.

        Atheism is not a belief system….it’s a lack of belief….so no leader has ever done anything….peace,war etc…in the name of atheism

        I know that’s hard for religious types to get their mind around….but I’m afraid you can’t go blaming every crazy person in history on atheism.

        • ^^ Agreed ^^

          It’s a common approach by those defending religions to claim Hitler and Stalin as examples of atheists killing millions. The point that is missed is that even if they were atheists — which they were not — they did not start wars or murder millions in the name of atheism. They did it for nationalism and power.

          By far the vast majority of mass murders/wars/genocides are in fact led by those who believe that they are guided by a higher power and thus absolve themselves of any personal responsibility by claiming they are doing “God’s” will.

          IF God exists, and would will a human to kill another — which almost all religions state he does or has — then he certainly doesn’t deserve our worship. The opposite in fact.

          • Nazi belt buckles said ‘GOTT MIT UNS’….God with us.

    • Indeed. For another example of Ted’s crowd:

      “The Taiping Rebellion was a massive civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, against the ruling Manchu-led Qing Dynasty. It was a millenarian movement led by Hong Xiuquan, who announced that he had received visions in which he learned that he was the younger brother of Jesus. At least 20 million people died, mainly civilians, in one of the deadliest military conflicts in history.”

      • Yes, the evangelical missionaries got to him and he decided he was the younger brother of Jesus.

        Religion poisons everything.

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