If I were caught in the crossfire of this civil war as a Syrian (“Death of a nation,” International, Jan. 6), I couldn’t help but think money and politics are of more value than people. Every day, more people die, and the blood on the hands of the world increases. If this were a disaster like a typhoon or hurricane, we would have already thrown money at it and been on the ground, assisting. But when it’s called a civil war, we say it’s their business. I’m not ignorant to the fact that you don’t simply waltz into a country like you’re taking a stroll. But the alternative is not acceptable. The need for decisive action is now.
—Renae Jarrett, Ajax, Ont.
Thank you for this informed, accurate and compassionate article on Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest men of our time (“Freedom fighter,” Nelson Mandela: A Special Tribute, Jan. 6). As Canadians, we almost always took the high road against apartheid, and Mandela never forgot it. We can be proud of having given him the Order of Canada and honorary citizenship, and be honoured that he gratefully accepted. I must admit that I am astonished that, following 27 years of imprisonment and deprivation, he came out of it a man of peace and wisdom. Rest in eternal peace, Madiba.
— Hugh Vincelette, Vancouver
Nelson Mandela is rightly revered for bloodlessly leading South Africa into a free democracy, in Lincoln’s memorable phrase, “with malice toward none; with charity for all.” But it was not always thus. His early political career eschewed Gandhi’s non-violence in favour of armed struggle and terrorism—for which he was quite properly arrested, convicted and imprisoned. Indeed, his epiphany only came about during incarceration on Robben Island when, forsaking violence, he realized that apartheid could best be defeated by peaceful and truthful reconciliation between oppressor and oppressed. It is at least arguable that, had he not undergone such lengthy incarceration, he would have remained a terrorist and never become a statesman, with South Africa doomed to Zimbabwe-style devolution. The world indeed works in mysterious ways.
— Alexander McKay, Calgary
Right now, South Africa needs to embrace a new party leadership (“Will the centre hold?” Nelson Mandela: A Special Tribute, Jan. 6). The ANC has done its part as a revolutionary party to end apartheid, but, as a political party, it has slowly gained the reputation of being corrupt and having few answers on how to shape the economy. It now needs to focus on jobs and building a strong middle class. This is the next step in the evolution of a post-apartheid South Africa.
— Jesse James Lockhart, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
South African history is the story of changing treaties, broken promises and the survival of the wealthy and powerful on the backs of the poor. The police state, the security forces, the inequality, the laws, the injustices and brutal oppression only intensified as whites wanted to hold onto power and make apartheid work. Mandela’s fight for freedom goes much deeper than the fight against apartheid. His message was also that of forgiveness, of trusting and unifying many disillusioned groups into one nation.
We in Canada must realize that, as long as we keep dividing our people into tribes and nations with special promises and special reserves, we are encouraging disharmony. As long as my neighbour can sell tax-free smokes and I can’t, we create resentment. As long as we have different rights and laws for the different people of Canada, we have a problem. We, too, need to start forgiving, start trusting, and give up the grievances of the past. Canada needs to be one nation. There should be one fair rule of law to govern equally every person. If we really heard Mandela’s message, we would abolish the Indian Act, tear up century-old treaties and demand that, as Canadians, all our children receive the best education possible.
— Peter Saffery, Cobden, Ont.
Nelson Mandela was a person of grace and integrity. How many people in history are his equal? Anyone who had the honour to have met or worked with Mandela had tears in their eyes over this news.
— Jim Sontag, The Hague, Netherlands
The dead chamber
Why should the provinces invest resources in holding Senate elections (“Public enemy No. 1,” The Year Ahead: National, Jan. 6)? There’s not much in it for them, particularly as we’ve learned that chamber has been transformed into a branch office of the PMO.
— Sean Stokholm, Waterloo, Ont.
The long-term economic goal since the start of free trade has been a level international economic playing field (“How safe is your job?” Economy, Jan. 13). The trade agreement between the U.S. and Canada allowed movement of manufacturing to lower-employment-cost areas in the U.S. where there are fewer benefits and pension costs. In order to remain employed and competitive, this corporate relocation forces Canadian workers to accept lower-paying jobs with limited or no benefits. Examples of this type of manufacturing exodus can be seen all over Canada: Heinz, Kellogg’s, Caterpillar, etc. In the end, our governments will have completely dismantled and exported our manufacturing industries to foreign lands and forced Canada to provide the world with our limited natural resources as our only export. We will be a world of Wal-Mart manufacturers, workers and consumers. Companies will produce cheap goods at low cost for high profits to sell to low-paid consumers. The population will then not be sufficient for a solid tax base for the country’s needs at our current standards (health care, defence, pensions, etc.). The only winners in this scenario are the corporate elites, the one per cent. The 99 per cent will be angry. It amazes me that the various governments are either blind to this goal of the level playing field or are supportive of the corporations.
— Janice Sidebotham, London, Ont.
Your article on incandescent light bulbs (The End, Jan. 6) supports a fallacy, namely that, when used in Canada, the bulbs contribute to global warming and should be replaced with more efficient lights. It is correct that incandescent bulbs produce considerably more heat than they do light. However, in Canada, we need heat in our houses for about three-quarters of the year, so, for indoor lights, the heat is not wasted. Most of this electrically generated heat comes from sources that do not produce carbon dioxide; in Ontario, more than 50 per cent comes from nuclear generation and, in other provinces, much electricity comes from hydro sources. If “efficient” light bulbs are used, a house’s furnace has to make up for the heat not produced by the bulbs, and almost all this extra heat energy will involve burning gas, oil or wood, producing carbon dioxide and contributing to global warming. Thus, elimination of incandescent bulbs will increase, not decrease, global warming.
— Julian Swann, Ottawa
Your story on the death of the incandescent light bulb was timely, as Christmas presents to family members included the more affordable LED bulb that produces enough lumens to actually make a good replacement for the now-deceased incandescent bulb. Yes, they are expensive, but they do last. I have made the habit of marking the date installed on the base of the bulb, just to see if they last as long as reported, and am happy to report that CFLs, used daily, last past 10 years. With LEDs lasting 25,000 hours, a bulb may last a lifetime and beyond. Now when you move, you could take your light-bulb investment with you and add it to your net worth.
— Norm Larsen, Sherwood Park, Alta.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been a Maclean’s subscriber at the time of your Jan. 6 issue. It consisted of 40 pages devoted to the recently deceased former South African president Nelson Mandela, and the remaining 80 pages under the headline “2014: The year ahead,” which based its predictions on political, economic, social, sports, science, medical and cultural issues by linking the past to the possible future. The last page was unusual. Generally reserved as an obituary page for a little-known Canadian who, in fact, meaningfully affected the lives of many others, this obituary was about the lifetime of the incandescent light bulb, 1880-2014. A brilliant idea!
— Robert Marcogliese, Montreal
Harper: What a mensch
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s support for Israel is worthy of praise (“Israel’s best friend: The PM,” National, Dec. 23). Under Harper’s administration, Canada has chosen principle over political expediency in its stalwart support for the Jewish state. Whether at the UN, the Francophonie, in domestic and international audiences or in foreign policy circles, Canada’s support for the only liberal democracy in the Middle East makes sense and is based on shared values. Indeed, a closer look at the Canada-Israel relationship reveals that Canada has exercised moral clarity by standing up to double standards, dictators and outright hypocrisy. Yet, letter writer Art Hildebrand (“Harper’s travel plans,” Letters, Jan. 13) would rather that Canada’s Prime Minister extend his travel plans to Gaza, a territory run by Hamas, a terrorist organization committed to the genocide of world Jewry and a statelet of global menace, Iran. Canada under Harper’s administration has confronted terror, upheld international law and promoted peace between Israelis, Palestinians and the region as a whole.
— Mike Fegelman, Executive Director, Honest Reporting Canada, Toronto
A grounding reminder
Good luck with the Skycar, the Canadian flying car that is set for its first manned test flight in June (“Future imperfect,” The Year Ahead: Business, Jan. 6). However, we, as a species, seem incapable of handling a two-dimensional transportation system—even with guidelines painted directly on the surface in front of us.
— C.S. Sigvaldason, Edmonton
I am delighted that Cathy Gulli reviewed my book, The Sweetness of a Simple Life (Books, Dec. 23).However, I am concerned about two errors in the review, one serious and the other fictional. In my book, I indicated that potatoes are turned in the sun for eight hours, then stored. Gulli wrote that I suggested leaving “fresh-picked potatoes to sunbathe for days”—but that results in a biochemical change in the flesh of potatoes, making them toxic for both man and beast. Furthermore, I have never grown “carpet grass for pets,” let alone recommended it. In the chapter entitled “Dog’s life,” I was specifically referring to a wild species of the grass family called agropyron repens. This is an important natural medicine for dogs.
— Diana Beresford-Kroeger, Merrickville, Ont.