I must break off my blogs on the Leacock Summer Festival to comment on the dreadful case of the three teenagers and their caregiver who died when their car plunged (was pushed?) into the Rideau Canal, near Kingston, Ont.
One must make no assumptions in a criminal case. But the fact their parents and an elder brother have been charged with first degree murder, has raised the question of whether this is an “honor” killing.
It is interesting the extent to which apologists will go in rationalizing cultural practices like this. I heard a woman who is a sociologist at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) speak about this on The Current on CBC Radio this morning.
She seemed offended by the outrage being felt over this incident. Her line was that the issue is violence against women, not cultural practices, and that Canadians shouldn’t think they’re any better than people from other cultures because women are often violated in this country.
There are, unhappily, cases of women being murdered in Canada, as well as their children, by the woman’s mate. But there’s no pattern of the type of murder of children by their parents like the estimated 5,000 “honor” killings per year that happen around the world in Muslim families.
It is an ironic coincidence that just this week, the United Nations issued its Arab Human Development Report, 2009. An account of the report is here.
Arab nations are part of the Muslim world. The report asks: Why have obstacles to human development in the region proved so stubborn.”
The report identifies several. Here’s one:
Many Arab women are still bound b y patriarchal patterns of kinship, legalized discrimination, social subordination and ingrained male dominance. Because women find themselves in a lowly position in relation to decision-making within the family, their situation continuously exposes them to forms of family and institutionalized violence. It is difficult to gauge the prevalence of violence against women in Arab societies. The subject is taboo in a male-oriented culture of denial.
What applies to the Arab countries in this respect also applies to other nations where Islam is the predominant (or only) religion.
All three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianly and Islam, spring from cultures of male supremacy. Secular movements within the first two have brought about the development of human rights and personal freedoms. Not so much within Islam.
I think this is yet another example of how religion poisons everything. The full report is at this link.
I watched with a mixture of excitement and apprehension as my TV screen filled with images of Endeavor’s blast-off last night from Cape Kennedy. There’s still nothing like a space launch. You’re confident everything will be all right, but you’re never 100% certain.
The launch that put Canada’s Julie Payette back into space — joining another Canadian already at the International Space Station — came on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the historic moon trip of Neill Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
And Monday, July 20, will mark the 40th anniversary of their Apollo 11 landing, when Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the Moon and uttered the memorable words, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
(Most people have forgotten, if they ever knew, that NASA had to doctor the tape of Armstrong’s audio; he muffed the famous line and it had to be edited.)
I remember gathering with my family that Sunday night long ago to watch the scene unfold on our black and white TV.
With us that historic night was my friend Ronald Lawrence, who was just getting up his own steam as a naturalist and author of wildlife books. Ron went on to a fabulous career in which he had his books translated into many languages. Sadly, Ron is no longer with us.
There’ll be a celebration at NASA headquarters in Washington on Monday. Armstrong, notoriously shy, won’t be there. Aldrin will. He’s been more public about his life, including his struggle with depression and alcoholism. He writes of his life in his new book, Magnificient Desolation: the Long Journey Home from the Moon (Harmony).
I’m old enough to remember the consternation Sputnik caused. When the Russian satellite went up, I told anyone who would listen that we’d be on the moon in ten years. It took twelve.
There are only seven more flights scheduled in the Space Shuttle series. Then it will be on to the Constellation Program. NASA hopes to have astronauts on Mars in 20 years. It’ll be a case of hopping out in stages. First, back to the Moon on a new space vehicle, the Orion, and its Moon lander, Altair. Then to the moons of Mars and finally, the Red Planet itself.
Worth all the cost? Of course. I’m convinced that Homo sapiens are genetically programmed to explore this world and move on to new ones. Some day, we’ll have to give up this burned out old planet, and abandon our tired, weak sun.
That’s longer in the future than any of us can imagine. The trail begun by Armstrong and Aldrin shows us the way. In the words of Chairman Mao, “The longest trip begins with but a single step.”
I’ve always admired the ability of people who have “a way with words.” The journalists whose short, punchy accounts bring us the core of a dramatic story. The novelists who reach our hearts with their dialogue.The poets who create lyrical verses — especially those that can be put to music.
So I’m blown away by Dave Carroll of the Maxwells group. He had a bad experience with Air Canada/United Airlines. United broke his guitar and refused to acknowledge responsibility. Finally, in frustration, he told them he’d write three songs to tell the world of their negligence. Here’s one version, that’s all over the Internet:
Dave writes of this episode in his blog, which is here.
I once had a run-in with United in South America, but I was able to convince them to give me a free ticket as compensation. Then there was the time my daughter Sharon and I were trying to fly back from Tokyo. The day before our scheduled flight, I learned American Airlines had my booking, but had lost hers. I phoned the PR Vice President’s secretary. The next day, we were on our way — first class!