stuff gets examined.

Wikileaks and Canadian Asbestos

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So International politics and diplomacy is dirty stuff. Wow, I didn’t see that coming!

I an totally appreciate the value of Wikileaks revealing nonsense in a military operation like that in Afghanistan. We need to know  the truth about a situation that is costing people their lives and quality of life.  If we’re being snowed, we need to have real details so we can adjust our expectations and responses as citizens of involved nations.

However, in the case of diplomacy – Governments tend to provide what is expected by their citizens (or, increasingly, expected by their corporate citizens, but that’s another can of maggots). We citizens of North America various expect (in no particular order) to have one of the highest standards of living, be militarily and economically dominant (necessary, I guess, to fulfill all the other expectations), have the most oil to burn up, the most disposable consumer garbage, the best and most plentiful selection of food, etc etc.  Fulfilling these expectations can be difficult to fulfill in a world where the majority can’t expect this stuff, and where other participating governments may be motivated by goals other than the expectations of their population, impossible to do honestly and ethically unless the expecting populations are willing to lower their expectations to a reasonable level.  International politics are delicate and nasty. Many governments and governmental functions are still fueled on personal prestige, influence, ambition and jealousy, and in order to continue supporting us in the manner we’re accustomed, our governments have to swim in this stuff.  Governments are also like people – The Chinese leadership may have been considering reigning in North Korea, but like anyone, they no doubt hate to be figured out by a rival and potential enemy. I can see China radically changing its approach to North Korea to negate American Diplomat’s leaked suspicions China isn’t as supportive as it used to be. Congratulations, we’re all in the know,  but one step closer to war with a dangerous rogue state with nuclear capability.

My favourite Canadian example: Once upon a time, (I still recall this when I was in grade school in the 70’s) Asbestos was the wonder substance, an insulation that also prevented fires. We Canadians were blessed i that Quebec had tons of the stuff buried in the ground. A huge industry developed around extracting, refining, and exporting it. Eventually, however, it was revealed that it causes cancer. Canada and other first world countries banned its use and now millions of dollars are spent each year removing asbestos from buildings. However, as noted above, an industry has developed around its production – banning its production entirely would anger business interests and the workers involved in asbestos. So, the Canadian government bows to its population’s demands and allows its continued sale to countries with lower standards of safety. This is kind of like allowing car manufacturers to re-sell recalled cars to places that aren’t as worried about driver safety as Canada or the U.S.A.

Similar to the Asbestos situation is the recent defeat of a bill to ensure some of our at-home mining expectations are fulfilled where Canadian corporations mine in developing countries.

If we’re going to expect governments to continuously and entirely behave in a manner that we can respect, We should expect it of other aspects of our civilization.

  • Food retailers should be required to have monitors displaying live video feeds of the production of the food in question over each food section (including the facilities where the livestock are raised, transported/unloaded, and slaughtered).
  • Banks and Financial firms should be required to list the questionable or ethically shaky investments your money will be used in , whether you want to hear about it or not.
  • Any retailer that sells stuff that contains metals such as copper must have a “jumbotron” in their entry area showing the average copper mine in a third-world country where the metal  came from, as well as (anonymous) interviews with employees of the mine.
  • Consumer junk retailers should be required to have similar video feeds of the third-world production of the junk in question, as well as piles of the same product cluttering some place’s landscape after we’re done with it.

Our politics and relations with the world are just reflections of what we expect, as a mass of humans. We have a lot of cleaning to do before we can expect our representatives to behave in a sparkling manner.  Lots of evil is done on our behalves every moment. It’s up to us to stop ignoring it.


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