An old fogey I am, and, yes, I keep on forgetting a lot But I do remember a lot also. Pieces of memory that do not always fit together well. But writing lets me go back to a book or fill in some detail from the internet.  3

Existentialist Sartre, Jean Paul Sartre: "The aim of to impart to others the results one has obtained...As I talk, I reveal the situation...I reveal it to myself and to others in order to change it." To be better prepared for coping with bad situations.  4

Existentialist? I found existentialism defined as "a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will." Got it? Then let's get on with it.  5

I want to write about how our Canadian senators might very well repair a failing democracy. I want to write about the kind of consequences of failing to do so so. In short order. As well as I can.  6

Sartre wrote a play, "Huis clos," but the English translation is called "No exit." It is about an afterlife of people in a closed room where torture is inflicted on them by each others' words. Ah well. I tend to ramble.  7

Climate change is very much in the news these days; the threats it imposes on peoples worldwide. Singling out: Two hundred million climate migrants by 2050. Could be less. Could be much more. Might be a billion. Put those numbers up against the numbers of migrants today—counted by the thousands instead of millions. It makes absurd a belief that throttling the inflow of migrants into our country remains a viable option over the next few decades. And so? And so what?  8

I am an old fogey, so, why break my head over it? Why would any grown-up? Après nous le déluge. Classic advice: forget about. Nothing you can do about it. Turn to happy thoughts.  9

      Standing on a corner watching all the girls go by
      Standing on a corner giving all the girls the eye
      Brother if you've got a rich imagination
      Give it a whirl, give it a try
      Try standing on a corner watching all the girls
      Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by.

The song just popped up in my head. An essential part missing though, the singers' voices. Why not try Youtube?  11

My great-granddaughter will be in the prime of her life. By 2050 I mean. Knock on wood:

      We got trouble
      How much trouble
      Too much trouble
      Well now don't you frown
      Just knuckle down and
      Knock on Wood

From "
Casablanca", the movie.  12

I have here "Who is in charge?", a book by neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga (2011). Are we biological machines with all our thinking and actions predetermined by laws of nature? Or do we have some say in how we are about to act? Put differently: do we have free will? Are we accountable for our actions? Are we, by throttling the flow of migrants, accountable for the threats that climate change imposes on those not allowed? Accountable to whom? To ourselves? Our family? Colleagues? Community? Countrymen?  13

Standing on a corner .... Silence has consequences. Consider events under Nazi rule. In my lifetime. I was only a teenager. Did not suffer much, as far as I remember. Consequences, yes, but nothing like what I am about to bring up next.  14

I have here "The Investigation" by German playwright Peter Weiss, a poetic condensation of the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials of 1963–1965. Inspired by Dante's "Divine Comedy" it is divided into cantos. Snipped from the first canto, "The loading ramp":  15

      Prosecuting attorney:
            At present
            you hold a high executive position
            in the management
            of the government railways
            Therefore we may assume
            that you are acquainted with the equipment
            and loading capacity of trains
            How were the trains
            that arrived in your station
            equipped and loaded
      1st Witness:
            The trains in question were freight trains
            According to the bills of lading
            some 60 persons were forwarded in each car
      Prosecuting attorney:
            Were the cars freight cars
            or were they cattle cars
      1st Witness:
            Some of the cars were the kind
            used to ship catlle
      Prosecuting attorney:
            Were there any sanitary installations in the cars
      1st Witness:
            I don't know
      Prosecuting attorney:
            How often did these trains arrive
      1st Witness:
            I couldn't say
      Prosecuting attorney:
            Did they arrive frequently
      1st Witness:
            It was a very busy terminal
      3rd Witness:
            We travelled five days
            On the second day
            our provisions were used up
            There were 89 of us in the freight car
            Our suitcases and bundles besides
            We relieved ourselves
            in the straw
            Many were sick
            and eight were dead
            At the stations along the way
            we could look out through the air vents
            and see the women personnel
            handing food and coffee to the guards
            Our children had stopped crying
            when on the last night we were switched
            off the main track onto a siding
            We passed through a flat region
            lit up by search lights
            Then we came upon a very long building
            like a shed
            There was a tower
            and under it an archway
            The locomotive whistled
            before we went in under the arch
            The train stopped
            The freight car doors were pulled open
            Prisoners in striped uniforms appeared
            and yelled in at us
            It was four feet down to the ground
            The ground was broken rock
            The old people and the sick fell
            onto the sharp stones
            The dead and the luggage
            were thrown out of the cars
            Then we heard
            Leave everything where it is
            Women and children there
            Men on the other side
            I lost sight of my family
            All around
            people were shouting
            for their families their relatives
            They were being beaten with clubs
            Dogs were barking
            Searchlights and machine guns were trained at us
            from the observation towers
            At the end of the platform was the sky
            glowing red
            The air full of smoke
            The smoke had a sweet singed smell
            From then on
            this smoke was always there  


That ordeal had begun long before the train ride. A few paragraphs from my wife's "Memories that never left me (WWII years)," she wrote for our children, grandchildren, ...:  17

"Jews had to wear those stars on the left side of their coats. Lots of things were forbidden for them.  18

"Many, many of my school friends slowly disappeared either sent to concentration camps or underground if they were able. Underground meant in hiding.  19

"One day my parents had witnessed at the Amsterdam railroad station how many Jews were being packed into trains. German soldiers, yelling loudly. "Schnell, Schnell," Hurry up, hurry up! With dogs and rifles beating them, pushing and shoving them into the train. My mom later told us they stood frozen and bewildered watching this total chaos of human suffering.  21

"There was an older Jewish man taking care of his wife, putting his arm around her to shelter her of this madness. However he did not watch where he was walking and accidentally bumped into a German soldier. Well that soldier got so mad, he turned around and started beating up this old man. My mam got so angry and ran to that soldier, grabbing him almost, but some Dutchman grabbed my mother and told her to keep away from them or she would also be put on that train."  22

I'll skip the details of how Jews were collected by Nazi deviousness, German soldiers, and Dutch collaborators—forced or voluntary, rewarded by money or food rations at a time of widespread hunger. People are people are people.  23

Famous quote: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Credit Reinhold Niebuhr, Christian realist.  24

Snipped from Weiss's final canto ("The fire-ovens"):

            How long was the room kept under gas
      7th Witness:
            2o minutes
            Then the ventilation system was turned on
            and the gas pumped out
            3o minutes later the doors were opened
            Did you
            see this room after the door
            had been opened
      7th Witness:
            The corpses lay piled on top of each other
            near the door and around the columns
            Babies, children and the sick at the bottom
            women above them
            And at the very top the strongest men  

Hitler himself was not democratically elected. But when the one who was elected died, soon after, Hitler was legally appointed his successor and it did not take him long to assume absolute power. Finagling through loopholes in Germany's then prevalent democracy.  26

Democracy remains to be in peril because those seeking election must appeal to an electorate that by and large doesn't know what it is doing. Very different from the democracy of Athens under Pericles when participation was limited to adult, male citizens—supposedly those in the know. "Men of the world," as they say today. Or said so yesterday, before women entered that picture. And the offspring of slaves.  27

Philipp Foltz, Pericles' funeral oration. My source:
Wikipedia. Transpointed:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Our senators are appointed by the Governor-General on behalf of the Sovereign and they, by tradition, have been recommended for appointment by our Prime Minister, who had been elected to be a member of Parliament.  29

Given the world's major political systems, democracy and autocracy (dictatorship), I have come to believe that—the world being what it is today—we probably would be best served by a combination of democracy (read: the Commons) and a meritocracy (read the Senate). Problem is that our Senate today has a way to go to become a well-functioning meritocracy.  30

I began to take an interest in our Senate about six years ago and soon thereafter began writing about what I learned, what I considered its flaws, and making recommendations about how to improve things. My notes became an "ongoing" essay (adding, deleting, revising, all while shown on this website): "On guard in a global environment: An ongoing essay about modernizing our Canadian Senate."  31

It became quickly evident that the democratic side of our government is in disarray, mostly because of a poorly educated/informed electorate, something that badly needs addressing. That part of my essay begins here and, obviously, it has be dealt with. (Not only in Canada!!).  32

A 1980 report by The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (here) summarizes the Senate's role:

      • a revising legislative role;
      • an investigative role;
      • a regional representative role;
      • a protector of linguistic and other minorities role.

But now, with global threats coming at an accelerating rate, it became clear that the investigative role ought to be redefined as an

      • an investigative, anticipating, and critical problem-solving role.  33

To reveal a situation is one thing. To change it is another. But maybe, with my observations gathered over a long life, there is something I can contribute. And, yes, I can point to ways to initiate improvements; ways to move on to a more competent, a meritorious Senate. Let my essay serve as a roadmap, Sections 10–22.  34

Surely, our senators are men and women of the world. How else would they have been chosen for appointmet? People of the world—but whose world though? Our country's? Their party's? A former senator had the answer—it's in the Hansard: 35

      "Every one of you knows why you are here. I would ask if you might indulge me and let me tell you why I am here. I am one of the 18 new senators appointed by the Prime Minister in December, and it is fair to say that those appointments were greeted—certainly by many in the media—with less than lavish praise. Some commentators even waded in with comments about 'bagmen.'

      "Well, I want to tell you that I do not admit to being a bagman; I proclaim it.

      "I believe that the job of raising funds for the Conservative Party or, for that matter, any party, is both necessary and honourable. Parties require money to operate."

Doesn't this turn your stomach? Party bagmen on the public dime. The very kind of thing that in some circuitous way led to Senator Duffy heeding the advice of senior colleagues and then paid for it by living under a cloud for three years. Finally, a court of law fully exonerated him from every single one the 31 charges levelled against him. 37

Some things have changed since. The leader of the Liberal party put an end to the Senate's Liberal caucus and later, as prime minister, began appointing senators not beholden to any party. Our Conservative sentors did not follow suit. Their mindset remained Victorian, so I sense, even under the heavy weight of the public gaze.  38

What will the next holocaust be? Another mass murder on industrial scale? The ravages of climate change, coming closer faster than thought possible? Nuclear war, because of someone's psychological quirk? Robotization? Who is to tell? But the one perpretated under Hitler was allowed to happen because people stood by, bewildered, or sought to stave off finality—largely unprepared. Or participated willingly, joyfully, or simpy to survive themselves.  39

One would think that in a world with an accelerating rate of threats to human well-being the aim of debates among a country's leaders must be seeking solutions to urgent problems. Conservative politicians appear to disagree. That was quite evident during the final sessions of a Special Committee on Senate Modernization. For more than two years, it invited briefs and consulted political scientists and senators about topics considered relevant. (Transcripts found here.)  40

But in the end ... well, reading between the lines, in the end committee members got on one anothers' nerves and testy. They wrangled about ill-defined words and concepts. Rapid turnover in committee membership ... final report cleared out of the way. I abandoned all hope for our Senate to ever become a true guardian for Canadians in a increasingly dangerous global environment.  41

No doubt, we have many fine senators, working in a stale environment under antiquated rules. Correct me if I misjudged. Or missed any significant improvements since the standing committee stood.  42

But I am just an old fogey who may have rambled too much.  43

* * *

A nice and well-educated lady once asked me, "Do you believe the holocaust actually happened? And how do you know that for a fact?" How can one convince doubters (and I am not referring to so-called holocaust deniers) that it did. That second question has been with me for years; I mentioned this in my story "Lesson from Leo."  45

Peter Weiss's play "The Investigation" reproduces in terse language the testimony of participants and witnesses of what happened at Auschwitz during WW-II. The author's sources were the Frankfurt War Trials held in 1964–1965. 46

I believe the entire story makes important reading because, as they say, "History repeats itself," humanity being humanity. A newer translation has been published by Marion Boyars Publishers, London.  47

The space below serves to put any hyperlinked targets at the top of the window

Valid XHTML 1.0!     tux     mveMVE


Above space serves to put hyperlinked targets at the top of the window