Friday, July 19, 2013

My Log 368: Indian children used as guinea-pigs in Canada: I’m not surprised, and this recalls some experiences of the past

St. Paul's Indian Industrial School, Middlechu...
St. Paul's Indian Industrial School, Middlechurch, Manitoba (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Residential school group photograph, Regina, S...
Residential school group photograph, Regina, Saskatchewan circa 1921 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 The news this week that the Indian residential schools were used by the Canadian authorities for experiments in the effects of malnutrition on children does not in the least surprise me, although I have to confess I have never made any detailed study of the residential schools and their works.
The fact that the Cecilia Jeffrey school just outside of Kenora was the site of one of these experiments takes me back to my first days in Canada, because I lived in Kenora for the first six months of 1955, having moved there after three months working on a Thomson newspaper (if that’s the word to describe that strange daily publication) in Kirkland Lake.
Actually I didn’t have a job in Kenora: my wife, however, had obtained a teaching job in what was called the Rabbit Lake school, some miles outside Kenora, and every day she had to pass by the nearby Indian residential school, at that time in its full glory as an instrument of Canadian colonialism.
The residential schools were established because the white establishment of the time believed they were the only way to detach Indian children from what the authorities considered the “barbarous” lifestyle of the Indian parents. In other words, the schools were a deliberate act of genocide, designed to bring the race of indigenous people in Canada to an end by turning all their children into nice, conforming, polite and non-troublesome little Canadian kids.
We didn’t know that these experiments were underway in that school, but we wouldn’t have been surprised to hear it. The chairman of the Rabbit School board was a man who also happened to be the principal of the Indian residential school, and he interfered in the daily work of the Rabbit Lake school to what my wife thought was an unwarranted extent. Day after day she would come home with tales of that terrible Mr X and his suggestions for improvement of the school experience.
Our brief connection with this hellhole ended when I received a job-offer from the Winnipeg Free Press and decided to give up writing my great novel and return to the only thing I knew how to do, that is, to be a reporter.
It was about 15 years before I set foot back into Kenora, this time as a roving reporter for The Montreal Star, with a kind of loose assignment to write about the condition of the Indians. Meantime Kenora had been the centre of a major protest movement of the local Ojibwa Indians trying to draw attention of the white authorities to the fact that they actually existed and had terrible needs. I didn’t know it at the time, but the local Indians had been reduced to that state by the action of whites, most of them from the United States, who years before had been given authority to fish the Lake of the Woods, the immense heart and seat of the local Indian life. Before that happened, the Indians had established a perfectly viable mixed economy primarily based on a comprehensive expoloitation of the sturgeon --- for example they took a substance from it that was used in the industrial economy for making paint, and various other things ---- a species which had been kept in balance by the Indians over the centuries. All that ended with the coming of the white fishermen, who wiped the sturgeon out of the Lake of the Woods in a jiffy, thus reducing the Indians who had depended on it to penury. (A detailed account of this can be found in my book, People of Terra Nullius, published by Douglas and McIntyre, of Vancouver, that is still available in most libraries.)
One of my enduring memories of my many visits to Kenora over the years is of having, on that first return visit, probably in 1969 or 1970, met in a back room of the detox centre a young man who was filling in his time by painting on sheets of brown paper. I bought one of them from him for a minimal sum, and thus became owner of a work by Carl Ray, who later became a well-known painter in Canada, nowadays variously described as a Cree and then as an Ojibwa painter, but one whose works today are in at least a dozen of Canada’s major arts collections. Carl was born in 1943, and died as a result of being stabbed in a drunken fight at the age of 35, but he has left his mark on Canadian painting, not least by having been one of the seven native painters who  formed a group  in the 1970s to improve the prospects for their work. He became an associate of Norval Morriseau, now acknowleded to be the greatest of them all, whom he helped to paint a vast mural for the Indian exhibit at Expo 1967 in Montreal.
Thus I am now discovering that Ray was already a well-known artist by the time I happened upon him in the back room of the detox centre. He had already lived through the residential school experience. He left school at the age of 15.  Thereafter he tried unsuccessfully to make a living as a traditional hunter and trapper in the bush (he discovered that these skills had been detached from him by residential school), had contracted and recovered from tuberculosis, but evidently became a servant of the alcohol which so often served young Indians of the time as their ready staff and help in a life of travail.
These are no more than the ramblings of an aged reporter who, having discovered what had been done to the native people who live among us, did what little he could to bring their desperate plight to public attenton, and in that process was taught many lessons about human life and its relationship to other forms of life

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

My Log 367: 50 years to the day since the major leaders of the African National congress were arrested: I am reminded of my brief acquaintanceship with some of those incorruptible leaders

African National Congress
African National Congress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Young Nelson Mandela. This photo date...
English: Young Nelson Mandela. This photo dates from 1937. SImage source: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I notice today the BBC is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Rivonia arrests in South Africa, which has made me think of my friendship with one of the arrestees, Harold Wolpe and his wife Anne-Marie. The arrests were made in July, 1963, but Harold and his friend Arthur Goldreich bribed their way out of jail, escaped South Africa, in spite of a frantic search for them by the police, and on arrival in England at the beginning of October headed for Blackpool (I think it was Blackpool) where the Labour Party was in the middle of its annual conference.
There they appeared at a small meeting of leftist Labour supporters. Goldreich was a spell-binding speaker who did not stay in England for many months, but headed for Israel, where he died a couple of years ago at the age of 82. I was so impressed by his presentation about the political tyranny operating in South Africa that I arranged to interview Harold Wolpe when I returned to London.
Harold’s account of his life during the previous 10 years or so, when he had been the solicitor for  the leading activists of the African National Congress, was enough to convince me that the route of armed struggle was all that had been left to them.
Harold had won many cases for his clients in the South African courts, but every time they won a case the government immediately changed the law in such a way as to make it impossible for any more cases to be won. In this way, the legal freedoms of assembly, protest and dissent were closed off one by one, inexorably, over the years,  until Mandela and the other leaders decided to launch an armed wing of their by now banned political party, all other avenues for protest having been closed to them.
Arthur Goldreich was an artist working for a Johannesburg firm, and the tenant of a farm, Liliesleaf, which he made available to Umkonta We Sizwe, the armed branch that the African National Congress was in the process of organizing and developing. Goldreich had been an activist even as a Jewish kid of 11, when at his school the Afrikaans government began to teach them German in the belief that the Nazis had already won the war. He protested, successfully to the Prime Minister, Jan Smuts, and in 1948 he went to Israel to take part in the Jewish armed struggle to establish that country. Because of this experience, Mandela found him useful, for he himself had no knowledge of warfare of any kind and needed advice in how to set up an armed resistance movement.  It was Goldreich who had drawn up the programme for the armed group that was discovered when the security police raided the farm, the rent of which was being paid by the underground South African Communist party, of which Goldreich and Wolpe were both members.  Most  of the leaders were arrested,  including such as Denis Goldberg, Walter Sisulu, although Mandela himself was already imprisoned by this time.
 Nevertheless Mandela was included in the people charged at what came to be known as the Rivonia trial, from the consequences of which Wolpe and Goldreich managed to escape, but which culminated in Mandela’s life imprisonment.
 At the time I interviewed Wolpe I was London correspondent of The Montreal Star. According to the myths of Western journalism, I should have been neutral as between the oppressive apartheid regime and its victims, but henceforth I had no doubt where my loyalties lay, and I became a close friend of some of the activists representing the ANC in London during those years. Particularly I admired  their second most senior representative abroad, after Oliver Tambo, whose name was Robert Resha.  He had wanted nothing more than to be a sports reporter, but had been made into an activist by being arrested some 28 times for pass-offences --- that is to say, for not carrying at all times the passes identifying every non-white person in South Africa. He had been a leading volunteer in actions taken over the years by the ANC, and he was, as the sports writers often say, the sort of guy you would want to have on your team in any fight.
 Through my friendship with Robert  I learned what a terrible job it was to represent a black protest movement, no matter how admirable, how democratic its structures, or how incontrovertible its case for freedom. They had virtually no money, and Robert’s job was to go around the world persuading people and organizations with money to make a little of it available, and working to get sympathetic resolutions passed through United Nations bodies. Even when this succeeded, it seemed like a kind of pointless success, for these resolutions had absolutely no effect on anything, except, probably, to begin the snail-like process by which the apartheid regime finally began to feel its isolation in the world. This was a tough slog: Scandinavia was the only corner of the world responsive in any way to his appeals. Africans may have been sympathetic, but they had no money. He told me often how he would approach Haile Selassie in Ethiopia who would express maximum solidarity and support, but when the time came offer maybe $5,000.
 Robert sent his wife and their daughter to Moscow for education, which meant that the cause broke up and took over his family life. This process of a family neglected in favour of a cause apparently was described in somewhat embittered detail by Anne-Marie Wolpe in a book she wrote about her experience as a political wife, The Long Way Home, which she published in 1994, after her return to South Africa.
 I returned to Canada in 1968, and when I passed through  London briefly early in 1974 I arrived just as Robert’s friend and sidekick Raymond Mazizwe Kunene, a noted Zulu poet and political activist  (who was another close friend of mine during my London days), was working with Canon John Collins at setting up a memorial service for the recently deceased Robert in St.Paul’s Cathedral. It seemed a curiously bitter note, to me, that Robert in the end had had a falling out of some kind with ANC policy, and his death and lifetime of work for the cause was noted in only two lines in an ANC publication.
 Harold and his wife spent 30 years in exile in Britain before returning to take up academic appointments in their homeland  in the 1990s. There, they both became renowned as original Marxist, (Harold) and feminist (Anne-Marie) thinkers whose work has helped chart the way forward for their country.  Harold died in 1996, and is still remembered for the foundation established in his memory, the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust, and the annual Harold Wolpe Lecture sponsored and staged by the Trust.
 As a BBC reporter noted this morning, the anniversary of the Rivonia arrests seems all the more poignant for being celebrated as Nelson Mandela is hanging on to the last days of his life in his mid-90s, his stature among global politicians indicated by the world-wide anxiety that we are all about to lose a man of uniquely inspirational moral quality such as our world has seldom seen.
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Monday, July 8, 2013

My Log 366: Amazing German film on food processing poses every question about life on this Earth, and the way we are treating it, and ourselves.

 Last week I saw an amazing film that I should have known about earlier, because it was issued in 2005, and won an award at a film festival in Montreal, and an honorable mention at a Toronto festival.

The film is called Our Daily Bread, and is the work of a cinematographer --- that is, a complete film-maker, cameraman, director, writer, you name it --- Nikolaus Geyrhalter. It is a film which purports to be about the industrial processes of growing and processing the food we eat, but it is certainly more than that, for it involves questions about our relationship with other species, about human cruelty and indifference to the suffering of animals, about the unbearable work some humans are called upon to perform, about our mastery (and some would say, abuse) of nature through the imposition of mono-agriculture over fields as large as the eye can stretch, and many other peripheral but important aspects of life. It is, in my opinion, a work of absolute genius, this film, eschewing as it does any commentary or hard information and depending entirely for its effects, its story and its impact upon the images Geyrhalter has coaxed from his camera.

Most of these images are shown in long long holding shots that emcompass whole huge fields of growing plants, immense conveyer belts inside factories in which animals are processed into food, so that we are able to follow the process from the enclosure of the animals, through the grim process of their killing, and on to the even grimmer process of their evisceration, dismemberment, and even packaging, and then to the clean-up. One thing that amazed me is that all this requires huge quantities of water which is used in every process from the growing of plants, of course, through to the cleaning up of the immense quantities of blood and other messes that are expelled by newly eviscerated animals.

The workmen involved are usually not many, and they seem --- of course, I suppose one should add, since they are so accustomed to what they are doing --- completely unconcerned, unemotional, even indifferent to the results of their various actions.

For example, in one mind-blowing sequence, a man (or was it a woman?) standing beside a moving conveyer belt that holds the corpses of  hundreds of animals moving along past him (or her?) --- anyway, this person is operating a big machine that is, essentially, a chainsaw, which he or she moves forward repeatedly into the centre of the animal corpse, opening a slit through its entire torso, from which, in every case a whole parcel of its innards flopout as the animal passes on. The next sequence shows the innards falling on to a table on which a woman straightens it up, cuts off certain inconsequential parts that she directs into a chute while sending the innards on for further processing along the way.

One of the most extraordinary sequences is a long shot in a room full of chickens which share it with a slowly but inexorably moving machine that runs into them, picks them up one by one, sends them down a hatch and out into a box where a worker straightens them up before closing the box off (hopefully without catching their heads as she closes the box, which unfortunately she did on one occasion. Never mind, it was treated as of no consequence).

One woman was shown sitting at a table with a pair of shears with which she cut off a certain part --- was it the head? --- of a passing parade of chicken corpses, monotonously, hour after hour, probably for eight hours a day, or possibly even more.

And then, for a finale, we were shown how a large animal, a steer or a cow, was corralled into a huge drum, its head with nowhere to go but into a space designed to hold it while a person with a stun gun of some kind administered a shot that killed the animal stone dead on contact. It was these animals which when eviscerated, emitted a veritable river of blood washed away to the holding ponds, or wherever the blood is directed.

Not a word of commentary, not a smidgen of information, no reference to the where, who or why, was offered from beginning to end of this hour and a half film which made it, I have to say, all the more effective. No one was being charged with cruelty or  indifference; no one was accused of anything: we were simply shown one part of our vaunted industrialized culture, the culture that has enabled us to feed billions more people than ever before.

I kept wondering how they got permission to film these processes in their factories. My experience of private companies has been that they are almost paranoid about cameras even approaching their plants, and I felt sure no company in Canada, or probably in the United States, would ever have agreed to such filming.

I had to go to the internet for information about this. The film-maker, Geyrhalter, said some companies were proud of their plants and the processes they used, and willingly agreed to their being shot. But others (as I know they are in North America), were more suspicious and guarded.

The internet provides a list of  25 companies, all named, in which the filming was performed, in eight separate countries of Europe.

I remember once being surprised when I was making a film in mid-northern Quebec about a farming family half of whose members had emigrated to northern Alberta. The subject of the film had nothing to do with the huge barn in which the family kept its milking cows throughout most of the year, certainly all through the winter, apart from its being their workplace.

Their animals were kept in stalls with a chain around their necks, restricting their movement to just sitting down or standing up. They were artificially impregnanted, and when ready to deliver a calf they were taken to the end of the barn, from which, after delivery, they were returned to their stall. The process struck me as totally inhumane, although I suppose one might have argued that they were at least sheltered from the worst of the winter.

When I got to Alberta, the other branch of the family, 25 years there, was still living in a small house but had half a million dollars of farming equipment in their barn, which they used to pursue their monocultural production of wheat. They didn’t grow anything else on the farm, but bought their eggs, meat and other food from the supermarket in the nearby town.
 It raised the question in my mind whether we are not setting ourseves up for a massive fall with our monocultural methods of abusing nature. And this film, Our Daily Bread, certainly poses that and many other questions as well. 
 Everyone should see it.
 But I think the last word should go to Geyrhalter himself, who said in an interview:

“There were some people at (some) companies who see the consumer’s alienation from food production as a problem because consumers have no idea about their concerns. On the other hand lots of companies are afraid of publicity and what a film like this could show. After all, there are constant scandals, and they might think: If it’s going to create a scandal, then they should do their shooting at the
“But the point of this film isn’t to uncover scandals. I wanted to collect and make accessible images from this branch, this world,  in as objective a manner as possible. What makes it fascinating are the machines and the sense of what’s doable, the human spirit of invention and organization, even at close quarters with horror and insensitivity.
“Plants and animals are treated just like any other goods, and smooth functioning is extremely important. The most important thing is how the animals can be born, raised and held as efficiently and inexpensively as possible, how to treat them so they’re as fresh and undamaged as possible when they arrive at the slaughterhouse, and that the levels of medications and stress hormones in the meat are below the legal limits. No one thinks about whether they’re happy. If you want to call that a scandal, which is more than justified, then you have to take your thinking one step further. Then it becomes the scandal of how we live, because this economic, ‘soulless’ efficiency is in a reciprocal relationship with our society’s lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘Buy organic products! Eat less meat!’ But at the same time it’s a kind of excuse, because we all enjoy the fruits of automation and industrialization and globalization every day, which affect much more than just food.
 “The film’s title, OUR DAILY BREAD refers to our cultural history, and because of the religious association the effect’s even more crass considering how people treat their resources and fellow living beings. I always take the thought further, and the next line would be: And forgive us our sins. But it also refers to earning our daily bread, the normality of this life, the question of how people do their jobs, and how this has changed. Who runs the machines, who controls the processes - and who digs in the ground with their bare hands or picks the cucumbers? How is our daily bread distributed in contemporary Europe?”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Log 365: Mother of Cicada and Guacamole fails to find my hat: not surprising, because I don’t have a hat

Robert Benchley as most will remember him.
Robert Benchley as most will remember him. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: US Postage stamp, John Greenleaf Whit...
English: US Postage stamp, John Greenleaf Whittier 1940 Issue,2c. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is gratifying, I suppose, that in Ottawa, a city I left as a resident in June of last year, some friends of mine are searching for my hat. Even though my hat does not really exist, never did exist, and is merely a prop in an elaborate, misunderstood  joke I have made.

As far as jokes are concerned, I suppose I could say I belng to the old school. As a youngster I loved the written work of the very funny James Thurber, and both the written and filmic work of Robert Benchley, famous for his partnership with Dorothy Parker (she said, of an office they once shared, that if it had been any smaller it would have been adultery), and for his insouciant use of invented incidents, which, when challenged, he would reveal to have been about something else than what appeared on the surface. For example, he wrote once that everyone knows Mozart never wrote a word of music until he was 95.  When challenged by an indignant reader that Mozart died when he was 25 or thereabouts, Benchley replied that of course he was talking about Grandpa Mozart, the journeyman whistler. I thought that was funny.

Or, to give another example when he wrote of his compulsion to collect stuff, any old stuff, old doors, broken dormer windows, chipped cornices off the old Post Office, until his apartment was so crowded that one day he had a visit from the Missing Persons Bureau in search of a runaway, “but all they found were three Chinese laborers.” (Incidentally, I loved Benchley’s Maxims From the Chinese, including, “too much wisdom gets on the wise man’s nerves,” something I have adopted as a sort of personal mantra, especially in recent years when I have grown suspicious of accepted wisdoms.)

I should mention here that I have long been an aficionado of British humour, and only this week when we visited an art gallery full of ugly abstract works, I had occasion to recall Tony Hancock’s classic joke when playing the role of an artist in a movie. He put a canvas on the floor, threw multicolored paints  all over it, rode back and forth through the paint on his bicycle, dismounted, stood back admiring his work and said, “Aphrodite at the water’ole.” That is funny.

I remember one of Benchley’s short film features when the camera came up on a man sitting with a bright light dazzling him, Benchley, his interrogator,  walking obsessively back and forth behind him in the shadow, cracking nuts, and saying, “So you won’t crack, eh, McNulty?”  I thought that was funny, very funny.

One of Benchley’s great gags designed to emphasize his own insignificance, was his Benchley-Whittier correspondence, which consisted of a string of letters from Benchley to John Greenleaf Whittier, the poet, asking that he return Benchley’s hat that Benchley alleged  Whittier took by mistake when they left a party at the same time. Of course, Whittier never responded, so the correspondence was one-sided.
-->(He said nothing of the fact that Whittier died in 1892, forty years before their correspondence.)

This brings me on to my own imaginary hat. One of the friends I left behind in Ottawa is a young woman, living peaceably with her sterling husband, and her two small children, to whom I somehow had the luck to be considered a close friend. She, of course, is up to her ears in domestic duties, not to mention her obsession with collecting objets from garage sales, and her professional work as an adviser to the Canadian government. We have had a desultory sort of correspondence over the last year, usually accomanied by earnest pledges that in future she would pay more attention, and reply more often. At an early stage I believe I mentioned to her that I felt I was playing something like Benchley’s role in the Benchley-Whittier correspondence, and when that didn’t elicit an answer, I wrote her again, reminding her that she had not replied to my entreaty to return the hat that her husband had taken by mistake when leaving a farewell gathering before I left the city.

Of course she didn’t answer that one, so in a couple of days I sent off another mock email, thanking her for the (non-existent) message that had arrived just that day, but reminding her that none of the points  she raised dealt with the question of my hat.

When again a couple of weeks passed without any word from the young mother, I again wrote thanking her for her message of instant date, expressing my relief that her children (to whom I have given the mock names Cicada and Guacamole) are in perfect health and high good spirits, but mentioning more or less in passing that I was still awaiting word of the disposition of my hat.

Eventually I did receive a reply. She had asked her husband about the hat, but he had no recollection of ever having taken a hat from that or any other party. He had asked around some of our mutual friends, who also didn’t have any memory of my hat, and all she could suggest was that I ask some others of our mutual acqauaintance.

Wow!  Someone who never read Benchley, evidently. I am putting on my straight face from here on. So yesterday I sent off a letter as if I was altogether a normal person, inquiring whether she has yet sold that chipped cornice from the old Post Office that I had seen in her garage before leaving.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Log 364: Croatia in the news for once: it becomes the 28th member of the European Community among balloons, fanfare, fireworks and folderol

Walls of Dubrovnik (Croatia)
Walls of Dubrovnik (Croatia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: The Walls of Dubrovnik with the Minče...
English: The Walls of Dubrovnik with the Minčeta Tower. Dubrovnik is the capitol of the Dubrovnik–Neretva County, in Croatia. Français : Forteresse de Dubrovnik, à Dubrovnik, Capitale du Comitat de Dubrovnik-Neretva en Croatie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

destroyed house in vukovar, croatia
destroyed house in vukovar, croatia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Croatia is like Canada in this: it is very seldom in the world’s news. In the last couple of days, this has changed, as the major TV networks have all devoted segments to the fact that Croatia on Juy 1 became the 28th country to join the European Community.

The question being asked in every programme has been: why would they?  Who, in his right mind would want to join a crisis-ridden, lagging economy, more especially since Croatia’s own economy is already crisis-ridden, and lagging behind many others. In its fifth straight year of recession, trumpeted one network, Croatia is joining Europe.

It is an issue that, locally, has divided families, if I can judge from the family with which I am staying in Dubrovnik. The older members, for whom the last world war, and the more recent Yugoslav war are still very much in mind, favours the move into a union whose original purpose was to cool down the nationalist hostilities that led to both wars.  They are still animated by the idealism that brought France and Germany to put their hostilities behind them, The younger generation, suspicious of the fact that the European Union seems to have been set up deliberately as a citadel of capitalism, whose laws are all intended to keep public investment and activity to a minimum, and to open everything up to the private sector, protected by a formidable array of laws, are more critical, and want no part of it.

Nevertheless, the politicians, unsurprisingly, have bowed to the European hype, and have pushed the thing through, having made already a broad range of adjustments required by Europe before granting entry. Locally, this has meant, apparently, that everything that has been publicly owned is now up for grabs, a formula that was disastrous for Russia when it emerged from Communism, and that, frankly, seems to suggest further trouble ahead.

For capitalism is not living through its greatest moments just now. In fact, has it not been showing such vulnerabiity that people everywhere have begun to emerge from their houses on to the streets, demanding change?

In one country after another, the plea has been, as I heard from Egyptian and Brazilian protesters this week, “there is no equality, education is poor, we need money to improve the schools, hospitals and infrastructure before any more goes on prestige projects.” (A message any Montrealer could have given them forty years ago.)

None of these people mentions socialism, still a dirty word after its failure in the Communist world. But the fact seems to be that something more akin to New Deal America, or Welfare state Britain, France and Germany, or social democratic Scandinavia, is what more and more people are looking to as a hopeful example.

That is why they are opposing so vehemently these massive trade deals --- the United States/Europe deal is the latest that is under negotiation ---  footsteps, as they are now seen, to globalization, whose major economic impact has been to exacerbate the inequalities in society, elevating the rich to an almost obscene level while, admittedly, also raising the very poorest from the most intense poverty (as is claimed for globalization by its adherents).

Anyway, we have had big celebrations here in the last few days. First, on Saturday, we had a big nation-wide TV extravaganza, starting in Vukuvar, a town that was almost destroyed by Serbian bombardment during the Yugoslav wars in 1991-95, and segueing to a more professional, slicker programme from Dubrovnik. This last was transmitted from an immense stage erected within fifty yards of so of the house I am staying in: a local woman, well-known in show-biz here, called Serovina, stepped forward to set the ball rolling with a sizzling song-and-dance routine that made Vukovar’s contribution look like small apples, indeed. One up to Dubrovnik.

The various successors to Yugoslavia --- Slovenia (already a member of the EU), Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Croatia --- are all lined up hoping to join.  Commentators have been unanimous --- although this is not often mentioned --- that it will put behind them for good their history of animosity, hatred, racist exclusion, xenophobia,  ethnic cleaning, genocide and the rest of their recent regrettable behaviour.  They hope.  We hope.  I hope.

Whatever the price, if that is the result,  the price will have been worth paying. But so far there is no clear evidence that this will be the result. Ethnic animosities apparently continue. The war was ended by the so-called Dayton Agreements, which may have stopped hostilities, but left these countries ethnically divided as never before. Bosnia, in particular, was saddled with a Bosnian government that has no authority over an entity within its borders known as the Serbska Republic. The hope was that gradually, these two entities would merge.

But that is not happening. Indeed, there is almost no day to day relationship between the two entities. In cities that used to be integrated --- Sarajevo and Mostar, for example --- the two  ethnicities have withdrawn to their own side of the river that divides them.

Whether it is ethnicity or religion that is at the heart of the problem I will leave it for others to judge.

All that is evident to a casual outside observer like myself is that the perpetrators of the war, the leaders of the onslaughts on each other, are still the popular heroes of their nations.

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