My annual kind-of-tradition continues this year, to the protests of all our long suffering readers. Thoughts on evidence, disagreement, knowledge and related matters follow, in suitably opaque and allusive style …

On not believing in Canada

I remember clearly when I first started along the road that led me to where I am today – the unfashionable and lonely position of an adult man, educated and well-travelled, who doesn’t believe in the existence of Canada. I was a kid at Sunday School, and the vicar was trying to talk to an awkward class of hard-nuts and smart-asses about the general concept of faith in the absence of empirical evidence.

“What about Canada?”, he asked us all, his thick Welsh accent muffled slightly by an impressive crop of nostril hair. “You’ve never been to Canada! You’ve never seen Canada! You’ve never even met anyone who’s been to Canada! But you believe in Canada, don’t you, Davies?”.

He cast his gaze around the room, having to swivel his neck a bit as something like a dozen of us were called “Davies”. I elected myself as the spokesman and made what seemed to be the obvious response:
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Guns and drones

by John Quiggin on December 21, 2012

Glenn Greenwald contrasts the horror over the Newtown mass murder and the immediate political reaction with responses to the deaths of children in US drone attacks. He focuses his criticism particularly on Obama supporters.

While there are many different views, and combinations of views, my perspective (as a non-American who would have voted for Obama) is a bit different. Until Newtown my perspective on US gun violence and drone attacks was pretty much identical

* They are horrible
* I thought Obama would change things for the better, but they changed for the worse (no action on semi-automatics, spread of concealed carry and stand your ground, expansion of the drone war)
* Given the attitudes of the majority of Americans, little hope for improvement
* Repubs would be even worse

I think most of these views were shared by most participants in the “lesser evil” debate before the election. But what strikes me in retrospect is that the entire debate was focused on drones and related issues. Implicitly, I and I think, most others, regarded gun control as a cause so thoroughly lost that Obama couldn’t be blamed for abandoning it. The Trayvon Martin case changed this a bit, but not much. By contrast, Newtown showed that the apparent pro-gun consensus was if not illusory, at least fragile. In his trademark ‘lead from behind’ style, Obama captured the new consensus and seems likely to push it forward.

The hopeful reading of this is that public opinion about drones could change just as radically, if public understanding improved. At the moment, it’s hard to see that happening without some truly horrible shock, like a drone wiping out a primary school. Perhaps, however, the widespread view among those who have actually examined the drone war, that it’s both cruel and counterproductive, may start to seep into public discussion, as part of a reaction against the culture of violence that supports both drones and guns.