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The revolution will not be Canadized

posted by Omri Haiven

July 7, 2011

The revolution will not be Canadized

The other day I walked into a Mexican restaurant on Cote des Neiges. It was as big as a hallway and on its walls hung pictures of Aztec temples and bright blue beachsides. After getting a basket of nachos and some salsa-verde I hunkered down at a table on the patio overlooking the street and began to work from my computer. The waiter, a burly guy with olive skin and a thick beard came out to take my order. As he was telling me the password for the restaurant’s wi-fi he saw the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) sticker on my computer. Despite my prominent orange hair and pale skin he asked me “Are you Arab?” I replied, “No, Jewish”, and so our conversation began.

He told me that he was Tunisian and had just finished studying international relations at U de M. He had moved here before the ousting of Ben Ali but was headed back in a few weeks to visit relatives.
As my over-fried meal arrived the same waiter sat down at the table and began to talk at me. The BDS sticker had broken what hesitation he might have had and soon the topic of conversation turned to the history of Western imperialism in the Middle East. My co-conversationalist spoke on the issue with an obvious passion. His words took in the whole restaurant and no other conversations could be heard as he told me about what was happening in his country and his region.

I was interested, as of course most foreigners to the Middle East are, in how the Arab spring had been sparked. However, I wasn’t going be given a free ride. Instead, the questions were turned on me and I became, as so often is the case for immigrants to Canada, the representative of my country.
He asked me three questions that I’ll reproduce below:

1. If Canadians see every night on T.V that their armies bomb civilians and their politicians greet dictators, why don’t they do anything?
2. If those born in Canada have been given the privileges of a first world country than why do they resent the immigrant?
3. How can a country that believes in freedom of religion breed a government and population that calls someone a terrorist just because they have different rituals and clothing?

His questions stumped and then overwhelmed me. I had never been confronted in such a straightforward way on these issues, which I had come to take for granted. We often hear the Arab spring being talked about in terms of how ‘the oppressed masses are finally rising up after thirty years’ but what about the oppressor masses? By and large we stand idle while our wealth and relative privilege is amplified by the exploitation of the less powerful. Why don’t we hear from panels of Arab sociologists, anthropologists and journalists on why our countries continue to imperialize the rest of the world and why many of us refuse to do anything about it?

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Who are you/

hi omri, are you the son of larry and judith? that beautiful boy with the red hair and peaches-and-cream complexion who once lived in saskatoon?

I swear I'm a serious journalist, hahaha

Indeed I am. Although I have less of both of those things these days.

Hey Omri, it is Mark! I hope

Hey Omri, it is Mark! I hope you are doing well. Maybe you remember me from last year.


I heard an interesting statistic recently (yes, one of those) that the large weapons companies make something like over 50% of their revenue in the Middle East alone. That should explain quite a bit. We give them guns for some of their sovereignty, resources, etc.

Mark who

Hey Mark,
Which Mark exactly? That stat definitely makes sense. Is it based on American military expenditures or only the money spent by individual countries within the middle east on weapons (not that there's much of a difference considering that the U.S funds many armies in the M.E.

Mark who visited in April,

Mark who visited in April, Oliver's friend.

Don't quote me on the state, but I believe it was over 50% profits of the large private manufacturers, so Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

Because Canadians, like other Westerners, are rapidly learning that getting involved in the politics of developing countries, and middle-eastern countries in particular, is a thankless task. Take for example NATO's support of the free coalition government in Libya...

damned right

For sure. Why would people in the Middle East be thankful for our meddling? However, I don't think I agree with your use of the term 'Free' coalition in Libya or even the fact that NATO is helping it out that much. This article points to the fact that while the rebel leadership (formerly part of the Gaddafi regime and still mostly composed of elites) asked NATO for help on many occasions, NATO refused to do so on a consistent basis. The author speculates, and I believe he's right to do so, that NATO is simply in Libya to secure their oil interests and regional control.