OPINION

All that dog talk caught me at a bad moment

Mark Holland asked for an apology to all women, clearly a ladies’ man for our times

BARBARA AMIEL November 6 2006
OPINION

All that dog talk caught me at a bad moment

Mark Holland asked for an apology to all women, clearly a ladies’ man for our times

BARBARA AMIEL November 6 2006

All that dog talk caught me at a bad moment

OPINION

BARBARA AMIEL

Happy is the land whose parliament can tussle over whether or not the foreign minister called his ex-girlfriend and Tory traitor a “dog” during the normal heckling taken for debate in liberal democracies. “Chilling,” said Belinda Stronach as she rose to “demand” an apology for the use of (maybe) the dog word. “Shocking and obviously disgusting,” said Liberal MP Mark Holland, asking for an apology not only to Belinda but all women in general—clearly a ladies’ man for our times.

Our brave foreign minister immediately denied the d-word instead of telling everyone to take a cold shower. One would have thought Ms. Stronach above demanding apologies from her former beau after all she’s done to him, but the woman is above very little. Sadly, Michael Ignatieff did not make one of his felicitous comments.

Happy, indeed, is the land so utterly unspoiled by the ravages of past centuries. Blame the European in me for the disproportionate anger I feel when I see our parliamentarians behave like this, even though the matter will be a nanosecond in Canadian history. It was not the fault of Mr. MacKay or Ms. Stronach that they caught me at a bad moment: I happened to be reading the Second World War diary of a German woman in Berlin while they were fighting the War of the Dog circa 2006. Nor did the two parliamentarians deliberately plan their fuss against the backdrop of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Hungarian revolution. But a bit of history now and then does make one grateful for the bounty and decency of Canada, and irritated beyond measure at those who use their privilege of being in paradise’s parliament to engage in such nonsense.

It was at this point that I started to write one of those “if Canadians had suffered onetenth of Europe’s horror this would never happen,” but on reflection, many in Europe have learned little from their tortured history.

Virtually every country in eastern Europe that suffered under Communism has subsequently elected neo-Communist governments at one point. Hungary has done it twice in a row, and even as they celebrate the heroism of the Oct. 23,1956, uprising, they are rioting in the streets against the descendants of that Communist party—now democratically elected. Hungarians maybe angry after having heard the taped conversation of Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány (formerly leader of the Young Communist League), admitting to his caucus that he “lied morning, noon and night” to get elected, but Hungarians knew exactly who they were electing. The previous Socialist prime minister Péter Medgyessy was agent D-209 in the former secret police.

Western Europe hasn’t learned much either. A Woman in Berlin is a diary of eight weeks from late April 1945 to mid-June 1945The anonymous author is reputed to be a German journalist who died in 2001. She lived in Berlin when the victorious Russians arrived. Her account of those days of drunken Russians raping virtually every woman in sight many times over is told sparingly, with great power.

The book reinforces my belief that when some awful nightmare like mass rape hits everyone around you, rather than you alone, it makes it more bearable, if no less awful. One is relieved of the psychological burden of “why me?” Her writing is mesmerizing in its detail, and one can almost smell the stinking breath of drunk Russians. Just why Russians in general are particular prone to so great a divergence between their sober and inebriated behaviour—often nice before the alcohol but exceedingly mean drunks—is a mystery.

Mark Holland asked for an apology to all women, clearly a ladies’ man for our times

When the book was first published in the mid-fifties, reaction was either silent or negative. Some dismissed the accounts of Russian brutality as Cold War propaganda. Germans seem to have thought the book dishonoured German men and women. Whatever the reason, it sank. The so-called “historians’ debate” in Germany during the 1980s changed the climate. The book matched the newfound respect for Germans as victims.

The author’s remarkable eye for detail reinforces the claim she was a journalist. Still, if she was working in Berlin during the war,

she was working for the Nazis, which means she was employed writing some sort of propaganda. The book’s merit speaks for itself, but one would like to know a little more about her just to throw light on those philosophical reflections that so enchant reviewers.

She writes that she has experienced Bolshevism, parliamentarianism and fascism close up, and there are “substantial differences,” but then blithely writes that those differences are “mostly ones of form and coloration.” What moral sphere is this? Her Ouspensky-like view that everything in the world has a fixed quantity, thus giving us set amounts of good and evil, is a building block for what seems to be a moral equivalence lurking in her mind.

She fits the current fashion in the West to point to the “barbarism” of the H-bomb and the Allies’ carpet bombing as evidence that

in war we are all equally vile. The notion that Germans too were victims in the Second World War is perfectly true, but as the old Jew who dictated the Old Testament pointed out, if you sow the wind you reap the whirlwind. The Germans were the authors of their own misfortune. Using every means to defeat the Nazis is not the same as being Nazis. Fighting terror and evil has a higher moral value than appeasing it.

When Europeans who have seen and suffered so much use their freedoms to simply go on repeating the same errors—with only a new vocabulary for the terrorists they should resist—how on earth can I expect Canadians to be so much more responsible? Perhaps it’s better that our MPs quarrel about the dog-word. It distracts them from crying havoc and letting slip the dogs of war.

barbara.amielamacleans.rogers.com