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The preeminent German news magazine Der Spiegel  is suggesting that we cancel the G-7 meeting to be held soon here in Quebec. Why pretend cooperation with Trump, they say, when he makes enemies of his allies? The meeting won’t be cancelled, for dialogue must go on or else all is lost. But I think it marks the beginning of an isolation that America will regret in years to come, as she slides into global irrelevance. In his Republic, Plato has Socrates define four types of unjust governments into which decaying societies successively fall on their way down: timocracy, which is the rule of spirited big property-owners, oligarchy, democracy, which to him deteriorates into mob rule, and tyranny, where the demagogue is inclined to start wars and other conflicts to bolster up his image as a leader. From our perspective, it seems muddled, for democracy must surely precede oligarchy? But the schemata is otherwise intact and sound enough, with only our contemporary notions of democracy at odds with the contention. The demagogue, says Plato, exploits a fear of oligarchy by the masses to establish his tyranny. He uses his power to root out whatever decent elements that remain in a society, leaving only the worst elements in key positions. It seems familiar, or it does south of the border. The whole sequence, conceived 2,300 years ago, can still be usefully applied to the gradual decadence of many if not most states. But what does it say of Canada’s continued, if reluctant, compliance with Washington?

 

Gore Vidal called his country the United States of Amnesia. They forget, they forget. But we forget too. We forget that not so many years ago Venezuela was being hailed as a new oil superpower, an oil-rich country set to wallow in riches from the earth the way the Saudis have been doing. Now Venezuela is a nation on the verge of disintegration, whereas under the socialist Hugo Chavez it could cock a snook at the behemoth to its north. What happened? Well, the US pushed its weight around at the UN and sanctions were imposed on the sale of Venezuelan oil, sending the economy into a tailspin. Sanctions are always imposed on countries said to hate their own people. But the sanctions merely reveal those who impose them also to hate that nation’s people, for sanctions have little effect on ruling elites, only devastating the masses. Canada, which has now cut Venezuelan visas by fifty percent, has had little to say about this criminal travesty. Why? Because Canadian oil prices benefit from the embargo on Venezuelan oil, as do US oil prices, and for that matter Russian oil prices and everyone else’s oil prices, except of course Iran’s, which are also under sanction, a sanction Trump is eager to keep in place. If one country is to emerge as decent and progressive in all of this, it will be the one whose leader is honest and courageous enough to say, “Enough of this! We want, and will have, a world free of greed and hypocrisy, a world where goodness alone produces truth,” as Socrates tells us can be the case with objects of knowledge, just as the Sun’s light enables us to see the objects of perception in the world.

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