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January 2001 - Nr. 1
Happy New Year from Echo Germanica
Sybille Forster-Rentmeister2000

Dear Reader

Last night the world finally slithered into the new millennium with a lot less fanfare than the unofficial event a year previously. In fact, this year was downright insignificant in comparison. It has to be said for Toronto, that the Olympic Spirit Movement left a remarkably good impression. City Hall was aflame and, like in a magic act – carefully planned by a master magician – had disappeared behind the smoke clouds of Bengal lights and other pyrotechnical wonders cascading up and down this famous structure. We especially liked the ones that looked like huge soap bubbles.


If it were not for the Olympic bidding we have to wonder if we would have gotten a sensational fireworks display. Surely the city needs the funds for other, more important tax saving measures. Ottawa certainly decided to save its overburdened budget for the Winter Fest and Canada Day. And there certainly was nothing left over from the year 2000. Any surplus must have gone into the grand funeral arrangements for Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who was voted for the 10th time as the biggest news making personality of the year. After the extensive coverage, lasting several days, the federal election had an almost anticlimactic effect on news watchers. Besides, our local political antics paled in comparison to the USA, where counting (ballots) has become the national past time. Perhaps it will become an Olympic event in the future? Perhaps there should be basic arithmetic skills required as a prerequisite to participating in the sports event. We know that it is a good way to learn how to think logically. Strategy has a lot to do with the things that add up to success, even in sports. Some individuals might actually understand why drugs are a NoNo in the Olympic movement. But we definitely come away with the idea that basic arithmetic should be a democratic duty, and if not fulfilled, should be punishable by law as an act of - at least - civil disobedience.

And since we are being - or are trying to be - funny, I would like to share some other observations with you that defy logic in my book. Comedians are in the habit of looking for their jokes in their environment. To take the obvious points that do not make any sense to even a casual observer is their civil duty. O. J. Simpson has arrived this last year at –not only the funny pages- but even in serious drama. In one scene of a drama series about the black/white situation a woman gages whether she will be able to get along with her old, found again friend by asking her if she thinks O. J. was guilty or not. This of course is an American show. We Canadians are much more polite. But I do need to ask: When are we going to make fun of our justice system? When is Madame Homolka with her special deal becoming the butt of all jokes? Is this woman going to become a reference in language to specific behaviour, as in sister betrayal, or severe aberrations of sexual behaviour? Probably psychiatric dictionaries will add a new entry soon. Comedians and the population are more likely to look for the pun in a reference to the absence of proper justice. Perhaps the law field also needs to indoctrinate its disciples more carefully in mathematics and the basic secrets of arithmetic to learn the principles of logic. Then so many murders would not add up to just a few years. We know that our correction system, dominated by law and psychiatry, does not correct anyone or anything. And until such time that real justice can occur and real rehabilitation can take place we have to keep our eyes peeled not to be the victims of barbaric practices of justice.

It is no wonder that we walk through life trusting fewer people all the time. News is designed to unsettle us emotionally. Once that is accomplished we can be sold anything, injustices galore, lies, even wars, which are probably build on lies.

I just found this incredible book: Lines of Fire, Women Writers of World War I, A Plume Book, published by the Penguin Group, First Printing November 1999. This is how long we had to wait for a comprehensive viewpoint on war, the business of man, as it has been called for the longest time.

In it is a chronology of events from 1900-1920 detailing the major changes of our societies, the rights of individuals in them, especially women, and the surprising sanity they displayed. These early political voices were forceful and compassionate. It does not matter from which country, from which side of the war these voices hail, they make it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that war is build on lies, that there are no victors and losers, but only unnecessary victims of the inhumanity of man towards man.

The book also demonstrates aptly the changes the structures of human relations, including family life, went through. I found it enlightening to reread the history of one hundred years ago and realized that we have, even after ten decades, not solved very much, despite much broader education, despite technologies to make our lives easier. The human condition is much the same as then, perhaps even a bit worse off in some respects. How can that be? Upon considerable reflection I came up with some observations: Even though education is more broadly available to more people than ever before, the quality of this education is remarkably reduced.

Another major change seems to be the lack of personal responsibility in individuals. The public has been fed many reasons why they are not responsible for their actions and the results they cause.

Another obvious symptom is the lack of spirituality as a reality in modern society. Our churches are getting emptier every year. Organized religion has gotten a bad name.

We appear to be more ill every year despite our longevity due to the miracles of modern medicine. Crime is on the rise and war is definitely not a thing of the past.

How can all this be? How can things get worse instead of better, since we have the knowledge and help of all those sciences? Is there someone responsible for the decline of human ability? Who or what did we abdicate our free will to so we can choose what we want and when and how? Did it all happen while we were not looking? And what is our part in all this? Or do we actually still play a part, or have we simply become puppets on a string? And if the answer to this question is YES, then whom do we allow pulling the string?

Well, for a "good news newspaper" I certainly offered you a downer, didn’t I? Unlike so many other people I do have hope for mankind. I believe that we can influence our destiny, that we can change anything for the better and do not have to sit back thinking that all is lost. I just thought I ask you these questions to make you think a bit about these things as we go into another year, another Millennium! Have a look in your own surroundings and find ways to counteract the decline of life’s qualities. Perhaps as we go along we can together disagree with the status quo that is being pushed on us. A bright future has to be created and it is up to us to do it. Let us not leave it to some unknown authorities.

Have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Sybille Forster-Rentmeister

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As the editor of Echo Germanica Sybille reflects on cultural, artistic, political and daily events within the German-Canadian landscape.
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Sybille Forster-Rentmeister, editor, editor-in-chief of Echo Germanica, comments, cultural, artistic, political, daily events, German-Canadian, Toronto, Ontario, Canada,

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