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October 2001 - Nr. 10
Sybille Forster-Rentmeister2000


Dear Reader

Man’s inhumanity towards man has reached new and horrible proportions. This kind of pain I have only seen in my dim childhood recollections on the faces of my parents and friends, when they spoke of WWII.

I personally was breathlessly watching the story unfold live on TV. I did not dare breathe for fear of contributing to the falling of the tall and proud structures in New York. But they fell, and as they fell I felt as helpless and hurt as the rest of the free world.

A wall of solidarity testiments at the US Consulate in TorontoBut I also remembered something: In the face of oppression you cannot cower, you have to stand tall. How that is done the people of New York and anyone helping them the world over have shown us and are in the process of continuously demonstrating not only to us, but to all those that would have us hide in fear.

At the US Consulate in TorontoHaving never been tolerant of bullies I decided immediately after the events on September11, 2000, that from now on I would be even less tolerant of bullies, no matter where I would find them: in a supermarket, on the road, in a park, wherever. I put this thesis into action on Friday 14, the day of mourning nationwide and south of the border. A few minutes before the 3 minutes silence during the service on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, were to be held, a big fellow in a screaming orange sports car drove up and stopped only steps away from my house. The windows were open and he was playing something Rap. That would be ok, but in this instance he played it so loud, that my windows were shaking from the sound waves. I could no longer follow the service on TV. I decided to do something about it. I went outside, where he was unfurling himself from his car and asked him politely to either close his windows or turn down his music. I also informed him that it was a day of national mourning and that people in the neighbourhood were about to observe 3 minutes of silence together with thousands of others. He stood in front of me, well over 6 feet tall and close to 300 pounds of screaming menace. I stood my ground as he hurled obscene insults at me. I simply asked him if he could hear himself. He did not care, he informed me at the top of his lings. He did not care about anything or anyone. He had a right to play his music!

Sure he has a right to play his music. But does he have the right to violate the rights of others while doing so? Does he have the right to force his favourite sounds onto the rest of the world?

I asked him, only to have more unrepeatable insults thrown at me. I took out a piece of paper and wrote down his license number, and told him that he is a fine example of something that just dropped out of a tree.

Somehow my last sentence got to him. Still screaming insults at me he went back to his car and turned down the volume. I said thank you and left, just in time to observe 3 minutes of silence in memory of all those needless victims.

Or were they needless? Did we need this wakeup call to realize that this world could well go to hell in a hand basket unless we take another look at ourselves and our responsibilities towards each other?

Since then I had a variety of interesting experiences with people. In discussing the horrible events I often heard: what can I do? I am only one person! This feeling of helplessness is very common. I overcome it by doing something useful. Like the guy with his loud music and language skills limited to insults is bullying us by enforcing his ideas on the rest of us, because it his constitutional right, there are a lot of other individuals around that no one ever bothered to stop or let them know that this or that is not ok.

I am not suggesting that we take the law into our own hands, but I am suggesting that it might be appropriate to let some people know where and when to get off. In a free democratic society everybody has for instance the right to listen to the music of his or her choice. But does this mean that he/she has the right to enforce it on others, make them listen to it? I do not think so.

At the US Consulate in TorontoIt has been said that Canadians are too polite to say something. I think it has nothing to do with politeness; it is a matter of apathy! ‘It has nothing to do with me’ is one of the most worn excuses applied to unsavoury situations. In the name of personal freedom we have allowed uncouth, insincere louts to run our lives for far too long. A little involvement to take back what is our responsibility, the kind of behaviour that makes the world go round easier, is in order. A certain amount of discipline would be good to be taught in our schools again, instead of mollycoddling bad behaviour with very see-through excuses.

Teacher and students at the US Consulate in TorontoFor all this of course we have mostly the Dr. Spocks of this world to thank (even if he did see the error of his ways later, much later, when the damage was done). Really bad apples in our midst are actually rare and not born; mostly they are made! By us! By allowing it to happen unchecked.

A few days ago my husband and I saw 2 teenagers. One helped the other onto a high fence. As we drove around the corner I thought this peculiar and I asked my husband to stop the car. I went back to the corner and observed how one of the kids was picking fruit from a tree.

At the US Consulate in TorontoWell, even I thought that was harmless enough until I had a phone call from my neighbour reporting to me that 2 boys were on my garage roof picking apples from my apple tree. When asked what they were doing there the answer was that one of the boy’s bosses (he works there after school) had said that I had said that it was ok to do so.

I might have, if asked. But unfortunately I did not know anything about it. When I asked around in the neighbourhood I found out that this scenario had played before in other locations.

Time to confront the culprit. Not just the kid, the adult that sent the kid on this errand for himself it seems, or so the kid said.

The man runs a successful business in the neighbourhood. The question is why does he send his help around taking fruit from trees on properties that do not belong to him! This has almost shades of Oliver Twist!

When I confronted him the shop owner said that he would take care of it. I told him he better, because the next time I would see or hear something like this I would call the police. And I will!

Do you see what I mean? Things might play out and escalate when no one says that it is not ok!

We have long ago become too complacent and fat and relying on the advise of certain professions as to what is right and wrong. Their sweeping statements of liberty leave too much open to interpretation and forget to mention what we have always known: there is no freedom without discipline! It is time to take some of that back as a personal responsibility to our children and our neighbourhoods if we want to sleep peacefully.

Who are we to condemn the world and other people in it when we know that we have not done everything to raise our children the way they should be brought up, with a good education and excellent reading and writing skills necessary to learn other subjects, and with some demonstrated universal morals and ethics. "None of my business" is no longer an option! And it starts at home!

Like the authorities have to do in the big picture, we have to do in our daily lives; be observant and do not tolerate misdeeds. We do not have to charge around like an elephant in a porcelain shop, but the least we can do is say: "NOT OK!"

Do you think that the world would be in better shape if we had an operating basis in which children would learn, without undue enforcement of violence but by bringing about genuine understanding, the fundamentals of the best of human behaviour?

There has been much talk about God in these last few weeks. People have quoted him and said that things are ordained by God and the way we are is pre-programmed by genetic code. Each side of the conflict claims God on their side. It does not matter which philosophical point of view we peruse, what is abundantly clear is that the factor of free will and choice of an individual is being overlooked in this thesis. Fatalism is an abdication of all personal responsibility. There is always something we can do. And no matter how little this something is, it will be important and make a difference. It will work on the side of survival.

If we understand that destructive forces count on the immobilization that fear causes, than we can objectively disagree with this fear and counteract it with our deeds. The better feeling will follow, which in turn will make us only stronger in dealing with the problem. And the better we deal with it the stronger we become.

Our current situation is dangerous, as all conflicts are that involve totally opposing ideologies. As these different points of view meet they clash and produce great calamities. In the effort to be right both sides make each other of course wrong. This time the conflict escalated over time into terrible tragedy, which could conceivably escalate even further. It is extremely desirable to avoid this and do whatever is necessary to calm the situation down.

So much of what has been said and shown in the various media is more than informative; it is actually inflaming our imaginations with information that is not helpful to the situation, locally or worldwide. It was reported that governments would wilfully misinform us as to confuse the opponent. This leaves us to ourselves and we might be much better served to consult our own integrity on what to do right here and right now. And common sense should prevail.

Perhaps there is something you want to learn about Islam? Why not get a copy of The Qur’an, the Koran. It is now available in English, even as a paperback version. Looking into this scripture will reassure you as to intention of the religion and help you understand, rather than condemn the wrong people.

There are other books on Islam for the interested scholar. All are available through AL-ATTIQUE Publishers Inc., which you can reach in Scarborough (416) 615-1222 or by email al-attique.com, or at the website of the same name; www.al-attique.com.

You know that there is a lot more to be said. This is going to be an ongoing process. One good comment came from a person I heard on radio: It would be good to remember that mankind is inherently good, and we just have to trust that good is going to win out over evil. I agree, as long as we are willing to do our part.

A few years ago I wrote a poem, which I hoped would be prophetic in a good sense. See for yourself "A thing of the past", in this issue.

Love and Peace

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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