I believe in God and ‘No LNG’


It’s Canadian Thanksgiving morning as I write this. I’ve just woken up with a dream still in my head. In the dream I am reading a small religious booklet. On the first page is a sunny description of heaven. On the next page is a mention of hell, which surprises me, because I’d somehow thought that the booklet was Hindu.

As my mind clears waiting for my morning coffee, it occurs to me that religion, at its core, is based on social control and cultural motivation. The idea stops me. I have to think about that.

Imagine a priest in some ancient society. She’s the one people turn to find out whether this year’s crop will come in. Or to explain why a child was born with a deformity. And after years of explaining how God works, she realizes that beneath it all, one of her main tasks is holding the community’s collective anger and fear in check. Her second real mission is keeping her king in control of the physical side of the social equation. As a priest, she uses her mystical understanding of the unknown to provide order.

Admittedly, my dream has likely been triggered by the book I’m reading. It’s “Living in the End Times” by Slavoj Zizek. Zizek crosses a lot of lines, making him a difficult read. But one passage caught my attention. It’s an investigation of the real meaning of “turning the other cheek.” Apparently, in Christ’s time, there were two punishments involving slapping. The first was a backhand slap on the offender’s right side of the face. This punishment was a serious insult, placing the recipient on a lower level. The other slap was open-handed, delivered to the left side of the face. This punishment was reserved for equals.

So, according to Zizek, when Christ instructed his followers to turn the other cheek, what he was actually advising was to encourage an aggressor to use the other side of his hand, to force him to treat his victim as an equal. And then, as an equal, the victim could rise up against his oppressor. Wow. That interpretation changes everything. If that’s true, Christ was not exactly promoting a culture of victimhood.

Zizek goes on to excoriate the Israelis on their unfair displacement of the Palestinians. In another passage he reviews charity. And it’s here that he reminds me about our current LNG issue. He writes: “When confronted with the starving child, we are told: ‘For the price of a couple of cappucinos, you can save her life!‘, and the true message is: ‘For the price of a couple of cappucinos, you can continue in your ignorant and pleasurable life, not only feeling any guilt, but even feeling good for having participated in the struggle against suffering.’”

Well, that nicely sums up the feel-good aspects of fighting LNG in this area, especially for some of the well-heeled people living in St. Andrews who don’t want their view disturbed. But what about dealing with the root causes that allowed LNG plants to be considered here in the first place? Could it have to do with the prospect of starving children? Not directly. I would hope that children aren’t actually starving across the river in Washington County. But a great many of the people living over there are financially hard pressed, and have been for decades.

There is an immorality to this position on LNG that continues to go forward unaddressed. Do we ask ourselves, “If my neighbour is suffering, am I not also suffering?”

Coincidentally, one of the other books I’m reading is Lester Brown’s “Plan B 4.0,” an ambitious plan to offset global climate change. About halfway through the book, Brown drops a nugget. He tells us that, in Germany, the alternative energy industry is far more labour-intensive than the fossil fuel energy industry, requiring more workers and resulting in more employment.

Now, wouldn’t that be a better industrial model for the Charlotte and Washington counties? And, it’s in fact a model that’s almost in place. Matt Simmons, the recently deceased Peak Oil crusader, moved to Rockport, Maine, and was involved, I think, in the establishment of the new offshore wind farm there.

Here’s what I would propose. That the citizens of the bi-national counties form the Atlantic Alternative Energy Development Corporation, with a mandate to produce new, “green” energy for domestic use and export to New England. The first job for the new corporation would be lobbying both federal governments for greater top-up subsidies for green power.

Or we can blindly continue with our “good work,” fighting those bad LNG companies. But if I were living below the poverty line in Washington County, I would definitely be turning my cheek on the LNG issue. “Slap me on the other cheek,” I would say, ”so I can engage in a real fight. We demand an equal opportunity here, too.”

In the end it’s either working together, or starting a new religion—where fair is actually fair.


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