The Book Shelf
The Soul Solution: A thoughtful blend of spiritual perception and practical philosophy

By Robert F. Harrington
with Linda Harrington

While teaching at a Catholic university I was appointed to a committee, the purpose of which was to conduct an oral examination for a student who was to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. The "oral", as it was called, was a last hurdle on the way to earning the degree. Each of the half-dozen committee members would ask the student two questions: one as to his general knowledge, and the other in the field in which he was taking his degree. Unwittingly, I precipitated a memorable incident.

The student had achieved excellent grades in his courses and breezed through the questions relating to his discipline. We had begun asking questions regarding his general knowledge. I asked him what his reaction would be if the company he worked for instructed him to help develop a product which he knew would be socially injurious or perhaps dangerously life threatening. Frankly, I was thinking of extremely toxic biocides that have been manufactured and even more of agents of warfare which are almost endlessly profuse in modern society. I was, in short, asking him to consider a moral issue which confronts many people today.

His answer was unhesitating and quite decisive. He said that the company he worked for would pay his salary and he would do the job they assigned him.

The chairman of the panel was the university president, a Jesuit scholar. I believe that all of us on the panel, and the student, will remember this long-geared, six foot six man, garbed in a brown robe, rising slowly to his feet and pointing a bony hand toward the student. "Do you mean to say," he growled, "that in four years at this institution you have not learned that you are morally responsible for every thing you do, and cannot simply say -- as so many men have said -- that I am 'simply carrying out orders'?"

The student, of course, had made an unfortunate error, one which it is to be hoped also taught him something. A constructive discussion followed. He was granted his degree, but because of the questioning perhaps gained new insight into his soul.

The student's automatic acceptance of the role he would play as obedient, unthinking servant of a company for which he worked is indicative of a serious moral problem of society. It is reminiscent of Thoreau's reflection that the young person gathers his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or to pursue some other idealistic venture; while the middle-aged man eventually uses the same materials to build a woodshed. So the youth of the 1850 era started off with idealistic dreams, dreams which often failed. But since the 1850s, as indicated by our graduate student, there is no longer even an idealistic dream and people expect little more than to be a cog in some faceless machine.

Now I think that the chairman of the oral exam performed a heroic service in reminding the student that we do have responsibility to morality which in itself is the maintenance of an ideal. Idealism may be considered poppycock by devoted materialists, but idealism is the real hope of civilization, or perhaps for civilization. Economic sufficiency can be attained without the destruction of ideals but ever-increasing economic abundance, like a cancer, is a pathological rejection of the long-standing ideals of measure and balance, of the moderation of physical demands by spiritual intuition.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from the extraordinary book, The Soul Solution, published in 2000 by White Oak Press, RR#2, Site 1A, Comp 2, Galena Bay, BC V0G 1R0, e-mail . ($17.95 or $19.95 postpaid.) This work of intellectual and spiritual vision comes from the Canadian wilderness of B.C.. It explains, and brilliantly, how our economic and belief systems are responsible for the degradation of our world. "We are in eternity now," Harrington writes. But he does offer hope for a future that sometimes appears bleak. Recommended reading

The Vanishing Country:
Is it too late to save Canada?

by Mel Hurtig

Published 2002
McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 481 University Ave., Toronto, ON M5G 2E9
ISBN 0-7710-4215-9 (bound) and ISBN 0-7710-4217-5 (paperback)

By Sue Potvin

Alberta-born Mel Hurtig might be described, along with a mere handful of others, as "the consumate Canadian patriot". He is founder and publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the author of several other bestselling books, including his autobiography, At Twilight in the Country. His political activism includes the national chairmanship of the Committee for an Independent Canada and the leadership of the former National Party of Canada. And although the Council of Canadians is invariably linked to another national figure, Hurtig was actually the founder of that organization and its first chair. He holds six honorary degrees from Canadian universities; and, because of his great love for, and action on behalf of this wonderful country of ours, he has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Such a man could never sit idly by and watch the tragic sellout of Canada that is currently not even getting the attention, let alone the concern, of far too many complacent Canadians.

And so he does what he does well. He writes books. The Vanishing Country tells the story. Graphically. It tells of "a selfish, greedy and powerful plutocracy" that is "abandoning the work of generations of Canadians" in a quest for "American standards, values, and priorities."

Sit up and take note Canadians! Hurtig lays it on the line: "Ultimately, this book is about only two questions. First, do you or do you not care about the survival of Canada? And second, if you do care, what are you going to do about the fact that our country is vanishing so rapidly?"

He begins by reviewing where we've been, then looks at the growing foreign ownership and foreign control of Canada and their impact on our sovereignty, standard of living, and quality of life. He looks at the huge differences between the goals of our political and corporate elites and the wishes of most Canadians.

As you read this book -- and read it you must -- you will be astonished at the information, the awful facts and figures that Hurtig places in front of you. You will have come across some of it -- here and there, now and then. But Hurtig brings it all together in such a way that it will assault the senses of even the knowledgeable activist.

About the time that Liberal cabinet ministers Marchi and Manley were urging that our tax policies be brought more in line with U.S. tax rates, Hurtig tells us, "Ontario premier Mike Harris told a Cleveland, Ohio, audience that neighbouring American states were more important to Ontario than most parts of Canada are, and that he had borrowed U.S. policy ideas to cut taxes, reduce welfare, and to impose workfare."

Hurtig compares airfare: from Edmonton to Newfoundland (without spanning a weekend), $4,054.23; from Edmonton to Toronto, $2,819.45; and from Edmonton to London, England, $902; and asks how this helps national unity? "But, then, again, why would the last three heads of Air Canada, all Americans, care about national unity?" he asks, adding a comment from Peter Lougheed about one of them: "This guy comes up from Boston -- I bet he couldn't find Red Deer on the map."

For those who worry about the assaults on Canadian culture, you should worry. Hurtig tells us that Canada imports more book titles every year than any other country in the world, that more than half the books sold in Canada are produced outside our borders by foreign publishers, that more than 80 per cent of consumer magazines on our newsstands are foreign, that about 80 per cent of all tapes and CDs sold in Canada come from outside the country, and more than 94 per cent of film distribution revenue goes to non-Canadians, with 95 per cent of screen time in Canadian theatres devoted to films that are not Canadian!

Of the 189 members of the United Nations, only two -- the United States and Somalia -- have failed to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Hurtig writes.

Those who want to turn us into Americans are asking for far worse levels of hunger, homelessness, crime, violence, child and family suffering, and deprivation than currently exists in Canada, Hurtig notes. Then he goes on to tell us things that will make your hair curl.

And these few things do not even touch the tip of the icerberg.

In the final chapter of this often "harsh and angry book", Hurtig talks about an "indomitable force" that could potentially stop the sellout of Canada, as well as "a flood of determination" and "a collective national purpose". He appeals to the many millions proud Canadians who love their country to come together in a new political party, to fill the streets and meeting halls with well-organized voters.

Every Canadian must read this book. And having done so, will be ready use the voting process in a way that will sweep our country out of the hands of corrupt politicians and out of the voracious maw of the giant to the south.

Lines in the Sand

Editors: Mary Hoffman & Rhiannon Lassiter

Publishers: The Disinformation Company Ltd.
163 Third Ave., Suite 108, New York, NY 10003
ISBN 0-9729529-1-8 US$8.95
Printed in Great Britain

Distributors: Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, 1045 Westgate Drive, Suite 90, St. Paul, MN 55114
Order Toll free: 1-800-283-3572

Born of the white heat of frustration and rage at what has been happening in the Persian Gulf over the past year, this book brings together the thoughts and concerns of people around the world. Nearly 150 writers and artists, from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Japan, Turkey and the USA, voice, in poetry, prose, and illustration, passionate feelings about all wars, everywhere.

"The overwhelming response and the high quality of contributions made it clear it was an idea whose time had come,"says editor Rhiannon Lassiter. "As one contributor said, it was a book that wanted to be." Each contribution depicts a strong anti-war message and will serve as a cry for peace in these troubled times.

This uplifting and impassioned collection goes beyond politics. It can be read by a child of eight or a grandparent of any age. Showing the human side of conflict, its impact will touch the heart of every reader.

During a time when violence is portrayed as an everyday event by much of the entertainment offered to viewers today, this book could be a valuable tool to show today's children the true nature of violence. If enough of them get the picture, perhaps the next generation will more mightily strive towards a more peaceful world.

Organizations may obtain quantity discounts on bulk purchases for educational training purposes, fundraising or giving. All profits and royalties go to UNICEF's emergency appeal for the children of Iraq.

Orwell: The Road to Airstrip One

Ian Slater

1985 edition published by WW Norton and Company, USA ISBN 0-7735-2622-6
2003 edition, by McGill-Queen's University Press
Distributed by Georgetown Terminal Warehouses, $29.95

Vancouver's Ian Slater has lectured widely in the humanities at west coast universities, and he is a past editor of Pacific Affairs. He is also a prolific writer, with this brilliant introspective on Orwell held in high esteem, along with his best-selling novel, Firespill.

Described as his tour de force, Slater has produced an amazingly insightful biography about a writer who, with such works as Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, has secured himself forever in the annals of literary history.

George Orwell's intellectual journey may have been more impressive than the books for which he has earned fame, Slater notes. He looks with a fresh eye on these works and on a life that saw Orwell go from his schoolboy days in England to his participation in the Spanish Civil War, encompassing his broad experiences as a policeman in Burma, as poet, dishwasher and tramp in Paris, and as tutor, schoolmaster and bookshop assistant in London.

On this journey, Slater takes in-depth looks at Orwell's works, providing context and comment on the reasoning and life experiences that led to each concept. Slater's book is an easy read -- one critic described the reading as "a fluid pleasure".

This intellectual journey traces the development of Orwell's political and social criticism. Using a uniquely thematic approach, Slater also examines Orwell's self criticism and, finally, the hidden and corrosive dangers of state and self-imposed censorship in a security-obsessed world.

Orwell's works have found their niche, misunderstood by some, but revered amongst the classics of our time. That niche would be bare indeed were it not to include this important work by Ian Slater that provides an illuminating guide.

The Day B.C. Quit Canada

John A. Haskett & Michael J. Haskett

Durango Publishing Corp., Box 164, Kaleden, BC V0H 1K0
ISBN 1-55422-422-5 $24.95

This novel has an interesting premise that has just enough basis in fact that it might have been an interesting read. Unfortunately bigotry reared its ugly head, coming early enough in the book to colour this reader's view of it.

In all honesty (and never having trashed a book I was reviewing), I stuck it through to the end, hoping to find the book redeemed by some magic words or other. But no, each reference made to French Canadians as "frogs" or "Frenchies" raised the hackles on my neck. Most, if not all, of the media in the story were absolute idiots, according to these writers. And, although Canadians have good reason to question the honesty and ethics of many of the politicians in Ottawa, they were painted with the black brush just too broadly and heavily, to be believeable.

It is novel. The heros are the B.C. premier and his attorney general. They cook up the scheme to quit Canada, using a massive gold find to finance their plan, and setting everything in place over the span of a year or two. They even visit Washington and obtain quiet co-operation there.

The book is touted as "provocative" and worthy of careful reading and consideration. With its talk of Ottawa's "arrogance, ignorance, and costly bilingualism fraud"and "French-speaking bureaucrats and cowardly politicians" and the "useless bilingualism myth" there is little doubt that the authors see this book as a springboard -- or at least a sales job -- for secession. Doubt is further removed when one reads on the back cover: "Is it possible it's also a forecast of things to come?"

In this country that, despite its many problems and weaknesses, is still the best country in the world in which to live, we pray it is not. Each and every province brings its unique richness to the whole.