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‘I think, therefore I walk’: Partying and Trekking at Land’s End

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The Gaspé  is considered one of the top hiking spots in the world, after the Grand Canyon, the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Swiss Alps. There are 6,000 km of trails, and a range of vistas from mountains to cliffs facing the mouth of the St Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. And best of all, it is hardly known outside Quebec—a spectacular, untouched place right in our own backyard.

For the past decade, hundreds of cross-country skiers—nearly all of them Quebeckers—have come for a six-day, 100-mile-plus ski odyssey through the winter wonderland at the eastern edge of Canada’s largest province. After an article in the New York Times in 2013, 100 Yanks showed up, but as yet, very few Anglo-Canadians. Two years ago, hardy hikers started coming at the end of September to see the fall colours and the caribou, and I opted to join them this year.

Saturday – The 8-hour 'trek' from Toronto to Montreal brought me to the bus to Gaspé at 5am, just in time. Our guide to Gaspé, Gilbert, was one of the many volunteers, a physiotherapist by profession, our residential doctor for sore feet. He is a joker, and over the microphone acted the voice of an airline pilot explaining to brace ourselves for the 2-hour climb that evening on arrival in Gaspé "to reach the hotel". Ìn line for coffee I met Robert, who is a Montreal-based fundraiser for nonprofit organizations and hospitals, a charmer, well in tune with his profession. We settled in for the 10-hour trip to Carleton-sur-Mer, on the south coast, before moving northeast to Gaspé and then east to Percé.

The bus trip went from scenic, with the St Lawrence and tree-covered hills and sparsely populated plains, to spectacular, as we entered Gaspé, with a panoramic view of cliffs, mountains, and a river valley that we followed, with the bus perched high above, giving a breath-taking view.

As we approached our first stop, Carleton-sur-mer, I looked out at New Brunswick across the bay, and realized I had been touching three provinces in one very long day—almost 24 hours from Toronto. Across from me at dinner that night was Celine, who related her adventures in Tanzania, climbing Kilimanjaro 12 times. The casual atmosphere of the trip encourages people to mix. I was fortunate to meet a range of participants, representing Quebeckers from all backgrounds—lawyers, doctors, engineers, fundraisers, teachers, professors, civil servants. Nature lovers and hikers come in all shapes and sizes.

At dinner, Yvon, who is 53 but already retired, explained his decision to throw in his investment analysis towel. “My sister died of cancer a few years ago, and that was a milestone for me. I want to make sure I have tasted life to the full. She did.”

day 1 Sunday

We rose at 6am, and after 1 1/2 hrs of climbing up Mt Carleton, the option of a shorter route for the weak and lazy was offered. I jumped at it. Each day there was this option, which about half the trekkers opted for. I lunched at a scenic point which allowed one to stretch out and soak up some sun, and was soon joined by two genuine Gaspesians, middle aged ladies who were delighted to exchange some words with an anglais. A bit further on were falls cascading 50 meters over a series of broiling chutes. Leisurely strolling back to the bus parking spot, we were greeted by the resident accordionist playing French polkas and treating exhausted hikers with strawberry wine, a local specialty (much nicer than the startling rhubarb wine which greeted us the previous day).

day 2 Monday

Weather holding. We moved on to la Gite [chalets] du Mont Albert. We are now 7 in a chalet—4 men, 3 women, sharing beds. JC was with his “blond” (generaic Quebecois for mistress). I am sharing digs (2 strangers in a bed didn't faze the Quebeckers) with Richard and Robert, who looks 50 but is 66. “What is your secret?” I asked. Robert: “Smile, do what you enjoy, and enjoy what you do.” He has raised millions for hospitals and other social services, mostly in Montreal and Ottawa, so his karma is in good shape.

Richard is a retiring IT type, taking lots of pictures of the scenery. As we climbed over a hill, we were greeted by a forest of windmills, roaring away in the strong trade winds.
The climb took us up to Mt Albert’s bald summit graced by Lake Quiscale, surrounded by a beautiful meadow, actually a massive bog from annual snow melt. There is a boardwalk across the open meadow on top of the mountain, “to keep us from sinking—it's really part of the lake,” Belgian journalist Christiane told me.

At cocktails that evening I met the Corsican Philip Hercher, the first to circumnavigate the Arctic in his boat the Mango. He is devoted to the northern natives and hopes that globalization can work in their favour, making their plight better known, though he is not optimistic about the future. “I feel like I’m documenting a dying past,” he said wistfully.

The hors d’œuvres were very continental, duck and mackerel canopes. Dinner’s highlight for me was the ‘pot-a-pot’, an seafood pie. I chanced to sit beside Christian, a youthful retired doctor. I asked him, "Why don’t you go to Africa to work?” “I did my 60-hour weeks for 13 years mostly in emergency wards, and decided there was more to life. Now I read all the books I never had time for, and live and work with the tour group in the Gaspé.”

Day 3 Tuesday

On the bus, I chatted with dour Pierre, a former separatist. I asked him, “What would Canada be without Quebec? Just another US state.” He didn't disagree, but was pessimistic about what was in it for Quebec. “Our culture is being destroyed and in 20 years will cease to exist.”

I climbed Mt Jacques Cartier with Yvon, who kindly lent me one of his poles, as I was really an interloper, more here for the chance to mingle with Quebeckers, enjoy the scenery and to write. He was the opposite from dour Pierre, and was confident that Quebec was not a lost cause. “My sons come home with friends of all colors. They are all proud to be Quebeckers. Yes, many immigrants come just to make money and to escape desolate futures at home, but the next generation integrates. That is Canada’s history and strength.”

A thick fog descended and as we climbed higher, a sharp wet wind chilled us all. I was ready to turn back, but Yvon encouraged me and we finally reached a tower on the peak for hikers and huddled inside out of the wind, tearing open our bagged lunches.

Lo and behold, the fog lifted and revealed a magnificent 360-degree view of peaks, many tiny lakes, and a hideous stone field surrounding the tower. A plaque explained that at 1270m, the weather here is Arctic, even though it is at the same latitude as Paris. The frightening stone formation is a result of millennia of “gelifraction”, the constant melting and freezing of the rocks, turning them into sharp teeth-like shards, giving the feeling you are in a horror movie.

Our descent across the gelifracked rocks was with clouds at eye level, but fortunately not immersing us in a fog. We stopped for a moment, turned, and there was the elusive caribou we had hoped to see. A male with antlers, graceful in its massive clumsiness. It looked at us, as if greeting subjects in his realm, and disappeared over the hill. A plaque down near the base explained that lichens and moss are 80% of their diet. Hard to believe that such a diet can sustain such magnificent beasts through the long cold winters.

I continue to be impressed at the lack of hostility towards things English, as Quebeckers seem to have outgrown the separatist passion. The beauty of a trip to Quebec is that for anglos, you are actually going abroad without the hassle of a long plane ride and visas.

day 4 Wednesday

Warning: Be prepared in Gaspé for lots of seafood. Tonight was salmon. Tomorrow will be shrimp lasagna. The next day turbo, with canopes of shrimp.

Lize has befriended me, a delightful 74-year-old now on her sixth Tour de la Gaspésie trip—3 crosscountry skiing, 1 by bike, and now on her second trek. I sat in the bus on route to Mt Richardson with Lize and I learned that her ancestory in Quebec, like the majority of the trekkers, goes back to the 17th century, when a solitary fisherman forefather came from Anguleme in southwest France and founded the Simard clan.

Next stop: Gaspé city. Gaspé derives from the Micmac word Gespegh, meaning land's end, reflecting that the peninsula is the farthest mainland point (ok, Labrador goes farther, but that's already Inuit). Gaspé, a town of 15,000 grew up on the site where Jacques Cartier staked a claim for France in 1534, which began the wave of French immigration. The French chose the best fishing sites (sorry, natives), and then the Brits came and in turn pushed the French out. In Percé, a British warship passing by stopped in to raze their homes and killed the inhabitants. Cod was gold. But there was an accommodation over time, as attested by the names of towns and mountains.

The lingua franca in Gaspé was English till the 1960s, when the movement began to make sure French became the language of Quebec. "Cegep [community colleges] really changed things, spreading higher education in French to smaller cities and towns," Lize told me.

After a Pina Colada made from maple cream, pineapple and rum and a Gaspé beer, Petit Caribou, I was joined by Lize and her friend Anne-Marie, a mother of five, grandmother of 14, and painter of portraits when she is not hiking. The trek group consisted of probably 80% women. Where all the jock hikers are is a mystery.

day 5 Thursday

We moved on to Percé, and climbed Mt St Anne. Anne is believed by Catholics and Muslims to be the mother of the Virgin Mary. She is also the patron saint of the Micmacs, Gaspé's natives. The climb was in gusty winds of up to 50 kmh, which hit two streams and turned them into geysers shooting 10m into the air, forcing us to hurry through the upside-downpour. The fickle weather prevented us from crossing the water to l'Ile Bonaventure, where the gannet eke out an endangered existence. Their population plummeted after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Only 15% remain. Percé is one of the handful of places they come for their summer breeding season.

Percé was considered the cod capital of the world in the 19th century under the British, but cod lost its attraction to European taste buds and the quantity of cod fell from overfishing. By the 1920s, with the arrival of the railway, tourism became fashionable, attracting rich Americans and even the French surrealist poet André Breton, who in 1944 found solace there and called it “a hymn of hope, renewal, and resurrection”. In 1985, the Quebec government made the area the Parc-de-l'Ile-Bonaveture-et-du-Rocher-Percé, to preserve both the nature and the cultural heritage. The famous Percé Rock features only one arch now, the other came crashing down in 1845, but it remains stunning. The remains of the second arch are a forlorn “obelisk”.

Instead of our boat ride, we took the bus farther south along the Malbaie coast, where a delicate sand causeway stretches 7 kms, protecting a unique salt marsh, now a preserve where over 200 types of birds nest. We walked along the causeway on the beach and abandoned railway tracks (the railway to eastern Gaspé was 'rationalized' in 2013), watching various species of birds flit between the marsh and the ocean.

day 6 Friday

Our final destination is Forillon Park, along the Grand-Graves coast, so-called for its jagged cliffs hollowed out by the waves into striking, long, open caves. The easternmost point on the St Lawrence south shore was a quiet rural fishing backwater till Trudeau Sr decided it should 'benefit' from the regional planning craze of the 1970s. The 300 families living in the area were forced out (shades of the British actions in the 18th century and the French in the 17th century) and resettled in nearby villages, their homes razed to make sure they didn't try to return, and given 'compensation'.

Unfortunately the sudden deluge of settlers pushed up land prices in the area, and the families couldn't afford to buy a home to reconstitute their self-reliant lives. A monument to their plight was later erected in the park. "I lost our little paradise and our kids their heritage," wrote one evacuee. The settlers were from Jersey and Guernsey, and their unique heritage is now gone.

When we reached “land's end”, it was bitterly cold with rain and a strong wind. For the ceremony inaugurating Gaspé into the European list of Grand Treks, the hardy trekkers stood outside around the fine art-plaques signifying the beginning of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and its northernmost tip here at Gaspé. It is a spectacular spot, ending in a towering 90m cliff with a tiny 12m lighthouse perched precariously on top, small for a lighthouse, but it does the trick for sailors on one of the most treacherous shores of the Atlantic.

I pulled the French Trekkers' Federation President Guy Berçot into the shelter and quizzed him about the inauguration. When we got to the park chalet later, a fire was roaring as 15 intrepid souls disrobed for the inauguration dip in the icy Atlantic waters, seemingly impervious to the cold. One slender woman in a bikini even went back for a second dip for a photo op.

We gathered in the evening after dinner for a “diabolical” costume party, featuring battery-powered devil's horns and some swirling cloaks and pitchforks. A group of women began an impromptu square dancing, turning the mundane 'square' into a 16+ member square-circle with do-si-dos moving effortless back and forth and through the middle, like a flock of birds flitting delicately as if by instinct.

I had dinner with the only other anglo, Myron Frankman, a retired professor of economics at McGill, who came from New Jersey in 1967 to Montreal to teach, and stayed 47 years. Myron was bitter about the devastation Harper has wrought in academia. “He shut down the National Council of Welfare, a treasure house of information and research vital to policy formation. We don't even know where much of the archives are.”

Petite Lize was just as angry, as Harper 'reorganized' the world-renowned marine biology Institut Maurice Lamontagne near Quebec city away from scientific research towards indusrial applications. “It's like a forest fire has swept through Canada's research community. I can't imagine how the damage can be undone.” lamented Myron. “All to promote economic growth at all costs.”

JUST THE FACTS

Tour de la Gaspesie (TDLG) TOURS Next year's Grand Trek will be at the end of September. The next crosscountry ski tour is February 20--27, 2016. The cost for this year's ski and trek varied according to accommodation was from $1300--$1800.  The TDLG site is http://tdlg.qc.ca
***


Gaspé : First North American 'Grand Trek'


LAND'S END--We celebrated the inauguration of the first Grande Randonée in North America at Cap-Gaspé, the final point of the Appalachian Trail (AT), which extends from Georgia to Maine in the US and continues as the International Appalachian Trail in New Brunswick and Quebec. The Appalachians extend 4455 kms, and the Appalachian Trail hiking organization was founded in 1937.

The president of the French Trekkers' Federation, Guy Berçot, came at the end of the tour to finalize Gaspé's membership. The hikers'organization in France alone has 3,500 associations and 220,000 hikers, 6,000 French volunteers who maintain trails, and the villages and departments in Franch provide assistance. There are 28 Grande Randonées across Europe. “Joining the European hikers' federation as North America's first Grande Randonée will bring thousands of eager hikers from Europe. I am delighted to be instrumental in bringing Gaspé to the hikers' world. This is what tourism should be all about,” enthused Berçot.

Don Hudson, the head of the Maine AT organization also attended. "We hope that Gaspé will lead to broader Appalachian membership in the European GR organization, including Newfoundland, which is also an extension of the trail. It promotes healthy eco-friendly tourism."

The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) organization was founded in 1994 to bring together hikers who recognize that the Appalachians are really part of then ancient range of mountains circling the Atlantic Ocean. IAT heads Quebecker Eric Chouinard and Paul Wylezol from Newfoundland were on hand to explain.

“The geology of the Appalachians links it with the west coast of Europe and African as far as Morocco. The forerunner of the Atlantic was the Iapetus Ocean, which shrank and pushed up mountains when tectonic plates collided,” explained Wylezol. It was renowned University of Toronto geologist Tuzo Wilson who uncovered the origins of the Atlantic in the 1960s, which transformed geology with the theory of plate techtonics.

Now keen hikers are uniting around the Atlantic basin from Greenland to Morocco with the British, French, Spanish, Canadians and Americans in what is a common geological homeland.

published at International Appalachian Trail Newfoundland & Labrador
an abridged version of this is in the Toronto Star

I think, therefore I walk: Partying and Trekking at Lands End

Eric Walberg


The Gaspé is considered one of the top hiking spots in the world, after the Grand Canyon, the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Swiss Alps. There are 6,000 km of trails, and a range of vistas from mountains to cliffs facing the mouth of the St Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. And best of all, it is hardly known outside Quebec—a spectacular, untouched place right in our own backyard.


For the past decade, hundreds of cross-country skiers—nearly all of them Quebeckers—have come for a six-day, 100-mile-plus ski odyssey through the winter wonderland at the eastern edge of Canada’s largest province. After an article in the New York Times in 2013, 100 Yanks showed up, but as yet, very few Anglo-Canadians. Two years ago, hardy hikers started coming at the end of September to see the fall colours and the caribou, and I opted to join them this year.


Saturday – The 8-hour 'trek' from Toronto to Montreal brought me to the bus to Gaspé at 5am, just in time. Our guide to Gaspé, Gilbert, was one of the many volunteers, a physiotherapist by profession, our residential doctor for sore feet. He is a joker, and over the microphone acted the voice of an airline pilot explaining to brace ourselves for the 2-hour climb that evening on arrival in Gaspé "to reach the hotel". Ìn line for coffee I met Robert, who is a Montreal-based fundraiser for nonprofit organizations and hospitals, a charmer, well in tune with his profession. We settled in for the 10-hour trip to Carleton-sur-Mer, on the south coast, before moving northeast to Gaspé and then east to Percé.


The bus trip went from scenic, with the St Lawrence and tree-covered hills and sparsely populated plains, to spectacular, as we entered Gaspé, with a panoramic view of cliffs, mountains, and a river valley that we followed, with the bus perched high above, giving a breath-taking view.


As we approached our first stop, Carleton-sur-mer, I looked out at New Brunswick across the bay, and realized I had been touching three provinces in one very long day—almost 24 hours from Toronto. Across from me at dinner that night was Celine, who related her adventures in Tanzania, climbing Kilamanjaro 12 times. The casual atmosphere of the trip encourages people to mix. I was fortunate to meet a range of participants, representing Quebeckers from all backgrounds—lawyers, doctors, engineers, fundraisers, teachers, professors, civil servants. Nature lovers and hikers come in all shapes and sizes.


At dinner, Yvon, who is 53 but already retired, explained his decision to throw in his investment analysis towel. “My sister died of cancer a few years ago, and that was a milestone for me. I want to make sure I have tasted life to the full. She did.”


day 1 Sunday


We rose at 6am, and after 1 1/2 hrs of climbing up Mt Carleton, the option of a shorter route for the weak and lazy was offered. I jumped at it. Each day there was this option, which about half the trekkers opted for. I lunched at a scenic point which allowed one to stretch out and soak up some sun, and was soon joined by two genuine Gaspesians, middle aged ladies who were delighted to exchange some words with an anglais. A bit further on were falls cascading 50 meters over a series of broiling chutes. Leisurely strolling back to the bus parking spot, we were greeted by the resident accordionist playing French polkas and treating exhausted hikers with strawberry wine, a local specialty (much nicer than the startling rhubarb wine which greeted us the previous day).


day 2 Monday


Weather holding. We moved on to la Gite [chalets] du Mont Albert. We are now 7 in a chalet—4 men, 3 women, sharing beds. JC was with his “blond” (generaic Quebecois for mistress). I am sharing digs (2 strangers in a bed didn't faze the Quebeckers) with Richard and Robert, who looks 50 but is 66. “What is your secret?” I asked. Robert: “Smile, do what you enjoy, and enjoy what you do.” He has raised millions for hospitals and other social services, mostly in Montreal and Ottawa, so his karma is in good shape.


Richard is a retiring IT type, taking lots of pictures of the scenery. As we climbed over a hill, we were greeted by a forest of windmills, roaring away in the strong trade winds.

The climb took us up to Mt Albert’s bald summit graced by Lake Quiscale, surrounded by a beautiful meadow, actually a massive bog from annual snow melt. There is a boardwalk across the open meadow on top of the mountain, “to keep us from sinking—it's really part of the lake,” Belgian journalist Christiane told me.


At cocktails that evening I met the Corsican Philip Hercher, the first to circumnavigate the Arctic in his boat the Mango. He is devoted to the northern natives and hopes that globalization can work in their favour, making their plight better known, though he is not optimistic about the future. “I feel like I’m documenting a dying past,” he said wistfully.


The hors d’œuvres were very continental, duck and mackerel canopes. Dinner’s highlight for me was the ‘pot-a-pot’, an seafood pie. I chanced to sit beside Christian, a youthful retired doctor. I asked him, "Why don’t you go to Africa to work?” “I did my 60-hour weeks for 13 years mostly in emergency wards, and decided there was more to life. Now I read all the books I never had time for, and live and work with the tour group in the Gaspé.”


Day 3 Tuesday


On the bus, I chatted with dour Pierre, a former separtist. I asked him, “What would Canada be without Quebec? Just another US state.” He didn't disagree, but was pessimistic about what was in it for Quebec. “Our culture is being destroyed and in 20 years will cease to exist.”


I climbed Mt Jacques Cartier with Yvon, who kindly lent me one of his poles, as I was really an interloper, more here for the chance to mingle with Quebeckers, enjoy the scenery and to write. He was the opposite from dour Pierre, and was confident that Quebec was not a lost cause. “My sons come home with friends of all colors. They are all proud to be Quebeckers. Yes, many immigrants come just to make money and to escape desolate futures at home, but the next generation integrates. That is Canada’s history and strength.”


A thick fog descended and as we climbed higher, a sharp wet wind chilled us all. I was ready to turn back, but Yvon encouraged me and we finally reached a tower on the peak for hikers and huddled inside out of the wind, tearing open our bagged lunches.


Lo and behold, the fog lifted and revealed a magnificent 360-degree view of peaks, many tiny lakes, and a hideous stone field surrounding the tower. A plaque explained that at 1270m, the weather here is Arctic, even though it is at the same latitude as Paris. The frightening stone formation is a result of millenia of “gelifraction”, the constant melting and freezing of the rocks, turning them into sharp teeth-like shards, giving the feeling you are in a horror movie.


Our descent across the gelifracked rocks was with clouds at eye level, but fortunately not immersing us in a fog. We stopped for a moment, turned, and there was the elusive caribou we had hoped to see. A male with antlers, graceful in its massive clumsiness. It looked at us, as if greeting subjects in his realm, and disappeared over the hill. A plaque down near the base explained that lichens and moss are 80% of their diet. Hard to believe that such a diet can sustain such magnificent beasts through the long cold winters.


I continue to be impressived at the lack of hostility towards things English, as Quebeckers seem to have outgrown the separatist passion. The beauty of a trip to Quebec is that for anglos, you are actually going abroad without the hassle of a long plane ride and visas.


day 4 Wednesday


Warning: Be prepared in Gaspé for lots of seafood. Tonight was salmon. Tomorrow will be shrimp lasagna. The next day turbo, with canopes of shrimp.


Lize has befriended me, a delightful 74-year-old now on her sixth Tour de la Gaspésie trip—3 crosscountry skiing, 1 by bike, and now on her second trek. I sat in the bus on route to Mt Richardson with Lize and I learned that her ancestory in Quebec, like the majority of the trekkers, goes back to the 17th century, when a solitary fisherman forefather came from Anguleme in southwest France and founded the Simard clan.


Next stop: Gaspé city. Gaspé derives from the Micmac word Gespegh, meaning land's end, reflecting that the peninsula is the farthest mainland point (ok, Labrador goes farther, but that's already Inuit). Gaspé, a town of 15,000 grew up on the site where Jacques Cartier staked a claim for France in 1534, which began the wave of French immigration. The French chose the best fishing sites (sorry, natives), and then the Brits came and in turn pushed the French out. In Percé, a British warship passing by stopped in to raze their homes and killed the inhabitants. Cod was gold. But there was an accommodation over time, as attested by the names of towns and mountains.


The lingua franca in Gaspé was English till the 1960s, when the movement began to make sure French became the language of Quebec. "Cegep [community colleges] really changed things, spreading higher education in French to smaller cities and towns," Lize told me.


After a Pina Colada made from maple cream, pineapple and rum and a Gaspé beer, Petit Caribou, I was joined by Lize and her friend Shantale, a mother of five, grandmother of 14, and painter of portraits when she is not hiking. The trek group consisted of probably 80% women. Where all the jock hikers are is a mystery.


day 5 Thursday


We moved on to Percé, and climbed Mt St Anne. Anne is believed by Catholics and Muslims to be the mother of the Virgin Mary. She is also the patron sant of the Micmacs, Gaspé's natives. The climb was in gusty winds of up to 50 kmh, which hit two streams and turned them into geysers shooting 10m into the air, forcing us to hurry through the upside-downpour. The fickle weather prevented us from crossing the water to l'Ile Bonaventure, where the gannet eke out an endangered existence. Their population plummeted after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Only 15% remain. Percé is one of the handful of places they come for their summer breeding season.


Percé was considered the cod capital of the world in the 19th century under the British, but cod lost its attraction to European tastebuds and the quantity of cod fell from overfishing. By the 1920s, with the arrival of the railway, tourism became fashionable, attracting rich Americans and even the French surrealist poet André Breton, who in 1944 found solace there and called it “a hymn of hope, renewal, and resurrection”. In 1985, the Quebec government made the area the Parc-de-l'Ile-Bonaveture-et-du-Rocher-Percé, to preserve both the nature and the cultural heritage. The famous Percé Rock features only one arch now, the other came crashing down in 1845, but it remains stunning. The remains of the second arch are a forelorn “obelisk”.


Instead of our boat ride, we took the bus farther south along the Malbaie coast, where a delicate sand causeway stretches 7 kms, protecting a unique salt marsh, now a preserve where over 200 types of birds nest. We walked along the causeway on the beach and abandoned railway tracks (the railway to eastern Gaspé was 'rationalized' in 2013), watching various species of birds flit between the marsh and the ocean.


day 6 Friday


Our final distination is Forillon Park, along the Grand-Graves coast, so-called for its jagged cliffs hollowed out by the waves into striking, long, open caves. The easternmost point on the St Lawrence south shore was a quiet rural fishing backwater till Trudeau pre decided it should 'benefit' from the regional planning craze of the 1970s. The 300 families living in the area were forced out (shades of the British actions in the 18th century and the French in the 17th century) and resettled in nearby villages, their homes razed to make sure they didn't try to return, and given 'compensation'.


Unfortunately the sudden deluge of settlers pushed up land prices in the area, and the families couldn't afford to buy a home to reconstitute their self-reliant lives. A monument to their plight was later erected in the park. "I lost our little paradise and our kids their heritage," wrote one evacuee. The settlers were from Jersey and Guernsey, and their unique heritage is now gone.


When we reached “land's end”, it was bitterly cold with rain and a strong wind. For the ceremony inaugurating Gaspé into the European list of Grand Treks, the hardy trekkers stood outside around the fine art-plaques signifying the beginning of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and its northernmost tip here at Gaspé. It is a spectacular spot, ending in a towering 90m cliff with a tiny 12m lighthouse perched precariously on top, small for a lighthouse, but it does the trick for sailors on one of the most treacherous shores of the Atlantic.


I pulled the French Trekkers' Federation President Guy Berçot into the shelter and quizzed him about the inauguration. When we got to the park chalet later, a fire was roaring as 15 intrepid souls disrobed for the inauguration dip in the icy Atlantic waters, seemingly impervious to the cold. One slender woman in a bikini even went back for a second dip for a photo op.


We gathered in the evening after dinner for a “diabolical” costume party, featuring battery-powered devil's horns and some swirling cloaks and pitchforks. A group of women began an impromptu square dancing, turning the mundane 'square' into a 16+ member square-circle with do-si-dos moving effortless back and forth and through the middle, like a flock of birds flitting delicately as if by instinct.


I had dinner with the only other anglo, Myron Frankman, a retired professor of economics at McGill, who came from New Jersey in 1967 to Montreal to teach, and stayed 47 years. Myron was bitter about the devestation Harper has wrought in academia. “He shut down the National Council of Welfare, a treasure house of information and research vital to policy formation. We don't even know where much of the archives are.”


Petite Lize was just as angry, as Harper 'reorganized' the world-renowned marine biology Institut Maurice Lamontagne near Quebec city away from scientific research towards indusrial applications. “It's like a forest fire has swept through Canada's research community. I can't imagine how the damage can be undone.” lamented Myron. “All to promote economic growth at all costs.”


JUST THE FACTS


Tour de la Gaspesie (TDLG) TOURS Next year's Grand Trek will be at the end of September. The next crosscountry ski tour is February 20--27, 2016. The cost for this year's ski and trek varied according to accommodation was from $1300--$1800. The TDLG site is http://tdlg.qc.ca

***



Gaspé : First North American 'Grand Trek'


LAND'S END--We celebrated the inauguration of the first Grande Randonée in North America at Cap-Gaspé, the final point of the Appalachian Trail (AT), which extends from Georgia to Maine in the US and continues as the International Appalachian Trail in New Brunswick and Quebec. The Appalachians extend 4455 kms, and the Appalachian Trail hiking organization was founded in 1937.


The president of the French Trekkers' Federation, Guy Berçot, came at the end of the tour to finalize Gaspé's membership. The hikkers'organzation in France alone has 3,500 associations and 220,000 hikers, 6,000 French volunteers who maintain trails, and the villages and departments in Franch provide assistance. There are 28 Grande Randonées across Europe. “Joining the European hikers' federation as North America's first Grande Randonée will bring thousands of eager hikers from Europe. I am delighted to be instrumental in bringing Gaspé to the hikers' world. This is what tourism should be all about,” enthused Berçot.


Don Hudson, the head of the Maine AT organization also attended. "We hope that Gaspé will lead to broader Appalachian membership in the European GR organization, including Newfoundland, which is also an extension of the trail. It promotes healthy eco-friendly tourism."


The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) organization was founded in 1994 to bring together hikers who recognize that the Appalachians are really part of then ancient range of mountains circling the Atlantic Ocean. IAT heads Quebecker Eric Chouinard and Paul Wylezol from Newfoundland were on hand to explain.


The geology of the Appalachians links it with the west coast of Europe and African as far as Morocco. The forerunner of the Atlantic was the Iapetus Ocean, which shrank and pushed up mountains when tectonic plates collided,” explained Wylezol. It was renowned University of Toronto geologist Tuzo Wilson who uncovered the origins of the Atlantic in the 1960s, which transformed geology with the theory of plate techtonics.


Now keen hikers are uniting around the Atlantic basin from Greenland to Morocco with the British, French, Spanish, Canadians and Americans in what is a common geological homeland.



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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

From Books

  • Reviews of James Petras, The End of the Republic and the Delusion of Empire, Clarity, 2016

    Jeremy Hammond, Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Worldview, 2016

    It is time to assess the legacy that President Obama bequeaths us. These two timely books contribute to this, Hammond focusing on the “special relationship”, Petras, more broadly on US imperialism. Both are pessimistic about the possibility of any change without an active, articulate citizens' movement that has staying power, thereby creating the conditions for a political renewal.


    Hammond's work is detailed, documenting the period starting with Obama's 2008 victory and Israel's immediate response: its invasion of Gaza in December. Throwing down the gauntlet, which president-elect Obama refused to pick up.


    There were more such attacks to come, involving seizing aid flotillas headed for Gaza, culminating in a repeat of that full scale invasion of Gaza in 2014, both killing thousands of innocents. Hammond's main point is to separate Obama's weak, nice words -- "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines" -- with his inability to move towards fulfilling them.

  • Azizi Ansari's runaway bestseller Modern Romance is the perfect self-help book. Lots of data, thoughtful interviews with psychologists and 'victims', funny. The celebrated stand-up comic confirms the truth in the oxymoron, "the wise fool". And surprisingly, finds that humans pretty well figured things romantic out long before computers.

    A few nuggets

    Experiments on rats show the "uncertainty principle" in rewards: reward the rat when it presses the knob till s/he figures out it must press the lever to get the treat, but after that, only reward it intermittently. Their reward dopamine levels increase beyond the level when they always get rewarded for knob-pushing, like they're "being coked up". We are rats: in the human version of the experiment, women are most attracted to those guys who are in the 'uncertain' group, those who rated them high are second rate. No doubt this works the same for men.
  • The Gaspé  is considered one of the top hiking spots in the world, after the Grand Canyon, the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Swiss Alps. There are 6,000 km of trails, and a range of vistas from mountains to cliffs facing the mouth of the St Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. And best of all, it is hardly known outside Quebec—a spectacular, untouched place right in our own backyard.

    For the past decade, hundreds of cross-country skiers—nearly all of them Quebeckers—have come for a six-day, 100-mile-plus ski odyssey through the winter wonderland at the eastern edge of Canada’s largest province. After an article in the New York Times in 2013, 100 Yanks showed up, but as yet, very few Anglo-Canadians. Two years ago, hardy hikers started coming at the end of September to see the fall colours and the caribou, and I opted to join them this year.

    Saturday – The 8-hour 'trek' from Toronto to Montreal brought me to the bus to Gaspé at 5am, just in time. Our guide to Gaspé, Gilbert, was one of the many volunteers, a physiotherapist by profession, our residential doctor for sore feet. He is a joker, and over the microphone acted the voice of an airline pilot explaining to brace ourselves for the 2-hour climb that evening on arrival in Gaspé "to reach the hotel". Ìn line for coffee I met Robert, who is a Montreal-based fundraiser for nonprofit organizations and hospitals, a charmer, well in tune with his profession. We settled in for the 10-hour trip to Carleton-sur-Mer, on the south coast, before moving northeast to Gaspé and then east to Percé.
  • Eric Walberg has now written three books on the topic of Islamic culture in relation to Western geo-politics and world events. He is a prolific journalist and scholar who has lived in Central Asia and the Middle East (1).

    In Walberg's third book, “Islamic Resistance to Imperialism” (2015, Clarity Press, 304 pages), he presents a view of the world most people in the West, especially those exposed to a diet of mainstream media may not be familiar with or sympathetic to. Issues that deal with religion, culture and geo-politics are inherently complex. Even worse, disinformation is intentionally promulgated by Western governments and their lapdogs in the media to mislead the public into supporting the West's “war on terror.”

    The constant drumbeat in the media is that Muslims are “terrorists” and that America needs to police the world to rid this evil. Since communist-totalitarianism in its most overt form fell in the East, a new boogie man needed to to be invented in order to justify the military industrial complex. The gradual demonisation of Muslims in the Hollywood media (See the documentary: “Reel Bad Arabs”) culminated in what I believe was a false flag terror attack on 911. The myth of the Muslim Terrorist was born.

    For this reason, Walberg's book is a healthy antidote to our largely uninformed and biased views on the world's largest growing religious grouping.

  • Eric Walberg is a Canadian journalist who converted to Islam and has been covering the Middle East for a number of years. I do not know whether there are other books about Islam by converts, but this one is written by someone who is fiercely political and who sees Islam as a remedy to the world's ills.[tag]

    Although Walberg does not say so explicitly, the notion of resistance to imperialism has been basic to Islam since the beginning of the Palestinian struggle against Great Britain in the nineteenth century. After the creation of Israel, Iran, Lebanon and Syria became known as 'frontline states' in that resistance (see my review of http://click here).

    This is an ambitious book that may suffer from being at once an argument for Islam as the solution to the woes of the modern world and an analysis of the various aspects of Islamism as well as a history of Islamism's progress or lack thereof by country.

    The fact that Islam is the fastest growing religion on the planet - growing faster, according to Time magazine, than the population - notwithstanding Islamophobia - suggests that its appeal is fundamentally different from that of other religions, and Walberg makes that point eloquently, quoting Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood member Essam el-Erian, on the Iranian revolution:

    "Young people believe Islam is the solution to the ills in society after the failure of western democracy, socialism and communism to address the political and socio-economic difficulties." It prompted Saudi rebels to occupy the Kaaba that same year in an attempt to spark revolution, Syrian Muslims to rise against their secular dictator Hafez al-Assad in 1980 and future Al-Qaeda leader Aymin Zawahiri to conspire to assassinate Egyptian president Sadat in 1981."

  • Kevin Barrett has become a legend in the US as a fearless journalist who cuts to the quick, his political and analytic skills leading to provocative, truthful explanations of our mostly inexplicable reality. He has written several books dealing with 9/11, and is currently an editor at Veterans Today, and pundit at Press TV, Russia Today, al-Etejah and other international channels. His website is TruthJihad.com. He builds on a well-established American journalistic tradition of brave exposers of government misdoings. Bill Blum and Seymour Hirsh are best known, but there are hundreds more.

    Great American tradition

    Blum is a legend from the 1960s, as the first to amass detailed proof of false flags by the US government. If you still have any trust in the US government's foreign policy, you haven't read Blum's Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since WWII (2004), which documents more than 50 blatant US overthrows of democratic government in the 3rd world, though溶ote溶one occurred in the US (Pearl Harbor is suspicious but no slam-dunk).

    There's no question that the false flag experts in the US government weren't aware of the greatest terrorist event in US history. There are a string of whistle-blowers that show how evidence was ignored or buried building up to the event, evidence which if properly shared by the intelligence agencies, with their special al-Qaeda and Taliban watch groups, could have prevented 9/11. David Shipler interviews several of these forgotten heroes in Freedom of Speech:Mightier Than the Sword (2015). 

  • In Islam, the first two adjectival "most beautiful names" of God are al-Rahman al-Rahim, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. (Or, in Michael Sells' translation, "the Compassionate, the Caring.") The Arabic root of both words derives from "womb" and connotes the kind of outrageously generous love and compassion a mother feels for her children.

    These days, the Western discourse on Islam “especially political Islam“ is not exactly overflowing with compassion and generosity. As the French-Algerian Jew Albert Memmi wrote in The Coloniser and the Colonized, colonizers typically take a very ungenerous view of the people they are attacking, occupying, brutalizing and exploiting. If they admitted the humanity of their victims, they would look in the mirror and see a brutish criminal. So to avoid facing the truth, they project their own criminal brutality on the colonized victim.

    Memmi notes that Western colonizers typically refuse to acknowledge the positive traits of colonized Muslims. Even an admirable virtue such as generosity “ a notable feature of Islamic cultures“ is made into a vice: "Those crazy Muslims don't know the value of money; accept their hospitality, and they'll feed you a meal that costs a month of their salary, and offer you a gift worth ten times that. They're just not frugal!"
  • Book review

    Ken Ballen, Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals, Free Press, 2011.


    This is a strange book—a racy title, documenting the way six jihadis turned to al-Qaeda and its spin-offs in desperation to find some kind of fulfilment in life. There are several Romeo and Juliette stories, though the author seems oblivious to the fact that the 'love' in the title is mostly about devotion to God, however mistaken.

    Ballen is president and founder of Terror Free Tomorrow, “a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that investigates the causes of extremism”. Ballen's CV suggests “nonpartisan” can be taken with a grain of salt, as he spent two decades in law enforcement and intelligence, and was given grudging accommodation by the Pakistani ISI intelligence, and free access to the Saudi Ministry of Intelligence (MOI) Care Center, where captured jihadis are sent for rehabilitation.

    As well as his extended interviews in Saudi Arabia, he gained access to several jihadis still on the run, and relates a truly remarkable story—if he is to be believed—of a Saudi royal son who discovers he is gay and has a passionate affair with his cousin before joining the jihad.

  • Canadian journalist Eric Walberg has produced two very impressive works that between them cover most of what is politically relevant today: Post-Modern Imperialism: Geopolitics and The Great Games, the games being those played on the world political chessboard, and From Post-Modernism to Post-Secularism: Re-Emerging Islamic Civilization, both from Clarity Press.

    Walberg admits that the internet made his task easier, but without a very thorough grounding in political theory and history, they could not have been written. Walberg who has a degree in economic from Cambridge and has lived in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia, specializes in the Middle East. His Great Games are labelled GGI (pre-Russian revolution), GGII (the Cold War era) and today's on-going GG III, which he sees as a US-British-Israeli campaign for world dominance. Walberg shows globalization's brutality, and with theory to back him up, lays it squarely at imperialism's door.

    The scope of this work is vast, but I have chosen one quote that is particularly relevant to current events. Since 2008, the European Union, built up painstakingly after two world wars devastated the continent, has been teetering on collapse, and I have often affirmed that it is a deliberate American policy to destroy that elaborate welfare state. Walberg's confirmation is stunning:

  • Review of Morten Storm with Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, Agent Storm: My Life Inside al Qaeda and the CIA, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2014.
    ISBN 978-0-8021-2314-5

    Summary: As IS continues to confound the West with its consolidation of a Salafist-inspired resurrection of a ‘caliphate’, the Danish mole responsible for leading the CIA to Anwar Awlaki has caused a scandal by publishing his memoirs of life “inside al Qaeda and the CIA”.

    Recruiting Muslims has not been easy for western ‘intelligence’. The New York Police Department has tried for decades to recruit Muslim immigrants, and was finally embarrassed by a 2013 ACLU lawsuit to disband its most public recruiting unit, which essentially blackmailed anyone with a Muslim name arrested on any pretext, including parking tickets.

    The most successful double agent prior to Morten Storm was Omar Nasiri (b. 1960s), the pseudonym of a Moroccan spy who infiltrated al-Qaeda, attending training camps in Afghanistan and passing information to the UK and French intelligence services. He revealed all in his fascinating memoirs Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda A Spy’s Story in 2006.

  • Thoughts on From Postmodernism to Postsecularism

    Chandra Muzaffar in dialogue with Eric Walberg

    Muzaffar: Eric Walberg’s new book From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergII.html is a stimulating and informative survey of both Islamic history and reformist thought, culminating in an analysis of the ongoing upheavals in WANA.

    The book is an extensive exposition on Islamic Civilization itself. It covers the whole spectrum of dynasties, major episodes and personalities which is why the book should be an important reference for students of the civilization.

    You are right, Eric, in arguing that for Islam the goal has always been “to nurture a morally sound community based on the Quran…” (p28). There have been endeavours in that direction in the past—some successes, many failures. In this regard, I am wondering why you did not mention specifically the moral indictment of Muawiyyah by Abu-Dharr Al-Giffari who some would view as the first major critic of the creeping injustices in early Muslim leadership?

  • In his introduction, Eric Walberg states, “The main purpose of this book is to help the reader to understand the alternative map which Islam offers.” This is both a literal and figural map, an alternative to the imperial and neocolonial boundaries that divide the Islamic world, and an alternative viewpoint to that of the imperial driver of capitalism. This offer includes “realigning ourselves with Nature, and rediscovering humanities’ spiritual evolutionary path…without abandoning the vital role of reason.”

    This path along this alternate view is created strongly, with an obvious sympathy for the parts of Islam that are little known to the capitalist imperial view. It is a fully comprehensive path, leading the reader through time and through not just the Middle East, but on into Northern Africa, the Sahel, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

    The path always interacts with the imperial capitalist landscape ranging from the original European nationalist empires of France, Britain, Spain, and Holland on through to the hegemonic empire of the United States that has subordinated the previous empires into its fold. This has been done through military backing of corporate enterprises and many financial maneuverings that have – up until now – managed to stretch this empire into a full global span.

    The first chapter, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, explains the nature of the Koran without the political prejudice brought on by imperial reaction (blowback) to occupation and creation of the ‘evil’ other. Following that, it presents a broad history of Islam up until the era of the First World War. While the interactions with Christianity were often violent, Islamic expansion eastward generally tended to be accomplished more peacefully through trade and missionaries – the latter of course being against the military corporate interests of the west.

  • Forging a Socialist-Islamist Alliance
    Review of Eric Walberg's From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization, Clarity Press, 2013

    By William T. Hathaway

    Most western Middle East experts see Islam as a problem for the West -- a source of terrorism, religious fanaticism, unwanted immigrants -- and they see their job as helping to change the Middle East so it's no longer a problem for us. Eric Walberg, however, recognizes that this is another instance of the Big Lie.

    The actual problem is the multifaceted aggression the West has been inflicting on the Middle East for decades and is determined to continue, no matter what the cost to them and us will be. His books and articles present the empirical evidence for this with scholarly precision and compassionate concern for the human damage done by our imperialism.

  • Brain research and social psychology have made astounding advances in understanding the mind. These two books will blow yours. The implications for western 'civilization' are profound. Here are some notes.

    Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Doubleday, 2011.
    -heuristic (system 1 rule of thumb) biases -overconfident (first impression), resemblance, ease of memory search, emotion (sympathy for psychopathic charm), halo effect (exaggerate emotional reaction), WYSIATI (what you see is all there is), treating problems in isolation (not integrate variables), framing effects (context, importance of first impression, including page layout etc), priming (thinking about x -> x), endowment effect (owning x appears to increase its value)
    -fallacies re human nature -rational, emotions such as fear, affection and hatred explain departures from rationality
    -rather systmatic errors in thinking due to design of machinery of cognition rather than the corruption of thought by emotion. luck plays large role in success. accurate intuitions of experts better explained by skill and practice incorporated into heuristics. (variant of reason/ faith dialectic)
    -system 1 (fast thinking) -automatic operations (associative memory, automatic mental activities (perception and memory), unconscious/ conscious skills incorporated from system 2 as automatic, -> heuristic
    -system 2 -controlled operations -both self-contol and cognitive effort (allocates attention to effortful mental activities when demanded requiring choice and concentration, can reprogram normally automatic funs of attention and memory)
    -also experiencing vs remembering self (a construct of system 2 but incorporating (fast) associative memories of system 1) -what makes experiencing self happy not same as what satisfies remembering self -need to balance using system 2 slow thinking. -memory both system 1&2 and system 2 can adjust system 1 experiencing/ associative memories (ie, counterintuitive steering out of icy skid)

  • Lawrence Wright, Twins: and What They Tell Us About Who We Are, John Wiley & Sons, 1997.

    These notes summarize the main findings of twinning studies during the past century which lead to some startling conclusions.

    -behaviorism (BFSkinner) argued all behavior genetically based (we are the product of natural selection) but can be programmed in the individual. he denied special genes for altruism/ criminality/ other character trait -what our genes give us is the capacity to adapt to our environment. we are not innately good/ bad, rather determined by our environment. there is no individual responsibility. to change behavior we must design a different environment.
    -but twin studies suggests genetic basis to behavior (approximately 50%, ie, 1/2 determined, 1/2 'free will' which we develop by creating our own environment as we mature and become more self-aware)

  • In August 2013, Marxism Leninism Today editor Zoltan Zigedy reviewed Eric Walberg’s new book From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization

    Zoltan Zigedy summarized Walberg’s writing in the following terms

    1. The last great secular social justice project — socialism — has failed with the demise of the Soviet Union.
    2. Islam and its attendant political-social-economic doctrines are viable alternative routes to social justice.
    3. Islam is the only alternative that can deliver social justice. Therefore, Islam is the universal way to social justice.

    My -comments to Zoltan's >points:

    >the rise of Islamic civilization that Walberg foresaw was dashed on the rocks of divisiveness and foreign intervention

    -I see this 'Islamic awakening' as coming in waves. the 2013 coup in Egypt is a trough, but the process of evolution/ revolution continues. the openness and experience of the Islamists cannot be put back in the djin's bottle.
    I recall young Egyptian friends who were 'politicized' after the 2011 uprising. they didn't join secular groups, but the Muslim Brotherhood -- a huge move by millions of Egyptian youth. this has never been mentioned anywhere in the press. the ongoing demonstrations are courageous and principled, and deserve our respect and support.

  • http://www.huffingtonpost.it/daniele-scalea/islam-vs-capitalismo_b_4095817.html

    summary: Islam has a complete social doctrine which opposes the exploitation of man by man and lending at interest. For this reason, Islam is, in the contemporary world after the end of communism, the great alternative to capitalism. Massimo Campanini, one of the leading Italian scholars of the field, in his History of the Middle East, confirms that Islam stands as challenge to the idea of "end of history". But this challenge is not extremist Islam and terrorism, which in his opinion is already defeated, but two other "Islamists".

  • Resisting The Modernist Nightmare: Islam As Road To Peace?  by Richard Wilcox

    Following the end of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, there was supposed to have been a “peace dividend” which would have allowed the world to stop wasting money on arms manufacturing and explore roads toward peace and commerce. However, the Cold War itself may have been a ruse to some extent in order to justify the growth of global totalitarian government and corporate power in both the West and East, and as a result a peaceful world was never achieved.

    Even the most naïve observer could see that something was very odd, given that at the same moment that the Russian enemy was tamed and the Berlin Wall had fallen, a new, even more nefarious enemy was born: the Muslim Terrorist. This seamless transition that benefited the military industrial complex and zionist warmongers was practically lifted out of a Hollywood script. In fact, Hollywood played an important role in creating the caricature and stereotype of the “evil Muslim” through innumerable anti-Muslim Hollywood propaganda films.

  • This book is a continuation of my earlier work, Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games (2011), though it stands on its own. My purpose in Postmodern Imperialism was to give a picture of the world from the viewpoint of those on the receiving end of imperialism. It traces the manipulation of Islamists by imperialism, and poses the question: What are the implications of the revival of Islamic thought and activism for the western imperial project?

    The subject of this work is the expansion of Islam since the seventh century, when revelations delivered to the Prophet Muhammad led to its consolidation as the renewal and culmination of Abrahamic monotheism. It looks at the parallels between the Muslim world today and past crises in Islamic civilization, which gave impetus to reforms and renewal from within, relying on the Quran and hadiths,1 and attempts to interpret recent history from the viewpoint of the Muslim world—how it sees the imposition on it of western systems and beliefs, and how it is dealing with this.

    The period up to and including the occupation of the Muslim world by the western imperialists corresponds to Postmodern Imperialism’s Great Game I (GGI). For Asians, the most important event heralding the possibility of a new post-GGI ‘game’ was the Japanese victory in 1905 over Russia. Japan had successfully reformed via the Meiji Restoration in 1868, inspiring all Asia, including China and the Muslim world, which saw Japan’s determination to develop independently of the imperial powers as a way out of the colonial trap that they were rapidly falling into.

  • European Journal of American Studies review of Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games

    (March 2012)

    Recent history for even the casual observer of international affairs has been plagued by wars and conflicts in specific regions of the world.  The wars in Central Asia and the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq respectively, seem to indicate the latest machinations in the imperial designs of the USA.  For many, using the term imperialism and connecting it to the USA is at best inappropriate.  For others, American interventions in particular countries or specific regions of the world represent the practices of a hegemonic power and the expansion of an American empire.  Some even argue that the nature of American imperialism is utterly novel, and deserving of a new label:  ‘postmodern imperialism.’  As the title of Eric Walberg’s book, his examination of the trajectories of contemporary imperialism includes scrutiny of the geopolitical interests of the USA and its “new developments in financial and military-political strategies to ensure control over the world’s resources” (27-28).  While Postmodern Imperialism primarily focuses on key aspects of imperialism, geopolitical analysis and commentary forms the foundation of Walberg’s narrative.

  • Robert Wright, Nonzero: the logic of human destiny (2000)

    -organic evolution tends to create more complex forms of life, raising overall entropy but concentrating order locally
    -Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere, the thinking envelope of the Earth
    -throughout nature, main trend is the increase in capacity for information processing, storage and analysis. DNA not just data, but data processor.
    -the function of the energy marshaled by an organism or society not just to sustain and protect structure, but to guide the marshaling.
    -secret of life not DNA but zero sum (zs)/ nonzero sum (nzs) games (to better pass on one’s DNA - the ‘meaning of life’).
    ‘laws of nature’:

  • Review of Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Sharia Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World,

    Sadakat Kadri

    New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012

    There are 50 Muslim-majority states in the world; 11 of them, including Egypt, have constitutions that acknowledge Islam as a source of national law. In Heaven on Earth, Sadakat Kadri, an English barrister and New York attorney, provides a much-needed and highly readable overview of Islamic legal history and an entertaining survey of the state of Islamic law today, full of fascinating anecdotes.

    For instance, have you heard the one about the eleventh-century Sufi mystic whose prayers were interrupted by a familiar voice: "Oh, Abu Al-Hasan!" it boomed. "Do you want me to tell people what I know about your sins, so that they stone you to death?" "Oh, Lord," Al-Hasan whispered back. "Do you want me to tell people what I know about your mercy, so that none will ever feel obliged to bow down to you again?" "Keep your secret," came God's conspiratorial reply. "And I will keep mine."

    Such risqué offerings aside, Kadri looks at the development of Islamic law from the time of the Prophet, focussing on attitudes to war, criminal justice, religious tolerance, and movements of reform through history. He provides valuable background for all those concerned and/or excited about today's resurgence of Islam. As the fastest growing religion, second only to Christianity in numbers (and surely first in terms of sincere practitioners), Islam is an increasingly powerful force not only in the world of religion, but in the realms of culture, politics and even economics.
  • Guided missives

    Ard ard (Surface-to-surface): The story of a graffiti revolution
    Sherif Abdel-Megid
    Egyptian Association for Books 2011
    ISBN 978-977-207-102-9

    Graffiti -- the art of the masses, by the masses, for the masses -- has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and arguably to Pharaonic Egypt. Sherif Abdel-Megid, a writer who works for Egyptian television, boasts that Egypt's revolution and the explosion of popular art that followed it finds its roots in the decay of the Sixth dynasty in Egypt's Old Kingdom, following the reign of Pepi II (2278-2184 BC), credited with having the longest reign of any monarch in history at 94 years (Mubarak, eat your heart out). His own decline paralleled the disintegration of the kingdom and it is thanks to Pharaonic graffiti that we know about it.

  • I confess that I cringe when I see the word “post-modern.” This word has obscured more discussions, confused more gullible readers, and conned more writers than any word since “existential” and its “-ism.” For the most part, it has served as a kind of fashionable linguistic operator that signals something radical and profound will follow. Almost always, what follows disappoints.

    Eric Walberg’s book, Postmodern Imperialism (Clarity Press, 2011), doesn’t change my general opinion of the word, though what follows the title certainly doesn’t disappoint.

    Walberg has offered a welcome taxonomy of imperialism from its nineteenth century genesis until today; he has given a plausible explanation of imperialism’s contours since the exit of the Soviet Union and Eastern European socialism from the world stage; and he has convincingly described Israel’s unique role in the continuing reshaping of imperialism’s grasp for world domination.

  •  I. Let the Games Begin…Again…and Again

    The great disaffected masses tell us that history is on the march and, as usual, guns and butter are the simpler issues. In America, support dwindles for a war that has lasted a decade. Drone missiles, each costing $100,000, kill “terrorists” in gutturally named, chicken-scratch places bewilderingly far from America’s hometowns, whose simple citizens ask where their taxes go. Costs of the Afghanistan war this year are the highest ever, $119.4 billion and counting.[1] Polls show historically deep disaffection with The System. The mask of America-First patriotism is falling, revealing an intoxicated self-grandiosity and will to power by renascent Bush-era neocons and cynical manipulations by the CEO caste and other one-percenters for more and more wealth, and whose sense of entitlement the victims of class warfare, lumpen proles and petit bourgeoisie alike, seem unable to stomach any longer.[2] Approval of the Republican led-by-gridlock Congress hovers around fifteen percent.[3] Ever-larger protests in other cities in America and internationally have extended those on Wall Street – protests even a year ago one would never have predicted – and “class warfare – rich against poor” appears on the protestors’ signs.

    The disaffected might also ask why the US, as Eric Walberg notes in his extraordinary new book, has 730 American military bases in fifty countries around the globe, and why the US share of the world’s military expenditures is 42.8% while, by comparison, China’s is 7.3% and Russia’s 3.6%. The unavoidable irony is that the Pax Americana seems to be requiring endless war with no particular rationale behind it – and truly astonishing numbers of dollars are spent on behalf of war rather than at home. What may be fatally undermining credibility in America’s “transcendent values” has been the sense that as the facts filter down to the masses, the Empire’s new clothes appear to be the same as that of past empires. All empires have births and deaths – the US Empire will be no different. Internal contradictions of the US efforts to control the globe seem now to be sending things spiraling out of control.[4]

  • Eric Walberg’s acute insights into the contemporary global order raise many questions about the continued viability of the American and Israeli focus on wealth and power. Perhaps understandably, his interests and insights inspired by the Islamic world make him a penetrating commentator on peoples who are a product of Christian and Jewish tradition.

    Walberg is a Canadian authority on the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia who writes for Al Ahram, the best known English language newspaper in the Middle East.

  • Though the number of critical voices concerning Israel, Zionism and Jewish power is growing steadily, a clear distinction can be made on the one hand between contributors who operate within the discourse and are politically oriented, and others who transcend themselves above and beyond any given political paradigm.

    The former category refers to writers and scholars who operate 'within the box,' accepting the restrictive measures of a given political and intellectual discourse. A thinker who operates within such a framework would initially identify the boundaries of the discourse, and then shape his or her ideas to fit in accordingly. The latter category refers to a far more challenging intellectual attempt: it includes those very few who operate within a post-political realm, those who defy the dictatorship of 'political-correctness', or any given 'party-line'. It relates to those minds that think 'out of the box'. And it is actually those who, like artists, plant the seeds of a possible conceptual and consciousness shift.

  • The Wandering Who? A study of Jewish identity politics, gives a unique insider’s view of the Israeli mind. Its author explains to Eric Walberg that you can take the girl out of Jezebel, but you can’t take Jezebel out of the girl

    Gilad Atzmon is a world citizen who calls London his home. He was born a sabra, and served as a paramedic in the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1982 Lebanon War, when he realised that “I was part of a colonial state, the result of plundering and ethnic cleansing.” He has wandered far since then, become a novelist, philosopher, one of the world’s best jazz saxophonists, and at the same time, one of the staunchest supporters of the Palestinian cause, supporting their right of return and the one-state solution. He now defines himself as a “proud self-hating Jew” and “a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian”. In 2009 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan quoted Atzmon during a debate with Israeli president Shimon Peres, telling him at the World Economic Forum that “Israeli barbarity is far beyond even ordinary cruelty.”

  • Three books recently published by the American radical publisher Clarity Press reflect different aspects of racism in the US, which even under a black president is unfortunately alive and well, promoted in US policy at home and abroad -- if not officially:

    Devon Mihesua, American Indians: Stereotypes and Realities

    Stephen Sheehi, Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims

    Francis Boyle, The Palestinian Right of Return Under International Law

  • -secular thinkers imagine they have left religion behind, but have only exchanged religion for a humanist faith in progress

    -Joseph Roth worried about spread of ideas of national self-determination. Monarchy was more tolerant. A society can be civilized without recognizing rights, while one based on rights may be tainted with barbarism (Austria-Hungary abolished torture in 1776)

    -torture is Enlightenment tradition, 'progress' a legacy of Christianity (salvation in battle between good and evil Zoroastra). 'God defeats evil' translated into secular terms. also meliorism of liberal humanists. Enlightenment hostile to Christianity but used Christian framework.

  • -US enriched rather than impoverished by the two world wars and by their outcome, nothing in common with Britain -> still glorifies military, sentiment familiar in Europe before 1945.

    -in Europe, dominant sentiment relief at "final closing of a long, unhappy chapter" vs in US - story recorded in a triumphalist key. war works. thus remains the first option, vs last resort

    -20th c rise and fall of the state. welfare state a cross-party 20th c consensus implemented by liberals or conservatives not as first stage of 20th c socialism but culmination of late-19th c reformist liberalism, prerequisites of a stable civil order. p10

    -citizens lost gnawing sentiment of insecurity and fear that had dominated political life between 1914 and 1945. forgot this fear -> neoliberalism. now fear reemerging [-> neofascism], fear that not only we but those 'in authority' have lost control of forces beyond their reach [implicitly acknowledging the cabal of international bankers/ military industrial complex (mic) that conspire above governments, tho Judt would be the first to dismiss this p20]

  • Clarity Press June 2011

    advanced purchase http://www.claritypress.com/Walberg.html

    PREFACE

    To young people today, the world as a global village appears as a given, a ready-made order, as if human evolution all along was logically moving towards our high-tech, market-driven society, dominated by the wealthy United States. To bring the world to order, the US must bear the burden of oversize defense spending, capture terrorists, eliminate dictators, and warn ungrateful nations like China and Russia to adjust their policies so as not to hinder the US in its altruistic mission civilatrice.

    The reality is something else entirely, the only truth in the above characterization being the overwhelming military dominance of the US in the world today. The US itself is the source of much of the world’s terrorism, its 1.6 million troops in over a thousand bases around the world the most egregious terrorists, leaving the Osama bin Ladens in the shade, and other lesser critics of US policies worried about their job prospects.

    My own realization of the true nature of the world order began with my journey to England to study economics at Cambridge University in September 1973. I decided to take the luxury SS France ocean liner which offered a student rate of a few hundred dollars (and unlimited luggage), where I met American students on Marshall and Rhodes scholarships (I had the less prestigious Mackenzie King scholarship), and used my wiles to enjoy the perks of first class. The ship was a microcosm of society, a benign one. The world was my oyster and I wanted to share my joy with everyone.

    But I was in for a shock.

  • How green is your deen?

    Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, San Francisco CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2010

    Muslim Americans are slowly beginning to make their mark on their very conflicted society. There are more Muslims than Jews in the US now -- approximately 5 million. They are the most diverse of all American believers, 35 per cent born in the US (25 per cent Afro-American), the rest -- immigrants from southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Traditionally they have voted Republican, but have shifted to Democrat and Green parties in recent years.

  • Three new publications from the leading radical British press are the tip of a growing iceberg of passionate pleas for sanity in international affairs. Most of us prefer to stick our heads in the sand as the world goes to hell in a hand-basket, but there are works that can fascinate and uplift, perhaps even inspire us to do something before it is too late.

  • -the attempt to fuse the public and private lies behind Plato’s attempt to answer the q “Why is it in one’s interest to be just?” and Christianity’s claim that perfect self-realization can be attained through service to others. [capitalism proposes the invisible hand, soc – class consciousness and state-sanctioned ideology, Rorty’s vision – soc demo and  metaphors]

  • -ecology - 19th c term - investigation of interrelationships between animals, plants, and their inorganic environment - dynamic balance of nature, interdependence of living and nonliving things. vs environmentalism (natural engineering)

     -social ecology - dialectical unfolding of life-forms from simple to complex. (history of phenomenon is the phenomenon itself) human-made universe is 'second nature'. society = institutionalized communities. philosophy of evolution. must synthesize these 2 natures into a 3rd. process of achieving wholeness by means of unity thru diversity, complementarity (vs homogeneous monocultural oneness of cap).
  •  

    -x preferred schoolgirls because less complicated, less real than adult women, as dream less complicated than reality.

    paradox of sex - always seems to be offering more than it can deliver.
  • Time and its discontents

    -Latin words for culture = agriculture/ domestication AND translation from Greek terms for spatial image of time. We are 'time-binders', creating a symbolic class of life, an artificial world -> control over nature. Time becomes real because it has consequences. Flow of time 'the distinction between what one needs and what one has, the incipience of regret' (Guyau (1890) Carpe diem, but civ(ilization) forces us to mortgage the present to the future.

  • -worldatlarge dangerous and threatening. It didn't like the Jews (Js) because they were clever, quick-witted, successful, but also because they were noisy and push. It didn't like what we were doing here in the Land of Israel either, because it begrudged us even this meager strip of marshland, boulders, and desert. Out there in the world all the walls were covered with graffiti: yids, go back to Palestine, so we came back to Palestine and now the worldatlarge shouts at us: Yids, get out of Palestine.

  • 25/12/8 This latest collection of essays by the controversial Israeli writer will not disappoint both admirers and antagonists of this iconoclastic anti-Zionist, most definitely the greatest thorn in Israel's very own backyard. Shamir has known controversy most of his life, notably when he was forced to leave the Soviet Union for demonstrating defiantly against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. He came to Israel, served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army, before settling down to a career as journalist (Haaretz, BBC), translator (James Joyce, the Caballah), and increasingly a one-man Internet David to Israel's Goliath. He has never looked back, despite the difficulty of publishing his unapologetic critiques of not just Zionism and Israel, but of Judaism, Jews and Jewry.

  • [draft of upcoming book]
    One World: 20th century conspiracies
    Eric Walberg

    Introduction - From 9/11 1973 to 9/11 2001

        In Canada, dinner time chat – left or right – about world events generally follows the standard media script: the backward Muslims must be taught a lesson, that the events of 9/11/2001 and the tragedies unfolding in Iraq and Afghanistan are at worst a cock-up on the part of the US government and friends. Something like the following is served up on both sides of the political spectrum: "They had to invade Afghanistan to stop the Taliban supporting Al-Qaeda. Invading Iraq was a mistake but what do you expect from a moron like Bush? If only he'd listened to his father and just kept chipping away at Saddam."
        In Egypt, the idea that the bombing of the twin towers on 9/11 was the work of a handful of Muslim fanatics directed by Osama bin Laden is dismissed by all but a few westernized folk. "Bush bombed them to launch his war against Islam and to steal Iraq's oil," is the usual response. Or, "9/11 was done by a group within the US government in league with Mossad, using Muslims (or at least their passports) as a front."
        Where is the truth? We all agree 9/11 was a conspiracy, but by whom? Is it possible that the official conspiracy theory is a hoax covering a much more frightening cabal?
  • Film script: The Silk Road and the unknown East -- 6 part documentary

    Eric Walberg

    Introduction and Part I

    We will take a journey along the most ancient and thrilling road in Man's history, through a mysterious and little known part of the world, but one which has experienced all there is - the great religions have all thrived here at one time or another - Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam; at certain periods great centres of learning and the arts sprang up and declined, as did great warrior-princes. It is a region of violent contrasts - desert, mountains, lush valleys and oases. It is a mix of many races. Until a century ago, it was all but lost to the march of civilisation. Until the fall of Communism, it maintained its shroud of secrecy. With modern means of communications, it is now as accessible as any other destination. I am speaking of course of where East truly meets West - Central Asia.

  • fashioning a sunhatWe left Saturday morning for a 4-day hike. Because of the growing problem of bandits in the mountains, Sasha decided to start from the mountains nearest to Tashkent which start from a Tajik village (all villages near or in the mountains are populated by either Tajik or Kazakh) called Nevichu, avoiding check points by taking back roads. Sasha’s wife, Oksana, (whom I met on the plane from New York to Tashkent when she conned me into taking one of her 50-lb. bags to avoid extra baggage charges) saw Sasha, their son, Dima, and myself off, agreeing to meet us 5 days later in Gazalkent.

  • A secondary city

    -sunrise, sunset - vacant metaphors, eroded figures of speech, ghosts in the attic? God embedded in the childhood of rational speech (Nietzsche)
    -speech communicating meaning and feeling => God's presence, esp. aesthetic meaning
    -when we encounter text/ art/ music (tam), i.e., the other in its condition of freedom, we find transcendence
    -enigma of creation is made sensible in text, art music (tam)
    -interpreter - decipherer and communicator of meanings, translator between languages/ cultures/ conventions, and executant, giving intelligible life to tam
    -private reader/ listener can become executant of felt meaning when learns by heart, affording the music indwelling clarity and life-force, ingests (not consumes)

  • Roots of one's pleasures and emotions:
    Chinese eye - sees nature as having its own life, untamed
    Persian heart - romantic love
    African ear - music
    Mongol nomadic sense of freedom
    -must search further than ancestors for roots of freedom and to understand emotions and ambitions

    Man is faced with basic loneliness
    -immunity from loneliness using loneliness as vaccine via:
    1/ hermit - professional alien to seek internal peace
    2/ turn inwards
    3/ awareness of the absurd - be an eccentric
    4/ sense that individual contains echoes of the incomprehensible coherence/ order of the world, has divine spark, recognise a link of generosity between themselves and others, rational and emotional connections which mean that they are part of a wider whole, which leads to altruism
    -diminish FEAR of being alone: only then can one relate to others on terms of mutual respect

  • -goodness of a natural trait is province of ethical reasoning
    -Darwin  1/ species related by sharing descent from common ancestors (unity of life), 2/ species change thru natural selection, 3/ male/female (m/f) obey universal templates -- males 'ardent' and f 'coy' (choose mate for superior genes, ie, best male vs best match).
    -social selection - animals exchange help in return for access to reproductive opportunity, mutual assistance with reproductive opportunity as currency. social-inclusionary traits among f, or among m and shown by secondary sex characteristics (evolutionary approach to social behaviour)
    -human development characterised by cooperation
  • The care of the self

    Artemidorus The interpretation of dreams
    -break down dream into constituent partts, decipher in context of the whole
    -virtuous vs. ordinary individual - gods speak to former
    -the more you understand dreams, the more complex they become (to hide behind images)
    -wasting sperm is bad (with prostitute, fellatio - signifying loss of money), being passive is bad for man (tho sex with slaves or passive with older man is ok, the latter a promise of gifts)
    -sex out of harmony with nature is bad - rift, enmity, death

  • -Jenifer Hart's pragmatic approach to Jacob's churchgoing is utilitarian - actions not intrinsically good or evil, but should be judge by their consequences. Right acts produce best results. 1960s loss of religious faith but while people were casting off the trammels of institutional Christianity, they were also turning to alternative forms of faith. 'Go with the flow' antithesis of ideals of convent but both seeking what gave life intrinsic value, rejecting money and worldly success. Transcendental meditation to change thought structures; spirituality and rituals bring measure of peace, help transform, release from bind of ego.
  • The 4 main ways that the mind works are sensation/thinking and feeling /intuition - the former more the realm of the conscious (c - rational), the latter of the unconscious (u - nonrational) 

    Thinking and feeling are categories of perception; intuition and sensation of apprehension

    c (shadow + anima) + c (ego) = Self.

    The unconscious (u) is compensatory/complementary to the conscious (c).

  • The general theme: respect your child’s feelings, let the child develop and mature to become independent, love unconditionally. Parents, especially mothers, unconsciously or otherwise, use the child to fulfill their needs, and use conditional love as their weapon (rationalized as ‘socialization’) A child who resists is rejected or withdrawn from and can’t help but re-enact the relationship. There is no clear separation of subject/object (child’s fear that rejection of object will destroy it).

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