At a campus meeting at the U of C, I had an opportunity to ask Alberta’s Finance Minister, Ted Morton, why Alberta was selling its natural resource to foreign state owned enterprises. I don’t pretend to know much about this subject but I was expecting to get a well informed answer as to why our leaders approved the sale of Conoco Phillips 10% stake in Syncrude to Sinopec for 4.6 billion dollars or why Encana was allowed to sell the equivalent of 20.8 million barrels of oil reserves to STX Energy, an unlisted Korean company… however, the answer I received was along the lines of, “I haven’t given that question enough thought to give a proper answer.” Our finance minister had not given enough thought as to why we are selling major stakes of our resource to other nations… directly. Does our national sovereignty mean anything at all?

Now BHP Billiton has made a hostile bid for the worlds major producer of potash in Sasketchewan. Next to the oilsands this is one of Canada’s most important strategic assets. Although it is true that BHP Billiton is a privately owned corporation, it seems to me that there is something rotten at the heart of our free market system. If, by free markets, we mean the freedom of citizens to build and grow and profit from their work, then I support free markets whole heartily. But free markets no longer belong to citizens but to corporations (or their state owned equivalents). There are many ways in which the interests of citizens and corporations intersect, but the sale of land and resources to foreign nations is not one of them.

See also:

Corporate investors lead the rush for control over overseas farmland

Pascal on Natural Revelation

In his Pensees Pascal describes his despair at what can be known about God through nature alone:

This is what I see and what troubles me. I look around in every direction and all I see is darkness. Nature has nothing to offer me that does not give rise to doubt and anxiety. If I saw no sign there of a Divinity I should decide on a negative solution: if I saw signs of a Creator everywhere I should peacefully settle down in the faith. But seeing too much to deny and not enough to affirm, I am in a pitiful state…

We are truly in a pitiful state if all we can know of the meaning of ‘life’ is what we discover through our senses. We look up at the great, majestic trees of the forest and feel that they must be the work of God but then recoil in horror when we watch the grim drama that unfolds on their branches when a parasite takes control of the mind of an ant and causes it, in the last moments of its life, to lock onto a leaf stem with its mandibles and become an incubator for the next generation of deadly fungus.

It would be better that God had not revealed himself to us at all than leave us alone with the light of nature… As Pascal put it,

“I have wished a hundred times over that, if there is a God supporting nature, she should unequivocally proclaim him, and that, if the signs in nature are deceptive, they should be completely erased; that nature should say all or nothing so that I could see what course I ought to follow. Instead of that, in the state in which I am, not knowing what I am nor what I ought to do, I know neither my condition nor my duty. My whole heart strains to know what the true good is in order to pursue it: no price would be too high to pay for eternity.”

So nature makes us thirsty but it doesn’t satisfy our thirst.

Hey from J’lem

I am in the middle of the Summer Ulpan… (still not sure what Ulpan means in Hebrew) at the HU. It is has been great fun and Hebrew is a snap… and every evening Arabs, Jews and Christians and even Atheists join together in song and dance.

It is hard to believe that 3 weeks have gone by already! Today marks the middle of the Ulpan (at least today we wrote the midterm today). I have learned a lot since being here:

1. A 110 V clothes iron gets hot quickly when plugged into a 220 V outlet. You can iron a hemp shirt left damp in the dryer for 2 days in a flat 60 seconds. The secret is to always keep the iron moving and to make good use of the steam function. Its a good idea to keep a window open nearby to toss the flaming shirt if you run out of water or absent mindedly (my spell check says that isn’t word?) leave the iron rest in one spot for more than a few seconds.

2. Don’t be offended if the man behind the falafel stand looks at you like your an imbecile. If someone ordered a hamburger in your country by pointing to different pictures on the menu and saying, “There is a meat, there is a bread, there is a salad and there is a pickle” and then asks “How much to pay for the dog?” well, you’d probably look at them the same way.

3. Pedestrian walks are optional. You have better odds playing Russian roulette with a derringer than you do with Israeli crosswalks. It is best to understand that the white lines painted on the road are a memorial to former pedestrians who thought they had the right of way.

So it has been a good 3 weeks and I am grateful to be here.

I will write more later and post some pics soon.

PS – If you came across this blog by Googling “mindedly” please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.