Tag Archives: Africa


Spectators invade the pitch of the Stade de France stadium after the international friendly soccer France against Germany, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 in Saint Denis, outside Paris. At least 35 people were killed in shootings and explosions around Paris, many of them in a popular theater where patrons were taken hostage, police and medical officials said Friday. Two explosions were heard outside the Stade de France stadium. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Spectators invade the pitch of the Stade de France stadium after the international friendly soccer France against Germany, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 in Saint Denis, outside Paris.  Two explosions were heard outside the Stade de France stadium. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Whether we like to admit it or not, what happened in Paris on Friday could happen in any western city at any time.   In fact, it certainly will.

For once, we’ve been spared statements from the Presidents of France and the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to the effect that “Islam is a religion of peace.”  It’s now too much to expect anybody to believe such an outrageous claim.   Millions of people on social media witnessed Muslims around the globe celebrating the carnage in Paris.  Noticeably absent after yesterday’s attacks was any condemnation from “moderate” Muslim clerics.

129 people were killed and 352 injured, 99 of them critically, meaning they could still die or will be maimed for life.   Not all were French.   This was Paris on a Friday night – a lot of tourists from different countries will be amongst the casualties.   British Prime Minister David Cameron told fellow countrymen they could expect British victims.

One television news commentator observed “they are getting better at this,” listing a number of recent terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIS — Libya, Tunisia, the Russian  plane blown up over Sinai just two weeks ago, Beirut on Thursday and Paris on Friday.  Not just better, more frequent, too. Mr. Cameron called a security meeting Saturday morning – London could easily be next.  President Obama did the same in Washington, faced with the sobering realization that US cities could be the next target.   The attacks on the French capital followed an assurance from the US president that ISIS has been contained.

The reality is that ISIS is spreading, its ability to stage terror attacks now reaching around the world.   Big attacks and small ones, like the “lone wolf” who stabbed four students at a university in San Diego just a few days ago.

Western intelligence services are, understandably, overwhelmed. The French intelligence service did not see Friday’s attacks coming. Six attacks may be thwarted, maybe more, but eventually one will succeed.   Little can be done if western countries are to continue to enjoy the freedoms that have been acquired over hundreds of years.

“Snowden has a lot of this blood on his hands”, said US Ambassador R. James Woolsey on Fox News Saturday.   Ambassador Woolsey is a former Director of the CIA and is now Chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.   He was talking about the damage that Edward Snowden did to western intelligence when he went public with a massive amount of intelligence.  This betrayal could be fatal to western interests at a time when the very survival of the West is at stake.

A friend in another state called me recently.  At some point we got onto the subject of world affairs and Bible prophecy.  He made the comment that “nothing seems to be happening in Europe at this time.”   This comment was made before yesterday’s events.  I expressed the opinion that a great deal was happening in Europe.   The massive influx of refugees and asylum-seekers is radically changing the social fabric of European countries.  Nations are losing their individual unique identity, as hundreds of thousands of Muslims from the Middle East and Africa pour in.

One of these, carrying a Syrian passport, was one of Friday’s attackers.  Other attackers included some who were born and raised in France and went to Syria to train with ISIS, returning to their home country to stage acts of terror.   Their loyalty to their Islamic beliefs trumped everything else.

Expect more of the same.  After forty years of division between East and West, Europe’s brief interlude of peace accompanied by great strides toward “an ever closer union,” has now become the battleground between North and South, between the European Union and Islam, between democracies and failed states.

Not all the refugees who arrive in Europe are Muslims.   The three biggest numbers of people come from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan, all Muslim countries that are racked with internal sectarian divisions, corruption and despotism.   Others come from democracies like Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, seeking a better life and the welfare benefits European governments will give them.

It’s no wonder that David Cameron wants to end the system, but cannot do so within the strictures of the EU.   A few days ago, he published the four demands he is making of the EU.   If the EU can’t deliver, then he will recommend the United Kingdom leaves the 28-nation grouping.   One of his demands is that the free movement of people within the EU be ended and that no new arrivals in Britain from the EU should be entitled to welfare benefits for the first four years.   They would have to work first before they could receive anything.   British papers are claiming that 43% of new European arrivals are receiving benefits.   This amounts to 350 million pounds per week ($530 million), during a period of austerity imposed on the British people.

In addition, there’s the hundreds of thousands from outside the EU, from the Mideast and Africa.   All these arrivals are supported financially by UK tax-payers.   Inevitably, some will be agents of ISIS.

No western leaders show any sign of doing anything about this massive influx of potential terrorists.

After the January attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s President, marched arm in arm through Paris in defense of western freedoms.   A few months later, Mrs. Merkel led European governments to open their doors to refugees and asylum seekers.   Germany itself is taking in one million people this year.

This can only mean one thing – there will be more terrorist attacks like those yesterday.

As Daniel Pipes observed, each terrorist attack results in the common people moving to the Right politically, while the Establishment moves to the political Left.   (“Why the Paris massacre will have limited impact.” Nationalreview online, November 14th).   Mr. Pipes’ article also pointed out that the number of terrorist attacks by Islamists, since 9/11, is now 27, 269.   The figure was compiled by an organization called “TheReligionofPeace.com.”   Put another way, that’s five attacks per day.

It’s not surprising France’s President Hollande described Friday’s attacks as “an act of war” from ISIS.

All of this does not absolve the West of its responsibility.   “In an official statement claiming responsibility, ISIS carefully listed its targets, couching its choice as one determined by its moral and theocratic superiority.  Paris, it said, was a capital of “abominations and perversion.”   (“Paris attacks:  Bloody atrocity signals shift in ISIS strategy,” Financial Times, November 14th.)   The Christian Holy Book, the Bible, says that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).   In the same book, God warned the ancient Israelites that disobedience to God and His Laws would result in terror coming upon the nation (Deuteronomy 28:66):   “and you shall be in terror day and night and shall be afraid of your life”  (Darby Bible Translation).   Western countries need to examine themselves in the light of these verses – changes can be made that would result in less hostility toward the West.

Paris is the new normal.




It’s hard to imagine that the British drunkards, fornicators and adulterers on “Indian Summers” could have run an empire, but that’s what the latest offering on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater is having us believe.

I’m sure that some of that went on, as it has done in every nation, but surely not everybody?   Even the resident missionary in Simla has had an extramarital relationship.

Sunday’s episode went so far as to suggest that there was one law for the Brits and one for the natives, that innocent until proven guilty did not apply to Indians.  Indian writer Dinesh d’Souza once wrote that one of the greatest gifts the British gave India was the legal system, including this very point.   Equality before the law is a basic principle of English common law, thanks to the Magna Carta, which is being remembered this year, 800 years after its signing.

I’ve written before of how in the last days of colonial Rhodesia, a young white male who murdered a black taxi driver was hanged for his crime.   The fact that he was white was no excuse.

“Indian Summers” also gives the impression that the British oppressed the Indians.  Difficult when the Indians outnumbered them 1,200 to 1.

And if the Indians hated the British so much, why have so many moved to England since independence?

A more accurate portrayal of British history can be found on the BBC World News channel.   “The Birth of Empire” is a documentary series on the British East India Company, the biggest commercial enterprise in the history of the world.   It started as a trading company in 1600, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and was so successful it ended up running the sub-continent.

Eventually, the British government took over the responsibility of administering the Indian empire.

Note the following quote from Indian writer Dinesh D’Souza:

“Despite their suspect motives and bad behavior, however, the British needed a certain amount of infrastructure to effectively govern India.  So they built roads, shipping docks, railway tracks, irrigation systems, and government buildings.   Then they realized that they needed courts of law to adjudicate disputes that went beyond local systems of dispensing justice.   And so the British legal system was introduced, with all its procedural novelties, like “innocent until proven guilty.”   The British also had to educate the Indians, in order to communicate with them and to train them to be civil servants in the empire.   Thus Indian children were exposed to Shakespeare, Dickens, Hobbes, and Locke.   In that way the Indians began to encounter words and ideas that were unmentioned in their ancestral culture:   “liberty,” “sovereignty,” “rights,” and so on.

“That brings me to the greatest benefit that the British provided to the Indians:   They taught them the language of freedom.   Once again, it was not the objective of the colonial rulers to encourage rebellion.   But by exposing Indians to the ideas of the West, they did.   The Indian leaders were the product of Western civilization. Gandhi studied in England and South Africa; Nehru was a product of Harrow and Cambridge.  That exposure was not entirely to the good; Nehru, for example, who became India’s first prime minister after independence, was highly influenced by Fabian socialism through the teachings of Harold Laski.   The result was that India had a mismanaged socialist economy for a generation.   But my broader point is that the champions of Indian independence acquired the principles, the language, and even the strategies of liberation from the civilization of their oppressors.  This was true not just of India but also of other Asian and African countries that broke free of the European yoke.

“My conclusion is that against their intentions, the colonialists brought things to India that have immeasurably enriched the lives of the descendants of colonialism.   It is doubtful that non-Western countries would have acquired those good things by themselves.   It was the British who, applying a universal notion of human rights, in the early 19th century abolished the ancient Indian institution of suttee — the custom of tossing widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres.   There is no reason to believe that the Indians, who had practiced suttee for centuries, would have reached such a conclusion on their own.   Imagine an African or Indian king encountering the works of Locke or Madison and saying, “You know, I think those fellows have a good point.   I should relinquish my power and let my people decide whether they want me or someone else to rule.”   Somehow, I don’t see that as likely.

“Colonialism was the transmission belt that brought to Asia, Africa, and South America the blessings of Western civilization.  Many of those cultures continue to have serious problems of tyranny, tribal and religious conflict, poverty, and underdevelopment, but that is not due to an excess of Western influence; rather, it is due to the fact that those countries are insufficiently Westernized.   Sub-Saharan Africa, which is probably in the worst position, has been described by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as “a cocktail of disasters.”  That is not because colonialism in Africa lasted so long, but because it lasted a mere half-century.   It was too short a time to permit Western institutions to take firm root.  Consequently, after their independence, most African nations have retreated into a kind of tribal barbarism that can be remedied only with more Western influence, not less.   Africa needs more Western capital, more technology, more rule of law, and more individual freedom.”      (“Two Cheers For Colonialism,” Dinesh d’Souza, 5/8/2002).

I couldn’t have put it better myself!


A more accurate Masterpiece Theater presentation is the series “Home Fires” which has been showing immediately prior to “Indian Summers.”   This series, which ended its first season last night, is set in an English village during World War II.   The program revolves around the Women’s Institute and its efforts to help the war effort locally by growing and canning food, knitting and sewing, and raising funds to buy ambulances.

With many of the men in their lives fighting on the front lines around the world, the ladies are faced with a whole series of difficult challenges, including food rationing and the preparation for bombing raids.

The series ended with hundreds of planes of the Royal Air Force flying overhead on their way to fight the Battle of Britain.   The villagers are contemplating the reality of a Nazi invasion with all the changes that would bring.

It’s well worth watching and is available on DVD and Netflix.


U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis (R) during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014. Obama's first meeting on Thursday with Pope Francis was expected to focus on the fight against poverty and skirt moral controversies over abortion and gay rights.
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis (R) during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014. Obama’s first meeting on Thursday with Pope Francis was expected to focus on the fight against poverty and skirt moral controversies over abortion and gay rights.

The Founding Fathers of the United States could not have imagined such a scene ever taking place in this country.

The scene was played out this morning on the White House lawn. The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, together with a US president of African heritage with a Muslim father and other definite Muslim connections.

Whereas the US was 98% Protestant at its founding, today there are arguably only two faiths that matter – Catholicism and Islam.

Certainly, these are the only two that dominate news headlines.

Just a few days ago, the leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump was asked a question by a man who believed that President Obama is a Muslim.   Because he did not correct the man, it is assumed he believes the same way and he has been greatly criticized for it.   Of course, if there’s nothing wrong with Islam, why should anybody get upset if described as being Muslim!

A day or two later, Ben Carson, another Republican candidate, a quiet, reserved and respectful man who is a double minority, both black and a Seventh Day Adventist Christian, was asked what he thought of having a Muslim president.   He was not in favor of it and has since been accused of racism!

Fifty years ago, when Senator Edward Kennedy sponsored the bill, which became the new immigration law, he said Americans would not see any noticeable change in the fabric of the country.   Here we are five decades later in a very different religious landscape thanks to that immigration act.

It doesn’t take a Donald Trump or a Ben Carson for Islam to make the news every day.   Migrants moving into Europe from the Middle East and Africa underline the dysfunctionality of Islamic countries, racked with ethnic, ideological and religious strife.   Under international law, when people flee one country they should register for refugee status in the first country they come to; but international laws are being broken every day as people push their way through borders and barriers toward their number one goal, Germany or Sweden.   None seems to want to go to any oil rich Arab country, which speaks the same language.   One migrant made it clear when he said: “Europeans have more compassion!”

That compassion stems from Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant.   For centuries, monks and nuns provided the only hospital care available for travelers and locals alike.   They also provided food and drink to the poor.

Yes, Christianity and Islam are very different.   Only the Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, seems to be pointing that out, saying his country does not want the migrants.   Hungary suffered for almost two centuries under Islamic rule, so it’s not surprising that they don’t want Muslims back.  Mr. Orban has said that the massive movement of migrants into the country threatens the nation’s Christian heritage.   For this realistic comment, he is being condemned by the emotional majority more influenced by television images of people pushing further into Europe.

It is doubtful the enthusiasm for Muslim immigrants will last long. Then what?

Catholicism and Islam have clashed repeatedly throughout history – and could do so again.   People in the West have largely forgotten this past history or don’t care.   But that’s not the case in the Islamic world where the term “crusaders” is often used to describe westerners, a reference to the Crusades between Catholic Europe and the forces of Islam that began in 1095 and lasted for two centuries.

There were other less famous clashes between the two.   In the eighth century Muslims invaded Spain and France, until they were defeated in 732 by Charles Martel. His grandson Charlemagne was still fighting the North African invaders decades later.   After the Crusades ended, there were other clashes as the Ottoman Turks advanced westward, conquering islands in the Mediterranean and moving fairly rapidly into the heart of Europe.

The historic rivalry between Rome and the Islamic world will likely be a part of the prophesied clash between the King of the North and King of the South in the last verses of the Book of Daniel, chapter 11.   Earlier this year the leaders of ISIS threatened to invade Rome and kill the pope.

Islam has certainly succeeded in dividing the West in the early years of this century, as both Americans and Europeans hold different opinions on how best to deal with the migrant crisis.   Some are fearful about security while others just want to help, not realizing there are a number of rich Arab countries, which could take the Syrians in.   Not all the migrants are Syrians – a British newspaper revealed last Saturday that only 1 in 5 migrants is a Syrian refugee.   The others are economic migrants and could be sent home under international law.

Is this the end of western civilization, as Mr. Orban fears?   That’s not likely.   What is more likely is that westerners will change their thinking when they experience the reality of greater numbers of Muslims.   Anti-immigrant parties are likely to come to power, promising to do something to restore their countries to what they were.

Islam means “submission,”   In spite of denials by national news presenters, this makes the religion incompatible with the US Constitution, which is based on freedom.   And just as Islam is incompatible with freedom, so is Roman Catholicism, a religion that dominated Western Europe for over a thousand years, until the Protestant Reformation introduced an element of religious freedom.   It was English Protestants who founded James Town and Protestants of mostly British descent who founded the United States.   Today’s Protestants seem to have very little influence in the country, a fact that increasingly threatens religious freedom.

What we saw today on the White House lawn was, in a sense, a profile of three religions – Catholicism, represented by the Pope; Islam, represented by the American son of a Muslim Kenyan father; and Protestantism, represented by the White House itself, the US Constitution, and the soldiers in early American uniforms.

The first two are on the rise – the Church of Rome and Islam!



I’ve gone off tea!

As I was drinking my early morning cup of tea a few days ago, I saw a report on BBC World News that made my stomach churn.

The report was from a tea plantation in Assam, India.   It showed the wretched conditions that employees lived in, even though there are laws that require employers on plantations to provide adequate living conditions for all workers.

Their homes had holes in the roof, allowing malaria-carrying mosquitoes inside in massive numbers.   Holes in the sides of the “houses” allowed in the rain.

But, worst of all, there were no toilet facilities whatsoever.   One woman said she had not been able to use a proper toilet for 36 years!  A big hole in the ground was being used by some employees – a hole that was just a few inches away from another hole that was the community’s drinking water.

The next piece of information is what’s making me contemplate drinking nothing but water in the morning!

The program said that most employees, not having access to any toilet facility, simply went into the tea bushes and relieved themselves amongst the bushes.  Yes, puts you right off your morning cuppa.

I had often wondered what gave my tea it’s distinctive tang.   Now I know!

Lest you coffee drinkers think this problem is restricted to tea, don’t be so complacent.  I lived in Africa long enough to know this is a universal problem once you get outside of the West.

It should also be said that tea and coffee are not the only foods affected.  I read some years ago that subsistence farmers south of the US border often use bushes the same way – and the food they produce, notably strawberries, can legally be classified “organic.”   I haven’t eaten an organic strawberry since!

One of the managers in Assam was asked why they haven’t given the workers functioning toilets.   He looked rather bewildered at the question and said that the law allows employers five years to provide them.   Five years???   That’s a long time to go without a bathroom break!

The fact is that, in many countries around the world, they don’t think about toilet facilities.  India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, yet less than 50% of its people have any sanitation in their homes.

When I was overseeing the building of a church in Ghana, I remember looking over the architect’s plans and asking:  “Isn’t something missing?”  Again, there was that look of bewilderment.  I had to be more blunt.  “Where are the toilets?”   He hadn’t thought about toilet facilities in the building.   To be brutally frank, he probably hadn’t thought about them for any building he had designed.   Even the ministers present had not given it any thought. Congregants would be expected to go and use the bushes just like anybody else.

It’s a cultural thing.

It’s been over 400 years since John Harrington invented the first flush toilet in England.   However, it wasn’t until Thomas Crapper came along that flush toilets became the norm.   His factory in London mass produced toilets and sold them everywhere.   His product became ubiquitous, but his name lived on only in it’s shortened form!

Not everybody liked flush toilets.  I remember visiting an old American fort where our tour-guide informed us that soldiers stationed there were afraid of using them when they were installed.   At the same time, it should be said that they didn’t like the army’s rule insisting they take a bath once a month, either!

Toilets were exported to all parts of the world.   But this is where cultures played a part.

I remember talking to an African minister in Ghana about the lack of facilities.   Although, often, the basic flush toilet was present, all too frequently it was in a terrible condition and was not functional.   I asked him when this problem started.   His response was quite telling:  “As soon as Her Majesty’s representative left!”

In other words, at independence.   Freed from British rule, they no longer considered rudimentary hygiene important.

At the same time, skilled plumbers left the country and maintenance became a thing of the past.

In fact, the same man told me that there is no word for “maintenance” in the local language.   It’s just so much easier to go into the bushes!

It’s no good blaming Twining’s or any other western tea distributor – the local culture is the problem.   And that’s not likely to change.



Only an African-American president could say it and get away with it!

President Obama on his visit to Kenya and Ethiopia was able to pointedly criticize African leaders for their corruption, human rights abuses, abuse of power and unwillingness to ever relinquish office.

Nobody could accuse him of racism.

Mr. Obama said things that have long needed to be said.

In contrast to his speeches on the Middle East, which are always filled with controversy and generally seem to make things worse, his speeches in Nairobi and Addis Ababa could only upset Africa’s corrupt leaders.   Ethiopian primary school teacher, Hikma Lemma had just one regret:  “He took too long to come.”   (“In Ethiopia, a cry for basic freedoms,” USA Today, July 28th.)

Things will not change quickly.  Indeed, they may not change at all, but it was still good to hear the president address these basic issues.

“Ethiopia jails the most journalists in Africa after Eritrea, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.   Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the country’s human rights record.   And in May, the State Department expressed concern over how the elections that month could result in all seats being won by the ruling party and its partners.   The department noted lingering ‘restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices and views.” (ibid, USA Today).

At the start of his African trip, Mr. Obama spoke candidly to Kenyans, warning them against the twin evils of corruption and tribalism.  He could have addressed both issues in any of Africa’s 54 countries and his listeners would generally have applauded him. Only the leaders would have sat stone-faced and emotionless, probably wishing they had invited the Chinese leader to visit instead of the American president.   China, much more involved in Africa, does not comment on human rights abuses or corruption.

Boldly, Mr. Obama even addressed the persecution of gays in Africa. Most African governments deny that homosexuality even exists in their countries.   Certainly, all governments are guilty of a double standard in this regard.   At least one country has a prominently displayed sign in its airport warning “perverts and sexual deviants” to stay away, but saying nothing about the many prostitutes offering themselves in all the hotels.

In Addis Ababa, Mr. Obama addressed delegates of the African Union, whose headquarters are in Addis Ababa.   Introducing him was the Chairwoman of the AU, who did not always tell the truth. She criticized the United Nations because Africa is the only continent that does not have a permanent representative on the Security Council.   In actual fact, neither South America nor Australia are represented, either.

The US president expressed incredulity that any president would want to serve indefinitely.  He said he is looking forward to retirement and being able to go places without a massive security detail.  He said it was particularly difficult to understand when so many African presidents have so much money, another reference to corruption, enabling leaders to amass great wealth while their people go hungry.   Unwillingness to leave office is also linked to corruption – African presidents fear being investigated for corruption when they stand down.

Underscoring his points was the absence of the current AU Chairman Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, one of the richest men on earth.   Mr. Mugabe has been president of his country since independence in 1980, presiding over a number of rigged elections.

Mr. Obama mentioned, too, that Americans don’t want to keep on sending Africa free food, but would rather teach Africans how to farm more efficiently.   He could have added that the continent would do well to encourage western (white) farmers to remain in Africa, as their farming skills produce greater crop yields.   Zimbabwe was once the grain basket of Africa – it’s people now go hungry because Mr. Mugabe evicted the white farmers.

Western reporters were also guilty of not telling the whole truth. Much was said during coverage of the African visit about what America is doing for Africa, with some focus on a program to help those with AIDS, a disease that, in Africa, is transmitted almost exclusively by heterosexuals.   Not once did I hear mention of the fact that the program was the initiative of George W. Bush, Mr. Obama’s predecessor.   With this one single program, he did more for Africa than any other president.

It would be nice to think that, with this one single visit to Africa, President Obama might accomplish something else on a grand scale – the end of corruption, together with real progress toward greater democracy.   The two together would boost the living standards of the entire continent.

It remains to be seen whether his visit will make a difference.   But his candid comments were certainly a good start!



Euro crisis

Wednesday was quite a day on financial markets around the globe.

China’s stock market continued to lose considerable value, down about a third in three weeks.   Uncertainty over the future of Greece within the euro rocked European stock exchanges. And a technical glitch caused problems on the New York Stork Exchange, the world’s biggest.

The latter was resolved before the closing bell.   Greece should be resolved by the weekend.   China, the number two economic power, poses the greatest threat to the world’s economy.   There are increasing fears that the Chinese stock markets are one big giant ponzi scheme, with nothing tangible to support them.

Late Thursday Greece handed over proposals to its European partners that will, hopefully, end the crisis affecting the beleaguered country.

Greece was a member of the euro from the very beginning, using the new European banknotes and coinage from day one on January 1st, 2002.   Today, the euro is used by nineteen European countries. Euro notes are used daily by more people than the US dollar.  The two currencies are the two most important currencies in the world and are used as payment for most international trading.

When Greece joined the euro, it was suddenly able to borrow vast amounts of money, which it did. It was not all used wisely.   Following the crash of 2008, the country soon found itself unable to repay its loans. The dream currency had become a nightmare for the Greek people. Austerity was forced on the country by European bankers, making life very difficult for the average citizen.   Austerity led the country into a downward spiral, which has recently been speeding up.

In January, the left-wing Syriza party won the election, promising an end to austerity.    However, European bankers, anxious to get their money back, want to impose greater austerity as a condition for offering Greece more help.   Without help, Greece will not be able to stay in the euro.

Without a doubt, Greek governments have been reckless.   Government employees can retire at 48 on generous pensions. Corruption is rife, as also is tax avoidance.

Germany is owed 68 billion euros by Greece, France 65 billion (add 10% to get the US dollar equivalent).   Other countries have loaned lesser amounts.   Total Greek debt amounts to 323 billion euros.   Greece is asking for a further bailout of 53.5 billion.

Although there is much talk of the Greek crisis, in a sense this is not about Greece, so much as Germany.   Germany’s conservative government is taking a hard line, refusing to cancel debt or extend further loans.   The Germans want their money back, on time.   Germany’s stance is setting a precedent that will no doubt be repeated if any other country in the eurozone gets into trouble.   Many have pointed out that when Germany was suffering economically after World War II, European finance ministers, including the Greek finance minister, generously cut Germany’s debt by 50%.   If Germany would reciprocate now, Greece would be fine.

The Greek people voted in a referendum a few days ago, rejecting the austerity demands placed on them by Germany and others. However, they still want to remain in the eurozone, which is an apparent contradiction.   If they leave the eurozone, they could restore their former currency, the drachma, but this would cut them off from many of the benefits of the eurozone.   Business loans and mortgages in euros would have to be paid back in ever depreciating drachmas, leading to many foreclosures.  Importers would have to pay upfront in euros, which may be hard to get if Greece leaves the eurozone.

Nobody wants a “Grexit” (a Greek exit from the euro), but it may not be possible to avoid it if the Greeks are unwilling to make the necessary structural changes to keep them in the euro.

This crisis is not the only crisis facing Europe at this time.   The continent is having to work through a number of challenges all at once.

The migrant crisis is the second biggest issue confronting the European Union.   So many people are fleeing from the Middle East and Africa into Europe that social cohesion is becoming a serious issue.   One consequence of this massive movement of people is the rise of right-wing parties opposed to immigration.

Ukraine is a third challenge for Europe.   Russia’s invasion of parts of Ukraine threatens the peace of Europe.

The possibility of Britain leaving the EU comes in at number four.

There’s even a fifth challenge, and that’s the relationship between European countries and the United States.   France and Germany are both upset over the American NSA spying on them and their leaders, even though it’s quite likely they are doing the same to America.

Depending on how each of these issues is resolved, Europe could be very different in the near future.



Robert Osborne knows more about movies than anybody in the United States.   He has been introducing movies on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) for over twenty years.   His introductions to old movies are always very welcome and often fascinating.

But he doesn’t know so much about history.

When introducing a 1951 movie titled “Soldiers Three,” a bit of a comedy based on a Rudyard Kipling story, he commented on how, quite often, in Hollywood’s golden period (the thirties and forties) movies were set in India under the British Raj.   He described this as “a time when there were always some Bengal Lancers ready to jump in to help out a noble cause.”   He spoiled this when he added:  “We now know, of course, what really happened in India under the British, that it wasn’t so noble at all . . . ”

This might not have bothered me too much, except that I had just heard something similar from a doctor at the University of Michigan Hospital.   We shared a very amicable conversation about Diego Garcia, of all places.

Diego Garcia is an island in the Indian Ocean that has been turned into a major military base.  The island has been a British possession for two centuries, having been acquired from France following Napoleon’s defeat in the Napoleonic Wars.   According to the doctor, there are only 55 Brits on the island today, while there are over 2,000 Americans.  The Brits have the unenviable task of policing the island, where the only trouble the Americans can get up to involves alcohol!   There really is nothing else to do.   Even swimming is out as the island lies in shark-infested waters.

Towards the end of the conversation, my doctor made a derogatory remark about the colonial period in Africa and how much better off the Africans are now.

I instinctively came to the defense of the colonial period pointing out that this was not the experience my wife and I had – that Ghana and Zimbabwe, the two countries we lived in, were much better off under British colonial rule than they have been since independence.

Which brings me back to Robert Osborne’s comment.   “We now know, of course, what really happened in India under the British, that it wasn’t so noble after all . . . ’’

This is a loaded statement and very misleading, to put it mildly.

There is nothing we know now about colonial India that we did not know under the Raj.  The same can be said about Africa.

What has changed is the attitude toward empire.

The movies Mr. Osborne was referring to, made prior to “Soldiers Three,” a movie frankly not worth watching, were movies like “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer” made in 1935.  They were all pro-British and showed what the British were doing in India, notably policing the North-West Frontier, where hostile tribes were always causing trouble.   This area was arguably the most violent part of the empire during the two centuries of British rule.   Today, it is a stronghold of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and now, of ISIS.   Neither the Pakistani nor the Afghan government has a handle on the situation there.   Looking back, it would have been better to keep it under British control, thereby avoiding 9-11.  Twelve years after independence, the movie “North-West Frontier” (1959) showed the British role in the region in a positive light.

But in the following decades, attitudes changed toward the empire, just as they changed in the United States toward its own history.   Instead of being proud of past accomplishments, in the 1960’s history was taught with a sense of shame.   This self-loathing on both sides of the Atlantic has led to what African-American writer Shelby Steele calls “White Guilt,” the title of his 2006 book.  Whites now feel guilty about everything in their collective past and constantly fork out billions to try to “put things right.”  Those billions have achieved nothing.   Given to Africa and India, the money is siphoned off by the wealthiest people with little benefit to the poor, while in the US, they have produced an underclass perpetually dependent on welfare.

This change in attitude was partly the fault of Hollywood, which started making movies that made Britain and America look bad.

But it can be largely blamed on academia.  Liberal socialist (even communist) intellectuals got control of western universities and started filling the minds of young people with anti-western propaganda.

When asked what Britain had ever done for India, Indian writer Dinesh D’Souza responded with the following words:

‘Apart from roads, railways, ports, schools, a parliamentary system of government, rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, the rule of law, and the English language . . . nothing!’”

The same gifts were bestowed upon the British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.   Sadly, since independence, many of these countries have endured dictatorships and debilitating poverty as the dictator keeps all the wealth for himself.

This is why people are fleeing their home countries in the millions, seeking a better life, ironically in the countries that used to rule them.   What a pity the Bengal Lancers aren’t around today to take on the noble cause of ridding the world of some of these evil despots!