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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Looking Backward, Looking Forward

by Max Roytenberg, written Summer 2014 Vancouver, Canada


Yesterday was another beautifully sunny day on the west coast of Canada, the country where, when we cast our dice, we came up with a winning number. We came here, of advanced years, and facing the possibility that the future might find us less capable of undergoing the rigors of increasingly stressful travel, to benefit from a climate not that much different from the moderate one of Dublin, Ireland, where we had been living. Native Canadians, we were returning home.


We were warned that we would face more rain and cloudy conditions compared with our happy circumstance in Dublin, but we bravely persisted, seduced by the idea of a close family presence in this new venue. Wonder of wonders, we have experienced, almost exclusively, warming sun and brisk breezes, hallucinatory cloud confections, and benefitting from the longest days of the calendar year, sun setting afternoons that stretch on to the limits of our capacity to absorb the beauty of our surroundings, with nary an errant shower to be seen.


We have spent days viewing the lapping waves of the oceanside, the hunching mountain ranges, off in the near distance,  embracing us protectively on the landside, the crowds of sun seekers churning around us wearing any and all imaginable garb, including next to nothing, and we pinch ourselves. Is it really true that we are in this place? Is it true that in the space of this year’s one longest day we have totally transformed our lives from occupying a place with a darker cast, to a place brimming, overflowing with light?


Of course we were content with our former place, our living space, on the edge of the European continent. Dublin is a city replete with beautiful places and beautiful people. I have gloried in my views of the rococo nineteenth century buildings. The rocky, spare seashores have a lonely beauty of their own. In the people, there is an artistic esprit that lends spontaneity to life there that is refreshing, an almost American quality that is Europeanized.


What has been depressing for us in Ireland has been the inherent failure of the European ethic in this country to produce an economic model which will allow the Irish to flourish in their own land. They export their young and import those from the less-advantaged areas of Europe, Africa and Asia, to do the jobs their nanny state, with its generous support system, permits the native Irish to avoid. Bribed by generous EU subsidies, government permitted the inflation of real estate values to produce a bubble so that working people in Ireland were prevented from ever affording housing. Their banks, leveraging depositors’ money, despite supposed regulation, gorged on ultimately valueless American paper, so they had to be bailed out by the state at public expense. The Irish people have debts that future generations may never be able to re-pay.


Their leadership has been exposed as a self-serving clique, beset by corruption and cronyism, parasites of the body politic. There legal system seems to punish only the powerless. Those who raise a warning note are attacked like maggots by too many members of an unprincipled media class, destroying truth by misdirection and insinuation, pursuing personal agendas dictated by unknown paymasters. There seems to be a lack of an objective journalistic ethic. There appears to a lack of intellectual rigor among their students in institutions of higher learning, not corrected by their teachers. Internationally, they, government officials, hypocritically, strike moral poses critical of others, belying by the realities of their own society. Their own enormous Diaspora, despairing at the rot, gives only lip-service to their blood-ties. Irish power brokers, protective of their fiefdoms, reject any interventions.


No doubt there are flaws in the functioning of our native land,  that we have now reclaimed. They will in the end stick in my craw, no doubt, and I will spit them out, as our time here yields me a perspective. For the moment, I embrace my return to a place where the laws apply equally to all without favour, and are, in large measure, enforced, so that the rules are clear. I reappraise a lifetime I have spent pursuing the things that drove me, from my childhood and youth in Winnipeg, to my years in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, and my sojourns in Africa, Asia and Central America. I am regarding the vista as I sit by the seashore and enjoy the limitless distances before my eyes. It appears to me that, previously, my view was hemmed in, restricted by my surroundings, and that now I have been liberated to appreciate the wider world.


What profound truth has burst upon me as a revelation? Have I a message to share that is worthy of attention? Are these the narcissistic posturings of an old fart?


What is clear to me is that we on the North American continent are among the most fortunate beings in the world. What is clear is that the greatest good fortune we can have is surviving to see healthy, productive children who remember their parents. What is clear to me is that this century may belong more and more to the resurgent masses of Asia. What is clear to me is that we will have to struggle for our continued liberty against the creeping invasion of religious extremism in the heartland of western civilization. What is clear to me is that these days are the very best days of my life. What is also clear to me is that our Nows, our precious presents, so full of the potential for joy, are what count today.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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