Monday Miscellany

I was watching Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 news interviewing a woman in Syria who is sticking absolutely to one line. Krishan is polite but insistent when she claims that her side is suffering few casualties. He’s witnessed the fighting, the casualties cannot be as minimal as she suggests. It’s frustrating all round; for Krishnan who isn’t getting answers; for the interviewee who is not a fluent English speaker.

The gap between different sides is evident in so many of the arguments we see on the news. Brexit is once more grabbing headlines. I just heard that dread phrase ‘the will of the people’ again a few minutes ago. It’s a phrase that simultaneously makes me rage and makes me depressed. The will of the people is presumably all the people. So as the referendum result was so close, I cannot see any justification for a Hard Brexit regardless of what Jacob Rees-Mogg and his 61 cronies want; talk about the tail trying to wag the dog.

Across the pond there has been yet another school shooting, where a young man with evident mental health issues combined with a taste for guns and the politics of the far right killed seventeen of the students at the school from which he had been expelled. This is horrific on so many levels. It seems that concerns were raised about this youth; this massacre could have been avoided. We have seen composed and articulate survivors speaking out against the culture of guns in the US, we have seen less of survivors who have injuries that will scar their bodies as well as their minds for the rest of their lives. Continue reading

December Days

It was the arrival of the parcel that jolted me today. My friemd in Skye is obviously a great deal more organised with her preparations for Christmas than I am. Though given the havoc the Desmond has been wreaking, I am quite surprised she’s been able to make it out of the door. Skye is a windy place at the best of times. And if it’s not a wind that stops you standing upright, it often still has a knife like power, meaning you can forget about elegance and instead dress for survival. This little video from my YouTube channel, a channel now strangely inaccessible for me to post, may give you some idea,

December is a week old. Cards have begun to arrive. I’ve not written one or wrapped a present yet. Despite all the festive decorations, the gorgeous trees and the plans for meals with friends, the sitting down with the address book, a book of stamps and a box of cards has not thus far featured in my plans. Maybe it’s because the pictures of robins perched on snowy branches, the icicle decorations in shop windows are in stark contrast with the mild weather we are having, which feels more like late October or March than December.

Howver, I feel I need to get those first cards into the post box to get me in the swing, so tomorrow I shall settle to the task, if not with zeal, at least with purpose.

Despite our increasing secularism, and determination to turn Christmas into something that is primarily a celebration of consumerism and over-indulgence, many cards will carry messages of peace on earth, goodwill to all men; will remind us that the Christmas story is about the birth of a child, a vulnerable and helpless child who will grow up to preach a message of love.

This is a story that runs entirely counter to the narrative being offered by our government. To the established targets of the sick, the poor, the unemployed has been added that of External Threat.

Our newspapers are full of stories about the likelihood and reality of terror attacks in the four corners of the globe, and the idiotic responses of people who should really know better. This story in today’s Independent is both striking and frightening. Continue reading

The Future

If you live in the UK you cannot be unaware of the current debate about refugees coming mainly from Syria. Voxpops by current affairs programmes reveal a divided response. There are those who say we have a moral responsibility to let people who are fleeing situations we are fortunate never to have experienced come into our country. Others say there is no room and no jobs.

 

It’s not easy.

 

It’s complicated by the current governement’s determination to dismantle the welfare state. So to those who are already in need and facing ever increasing cuts may see refugees as a threat to their own existence.

 

It’s classic divide and rule territory.

 

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t watch those images of the drowned toddler being lifted from the sea with dry eyes. Continue reading

Five Days On

Five days on from the shooting at Charlie Hebdo and it has been a roller coaster of highs and lows.

The tribute to the murdered policeman Ahmed Merabet by his brother, and his appeals for unity was one of those moments when you feel proud to be a member of the human race. At the very same time as his pain and his grief threatened to overwhelm him, he displayed nobility, generosity and gave an intimate and touching portrayal of his brother. I’d vote for him.

One low spot was reading in todays’s Metro (a free paper and a rag) that the wife of someone who is believed to have mentored the Kouachi brothers is living, on benefits, in the UK. Somehow, I feel that the Metro, and most probably the Standard and the Mail, has rather missed the point of yesterday’s magnificent turn out of unity, despite the pages devoted to it.

Another low spot was hearing how David Cameron, the current Prime Minister, thinks the time is right to allow more surveillance. This is an echo of what the police said the other day. So, and not for the first time in our nation’s recent history, civil rights are to be eroded in the name of security. Do notice how a) those civil rights are never restored, and b) how ‘eavesdropping on terrorists’ does not preclude eavesdropping on everyone.

In France, the military are on the streets to protect the public. This sent a chill down my spine. Too often, in too many countries, the military’s protection has turned into something much more sinister and controlling. Continue reading