Wednesday, 26 April 2017

80th anniversary of the horror that was Guernica


                                  Pablo Picasso's Guernica

April 26 marks the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. During the afternoon and early evening of Monday, April 26th, 1937,  the German and Italian fascist air forces destroyed the Spanish town of Guernica in a raid lasting three hours. The war crime was ordered by the Spanish nationalist military leadership and carried out by the Congor Legion of the German luftwaffe and the Italian Aviazone Legionairre. Designed to kill  or main as many civilians as possible, Operation Rugen was deliberately chosen for a Monday afternoon when the weekly town market would be at its most crowded. Guernica, in the Basque  country where revolutionary sentiment among workers was deep, was defenceless from the bombers, which could fly as low as 600 feet.The airplanes made repeated raids, refuelling and returning to drop more bombs. Waves of explosive, fragmentary, and incendiary devices were dumped in the town. In total, 31 tons of munitions were dropped between 4.30 in the afternoon and 7.30 in the evening. In the aftermath of the raid, survivors spoke of the air filled with the screams of those in their death throes and the hundreds injured. Civilians fleeing the carnage in the fields surrounding the town were strafed by fighter planes. Human and animal  body parts littered the market place and town center, such , such horror.Guernica was effectively wiped of the map. From a population of 5,000 some 1,700 residents were killed and a further 800 injured. Three quarters of the buildings were raised to the ground. Farms four miles away were flattened.
The destruction of Guernica was part of Franco's wider, brutal campaign against the existence of the Spanish Republic. This campaign led not just to widespread destruction of property, but thousands of civilian casualties too, as well as widespread displacement. Many sought refuge abroad, as many as 3,800 Basque children were evacuated to England and Wales for the duration of the war. The British Government at the time callously refused to be responsible for the children, but  throughout the summer children were dispersed to camps throughout Britain. Eight of these colonies were here in Wales. They were received with a mixture of hostility and kindness, but they had all managed to escape the grips of Franco's fascist Spain.
The significance of Guernica is that it was the first time that civilians were deliberately targeted in an air attack; it was the first time that a population centre was carpet bombed from the air; and it was one of the first times that a population was used as a target from the air by a foreign power  to test the effectiveness of its aircraft and the effectiveness of terror on the civilian population.Guernica changed the mode of war. Before then, civilians in cities and towns away from the front were by and large relatively safe. In wars before then air power was not capable of such bombing attacks. In World War I, by and large, troops slugged it out in trenches on the front and there was no air war.
Picasso immortalized the bombing of Guernica in his mural, a raw and anguished anti-war statement, a haunting piece of work that  still became a universal howl against the ravages of war. On a large canvas more than seven metres (23 feet) wide, he painted deformed figures of women and children writhing in a burning city.A broken sword in hand, a dismembered fighter lies with wide open eyes, an impassive bull, a wounded dove and an agonising horse nearby. Picasso did not agree with Franco´s regime and he was living in France for a long period of time until his death in 1973 when he was 91 years old. One of the most famous passages about his life is when he was interrogated by the Gestapo while the Nazi occupation  in Paris. When the officers saw the Guernica  they asked him “Did you paint that?” and he replied “No, you did”
Picasso's picture still resonates with tragedy, capturing the full terror and horror of this terrible moment in history.The Reina Sofía Museum, in Madrid is marking the anniversary with an exhibition. called ' Pity and terror in Picasso.' The show which opened on  4 April which will run for five months  will examine the making of the black-and-white mural, as well as its critical reception at the Paris Exposition in 1937 and display at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1939. That same year, Picasso transferred Guernica to the care of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. It toured the US throughout the 1940s and then headed for Brazil, travelling there from 1953 to 1956.
The exhibition will explore the painting’s role in Spain’s post-war reconstruction and as an international image of peace as well as its influence on contemporary artists. Guernica returned to MoMA in 1957 and remained there for 24 years. The painter gave the museum clear instructions — the canvas belonged to the Spanish people and would
only be given back “when they have recovered the freedoms that were taken away from them.”
Finally in 1981, the painting arrived in Spain, which was transitioning to democracy after the death of Francoand went on display at the Prado museum after democracy was restored to the country. In 1992, it was transferred to the Reina Sofía museum.
At the United Nations last year, French Ambassador Francois Delattre compared the destruction in the Syrian city of Aleppo to Guernica.“Aleppo is to Syria what Guernica was to the Spanish war, a human tragedy, a black hole destroying all we believe in,” he said.
It is important and timely to reflect on this tragic occasion  in this context given the emphasis on bombing in the past couple of weeks: the bombing of Syria “in retaliation” for the use of chemical weapons; the Mother of All Bombs being dropped in Afghanistan; and the threats by North Korea to pre-emptively use nuclear bombs. In these strange and worrying political times we are going through,  the anniversary of Guernica is still very poignant.  Guernica must be remembered , for our time, and for future generations, a terrifying rendition of the slaughter of  innocents. Lest we forget.

Guernica - Norman Rosten  (1/1/15 -7/3/95)

In Guernica the dead children
Were laid out in order upon the sidewalk,
In their white starched dresses,
In their pitiful white dresses.
On their foreheads and breasts
Are the little holes where death came in
As thunder, while they were playing
Their important summer games.
Do not weep for them, madre.
They are gone forever, the little ones,
Straight to heaven to the saints,
and God will fill the bullet-holes with candy.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Doublespeak of the Conservative Party


In light of the forthcoming  election thought I'd mention the language of  what is  known as  “newspeak” also known as “doublespeak!” as demonstrated in George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 . As George himself said " Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.. " We will be hearing far more examples in the next month and a bit. Politicians will use language to deceive and manipulate, through concealment or misrepresentation of the truth, desperately and deliberately using euphemistic or ambiguous language as they have been doing ad infinitum.
At this point I will point out my  own personal bias, it has been well established that the Conservative party lies. In fact, it’s probably their second most identifiable characteristic after being nasty.These lies are not accidental , it is a deliberate exercise to try and keep in control. When they claim  to understand, this simply means they don't care at all, and when they talk about building a stronger Britain, it wont be for all of us, those less fortunate, it will for all their friends at the top of the pile. They have overseen a 11% or more increase in the wealth of the richest, while everyone else has seen their income stagnate at best - or in most cases sink. They have introduced vile, vicious policies attacking the poor; whether employed, jobless or sick/disabled - which have led to a vast increase in poverty, and homelessness, including a 2000% rise in foodbank use (from 48,000 to 1 million plus users.) They will continue to issue platitudes that  they say will be the benefit of us all while presiding over policies that have the opposite effect. We have to keep challenging their distorted narratives and their plain to hear " doublespeak."
You would  be an absolute  fool to accept any further  lies of  this government and  then choose to accept them. We cannot afford to allow them to continue with their tactics of public obfuscation and diversion.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Spring Scene


The day is still

Memories call,

Birds whistle tunes

Depression lifts,

Around me flowers

Spread in splendid array,

Raise their heads

On fine Spring day,

Silence is golden

As if in a dream,

Nothing intrudes

It almost feels supernatural,

Though sadness whispers

Deep in the undertones,

I am made strong by Love

that shines down from  far away,

Making impalpable imaginings real

A new beginning - another day passes,

Shadows give way, as life flows

The world temporarily bathed in joy.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

St George the Palestinian hero.

The above picture is from  the Ghinass children centre in Bethlehem depicting the dragon  as the Israelis  build their apartheid wall, with St George leading the Palestinians to slay it.

St George's Day , the national day of England whereupon true patriots celebrate their total ignorance of their origins and history  because St George was actually born in Cappadocia, part of modern day Turkey into a noble Christian family in the third century, around 270 CE, whilst Wikipedia has him born in Lydda, Syria Palaestina  (Lodd) – 23 April 280 CE. His mother was a Palestinian. She came from what was then the larger area of Palestine (Israel and the Occupied Territories today.) and she took George back to her homeland after the death of his father.
The Roman Empire had at the time spread all over this region. George joined the Roman army, becoming a fairly high-ranking officer. But he fell foul of the Emperor Dioletian, who, fearing a plot against his pagan second-in-command, embarked on a systematic terror against all Christian believers. George refused to bow to Diocletian and abandon his religion. Anticipating trouble, he gave his property to the poor and freed his slaves. He was imprisoned, tortured, and finally beheaded at Nicomedia, on April 23, 303AD.
His example, as a man of courage in defence of his religion and a helper of the poor, spread throughout the world. For the Palestinian St George is revered today, as a martyr  who fought against oppression, intolerance and injustice and stood up for his beliefs. Also known as 'Al  Khadr' (the Green) and is associated with fertility and growth.He is revered in Palestine as a hero , a fact that many right wing idiots in the UK fail to remember, demonising immigrants and multiculturalism while forgetting that St George is not actually English. Both muslims and christians in Palestine, today take part in celebrations in honour of him. Although St George lived four centuries before the birth of Islam, his wide appeal, beyond borders or races, has made him a figure sacred to Muslims and Christians alike.In Palestine he symbolises Christian Muslim unity and shared Arabic culture.There are still tens of thousands of his successors in Gaza and the West Bank - 100,000 at the last count and with its associations of courage, gallantry and honour, the Christian name, George, remains one of the most common in the Palestinian Territories.There are also  many churches in the West Bank and Israel that bear the name of St George - at al-Khadr, Lod and in the Galilee, for example.
Oh and St George also happens to be  the patron saint of Lithuania, Portugal, Aragon, Germany and Greece, as well as cities including Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice.The episode of St. George and the Dragon was clearly a legend  brought back with the Crusaders to Britain.There is so much information around about St. George it’s hard to tell fact from fiction. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Happy Earthday - Captain Beefheart

Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network http://www.earthday.org/ and  is celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.
Today me and the Captain honour the rich vast Earth , that's sustained generations before us and continues to nurture life and inspire wonder. I personally honour also my dear beloved, who though gone remains a sacred particle of this Earth, she loved nature and the plants that helped sustain our mother earth. And when our planet becomes broken and unsafe, and  we have no other planet to move to., and when we no longer breathe the air, drink the water, or grow food on the land, we will all perish too.
The earth very precious,  and undertaking a savage battering as I type, but we can do all we can to sustain and protect it. It belongs to everyone of us, not the corporations who  currently seem with their greedy thirst for profit, seek to destroy it. We must continue to challenge  the complex problems that it faces, like climate change, hunger, war, corporate colonialism, extinction, depreciating ecosystem services, etc. This is a fight that we cannot simply choose to ignore.
The following is the final recording made by Captain Beefheart / Don Van Vliet. Sung over the phone in the early 2000s.
Happy Earthday.;


Observatory Crest - Captain Beefheart


Friday, 21 April 2017

Poem for my Grandson : Five Years old today

I have thought about this little one today
spared hardly a thought for the Queen,
though one is five today,  the other 91
this one pictured far more important,
I got him a little place of adventure
Thunderbird's Tracy Island,
previously owned but in good condition
with lots of figures and machines,
came with rockets  and sound effects
even included  some trees,
a perfect playground for a super kid
my beautiful rascal grandson,
turning  5 today getting rather big
and very smart  too hope he has a treat,
unlike her royal  highness
I hope he inherits the world,
and in the future bright
finds himself living in a republic,
maybe he could get himself elected
and become the head of state.




Thursday, 20 April 2017

Tories Out: No more Austerity

Thirty two Tory MP's are currently facing election fraud and Maggie May has called a snap election for 8 June,she and her party are simply taking the piss but some of you might still vote for them. May hopes to opportunistically take advantage of the polls, and to see off inconvenient prosecutions of Conservatives alleged to have broken election spending laws in 2015. But this election won’t fix our broken politics. All signs are that we’ll continue to have a government with too much power, elected on a minority of the vote.Already, the Prime Minister is trying to treat democracy as a formality - she’s ruled out TV election debates despite them being hugely popular with the public. We are facing deeply turbulent times, more than any other in recent memory, this election will be about Britain’s place in the world. After years of a Tory Government our public services are on their knees, our NHS is in crisis, our schools are underfunded, thousands rely on food banks to feed their families, people are on poverty wages while prices soar, the most vulnerable have been hit again and again. If the Tories get back into Government things will get much much worse.Last year, up to half of mums under 25 skipped meals to feed their kids; two-thirds struggled financially; one in four resorted to food banks.20% of households are already deprived, with the Department for Work and Pensions counting 3.9 million children living in poverty in 2015. This was itself an increase of 200,000 on the previous year. More cuts are planned, more privatisation, more misery for the majority. We simply have to stop the Tory's now more than ever, we can't let the main architects of austerity remain in office any longer.Their toxic policies and their conscious cruelty is hurting our communities. As manifestos are drawn up, I would hope that all political parties stand up for the principles and laws that protect the rights of ordinary people across the UK. That whoever ends up in power continues to commit to protecting our Human Rights Act and maintaining our membership of the European Convention on Human Rights. I sure don't trust the Tories to do this. I don't tend to support political parties generally , but this time the stakes are to high, so if you really want change and believe in social equality, justice and peace then vote for Labour,(I am not a member). I don't think Jeremy Corbyn, should dilute his message either, we need a radical shift in another direction,that represents a better future, for most ordinary people,or maybe vote tactically for another progressive candidate if they have no chance of getting in,in your constituency, we have to much to lose, if the Tories get in again , they will simply be uncontrollable, we have to get rid of this vile Tory Government and begin to repair our public services, confine the rotten Tory's to the dustbins of history . We owe it to our children, our grandchildren and ourselves. With there right wing measures and continuing attacks on trade union rights, asylum seekers, benefit claimants , the poor and the vulnerable,wealth inequality, asset stripping,there attempts to destroy the welfare state, they deserve to be kicked out.They are a party of the elite, only serving the elite, while making the rest of us suffer. We can't allow the Tories another five years to savage us with their cruel policies, it is time for a fundamental change in society run in the interests of the majority instead of for the profits of a few. The Tories crippling austerity measures have simply failed, Tories out; No more Austerity.