Thursday, 23 February 2017

Threads ( An attempt at a sonnet)

When the dawn tumbles towards us
Is the glass half empty or half full?
Frightened of the daily news
People grow fierce, poets keep vigil,
Reciting incantations stitched with diversity
Hungry eyes stop us from falling,
Yearning for something different
Continue  building something new,
We are all related, all carrying different stories
Dreamers and risk takers passing through,
Holding together various points of view
Twisting and contorting like free birds,
In our various struggles try to renew
a new sense of human possibility

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Songs are like rivers - John Berger (5/11/26 - 2/1/16)

'Songs connect, collect and bring together. Even when not being sung they are attendant assembly-points.
The words of songs are different from the words that make prose. In prose, words are independent agents; in songs, they are first and foremost the intimate sounds of their mother tongue. They signify what they signify, and at the same time they address or flow toward all the words that exist in that language.
Songs are like rivers: each follows its own course, yet all flow to the sea, from which everything came. The fact that in many languages the place where a river enters the sea is called the river’s mouth emphasizes the comparison. The waters that flow out of a river’s mouth have come from an immense elsewhere. And something similar happens with what comes out of the mouth of a song.

John Berger -  'Confabulations’

 John Berger - About Song and Laughter

Sukhdev Sandhu introduces a rare radio-minded feature by the late celebrated critic, novelist and thinker John Berger.  Berger talks about the songs in his life and about Charlie Chaplin's radical power. Featuring Katya Berger and the music of Woody Guthrie, Cesaria Evora and Yasmin Hamdam among others. Producer: Tim Dee.

an earlier tribute of mine to the man can  be found here:-

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Gunnar Ekelöf (15/9/07 -16/3/68) - Everyone is a World

 Gunnar Ekelöf , was a Swedish poet, a socialist, born in Stockholm. His first collection Late Arrival on Earth, 1932, established his reputation as Swedens most outstanding modern poet. His work draws attention to the immediacy of life rather than to the presence of the past.He was influenced by the French poets Baudelaire and Rimbaud. His collection Sent på jorden (Late Arrival on Earth), 1932, introduced surrealism into Swedish poetry. He often used an 'invisible hinge; between opposites, acknowledging the immediate counterpart of his statements. After his death in 1968 in Sigtuna, his ashes were scattered in the tiver Sardis, near the cult of Artemis. He remains a true alchemist of words.

Everyone is a World

Everyone is a world, peopled
by blind beings in dark commotion
against the self the king who rules them.
In every soul thousands of souls are trapped,
in every world thousands of worlds are hidden
by blind beings in dark commotion
against the self the King who rules them.
In every soul thousands of souls are trapped,
in every world thousands of worlds are hidden
and these blind, these underworlds
are real and living, though incomplete,
as true as I am real. And we kings
and princes of the thousand possibilities in us
are ourselves servants trapped
in some greater creature, whose self and being
we grasp as little as our own superior
his superior. Our own feelings have taken
the color of their love and death.

As when a mighty steamship passes
far out, under the horizon, lying
in the evening glitter - And we don't know about it
until the swell reaches us on the shore,
first one, then another, and then many
which strike and bloom until everything has become
as before, - Yet everything is different.

So we shades are troubled by a strange unease
When something tells us that others have gone ahead,
That some of the possibilities have been released.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Remembering the White Rose Movement and their brave non-violent resistance to Nazi Germany

 Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, White Rose Society 1943

The morality of every person dictates the innate wrongness of genocide, and yet the world stood by as the Nazis sent millions to the gas chambers during the Holocaust. Historians and social scientists often attribute this moral failure to the blissfully feigned ignorance of the German people, enveloped in a blanket of fear propagated by the Nazi regime, and the indifference and prejudice of other nations. Yet a few brave college students in Munich proved to the world that conscientiousness still existed in the Fatherland. It is for their willingness to die to end the silence that The White Rose Movement has since become legendary.
The White Rose Movement was an informal group made up of students who attended Munich University and their professor who sought to oppose the war, Hitler and the fascist Nazi regime with non-violent resistance. It was founded in early 1942 by Hans Scholl, Willia Graf and Christoph Probst after the mass deportation of jews had begun, who were fully aware of the atrocities that were being committed against certain non-Aryan minorities. They had seen clearly the loss of liberty, the shredding of human rights, and the disturbing reality that the war was probably already lost. By the summer of 1942, knowing  that resisting Hitler in any form was a capital crime, and who were fully aware of the existence of Nazi concentration camps and that hundreds of thousands of Jews had already been murdered in them, to keep secrecy under these extremely dangerous circumstances  kept membership of their group very small.They took their name, The White Rose, from the book La Rosa Blanca, about struggling campesinos rising up against capitalist landowners in Mexico.
Between June 1942 and February 1943, they prepared, wrote and distributed six different leaflets, in which they called for the active opposition of the German people to Nazi oppression and tyranny and clandestinely distributed them across Munich.
The leaflets of the White Rose contained messages, such as :- ”Nothing is so unworthy of a nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by a clique that has yielded to base instinct…Western civilization must defend itself against fascism and offer passive resistance, before the nation’s last young man has given his blood on some battlefield.”
However, this was Nazi Germany which kept a high degree of surveillance on any resistance activity and there were informants everywhere. After leaflets were found in the University of Munich, the local Gestapo stepped up its efforts to catch the resistors. Hans, Willi and Alex also began a grafitti campaign painting anti-Nazi slogans like "Freedom" and "Down with Hitler," and drew crossed-out swastikas on buildings in Munich.
On February 18, 1943, members of the group including Hans sister, Sophie Scholl were arrested distributing anti-fascist leaflets at Munich University. Sophie and Hans were interrogated by Nazi officials and despite trying to protect each other, on February 22, 1943 were bought before the Peoples Court which had been set up try people accused of political offences against the Nazi state. The trial was presided over by Roland Freisler, chief justice of the People’s Court of the Greater German Reich. Freisler was an ardent Nazi and with great vigour and a manic intensity, frequently roared denunciations at the accused.
Despite the hostility, and appearing in court with a broken leg after her interrogation. Sophie replied to the court,“Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”
She also said:“You know the war is lost. Why don’t you have the courage to face it?”
No defence witnesses were called and, after what amounted to a short show trial, the judge passed a guilty verdict, with a sentence of death. The sentence was to be carried out early the next morning by guillotine.
Walter Roemer, the chief of the Munich district court, supervised the execution, he later described Sophie’s courage in facing her execution. He reports that Sophie’s last words were:-
“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

 Susanne Hirzel

Gestapo photographs of Sophie Scholl (18th February, 1943)

The guards were impressed with the courage of the resistors, and relaxed the rules to allow Hans, Christoph and Sophie to meet before their execution. After the execution of Sophie, Hans and Christoph, the Gestapo continued their relentless investigation.

 Susanne Hirzel

Gestapo photographs of Christope Probst  (20th February, 1943)

Later that same year other members of the White Rose, Alexander Scmorell, Willi Graf and Kurt Huber were also tried and executed. Most of the other students convicted for their part in the group's activities received prison sentences.
Before their deaths members had believed that their executions would stir other university students and other anti-war citizens into a rallying call against Hitler and the war, but accounts clearly suggest sadly that most university students continued their studies as usual, the public said nothing, many actually seeing the movement as treacherous and as anti-national such was the grip of madness in Nazi Germany at the time.
Yet reports of mass killings of Jews, were widely shared by members of the White Rose. This features in the second White Rose pamphlet :- "Since the conquest of Poland 300,000 Jews have been murdered, a crime against human dignity…Germans encourage fascist criminals if no chord within them cries out at the sight of such deeds. An end in terror is preferable to terror without end.”
The members of the White Rose remain heroes who sacrificed their lives for the basic principles of freedom and the preservation of human dignity, and a potent symbol of how people can take a courageous action to resist,speak out ,even against the most brutal totalitarian regimes. Today again those with conscious must defend itself against the dark forces of fascism and offer resistance.
This is an archive of their leaflets:

Friday, 17 February 2017

THE CLASH - Julies been working for the drug squad

This song based on actual events, today over forty years ago 17th February 1976, Operation Julie was launched  at a meeting in Brecon, involving a number of chief constables and  senior  drug squad officers. It eventually resulted  in the break-up   of one of the largest LSD manufacturing operations in the world. And thus started the rather sad  war on drugs, that  in my humble opinion can never ever be won.
The subsequent drug raid  in 1977 on an LSD factory in  West Wales  discovered  6 million  tabs and the largest stash of illegal drugs ever found. A force  of over 800 police officers were involved. A total of 120 people were arrested and tablets with a street value of £100 million was found. Small villages like Carno, Llandewi Brefi and Tregaron suddenly found themselves under the worlds spotlight..
And incidentally  the production of LSD in the area would not have been successful if it had not had received the tacit approval of the locals. Lyn Ebenezer, author of Operation Julie: The World's greatest LSD Bust, who was working as a freelance journalist in the area at the time, recalled:"Cardiganshire was at the time the counter-cultural capital. The likes of the Rolling Stones, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix had all made pilgrimages to the area , so perhaps its no surprise that it became the centre of LSD production. But we didn't have a clue what was going on with these strange groups who'd moved in.To be honest, if anyone seemed more likely to be drug dealers it was the police acting as hippies, as the actual dealers were all educated professional people who stood their round and vlended in really well into the community. The dealers and the police would all be drinking in the pub together, getting  up to all sorts of daft capers, so when the raids finally came we all had one hell of a shock."
 In a mission which sometimes bordered on the comical, undercover police officers, spent most of 1976 in the wilds of Wales disguised as hippies.

Local police were largely unaware of this new influx of hippies new identity.On one occasion they were left listening to Radio Cymru for an entire day, while sheep gnawed through the bugging devices they had planted in the home of Tregaron home of one of the ringleader Richard Kemp. Down the road in Llandewi Brefi another group of male officers garnered unwelcome attention when were suspected of being a gay cult. This necessitated the introduction of female officers, including Sgt Julie Taylor, after whom the operation would eventually take its name, and who was immortalised in the above song by the Clash ' Julies Been Working for the Drug Squad.
Operation Julie ushered in a new era of policing that remains the blueprint for cross-force operations to this day. It also arguably represented the final death throes of the 1960's counterculture, shattering the idealism with which many had once viewed the drugs scene and marked the start of a harsher, more brutal era for the narcotics underworld. The traditional view of the dealers who were eventually given lengthy  jail sentences is that they were idealists on a mission to change the world, rather than in it to making a fast buck.
Everytime I hear the  song by the Clash now I am also reminded of my dear departed friend Chas who was born in 1977 and was bought up  in  a pub frequented in the history pages of this story in Llandewi Brefi.
I often wonder too, where all the acid has gone, I have not seen or tasted any for years.

The Clash - Julie been working for the drug squad

" it's  lucy in the sky and all kinds of apple pie
she giggles at the screen 'cos it looks so green
there's carpets on the pavements
and feathers in her eye
but sooner or later, her new friends will realise
that Julie's been working for the drug squad

well it seemed  like a dream, too good to be true
stash it in the bank while the tablets grow high
in their millions

and everybodys's high ( hi, man)
but there's  someone looking down
from that mountainside
'cos julies's been working for the drug squad

and it' ten years for  you
nineteen for you
and you can get out in twenty -five
that is if you're still alive

an' there came the night of the greatest ever raid
they arrested every drug that had ever been made
they took eighty-two laws
through eighty-two doors
and they didn't  halt the pull
till the cells were all full
'cos Julie was working for the drug squad

they put him in  a cell, they said you wait here
you've got the time to count all of your hair
you've got fifteen years
a mighty long time
you could have been a physicist
but now your name is on the mailbag list
Julie's been working for the drug squad


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Radiohead Don't Play Apartheid Israel

Radiohead are a band I have long admired,because of their awesome inspiring music along with their  social conscience,I have all their records and a poster in spare bedroom,their third album, “OK Computer” (1997), elevated the band to almost godlike status among my peers, and since then their work has been marked by an experimental streak and intelligence of spirit that  has set them apart from the mainstream, and  they have long been recognised as  being consistently among the most vociferous proponents for a variety of causes. Radiohead’s lead vocalist, Thom Yorke, maybe best known for his environmentalist work, but is also a very strong supporter of human rights and anti-war causes. He has been involved in Amnesty International causes as well as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
So I was shocked and disturbed and extremely disappointed  recently to have discovered that they  have reportedly signed on to give a performance this summer in Israel. The show will come at Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv on July 19 and may have some political spin, as many bands have boycotted playing in Israel in protest of the country’s occupation of Palestinian land. I would have expected more from as astute progressive politically aware band.
I have recently discovered though that Radiohead have long had a strong connection with Israel, the first place where their iconic single Creep became a hit was Israel, and their first gig abroad was in the Roxanne club in Tel Aviv.Guitarist  Johnny Greenwood is also  married to celebrated Israeli artist named Sharona Katan and he recently released ‘Junun’, a collaborative album with Israeli composer/singer Shye Ben Tzur and he also has a house in Nahariya .
What I'd like to say to say to Radiohead is that  that we need to be breaking down walls, not propping them up. Israel has a long history of marginalisation persecution, imprisonment and assassination of indigenous Palestinian artists. While they plan to play on an Israeli stage, Palestinian artists languish in Israel's prisons, where they are subjected to systemic abuse and torture.Art is not separate from politics, even when basically each artist who has broken the cultural picket line to appear in Israel has made this claim. Look at any oppressive regime in human history and you see that art has always been part of each regime's public out loudly and clearly about Israel's disgusting treatment of Palestinians,
One activist group called Artists For Palestine UK  has already called on fans to boycott the show:
"Tel Aviv's hipster vibe is a bubble on the surface of a very deep security state that drove out half the indigenous Palestinian population in 1948 and has no intention of letting their descendants back in," they wrote. "If you go to Tel Aviv, your presence will be used by the Israeli authorities to reassure their citizens that all's right with the world and nobody really cares that the Palestinians are suffering… Please don't go." 
For more than 70 years now Israel has been ethnically cleansing Palestine. with the denial of basic rights to millions of human beings combined with illegal land theft. In the eyes of international law.Apartheid is defined as "a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race. Or segregation on grounds other than race. Israel both segregates and discriminates by law on the basis of religion. It is therefor by definition an "apartheid state". So playing in Israel  would be akin to playing Sun City in the days of apartheid South Africa. I really hope that Radiohead respect the call for boycott and like other respected artists do not cross the Palestinian picket line. Many others after pressure from fans have been forced to have a change of heart.
In the meantime please consider signing the following petition by Jewish Voices for Peace, Radiohead Don't Play Apartheid Israel , it might make them to reconsider and come out of this with a bit of integrity.

Here are two further links that might be of interest :-  

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Love cries

Screaming sky releases steaming tears
as old memories return to caress,
I am lost under the  heavy weight of absence
nostalgic for a beautiful scent,
a power that moves me greatly
I continue to crave  her presence,
a kindness that I can no longer touch
but keeps calling me through dreams,
offering protection and so much hope
somewhere else now, I guess,
but returns though to touch me deeply
to hold me and  comfort my tired old soul