Friday, 30 August 2019

As Boris Johnson treats the people of Britain with contempt with his decision to proroque Parliament, now is the time to stop the Torys misrule

Like many I am currently completely dismayed by oafish  Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to  prorogue Parliament. The Queen  having approved his request at such a critical time for the UK. has sparked outrage across Britain. It's really so hard to believe that the Government could even contemplate closing the door of Parliamentary democracy (which has for a long time  not exactly been a shining example,and in serious need of reform, but that's another story) for a period of 5 weeks, in order to guarantee a No-Deal Brexit, with no time for alternative plans, debate or opposition, in what is just another example of their utter contempt for the people. We should not be held to ransom  by Johnson with his attempt at a coup, that will only end with the continuing right wing onslaught on our lives, with the result  that many are left in misery.
At end of the day Johnson and the Torys do not represent us, but just carry on with their own vested interests,to big business, and the capitalist elite, at a time that millions of people are being driven into poverty. Trump wannabe Johnson  is now acting in  such a brazen tyrannical manner, even though he  does not even have a parliamentary majority. In fact he barely has a parliamentary mandate at all. He does not have a popular mandate either, and was not chosen in a general election, but was nominated, instead, by a mere 93,000 members of the Conservative Party. Without Parliament, without the public, without any real legitimacy, he nevertheless believes he has to make Brexit happen by the deadline, Oct 31, because that is what he promised during his leadership campaign , because otherwise his party might not survive to the end of this decade. To be frank he's playing a dangerous game and is simply taking the piss out of us all.
As a friend has made clear ' his decision will ensure millions are pushed further into poverty, leading to the loss of our NHS, social services  and our human rights will be cut to shreds. As always, the most vulnerable within our society will suffer the most.' Johnson wants to distract us from other news, the growth of foodbanks, rising homelessness, the destruction of the NHS and the figures that emerged earlier this year from the Department of Work and Pensions, that showed more than 17,000 people had died waiting for Personal independence Payments after registering between 2013 and 2018.
And in May, the UN's rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights concluded a series of reports on the UK by repeating that the country is "failing to uphold human rights". It confirmed that disabled people had been hardest hit by austerity. These policies it concluded, "continue largely unabated, despite the tragic social consequences. At the time, the DWP denied  the UN's findings, describing it report as a "barely recognisable" picture of the UK".but  the evidence and the personal testimony have kept on mounting up. The reports findings are now irrefutable.
 Brexit was meant to return 'sovereignty ' to the Brtish Parliament, instead it has made us a laughing stock all over the world. For those that can't remember the last time their was a constitutional crisis of this magnitude was in the 17th century when Britain  had a bloody civil war. While they scheme and distract  lets not forget  their economic  murder of  the poor and vulnerable with  their systematic conscious ideological cruelty in what amounts as a true testament to the last 10 years of this abhorrent government.
We should all be outraged and do everything that is possible to thwart the Tory's misrule,so that generations to come can be protected from their harm. Protests have been called across the country, in an effort to stop the Tories before they unleash any further damage, it is time to end the relentless suffering bought to millions by their vicious  austerity driven policies, it is time for the government to fall. If Johnson really is so sure, that he is in line with the will of the people, there' is a very easy way for him to find out, and that is for him to call a general election, one that many commentators are saying he is not guaranteed to win, in the current unstable political climate that he has helped stir up.

Edward Carpenter ( 29/8/1844 - 28/6/1929) - Love's Vision

Visionary, mystic , English socialist and radical philosopher poet,Edward Carpenter was born  on Sunday, 29th of August 1844 into a wealthy household in Hove, Sussex, the son of a school governor who had made a mint on the stock market. Educated at his father’s school, the independent Brighton College.. Domestic pursuits included learning the piano and taking long horse-rides out over the Downs. 
He went to university at Trinity College Cambridge, where he realised both that he was gay and"felt a friendly attraction towards my own sex, and this developed after the age of puberty into a passionate sense of love". also realising that his family wealth was built on the immiseration of working people.
Initially he began a career with the Church of England as a curate, before turning against it and instead moving to first Leeds and later Sheffield to work as a lecturer. While there he was heavily involved in pushing socialism forward in the city, representing the Social Democratic Federation there in 1883 and later joining the Socialist League alongside William Morris purchased a property near Sheffield and began promoting a socialist lifestyle that included market gardening. His political writings over the years to come became the very basics of British Socialism. He supported trade unions and called for industries to be controlled by workers. But he also argued that socialism must mean a total transformation of society,,including changes to personal life and relationships.
An early champion of homosexuality, animal rights, ecology, women's suffrage, recycling, prison reform, and sexual freedom, opposing  imperialism and war, striving for a simpler more sustainable way of living. A man so ahead of his time, who throughout his life campaigned and wrote on a whole range of issues, an early champion of homosexuality, animal rights, ecology, womens' suffrage, recycling, prison reform, naturism and sexual freedom, opposing imperialism and war, s simpler, more sustainable way of living. A man so ahead of his time, who throughout his  life campaigned and wrote on a whole range of social concerns, he is  a huge inspiration ( who incidentally also happens to share a birthday with me).
Influenced by the work of John Ruskin, Carpenter began to develop ideas about a utopian future that took the form of a primitive communism, that still resonates strongly today.He sought a personal liberation of brotherhood and emancipation, a life of liberty and love,a world free of class struggles,ways of life he embraced himself,ideals that we should all be proud of.
In Sheffield he found both connections to working-class people and explored his sexuality through encounters with “railway-men, porters, clerks, signalmen, ironworkers”. Over time he patched together a political philosophy mixing spiritualism and socialism in a Tolstoyan manner, which infuriated many especially when he opened the doors of his co-operative farm Millthorpe to a sexually liberated group of men. In the early 20th century, Carpenter was a celebrity. Hordes of men and women – but mostly young men – had beaten a path to his rural retreat in Millthorpe, near Sheffield, to sit at his vegetarian, be-sandalled feet, or to take part in his morning sun-baths and sponge downs in his back garden.
.The spiritual side to his writing were both influenced by Walt Whitman. .Although Whitman was not a socialist, his writing had a profound effect on Carpenter, who made the long trip to America primarily as a pilgrimage to his literary and spiritual inspiration. He visited the poet for several weeks in 1877 and again in 1884. In 1906 he published an account of his visits to America, Days with Walt Whitman, writing a respectful, even somewhat glorified, portrait of his ido . In his emulation of Whitman, Carpenter became one of the first of many disciples, spreading Whitman's message into another country and another century.
Carpenter’s openness with his homosexuality, spiritual inclinations, proto-beatnik lifestyle and strident anti-imperialism led to repeated censure from elsewhere in the movement, with George Orwell memorably excoriating him as  “the sort of eunuch type with a vegetarian smell, who go about spreading sweetness and light.” His philosophical and political writings were nevertheless among some of the most influential of his era, and Carpenter went on to become one of the founding figures of the Independent Labour Party in 1893. In
1890 Carpenter met his long-term lover George Merrill, a young working class man who surprised Carpenter's friends by his frankness about his sexuality.They lived openly and remained partners for the rest of their lives, a remarkable achievement  that defied Victorian sexual mores and the British class system at a time when hundreds of men were prosecuted for homosexuality.
Carpenter was pro-feminist and a close friend of the lesbian novelist Edith Lees Ellis [wife of sexologist Havelock Ellis]. Carpenter and his ideas became an inspiration to many. Artist CR Ashbee was inspired to found the co-operative Guild of Handicrafts in London in 1888, and agreed with Carpenter on the glorious love of comrades.
Carpenter courageously published Homogenic Love (1895), Love’s Coming of Age (1896) at the time that Oscar Wilde's trial had recently scandalised the country, and wrote one of the early textbooks on homosexuality The Intermediate Sex. It was published in 1908, and was so popular that it went through 3 impressions in 4 years. By this point his writing was positively celebrating the homosexual condition as "a forward force in human evolution". Same-sex love was, according to Carpenter, ‘not only natural, but needful and inevitable.’This book formed the basis with which people came to understand LGBTQ identity over the next hundred years. He also called for a critique of the way that gender roles oppressed women and wrote extensively on the harm of institutionalized marriage , an argument that persisted into the modern marriage equality movement, with many activists insisting that queer people can do better than just imitating heterosexual couples.
Edward Carpenter also engaged in spirited critiques of capitalist exploitation of workers, calling for an end to social inequality, again mirroring the modern-day observations that capitalism will always victimize disadvantaged minorities.He was also a great ally to the anarchists, and quite clear about his inclinations towards anarchist-communism. He worked with Peter Kropotkin  in his research on small industry and defended anarchism in the courts. 
The last years of Carpenter's life saw him admired throughout the left. On his 80th birthday in 1924 he received greetings from the first Labour Party cabinet, the TUC and dozens of other organisations.George Merrill and Edward Carpenter moved to Guildford after the First World War, and in 1928, after 30 years together, died within a year of each other. They are buried together at the Mont Cemetery in Guilford. .
 Carpenter was a truly inspirational man, seriously ahead of his time in terms of his ideas on nearly everything. A real pioneer who laid the groundwork for the freedoms and struggles we experience to this day.His eccentricities are easy to mock, but they are the least important thing about him. Far more significant is his determination to live according to his principles. One of my favourite books  by him is called Towards Democracy which has served me well over the years, acting as a kind of personal bible. Nearly every word contained within its covers, glistens with beautiful reasoning, a poetic and spiritual summons to human improvement. I would urge anyone to seek out this vivid book, and carry on hungrily building upon the seeds that are contained within. How come though, we are still seeking?

Edward Carpenter - Love's Vision

 At night in each other's arms,
Content, overjoyed, resting deep deep down in the darkness,
Lo! the heavens opened and He appeared-
Whom no mortal eye may see,
Whom no eye clouded with Care,
Whom none who seeks after this or that, whom none who has not escaped from self.

There- in the region of Equality, in the world of Freedom no longer limited,
Standing as a lofty peak in heaven above the clouds,
From below hidden, yet to all who pass into that region most clearly visible-
He the Eternal appeared. 

Edward Carpenter - So Thin a Veil

 So thin a veil divides
Us from such joy, past words,
Walking in daily life- the business of the hour, each detail seen to;
Yet carried, rapt away, on what sweet floods of other Being:
Swift streams of music flowing, light far back through all Creation shining,
Loved faces looking-
Ah! from the true, the mortal self
So thin a veil divides!

Further Reading :

 Edward Carpenter: A life of liberty and love, By Sheila Rowbotham (Verso)

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Mashrou' Leila: The voice of Middle East youth

As a music enthusiast, I'm  always trying to find new music, and follow new bands, one such discovery recently is a  Lebanese four piece indie band based in Beirut, by the name of Mashrou leila. Their songs  provide an alternative soundtrack to the watered-down ‘habibi’ pop that dominates the mainstream music industry in the Middle East and their socially conscious lyrics have addressed the concerns of their generation. They are, arguably,one of  the most potent force in Arabic music today.
 Described as ‘The voice of their generation’ and ‘The Arab world’s most influential independent band’ by CNN and The Financial Times respectively, this year marks their 10th anniversary, and have recently released their fifth record  ‘The Beirut School’- a compilation of their classic tracks and new material.
The album brings together key songs from their first four albums, and also features three new songs ‘Cavalry,  which is about the cruelty and machismo of militarized oppression:,‘Salam’ and ‘Radio Romance’ that were produced by Joe Goddard of Hot Chip from sessions in the band’s studio in Beirut and at the legendary La Frette Studios in Paris.
Salam’ features Roisin Murphy on vocals. The original version was first released as part of ‘Block9’s Creative Retreat’, created at Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel, Palestine.
Jessy Moussallem, the acclaimed Lebanese director,  directed  the video for lead single ‘Cavalry’. Her first collaboration with Mashrou’ Leila since the video ‘Roman’ (2017) which won numerous awards and international attention, including a Gold Award at the Cannes Lions.

 Mashrou leila - Cavalry

“Best stop brandishing that sword of yours
Lest you fall right off of your throne
If I fail, if I die
I’ll come back every time
Till I’ve seen you through
Every head you cut turns into three
I burst into armies of me”

Their rousing, sensual electro- pop anthems about political freedoms, LGBT rights, race, religion and modern Arabic identity have challenged the status quo of the Middle-Eastern pop industry.Through their relevant and politically charged electro-pop anthems about LGBT rights, race, religion and modern Arabic identity, addressing  the need for self-expression and a judgment free culture. Mashrou’ Leila music has resonated with fans all over the globe, gaining worldwide acclaim. They’ve undertaken four US tours to date and played headline shows at London’s Barbican and Somerset House receiving plaudits from the likes of the NY Times -“sexy, soulful definitely joyful music’, The New Yorker, and 4 star reviews from The Guardian, while the. Financial Times called them "The Arab world’s most influential independent band, " 
Their popularity across the Arab world has seen audiences grow from 400 capacity venues to audiences in excess of 35k in their ten years to date.They were also the first Middle Eastern artists to grace the cover of Rolling Stone.
They brilliantly  reimagine the vibrant sound of contemporary Beirut with guitars, drum machines, samples, razor-sharp violin and magnetic frontman Hamed Sinnos mercurial voice.Riding on the wave Arab Spring uprisings that swept the Middle East, the band was embraced by Arab youth who see its music as part of a cultural and social revolution.
Mashrou’ Leila began attracting the attention of Western media outlets in 2009 and 2010, as their witty wordplay and rambunctious sound began saturating the airwaves in Lebanon and neighboring countries. Immediately, they were typecast as a politically renegade music group. “Just because you’re brown means you can’t make indie pop,” says Sinno. “It's ‘Arab indie pop.’ Which I think can be a really, really dangerous discourse to entertain. A blues musician from Lebanon is just a blues musician.”
Mashrou’ Leila initially emerged as the hobby project of a group of architecture and graphic design students at the American University in Beirut in 2008. There, academic instruction provided them with progressive, leftist frames of reference for the world. These ideological discourses saturate their music in both form and substance. So it is true that Mashrou’ Leila’s music is, in fact, political, sometimes provocatively so if not in intent, then in effect. Mashrou’ Leila's themes and satirical Lebanese lyrics reflect the many faces and flaws of Lebanese society which are not addressed by mainstream Arabic music. The band is critical of the problems associated with life in Beirut and they are known for their liberal use of swear-words in some of their songs. Their debut album's nine songs discussed subject matters such as lost love, war, politics, security and political assassination, materialism, immigration and homosexuality. Their oft-cited hit song “Shim El Yasmine,” from their debut album, narrates a queer relationship between two men, hinting at a still-present taboo in Lebanese society. But it’s a love song too, and one that is rhythmically engaging.

 With the advent of the 2011 Arab upisings, Mashrou Leila’s fans conceived new explications for the music.  Songs that previously gestured at discontent were reappropriated as calls to revolution. They were played at political rallies in Cairo, Tunis, and Amman, where the band has massive audiences. “Inni Mnih,” a song on their 2011 album El Hal Romancy—in which Sinno sings, “let’s burn this city down and build a more honorable one”—was misread as an anthem for the Egyptian revolution.

Once, at a music festival in Beirut where the group Gorillaz was also playing, the band sang an Arabic rendition of Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood” as a tribute. The clip found its way online, where it was reinterpreted as a rallying call for protesters in Tunisia.  
Over the years, Mashrou’ Leila has released music that has continued to deepen the affinity between the band and its ever growing fan-base. They do so by mixing the stylings of pop and electronic music, and what they call a “punch of stadium rock.” They also sing in Arabic, in contrast to most Lebanese rock, which is often sung in English, even though Sinno’s voice does not resemble those of traditional Arab singers. Thick and not without some dissonance, his exceptional voice challenges the sound of traditional Arabic tarab by banking on the power of emotionality and the influence of the music. They also regularly use their voice as a tool for activism, all the while knowing full well what dangers that can cause to their physical safety. 
In August 2010, during a concert at the Byblos Festival Sinno unfurled a rainbow flag that was handed to him by a member of the audience. This was the first public display of a gay pride flag by an artist in Lebanon. During that same festival appearance, the band performed songs denouncing police brutality and corrupt politicians while then prime minister Saad el-Din Harim was in attendance.
Their unflinching, uncompromising attitude has seen them get into trouble from the Conservatve society they inhabit.Mashrou' Leila's satirical lyrics and controversial themes led to an unofficial ban on performing in Jordan on April 26, 2016. The band announced on its Facebook page that their planned concert was denied approval by the Amman Governate.The ban was reverted by the relevant authorities two days later. On June 13, 2016, the band again posted a message on their official Facebook page  that claimed their upcoming concert in Amman had been cancelled by the Jordanian Minister of the Interior, "The inconsistency of the Jordanian authorities in this respect (inviting us, then banning, then cancelling the ban, then inviting us again, then banning us again - all within the course of 14 months - has culminated in a clear message, that the Jordanian authorities do not intend to separate Jordan from the fanatical conservatism that has contributed in making the region increasingly toxic over the last decade."
In September 2017, while the band was playing in Egypt, members of their audience were arrested for unfurling rainbow flags in support of LGBT rights. One man was sentenced to six years in jail for 'practicing debauchery' on his way home from the concert; seven other concert attendeed were arrestedThey were supposed to recently perform at the Byblos International Festival in Lebanon on August 9. However, the concert was halted by the organizers “to prevent bloodshed and maintain security and stability after critics of the band on social media threatened to attack the concert, and following pressure from Christian groups,  led by the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Byblos  accusing the band’s songs of undermining religious and human values’ and ‘directly opposing the Christian faith’. The office of the town’s archbishop also published a statement that said the group “undermine religious and human values and attack sacred symbols of Christianity”, while the country’s Catholic Information Centre called them a “danger to society”.
A social media storm ensued as internet users hurled insults and violent threats at the band, and .Lebanon  joining  the ranks of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan in censoring a band that has put Lebanon on the global indie rock scene .On July 30, the band released a statement in response to the concert’s cancellation that described the series of summer happenings as “shocking events” and attempted to counter some of the lies and misrepresentations circulating around them. For example, some falsely claimed that their name, Leila, refers to the “the night of eternal oppression.” The band’s name, which for some brings to mind the name of Qays’ lover in old Arabic poetry, is said to date back to the night of the band’s first ever concert at the American University in Beirut in 2008. 
On their website, the band says they are born out of a nocturnal encounter. The band chose to spell their name as ‘Leila’ instead of ‘Leilah,’ the latter being the Arabic word for night, while the former, pronounced the same, is a female name. The name Leila is perhaps more romantic, but also more playful as it suggests different meanings. This playfulness will remain with the band and its growing sound. 
The recent  hostility specifically targeted two 2015 songs called ‘Asnam and ‘Djinfrom their 2015 album ibn al-leil (son of the night) which were removed in July from the band’s official Youtube channel and a 2015 social media post by lead singer Hamed Sinno, who is openly gay, portraying the pop star Madonna as the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ as a ‘fanboy’.
In a statement, the band felt obligated to provide an explanation for the meaning of the  two songs.. While the band didn’t explicitly outline the meaning lyrics to their 50-song catalogue, they noted the difference between literal meanings of words and how they can be read in the context of art. 

 Mashrou’ Leila - Asnam

Mashrou’ Leila  - Djiin

Suffice it to say, and remind everyone, that works of art carry multiple meanings, especially when taken out of context, and that the nature of metaphor is to divert from words’ literal linguistic meanings. This is the reason for this uproar,” the band said in the statement. The seriousness of the accusations was shocking as were the misinterpretation of our songs, the lies that were told, and the doctored pictures. The orchestrated campaign culminated in direct death threats,” the statement added. Concluding: “We are not on some sort of mission to arbitrarily blaspheme and disrespect people’s religious symbols”.
 In response to the cancellation, the band said that their songs had been misinterpreted, and a number of falsehoods about them had been spread online. 
We feel true and genuine regret towards anyone who felt their creed and beliefs were targeted in our songs. We assure them and everyone that these songs do not breach sacraments or faiths, and that the offence was due mainly to smear campaigns, defamation, and false accusations,” they said in a statement
Our respect for others’ beliefs is as firm as our respect for the right to be different,” they added.
In the aftermath of the concert cancellation, a number of human rights organizations voiced concern, condemning the decision, and the wider campaign against the group.Human Rights Watch called the cancellation “the latest in an escalating campaign of repression against peaceful speech in Lebanon”.
“This incident demonstrates how criminal defamation, incitement, and insult laws in Lebanon are exploited by powerful groups and how they fail to protect marginalised voices and those who have divergent opinions,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Lebanon is joining the ranks of abusive governments in the region that trample on free speech rights, pushing out the talent and debate that has made this country what it is.” 
 And writing on Human Rights Watch, Lebanon and Bahrain researcher Aya Majzoub urged the Lebanese government to reform laws that criminalize protected speech: ‘Lebanon should decide what kind of country it wants to be: one that controls and dictates public discourse, or a beacon of tolerance and a centre for art, music and culture.
The rights group criticised the Lebanese government for its reaction the campaign of violent threats against the band. It said the Interior Ministry hauled two members of the band in for an interrogation that lasted for six hours, after which security officers forced them to pledge to censor content on their social media accounts.
An earlier statement from Amnesty read: “It is unconscionable that there continue to be such calls emanating from institutions that are meant to serve as role models to their constituencies, and can and should be upholding the right to freedom of expression and protection of vulnerable groups, instead of enabling hate speech, including homophobia.” 
In parallel, activists from different walks of life quickly launched a solidarity campaign in support of the band, and on August 4 2019,Dutch  metal band Within Temptation who was set to perform at Byblos on August 7 pulled out of the festival in solidarity with Mashrou Leila and "in support of tolerance, freedom of speech and expression". The cancellation of the Mashrou Leila concert triggered protests and a solidarity campaign on social media. Supporters described the cancellation as a shameful and dangerous precedent. On the date of the concert, independent activists gathered to put on a show in solidarity with the band and against censorship under the banner “The Sound of Music Is Louder.”  A hashtag for the concert read al-qamea mesh mashrou’ (oppression isn’t legitimate). Besides being part of the band’s name, mashrou’ is a versatile Arabic word that can mean ‘legitimate’, as well as ‘project.’ The event gathered dozens of sympathetic musicians, bands and comedians at 'The Palace' venue in Beirut's Hamra district. Over a thousand people attended the show while hundreds waited in droves at the venue's entrance in waiting. At 9pm, pubs and restaurants across the city played Mashrou Leila songs in solidarity with the band.
Mixing different musical styles and artistic expressions, the concert was also an opportunity to express support for LGBTQI+ rights. Many attendees waved the rainbow flag, a strong political gesture given the homophobic attacks on Mashrou’ Leila’s lead singer in the preceding weeks.
The cancelled concert also epitomizes three years of declining public freedoms. In recent months, several films have been banned, books censored and the Brazilian metal band Sepultura denied visas for being ‘devil worshippers’.
On 12 August, the radio station Voice of Lebanon reported that a satirical show due to be performed in the town of Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon had been cancelled. Although the exact details of the cancellation remain unclear, it followed alleged political pressures resulting from concerns over the women performers’ lack of modesty and the nature of some of the jokes.
Coming just weeks after Mashrou’ Leila’s ban, this latest incident suggests that ‘the alarming crackdown on free speech in a country that officials have long boasted offers more freedom than the rest of the Arab world and was once proud to embrace diversity’ is far from over.
 In Greek mythology, Daedalus and his son Icarus try to escape from Crete, where they have been exiled. The father and son make wings made of feathers and wax so they can fly. However, Deadalus warns his son against flying too high and getting close to the sun, but Icarus objects, and flies higher anyway. Mashrou’ Leila sings for Icarus and his quest to fly high. This is their brand of boundary-pushing politics.

As the whole world seems to be regressing into illiberalism, the fact remains is that Mashrou' Leila  with their powerful  rebellious attitude and the perpetual debate their wonderful passionate music generates,and the stimulating questions they deliver gives them even more value as a band, and makes them the success they have become today. Long may they continue fearlessly doing what they do, releasing their potent mix of sweet sounds and heady lyrics and people generally, keep making a stand against hatred, homophobia and discrimination, and to all those that haven't  given up,  Love is Resistance.

Mashrou leila - Radio Romance

I will end with this music video Mashrou’ Leila made in cooperation with Greenpeace, filed on a raft in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea during the bands residency aboard the Rainbow Warrior.

Mashrou leila   x Greenpeace - Bahr 360 

Sunday, 25 August 2019

It's a wonderful world

It's another day in a fractious world
The Amazon burning, earths lungs aflame,
Everything else adding fuel to the fire
Seeds of destruction, all is very dire,
As the earth is murdered, breath suffocated
Hunger growing, rising tides of hate,
Feel the heat, the enormous pain
As people driven to edge, grow insane,
Meanwhile a vacuous politician claims
We're 'back on the road to a brighter future,
Tell that to the citizens daily afflicted
By the flames of capitalism and greed,
In the uk one million using foodbanks
Rough sleeping doubled, children in poverty,
And in the drifting  summer afternoon
Following the hot sultry day of life,
A man is squinting his bloodshot eyes
Sees no beauty, only the world's sorrows,
Watching the dreadful masquerade
Is left moribund, sucks his poison,
Relentlessly as despair keeps answering
Where prayers have failed, carries on drowning,
People  lost, giving up without a fight
The walking wounded not a pretty sight,
Beyond the sorrow, I try to illuminate darkness
Unable to hide the facts, keep on questioning,
In these emergency hours, cannot shut my eyes
Dream of revolution, people awakening,
With cauldrons of belief, keep revealing
Beyond the stench of chaos, restoration,
Witnessing the tragedy of our lifetime
We no longer need to live like this,
Blindly accepting this terrible fate
Join the resistance, before it's far to late.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Remembering Sacco and Vanzetti, executed August 23, 1927

                                 Vanzetti on left, Sacco on right

On May 5, 1920, Italian immigrants and anarchists Nicola Sacco  (22/4/1891 -23/8/1927)  a shoemaker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti 11/6/1888 - 23/8/27) a fish peddler, were picked up, arrested and charged with the murder of two men Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli , a paymaster  and a guard, during a robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts, USA.
The crime seemed to be a common robbery, not anything to do with radical politics. But when a police investigation led to Sacco and Vanzetti, their radical political history seemed to put them in the frame.
Though both men had solid alibis, they were convicted. During the several years of appeals, the case became an international cause célèbre because it was deemed a miscarriage of justice, prejudiced by anti-immigrant and anti-anarchist sentiment.They were among the many immigrants living in poverty, who fed up by what they saw as the exploitation  of workers in the capitalist system in the U.S were drawn to meetings where people thought that the solution was to overthrow the government and start from scratch.The judge Webster Thayer , who presided over the trial, said to the jury at the outset. "Although this man (Sacco) may not have committed the crime attributed to him, he is nonetheless culpable because he is the enemy of our exiting institutions." An individual who openly hated anarchists and was overheard saying, “I’m going to get those anarchist bastards good and proper.”
The jury was made up exclusively of white native-born people, and the jury foreman was a former police chief who saluted the American flag every time he entered the courtroom. This was the jury that, in the midst of an incredible anti-immigrant  backlash, was supposed  to impartially decide the fate of two Italian immigrants who were avowed anarchists.
Today their trial and conviction  is widely regarded as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American history.In spite  of conflicting ballistic evidence and despite the testimonies of numerous eyewitnesses,as many as 180, that they were elsewhere at the time of  the alleged crime,more than a doen people took to the stand to verify that Vanzetti had delivered  fish to their homes miles away from the scene of the crime on the day o the killing, they were convicted of first degree murder the following year.
The socialist and labor movement did not forget them, recognising them as one of their own, and proceeded  to rally on their side, many being convinced of their innocence, seeing them as scapegoats, singled out,  because of anti-italian feeling and prejudice that was currently doing the rounds, and chiefly were being persecuted for their passionate personal beliefs in anarchism.
Incidentally both men had no criminal record prior to this incident.
Protests were carried out in every major city in the US and across Europe on their behalf, and even   in places as faraway as Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg, such was the strength of feeling that Saccco and Vanzetti garnered,sparking international outrage and raising  questions that are still timely. Many writers, artists, academics, people from all walks of life  pleaded for their pardon or at least for a new trial.
As Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St.Vincent Millay, formed the injustice, " the men were castaways upon our shore, and we, an ignorant savage tribe, have put them to death because their speech and their manner were different from our own, and because to the untutored mind that which is strange in its infancy ludicrous, but in its prime evil, dangerous, and to be done away with."
During their 6 years on death row, their letters from prison endeared the two to the general public and persuaded many people of their innocence. They came to be seen as philosophers not criminals. One example from Sacco, a father of two who enjoyed gardening in his spare time, shows his attempt to remain optimistic, ad he notes that "between thee turbulent clouds, a luminous path run always towards  the truth."
For a sizable portion of the American intellectual community their case symbolised the fight for justice for ethnic minorities, the poor, and the politically unorthodox. Sadly after years of appeals, the two were  scheduled or execution in April.
Shortly before he was executed Vanzetti said: " If it had not been for this thing, I might have lied out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our careers and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do so such work for tolerance and justice, for mans understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words-our lives-our pains nothing! Th taking of our lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddlar. The last moment  belongs to us- that agony is triumph!" 
He also expressed his own personal belief in peaceful struggle and  they both continued to plea their innocence . In the days leading up to their execution protests were held in cities around the world, they  were finally executed on August 23, 1927
News pf the executions  led to riots in Paris and London, such was the sense of international outrage that their cause inflamed at the time. If the justice system had started out by making an example of the pair, it ended up making martyrs of them.
Their names still resonate with controversy but In 1977, Massachussets Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation declaring that Sacco and Vanzetti  had been unfairly tried and convicted and that 'any disgrace should be forever removed from their names.'
We will continue to remember Sacco and Vanzetti and all other victims of miscarriages of justice.Their story timeless, and  is still relevant  today as we remember too across many lands, those  that are still persecuted, because of their beliefs..Serious doubts still remain about misconduct by the police and prosecutors and whether the two men received a fair  trial.
Various works of fiction and poetry were inspired by their case. Folksinger Woody Guthrie wrote a series of songs about them.The struggle continues.

"Oh martyr!
Dead, dead. You are dead
But your human tree and your human root
Are budding

Listen to the war cries of your living brothers!
This is the incense we are burning to you."

From Sacco Vanzetti - H.T. Tsaing
Daily Worker, August 20, 1928

Christy Moore - Sacco and Vanzetti (W.Guthrie)

Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967) humorist, writer, critic. Defender of human and civil rights

Dorothy Parker, the inimitable American journalist, author, Jazz-Age high priestess and poet who was known for her acid wit , was born on August 22 1894.
She was born Dororthy Rothchild in West End, New Jersey, to a  German Jewish father,Jacob Henry Rothschild  and a Sottish mother.Annie Eliza (Maston) Rothschild. Her mother died less than a year later. Dorothy had an unhappy childhood and later accused her father of being physically abusive.  According to John Keats, the author of You Might as Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker (1971): "She regarded her father as a monster. She was terrified of him. She could never speak of her father without horror. She was treated like a remittance child, if not like a child brought up in an orphanage administered by psychopaths. If the household held no love for her, neither did it have a place for her, for there was nothing she could do in the house. In the 1890s, the daughters of affluent families were most certainly not instructed in the domestic arts... She was taught that it was polite to be on time; dinner was at six thirty, and if Dorothy was not there, seen but not heard, precisely at six thirty, her father would hammer her wrists with a spoon."
Parkers father was also a capitalist titan  in the  garment  industry with a great propensity for lying and mistreating his workers, who only two years after her mothers death  married Eleanor Frances Lewis. Eleanor Frances Lewis. She did not get on with her stepmother either, in fact she despised her her and refused to call her anything but “the housekeeper."Her stepmother died in 1903.  To add to this sad childhood, Dorothy's brother was a passenger on the RMS Titanic and was killed when the ship sank in 1912. The tragedies continued when her father died on December 28, 1913. Dorothy suffered from the effects of all of this, often finding it hard to form solid bonds with people. These events also played a role in her battle with alcoholism.
Details about Parker's education are sketchy. Although Dorothy was Jewish she attended  a Catholic boarding school, the Blessed Sacrament Academy, a finishing school known as Miss Dana's in Morristown, New Jersey, But she never received a high school diploma;and left under unexplained circumstances, her knowledge was acquired through her voracious reading. She later claimed she was "fired" for insisting that "the immaculate Conception was a product of spontaneous combustion." 
Parker made her early living by playing the piano at a dance school. At night, she worked on her verse.Parker sold her first poem, “Any Porch," to Vanity Fair in 1914. It satirizes the babble of upper-class ladies. She was hired a few months later by sister magazine Vogue as an editorial assistant, writing  captions for fashion layouts. She moved to Vanity Fair, where she was made drama critic.
At this time  she became part of that ultimate in-crowd, the legendary informal literary luncheon club  that met almost daily at the Algonquin Hotel  that became known as the Algonquin Round Table. It got the name the "Vicious Circle" because of the number of cutting remarks made by its members and their habit of engaging in sharp-tongued banter and for their sharp criticism of local characters . It's members included Robert Benchley, Harpo Marx, George S Kaufman, and Edna Ferber. Often they would include each other’s quotes in their own writing. 
Dorothy and her colleaques were effectively realised in the 1994 film "Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle" in which Jason Leigh brilliantly portrayed the eccentrically garnered depressed, alcoholic writer and poet and received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.

                              Dorothy Parker with members of the Algonquin Round Table.

In her mid-twenties, Dorothy married a man named Edwin Pond Parker II, and was only too happy to  rid herself of the Rothchild name. She dealt with strong feelings about her Jewish heritage, most of them negative because of the raging anti- Semitism  of the time. She said that she married to escape her name. However, the marriage did not last long. The couple was separated when Edwin Parker was sent to fight during World War 1.Edwin was seriously injured after only a few months of service. This in  injury, along with the pains and memories of the war, led Edwin to a life long addiction to alcohol and morphine. The relationship was not a positive one, and it ended in divorce. But Dorothy would never revert back to her maiden name. She kept the last name of Parker for the rest of her life, even when she married again. When she was asked if there was a Mr. Parker, she casually responded: "There used to be."
 In 1926, Parker published her first book of poetry, Enough Rope, which became a bestseller, selling 47,000 copies.Her other collections include Sunset Gun (1928) and Death and Taxes (1931). Parker’s poetry is marked by cleverness but also by the deep depression that plagued her. Focusing on power dynamics, especially those involving gender, her poetry, sometimes dismissed by critics as “light” or “flapper” verse and panned as "frivolous little ditties.” but nevertheless still managed to pull apart the fabric of American society. During the 1920s and early 1930s, she also published several books of short stories.
The prevailing attitude toward Parker’s work as frivolous changed when one of her stories was published in the New Yorker. After that, her work became a staple in the magazine, with frequent stories and a regular book review column, Constant Reader, where she became well known  for her intellectual commentary, as well as a acerbic acid tonque, and the bravado,scathing wit and sarcasm of her writings, though these were a veneer for insecurity and loneliness.The high life of early 20th-century Manhattan in which she cast her most of her stories, mingled with hints of alcoholism, depression, and difficulties in love relationships that her characters struggled with.
Parker herself had a series of unsuccessful love affairs. The most intense of these, with writer Charles MacArthur, ended in pregnancy, abortion, and a suicide attempt. A second suicide attempt would follow in 1925. Her emotional dependence on men who didn't love her, but were willing to use her for their own career advantage.
For Parker, the Roaring Twenties were loud indeed. She lived a reckless, turbulent life, chronically mismanaging her financial affairs,drinking excessively, "I'm not a writer with a drinking problem, " she’d joke, "I'm a drinker with a writing problem."  She was often contemplating suicide, and twice she attempted suicide (once following an abortion), and she became pregnant at 42 only to miscarry a few months later. ‘What fresh hell is this?’ she wondered in one famous poem.In another sad, witty rumination about the various distasteful ways to take one’s own life, she concluded that, after all, ‘You might as well live."
Parker put references to alcohol in many of her stories and poems; when she moved to Hollywood her 1930s screenplays often featured cocktails and protagonists clinking glasses.One of her best short stories was Big Blonde, which was first published in 1929. The protagonist is a woman in her 30’s named Hazel Morse. Like Parker, Morse is an alcoholic. After her husband leaves her, she attempts suicide by overdosing on Veronal, which was used as a sedative during that era.
Her maid finds her completely unconscious, calls the doctor, and Hazel Morse survives. When she fully realizes that she is not dead, she asks the maid to pour them both a drink.
Before Morse takes a shot of her whiskey, she stares into the glass and thinks, Maybe, when you had been knocked cold for a few days, your very first drink would give you a lift. Maybe whiskey would be her friend again.
This story is somewhat autobiographical and gives us a clear picture of Parker’s alcoholism and depression. Hazel Morse reached the depths of despair that many alcoholics achieve when the booze stops working, but they still can’t stop drinking and are unable  live with or without alcohol.
And its pretty apparent that Morse drinks because she is depressed, which often is the case with many alcoholics.
 Hiram Beer  who worked as she and her second husbands  gardener, chauffeur and carpenter  was amazed at the vast amount of alcohol the couple consumed. He said Parker drank Manhattans and Campbell, Scotch on the rocks, and when not this, they shared pitchers of Martinis:

 "They'd bring it in by the cases, and both of them used to run around with drinks in their hands even when there was no company there. When they had people there, they had people who felt they had to drink just because they were there, and that's what there was to do. They'd all get up past noon, and after their lunch, or breakfast as it might have been, they'd start drinking until late at night."

It was Dorothy who invented the quip "candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker" which was probably the most quoted line of the 1920's. Her wit was at her zenith when asked if she had heard that notoriously quiet President  Calvin Coolidge had died, she replied "How could they tell." And when she and one Clare Booth Luce were both entering a theater for the premier of a new play, Clare stepped back and gestured for Dorothy to enter first, with a caustic "Age before beauty." Dorothy stepped ahead of her, turned around and replied "Pearls before the swine." like so many funny folk, and a woman of gloomy depths, she used her sharp tonque to keep people at a distance.
Parker was accused of disloyal attacks on women, of writing for a male audience, of projecting a female rather than a feminist view of the world. So-called second wave feminists were more interested, and began to portray Parker’s humour as a kind of social protest against patriarchal convention. Her stories feature female characters trying to square exhilarating new choices with the enduring constraints of societal expectation. Some of her heroines are lovelorn, suicidal alcoholics but others are undeniably strong characters. Temporarily untethered by the hedonistic ‘20s, their lives embrace contradictions and challenges only too familiar to 21st Century women.
 Parker’s stories also deal with questions of family, race, war and economic inequality, and it wasn’t just on the page that these themes interested her. Ironically, while the hectic turmoil of her private life is a tale well-thumbed, her public life has been forgotten.  The woman who has been known as one of America’s greatest wits, was, in fact, also a great defender of and advocate for a just society. Not surprisingly, her work and life take a decidedly political turn in the 1930s. As the stock market crash of 1929 brought the Jazz Age to a close, two trends emerged: a number of writers left New York for screenwriting work in Hollywood; and writers, artists, and other intellectuals began to seek socialist solutions to the problems raised by capitalism, which had culminated in the Great Depression. Added to this mix was the increasing fascism in Europe and the Spanish Civil War. Parker participated in both trends.
A major catalyst for her radicalism was the trial of two Italian immigrants. Nicola Sacco, a shoemaker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a fish peddler, were anarchists sentenced to death for the purported murder in 1920 of two men  Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli during a robbery. Though both men had solid alibis, they were convicted. During the several years of appeals, the case became an international cause célèbre because it was deemed a miscarriage of justice, prejudiced by anti-immigrant and anti-anarchist sentiment. The judge in the case was overheard saying, “I’m going to get those anarchist bastards good and proper.”

Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco

In 1927, Dorothy Parker went to Boston to join marchers, on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti. The crowd began chanting at her, “Guinea lover,” “New York nut,” and “Red scum.”
She was warned that she would be arrested if she didn’t go away in seven minutes. “I don’t mind being arrested,” she said as two policemen grabbed her. What she did mind was getting into the paddy wagon. The police roughly grabbed her arms as she insisted on walking to the station. The angry crowd followed, shouting at her, “Give her six months,” “Hang her!” “Kill her!”
When she was released, she quipped with reporters, “I thought prisoners who were set free got five dollars and suit of clothes.” She raised her sleeves to show them the bruises on her arms, complaining that they didn’t bother to fingerprint her, “but they left me a few of theirs. The big stiffs!
Despite weeks of protests and a series of reprieves, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair, just after midnight on August 23, 1927.
 This experience had a dramatic impact on Parker and she now considered herself a socialist. She claimed that from then on "my heart and soul are with the cause of socialism". Some of her friends in the Algonquin Roundtable, were active in politics, but most of them were indifferent to such issues. Parker later recalled: "Those people at the Round Table didn't know a bloody thing. They thought we were fools to go up and demonstrate for Sacco and Vanzetti." She claimed they were ignorant because "they didn't know and they just didn't think about anything but the theater."
 She married her second husband Alan Campbell, in 1934 who was 11 years her junior and shared her Jewish-Gentile heritage. He was reported to be bisexual. Parker said he was “queer as a billy goat." a bisexual  writer and former actor, 11 years her junior who shared her Jewish-Gentile heritage. Their marriage was stormy, marked with affairs and increasing alcohol consumption and ended in divorce but they later remarried, bound together in a dance of push and pull that would continue until his death from a drug overdose in 1963.
She moved to Hollywood and wrote or contributed to scripts for thirty-nine films, including A Star Is Born, which they were nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award for.They  also wrote the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock film Saboteur (1942). While in Hollywood, she served on the Motion Picture Artists Committee and the Screen Writers Guild, helped raise money for Loyalist Spain, China, and the Scottsboro defendants, and lent her name to more than thirty fund-raising activities.Parker was a strong supporter of the Popular Front government in Spain  during the Spanish Civil War and was a member of the Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee and the Motion Picture Artists Committee to Aid Republican Spain. In October 1937 Parker visited Spain and made a broadcast from Madrid Radio. She also sent back reports on the war, writing  two of her war stories, "Soldier's of the Republic" and "Who Might Be Interested," and wrote passionately about the experience in the radical  magazine New Masses: 

" If you are going to be in an air raid, it’s better for you if it happens at night. Then it’s unreal, like a ballet with the scurrying figures and the great white shafts of the searchlights. But when a raid comes in the daytime, you see little children wild with terror. They don’t cry. Only you see their eyes. I can still see those eyes. After one raid, I saw a great pile of rubble, and on the top of it a broken doll and a dead kitten—ruthless enemies to the fascists.

Later she helped Ernest Hemingway and Lillian Hellman finance the film The Spanish Earth, and served on the editorial board of Equality, a magazine in support of democratic rights and racial equality. Her pro-communist sympathies were noted by the F.B.I.; the agency kept a file on her. She wanted to be a World War II correspondent but was denied a passport.  Like many in the 1930s, Dorothy flirted with Communism, believing it to be the great movement of her era, and was beside herself with anger at those who did not take the rise of fascism seriously. “Which is worse the perpetrators of injustice of those who are blind to it?” she demanded to know.
In 1936 Parker, Campbell and Donald Ogden Stewart met a former Berlin journalist, Otto Katz. He told them about what was happening in Nazi Germany. Stewart recalled that when Katz began to describe the rule of Adolf Hitler "the details of which he had been able to collect only through repeatedly risking his own life, I was proud to be sitting beside him, proud to be on his side in the fight." Stewart and Parker decided to join with a group of people involved in the film industry who were concerned about the growth of fascism in Europe to establish the Hollywood Anti-Nazi Leaque  (HANL).
After the war Dorothy gave a blistering speech in New York on behalf of the writers, directors, and actors who refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). She warned, “For heaven’s sake, children, Fascism isn’t coming—it’s here. It’s dreadful. Stop it.”
Despite her resistance, columnist Walter Winchell fingered Dorothy in the 1950s to the FBI. He submitted a fund-raising letter Dorothy had signed on behalf of the Spanish Children’s Milk Fund, which was considered a Communist arm. J. Edgar Hoover, whom Dorothy referred to as “the one who chases men for business and pleasure,” sent two agents to her house. Her dog kept jumping all over them.
When one of them asked her, “Have you ever conspired to overthrow the United States government?” Listen, I can’t even get my dog to stay down. Do I look like someone who could overthrow the government?” Nevertheless, she was blacklisted in Hollywood for much of the rest of her career.
 In 1959, Dorothy, along with Truman Capote and Norman Mailer, was a guest on the David Susskind television show, Open End. When Susskind asked what most troubled her about America, she unhesitantly enumerated: injustice, intolerance, stupidity, and segregation—particularly segregation.
 Parker was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1959 and was a visiting professor at California State College in Los Angeles in 1963.She had traveled back and forth between Hollywood and New York for many years, but in 1964 returned to New York for the last time.Her dependence on alcohol began to interfere with her work, and  although she wrote a few book reviews for Esquire, her position was not guaranteed, and her erratic behavior and lack of interest in deadlines, caused her popularity among editors to decline. Her final years were marred by poor health, bought on by her alcoholism and she distanced herself from her former colleagues of the Algonquin Round Table. living alone with her dog in a hotel room on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the most common response to anything she managed to write was surprise that she was still alive. (It hardly helped that much of her verse flirted so drolly with the idea of doing away with herself.)
Dorothy Parker died of a heart-attack, in  New Jersey on 22nd August, 1967 at the age of 73. Her remains were cremated two days later.,A firm believer in civil rights, she bequeathed her literary estate  to Martin Luther King. Even in death, Parker found a way to support a cause she deeply believed in.
Following King's death in 1968, her estate was passed on to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored  People, ( NAACP), but the decision was contested. With the estate trapped in a bitter fight, Parker's ashes went years without finding a final resting place (they resided for some time in her attorney’s filing cabinet, among other locations). In 1988, more than 20 years after her death, the NAACP created a memorial garden for Parker, where they laid her remains to rest once and for all. A plaque reads:

Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893 -1967) humorist, writer, critic, Defender of human and civil rights. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people. Dedicated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. October 28, 1988.

An informational plaque includes her suggested epitaph: “Excuse my dust.

"Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania."

Though her life was turbulent, Dorothy Parker made an indelible mark on American literature. and the causes of social justice Despite her accomplishments in fiction. poetry and screenwriting, it’s her witty,deliciously vicious tonque and her hard-boiled, take no prisoners attitude towards herself and the world around her, that she is most remembered for. Many years after her death, her works remains in print,  which is a true testament to the relevance of her vision.
The USA Postal Service issued a celebratory postal stamp in honor of Parker in Literary Arts series. In 1987 the Algonquin Hotel was renamed as a New York City Historic Landmark. Parker’s birthplace in New Jersey Shore was named a National Literary Landmark in 2005. Parker was nominated to the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2014 posthumously.To this day she remains an enduring icon who had plenty of guts and fire who still happens to be one of my favorite 20th century women..

Résumé - Dorothy Parker

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

A Very Short Poem - Dorothy Parker

Once, when I was young and true,
Someone left me sad-
Broke my brittle heart in two;
And that is very bad.

Love is for unlucky folk,
Love is but a curse.
Once there was a heart I broke;
And that, I think, is worse.

A Dream lies Dead - Dorothy Parker 
A dream lies dead here. May you softly go
Before this place, and turn away your eyes,
Nor seek to know the look of that which dies
Importuning Life for life. Walk not in woe,
But, for a little, let your step be slow.
And, of your mercy, be not sweetly wise
With words of hope and Spring and tenderer skies.
A dream lies dead; and this all mourners know:

Whenever one drifted petal leaves the tree-
Though white of bloom as it had been before
And proudly waitful of fecundity-
One little loveliness can be no more;
And so must Beauty bow her imperfect head

Further Reading:-

Keats, John. 1970. You Might As Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker. Simon and Schuster.

Meade, Marion. 1988. Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This? New York: Villard.

Meade, Marion. 2006. The Portable Dorothy Parker. Penguin Classic.

Link to Dorothy Parker Society

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Sea Captain Pia Klemp refuses ‘hypocritical honour’ awarded to her by the city of Paris

A human rights activist, biologist, and  and one of the German captains of  the German migrant rescue organization Sea Watch that has saved the lives of many migrants in the Mediterranean in maritime distress on their dangerous route to safety in Europe has turned down Paris’s highest civilian award, the Grand Vermei accusing the city of hypocrisy over the treatment of migrants.
Pia Klemp, 35, captained the Iuventa for the German charity Youth Rescue before working with nongovernmental organization  Sea Watch in 2017. Between August 2016 and August 2017 the Iuventa formerly a fishing vessel, is estimated to have saved 14,000 people from a watery grave off the coast of Libya.
The socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, had announced on July 12th her wish to award the Grand Vermeil medal (the highest grade of decorations) to the two German Sea Watch captains, Carola Rackete and Pia Klemp, for their repeated bravery in bringing migrants to shore despite Italian efforts to stop them.
For years, authorities there have railed against work by rescue organizations like Sea Watch that pick up stranded migrants fleeing the Libyan coast for Europe. More recently, Italy's populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini introduced a controversial security decree banning NGO migrant ships from entering Italian ports. As a result, on August 2 2017 the Italian authorities “pre-emptively” seized the ship while it was docked in Lampedusa and, without providing any evidence, accused Klemp and her team  of aiding human trafficking.
Carola Rackete was arrested in Italy at the end of June before being released for having forcibly landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa and landed the 40 migrants who had been on her boat for more than two weeks. A broad support movement had been expressed, and some 1.4 million euros had been collected in a few days via the internet to pay its legal costs and finance the continuation of the activities of the German NGO.
Now Pia Klemp, from Bonn, Germany, who is also the executive director of Aquascope, an organization that works to combat illegal fishing. for her efforts,  is getting ready to stand trial and reportedly faces up to 20 years in prison in Italy, for plucking desperate people out of the water in an act of humanity, but the hardline anti-immigrant government accused her of assisting illegal immigration.
Originally a biologist she joined Sea Shepherd because direct action is now the only way left to deal with the illegal activities on our oceans that are sanctioned by filthy greedy governments. It’s unusual  for a woman to be a boat captain. According to Sea Shepherd, only one percent of the boats in the world are captained by women.
Whilst on Sea Shepard duty as the ship’s captain she started rescuing migrants lost on the high seas.
She said that she believed that saving drowning people is a duty: “For every captain this is the duty,” she told Sea Watch. “Apart from that it should be self understandable for overprivileged Europeans like us.” On her Facebook page late on Tuesday night she explained why she refused the decoration of the City of Paris, citing the city’s treatment of refugees  and telling  Mayor Anne Hidalgo that the city was brimming with hypocrisy.
Klemp's refusal to accept the medal comes on the heels of a 19-day standoff between a Spanish rescue ship called Open Arms and the Italian government. On Tuesday an Italian court ordered the seizure of the ship and the evacuation of everyone onboard on Lampedusa. Five countries belonging to the European Union have agreed to accept the migrants.
Both the German and French governments have criticized Italy over the treatment of migrants, Klemp and Rackete. Salvini's retort is that the EU's other 27 member countries should open their borders to welcome the influx.

"Paris, I love you. I love you for all the free and solidarian people that live in you. Fighting for their freedom everyday, standing shoulder to shoulder, distributing blankets, friendship and solidarity. I love you for those who are sharing their homes, love and struggles everyday - regardless of their nationality, regardless if they have papers or not.
Madame Hidalgo, you want to award me a medal for my solidarian action in the Mediterranean Sea, because our crews 'work to rescue migrants from difficult conditions on a daily basis'. At the same time your police is stealing blankets from people that you force to live on the streets, while you raid protests and criminalize people that are standing up for rights of migrants and asylum seekers. You want to give me a medal for actions that you fight in your own ramparts. I am sure you won't be surprised that I decline the medaille Grand Vermeil.
Paris, I'm not a humanitarian. I am not there to 'aid'. I stand with you in solidarity. We do not need medals. We do not need authorities deciding about who is a 'hero' and who is 'illegal'. In fact they are in no position to make this call, because we are all equal.
What we need are freedom and rights. It is time we call out hypocrite honorings and fill the void with social justice. It is time we cast all medals into spearheads of revolution!
Documents and housing for all!
Freedom of movement and residence!
Pia Klemp August 2019

"Paris, je t’aime. Je t’aime pour tous les gens libres et solidaires qui vivent en ton sein. Des gens qui se battent pour la liberté chaque jour, debout, bras dessus bras dessous, distribuant des couvertures, de l’amitié et de la solidarité. Je t’aime pour ceux qui partagent leur logement, leur amour et leurs luttes chaque jour, sans se soucier de la nationalité des personnes ni de savoir si elles ont des papiers ou pas.
Madame Hidalgo, vous voulez me décorer pour mon action solidaire en mer Méditerranée, parce que nos équipages « travaillent quotidiennement à sauver des migrants dans des conditions difficiles ». Simultanément votre police vole les couvertures de gens contraints de vivre dans la rue, pendant que vous réprimez des manifestations et criminalisez des personnes qui défendent les droits des migrants et des demandeurs d’asile. Vous voulez me donner une médaille pour des actions que vous combattez à l’intérieur de vos propres remparts. Je suis sûre que vous ne serez pas surprise de me voir refuser votre médaille Grand Vermeil.
Paris, je ne suis pas une humanitaire. Je ne suis pas là pour « aider ». Je suis solidaire à tes côtés. Nous n’avons pas besoin de médailles. Nous n’avons pas besoin de pouvoirs décidant qui est un « héro » et qui est « illégal ». En fait, il n’y a pas lieu de faire cela, car nous sommes tous égaux.
Ce dont nous avons besoin, c’est de liberté et de droits. Il est temps de dénoncer les honneurs hypocrites et de combler le vide par la justice sociale. Il est temps que toutes les médailles soient lancées comme des fers de lance de la révolution!
Papiers et logements pour toutes et tous!
Liberté de circulation et d'installation!
Pia KLEMP, 20 août 2019

 For updates on the Iuventa 10 or to donate to their legal fight, visit their website:

and here is a link to Sea Watch where you can sign a petition to free fellow captain Carola Rackete:

Why I fight for solidarity - Pia Klemp

Monday, 19 August 2019

The continuing legacy of Poet Frederico Garcia Lorca ( 5/6/1896 -19/8/36 )

Frederico Garcia Lorca  poet, playwright and social activist was murdered by Nationalist Militia at the age of 38 on this day in 1936 during the onset of the Spanish Civil War. His body has never been recovered. Few artists, have represented and embodied their nations collective spirit more than Lorca , which makes  the tragic account of his death all the more heartbreaking.
 Throughout his all too short but trailblazing life, death had been his central artistic theme, it seems he had foretold his own violent death, when he wrote  ' Then I realised I had been murdered. They  looked for me in cafes, cemeteries and churches - but they did not find me. They never found me. They never found me.'
 He traced the Spanish tradition of bullfighting to the same fatalistic attraction to death.Spain,” Lorca wrote, “is the only country where death is a national spectacle, the only one where death sounds long trumpet blasts at the coming of spring.”
Born on 5 June 1898 in the village of Fuente Vaqeurtos in the province of Granada, a man ahead of his time, avant gardist, homosexual and restless traveller, the most  gypsy of poets , a term he rejected, friend of surrealists, developing his own ingenious style, full of lyrical freshness and spontaneity. His poems  painted a vivid and intrinsic poetical portrait of Spain and the region of Andalucía in particular. A poet of the universal, who used his voice to speak about love, death, passion, cruelty and injustice, and also the most international, saying - ' I sing to Spain, and I feel her to the core of my being, but above all Iam a man of the world and brother of everyone.' 
In 1919, at age 21, Lorca moved from his hometown Granada to Madrid to study Philosophy and Law at the Residencia de Estudiantes. At university, he  became associated with a group of artists who would become known as Generación del 27, including the painter Salvadore Dalí, the filmmaker Luis Bunuel, and the poet Rafael Alberti  and began publishing poetry in various volumes.
In 1927, his play Mariana Pineda ,which had scenic designs painted by Dalí , opened to great acclaim in Barcelona. Lorca rose quickly, assuming his position as eccentric poet and dramatist, but struggled with the balance of his public and private lives. His homosexuality was a point of contention and allegedly damaged his friendship with Dalí.
Following the advice of his family, Lorca left Spain in 1929, on the RMS Olympic transatlantic cruiser, and headed for New York City. At that time he'd also published "Canciones" (1927) and "Primer romancero gitano" (1928); this is his most accessible and popular book. During this trip he writes "Poeta en Nueva York", one of his most famous books. His New York poems are harsh and difficult at times, at others erotic and exhilarating. In 1930 he travels to Cuba, where he'd write a considerable part of his texts.
He returned to Spain after a year abroad and became director of the student theatre La Barraca. Between 1933 and 1936 he wrote his most prolific work: Blood Wedding, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba, completed just two months before his untimely death. These three popular works became known as the rural trilogy, exploring class, status and gender conventions.
In 1933 he traveled to Argentina to promote the staging of some of his plays by Lola Membrive's theatre company, and to give a series of conferences. His stay in Argentina was a great success: his staging of "La dama boba" by Lope de Vega attracted over 60 thousand people
 In 1933 he also co-founded the "Asociación de Amigos de la Unión Soviética", and between that year and 1936 he wrote "Divan de Tamarit" and "Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías", which moved the whole Hispanic world. His theatre company La Barraca travelled across rural Spain, presenting his plays in village squares and small towns. Like his poetry, they found inspiration in the popular traditions of the south, and in particular in the flamenco music of Andalucia.
Over his short career in the public eye, Lorca built a reputation both at home and abroad as a passionate individual who  believed that the purpose of theatre was to question and challenge societal norms, and express the individualism at the core of the artist’s heart.
A nation that does not support and encourage its theatre is — if not dead — dying; just as a theatre that does not capture with laughter and tears the social and historical pulse, the drama of its people, the genuine colour of the spiritual and natural landscape, has no right to call itself a theatre, but only a place for amusement,’ he said.
The artist, and particularly the poet, is always an anarchist in the best sense of the word. He must heed only the call that arises within him from three strong voices: the voice of death, with all its foreboding, the voice of love, and the voice of art.’
By the time Lorca returned from Buenos Aires, where he’d been lecturing and directing the Argentine premiere of his play Blood Wedding, Spain was paralysed by political tensions. Death
had spilled out of the plaza de toros—the bullfighting arena—into the plazas of cities and villages, where the Nationalist uprising left bodies rotting in the streets. 
After being airlifted by Nazi Junkers transports across the Strait of Gibraltar, Franco’s army beat an unrelenting march northward toward Madrid, with the aid of German and Italian tanks and planes. Taking orders from superiors and incited by the sinister broadcasts of Lieutenant General Queipo de Llano in Seville, the uprising machine-gunned innocents, raped and branded women, and carried out mass executions of peasants. The soldiers of the Foreign Legion, who called themselves the bridegrooms of death, collected the ears of enemies, just as Franco had once done as a young soldier in Africa. Their battle cry was: “¡Viva la muerte!”—Long live death! 
In Lorca’s hometown of Granada, where he had fled to thinking he would be safer than in his adopted Madrid, long-simmering hatreds and rivalries boiled over,  and almost immediately after he had arrived, the area was seized by the Nationalist Fallangists. Falangist Escuadras Negras—Black Squads—began conducting summary executions, revealing a bloodlust among neighbors that rapidly left ravines threaded with shallow graves. 
In spite of carefully cultivating an apolitical stance,  someone once asked Lorca about his political preferences and he answered he felt Catholic, communist, anarchist, libertarian, traditionalist and monarchist at the same time. He never joined any of the political parties and never discriminated or severed his relationship with any of his friends for political reason  but despite this his association with the Republic made him a marked man. His plays also dealt with repression, and some anti-Catholic opinions in interviews made him a high profile target.
 The conflict at the heart of his writing is between freedom and repression, represented by the Civil Guard that terrorised rural Spain for so long.
"Black are the horses.
The horseshoes are black.
On the dark capes glisten
stains of ink and wax.
Their skulls are leaden
which is why they do not weep.
Hunchbacked and nocturnal
where they go, they command
silences of dark rubber
and fears like fine sand.
When push came to shove, after years of seeing deprivation in his country and abroad, it was clear where his sympathies lay, once saying " I will always be on the side of those who have nothing, and who are not even allowed to enjoy the nothing they have in peace. "
Despite going into hiding, the Fallangists hunted him down. Lorca was arrested on the same day his brother-in-law was assassinated. He was arrested and imprisoned, without trial and charge, and mercilessly tortured. On August 19th at around 3.00 a.m he was handcuffed to another prisoner ( a teacher). shortly before  dawn he was taken out along with the teacher and two bullfighters ( members of the Anarchist Trade Union CNT), three guards struck Lorca's body with the butts of their rifles, then he was shot, his body riddle with bullets. Some say he was  murdered because of his sexuality,  as well as his politics. The body of Frederico Garcia, one of the greatest poets and playwrights  of the twentieth century and  one of Spain's most prodigious sons was unceremoniously dumped in a hastily dug hole, soon to be a mass grave. Despite years of efforts his body  has never been found.The fascist forces then tried to erase his memory, burning and banning  his books. Lorca’s writing, considered deeply homoerotic, was banned until 1954 , and the ban on all of his works was not fully rescinded until after the death of dictator General Franco in 1975. One thing is for certain his life would not be forgotten. As Spain moved to democracy, Lorca rose to the fore again, his writings finding a new generation, his plays are mounted frequently all over the world and his voice still  belong to humanity. An emblem who gave his  life for Spain, a martyr of it's people. He once said ' I will always be on the side of those who have nothing and who are not even allowed  to enjoy the nothing they have in peace.'
During the last decade there have been several failed attempts to locate the poets grave with many believing that finding  the final resting place of Lorca, a voice of pluralism and tolerance, can help reconcile Spain with its tragic past. But many years after his death, and despite his short life,  his voice continues to ring out, where bullets were unable to silence him. Today Frederico García Lorca is remembered as a martyr,  an international symbol of the politically oppressed, representing  all the dead of the Spanish Civil War and representing all victims of the terrible crimes committed by Franco's dictatorship , where Lorca was one victim of many. More than four hundred thousand Spaniards spent time in concentration camps between 1939 and 1947. And over the next three decades, Spaniards continued to be persecuted for political reasons; thousands were executed by firing squad and garrotte. Half a million fled the country. And in the jittery, transition to democracy after Franco's death, politicians adopted a don't look back policy, and in 1977, Spain's parliaament passed an amnesty law that sealed the past in what became known as the pacto de olvido, or pact of oblivion. 
Dictators can kill poets but Lorca remains one of the most influential creative voices of his time, who pioneered for a ‘new morality, a morality of complete freedom,’ through his work as a writer and artist. Lorca's work  is profoundly and revealingly Spanish, but at the same time universally human, and his poetical celebrations of passion, and desire live on. 

Frederico Garcia Lorca - Sonnet

I know that my profile will be serene
in the north of an unreflecting sky.
Mercury of vigil, chaste mirror
to break the pulse of my style.

For if ivy and the cool of linen
are the norm of the body I leave behind,
my profile in the sand will be the old
unblushing silence of a crocodile.

And though my tongue of frozen doves
will never taste of flame,
only of empty broom,

I'll be a free sign of oppressed norms
on the neck of the stiff branch
and in an ache of dahlias without end.

Largo espectro de plata conmovida
el viento de la noche suspirando,
abrió con mano gris mi vieja herida
y se alejó: yo estaba deseando.

Llaga de amor que me dará la vida
perpetua sangre y pura luz brotando.
Grieta en que Filomela enmudecida
tendrá bosque, dolor y nido blando.

¡Ay qué dulce rumor en mi cabeza!
Me tenderé junto a la flor sencilla
donde flota sin alma tu belleza.

Y el agua errante se pondrá amarilla,
mientras corre mi sangre en la maleza
mojada y olorosa de la orilla. 

 Frederico Garcia Lorca -  Before the Dawn

But like love
the archers
are blind

Upon the green night,
the piercing saetas
leave traces of warm

The Keel of the moon
breaks through purple clouds
and their quivers
still with dew

Aye, but like love
the archers
are blind!