Friday, 31 January 2020

Flags, Knobs and Broomsticks.

After Farage twit and Widdecombe
Waved their joke shop little flags,
And others  cried and held hands
In excruciating cringeworthy scenes,.
Singing Auld Lang Syne
With not a whiff of dignity,
Not in my name many declaring
Of this tin pot slippery shower,
In these moments of separation
A shocking disgrace to the nation,
As relationship with EU remains uncertain
Many still hoping, this not the final curtain,
The idea that Brexit will solve what's wrong
Will be revealed as fantasy through and through,
In peoples hearts, hope remains, but others fearing
What will happen next, as history is wiped away,
Painfully questioning what now has been decided
The rising tide of xenophobia closing in on our shore,
Afraid of nationalism, egotism, infused perfusion
Hatred and division mongering instead of kindness.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Donald Trump's One Sided Middle East Peace Plan


President Donald Trump claims his peace plan for Israel and Palestine will prove to be a triumph that will last for the next 80 years. But it’s unclear whether it will be viable for even 80 minutes.
That’s because most analysts believe the deal  which was finally released on Tuesday — is dead on arrival, because upending decades of bipartisan policy, the proposal gives American endorsement to Israeli annexation of broad swaths of the West Bank and limits Palestinian territorial contiguity. Trump's initiative, whose principal author is his son-in-law Jared Kushner, follows a long line of efforts to resolve one of the world's most intractable issues. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014. Palestinians have refused to engage the Trump administration and denounced its proposal's first stage - a $50bn economic revival plan announced last June.
The White House’s  peace plan which has a four year implementation period came complete with one hundred and eighty pages as well as a map outlining the proposed new Israeli and Palestinian states.   recognises Israeli sovereignty over major illegal settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank, something to which the Palestinians will almost certainly object. Trump said Israel would be granted security control of the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank. The blueprint would also permit Israel to extend sovereignty over all major settlements blocs in the West Bank, uphold Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital,” The plan would also see a Palestinian state with its capital in “eastern Jerusalem”, though in an area cut off from much of the city by an Israeli military barrier.
 Palestinians reject any proposal that would not see a Palestinian capital in all of East Jerusalem, which includes the walled Old City and numerous sites holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians.Palestinian officials havecut off communication with the U,S after it recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in late 2017.  Israeli settlements in the West Bank would also be allowed to stay where they are.and require the Palestinians to concede far more land to Israel than in past proposals..
Trump described the plan as a "win-win opportunity for both sides,".but the agreement that he has promoted as the "ultimate deal" amounts to a two-way pact between Trump and Netanyahu. and seems consistent with the US administration’s approach of granting unilateral concessions to Israel while further isolating the Palestinians. The Palestinians were not consulted. It's a dictate of take it or leave it. But to hear Trump tell it, he has brokered the most important diplomatic breakthroughs not just of his presidency but of modern history. 
“It’s been a long and very arduous process to arrive at this moment,” Trump said in a speech at the White House Tuesday, standing next to a smiling Netanyahu. “All prior administrations from President Lyndon Johnson have tried and bitterly failed, but I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems.” Netanyahu, for his part, was thrilled with the outcome.
Analysts say the deal should be understood as two friends lending each other a hand at a sensitive  time in their political careers.Trump is currently embroiled in impeachment proceedings, and in November Netanyahu was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust."Trump and Netanyahu care more about electoral politics at home and less about real peace with the Palestinians," said Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
"It resembles a colonial arrangement of a bygone era," he added, comparing the impending deal to past secret agreements that divided parts of the Middle East among European powers and promised the Jewish community a home in historic Palestine. 
Even before the details were released, protests rejecting it were already in full swing in Gaza and Palestinians had called for a "Day of Rage" on Wednesday in the West Bank.
"The deal of the century, which is not based on international legality and law, gives Israel everything it wants at the expense of the national rights of the Palestinian people," Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said in opening the Palestinian Authority's weekly Cabinet meeting in Ramallah on Sunday.
After the announcement, Palestinians took to social media to react, comment and at times mock the plan. Often dubbed the "deal of the century" Palestinians referred to it as the "the slap of the century". The hashtags #NoToTrumpPlan and #No4DealOfCentury trended on Twitter. "It is a slap and not a deal," wrote one Twitter user, "down with the slap of the century and long live a free Palestine."
The objective of any peace proposal for Israelis and Palestinians should be to resolve the conflict in a manner that can be accepted by both sides. Unfortunately, the Trump plan is not actually designed to do so. Rather, it serves as an annexation roadmap, whereby Israel receives U.S. support to apply sovereignty immediately to all settlements in the West Bank.The deal not only  discards long-held assumptions about how the conflict will be resolved, it was constructed with only the input of one party, Israel, making it a fait accompli that the Palestinians would not consider it. The Trump plan is not a realistic effort to bring a permanent status agreement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it should not be viewed as such.It is a  a recipe for permanent occupation and endless conflict and is dishonest, inhumane and unjust.
Trump has taken what was already an Israel-centric foreign policy to an extreme:In addition to moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, the Trump administration has also slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians and recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Israel-occupied Golan Heights, in addition the United States has reversed its position and contradicted international law on the illegality of Israeli settlements, the Trump administration in November reversed decades of US policy when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington no longer regarded Israeli settlements on occupied West Bank land as inconsistent with international law. It’s absurd to think that Trump has any credibility or interest in true peace. .
The only sustainable solution is a viable two-state outcome. While Trump paid lip service to a two-state solution, the plan does not promote any recognizable two-state vision. Although the president rhetorically acknowledged the necessity of Palestinian independence and self-determination, a viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state, and a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, the details do not actually contain any of those critical elements. Palestinian freedom isn’t for Trump to give away or for Netanyahu to steal. What the Palestinians are being offered right now is not rights or a state, but a permanent state of Apartheid. No amount of marketing can erase this disgrace or blur the facts. Many Human rights advocates see the plan as a rubber stamp or the Israeli governmeny's continuing violations of interntaional law, seperate and unequal policies, land grabs and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people. Any attempt to address the Israeli-Palestinian issue that does not begin and end with the full acknowledgement of the Palesestinian right to self-determination , freedom, justice and equality is quite simply a non-starter.
The plan also explicitly states that there shall be no “right to return” for the millions of Palestinians forced out of their ancestral homes during the formation of the Israeli state. The 1948 war uprooted 700,000 Palestinians from their homes, creating a refugee crisis that is still not resolved. Palestinians call this mass eviction the Nakba , Arabic for “catastrophe”, and its legacy remains one of the most intractable issues in ongoing peace negotiations.
 Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees, defined as people displaced in 1948 and their descendants. This population has long languished in a variety of refugee camps, without rights or decent life conditions.A core Palestinian demand in peace negotiations is some kind of justice for these refugees, most commonly in the form of the “right of return” to the homes their families abandoned at the time.The failure to address this issue in a responsible manner is both a deficiency in the current proposal. and a tragic humanitarian evasion..
The only plan that can  genuinely offer peace, is one that delivers. a  future not based on supremacy for some and oppression for others, but on full equality, liberty, dignity, and rights for all.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Happy 75th Birthday Robert Wyatt ; Musical Adventurer

Happy birthday to Robert Wyatt , a founding member of the influential Canterbury scene band  Soft Machine. Born 1945 in Bristol, Wyatt was brought up first in London and later in Kent. Wyatt’s love of jazz, wordplay and surreal humour stemmed from his father, George Ellidge and Wyatt grew up as part of a “Bohemian” household that loved music, literature and travel. Wyatt’s parents were part of the literary circle of the poet Robert Graves and the young Wyatt spent several summers at Graves’ home in Majorca.
It was at grammar school in Canterbury that Wyatt first encountered bassist Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge who would eventually become his bandmates in Soft Machine. Another influential figure was the  legendary Australian beatnik Daevid Allen (of Planet Gong fame) who lodged with Wyatt’s family and nurtured the young Robert’s interest in modern and avant garde jazz  Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor and Thelonious Monk were all early Wyatt heroes.
Soft Machine grew out of the Wilde Flowers, the now almost legendary spawning ground for both Caravan and Soft Machine. At various times Wilde Flowers involved Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, Brian Hopper, Kevin Ayers, Richard Sinclair, Dave Sinclair and Richard Coughlan, the last three ending up in Caravan.
Wyatt moved to London, living in a communal house and forming a group with Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge. Originally named Mister Head they adopted the name Soft Machine from the title of the novel by Beat Generation author William Burroughs who famously gave the young Brits his blessing to use the name by drawling “can’t see why not”.
Allen had left before the recording of the first album which was released in 1968 by which time the Softs were the darlings of the London underground music scene playing all nighters at the UFO club alongside Pink Floyd, their performances enhanced by the visuals of the Sensual Laboratory lightshow.
The band also toured America supporting the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Wyatt was much influenced by Mitch Mitchell’s drumming style. The intense touring schedule proved a bit much for Ayers and Ratledge who returned to England as soon as they could but Wyatt stayed on in the states until his visa ran out, recording with Hendrix on bass, the sessions being released by Cuneiform Records as “Robert Wyatt ‘68” some thirty five years later. They still sound terrific.
A second Soft Machine album was recorded with Hugh Hopper replacing Ayers on bass. With Wyatt now handling all the vocals “Volume 2” is widely regarded as being among the band’s best. Originally recorded to fulfil a contract its success saw Soft Machine continuing as a working band but the tensions between Wyatt on one hand and Hopper and Ratledge on the other began to grow. Famously ascetic and intellectual Hopper and Ratledge favoured increasingly obtuse, complicated pieces, the hedonistic and more spontaneous Wyatt still favoured song based works. “Third”, a double set which added saxophonist Elton Dean to the line up managed a successful compromise between the two approaches with Wyatt’s side long “Moon In June” widely considered as a masterpiece.  Nonetheless the rift began to widen leaving Wyatt increasingly frustrated, with Dean now on board he was effectively outnumbered three to one and felt himself as being frozen out of his own group. “Fourth” included no vocals whatsoever and for the first time Wyatt was uninvolved in the writing process. It was all too much for him and he quit, the resulting bitterness lasting for many years.
 After leaving Soft Machine in these acrimonious circumstances he recorded two albums with his own group Matching Mole, but Post-Soft Machine, two events changed him forever. In early 1972 he met artist Alfreda Benge, who was to become his wife, muse and lyricist. It also coincided with the beginning of Wyatt’s devotion to Communism, with politics serving as “the missing protein” in his music. Then, in 1973, came the drunken fall from a fourth- floor window at an alcohol fuelled party that left Wyatt paralysed from the waist down. The effect, he says, was truly liberating, in that it narrowed his career choices and made him concentrate on being a singer. He calls the accident a neat dividing line between adolescence and the rest of his life: “Your youth is a period of maximum physical potential. Suddenly being anchored to a wheelchair forces you to experience life in a more abstract way. You become more reflective.”
 For over forty years he has continued to make music from a wheelchair, recording a series of acclaimed albums that have featured his talents as a vocalist and songwriter as well as a player of keyboards, trumpet, cornet and hand played percussion. Perhaps his most widely known performance is his vocal on the song “Shipbuilding”, Wyatt’s singing adding an almost unbearable poignancy to this commentary on the Falklands War written by Clive Langer and with lyrics by Elvis Costello
Aside from his expressionistic blend of free jazz, folk, classical and world music, what truly sets Wyatt apart is his exquisite voice. Reedy and tremulous, there’s a haunted vulnerability and disarming candour to his singing, which his friend Brian Eno compares to “a poor innocent cast into a complicated world”.
His instantly recognisable voice is likely to set off a string of emotions and associations in the listener. Its unique beauty has come to symbolise an empathy for anyone suffering a crisis, whether personal, political, or both. Second, it is an instrument that conveys a deep understanding of the folly and recklessness of our collective behaviour. Third, it is one of the most soothing and restorative sounds to be issued from the human soul. Somewhere along the line Wyatt has, unknowingly made the transition from wilful outsider to national treasure.
The sheer breadth of Wyatt’s solo work is dizzying. As an extension of his modus operandi, he has reworked pieces by such disparate artists as John Cage and The Monkees, and recorded with Henry Cow, Eno, Phil Manzanera, Syd Barrett, Björk and Ryuichi Sakamoto, to name but a few.
Stick a pin anywhere you like,from 1974’s Rock Bottom to 2007’s Comicopera, from Soft Machine’s 1968 debut to 2010’s three-way alliance with Gilad Atzmon and Ros Stephen, For The Ghosts Within, and all of these albums are freighted with Wyatt’s rare brilliance. For all the genre-hopping, Wyatt’s work occupies a distinct corner entirely of its own.
In the course of making his solo albums, he suffered from depression and became increasingly alcoholic, even suicidal  but then in 2007 he realised that liqour had truly become to much of a burden, so he enrolled at Alcoholics Anonymous and is now (in AA terms) a ''dry drunk". Drunk or sober, he has redefined the sound and scope of popular music and we are lucky to have him.
Unexpectedly in 2014 he announced that he was retiring from music, which was sad news for his many admirers because Wyatt has produced some of the most strikingly original work of the past half century. His, he says, is “an improvised life”. One fuelled by jazz, socialism and an absurdist slant on the world around him.
Happy 75th birthday to one of the most unusual and characterful musical adventurers of the last half century. Thank you, Robert Wyatt for being such an uncompromising, unique talent in this insular, commodified world of ours and for creating such engaging, solidly original music. a truly inspiring individual. If you do not know his work, please give these songs a listen.

Robert Wyatt - I'm a Believer

 Robert Wyatt - At Last I am Free

Robert Wyatt -  The Sight of the Wind

 Robert Wyatt - Shipbuilding

Robert Wyatt - Free Will and Testament 


Monday, 27 January 2020

‘Stand Together’ Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of  the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz Birkenau,the largest Nazi death camp in occupied Poland. when the true scale of what became known as the Holocaust, was first recognised. More than one million lives were systematically murdered in the gas chambers and other methods at Auschwitz alone. This year is not only a significant milestone but is made particularly poignant by the dwindling number of survivors who are able to share their testimony.
The day aims to remind people of the crimes and loss of life and encourage remembrance in a world scarred by genocide  and prevent it ever being forgotten. Alongside the 6 million jewish people who were murdered in the genocide in Europe leading up to 1945,  the  Nazis also targetted and persecuted   many other groups,   other victims  encompassed trade unionists, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transpeople, (LGBT)  black people, disabled people, the mentally ill, political opponents and  250,000 to 500,000 Roma and Sinti people, (between 25 and 50 percent of this minority;s entire population  in Europe at the time,) who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the second world war,
The theme for HMD 2020 is Stand Together. It explores how genocidal regimes throughout history have deliberately fractured societies by marginalising certain groups, and how these tactics can be challenged by individuals standing together with their neighbours, and speaking out against oppression and all forms of racism and discrimination. The Holocaust is not just a Jewish tragedy, but it is a lesson to all of us of all faiths in all times and a continuing reminder to stand with “others” when their rights and freedoms face attack.
In the years leading up to the Holocaust, Nazi policies and propaganda deliberately encouraged divisions within German society – urging ‘Aryan’ Germans to keep themselves separate from their Jewish neighbours. The Holocaust, Nazi Persecution of other groups and each subsequent genocide, was enabled by ordinary citizens not standing with their targeted neighbours.
Let 's not forget  that the Holocaust did not appear out of thin air, it was built on hatred for "the other," politically weaponized by those seeking ever more power. As politicians today say never again, some are walking doen that same path. Today there are still those that are stoking up increasing division in communities across the UK and the world, antisemitism, racism and Islamophobia are on the.rise again. We must oppose attempts to divide us along the lines of race, religion or ethnicity.
Far right and fascist forces are growing. Many o them deny the horrors of the Holocaust. and are whipping up racist scapegoating. In Britain, we have also seen the systematic demonisation of migrants and Muslims, and a rise in hate crime, including increased incidences of antisemitic attacks in our communities.. Now more than ever, we need to stand together with others in our communities in order to stop division and the spread of identity-based hostility in our society.
Somehow  human beings around the world are capable of so much hate, we should work together to prevent this. Remember those who have resisted, shown bravery and courage.Remember the victims of the Holocaust. We should remember them all. Sadly we seem to forget from past pain and experience. There is still so much to learn, we should stand united against genocide wherever it occurs. We should never forget where hatred and bigotry can lead. There can never be anytime for passivity, and we must  stand strong against the dark forces  of intolerance, bigotry, racism and division that create them. .HMD  also marks the 25th anniversary of the Genocide in Bosnia.
It is important that we do not forget,  but  if we look at history this is not the only time that genocide has occurred, and history repeats. Humanity continues to turn against itself.Yesterday for instance was Australia day or for many others Invasion Day, when people remembered the terrible wrongs and crimes against the aboriginal people, then there is Colombus Day on the 8th  of October, you see the list is endless.
Here is a list of some other    places  and people that the world sometimes forgets.








the ethnic cleansing of indigeneous Palestinians,

The Indigeneous Peoples of  America,




and the genocide of slavery

and on and on and on.

However we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, it is important to use the day to sharpen our awareness and understanding of extremism and the deadly violence it can licence. It is an opportunity to consider how hatred and intolerance of others has taken many forms and a reminder of the need to stand together in confronting the origins and workings of wickedness, to exercise vigilance and to prevent atrocities from happening again in the future and should  strive to work for equality , peace and justice for the whole of mankind.
Sadly  there will always be individuals, organisations and regimes who want to exploit differences for their own ends and we must have the courage to speak out where we see this happening. In a world which is increasingly fractured, where we have some leaders that are more interested in promoting division than harmony, it is vital we remember that there is far more that unites than divides the human race, to prevent a repeat of the horrors of the past

First They Came - Pastor Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the Trade Unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade Unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left To speak out for me.

Read more about Holocaust Memorial Day

Sunday, 26 January 2020

We're Artists All - David Milligan (Spike)

(Poem written by David discovered among  files on his computer, that have been given permission to share, I happen to think  it's damned good, and very evocative, so long friend )

We're Artists All - David Milligan (Spike)

Hush now, softly fall asleep,
Let's go to places where we can't weep,
Snuff out the candle, lock up the keep,
Take a chance, you must.

Forget about your diet dear,
Forget about false lover's tears,
Forget about your paranoid fears,
Forget the fuss.

The price of entry is your might,
Death, rebirth, dark and light,
No point in putting up a fight,
The time is here.

No longer can you turn your back;
Lonesome wolf without a pack,
On all those things your art form lacks,
Because they're clear.

To play guitar is microscopic,
To paint a picture panoramic,
But doing neither seems idiotic,
I think, you'll find.

It makes you grieve, you know it's true,
Create no beauty, this will not do!
What would you feel if your life was through?
Would you care?

But what of the million eyes,
That love to soak up your artistic prize?
Who won't create is telling lies!
By abstaining.

So kick yourself right up the arse!
You're not the first, nor even last!
Enough of this hedonistic fast,
Please, stop refraining.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Following The News That The Victoria Derbyshire Show Is To Be Axed

The BBC in all their wisdom have decided  to axe the Victoria Derbyshire show in an attempt to save money, blaming cuts. In an impassioned Twitter thread, hours after going on air to present her show, the  51-year-old broadcaster.Victoria Derbyshire responded to the BBC’s confirmation that her programme is to be taken off air later this year, saying that she only found out after reading  about in Rupert Murdoch's The Times, rather than being informed by the BBC, her employer. "I'm unbelievably proud of what our team and our show have achieved in under five years breaking tonnes of original stories (which we were asked to do); attracting a working class, young, diverse audience that BBC radio & TV news progs just don't reach (which we were asked to do); and smashing the digital figures (which we were asked to do)."
She said she was "gutted particularly" for "all those people we gave a voice to, Love them too.".
Derbyshire spoke out as BBC director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth told staff it had "not been an easy decision".
Victoria Derbyshire's show began in 2015 and broadcasts live on BBC Two and the BBC News channel every weekday from 10am. The programme won a Bafta in 2017 and has been nominated for several awards, including RTS Presenter of the Year.The show covered many controversial storiies that were not covered by the rest of the BBC, raising awareness and provoking conversation on so many difficult issues and was popular with a demographic which does not engage with shows like Newsnight. The BBC claims it can't afford to run the show anymore, which seems selective, considering the show has a much lower budget than many other less popular BBC programmes.has a much lower budget than many other, less popular BBC programmes.
Following news that Derbyshire's TV show is to be axed, there has been an outpouring of support for the award-winning BBC Two show. One viewer said it was a "life-saving programme" that had helped her when she was "so alone". 
Fans have called for Question Time to go instead - especially after actor Laurence Fox's appearance last week attracted more than 250 official complaints. The main issues cited in the complaints were that the "audience was not representative of the local area, leading to a pro-Conservative bias" and that the "discussion on racism [was] felt to be offensive"."Why cut this and not something useless and harmful to public discourse like Question Time?" asked Harry Samuels.
 The show's former editor, Louisa Compton, has described the cancellation as "madness", saying: "An organisation that values original journalism and under-served audiences should not be doing this."
Anna Collinson, who works on the show, said: "It's gutting for our viewers. The BBC is constantly criticised for failing under-served audiences - the same audiences we were proud to serve and served well. I have already heard from interviewees who are devastated by this news.
"We are a scrappy, feisty and passionate bunch and always did our absolute best to hold those in power to account.
"Whatever happens now, I will forever be proud of working for this award-winning programme and will never forget everything it taught me."
Shadow culture secretary Tracy Brabin has written a letter to BBC director general Lord Tony Hall, asking him to reconsider the decision. In a letter shared by Brabin on Twitter, she said that Derbyshire "is an incredible journalist and I am certain that she has a very bright broadcasting future in front of her regardless of what happens with the show in the coming months."  while Conservative MP Damian Collins, who is bidding to be re-elected as chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said the reports were "disturbing".
"There needs to be a proper review of BBC finances as well as asking licence fee-payers what they value and want to see more of," he said.
A petition demanding that the BBC reverse its decision to axe the Victoria Derbyshire show has reached   over 14, 000 signatures, the campaign, launched on Wednesday by Katie Kendrick, “urgently” calls on the BBC to reconsider its decision.
It praises the show for giving voice to survivors of historical sexual abuse, poverty, mental health issues and the children’s care system.
Ms Kendrick writes: “This is VITAL journalism that brought with it campaigning and integrity to important social issues. It is a lifeline to ordinary people
“I was once a guest on the show and spoke about leaseholders trapped in the leasehold scandal.
“The Victoria Derbyshire team gave me a voice, supported me and others affected in what could have been a very daunting experience.”Her show holds politicians to account , defends societies victims, gives voice to the powerless and needs to be saved. If the decision is not reversed, important issues will be even more neglected, marginalised voices will get even less attention and the powerful will receive even less scrutiny. You can sign the petition below.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Tears and Joy : Dedicated to David Milligan (Spike) R.I.P

You veered through life's arduous journey
Sometimes falling prey on the prickly path
When demon thorns pierced your soul
Music and art offered moments of sanctuary.

Through shimmering encounters of darkness and light
Gaping lesions and cemented scars
Uphill struggles and crushing misfortunes
You defiantly battled your beasts of torment.

Your Spanish pilgrimage, a mission fulfilled
With steadfast commitment and tenacious endurance
You consummated your dream
With heroic transcendence.

Sail away my friend to destiny's harbour
Where time is tickless and peace prevails
Dock safely comrade. Flourish anew
Spread your wings. Forever be free.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

George Orwell ( 25/6/03 - 21`/1/50 ) - Prophet of our times

On the anniversary of his death, I explore the life and work of the British author George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, who  achieved prominence in the late 1940s as the author of two brilliant satires attacking totalitarianism-Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. His  novels, documentaries, essays, and criticism he wrote during the 1930s and later have since established him as one of the most important and influential voices of the century and is considered by some to be an uncanny prophet of our times.Orwell’s parents were members of the Indian Civil Service, and, after an education at Eton College in England, Orwell joined (1922) the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that later found expression in the novel Burmese Days (1934). His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), was a  moving non-fictional account  of self-imposed poverty he had experienced after leaving Burma. He published three other novels in the 1930s: A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), and Coming Up for Air (1939). His major works of the period were two documentaries: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), a detailed, sympathetic, and yet objective study of the lives of nearly impoverished miners in the Lancashire town of Wigan; and Homage to Catalonia (1938), which recounts his experiences fighting for the Republicans against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War between 1935 and 1937.Orwell’s two best-known books reflect his lifelong distrust of autocratic government, whether of the left or right: Animal Farm (1945), a modern beast-fable attacking Stalinism, and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), a dystopian novel setting forth his fears of an intrusively bureaucratized state of the future. the pair of novels brought him his first fame and almost his only remuneration as a writer. His wartime work for the BBC (published in the collections George Orwell: the Lost Writings, and The War Commentaries) gave him a solid taste of bureaucratic hypocrisy.Throughout his novels, documentaries, essays and journalism Orwell relentlessly and uncompromisingly criticised imperialism, nationalism, capitalism, political dishonesty, power, totalitarianism, privilege and private education.The importance of George Orwell as a writer lies in his questioning of institutions, power structures and political statements. The state, law, religion, charity, public schools, political parties and the media all came under his scrutiny He claimed to be a democratic socialist, joining the Independent Labour Party in June 1938 until after the outbreak of the Second World War.Many of the themes in  Nineteen Eighty-Four are compelling and contemporary, foreshadowing the state of our world today and contain remarkable foresight  given that it was first published in 1949. The novel is set in 1984 in Great Britain, known as Airstrip One.The world has suffered through a global atomic war, and there are 3 superpowers called Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. The standard of living is relatively low.The media is run by the government, which is known as Big Brother and the written word is perpetually changed to suit what the government requires. People  are controlled into what to think, how to act and how to live .It uses telescreens, fearmongering, media control and corruption to control the masses.One of the Party pillars in 1984 is endless war on a global scale. The war, however, is a fabrication accepted and treated as fact. For, unreal as it is, it is not meaningless. World powers become enemies and allies interchangeably simply to keep the masses in perpetual fear, perpetual industry, and perpetual order. War provides outlet for unwanted emotions such as hate, patriotism, and discontent, keeping the structure of society intact and productive without raising the standard of living. The state of perpetual war described by Orwell is also reflected in the wars  that have raged since 1945, across the globe from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen etc etc.  
Winston Smith the main protagonist is  an editor employed by the government and is one of many citizens responsible for rewriting history..In Nineteen Eighty-Four, government surveillance is constant and at the forefront. The state knows every move its citizens make, including their habits, whom they talk to, and what they are doing at any given time. Big Brother is watching and running the show. The people are sheep who are herded and controlled. Winston Smith embarks on a clandestine love affair with Julia, a party member, and joins The Brotherhood, an illegal organisation dedicated to the overthrow of Big Brother. He is caught,and taken to Room 101, alongside everyone else who offended had been taken and subjected to torture and brainwashed . He along with everyone ends up loving Big Brother.
Today across the world there are a lock-up concentration camp style jails where unconvicted, ostensibly innocent individuals are held and openly abused. Electronic surveillance in 2020 is still a common and accepted government practice: cell phone listening, cameras on corners and traffic lights, and electronic toll payment system tracking are all everyday occurrences. By using our credit cards, shopping rewards cards, and even our driver's licenses, data are collected on all of us and sold and used daily, each of us daily profiled. Orwell’s book  was supposed to be a warning, not a guidebook on how to create a surveillance state. It really is remarkable how the many tools that were used to suppress in Nineteen Eighty–Four  are now part of our  everyday lives in 2020.
Newspeak is the fictional language spoken in Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is a controlled and abbreviated version of English.  Also  known as “doublespeak!”. As George himself said " Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.. "  Politicians continue to  use language to deceive and manipulate, through concealment or misrepresentation of the truth, desperately and deliberately using euphemistic or ambiguous language as they have been doing ad infinitum. One of the objectives of Newspeak is also to decrease self-expression. With the  popularity of texting, it would be fair to say that there are similarities. And today we are so busy Facebooking, tweeting, etc,  the following line  from one of the characters that works for  Big Brother.  “The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough to notice what’s happening.” is  still amazingly uncanny.Orwell may not have had a crystal ball, but  he did have was an understanding of the human condition and its weakness.
Orwell began writing the novel in 1944, and wrote the bulk of it while residing on the Scottish island Jura while battling tuberculosis during 1947-1948. Orwell  was recently widowed, his wife having died during a surgical procedure. He was left with his young son, and he was seriously ill with tuberculosis. There was not a known cure for TB in 1947, and physicians typically prescribed fresh air and rest. Orwell was given streptomycin, which was an experimental drug in the US, and after treatment, his TB symptoms disappeared. He raced to finish his novel, and upon publication it became an instant success. Orwell died shortly after of a brain haemorrhage on this day in 1950 at the age of 46.
Nineteen Eighty-Four has been in publication ever since, has been translated into multiple languages, and is often heralded as one of the best novels of the 20th century. Still resonating in the times we live today., still worryingly reliable. Commenting on 1984, Orwell wrote, “I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive, but I believe that something resembling it could arrive.”
In some cases, what is happening in the world today is more draconian and invasive than anything Orwell conceived. Despite Orwell's influence political journalism is as corrupt as ever. The corruption of language described in 1984 is widespread in the media today, with "Newspeak" terms such as democratic, socialist, fascist, war criminal, freedom fighter, racist and many other expressions being used in a deliberately deceptive, propagandistic way to whip up mass hysteria or simply to ensure that people can never achieve even an approximation of the truth.
We are today all living in a massive prison and George Orwell predicted it. The ability of Big Brother government to observe our every activity is increasing week by week and soon each and every car journey we make, every financial transaction we undertake, everywhere we go will be fed into a computer and if there is a slight variance from what they decide is the norm then we will be taken in and questioned. Give the wrong answers and you could well end up in room like 101, or Belmarsh Jail, Guantanamo Bay etc. We should continue to be on guard, raise alarms, be objective, keep questioning and hold our individual Governments to account.
In 2003 a docudrama was released by the BBC, detailing the life and works of George Orwell. The documentary contains footage from his deathbed, and his final words are certainly chilling. You can here them in the following video. We can't say that we were never warned.

Citizens  today should support bona fide civil liberties groups and actively oppose government measures restricting basic freedoms. Freedom of speech is a basic civil liberty and people should fight to retain it. They should defy group pressure, think for themselves and speak out. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.We should continue to be on guard, raise alarms, be objective, keep questioning and hold our individual Governments to account.

We  are the dead. Our only true life is in the future. We shall take part in it as handfuls of dust and splinters of bone. But how far away that future may be, there is no knowing. It might be a thousand years. At present nothing is possible except to extend the area of sanity little by little. We cannot act collectively.
We can only spread our knowledge outwards from individual to individual, generation after generation. In the face of the Thought Police there is no other way.

- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty- Four

Though he remains best remembered for authoring the cult-classics Animal Farm  and Nineteen eighty four, he was a masterful essayist first and last. In the following  seminal essay “Why I Write” details his personal journey to becoming a writer. It was first published in the Summer 1946 edition of Gangrel. The editors of this magazine, J.B.Pick and Charles Neil, had asked a selection of writers to explain why they write. The essay is autobiographical. It can be divided into three parts.
 The author’s childhood is described in the first part of the essay. The author pays attention to his first experiences as a writer and notes that he always knew about his future as a writer. Orwell discusses his early writing experiences in detail and accentuates the progress which led him to the profession of writer.
Orwell states that there are four great motives for writing which are typical for any writer. Orwell discusses sheer egoism, the writer’s aesthetic enthusiasm, pays attention to the historical impulse, and focuses on the political purpose.
In spite of the fact these motives can be presented in different proportions, all of them can be used to characterize a writer. The third part of the essay reflects Orwell’s personal motives in writing and the development of his style which is rather public-spirited” because Orwell wanted to reflect the social issues in writing
Following Orwell’s motives, it is possible to state that all writing is political to some extent because the political purpose is always present in writing. According to Orwell,no book is genuinely free from political bias”  The essay gives a great insight to an awesome mind and intellect at work..

"From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.
I was the middle child of three, but there was a gap of five years on either side, and I barely saw my father before I was eight. For this and other reasons I was somewhat lonely, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my schooldays. I had the lonely child's habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life. Nevertheless the volume of serious — i.e. seriously intended — writing which I produced all through my childhood and boyhood would not amount to half a dozen pages. I wrote my first poem at the age of four or five, my mother taking it down to dictation. I cannot remember anything about it except that it was about a tiger and the tiger had ‘chair-like teeth’ — a good enough phrase, but I fancy the poem was a plagiarism of Blake's ‘Tiger, Tiger’. At eleven, when the war or 1914-18 broke out, I wrote a patriotic poem which was printed in the local newspaper, as was another, two years later, on the death of Kitchener. From time to time, when I was a bit older, I wrote bad and usually unfinished ‘nature poems’ in the Georgian style. I also attempted a short story which was a ghastly failure. That was the total of the would-be serious work that I actually set down on paper during all those years.
However, throughout this time I did in a sense engage in literary activities. To begin with there was the made-to-order stuff which I produced quickly, easily and without much pleasure to myself. Apart from school work, I wrote vers d'occasion, semi-comic poems which I could turn out at what now seems to me astonishing speed — at fourteen I wrote a whole rhyming play, in imitation of Aristophanes, in about a week — and helped to edit a school magazines, both printed and in manuscript. These magazines were the most pitiful burlesque stuff that you could imagine, and I took far less trouble with them than I now would with the cheapest journalism. But side by side with all this, for fifteen years or more, I was carrying out a literary exercise of a quite different kind: this was the making up of a continuous ‘story’ about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. As a very small child I used to imagine that I was, say, Robin Hood, and picture myself as the hero of thrilling adventures, but quite soon my ‘story’ ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw. For minutes at a time this kind of thing would be running through my head: ‘He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted on to the table, where a match-box, half-open, lay beside the inkpot. With his right hand in his pocket he moved across to the window. Down in the street a tortoiseshell cat was chasing a dead leaf’, etc. etc. This habit continued until I was about twenty-five, right through my non-literary years. Although I had to search, and did search, for the right words, I seemed to be making this descriptive effort almost against my will, under a kind of compulsion from outside. The ‘story’ must, I suppose, have reflected the styles of the various writers I admired at different ages, but so far as I remember it always had the same meticulous descriptive quality.
When I was about sixteen I suddenly discovered the joy of mere words, i.e. the sounds and associations of words. The lines from Paradise Lost
So hee with difficulty and labour hard
Moved on: with difficulty and labour hee.
which do not now seem to me so very wonderful, sent shivers down my backbone; and the spelling ‘hee’ for ‘he’ was an added pleasure. As for the need to describe things, I knew all about it already. So it is clear what kind of books I wanted to write, in so far as I could be said to want to write books at that time. I wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes, and also full of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their own sound. And in fact my first completed novel, Burmese Days, which I wrote when I was thirty but projected much earlier, is rather that kind of book.
I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a writer's motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:
(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

(iv) Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate from person to person and from time to time. By nature — taking your ‘nature’ to be the state you have attained when you are first adult — I am a person in whom the first three motives would outweigh the fourth. In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties. As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of pamphleteer. First I spent five years in an unsuitable profession (the Indian Imperial Police, in Burma), and then I underwent poverty and the sense of failure. This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes, and the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism: but these experiences were not enough to give me an accurate political orientation. Then came Hitler, the Spanish Civil War, etc. By the end of 1935 I had still failed to reach a firm decision. I remember a little poem that I wrote at that date, expressing my dilemma:

A happy vicar I might have been
Two hundred years ago
To preach upon eternal doom
And watch my walnuts grow;

But born, alas, in an evil time,
I missed that pleasant haven,
For the hair has grown on my upper lip
And the clergy are all clean-shaven.

 And later still the times were good,
We were so easy to please,
We rocked our troubled thoughts to sleep
On the bosoms of the trees.

All ignorant we dared to own
The joys we now dissemble;
The greenfinch on the apple bough
Could make my enemies tremble.

But girl's bellies and apricots,
Roach in a shaded stream,
Horses, ducks in flight at dawn,
All these are a dream.

It is forbidden to dream again;
We maim our joys or hide them:
Horses are made of chromium steel
And little fat men shall ride them.
I am the worm who never turned,
The eunuch without a harem;
Between the priest and the commissar
I walk like Eugene Aram;

And the commissar is telling my fortune
While the radio plays,
But the priest has promised an Austin Seven,
For Duggie always pays.

I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls,
And woke to find it true;
I wasn't born for an age like this;
Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?

The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. Everyone writes of them in one guise or another. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows. And the more one is conscious of one's political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one's aesthetic and intellectual integrity.
What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.
It is not easy. It raises problems of construction and of language, and it raises in a new way the problem of truthfulness. Let me give just one example of the cruder kind of difficulty that arises. My book about the Spanish civil war, Homage to Catalonia, is of course a frankly political book, but in the main it is written with a certain detachment and regard for form. I did try very hard in it to tell the whole truth without violating my literary instincts. But among other things it contains a long chapter, full of newspaper quotations and the like, defending the Trotskyists who were accused of plotting with Franco. Clearly such a chapter, which after a year or two would lose its interest for any ordinary reader, must ruin the book. A critic whom I respect read me a lecture about it. ‘Why did you put in all that stuff?’ he said. ‘You've turned what might have been a good book into journalism.’ What he said was true, but I could not have done otherwise. I happened to know, what very few people in England had been allowed to know, that innocent men were being falsely accused. If I had not been angry about that I should never have written the book.
In one form or another this problem comes up again. The problem of language is subtler and would take too long to discuss. I will only say that of late years I have tried to write less picturesquely and more exactly. In any case I find that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it. Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. I have not written a novel for seven years, but I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write.
Looking back through the last page or two, I see that I have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. I don't want to leave that as the final impression. All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.

                                                                          THE END


Why I Write is part of Penguin's Great Ideas series,

Monday, 20 January 2020

Thoughts on Davos :2020

The world's richest and most powerful people and  a vehicle for unaccountable corporations to influence governments have gathered in Switzerland on the exclusive luxury resort of  Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting this  coming Tuesday with the supposed  aim of tackling global issues such as populism and increasing inequality, but many observers maintain the forum itself continues to be a symbol  of the ongoing problems worldwide.
 A gathering of - in their own words - "leaders of global society." Heads of government with "top executives of the 1,000 foremost global companies," plus "cultural, societal and thought leaders".But for others  an intolerant unrepresentative  composition of elitist rich individuals serving their own self interests arriving  hypocritically in  their fuel filled jets whilst having  the cheek  to  keep on  talking about climate change.
Currently we have  shifts in foreign policy and a climate emergency — just to name some of the main challenges facing global leadership. In the words of Davos attendee and the former Prime Minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, there’s a “new world disorder” that needs to be addressed.
We can be  certain that very little of value will come from Davos, as the  architects of global capitalism bask behind closed doors. it is guaranteed that they will  keep forgetting the  issues of justice and rights that the world is crying out for  and the urgent progress on inequality, poverty, climate change and war. The solutions will not be found in Davos, where sheer power and wealth is  one of the defining factors. that does  not represent those  with much less, the 99%.
Climate change and inequality increasingly impacts us,all, yet  the powers-that-be continue  to be inclined to construct a Fortress World to protect their privileges, borders, and market system,  while  at same time  propping up  global capitalism that is not only  not equipped to offer solutions , but  is leaving millions upon millions in misery  and destroying our planet.
Meanwhile  the  world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth between them than a combined 4.6 billion people, new research has claimed. In a study  international charity Oxfam called on governments to implement policies that may help to reduce wealth inequality.
“If everyone were to sit on their wealth piled up in $100 bills, most of humanity would be sitting on the floor,” its authors said.
“A middle-class person in a rich country would be sitting at the height of a chair. The world’s two richest men would be sitting in outer space.”
The world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth between them than a combined 4.6 billion people, new research has claimed.
 Oxfam called on governments to implement policies that may help to reduce wealth inequality.A 0.5% increase in taxes on the wealthy would generate enough funding to create 117 million jobs in sectors like education and health, according to the researchers.
Other suggestions made by Oxfam to help mitigate inequality included investing in national care systems, challenging sexism, introducing laws to protect carers’ rights, and ending extreme wealth.
“Extreme wealth is a sign of a failing economic system,” the report said. “Governments must take steps to radically reduce the gap between the rich and the rest of society and prioritize the wellbeing of all citizens over unsustainable growth and profit.”
The call for a tax overhaul reinforces the charity’s message ahead of last year’s WEF summit, when Oxfam urged governments to hike tax rates for corporations and society’s richest to reduce wealth disparity.
It is clear to me.that Capitalism  fails us all, whilst the delegates of Davos sip on their champagne, devour their foie gras and caviar we should continue to raise our voices and  make sure they are heard  because we simply  can't continue  to yield  to an unrepresentative political force,  gathering in the interests of the  few to the detriment of the many.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Australia And The Climate Emergency

Right now, a devastating climate disaster is underway in Australia. While some  insist that the situation is part of a phenomenon that is repeated every year, the reality is that the magnitude and gravity of this year’s blazes is unprecedented:At least 27 people have already died, several dozen more are missing,  the conflagration has destroyed an area more than twice the size of Belgium: more than sixty billion square meters, six times the size of the Amazon fires in 2019.
More than a thousand homes have been destroyed, hundreds more damaged, thousands of people evacuated, clouds of smoke the size of Europe… and more than a hundred fires are still active. To pretend that something like this is normal is simply proof that you have no idea what you’re talking about.
Fires are a regular event in Australia. Some species of eucalyptus, in fact, depend on fires to release their seeds. But this year things are different. the fire season started much earlier, coinciding with record high temperatures and following a prolonged drought: exactly what scientists predicted when they calculated the effects of a climate change that is now an emergency.
Estimates for the number of animals lost reach as high as a BILLION. Up to 25,000 koalas may have been wiped out by these fires, with many more badly burned and suffering, and it may spell extinction for the species. 
 Australia’s current season of fires are what happens when an incompetent government is faced with the effects of climate change. Fires and climate change are linked, and to deny this is simply to ignore the facts. But beyond the scientific facts, what Australia’s entry into the Age of Fire, the Pyrocene, proves conclusively are the consequences of irresponsible policy. The fires in Australia are a chronicle of a suicide foretold. Years of conservative governments funded by the coal industry and with no environmental policies have put the country at the bottom of the list of nations working to combat the climate emergency. And when you ignore emergencies, that’s what happens: you suffer their effects.
Australians back strong environmental policies. But the powerful coal lobby in a country that is the leader in exports of this poisonous product, together with a media panorama led by climate change denier Rupert Murdoch plays down or simply ignores the situation, means no action has been taken: hence what we are seeing now. Scott Morrison, surely a candidate for the worst prime minister in the country’s history (and that’s a low bar)  won  the election last year by dismissing the concerns of out of touch city dwellers. His support for Australia's huge coal industry remains undimmed, despite it's role in fuelling the climate crisis.   In a theatrical flourish that has come back to haunt him, Morrison brought a lump of coal into Parliament in 2017 and waved it around while taunting the opposition. “This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared,” he laughed, passing the prop around to his guffawing colleagues for effect.
 Morrison personally called Narendra Modi to congratulate him on his election win and assure him that the proposed Adani coal mine in Queensland — a controversial Indian-owned mega-polluter — would go ahead. With environmental concerns threatening delays he offered a stern directive to all players involved: “Get on with it.”
The fires he says are a crisis that he is dealing with though in spectacularly poor timing, he still found time to disappear on a family holiday to Hawaii), while his country was burning and it would be ‘reckless’ to set a stricter emissions target for Australia or end coal exports, and since returning home, has tried to play down the catastrophe, saying Australia has been through similar crises, but the evidence is against him.
On return from Hawaii he was asked about the international independent report that rated Australia worst out of 57 countries; instantly, he said the report was “not credible”. He could have said “Sorry, I haven’t read it yet”, but his brain told him the report could not be true whatever it said.
 Six months before the fires, and then again in September, Morrison declined to meet with a group of former fire chiefs who wanted to warn him that an emergency like this was on the horizon. Rural firefighting services in Australia are state-based and largely voluntary. They are often woefully underresourced, and some have been subject to recent budget cuts. Volunteer firefighters watched this season approach — the deadly combination of intense heat and Australia’s worst drought in decades — with dread. Where were the extra resources they needed? And why was Australia still refusing to act on the climate emergency?
The fires in Australia show what happens when we ignore the scientists’ warnings. What is happening in Australia will eventually happen everywhere there is something to burn. People will die, houses will go up in flames, species will disappear and things will be lost that can never be recovered. Either we believe that this is an emergency and take action, or we are destined to see more fires around the world.
Months into the crisis, defense forcerce reserves  are finally being deployed to provide much needed logistical support to firefighters. But Morrison still must answer for all the delays, for failing to communicate with rural fire service and for his governments  continued advocacy of fossil fuels.
 “This is not about any one individual,” Morrison said when asked about the public anger he is facing, and in a way he is right. Experts have been warning governments about the effects of warming for at least 30 years, and few in Canberra — or in Washington, or in so many other centers of power around the world — have listened. But no longer can the climate emergency be posed as a problem of the future. We are moving beyond denial and into a hazy twilight of blame. with many coming tp the conclusion that Morrison is  no longer fit to hold the high office of prime minister.
 Our world is in meltdown. While Australia burns, Indonesia has suffered deadly floods – the worst for a decade. And in the Philippines, Typhoon Phanfone hit on Christmas Day, leaving a trail of death and destruction.
All of these tragedies point to an emergency, a serious climate emergency, so let’s not shy away from accepting or responding to it. We have gone way past the discussion stages, and actions need to happen immediately and quickly.
 We have been given 12 years to drastically reduce emissions, lest our world warm to the point where humans face an existential threat.Climate change is a global human rights and environmental issue that affects us all. The bushfires, drought and flooding prove that beyond doubt, in these challenging times, we must continue to stand together and fight fora safe,a sustainable future for all of humanity.
Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds Are Burning’ was the opening song on the 1987 ‘Diesel and Dust’ album. The song was written by Peter Garrett, Rob Hirst and Jim Moginie. It was a protest song about giving land back to the Pinupi, the last people to come in from the Gibson Desert.
Patti Smith recently set the Oils classic up with a poem about Australia’s toxic destruction of the environment. How can we sleep when our Beds are Burning?

"From the centre of the world,
down deep in the earth,
down were the swirl of dreams are made,
long before the beginning of time,
the gods formed a great rock that grows through the desert,
and this rock was ruby in the sun,
red as blood when the sun smiled upon it,
and from its essence man created Dreamtime,
and they slept in its shadows,
but they did not walk upon it,
but then the settlers came and the tourists and those who did not believe,
and they tramped upon it,
and some fell to their death pulling the red skin of the red rock down into the desert,
creating the dust of sorry all the way to the sea,
and beneath the sea, so many leagues beneath the sea,
Great Barrier Reef, red as blood, red as a ruby,
until man infused it with his toxics, with oil, with his plastic,
and choked the life out of it,
until that great red reef bleached white like the bones of saints in the sun

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Unrelenting Pursuit

( Dedicated to Sheila Rendle and Reuben Woolley  two inspirational  figures in my life who ignited  and reinforced my passion for writing)

On a drifting, plaintive afternoon
painting the brevity of words
respecting the universal
the call of  resistance
beyond the tears of sadness
a breath still wrapped in dreams
letting go of life's sorrow
releasing chords of survival
under the day star's unblinking eye
past impassive midday sky
carry on releasing, freedoms voice
in a world full of chaos
this is my battle cry
unbridled and brimming with love
apathetic thoughts ejected
in humanity we must also rage
for continuing justice to rain.
on Palestine and other corners of the globe
where refugees huddle in shelter
the homeless abandoned outside
our words, fearless and resilient
beyond clouds of darkness
bolstered with flowering persistence
hope scatters in all directions.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Legendary Rush drummer Neil Peart dies after 'incredibly brave' cancer battle (September 12, 1952 - January 7, 2020)

Another one bites the dust, Neil Peart legendary drummer and lyricist for the great iconic Canadian rock band Rush has died from brain cancer aged 67.The musician considered one of rock's greatest ever drummers, died on Tuesday in Santa  Monica . California. His longtime band mates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson confirmed his death in a statement  to twitter, which said: It is with broken hearts and the deepest  sadness we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate of over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incrediby brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer. (glioblastoma)
Fellow musicians and fans -- including Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler, actor Jack Black, Questlove, rapper Chuck D, Superchunk's Mac McCaughan, drummer Josh Freese and others . took to social media to pay tribute to the drummer.
His drum theatrics and lyrics catapulted Rush to international fame, and progressive rock itself to the next level. Considered among the most innovative drummers in rock music, Peart was known for the exorbitant amount of drums that he used in his kit, which sometimes numbered over 40. He was also known for his onstage presence and his playing style, known for his carefully crafted, precision drumming and virtuosic solos,Peart  not only created a new kind of drumming that would influence musicians for decades, but was also an eloquent and sophisticated lyricist who would reference everything from classic literature to science fiction touching on mythology, mysticism, humanism , ecology,  self-determination and general outside-the-rock-box themes. Peart expressed affection for political objectivist philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand, culminating in the anthem inspired album '2112' prompting sniping from rock's left leaning establishment.  Side 1 of Rush’s  1976 sci-fi rock opus “2112,” a career-saving album that cemented Rush’s status as progressive rock torchbearers. is a 17-minute song suite inspired by the works of  Rand. The seven-song 2112 side tells the story of a man is a dystopian society where music has been banned. He finds an ancient guitar in his cave and learns how to play it, much to his delight. A dream oracle shows him how the world used to be. But when he takes his discovery to the ruling “priests,” they rebuff and rebuke him: “We have no need for ancient ways, our world is doing fine.” Distraught, the man returns to his cave and sings: “Just think of what my life might be in a world like I have seen. … My spirits are low in the depths of despair. my lifeblood spills over.”
Over time, the vitriol and  criticism of Rush's themes and music itself tailed off. A new generation of rock fans and critics who had grown up with the band, granted them kudos and respect that had not always been apparent in the past.
Rush became  a staple of classic rock radio with such enduring songs as “Tom Sawyer,” “The Spirit of Radio,” “Limelight,” “Subdivisions,” “Closer to the Heart” and “New World Man” — all fueled by Peart’s drumming and lyrics. The group’s popularity was galvanized during the 1980s, when it released six consecutive albums that reached the top 10 on the Billboard 200, from 1980’s Permanent Waves through 1989’s Presto and including the 1981 double live set Exit … Stage Left. After two late ’80s albums peaked in the teens, all of its half-dozen studios sets from 1991’s Roll the Bones through swan song 2012’s Clockwork Angels hit the top 10.
 Often used as a punchline in movies and pop culture, Rush was among the biggest bands of the last 50 years, selling millions of albums in a career that spanned 19 studio albums and multiple live collections as well as elaborate box sets.
Rush’s album sales statistics put them third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band. Rush also ranks 79th in U.S. album sales with 25 million units. Worldwide, the band has moved over 40 million units.
 In 1983, Peart was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame, making him the youngest to ever be inducted. 30 years later, he and the rest of the members of Rush were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Neil Peart apparently despised the over-commercialization of the music industry. Back in 2015, he told Rolling Stone “I set out to never betray the values that 16-year-old had, to never sell out, to never bow to the man. A compromise is what I can never accept.”
Peart, a mysterious personality even in Rush circles, became a sympathetic figure in the late 90's when he was struck by a pair of personal tragedies. The deaths of his wife Jackie, from cancer  and his daughter Selena in a car accident, just 10 months apart, became the stepping stone for his well reviewed 2002 memoir, "Ghost Rider," which chronicled his therapeutic motorcycle journey across North America.
In 2000, Peart remarried and the band started up again. However, after Rush played its final show on August 1, 2015, at the Forum near Los Angeles, capping its 40th anniversary tour in December of 2015, he announced his retirement from music because of health concerns. Peart is survived by his wife, Carrie, and his daughter Olivia. His band suggested anyone wishing to express their condolences should make a donation to a cancer research group or charity in Peart's name.
 I  personally have a lot of Rush LP's and lots of memories associated with listening to them growing up. Sadly, I’ll never get to see Rush live, but at least I’ll always have their incredible music to listen to.  Here are a few of my favorite songs from Rush. RIP to a transformative visionary artist.

Rush - Spirit of the Radio 

Rush - To Sawyer

Rush - The Trees

Rush - Fly by Nighht

Rush -  Xanadu 

Rush - Natural Science

Rush - Red Barchetta