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Let reason be your anchor…

I firmly believe the average person in the British Muslim community is outraged by the sort of atrocity we saw in Manchester last night, in which at least 22 people died and 60 were injured, in the same way any Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist or atheist person with a shred of human decency would be; because none of these philosophies condone the senseless killing of innocent people.

But I expect the headline-hungry media will use this new attack, targeted at kids enjoying a night out, to stoke the fires of hate and suspicion which seem to be smouldering beneath the surface of the world’s psyche at the moment, encouraging division and distrust in communities who do so much to promote multicultural harmony and tolerance.

I fully accept there are a small minority of radical and violent members within any community and I am not naive enough to think for a minute there aren’t also a minority of supposed genuine Muslims who, while not applauding the actions of whoever was responsible for last night’s terrible crime, may not be as progressive in their beliefs as some.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the ones perpetuating the violence are doing so by citing archaic and outdated tenets of a faith which has in recent times, made significant steps in its efforts to more successfully integrate with Western society.
In the same way as there are far right Christian groups who espouse ideas about ethnic and sexual cleansing, take the word of the Bible unbendingly literally, forbid the teaching of evolution, ban abortion and birth control and are generally anything but inclusive and tolerant.
Nobody with any sense would say these “Christians” are living by the general principals of their alleged religion, they’re just cherry-picking outmoded views and debunked superstitious nonsense for their own twisted motives.

I personally don’t hold with the views of any organised religion which go much further than; “Be nice, it doesn’t cost anything. Don’t be a dick and, if you do, expect to get treated like a dick in return”, but we need to recognise when the ones who are doing the killing and spreading the hate are doing so for misguided motives of their own and do not speak for the vast majority of those they CLAIM to represent.

Stop The Hate, it’s up to us.

 

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Reblog: Unapologetically Yours

The second blogger I’d like to introduce you to this week is a young woman with a love for words, a positive outlook on life and a very obvious talent for writing.
This is a post from last week which I thought was especially powerful and shows that wisdom and a social conscience are not reserved for older writers.

Please show your appreciation for miss Nandini Bharadwaj…

Pages That Rustle

monday-musings

I haven’t been able to post since the dawn of March due to an illness and other unforeseen circumstances. All the while I was away, I was brainstorming post ideas. Many of them were interesting and I’m pretty sure I’ll flesh them out soon, but only one made me think twice about writing it, for it wasn’t a ‘safe’ idea. The more I thought about it, the more it struck me as odd because I didn’t feel comfortable talking about whatever struck my fancy on my own blog. I’ve always been a cautious person and deep in my heart I can still sense a certain reluctance warring with my bolder side, begging me to reconsider.

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3 Comments

Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Blogging, Guest spots., Social comment

 

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It’s not you, it’s Them…

On the 23rd of June (just in case you’ve been living under a rock) the UK, or 52% of it anyway, decided to up sticks and leave the EU.

The Brexit, if you must.

The event itself is no longer news of course, nor, after weeks of social media meltdown and the meme-ification of politics, is it very interesting to me any more. In fact, I got so tired of arguing about it on Facebook (yes, this is ME we’re talking about, here) that I couldn’t even be bothered to write a blog post about it. 

As for analysing the tedious process of lying, spinning, vilifying, bribing, begging, blackmailing and bullshitting that passed for campaign rhetoric is concerned, I’ll leave that to the panel show comedians, the journalists and the more erudite writers, such as the lovely Mr Adam Pain, who wrote this excellent post on the subject at the weekend.

No, I’m more interested in a phenomenon a little closer to home, one which stems from the worrying but sadly not unexpected increase in the belief that the sort of casual, lazy racism that has been bubbling under the slimy surface of UK politics since long before Nasty Nigel quaffed his first pint for the cameras, is now perfectly legitimate because “the people have spoken, deal with it!” as I was charmingly informed on one Facebook comments thread, the day after we apparently became Great again.

Because, you see, I married an immigrant.

Wait, come back! No, it’s ok, she’s…well, she’s the good kind.

Before you write and complain, let me explain.

Rhonda is American, I’m pretty sure most of you have picked that up by now. She hails from Michigan and still has a strong accent, (the good kind) having been in the country less than two years. And ever since her visa came through, she’s had that most English of jobs, working in a fish and chip shop.

For the first few weeks that she worked there, clearly a novelty in hardly-cosmopolitan, rural Devon, Rhonda fielded a great many enquiries from punters, mostly along the lines of; “We went on holiday to America, have you been to Disneyland?” or “Now that’s not a Devon accent, not from round here, are you?” These slowly morphed into more specific questions, as regular customers got to know the nice smiley American lady behind the counter, such as; “So, what about that Donald Trump, then?”, as if she alone was capable of deciphering the rabid drivellings of a shriveled, narcissistic raffia-topped satsuma, simply due to being born on the same continent.

But apparently the shop counter small talk has taken a change for the unsavory in the last couple of weeks, since the very next day after the referendum, in fact.

Suddenly, a few casual comments about the result of the vote could turn to; “Yeah, we finally get to send all those bloody immigrants back where they came from…” followed every time by a slowly dawning look of horror on the face of the outspoken punter, and some hurried variation on; “Oh, I don’t mean YOU, of course, I’m talking about THEM, you know, the foreign ones.” 

Now, please don’t think that I’m defending any person’s right against that of another, to come to the UK legally and make it their home, by contributing to society and enriching it with their own cultural values, it is what made us “Great” in the first place, after all. 

And obviously (I hope) I’m not a closet racist with some sort of inferiority complex and secret, directionless rage issues.

But this is what I don’t understand; how is my lovely wife, who never has a bad word to say about anyone, any different from the charming Polish bloke at work, who also seems to see the best in everyone, no matter how ignorant they are? Why is she not tarred with the same “bloody foreigners coming over here stealing jobs from honest British fish and chip shop workers” brush as she undoubtedly would be by some, had she been sporting a neatly wrapped hijab, instead of a smart baseball cap?

Because she’s white, she’s from a country which has English as its first language (yeah, I know, but just go with it, ok?) and she has most of the same cultural and social points of reference as “we” do, that’s why.

I’ve had similar conversations, myself, the sort that include phrases like “fucking yanks, think they know it all…” or.“bloody immigrants, just want to come here and scrounge on our benefits” and rapidly stutter to a halt when I say something like, “Actually, my wife never claims to know it all, and she’s an immigrant, from America. And she got a job as soon as the fiendishly complicated and inhuman visa process allowed her to.”

“Ah” they say, usually with a knowing, wink wink, nudge nudge expression, “but if it had been one of them (insert toe-curling racist epithet here) they’d have got in with no problem at all, you mark my words.” Indeed I will, I will mark them “ignorant bollocks” and ignore them with the contempt they deserve.

Well, maybe not that exact conversation, but you get the idea.

It seems that these subliminal racial hints and in-built preconceptions make Rhonda somehow less foreign than them, at least to the sort of person who instantly equates other, more foreign sounding or, dare I say it, more brown-looking people with “immigrant”, which as a word, is being increasingly used as an insult and, as a demographic, is more and more being seen as a threat to “the British way of life”, whatever that is.

And yet, by the very definition of the word, Rhonda is an immigrant, just as much as my Polish mate at work and the nice lady who works at our local Chinese takeaway are immigrants. Useful, hard working, tax paying and as valuable to society as anyone else who is fortunate enough to call this peaceful country, unravaged by wars, famine or tyranny, home.

The fact that the Brexitastrophe has in some way helped to unmask the petty fears and prejudices of so many people in this, the country I have always been happy to call my home, makes me feel rather ashamed, especially when my wife comes home and tells me she was “disgusted” by some of the comments she heard in the days immediately after the referendum.

So, if you really are that convinced that all immigrants should be sent back to where they came from, or be subject to whatever private version of the final solution has been festering in your head, until the rise of proto-fascist snake oil salesmen like Nicotine Nige and Orange Donnie came along and gave you permission to voice your odious opinions with pride, then please, either have the courage of your convictions and stand by what you say, or, and this is the important part, so pay attention; piss off and go and talk to someone else.

Thank you for your attention.

 

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#atozchallenge: J is for Jingoism…

#atozchallenge: J is for Jingoism…

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I’m aware that a large percentage of my readers are American, (although I’ve never really understood why that is) so I have had plenty of time to gauge attitudes to this particular subject, both on here and on Facebook, where I also have many American friends.

That is why I must qualify this edition of the A-Z challenge and point out, right from the start; that I know perfectly well this post doesn’t apply to the vast majority of you, or even (I hope) to the vast majority of America in general, which makes the whole thing all the more amazing.

Yes, you guessed it, this is another post about the extraordinary phenomenon that is the man they call The Donald, amongst many other, less complimentary names.

I know that I’ve made my views on the self-parodying psychotic orange clown clear in the past and I certainly haven’t changed my opinion since I last mentioned him, but he is becoming so ubiquitous in the media now, it’s almost impossible to go a whole day without at least one or two blobs of his verbal sewerage oozing into our consciousness.
And nobody seems to be capable of telling him that he sounds like a fucking idiot most of the time, that’s what I don’t get.

Ok, admittedly, we aren’t overburdened with scrupulously ethical and morally spotless politicians in the UK; there is currently a scandal involving the shady dealings of our prime minister and his tax affairs (never mind the fact that this is a man who stuck his dick in a dead pig) but even so, that pales into insignificance when compared to Fuckface von Clownstick and his campaign to become the leader of the free world.

I can’t comment on how the presidential race is covered by the American media in America, but I do see a fair amount of U.S. coverage online and there don’t seem to be many journalists, commentators or pundits (other than the laughable Fox “News” and the frankly odious Ann Coulter) who take The Great Drumpf seriously, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Perhaps there are millions of your countrymen (and, unlikely as it may seem, women) who think that any of your leaders could have reached office by making ignorantly sweeping, racist pronouncements, threatening to deport whole sections of society, building walls and bragging about the size of their sex organs on television debates, but I somehow doubt it.
Can you even imagine the incandescent fury that would have resulted if Obama had said half the things this dangerous power junkie has glibly spouted in the name of self-aggrandizement?
It doesn’t bear thinking about.

He seems so utterly convinced that everyone loves him, too, that’s the most incredible thing.
He stands there on his podium, posturing and pontificating, saying nothing of any substance whatsoever, then presumably wonders why the press mercilessly take the piss out of him.

Here’s a speech he made in Albany just yesterday; I’d be deeply impressed if you can detect even the most rudimentary political nuance or hint of a policy from this unhinged helping megalomaniacal word salad:

“You are going to be so proud of your country. Because we’re gonna turn it around, and we’re gonna start winning again! We’re gonna win so much! We’re going to win at every level. We’re going to win economically. We’re going to win with the economy. We’re gonna win with military. We’re gonna win with healthcare and for our veterans. We’re gonna with every single facet.

We’re gonna win so much, you may even get tired of winning. And you’ll say, “Please, please. It’s too much winning. We can’t take it anymore. Mr. President, it’s too much.”
And I’ll say, “No, it isn’t!”

We have to keep winning We have to win more! We’re gonna win more. We’re gonna win so much. I love you, Albany! Get out and vote. You will be so happy. I love you. Thank you. Thank you!”

Well, he’s convinced he’s going to win, that’s for sure.
But what is the prize, that’s the question?
A country divided by hate and paranoia seems to be the obvious answer to that.

Over here, we sit and watch the news with open-mouthed astonishment, not sure whether to laugh hysterically or hide in the basement until it’s all over, because the only alternative to this all being one huge joke is just too frightening to contemplate.
If there is any justice at all, Barack Obama will eventually be seen by history as one of the truly great American presidents, it would be a shame to tear down all that he has achieved, just because it seemed like a bit of a laugh to vote for someone who can play the jingoism game on television and has a mildly amusing wig.

Whether there are enough people dumb enough to seriously consider voting for this out of control snake oil salesman, remains to be seen, but if they do and he actually wins, we’re all going to be worse off, that’s for certain.

#atozchallenge

 
16 Comments

Posted by on April 12, 2016 in A - Z challenge, Social comment

 

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Trump (reblogged from Linda G Hill)…

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Anyone who has been following me for a while probably has a pretty fair idea about my opinion of Donald “Fuckface von Clownstick” Trump and although I have no real wish to grant him the oxygen of publicity in any but the most scathing and derisive way, some other bloggers take a more mature approach. (Which we’ll get to in a minute; the photo is one of mine)

As a British citizen, I am fortunate enough to be sufficiently removed from the unhinged wig womble, that his imminent elevation to the most powerful powerful man on Earth (think about that for a moment; The most powerful man ON EARTH) will not immediately or directly impact on my life. But as we all know (after all, you’re probably reading this thousands of miles away from where I sit typing) the modern world is an increasingly small place and, no matter where we live, global events are now just that; Global.
We should all worry that a man who is so obviously driven by self-interest and an amoral thirst for personal power is so close to being the representative of one of the most influential nations on the planet and that makes it all of our responsibilities to call upon those who have the ability to prevent that from happening, to do so for the good of us all.

One heartfelt and straightforward reiteration of this, my not very humble opinion, was just posted by one of the most popular, generous and genuine people that I’ve met since I started blogging on WordPress and I’m pleased to reblog her post here.

Ladies and gentlemen, Linda G Hill…

I feel nauseous just typing the name. But I’ve stayed quiet long enough. I find I have no choice but to speak out. Why, you ask? I realize the chances of changing the mind of anyone who is determined to put him in office is slim to none. But there are people out there whose voices might be heard. My ultimate plea is to those who can make a difference. Also, I feel by not saying anything, my silence in a way condones the possibility that my children and grandchildren will live in a far less free world than I have enjoyed.

I am Canadian. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I have no say in who becomes President of the United States. That is up to the conscience of the society south of my home’s border. But the fact is, the fateful decision to elect this…

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Just Jot It January: Day seven…

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You’ll be pleased to know that I don’t have time to waffle on too much for today’s Just Jot It January post, so I thought I’d try a little experiment instead.

I’m guessing (hoping) that bloggers are a more reasonable and, frankly, saner bunch than the average Facebook keyboard warrior and I’d be interested to know what people think of something I saw on the political trolls’ favourite virtual playground today.

I don’t usually post memes on the blog, purely because someone else created them and I like to post original content, but I’m going to break that habit today to see what type of feedback I get from my readers, especially those of you in America.

I’ve already reposted it on my Facebook page and I shall post it again here, along with the caption I added, just to see what sort of reaction I get, if any.
Please excuse the strong language, but this sort of thing really gets my goat (however, please feel free to disagree or debate the point with me).

So, brace yourselves, here goes:

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Because, ummm….ah yes, terminal fucking stupidity.

There’s this thing called “history” which appears in these other things called “books” and it will inform those who can “read” that practically every word of this meme is complete bollocks.

#utterfuckingnonsense

So, over to you.

#JusJoJan

Pingback to Linda G Hill.

 

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Accidents will happen…

image I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but almost fifty years ago now, I was involved in a serious accident.

All things considered, I was very fortunate, many people who have had a similar accident find it very difficult to adjust to life afterwards.
It can blight people’s entire lives, making it nearly impossible to come to terms with the consequences of a random event that none of us have any control over.

Some of those who suffer accidents like mine are destined to be shunned by a society that seems incapable of adjusting to things it either can’t, or doesn’t want to understand.

When I was young, despite the natural inclination of some children to be spiteful and mean (like it or not, for all their supposed innocence, we all know kids can be little bastards to each other from time to time) I didn’t really register the fact that my accident made me any different to anyone else.
Maybe that’s an indication of how lucky I was, growing up where I did, or maybe I was just less sensitive to my environment at the time, I don’t know.

But whatever the reason, I made it through my childhood relatively unscathed by the sort of prejudice suffered by those whose accidents left them with more obvious disadvantages.

It was only when I reached my teens I think, that it occurred to me how hard it must be to deal with the simple business of everyday life, when the way people see you is dictated purely by an event you had no control over; something which, given the choice, you would probably avoid at all costs.

Of course all these years later, like most of us who experienced such accidents at an early age, I’ve become desensitized to something I’ve lived with my whole life, and now it only bothers me when I see others who have suffered even worse accidents than mine and are still coming to terms with the irreversible and sometimes horribly damaging consequences.

Depressingly, in recent times, the ones who suffer the most at the hands of the cruel and ignorant amongst us become bitter and disillusioned, in some cases withdrawing from society altogether, only to find that this also marks them apart from the rest and so begins the whole sorry cycle once more.

Name calling and bullying escalate into hateful abuse and physical violence, all because of an accident that befell a person just like me or you, years, sometimes even decades before, an accident none of them had any control over and which they certainly did not choose.

That isn’t to say that all of the victims of such accidents hide themselves away from society, indeed most of us interact with the rest of the world perfectly normally.
In the same way that there are also accident victims who turn on society for reasons of their own, justifying their actions with twisted logic and perverted ideologies, but we have the sense to see that they don’t represent the views of the majority.

Because your family and friends, the people you work with and the strangers you pass in the street, the bloke that cut you up on the motorway and the pretty girl you flirted with in the pub, the waiter that served you on holiday and the homeless man in the bus shelter, all of them had accidents just like me.
And like you too.

I’m a white European male.

My life is easy.

I don’t have to walk miles every day to get water.
My house hasn’t been hit by machine gun fire or a barrel bomb today.
I haven’t had to flee with my family from a land wracked by a war I don’t understand.
I’m not forced to work for little or no pay, just so I can live in a slum.
And I don’t live under the oppressive threat of arrest, imprisonment or worse, just for saying what I think.

Almost fifty years ago, I suffered the universal accident of birth.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

 

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Reblog: The War Within – A World of Pain.

image Intro by dalecooper57.

Sometimes there is no way to articulate how we feel about something until the enormity of what has happened is allowed to sink in sufficiently for us to mentally process it.

I suppose, as a species, this sort of internal emotional analysis is what prevents us from reacting to the red mist that inevitably descends when we hear about the kind of appalling atrocity that was perpetrated on the people of Paris on Friday.

Otherwise “we” would have gone to all-out war with “those Muslims” a long time ago, right?

Because “we” are clearly in agreement (if you believe social media is a fair barometer of public opinion) and “we” just aren’t going to take it anymore.

It’s time that “we” stood up to these **insert racial stereotype here**, coming over here with their foreign ways, deserting their own crappy, war-torn countries, forcing their children to walk hundreds of miles across inhospitable and dangerous territory, just so they can infiltrate the society they made such an effort to travel the aforementioned hundreds of miles to get to in the first place, then commit heinous acts of terrorism in an effort to force their new home to conform to the strict theological regime imposed on them in the country they have spent so much time, money, blood, sweat and tears escaping.

“We” can be bloody stupid sometimes, there’s no doubt about it.

The horror of the Paris attacks was piped into our collective consciousness, via TV news and social media, at such an immediate and constant rate for the last two days, it was only today that I truly managed to take in the full scale of events that unfolded in one of the most open and friendly cities I have visited.

Parisians live their lives on the city streets, its parks and boulevards providing an alternative to the English habit of closing ourselves off in our little patches of garden and this sense of urban community was what the terrorists exploited.
Who would anticipate that a man in black with an AK47 is going to walk up to a busy pavement café and start killing people?

After all, this isn’t Lebanon is it?

However, just to show that terror, inhumanity and murder have no borders or logic, 43 people were killed and hundreds more injured in what appears to be a coordinated attack in Lebanon’s largely-Muslim capital, Beirut, on Friday too.

Strangely, what “we” think of this appears to have gone almost entirely unrecorded on social networks, whilst a growing element of what I’m beginning to think of as “Facebook fundamentalists” seem less interested in grieving the loss of yet more victims of religious intolerance, ignorance and hatred and more focused on how these tragedies can be perverted to their own agendas, including the promotion of bewigged goon, Fuckface von Clownstick and his continued campaign to become king of his own walled-in world of gun-crazy misanthropes.

Meanwhile, the usual small tales of huge heroism and stoic resistance began to emerge from the carnage of Paris.
Here is a clip of Jon Snow’s interview with Parisian doctor, Louise Hefez, telling how she tended to victims of the café shooting that she and her friends miraculously survived.

All we can hope is that there are a lot more people out there who can see past the jingoistic polemic of right-wing hate groups and self-interested politicians than the “we” who apparently represent us on the feeds of our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

One man who can be relied on to hit exactly the right tone at moments like this is Adam Pain, who posted the most beautiful piece this morning and it is with his permission that I am reposting it here.
Please read his post at the link below, it has more heart and thoughtfulness than any coldly factual news report could ever hope to achieve and will hopefully make you hug your loved ones that little bit closer tonight.

http://aworldofpain.co.uk/the-war-within/

#standwithparis

 

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Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Food for thought…

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For today’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday post, (for which I am once again late) Linda G Hill left us the following prompt;

” “beef.”  Use it any way you’d like.”

Food for thought.

I was preparing a beef casserole for dinner this yesterday evening, glancing now and then at my phone, my Facebook newsfeed scrolling past with its usual menu of cats, memes, weird videos, duck-faced selfies and memes of cats, when one of the more unsavoury status updates about immigrants “ruining the English way of life and diluting traditional family values” oozed its way down the screen.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m cooking I tend to drift off and get lost in my thoughts a bit and while I floured the beef and chopped the vegetables I reflected on what “traditional family values” amount to these days.

For instance; this yesterday afternoon, after doing the mundane weekend chores in town, I came home to spend a relaxed Saturday with the family, but within ten minutes of sitting down we were all engrossed in our separate electronic devices.
I was checking my e-mails and catching up with the many blogs I follow, Rhonda was chatting with friends in the States on Facebook whilst simultaneously tending her virtual farmyard and Audrey was tapping away on my tablet, giving us a running commentary on the latest dragon she’d managed to breed.
We were together, we were each aware of the others’ presence, but we weren’t exactly interacting with each other.

Not that we don’t do stuff together all the time of course, in fact it’s often the reason I’m late posting SoCS, there just isn’t the time to fit all my Saturday into Saturday.

Tonight Last night, Audrey and I had our weekly appointment with Dr Who (“Is this going to be gross? It is isn’t it?”) and today there is a pumpkin to carve, a visit to feed the ducks and a walk (or scoot) in the autumn sunshine, just normal simple pleasures to share.

I occasionally wonder if the 21st century’s latest tools of social separation, mobile phones, are killing conversation and turning us into mindless zombies with no imagination, as we’re always being warned, (ironically, via snarky memes on social media) but on balance I think it’s more like social evolution.

Because is it really any different to the three of us all sitting around, reading three different books or magazines?

After all, practically the whole of human existence (not to mention the entire history of the universe) is available on the internet, so maybe we should be a more forgiving of a generation who will grow up with all that knowledge at their fingertips, they might end up being smarter than us.

Speaking for myself, if anything, having all this personal technology has made me more, not less, creative. My first forays into writing were purely down to the advent of the smartphone; the worlds Audrey has built in her dragon game and with Minecraft clearly take plenty of imagination and as for Facebook, well, if it wasn’t for that little addiction, the three of us never would have met in the first place.

Meanwhile, outside the kitchen window, the people from the flat upstairs were clearing a space on the small enclosed patio that serves as their only outside space in order to erect a rotary clothes line.

The family are Hungarian and speak only minimal English, but they are friendly enough and always say hello when we bump into them in the neighborhood, along with various members of their extended family, who are regular visitors.
Yesterday was no exception and before long there were nine of them crammed onto the tiny hedge-lined square of concrete, all offering advice on the positioning of the dryer, inspecting the sturdiness of its construction, or helping to move slabs aside, giggling kids dodging in and out, cups of coffee appearing from upstairs, laughter and lively conversation in a strange language and lots of cheerful faces.

It made me smile just to watch them and when the patriarch, happily surrounded by his chattering family, noticed me watching with amusement, he grinned hugely and raised his coffee cup in salute. I waved back, pleased to be included in their impromptu gathering.

In short, exactly the type of happy domestic scene that most of us probably remember from our childhoods, albeit filtered through the soft and fuzzy, rosy coloured glasses of nostalgia; three generations of the same family, happy in the simple pleasure of each others’ company.

If this is the dilution of English family values that the dullards on Facebook are talking about, I for one think we’re going to be ok for a while yet.

#SoCS

Pingback to Linda G Hill.

 

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On the turning away…

I doubt this is the first post you’ve read today on this subject and I’m sure it won’t be the last, so maybe that means I shouldn’t even bother.

You might even see what it’s about and scroll on past. After all, I’m sure you all have busy lives and you only have so much time to spend on the internet.

“Compassion fatigue”, I think that’s the phrase somebody once coined to describe the phenomenon.
In a world so filled with tragedy and injustice, we, as a society, merely the more fortunate spectators of other people’s distress, become hardened and inured to their suffering, somehow managing to push them to the back of our minds, just another unpleasant statistic.

But the situation in which Europe finds itself today is not something we can turn our faces away from, the sheer weight of human destitution and degradation that plays out on our television screens daily cannot be ignored or shrugged off as “not our problem”, not when we are all supposed to be part of the same global community.

The refugee crisis that now faces our world is second only to the evacuation of civilians during the holocaust of the second world war, when millions of people were tortured, murdered and persecuted under the Nazi and Soviet regimes.
During that time, public opinion was so strong that a huge mobilisation of aid began, culminating in the formation of the Kindertransport, a series of humanitarian rescue missions which brought up to 10,000 children across war-torn Europe to the safety of the UK.
These innocent victims, many of them Jews who had escaped extermination by Hitler’s death squads, had already suffered terribly at the hands of the advancing forces which had invaded their homelands and the majority of them would never see their families again, their parents murdered in places with names that will forever live in international infamy;  Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

The children, most of whom arrived by train at London’s Liverpool Street station, were welcomed by a charitable nation, now itself at war with Germany, were clothed, fed, educated and cared for, staying with volunteer foster families or at hostels which were set up in hotels, farms and schools around Britain.
Not only were these refugees given respite from the suffering they had endured in their native countries, but after the war they were allowed to remain here permanently and were given British citizenship, or relocated to Canada, Israel, America and Australia where they were finally able to make new lives for themselves, albeit as orphans from the most destructive conflict in human history.

Fast forward seventy years and look at how far we’ve come since those days:
We no longer live in the blitz-ravaged and impoverished post-war nation we inhabited back then; despite the minor inconvenience of enforced “austerity” brought about by the worldwide financial meltdown of a few years ago, we are still a prosperous country which benefits from all the material trappings of western civilisation; our lives, for the most part, are comparatively easy and trouble-free, our needs catered for by a welfare state that so many brave men and women died to protect from those who would enslave us.
And yet the spirit of global charity and accepted duty of care that we once showed to others less fortunate than ourselves seems to have declined exponentially in relation to our increase in wealth and prosperity.

At least that would appear to be the case if some of the right-wing press and hate-filled posts on social media are to be believed.

The number of vitriolic newspaper headlines, status updates and rabble-rousing political speeches denouncing displaced migrants and refugees as “lazy spongers”, “scroungers”, “benefit cheats” and, paradoxically, undeserving recipients of “British jobs” grows every day, despite the compelling evidence that a great many of those requesting asylum are fleeing persecution, incarceration, torture or even death in their own countries.

The weasel words of politicians and journalists, who claim the country is “full” and therefore unable to accept a few thousand extra members into our already rich, multi-cultural society, most of whom are simply looking for a safe place to work hard and raise families, make me almost ashamed to be British sometimes.

Many of those children who were rescued by the Kindertransport in Europe’s darkest days not only went on to become valuable and hard working members of society, some actually volunteered for the armed forces and died fighting for the country that had taken them in during their hour of need.
Any of those that survived, looking at their adopted country now, must despair at the neglect and misanthropy shown by some that share the land they swore to defend.

It seems that only in the last few days has the enormity of the crisis sunk in to the national consciousness, and then only at the price of adding one more innocent life to the toll of those needlessly sacrificed, this time on a beach usually thronged by holidaying tourists.
Aylan Kurdi, a three year old boy who travelled to Turkey with his family to escape ISIS and the brutal situation in Syria, drowned in his father’s arms, along with his five year old brother and their mother, when their small boat capsized on the final leg of a journey that should have saved them from a life most of us cannot imagine.

Only the heartbreaking photo of an aid worker carrying Aylan’s lifeless body away from the spot where he was found, washed up on the shore of a foreign land he knew nothing about, now seems to have galvanised our unforgivably slow-moving government (finally bowing to an increasing public outcry) into taking action.

Too little, too late.

It has once more fallen to private citizens and charity organisations to take on the responsibilities that we would usually expect to be shouldered by the state; many UK families and local authorities unilaterally offering places for refugees to stay and settling up collections of basic essentials, to be distributed amongst those still trapped in the transit camps, both in the middle east and Europe.

{The problem isn’t only in Europe, see a report on another disturbing story HERE}

The next step should be doing something about the estimated 11 MILLION empty properties, enough to put a huge dent in not only the current refugee crisis but also the domestic homelessness problem that has plagued many countries on the continent for years.

In the seventy years since the end of a war that decimated whole countries in Europe, I don’t believe that the charitable spirit of the British people which demanded the humanitarian rescue of holocaust victims has deteriorated to the point of not caring about displaced and persecuted refugees, but the continuous drip-drip-drip of negativity in the press and the rise of bigoted hate groups, especially on social media, has had the knock-on effect of making us question the legitimacy of genuine claims for asylum, no matter how horrific evidence to the contrary may be.

It’s a sad day indeed when it takes the hopeless grief of a broken father, burying his entire family in the full glare of the news media, to make us remember that we need to remain human and compassionate, despite the inescapable fact that, if not for an accident of birth, that could have been you or I, paying the ultimate price for the sake of freedom.

I will leave the last word to Pink Floyd and the song from which I borrowed the title of this post: “On The Turning Away”.

[Should you wish to assist in the aid effort, please consider donating to The Red Cross or to the independent charity Calaid, set up to help refugees still caught up in the transit camps in Calais.]

 

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