Occasional verse (God, human rights etc.)

0. Most recently, I commented on the pending extradition of Richard O’Dwyer (see update), which seemed a fitting case for a stirring come-all-ye. As follows:

THE BALLAD OF RICHARD O’DWYER

 

Hear me out, listen up while I tune up my lyre

To sing you this ballad of Richard O’Dwyer;

Twenty-three years of age, it’s a terrible tale

He’s condemned to serve time in a cruel US jail.

 

Now young Richard was bright, he acquired quite a knack

Of publishing links on his site TV Shack.

If his actions were iffy, in England they’re legal

But a dark evil crime in the land of the eagle.

 

Uncle Sam wanted Richard, he’s got extradition

It was quicker with Afghans, he just used rendition.

Wherever you are, and whatever your IQ

The Yankees will bring you in if they don’t like you.

 

So come all ye bold students and workers and bankers

Who are ground neath the heel of the grim ConDem wankers

Stand up for young Richard, fight ad infinitum

Our liberty’s lost if our courts extradite him.

1.Here, to start with, is my response to a Birkbeck course on Human Rights Law, particularly the bit about refugees. As can be seen, it owes a lot to Louis MacNeice’s ‘Bagpipe Music’.

Bye-bye Human Rights

It’s no go the human rights, it’s no go the asylum seekers
All we want is Givenchy Homme and some fluorescent sneakers.
They’ve switched to IP and company law, with briefs in big fat folders
They cross the Strand on their lunch break with padding on their shoulders.

Ahmed Jones had a great stag night awash with rum and cider
Woke up in Gitmo chained to a bed, the number two in Al-Qaida.
His brother parked near Sizewell B, he said a satnav error;
Now he’s locked up for forty years, a mastermind of terror.

It’s no go the ICC, it’s no go Ocampo.
All we want is Van Gogh’s chair and a sonnet or two by Rimbaud

Shah and Islam were Paki broads whose husbands duffed them over.
Lords said they were a PSG so now they’re here in clover.

It’s no go the charities, it’s no go the mitzvahs;
It’s no go the Amnesty with their endless political prisoners;
It’s no go well-founded fear it’s no go the convention.
Badiou says that human rights are an imperialist invention.

Mr Adan was full of fear, his nation was Somali
But they’re all as scared as him back there, so he’s home to join the party.
M.A. kept changing his story – his lies were quite a tissue;
He may be shot or he may be not, but he’s off to Mogadishu.

It’s no go the rights of man, much less the rights of ladies;
Of gays or blacks or disabled folk, of children or of babies.
The ships are crammed with refugees, we pack them into cages;
But we still have to foot the bloody bill, cause the jailer wants his wages.

Notes
ICC: International Criminal Court. Ocampo: prosecutor of the ICC.
Shah and Islam [1999] 2AC 629 HL; the House of Lords ruled that Pakistani women might be considered a ‘particular social group’ (PSG) under the 1951 Refugee Convention (because of the status of women in Pakistan), and so need protection.
Well-founded fear [of persecution] is what you need to qualify as a Convention refugee.
Badiou: see his remarks on human rights, particularly in Ethics.
R. ex parte Adan v. SSHD, [1998] UKHL 15. The Lords ruled that since fear was universal in Somalia – everyone was afraid of persecution, for good reasons – Adan had to show a ‘differential element’ (extra fear) to qualify for Convention protection. This has been contested in other courts (not in the UK).
MA (Somalia) [2010] UKSC 49. The Supreme Court ruled that although MA did not seem to belong to any of the groups who were safe (didn’t get killed) in Mogadishu, he had to be sent back there since he had told so many lies that it was impossible to be certain about it.

2. This piece, as can easily be seen, dates from 2008, and is an attempt to meditate on depression, consumption and such.

 

GOD’S CHRISTMAS IDEA

God’s losing in the Christmas wars

Waged every year with Santa Claus;

Is the theme peace, goodwill on earth

Kings, shepherds, angels, virgin birth?

That’s God’s idea of what would be

Fit for his son’s nativity.

But from his sleigh, old Santa’s view

Is focused on the shopping queue;

He sees a feast of neverending

Glitz, food, drink and above all spending;

The time of year when one and all

Pile in the car, drive down the mall

And fill the boot with beers and Scotches

Barbie dolls, DVDs and watches.

Although the priest and Geldof plead

That Christmas is for Those In Need,

God sees with the advancing years

Their arguments fall on deaf ears.

‘Well, this year’, God thinks, ‘I intend

The shopping spree at last to end;

Investors I shall drive insane

With greedy dreams of sub-prime gain

Till, when they see their Northern Rock

Is built on sand, they’ll run amok.

The banks will fail, the markets crash

The people all run out of cash;

Nay, the worst beggary of all

Let even sacred Woolies fall.

And folk will realize, mired in debt,

Treasure on earth is a bad bet.

As their heat fails and lighting dims

Huddled in church they’ll sing me hymns.

Oh hark, the herald angels sing

Get on your knees, cast off your bling!

Flee the alluring ATM

And turn to little Bethlehem.

The wine they’ll drink, the wafer munch

And pray their credit may not crunch.’

God spoke, all-powerful; and lo

As he decreed, ‘twas even so.

The market’s fall was truly noble,

Grand, outsize, ever-growing, global,

From home-owners in Billericay

To the august Dow-Jones and Nikkei.

Till the world found its debt was worth

Three times more than the planet Earth.

The people cried, the bankers wailed;

But for the rest, God’s great plan failed -

In economics he’s a hick

Clueless on what makes markets tick;

And his psychology’s as dire

His one idea, threaten hell fire -

A fate that’s scarcely to be feared,

The nation’s young’s on Dawkins reared.

He didn’t know that, in recession

We eat and drink to fight depression;

Much less that vendors always win

By slashing goods to tempt you in.

See, as before, how Tesco’s crammed

As hosts of cash-strapped debtors damned

Still load their carts with cut-price lagers

Turkeys to fill a million Agas.

The people’s sole economy

To spend no more on charity:

‘We’ve scrapped the jet, we go by bus’

(They cry) ‘This year, the poor is us.’

Empty the church, the megastore

Is still more crowded than before.

The end is clear: God’s scheme’s gone west,

Christmas by Santa repossessed.

3. This was written around 2004 in part fulfilment of a diploma in Theology (only joking, folks). The various authorities referred to – Plantinga etc – are serious scholars who have tried to deal philosophically with the problem of evil (why does God allow it?) – alias ‘theodicy’.
God reads theodicy (Sympathy for God).
God, old, infirm, set in his ways,

Reads his old favourites these days.

His Son persuades him; forced to yield,

He puts down David Copperfield,

Shakespeare, the Inferno and the Odyssey

And picks up Readings in Theodicy.

But scarcely has he turned the page

Than he’s seized by a dreadful rage

Such as the angels can’t recall

Since Noah’s flood, or Adam’s fall.

He tears his hair, he rends his robe:

‘Have they not read the Book of Job?

These puny philosophic men

Know me omnip, omnisc, and ben.

And yet would call me to account

Why evil’s there, and why the amount.

For centuries I’ve put my trust in

My faithful servant Saint Augustine,

Who put these humans in their place:

All damned, unless saved by my grace.

Yet now they’d place on me restriction

To keep myself from contradiction,

And if my actions should entail

P with not-P, they start to wail.

Why, I could raise my little finger,

And fire would consume Plantinga;

Or for his pride and mortal sin burn

Endlessly in damnation Swinburne.

And all this bleating talk by Hick

Of making souls – it makes me sick.

How come they haven’t asked before

Why aren’t the evils even more?

Is this why I spend sleepless nights

Redrafting texts on human rights;

Or order my celestial armies

To cut the number of tsunamis?

Hitler was evil, granted – well,

Hitler is dead and gone to Hell;

A warning to the genocidal,

But, it would seem, a warning idle.

They didn’t like Saddam Hussein,

I smote him; and they still complain.

No pain, no gain; I’ve never ceased

In my own realm, the Middle East,

To send my warriors Abrahamic

Judeo-Christian or Islamic

To combat in just wars for good;

They whinge about the loss of blood.

Iraq’s the land of Adam’s birth.

I laid foundations for the earth.

Where were you? Stiff-necked generation

Who can’t admire my great creation.

The broad-backed hippopotamus;

The wondrous duck-billed platypus -

Where was I?’ Jesus sees he’s cross;

The Holy Spirit’s at a loss.

They take the book back (Jesus weeps)

And read Aquinas till God sleeps.

 

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