DAY 117: Je est un autre

January 13th, 2015 § 0 comments

As famed French poet Arthur Rimbaud used to say, though I’m not sure what he meant by it. If you’re like me, reader (probably not, I picture you as a tough old black policewoman or a willowy young PLO militant – what a rich fantasy life I lead -) you’ll have been bombarded by endless emails with all sorts of messages, anything between ‘Charlie were racist and had it coming‘; and ‘Charlie refuses to mean anything’; and ‘what about Anders Breivik and all the Christian mass murderers, not to mention the governments of X, Y and Z’; and ‘wasn’t it embarrassing how Bibi behaved on the march‘ and

6a00d83451b71f69e201b8d0be34ca970c-400wiPhotoshopped picture of world leaders from a Haredi newspaper, with no females

(most recently) ‘did you see how the photo of the world leaders marching is a complete fake as there’s no crowd behind them’. So that finally your moral compass is like spaghetti – how’s that for a mixed metaphor? – and you stop reading emails at all. Which might be the most moral and rational response.


Haaretz cartoon comparing Charlie deaths with the deaths of 13 journalists in the attacks on Gaza – which, not surprisingly, has itself attracted death threats.

Myself, I tend, in a spirit of caution, to avoid attacks on world religions, although attacks on the state can be equally hazardous. God, who in my view is the most dangerous character of all, I did criticize for various actions like the Boxing Day tsunami – see my poem ‘God reads theodicy’ which you can find at, by scrolling down a ways.This was written back in 2004 as I say, and God hasn’t yet sent anyone to shoot me, or even – as with Job – smitten me with sore boils. (But he smote Job – or rather, allowed Satan to smite him – for being blameless.

Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils c.1826 by William Blake 1757-1827

Typical.) It’s true I haven’t portrayed him in cartoons, can’t draw and better things to do with my time.

I should get back to Rimbaud and the problem of identity, but that might lead us into Lacan, the mirror stage and schizophrenia and disturb my sleep even more.

In other news, Kim Sengupta writes of 500 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean, largely because of European racist exclusionary policies:

‘They were four boys, cousins, killed by Israeli missiles while playing on a beach in July. The lethal attack took place next to a hotel where journalists were staying and received international media coverage, a dreadful and poignant symbol of the terrible suffering of Gaza’s people during last summer’s savage war.

The funeral of the Bakr boys, sons of fishermen aged between seven and 11, took place against a background thunder of more bombs landing. It was then that Mowfaq, another cousin, decided that he must get his family away from a land which had been repeatedly visited by conflict. “Even if we don’t lose anyone else this time, who knows what will happen the next time,” he told his brother.

Two months later, Mowfaq took his family of eight on a journey which they hoped would lead to new lives, new opportunities away from death and destruction. After slipping across the Egyptian border under the cover of darkness, they were taken on a secret voyage from the port of Dalmietta.

pg-29-gaza-3Ayman Bakr is trying to find out how his relatives died

Four days later, near Malta, their boat was sunk by the traffickers, ramming it with another one.

Around 500 people, 100 of them children, drowned when the smugglers rammed the boat with another one after a violent row with the passengers. Mowfaq and his family, including a one-year-old granddaughter, Malak, were among them. They were not the only members of the Bakr clan to die. There were 28 others, who had moved to Syria seven years ago and were trying to escape the bloodshed which had engulfed the country. The overwhelming numbers of those killed were from Gaza, the first time that Palestinians, apart from a few individuals, had been on the illicit route to the southern shores of Europe.

Thousands had made it to land, some rescued after being abandoned by the smugglers, as happened with a ship left drifting in the Ionian Sea, off Corfu, last week. But around 2,500 have died or gone missing at sea, Many had been victims of the traffickers they had paid to take them on the journey. Just 10 people, among them a two-year-old girl, survived from the boat carrying the Bakrs. They were taken, separately, to Italy, Malta and Crete.

Some of the passengers from Gaza had paid the traffickers the fee of $2,500 each by pooling together the money given to them and their relations to repair homes destroyed in the Israeli attacks or rent property.

Which brings me back, as usual, to proportionality. How do you compare 500 drowned Gazan refugees with ten shot journalists? I’d like to know.

As we’re on drowning, here’s a short fragment from David Dabydeen’s poem ‘Turner’, which takes off from the currently very fashionable J. W. M. Turner’s painting of slave drownings:

“Nigger,” it cries, loosening from the hook

Of my desire, drifting away from

My body of lies. I wanted to teach it

A redemptive song, fashion new descriptions

Of things, new colours fountaining out of form.

I wanted to begin anew in the sea

But the child would not bear the future

Nor its inventions, and my face was rooted

In the ground of memory.


I’ll try to find some more of this; but meanwhile, in a restorative moment of solidarity with the French, here is their patriotic anti-British sea song ‘Le Trente-et-Un du Mois d’Août’.

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