DAY 29

February 26th, 2013 § 0 comments

With the news that Samer Issawi has been sentenced to an additional month (and perhaps more) while continuing his



Bobby Sands                                                                                  Samer Issawi

hunger strike, now at over 210 days a world record, I recall the death of Bobby Sands after 88 days hunger strike at the Maze over thirty years ago. Pressed for a comments, Margaret Thatcher said that ‘Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life’ and so on. And in their own communities (see above), Sands and Issawi are made into icons, naturally.

Actually, Sands was convicted of possession of a revolver ‘from which rounds were fired at the RUC’, which wouldn’t have earned such a stiff jail sentence outside 1980s Northern Ireland. Issawi is in ‘administrative detention’ (detention without indictment or trial), which was also a common practice in Northern Ireland under the emergency. At the same time there are reports that Arafat Jaradat (arrested in November ‘in relation to a stone-throwing incident’) was tortured to death in Israeli custody. Ill fares the land.

As someone who is in a permanent state of a) moral indignation and b) moral confusion, ethics is (are?) a subject I often wonder about; and the recent shock announcement that Ant and Dec have taken drugs (and Ant voted Tory) have me thinking about radical evil again, and the last things.




The Last Judgment

By rights, they should be sentenced to an eternity of reality TV shows – they admit they don’t fancy it.

When I was a lad, homosexuals and masturbators were sinners,likely to be banged up in Reading gaol or at least go blind; while now they are likely to be applying for a mortgage and starting a nuclear family; while those teachers of my youth, who wielded the cane and fondled the students in equal measure find themselves excoriated on all sides, used to sell newspapers, and occupying the cells which the queers have vacated. No wonder the Pope (to return to him) finds all this moral relativism a bit too much.

And what can those other ethical pioneers Hilary Mantel, Kate Middleton/Cambridge and David Beckham have to say about it all? Surely the ten commandments are indivisible. I’m naturally upset that Mantel has been drawing David Cameron’s fire for criticizing the plastic princess when Westwood and I were after her a day or two earlier; and amazed that he (Cameron) has not apologized for Amritsar given the long list of other things he should consider apologizing for. I was going to enumerate, but decided to list just the Balfour Declaration and stop there.

Poetry Corner: My readers in UKIP have been complaining about the prominence given to foreigners in this section, with some justice. So here is a genuine English piece, which should probably be used along with the rules of cricket to sort out the real English from the newcomers. (They of course won’t need a translation, particularly if they’re northerners.) It’s the meaty passage where Sir Gawain axes off the Green Knight’s head with its lovely locks – is there a gay subtext here? – and the latter picks it up, ugly blood and all, and tells Gawain where to find him.

Þe grene knyȝt vpon grounde grayþely hym dresses,
A littel lut with þe hede, þe lere he discouerez,
His longe louelych lokkez he layd ouer his croun,
Let þe naked nec to þe note schewe.
Gauan gripped to his ax, and gederes hit on hyȝt,
Þe kay fot on þe folde he before sette,
Let him doun lyȝtly lyȝt on þe naked,
Þat þe scharp of þe schalk schyndered þe bones,
And schrank þurȝ þe schyire grece, and schade hit in twynne,
Þat þe bit of þe broun stel bot on þe grounde.
Þe fayre hede fro þe halce hit to þe erþe,
Þat fele hit foyned wyth her fete, þere hit forth roled;
Þe blod brayd fro þe body, þat blykked on þe grene;
And nawþer faltered ne fel þe freke neuer þe helder,
Bot styþly he start forth vpon styf schonkes,
And runyschly he raȝt out, þere as renkkez stoden,
Laȝt to his lufly hed, and lyft hit vp sone;
And syþen boȝez to his blonk, þe brydel he cachchez,
Steppez into stelbawe and strydez alofte,
And his hede by þe here in his honde haldez;
And as sadly þe segge hym in his sadel sette
As non vnhap had hym ayled, þaȝ hedlez he were
in stedde.
He brayde his bulk aboute,
Þat vgly bodi þat bledde;
Moni on of hym had doute,
Bi þat his resounz were redde.
For þe hede in his honde he haldez vp euen,
Toward þe derrest on þe dece he dressez þe face,
And hit lyfte vp þe yȝe-lyddez and loked ful brode,
And meled þus much with his muthe, as ȝe may now here:
‘Loke, Gawan, þou be grayþe to go as þou hettez,
And layte as lelly til þou me, lude, fynde,
As þou hatz hette in þis halle, herande þise knyȝtes;
To þe grene chapel þou chose, I charge þe, to fotte
Such a dunt as þou hatz dalt–disserued þou habbez
To be ȝederly ȝolden on Nw Ȝeres morn.
Þe knyȝt of þe grene chapel men knowen me mony;
Forþi me for to fynde if þou fraystez, faylez þou neuer.
Þerfore com, oþer recreaunt be calde þe behoues.’
With a runisch rout þe raynez he tornez,
Halled out at þe hal dor, his hed in his hande,
Þat þe fyr of þe flynt flaȝe fro fole houes.
To quat kyth he becom knwe non þere,
Neuer more þen þay wyste from queþen he watz wonnen.
What þenne?
Þe kyng and Gawen þare
At þat grene þay laȝe and grenne,
Ȝet breued watz hit ful bare
A meruayl among þo menne.
As for music: Howard Goodall has been given much space by BBC2 to air his views – last week including a brisk dismissal of serialism, which he claimed no one listens to any more. Luckily an earlier programme on BBC4 had Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle emphasizing how their lives had been changed by exposure to the heady culture of Darmstadt in the 50s – Boulez, Stockhausen, Nono, et al. Just to set the record straight, let’s recapture those magic moments of the Second Vienna School, with Berg’s tuneful Violin Concerto. Only time for the first half of the first movement here, but enough to get you singing along; and you can find the rest of Frederieke’s swinging performance on Youtube as I did.

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