DAY 62 A Modest Proposal

September 29th, 2013 § 0 comments

More on the petition addicts.

Day after day I get loads of emails – as you do, I’m sure, gentle reader.

Trompe-l'oeil-letter-rack-with-a-miniature-portrait-of-a-young-man-in-armour,-1697Trompe l’oeil of a letter rack

But recently, instead of offering me rewarding, if unpaid, employment in international human rights law (say), they are increasingly the genre of ‘junk petitions’ which I have so often complained about, starting with post 2, about a year ago. These  outfits have, this week, sent me two petitions to sign EVERY DAY. They are for causes so obviously admirable and anodyne (e.g. the NHS) that any other old fart in my street would sign them too. So, LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY! I would say, apply a filter and only send me petitions which I’d sign and others wouldn’t (universal nuclear disarmament, including Israel; a national minimum wage for single mothers; free beer and tobacco rations for jobseekers; pay reparations for slavery to the Caribbean countries; nationalize the banks, the electricity, the railways, Ryanair, and the fashion industry). But regarding this as utopian, here’s my suggestion. There are about six of you organizations – Avaaz, Causes,, 38 Degrees, usw. – sending out a stream of this stuff 24/7. You should, to economize on your efforts and lower my blood-pressure:

1. All meet together (say in a bar in Dalston) every Sunday night.

2. Decide on one good cause which you think is really important for the week ahead, to the exclusion of all other causes.

3. On the next day (Monday), send one email to the recipients on your lists whipping them up into a frenzy about this cause and exhorting them to sign a petition about it.

4. LEAVE EVERYONE ALONE for the rest of the week.

It doesn’t look too difficult, does it? Why do I think it won’t happen?

At the Movies

Your critic this week went to see Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt, a’difficult’ film about ideas, radical evil, and the influence of what has been called the ‘Jewish lobby’ in the USA back in the sixties. However, from the start he was distracted from paying attention to the découpage by the fact by the fact that it was the first film he had seen with a warning that it contained scenes of smoking. Quite rightly: the tough-minded theoretician was shown lighting up more or less continuously, in lectures even (remember those days?) – and surrounded by a circle of friends all sharing her habit. (Except for her pipe-smoking husband Heinrich.) Many of the audience were feeling restless and toying with their lighters well before the end.I suspect a ploy to endear Arendt to the smoking minority, particularly since Eichmann was not shown smoking. In which case, the character blew it by telling the New Yorker editor that his readers should learn Greek.

A message from Desmond Tutu (pictured below, with our other celebrity contributor, Alice Walker)

(On the Syrian refugee crisis. For more facts, see here.)

Noor – not her real name – is a heavily pregnant 22 year old Syrian with an air of relief about her. Just two weeks ago she arrived, hungry and exhausted, to the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, with her three children in tow.

Hunger finally did what continuous violence hadn’t so far and forced the family from their home because there simply was no more food to be had. They trudged for five nights to escape their homeland, afraid to travel during the day for fear of shelling.

Noor carefully holds her baby in the camp, Yazan (also not his real name), who is thin. Too thin. Diagnosed with severe calcium deficiency, Yazan has yet to develop any teeth – despite being over a year old.

Since the war started in Syria, the country has slowly disintegrated. More than one-third of hospitals have been destroyed, according to the World Health Organisation. According to Save the Children, 3,900 schools have been destroyed, damaged or are occupied for non-educational purposes since the start of the conflict.

Syria today is no place for a child and, outrageously, over one million have already been forced to flee with their families to camps and host communities in neighbouring countries. Those are the lucky ones: for thousands upon thousands have already been killed. Where is the outrage?

save_the_children_syriaAnd every child forced out of education, or forced to flee, or whose development is stunted like little Yazan’s because of this conflict is a thorn in our collective conscience. The international community is not only failing to bring a peaceful end to this conflict but we are compounding that failure by neglecting to address its dreadful consequences. In our failure to ensure that people in Syria are getting the food and basic supplies they need, we condemn children to hunger on top of the horrors of war.

Families trapped inside Syria are today witnessing some of the worst violence yet seen in the two-and-a-half year conflict. Whole families cannot get access to the aid they desperately need and when their voices are heard they tell of a desperate struggle to survive, living under bombardment, the threat of violence and ever dwindling supplies as the war chokes Syrian cities.

The situation is bleak for families trying to feed their children. Save the Children this week releases a report that shows how a lack of food combined with soaring prices is exposing the children of Syria to a serious risk of malnutrition. Until recently a food exporter, now four million Syrians – half of them children – are in need of emergency food assistance. As the destruction continues, this number will grow: children who three years ago could rely on with three healthy meals a day will now go to bed hungry, afraid, and all too aware that they have been abandoned by the world outside. There are already cases of children dying in Syria because they couldn’t get enough food or medical support. Where is the outrage?

Even where there is food available, Syrians face an appalling choice: slide into hunger or put themselves in the line of fire. There are widespread reports of people being targeted while queuing for bread. Imagine it: hungry, desperate and under fire.

At the United Nations General Assembly this week, our leaders must recognize the human cost of this war. They must recognize the need to use their global platform to bring the world’s attention to this crisis and get agreement for lifesaving aid to get to all those in need throughout Syria. They must recognize our outrage over how thousands of our bright and innocent children are being flung into the chasm of human hatred.

In Syria, they have an old saying: a narrow place can contain a thousand friends. The children of Syria are in a narrow, dark place. We must be their friends. We must get them help. And we must end this war.


What Does It Take To Be Happy?
© 2013 by Alice Walker

Even on those days
the news is fully bad.
And all you can do is get out of bed

and failing that
give thanks you have a bed not to get out of.

What does it take to make us smile
when we feel the sword of anger
and hatred
sharp against the backs
of our peaceful necks?

What does it take
to make us stand together
as if we just grew that way?

What does it take to know
the day of peace and justice
will one day come?

No matter who
is so badly
directing traffic?

What does it take
to feel a joy so strong
you can almost levitate?

All it takes, really,
is presence,
knowing that you, and those who feel
as you do,

ignoring roadblocks

will arrive.

Will brave the flights, the slights,
the nights of wondering
if and why:

the years of pain sometimes required
to know
where it is most essential
to appear.

Back to Iran for our music corner;  a rather brief piece described as ‘Hamidreza Afarideh – Shayda Ebadat Doost : Kamancheh Duet‘ 

and the more popular ‘Song of Gaza




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